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Mulligatawny Dreams - Meena Kandasamy

Today’s poem is a guest post - curated by Narayani. A fellow poetry lover, she can be followed on instagram here. Poetly hopes to feature her writing here some day :)

It is always a special joy to have others who are moved by poetry share their relationships with poetry here. Her commentary on Meena Kandasamy’s passionate poem is grounded in the familiarity of lived experience and the wonder of language. I’m excited to share this post with you, and hope for many more such collaborations. The wikipedia entry for Meena Kandasamy begins with a note that reads "In this Indian name, the name Kandasamy is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, Meena." I don't think there is a better introduction to this poem. In Tamilnadu, people do not usually have a family name and english language itself stands confused.


The politics of power, dominance and colonialism are undercurrents in this poem which occupies a no man's land between tamil and english. The lines are not skewed towards one caste or one economic class, further reinforcing the political narrative.


For a language that has to disguise itself as "tamil" (as opposed to "thamizh" in its original form) to ease the english tongue, this poem is a delightful tribute.  A juxtaposition of the linguistic universes, the poet wants an english that behaves like tamil. With no capital letters and hefty tamil imageries, she evokes the spirit of the land. She presents tamil as a language full of quirks, eccentricities, beauty and romance.

The language becomes a metaphor for the psychological and behavioural nuances of the people who roll it in their tongue, and vice versa. I still remember how overjoyed I was as a kid when I finally figured out how to pronounce the perfect zha.


As pointed out by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, english literature is full of people with blue eyes and golden hair. What about the sweeter skin shades of brownies, caramels and dark chocolates?


In the universe summoned by this poem, love is a frenzy and tongues are crunchy. Between the two contrasting worlds, the poem offers a cozy comfort, like cheese masala dosa. This poem is, in the words the poet uses to describe herself, "tamil in spirit, english on the tongue".


Image: From Insta handle @inihsrav






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