January 11, 2022
  • January 11, 2022

A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi is the poetry of his time

By on December 28, 2021 0

As a poet, Tishani Doshi’s concerns are immense. In his latest collection of poetry, A god at the door, they extend their tendrils over a wide range of injuries. In ‘Do Not Go Out in the Storm’, for example, she talks about climate catastrophe and genocide in one fell swoop. But even in the largesse of disaster, Doshi has a knack for finding specific images of grace, a sense of the resilience of human beings and the vastness of the world itself: “After flattening there is miracles. / Babies alive in the debris, an entire novel smuggled upstream / in a tube of toothpaste. ‘

It is in this spectrum that Doshi flourishes, between opposing ideas of hope and despair. In a poem about her ‘rotten sorrow,’ she says, ‘Just the word throbbing, you understand, alludes to longing, but also distress, and suddenly the language opens up. In this poem, she displays vivid imagery of Okavango Delta elephants dying of seemingly inexplicable causes, juxtaposed with her own inability to cry from a “dry eye diagnosis.” This is one of the ways her latest collection navigates her own position in the world, as a witness and observer, but also a passionate participant, and some of the biggest issues plaguing us today – environmental disasters, political and social.

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There are also striking visual poems, like that of imprisoned poet and activist Varavara Rao, in pen form that made it dangerous enough for the right-wing Indian state to be incarcerated. “Sir, are you hot? She asks him. “Are the crows bringing you the latest terrible news?” This terrible news, of course, is linked to the current and continuing political crisis in India, where murderous Islamophobia and religious fundamentalism have become more normalized than ever. The title of the poem ‘They Killed Cows. I killed them. ‘ quotes a so-called cow vigilante, and in it Doshi asks himself: “where was his mother?” (…) She may have recounted how / he was misplaced by a bunch of men in uniform. / Not brown shirts but pleated shorts / in which they practiced ideological gymnastics.

In ‘The Stormtroopers of My Country,’ Doshi head-on challenges citizenship laws that have led to widespread protests in the country since their introduction – and more, the promise of exclusion and violence that comes true every time. the low. is a lynching or riot in which minorities, especially Muslims, are systematically targeted. Doshi is not afraid to call the role of the ruling party that has ruled the reins of the Indian government since 2014, and its leader, Narendra Modi: “Really sir, you promised us good governance, but the evidence is pile up of brown / soldiers slaughtering brown shops mosques stick / with the atrocity pogrom death walk love / walk nothing like a termite fit to burn. ‘

A God at the Door, by Tishani Doshi; HarperCollins India, 128 pages, Rs. 499.

There is also the overall gender concern – both being in a gendered body, finding a relationship with the gendered self, and about the violence that is inflicted on people through gender doors. Doshi displays his formidable palette with humor. In the span of a single poem, she can go from laughing out loud funny to deeply acerbic, as in ‘Advice for Pliny the Elder, Big Daddy of Mansplainers’:’ Once a month, when the blood comes, I go out to lie in any field I find to feel the scorch rise and the crops wither. / Our powers are very exhausted, ”she said, referring of course to Pliny’s assertions about the destructive powers of women menstruating. “Dear Pliny, I suppose you’ve never heard of curiosity. The cat is real. The earth never tires of giving birth. If you get too close to a volcano, you must know that it can erupt, ”she concludes, speaking of the death of Pliny, which would be due to the eruption of Vesuvius. In this poem, she remembers Pliny’s almost forgotten sister, as she remembers millions of missing Indian voters in “I Found a Village and In It Were All Our Missing Women” – an act of recovery that readers of his collection Girls come out of the woods will already be familiar with.

Doshi’s poems about the cruelty, absurdity, wonder and beauty of life as a female person are explosive and tender. It is a collection that always goes further, in depth and breadth, than the already impressive work of Doshi, and inhabits the personal and the universal in increasingly complex and striking ways.

Shreya Ila Anasuya is an award-winning writer, editor, journalist and doctoral student at King’s College London.

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