The “tender coconut water of love....” Thus goes a metaphor impossible to convey in English without sacrificing the sweet notes, and lending some discordant levity, to the Malayalam original—an old film song. Even so we get somewhere: to the sensory, the tactile. A world unafraid of the fleshly. But here at hand was another aural memory, floating in cirrus-like, Raagendu Kiranangal…from Avalude Raavugal, the film emblematic of Kerala’s pop tryst with sexuality. In a Delhi visual art installation in 2019? How? Why?
You don’t know what to expect from “an electronic forest of erotic poems”, as this is subtitled. To be aroused? Maybe. Not an unnatural supposition. Maybe something more too…. But can erotica come to you like a howling sea, like the thrum of percussion, a forest that swallows you, a surreal, Edenic garden? Can it peel off your calluses and slit open your skin? Can it move you, even to tears? If you are not afraid of your vulnerability, your innocence, of the prelapsarian sap still pooled deep in you.
The means to get there seemed unremarkable at first. Four screens. Some static, if beguiling, colour. Tables, chairs. Headphones. You are invited to move the mouse and figure the fruits and flowers that have secrets hidden in them, searching for the erogenous. Touch it, and it comes alive. Fruits swell and open up, shedding seed, tumescent shapes shift and morph allusively…citric, tarty, tangy and bulbous, phallic and vulvate. Birds chirp, music plays, someone reads out the lines…you recognise Devdutt Pattanaik, Ruchir Joshi, Nisha Susan and Paromita herself among the names. It swallows you up, an immersive whole, like cinema, yet different. The poems mesh radical and sublime, classical, folk and modernist. “i want to 377 you so bad/till even the sheets hurt…i want to/mouth you in words neck you in red/i want to beg your body insane into sepals….” (Akhil Katyal) Or, this from the Kavyaprakasa, 6-12th c: “The goddess Lakshmi/loves to make love to/Vishnu/from on top/looking down she sees in/his navel a lotus/and on it Brahma the god/but she can’t bear to stop/so she puts her hand/over Vishnu’s right eye/which is the sun/and night comes on/and the lotus closes/with Brahma inside.” Can erotica….? Ask nothing. Just be the rabab, be plucked and bowed, by presence and absence, screech with the cicadas and hum with the whistling trees. And know the universal is not to be found on some other plane, in the transcendental, but is planted deep in us. We are trees with interlocking roots. We are rhizome.
“I am like a jackfruit
on the tree.
To taste you must pluck me quick, while fresh:
The skin rough,
the pulp thick, yes,
But oh, I warn you against touching--
The rich juice will gush and stain your hands.”
Ho Xuan Huong
by Nguyen Ngoc Bich
A Love Latika An installation by Paromita Vohra
“At night, cheeks blushed
With joy, making me do
A hundred different things,
And in the morning too shy
To even look up. I don’t believe
It’s the same woman.”
The Absent Traveller
A Fish Dinner
Sunk his head
Between her thighs
And said you smell of the sea.
She liked his style
And let him swim.
A decade later
On a beach she still looks smug.”
Lost and Found Poems of a Girl who liked Sex, Agents of Ishq