A Poetic Hyper-Reality
Arundhathi Subramaniam
STRUGGLES WITH IMAGINED GODS by Hemant Divate Poetrywala, Mumbai, 2017, 150 pp., 200
August 2014, volume 38, No 8

Struggles with Imagined Gods brings the ur ban phantasmagoria that one has come to associate with Hemant Divate’s poetry into the English language.

This is a poetic hyper-reality in which you are assailed by an avalanche of fast-moving, colliding images of a culture dizzy on retail therapy, drunk on eternally deferred promise. Divate’s dominant poetic device is juxtaposition: incongruities pile up ceaselessly to create a grotesque montage of ironic effects. In this universe of Batman and Rayban, Gucci and Gillette, MTV and Malaika Arora, Jaquar hand showers and Allen Solly, a boy drinks fresh orange juice and begs for Tropicana, a wife smells a ripe banana and mistakes it for bubble gum, people in Café Franz Kafka drink Coca Cola instead of coffee, and the persona in a poem describes himself as just ‘a long, uneasy, winding wall’ inscribed with the names of brands, cell phone numbers and toilet graffiti. Another mode Divate employs frequently is the tough-talking, slangy rant poem—reminiscent, at least in translation, of Namdeo Dhasal—in which the speaker is testosteronal, belligerent and self-ironizing all at once: ‘I’m Louis Philippe, I’ve got a big one./You’re Cambridge/look at your tiny thingie./Fuck off.’ Or again, ‘I am a branded sofa/ in this mall’s Furniture Zone./For a long time this lady, shaped like a bean bag/sprawls all over me./ My nose is stuck in her arse,/I am suffocating under her weight,/O Lord, …/ To please you, I promise/I will offer you 12 modaks from Ghasitaram,/I will feed 12 beggars Mac-donald’s Happy Meals…’

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