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Questioning boundaries

Contemporary Telugu poet Yakoob's latest anthology of poems - `Sarihaddu Rekha' questions the schisms, the barriers and the divide, mainly communalism that has imposed boundaries and frontiers, between people.

POET SPEAK: Yakoob (left) with Gnanakoothan.

THE WELL-KNOWN contemporary Telugu poet, Yakoob is excited over the release of his latest anthology of Telugu poems (written between 1992 and 2002), titled Sarihaddu Rekha (The Frontier Line).

Vegunta Mohan Prasad released the book at a gathering of some of the heavy weights of Telugu literary world on March 7, including Ismail, Nagnamuni, Varavara Rao, K. Sivareddy and Deviprya, among others. Eminent poet Gnanakoothan was the chief guest of the evening.

Yakoob's first anthology came out in 1992, Pravahinche Gnapakam, which was a reflection of anguish over the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In the year 2000, his Telugu poems were brought out in English translations as Arc of Unrest (translated by Mohan Prasad, Alladi Sreedhar and Uma, K.S. P. Roy and K. Damodara Rao). K. Satchidanandan released the book at the `Poets Meet' in Thiruvananthapuram.

The title of the latest anthology comes from a poem with the same title, wherein Yakoob questions the schisms, the barriers and the divide that have imposed borders/boundaries/frontiers between people. The poem, Sarihaddu Rekha touches a chord somewhere deep within every person who is concerned today about the communal divide.

"daada vallu ,alla vaallu, ammamma tataiah vaallu devudu vaallani palukutunna aidu - ella Sahir, malli i prashnatone jeevitamu modalu pedutunnadu, i chinnaari jeevitamu vigisina maatala chatramu daatadam kashtame; vaadi aata paatallo kadalikalo pravartanalo?nadavadikalo maatala sarihaddulu ammammavaalillu dada daadilla illu rendu vibhinna sarihaddulu?" [From the poem]

It conveys the predicament of the times - a five-year old Sahir already learning that dada and daadi are people of Allah, and ammamma and tataiah, are people of god (devudu); that the frontier lines are so drawn in the child's words, his games, his behaviour that (today) ammamma's home and dada-daadi 's home are two, different, frontiers.

For Yakoob, the presence of Tamil poet Gnanakoothan during the book release was important. He feels the Telugu literary world can share concerns, and learn, cutting across language and regional barriers. In conversation, both the poets shared some of the concerns that can be addressed by modern Tamil and Telugu poetry.

Gnanakoothan is a well-known name in Tamil poetry circles. His anthologies include Andru Veru Kazhamai, Suryanukku Pinpakam, Kadarkkarayil Sila Marangal, Meendum Avargal, Collected Poems and Pencil Padangal - the last to be released later this month.

"While Gnanakoothan's poetry is more individualistic, my poetry is more withdrawn and private, says Yakoob. "Issues of society and politics have their respective proponents, but the poet has to look within first," he continues. Gnanakoothan comments on that, "I have read Yakoob's poems in translation. Many of his poems have been penned on individualistic themes - his mother, on his village - its moonlight, fields and so on and so forth.

One of his poems presents his individual predicament - a Muslim poet, writing in Telugu and not in Urdu, and hence socially boycotted, his bilingual `double-consciousness'.

Yakoob says, "One of my poems, Avval Kalima, questions hierarchy among Muslims. Poor Muslims in rural areas do not understand Urdu or the language in which the prayers are offered in the mosque. I have reflected on this, and I believe that the language (constraint) kills the pleasure of praying. In other states, the namaz, I hear is recited in local languages, in Tamil, in Malayalam, but not here."

Gnanakoothan believes that Telugu poetry is still "very political", and has the "influence of Marxism". About the status of translations, he says, "we have to depend only on the Indian literature (brought out by Sahitya Akademi) as the sole channel for translations. The Little Magazine (Nabaneeta Sen's brainchild) is bringing out good literary material from Indian languages. There ought to be more spaces. But when compared to translations of Tamil poems into other languages, there is not much interaction between Tamil and Telugu. Many poems of Tamil have been translated into Malayalam, and vice versa. May be one of the reasons is that Telugu writers and poets look northwards, rather than to the south. We would like to see more Telugu poems translated into Tamil and vice versa."

About the interaction between Telugu poets and those from other south Indian languages, Yakoob says, "I have always tried to make a platform for such interactions. We invited Ayyappa Panikkar last year at a gathering of Telugu poets, so that Telugu writers enhance their own knowledge of the literature of other states. This adaana pradaana must be encouraged in Indian literature."

"Poets in Hyderabad even have problems interacting with each other, rues Yakoob. Here poets are bound within their own `isms'. Sarihaddu Rekha, hopes Yakoob, will find resonance in most peace loving and secular minded people, as much as those concerned with human feelings. "It is about the boundary lines drawn between human being and the country; between love and the human beings, between human beings and religion, and so on. And that these lines need to be abolished."

"There are not many buyers of poetry. Ours is a `complementary copy culture', so far as poetry is concerned. Everyone expects a complementary copy, even fellow poets!" he says. With ample sense of humour, but seriousness intended, Yakoob's invitation card informs that his book of poems will be available with his signature for Rs. 100, and without signature, for Rs. 50 at the book release ceremony.

But buyers or no buyers, he continues to put pen on paper and thoughts to the ink of the print.


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