Gayatri Majumdar
(India, 1963)   
Gayatri Majumdar

Gayatri Majumdar (born 1963) writes poetry in English. She is founder-editor of The Brown Critique, a literary quarterly (now an e-zine) that published several promising writers in the 1990s. Her book of poems, Shout, was published by a Delhi-based publisher in 2001. Born in Kolkata, she has lived and worked in Mumbai and Delhi (where she currently works with a publishing house and is busy at work on her first novel). Her poems, short stories and articles have been published in various newspapers and magazines in India and abroad.

To read a Majumdar poem is to enter an unexpected text full of tectonic unease and restlessness. Idioms morph, registers shift, syntax collapses only to reassert itself in startling verbal collocations. The end result is decidedly odd, and yet memorable.

Of the four poems published here on PIW, ‘Come Sunday’ is a case in point: “Americans do it; we do it./ Every time our eyelashes crackle/ we run to the wash basin/ wear youth on our face; the mirror on the wall is very peach pink . . . / . . . We eat the house cat.”

There are also poems here in a less surreal vein. ‘For Grand Aunt Charushila’ uses the trigger of a personal memory to offer a whiff of a historic event – the Chittagong uprising of 1930, a significant moment in the narrative of the Indian freedom struggle – and to reflect on a remarkable woman who was ahead of her times and whose own personal struggle for freedom on many levels went largely unsung: “Female, lover/ patriot; what were you fighting for?” In a few strokes, a contextual landscape is hinted at, while never dimming the radiance of the grand aunt’s unusual life journey.

Probably one of the best poems here is ‘Divorce’, a dispassionate list of the division of items that once constituted the shared landscape of two partners: “Sony Walkman, one/ of the two crystal flower vases,/ all of the photographs and the brass./ Crockery made in Indonesia,/ amber in colour, Webster’s New/ Collegiate Dictionary . . .” The wry twist at the end of this poker-faced litany suggests the full significance of this marital amputation more effectively than any overt display of anguish: “all articles,/ mostly nouns, some prepositions,/ not one metaphor,/ no verbs either.”

Majumdar is a poet whose work deserves to be more widely read.

© Arundhathi Subramaniam


Shout, Myword! Press, New Delhi, 2000

The Brown Critique: e-zine published by Gayatri Majumdar.
The Brown Critique: Gayatri's homepage. Some more of Gayatri Majumdar’s poems.


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