With August being the month of Madras Day, Sunday saw the culmination of 41 Chennai poets come together for the launch of their book Madras Hues, Myriad views. The launch which took place at popular bookstore Odyssey in Adyar, pays tribute to the city which has a rich history.
A jasmine garland and a cup of chai dazzle the cover of the book which is a compilation of poems, prose, photos and illustrations contributed by writers, photographers and artists who have been in the city or share some connection with it.
What is so unique about this book is that it aims at distilling the essence and vibrancy of the city in the best literary and artistic manner. The write-ups will walk you through the various localities of Chennai through the eyes of the writers. The pieces are woven based on their experiences; the illustrations capture various prominent heritage sites.
The book would have remained incomplete without its tribute to the chronicler of Madras, Late S. Muthiah and Vincent D’Souza, the person behind the Madras Day from its inception.
Sumita Dutta Shoam, the publisher of the book, points out that the poems come under various headers and each has a different subject to deal with.
“The book formatting has been done with a lot of love and affection”, she says.
The book has seven headers- family ties, where the poet is talking about their relationship/ emotion with Madras as a mother; looking in, where people have come and settled here and got a new life; At heart- here the poet has taken in the various facets of Madras intensively.
It has encompassed the things intrinsic to the city; things that are a part and parcel of it. However, shortcomings are also there and Chennai is no exception. Geethanjali Dilip’s Madras Everyday is a rich example in this regard. There is a subtle reference to the encroachments on the Cooum river banks.
The Cooum by Tara Mani is perhaps another example.
Yore is a reflection of the past that defines the city and also the tale the composer has got to tell from his/ her experience.
Vidya Shankar’s The Ramakrishna Lunch home will give you a glimpse into her memory from her childhood days and her longing now to get back her family pride that is lost to eternity (the hotel founded by her grandfather changed hands and is no longer associated with her family).
Kudos is all about celebrating Madras for what it is.
Youthful paens is the section of poetry written by young members with three of them beyond 18 years of age.
The rest of the book consists of the memoirs from various neighbourhoods in the city.
The writers will walk you through the localities they proclaim to have known like the back of their hands and have created memories in.
Places which have found an expression through their pens include Central Railway station, Purasai, Kilpauk, Perambur, Madhavaram, Anna Nagar, Mogappair, Vadaplani, T Nagar, Eldams road, Mylapore, Royapettah, Triplicane, Adyar, Besant Nagar, East Coast Road, Neelankarai, OMR, Nanganallur, Velachery and Pallavaram.
While the book is a joint effort of the India Poetry Circle, Sumita Dutta Shoam, who has also contributed her city’s experience, tells DC, “The fact that Madras Day was round the corner gave me the impetus to create the book. I did not want to just write about different places in the city. I wanted to focus on something unique and that’s how the evening breeze on the beach side hit upon me. I think there is a strong emotion involved in the sigh of relief when the evening breeze comes on us. Mine is more of a poetic exercise on language than about history and places of Madras.”
V. Varsha Shree, the youngest contributor to the book, shares her aspirations with DC. Varsha’s one poem was published in the Writers Editors Critics journal.
“This is my 2nd published poem. I already had the love for books and I have read a whole bunch of books on universe and space. It is my mother, a writer herself, from whom I have got the inspiration to write.”
S. Sundar Rajan, the driving force behind the book tells DC, “We wanted this book to draw the attention of even casual readers. Lot of brainstorming sessions have gone into the book which will interest not only the avid book lovers but also the common man.”
Jairam Seshadri, the founder of the India Poetry Circle is all enthusiastic about the creative endeavour. “I am happy IPC has taken a life of its own. It will bring more new ideas and I am so glad that various talents have come together and created this energy”. The book launch had legendary cinematographer P. C. Sreeram as chief guest, Keshav of Krishna fame as the guest of honour and Thirupurasundari Sevvel, a storyteller, educator and Hon. Secretary of the Madras Literary society, as the guest speaker. Sreeram indulged in his deep connection with Tamil literature, history and how poetry has the potential to “give the readers a high”. Keshav pointed out that poetry is a visual language. “Poetry is an idea. You put the idea in one word in relation to the other.”