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A Slow Train to Gwalior - review
|by Dr. Amitabh Mitra|
A Slow Train to Gwalior is a collection of love poems and drawings by Amitabh Mitra. The book opens with lines from Pritish Nandy’s Lonesong Street -
What happens when the letters stop
The poet peacefully dwells in the angst-ridden reality and brings out the joy and beauty of living with his outstanding sense of aesthetics and his robust sense of hope. For me they are belle-letters and are vibrant depictions of moments lived in despair, surmounted with the conviction of achieving an unsurpassed love, which he searches in the nooks and crannies of everyday existence, his Gwalior.
‘a single drop of rain on
The illustrations are equally poetic. The colors as well as the form evolve a dreamlike open-ended-ness, inspiring in a multi-layered thematic movement within an apparently simplistic style. The bold innocent lines journey towards a destination that is farfetched yet real ... these opposing strains lend to the paintings that essential poetic fervor, which is most needed in order to constantly match the realistic-nostalgia of these poems.
‘i always believed in this train
There is an easeful passage of colors and contours of a smoking engine passing through austere thoughts into the innermost caverns of human consciousness and coming out through the dark tunnels into the surface of expressions where the poet becomes the painter with words dwelling on the realm of magical realism...
‘and I wondered only if
The most charming aspect of the book is the consistency of the theme that runs smoothly throughout the book, right from the beginning to the end. We are led into the path of a quest for Love. As we journey with the poet on his slow train, we become part of all those fragmentary moments with the poet himself and along with him we ‘grasp the few grains of the storm outside...’
‘... hordes of Maratha worriers
As the scene changes to the ‘wintry old Delhi’ it brings back in mind those years gone by, riding steadily on an old-fashioned rickshaw and the glimpses of the fleeting past freeze on ink and paper with Amitabh’s detailed nuances of a time lived in quest for the intangible ...
While he watches his timeless love gliding picturesquely through history’s eternal flow, he is also aware of the movement of time and the dimensions it curves within the mortal seasons....
‘your garara emblazoned
The whitewashed mosques, chador, durgah appear as recurring images in a way that is most fanciful as well as historic ....
‘loving was a
Time moves on as the engine crawls from one scene to the other and Amitabh’s reverie takes a pensive turn as he ruminates upon the calligraphic inscriptions on minarets and tombs, which seem to mourn the lost glory of the bygone days ...
‘a kite, its paper melted away
The narrative shifts to an evening that ‘had grown from many a summers’ and the poet hears ‘a voice invisible had crept on to the marble of shades tiled in fervor ...’ he also recalls an instinctive evening when ...
‘...There would be an evening
The most fascinating aspect of Amitabh’s poetry is his narrative style...it is deeply touching. In all his works he weaves a narrative that jumps chronological barriers and to some extent the geographical barriers too.... so much so that there is always an uninhibited flow of images throughout.
‘qawallis pour in under the door
These images speak volumes about Amitabh’s understanding of the universality of history ... anywhere, everywhere ...
‘mdantsane children take to the streets
...... the poem below is another example of Amitabh Mitra’s unique narrative style...
In the current collection ‘A Slow Train to Gwalior’ the poet is always positively conscious about the presence of absence. The entire charm is about capturing this ‘absence’ throughout the narrative and Amitabh does this without letting the poems degenerate into a series of melancholic reflections...
‘and many trees grew around the gates
The poems could have become morbid and cold without the essential glint of hope and optimism that runs parallel to his nostalgia. Amitabh has garbed his poems with this satin silk feeling of warmth that perpetuates a sense of eternity in the temporal world ....
‘but our shadows
What one gathers after reading these poems is that these are sufficiently capable of standing the test of time without the support of the illustrations, which are of course independently alive in their own way ...
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