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Malayalam - Jeet Thayil

“Jeet Thayil was nearly born in the middle of the Muhattapuzha River. The current has kept him ever since. ('Who among us will escape the hand of water?’) His given passages, from Kerala to Hong Kong to Bombay to New York to New Delhi, were pilgrimages to ports of influence, though he traces his initial poetic impetus to the shrine to Baudelaire ('I am over you at last . . . your big talk and wolf's heart') that was his uncle's study, adorned with said uncle's published Malayalam translations from the flâneur's French. ('We'll see what the streets understand of water.')”

- from a bio note on the Poetry International Archives

“Indeed, the spirit of the enfant terrible lives in Thayil's creations”, the note continues, and readers familiar with his writing will know what the writer means.

A thin film of irony covers this ghazal, without distorting the sentiment of awe and appreciation for the language. What I like about this poem is a kind of fascination for a language, not professed as an insider, but someone who seems to be on the periphery, and has a glimpse into the wonders of Malayalam, and the cultural context. I relate to this, as I try to learn the language through Malayalam songs and cinema, Kappa TV and friends. I have a love for this language, its speakers and the land, that borders on romanticisation, but then as Thayil says - “Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues”

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