The post-independence bilingual Indian poet Arun Kolatkar (1932-2004) uses cartographic images and narratives of travel to interrogate the newly independent Indian nation. Focusing on the city of Bombay/Mumbai, the poet persistently maps the city and its environs in unconventional ways: on foot, through eating habits and clothing. Such walking documentation of city spaces provides a resistant alternative to privileged viewpoints of spaces and people, as de Certeau points out, and Kolatkars poetry targets the neoliberal world of post-independence India by juxtaposing the cartographic global with the intensely local. But he goes farther. This essay shows that the cartographic impulse in Kolatkars poetry is based on the poets contradictory desire to achieve two concurrent yet opposite goals: one, to document the periphery of the modern world of Bombay/Mumbai (and therefore to make this subprime indigent life visible within authoritative contexts); two, to simultaneously also shield this periphery from the consuming eyes of the rest of the world (including from those of the reader of his own work). The poets goal is to highlight the resistant edge and then make disappear this vehemently local element before it gets devoured by the exoticizing gaze of the global and the metropolitan.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory