Kapil Sibal turns poetical on a BlackBerry

August 18th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal knows how to get the creative juices flowing from his mobile. When the muse beckoned him three months ago, Sibal did not wait for the privacy of the notepad to capture those fleeting moments of angst and transcendence. He turned to his BlackBerry to hoard those insights digitally.

From the “triumph and trauma” of T20 cricket and the quibbles of the 123 nuclear deal to seeing the “turning point” in a lover’s eyes, the “argumentative Indian” in him, says Sibal, turns everything he witnesses into poems.

Sibal has no high-brow pretensions about poetry; he loves reading poetry and writing in rhymes.

“I Witness”, subtitled “Partial Observations”, published by Roli Books, is the outpouring of a public man who felt driven to communicate his private thoughts in poetic form in the midst of incessant soundbites and perfunctory speeches he had to give in his official role as minister and a spokesperson for the Congress party.

“In a sense, that’s the argumentative Indian who is finding his voice in poetry. These verses are written from many viewpoints - from those of a bureaucrat and a lawyer to a politician and a modern-day commentator of daily life,” Sibal told IANS in an interview at his residence here.

“With the enormous experience one has gone through, words find their own way. The cell phone was a handy gadget, a dream come true,” he recalls, delighting in his new vocation as a poet after donning the robes of a lawyer and a politician all these years.

Nostalgia, the parting of lovers, the search for salvation, political opportunism, sycophancy, tsunami, nano-technology, bio-tech, terrorism, and the July 22 trust vote that saw some Indian MPs tossing wads of currency in parliament claiming they have been bribed to bail out the government - they are all grist to his poetic impulse.

The verses that flow from this jumble are not always music to the ears, but they try to wring some authenticity from the banality of hype-infested public life.

Where poetry stutters, wit redeems. “Righteous View allows you to,/for every action/line your pocket appropriately/for total satisfaction,” writes Sibal in his poem “Politicians’ Eightfold Path”. The satirical vein shows in his mordant critique of the headline-obsessed media that thrives on “Bollywood geeks and cricket icons”.

And when reasoning fails, only rhyme can get us closer to the Communists’ implacable hatred of the nuclear deal or the seductions of a new version of the gentleman’s game. “Imperialistic designs cited/as reason for suspicion;/one hoped Left ideology had/evolved through transition,” writes Sibal in “123″.

“Cricket lovers’ nightmare/slapstick tamasha/connoisseurs often complain./Instant stroke play/Without any foreplay: this is not cricket, they claim!” bemoans “T20″.

Some critics may deride these bursts of inspired rhetoric, masquerading as poetry. But Sibal has no illusions about his poetic voice.

“Some of these could have been essays or middles. It’s a form of communication with myself. Poetry helps to clarify my own thoughts in simple, clear terms,” he says, expressing his unease with modern poets who have turned poetry into an esoteric cult, bristling with private jokes.

“A poem is more powerful than a hundred pages of prose. But modern poetry has become disconnected from reality. That’s why poetry has not taken off as a form. It has lost its roots to touch the heart of the people,” says Sibal.

It’s not just polemics that power his verse. The personal and the romantic are always itching to find their way. “Write me not/ a quick SMS/professing that/you love me./I do not want/ to be erased/this quickly from/your memory,” writes Sibal in “Live Memories”, gently dramatising the power of the written word over cold impersonal digital inscriptions.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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