In Pursuit of the Unexplored Truth...
Interviewed by Devepriya Banerjee

Devepriya Banerjee: Your poem ‘Duryodhana’s Last Words’ and ‘Dharmaraj’, brief, yet intense and pregnant with emotions does move a chord somewhere. Tell us something about your impressions on these two mythical emissaries of good and evil.

Makarand Paranjape: Iam deeply moved by our epics. I wrote “Dharmaraj” first, many years ago, as a graduate

student in the USA. The whole poem, with its internal rhythm came to me almost complete, in a rush of inspiration. The “Duryodhana” poem, I believe, is more complex in the irony of its last word, repeated thrice, “good.” There’s nothing “good” in Duryodhana’s gloating over the massacre in the Pandava tents, but the nature of good is so powerful that the only way to approve even evil is to say “good.” In “Dharmaraj” I wanted to suggest that there is something fatal about the force of evil that drives us to do things we know to be wrong or destructive. Evil is, at times, irresistible. That’s what makes it so dangerous, even alluring.


DB: Placing Duryodhana with a heroine’s punishing schedules and the unkempt Miss Gobble – Was this deliberately done to keep the reader in a thinking frenzy as he turned the pages?


MP: If you look at the Chapter headings, the logic (or lack of it) becomes clear. To me both Ashwatthama, not Duryodhana, is a survivor, as is Yudhishtir, along with the other two characters in the remaining two poems.Miss Gobble belongs to the chapter called “Heroine.” Is she a heroine or an exploited woman? Both perhaps. But there is something about her life which also inspires pity, if not awe.


DB: Off the shelves now. How do you feel about the regular onslaughts of terrorism all around us? How does the seer in you, envision this decadent habitat fifty years from now?


MP: This is a very good question; actually, though I am a poet, I try not to react to the “abstract horrors” of our times, purveyed through the mass media. The Delhi blasts in Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj, I admit, were much closer home. I actually came across someone who had suddenly lost her husband, her son and daughter, and her sister, all at once. Now she only had one grandchild to live for. That is the sort of thing I could write on—a truth actually experienced and felt.


DB: Do you think cross-cultural dialogue between nations serve any social purpose? If so, how?


MP: Of course, all this is useful and good. The human impulse for peace and goodwill does not disappear. We must never quit trying.


DB: How would you define Makarand Paranjape in twenty words?


MP:“One who lives as if ‘There is a truth to know, a work to do,’ and still believes in love.”


DB: The best thing about your poems is that the ease with which the reader gauges why you penned them down. That makes your ‘strenuous exertions’ worthwhile. Don’t they?


MP:Yes, if you say so.


DB: What do you think makes your poems ‘lose grip’ yet ‘hang safely in air’?


MP: Not always, but sometimes it is grace that allows you to stay afloat…


DB: Is there a writer who inspires the poet in Makarand Paranjape and which is the one book you can’t imagine not having read?


MP: I am inspired by other poets--from Shakespeare to Seth! I would have felt very diminished had I not read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.


DB: Indian English is scaling steep heights for the last few years. How would you look at the journey, say from, Raja Rao’s ‘Kanthapura’ to Vikram Seth’s ‘Two Lives’?

MP: No, I don’t think the quality has increased fundamentally, thought there is a huge jump in quality. The number of very significant authors remains very few, with even a smaller number of really great books.


DB: Do you watch movies? Which has been your favourite so far?


MP: Yes, I am a bit of a movie buff. One of my favourites is The Children of Paradise (Le Enfante du Paradis) directed by Marcel Carne.


DB: I was quite intrigued by your style, apparently conventional, yet fundamentally resolute, well researched in what it proposes to convey. There’s something original in your gestures and inflections. And that’s precisely why I will look forward to reading more of you, and in your words, ‘hopeful of inspiration’, ‘turn the next page’. Your words for aspiring poets today. Do you still look at them as ‘an endangered species’?


MP:Yes, there is a deliberate artifice to the style, which ranges from the purposely verbose to the naturally limpid. This is a somewhat erudite, always self-reflexive verse which does demand a certain competence from the reader. Not just poets, but readers of poetry are an endangered species!


DB: What are you offering us next, prose or verse? And when do we get to read it?


MP: Well, there’s another collection Partial Disclosure. I think it brings my “love trilogy”—consisting of The Serene Flame (1991), Playing the Dark God (1992), and now Partial Disclosure—to a close.


DB: Thank you so much for your time and words.


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