Author: Feroze Varun Gandhi
Publisher: Harper Collins
In today’s day and age, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that every other individual is either an author or wants to become one – and that everyone has a dormant poet within him or her, waiting to be published by a publisher who “believes” or sees “promise” in his or her verses.
But the same rules might not be applicable if you come from a heavyweight political background and are lucky to have a publisher waiting to publish your “amateur” poems.
This is how lucky BJP MP Varun Gandhi is as he has managed to get published “Stillness”, a book of poems that seemingly take the reader on a nostalgic trip to relive college days when the struggles of life offered unlimited fodder for thought, everyday drudgery was tiresome, the battle for love was lonesome and silence was golden.
There are 51 poems in the offering that touch upon themes of guilt, love, control, dreams, illusion, hope and want, among others. The intention is that through Gandhi’s words, readers would attempt to read his mind.
While trying to do so, it was the poem “Inside” that got me wondering whether I was reading a poem by a 35-year-old and not someone who is in college.
Sample this: “… I’ve taken off my mask/It was starting to bleed/ Without message/ Without protection/I sit alone in this room/Night after night/Calming myself against a nothingness/Which refuses to show its face…”
Similarly, “Slow Days” is meant to bring to mind a dreary day in parliament when the house is in session and MPs are making efforts to be heard amid the din. “Ending in an open door/Watching people perform/Preparing for the abyss/Choices are ladders/Moral codes/Schems/Avenging the wrong word…”
The inference drawn from these lines might be wrong, but given the liberty of open interpretations, I have made my own judgment.
The beauty of a poem lies in its layered message that doesn’t only reflect a writer’s state of mind but also examines his manner of perceiving reality. Poetry, in many ways, has been a powerful social critique to address issues in a few, yet powerful lines.
However, this power punch is lacking in Gandhi’s poems, which are more of a reflection of his inner self than a reflection of the outside world. They deprive a reader of a social commentary one would expect from a young politician whose work allows him to interact with the real India and its issues.
The grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi had published his first poetry book “The Otherness of Self” in his early 20s but it seems his writings have refused to grow up and are stuck somewhere in between the bubble that reeks of immaturity.
If there is something that really stands out in this book, it has to be the images, contributed by different photographers, to complement the poems. They are the real heroes of this hurriedly-planned book, which does nothing to take forward the publisher or the poet.