If you are planning to travel between Ashok Nagar and Shenoy Nagar metro today, you can engage yourself with something interesting! You will be witnessing two poets reciting lines from their book Metro Lands. This arrangement is a part of the ‘Poetry with Prakriti Monthly Series’ organised by Prakriti Foundation. Metro Lands is a collaborative book on the metros of Paris and Mumbai by poets Sampurna Chattarji and Karthika Nair and illustrators Roshni Vyam and Joëlle Jolivet.
In a chat with DC, the poets and one of the illustrators share about the reading session and book.
Sampurna Chattarji, who is thoroughly excited about the poetry reading, says, “What could be more thrilling than to read our train poems while, riding on a train? We are very excited about it.”
A poet, fiction writer and translator Sampurna mentions that the book is not so much ‘a compilation of poems’ about the train systems of Mumbai and Paris. “It is a conversation between two poets, who live in two cities, and whose observations and experiences of the metro (in the case of Paris) and the suburban train network (in the case of Mumbai) take the shape of poems. For me, it’s also a way of journeying through memories, of recording traumatising events, of celebrating the multiplicity, grit and joie de vivre of daily commuters; and also of marking moments of emptiness. The poems are about survival and speed; they attempt to capture the textures, the sensations, the conversations, and the chaos. In essence, these poems are a celebration of a city’s lifeline, and how those lifelines can be robust and fragile, inter-connected and isolated.”
On her part, the French-Indian, poet-dance producer/ curator Karthika says, “Metro Lands isn’t a compilation in the traditional sense of the term — these aren’t an assorted collection of poems put together. Each poem is intrinsically connected to the one before and the one after. These poems are a variant on the renga (a Japanese form of collaborative poetry), a little like sawal-jawab in Hindustani classical music. So the last line of the first poem in the series (a poem on the Paris Metro) became the first line of the second poem (one by Sampurna on the Mumbai local). The very words of the poems thus act as connective tissue and cohere to form a collection. Public transport, in these cities, is also often a great leveller: you rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, all ages and social segments, of every colour and nationality. The book talks of these shared moments, of fragments of life within this delimited time and space.”
So, how did the collaboration with illustrators happen? Sampurna says, “It was mid-way through our writerly collaboration that the artists came aboard. I suggested that we reverse the gaze, i.e. invite an Indian illustrator to look at the Paris metro and a French illustrator to look at the Mumbai locals. Karthika suggested Joëlle and Roshni and so we became a team of four. Joëlle visited Mumbai last week, and rode the local trains with me, making her sketches, experiencing the madness, the crowds, the curiosity of co-travellers, with marvellous poise, humour and patience.”
While the writers tackle a subject very familiar to them which is almost an extension of themselves, each illustrator is chronicling a city she is discovering for the first time, or almost. Roshni Vyam, one of the illustrators, says, “Working with my co-illustrator Joëlle was a nice experience. She likes to depict more human figures in her drawings and live sketching. Whereas, my style is Gond contemporary work, containing more imaginative figures. It’s a wonderful collaboration with three of them.”
While the recital is happening today, the authors will be launching Metro Lands only in March 2018.
(The poetry reading will begin at 4 pm at Ashok Nagar metro station)...