My grandfather’s imaginary typewriter
Almost all bookstores have a corner or aisle somewhere that doesn’t see a lot of footfalls. These spots are mostly adorned with books that have a very small contribution towards the revenue of that particular store. We know this genre of books by the name of poetry.
Venturing down this path, but with a decidedly optimistic view, is eminent social scientist Ashwani Kumar with his collection of poems, My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter. With a witty and intriguing prolegomena by Ashis Nandy, the book includes 76 poems that are travelogues of exile, identity and adolescent fantasy of belonging and abandonment, portraying everyday struggles of existence.
Speaking at the book launch earlier this week in New Delhi, Kumar said it is a good time for Indian poetry, as several books like Sampurna Chatterji’s translation of celebrated Bengali poet Joy Goswami has been received well recently. Plus, Pakistani origin writer Imtiaz Dharker won the Queen’s gold medal for her English language poetry earlier this month.
“The Indian poetry scene is not dead, it’s just lagging behind a bit. But I am sure it will soon catch up with other forms of writing. Poets are well received, but have a low number of receivers will be an apt way to put it,” said Kumar, when asked about the lukewarm acceptance of poetry in the country.
A columnist at leisure, whose articles and reviews appear in several newspapers and magazines, Ashwani Kumar is a professor of development studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. He has authored several books as well, including Community Warriors: State, Peasants and Caste Armies in Bihar. He makes his poetic debut with My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter, which was launched in the capital at an event attended by several eminent personalities.