Poetry in the city.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Poet Manika Dhama (seen above) is a reader of Marcel Proust. She co-edits Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire along with The Delhi Walla.
The regular readers of this website will recall that Ms Dhama shared a poem with us way back in January 2013. Recently, she has been writing poetry on her mobile phone during her daily commute in Delhi Metro.
Like many artistically-inclined Delhiites, Ms Dhama’s creative instincts are partly being shaped by this relatively new phenomenon in our city. In fact, she is also presently taking photographs inside the train, some of which she has agreed to show us.
Ms Dhama, who has been commuting daily by the Metro for the last 6 months or more, from Noida to Saket, says, “Having driven in and around Delhi for work for several years, I consider it a big (overcrowded) blessing. There is a level of certainty in the amount of time you will take (unlike driving) and more importantly, I can read! Another aspect that breaks through the ride are the different sounds that fill the air, the loud Metro horn (that startles many), the rustling feet at busy stations, the admonishing guards asking everyone to ‘wait in line’.”
Indeed, to Ms Dhama, “the Metro is the living organism whose ramblings you participate in on most days. But ever so often you can step back and enjoy the little things even in the mad rush, while it lasts.”
On her experience of writing poems on the phone during her Metro rides, the poet says, “It is about trying to capture the hurried momentum of the rushing train through the words being penned within its environs. It is about closing in on the fleeting memories of a Metro experience right where it all began, inside a moving train. The phone becomes a medium that has more in common with the Metro than pen and paper. And well, typing (while you jostle in a crowded coach) is awfully convenient, like the dear Metro!”
Ms Dhama, who blogs at Eggfacemomhead, shares a poem, which, she says, “was composed on a cellphone during a 40 minute ride.”
It is also her first poem written on the Metro. “This is about a few mornings ago, while I was reading Virgil,” says Ms Dhama. “The space next to me emptied and a girl came and sat in, she was on the phone, presumably with her ‘boyfriend’. She told him she had taken a half day from work to meet him, to which, I think, he said he was going out of town. And then the conversation descended into a barrage of tears and her ruse that she had had enough. Here was this girl, possibly ending a relationship, crying next to me. And I was inadvertently invading, wanting to shake her out of it.”
On These Tracks
‘Doomed Love’ was scribbled on the cover
Of Aeneas and Dido in time torn asunder
Just then a voice joined my morning ride
Cowering behind a cellphone smile.
The journey she had made for him
To take her mind off sordid things
All tangled now in unshakable vows
He was leaving it all for now.
Her voice quivered as she said “Goodbye!”
“Go then, forever”, she cried
The tears I heard but did not see
Her troubles lay bare next to me.
Words didn’t fly off the page again
I said “forget”, only to myself
Life could look better without that love
The one that hurt you so much.
Ring ring ring it did again
“No more, no more” in refrain
Trembling she rose to face it all
Dido among the Delhi winds.
Delhi Metro as seen through a poet’s eyes (photos by Manika Dhama)