March 2015 BySharmila Bhosale Eating God: A book of Bhakti Poetry,Edited by ArundhathiSubramaniam,Penguin Ananda, INR 599; 287 pages Eating God: A book of Bhakti PoetryEdited by ArundhathiSubramaniam,Penguin Ananda,INR 599; 287 pages With a title like that, one can only imagine the fervour, passion, annihilation and ecstasy that the Supreme One evokes, and which courses through the bhakti poets that illuminate this anthology. As Arundhathi Subramaniam says so lyrically in her preface, “There are poems that assault you in some inner part of your geography. A place both mysterious and familiar. A place that you recognise as a dark place of origin, marking the beginnings of an ancient human ache….This is the breath-catching moment when self speaks to the self more directly than you ever thought possible.” The 200-odd poems contained in this collection then, are about the hunger to search for the Self, a longing to merge into the Origin, a vehement call to the One who manifests but is still unmanifest, a cry from the depths of the soul. From the trenchant irony of Kabir and audacious sensuality of Annamayya and Chandidas to the earthy mysticism of Tukaram and fierce lyricism of Mira and Akka Mahadevei – we traverse their emotional arc and get a fiery, glorious glimpse into their bhakti. Featuring classic translations by AK Ramanujan, Dilip Chitre, David Shulman, Gieve Patel and Ranjit Hoskote, the book is divided beautifully by the editor into strands of Despair, Rage, The Way, Fear, Mind, Ego Games among others. Eating God is a treasure trove, for the seeker as well as poetry lover. Savour it. I beat on your door/Out of fear./I wasn’t yet born,/I was in the womb,/When a great sadness/Came over me./ It hasn’t left me since./It’s with me now/When I’m old and infirm/And time shakes me by the hair./Time strikes the drum./ I’ve nowhere to turn,/ Says Kabir, let me in(Kabir translated by A.K.Mehrotra)
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