Friday, February 27, 2015


A fire kissed a fire
And a fire burnt
Two flames charred together
One singed, burnt alone

 Like a tendril unashamed
The fire coiled itself over the other
Fluttered, defiantly in searing wind
Stroked a spine as it slithered up
Lipped the defenceless neck that quivered
Burnt the nape with its tapered tip.

One surrendered
The other devoured
Licking, flame by flame
The third watched
Like the cactus watched the rosemary and bee.

All three writhed
Their heart an inferno.

-Ritesh Agarwal


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Thursday, February 26, 2015

From My Heart to Yours- Review of a poetry book

Image source:

Book: From My Heart To Yours
Author: M.A.Q. Rizvon
Genre: Poetry, poem
Publisher: Partridge (a Penguin Random House Company)

‘From My Heart to Yours’ is thin book with some heavy words that can stir you at times, move you on a few occasions or leave you impassive. The book is an anthology of poems thought and scribbled over a few decades by M.A.Q. Rizvon whose journey itself has been a poetry. A post master in the 1960s, an insurance agent in the 70s and a film journalist in the 80s, he has straddled disparate fields, garnering multiple memories on his way and picking up isolated threads that finally come together in the shape of this book.

So, it is not hard to make out that the poems in this book are mostly about people, about relationships, about faith, about God and about love and life in general.

To do justice to some of the wonderful lines, I would just present them here-

Great thoughts have spread the carpet of grass
For us to wallow in joy and roll on and on.”   (Great Thoughts)

I came to you on enfeebled feet
Heavy of heart downcast in eyes.
And, in a flash, you lifted me     (Reunion)

“… a moon
Comes on more often to share our sleepless nights.”   (Man barricades against himself)

The lighting that came was looking for me”  (Gratitude to the one who made me)

While I was really charmed by the metaphorical beauty in the above lines, here is an intelligent use of alliteration that I couldn’t fail to notice-

“In a verdant, vivid vale of Kashmir” (The song of a sixteen-year old)

A few other beautiful lines-

“She gave him a parting kiss of pain
She left him the memory of the life he lived”  (A dew drop on a rose in bloom)

And I would leave you with these angelic thoughts

“She rose like fragrance…
A fairy, …
High above a rainbow”    (A note of love)

-Ritesh Agarwal

Review done on request by Ayesha Rahman (the grandchild of M.A.Q. Rizvon) whose handwritten letter warmed my heart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Love placates despair

Darkness goes yonder

Sky trembles in lurid hope

Moon takes off its clothes

-Ritesh Agarwal

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015


My eyes,

Saw yours,


What the sand feels for the cloud



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Sunday, February 22, 2015

One thousand rainbows later

One thousand rainbows later, time will pause for a moment
To turn around and look back across time,
Where it shall encounter me
In your past and in my present.

And I would greet it with joy
Of that imperishable kind with which past greets its future,
Laugh with it, the way I laugh with you
And I would tell it all about your ancient glory
And it would fill me in with your glory eternalized
And we would talk till the moon joins in
Croon till the cricket chants along
Till I run out of memories
Till it runs out of time,

Heavy with nostalgia, time would bid me bye
Slip back to where it came from
Not knowing that it never did leave me
Never could leave me
The wraith of my world will walk over your wall.


PS- This poem is addressed to JU

Friday, February 13, 2015


She stalked me

Like a wave does to the rock

Then receded in a smirk

Like a tide that devoured its desire

But a flame she left behind

Not of hope but of dishope

And the flame grew

Not in mass, but in fire

Until it charred me

And until I singed the moon

Whole night.

Only if I could burn the stars …

-Ritesh Agarwal
13th Feb, 2015

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Sonnet IV: On the way to love

Image source: via Google images

On the way to love,
I got stabbed by ice.
Dead was my crepuscule
As dawn had sealed the dice
Those eyes had me under their siege
And those lips that charmed
Entranced I was, I hopped in trance
And then behold, she stabbed by ice.

But hope sprouted, again, like a stray vine
Shamelessly, creeping into my heart, growing, spreading poison
Till it outgrew the love.

And now there is hope
More than there is love
But less than there is ice....



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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hermeneutics and diasporic novels

The Comparative Literature department of Jadavpur University played host to author Judy Fong Bates today and it was both gratifying and heartening for me to be a part of the audience. That is one good thing about being a student of JU. You get to meet, and even interact, with writers and poets from both Oriental and Occidental backgrounds.

The session introduced us to this woman-author who is Chinese by birth but has been living in Canada and hence her works are primarily diasporic, like those of Jhumpa Lahiri.
To be quite honest, I had had a heavy lunch that was having its soporific effect, making it difficult for me to direct my complete attention to what she was saying. On a couple of instances, I even dozed off, much to my chagrin and one Miss DDR will not be a happy person when she reads this.

But good ideas come to people either when they are in their bathtubs (please refer to Archimedes) or when they are just out of a nap. After failing to benefit much for the most part of the session (since I was groggy and also because the voice wasn't loud at the back bench where I was seated), I redeemed myself somewhat towards the final 5 minutes.
It was accidental, I would say in my defence, but the idea did fascinate me, and for a few moments, even I became my own fan.  *grins sheepishly*

Hans Robert Jauss' theory of hermeneutics erupted out of me all of a sudden (wish it had done so during the sem exam) and it struck me that a diasporic novel can have as many as four categories of readers who will receive the same piece of work with dissimilar emotions. In Judy's case (whose protagonist is Chinese living in Canada, like herself), these four kinds of readers will be:

1. A Chinese reader living in China and reading the story of a Chinese living in Canada.
2. A Chinese reader living in Canada and reading the story of a Chinese living in Canada.
3. A Canadian living in Canada (a local) and reading the story of a Chinese living in Canada, and
4. A neutral reader, say an Indian living in India and reading the story of a Chinese living in Canada.

Now, there is a good and subjective scope to analyse it, and this is where, I perceive, Jauss' Reception Theory springs into action.

The 1st kind of reader is a Chinese who presumably has never been to Canada. While reading the text, he will feel for the protagonist who shares his nationality but finds himself thrown into an alien world where he will be subjected to racial and cultural discrimination. The reader will undergo multiple emotions. He will be bemused at times, shocked on occasions, grieved and even disturbed in certain situations. He will feel the agony of the protagonist since there is a fraternal connect with him. However, he is an external reader who reads the story from the outside, knowing that it is not going to happen to him in his immediate surroundings. So, there is pity but not fear. (Like Ruskin Bond, at the recently held Kolkata Literary Meet 2015, had described reading a horror story as an experience of "safe fear"- you are scared for the protagonist, yet you feel safe, knowing that it is not going to happen to you).

But for the 2nd kind of reader, the reception of the text will be more personal. He is a Chinese living in Canada and thus shares the geography and associated circumstances of the protagonist. He will draw parallels with the journey of the protagonist and will often squeal, "oh yes, it happened to me too" or feel a jolt of fear, realizing that it may happen to him some day.

The 3rd kind of a reader is a Canadian and he will try to find himself not in the Chinese protagonist but in the authoritarian/discriminating/chauvinistic Canadian. He will either i) be quietly ashamed of the way outsiders are treated in his country or  ii) haughtily agree with the oppressor instead of pitying the protagonist (in this case, the reader is what I would call a 'passive racist'), or  iii) be indifferent, thereby playing a totally neutral reader (theoretically possible, though practically less probable).

So, for the 3rd kind of reader, we actually get three sub-categories, since individual readers will employ their personal subjectivity to arrive at three different viewpoints (and emotional response to the text) as expatiated above.

Then there is the 4th kind of a reader, the only kind that is totally unrelated to the protagonist and the anti-protagonist in terms of both nationality and immediate geography. He, therefore, has the liberty of reading the text for the purpose of pure pleasure and without undergoing the emotional burden of taking sides. However, complete neutrality is hard to achieve as it necessitates the reader to be completely isolated from such circumstances and also to employ an emotionless approach. So, he may get influenced disparately, depending on his background and cultural roots. For instance, an Indian reader, with a colonial past, is more likely to empathise with the Chinese protagonist in the book, while a European reader may not feel pity for the protagonist in the same degree and may even side with the anti-protagonist.

Coming back to the seminar at JU, perhaps I didn't frame my question to the best of my abilities but when I asked Judy as to "her target reader out of these four types", I couldn't extract out of her the answer I was looking for. Perhaps, she is herself unaware of the reader she is instinctively targeting (as she stated) but on my part, the profitable thing that came out of this session was my deeper understanding of hermeneutics.

-Ritesh Agarwal
Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sonnet III: The Vagabond

Oy you, why you scamper
From one bosom to the other,
Seeking refuge not in one place
Travelling, leaving but an infinitesimal trace.

Stay you must behind the ribs
Where you grew, learnt how to love
More importantly, how many to love
But you misbehave, mess with the laws

Mend your ways, do mend your ways
And if you can't, let  final be these days,
Leave, permanently leave
Go become a felon, no more a vagabond
Vacate this body, share with it no bond
Sans you, stripped of you, must the breast bereave...


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