When the twain does meet in poetry
Reviewed by Jasmine Anand

A Peace of India: Poems in transit
by Brian Mendonca Pages 80. Rs 200

Poetry in the transit, the words not only shift places with the sifting of thoughts but navigate from page to page through cartographic and visual nitty-gritties of numerous sketches in Brian Mendonca’s A Peace of India. This anthology of travel poetry weaves Brian’s journey through Indian states via railway from 1998-2010; romancing his observation through the window seat, on the move, contemporary allusions jostling with history, dipping into the culture as well as purpose of life through his "gastronomical tour".

Brian believes himself to be an "India-vidual." He not only visually perceives the nuances of the place before him but the subtle working of his vidu(a)la in terms of conjoining geography, myths, colloquial language, culture specific idioms and topical issues colour his canvas from Kachchh to Kolkata, from Kashmir to Coimbatore. He definitely undergoes a "thematic vacation"
joining the myriad pieces of India, trying to locate peace through his writing for people suffering from cartographic anxiety.

Paradoxically, his "Trip Out/ Inside India" makes his verse rich and helps the reader to undertake a soft journey throughout India. The filigree of historical monuments like Rumi Darwaza is etched as "grandeur in the furrows of a watermelon" in Chinese, Persian and Indian aesthetics (Lucknow).

The poet has tried to drink in the cultures of various states through their favourite foods, through the hole in the wall eateries:"Methi ki pudiya in Barabanki…Rawa ke pakode at Ghazipur" as in "Balle Balle in Ballia." "Midnight City" talks about "Nameless Baristas" in a "city on the run" which misses its indolent delights of the bygone kulfi and samosas.

With Hymn to Ravi, he strikes a Shelleyian note where he wants to imbibe Ravi’s traits. "Malwa Express" beckons the Punjabi imagination as "Chenab slumbers/In the vortex of blood" being the river of love (three love legends) and loss (Radcliffe line cutting through Chenab).

Brian has a reporting instinct typical of a journalist, while at Nagaland he penned "CNN IBN: Dimapur" watching television. He also evolves the various characters he encounters while in transit, nameless and named with their unusual appeal. The diversity is celebrated as various communities are seen as "Trope of a nation" and India is eulogised as a Paradise in Qila Mubarak.

All the verses, barring a few are ecologically rich. Tears of Sand is an epitaph on sand mining. The material aspect behind writing verse is not hidden as Brian explicitly mentions his "entrepreneurial journey" and also the dichotomy between rupee notes and scraps of scribbled poetry.

The journey Brian embarks on is a modest attempt to capture "stories of India/yet to be told" friends, rivers, wind and forests being the tongue. The cover page speaks loud enough.

After Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa, this anthology though is his second one, and is submerged in the wistful idea of many more to come with evolving stories, stories within stories knowing that way leads to way.