|| So Far
Gerson da Cunha
HarperCollins Publishers India
So Far, Yet So Near
by Sanjay Trehan (18 December 2000)
The other day I was talking to my colleague, Sanaya, in Bangalore over
Yahoo! messenger. We were discussing life and poetry, and when I told
her that I am currently reading da Cunha, she said: Gerson da Cunha
is one of my all time favourite people. He reminds me of this giant teddy
There is an endearing quality about Gerson and its not only to do
with his ample visage, as you would discover when you soak in his poetry.
Dom Moraes who has known Gerson for thirty years writes of So Far: If
one goes by Wordsworths definition of
poetry as emotion recollected in tranquility, this is precisely
what these poems were.
An Everywhere Man
Gerson has led an eventful life and is well-travelled. In this, his first
collection, there are poems written during his trips to Uganda and Kenya,
lands largely unexplored by Indian poets, there are ruminations about
Brazil and Latin America and inner journeys replete with experiences and
observations in Mumbai and Goa.
An everywhere man, in Bombay Wallahs, da Cunha tries to explore
Nowhere is ever home
but this may be the town
of least effort for me.
Here the idiom is known.
Because Gerson is not a professional poet, his poetry doesnt smack
of being crafted. That is both a liberation and a limitation. It hits
you, unlike the feel-goodliness of classical poetry, and is realistic
and not dewy-eyed, a virtue in these times when love and cholera co-exist.
Though poetry is essentially about self-indulgence, there is an integrity
in his offering and the connect is there for the taking. Most importantly,
the sincerity comes across, fresh and virginal, before lips and
breath framed the first
lies and its clear that the writer is not given to masking
and de-masking emotions for effect.
Its a deeply felt, richly lived collection. There are many tributaries
that run through and from the river of Gersons work; and luckily
for him, only one reaches a dead-end. And thats the limitation that
I was talking about. Some of the expressions are downright prosaic and
irksome and one feels that the gossamer silk of Gersons poetry has
been shaded by the ruggedness of military green. A bit of an anachronism,
dont you think? Take a look at some verbal extremities
In a poem, Sanctuary, written in Tanzania, he writes: Someone here
took the life of the land
ardently to heart
. In Afternoon on Lake Victoria, written
in Entebbe, Uganda, there is an expression like: Twitched sheets
and shrewdly shifted weight.... In Rwenzori, minuscule ambitions
is used. I am not nit picking. These are but minor aberrations in a body
of work thats really powerful and in its own genre and Gerson sure
is capable of intense imagery. Its entirely for this reason that
I have refrained from calling it a mixed bag.
Savour Jalebis, written on Soli Godrejs terrace with trees, in
the belief that jalebis were first made in that cauldron of invention,
They circle slowly on silken oil,
pale as dancers on a painters mind,
ears of dough squeezed into a pan
by a hand gesturing like a healers.
Some poems may seem obtuse on the first reading. Its only because
Gerson has a razor sharp perception and a highly intelligent and articulate
mind thats adept at making sketches on smokescreens of conscience,
knifing through its exalted, esoteric otherness.
In The day they found J, he says:
Outside, there is an air
of nameless flowers and, somewhere, smoke.
In The Silence of her hair, Gerson is at his reflective best:
Before truth there was fact:
thunder, migratory birds,
the armoured floss of sunset,
worshipped before words.
These are inner explorations of a sensitive soul. What appeals to me the
most is the way the outer topography is blended with the inner terrain.
The effect is stunning, graphically speaking.
In Sundown, Kampala, caught between a casuarina and cranes, Gerson ruminates:
Believing, as the sun believes,
that definition is for others
I live between two lights,
each loved for its own breath
These poems are not for lay readers but for people who love poetry, and
by beautifully blending his outer and inner landscapes, Gerson has created
compositions that many of us can relate to, for journeys within, though
diverse and different in each case, are essentially about asking the same
questions and searching for the same answers and trying to reach the unknown,
the quasi-tangible within the intangible wholesomeness. We know its
there, but dont know how near or far.
This is how Images begin:
Everyone glances differently into mirrors,
composing themselves in ways that reveal
the secret face.
Mirroring a prismatic existence, So Far manages to make us experience
some of our inner worlds.
(The author is Vice President with Indias first reverse auction
portal for travel, Razorfinish.com. Talk to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
to discover more about his poetic leanings.)