Indian English poetry has seen a resurgence in the current decade. Arundhathi Subramanyam is an accomplished poet whose searching tone and resonant idiom persuade us to revise our sense of the real through sudden flashes of gentle irony and searing insights.
In her earlier volume of verse, When God is a Traveller, she had written: “Untenanting is more difficult/than unbelonging”. We are bodies that inhabit spaces, beliefs and longings. The poems here enact the complex ways of belonging to the body as a habitat, its territories of intimate desires and conflicts. She speaks of the compulsive need of the body to stay rooted to the here and now: “It’s not the mind/It’s the body/that grows parochial” (And Where It Might End). Mitti transforms the sensuous into a perception of the communion between the moon and the mud, and “the great longing of life to hold and be held”. The synonyms of ‘soil’ are reminders of “the anthem of muck/ of which we are made”. She can find no better word than “mitti” to name that peculiar sensation (‘where sound meets scent’) of the first rain of the monsoon in Mumbai.