Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dharavi in English poetry

Vikas Swarup- the Slumdog guy- genius and all round good egg that he is, has- of course- reclaimed Dharavi for Indglish literature by making it the launching pad for his, not merely politically but also soteriologically correct, project of  always constraining narratology to maximise 'poetic justice'.

What however of Dharavi's first appearance in English poetry?

Tis eve — and o'er the face of parting day 
Quick smiles of summer lightning flit and play, 
In pulses of broad light, less seen than felt, 
They mix in heaven, and on the mountains melt, 
Their silent transport fills th' exulting air — 
'Tis eve, and where is evening half so fair ? 
Oh, deeply, softly, sobs the Indian sea 
O'er thy dark sands, majestic Dharavee

( this is excerpted, it is perhaps otiose of me to mention, from  that vilest and most worthless of wankers, Mahatma Gandhi's one acknowledged Guru, John I-won't-Roger-my-bride-coz-her-Daddy-didn't-dower-her-right Ruskin's 'Salsette and Elephanta')

Condemn me for an ignoramus (what? I never claimed to be Bengali!) if you will, but it is only today that I learnt of the infinitely more interesting 'Salsette & Elephanta' of  Arthur Hugh Clough (whose correspondence with Mathew Arnold, re. the Gita, Lionel Trilling mentioned to me that one time I accidentally opened one of his books mistaking it for Porn- what? I never claimed to be Bengali and the only fucking reason I ever started reading my Sister's Undergrad Eng Lit texts was coz the only wank worthy writing available to me then (I was 13 and this was New Delhi in the mid 70's) was embedded in Chaucer's 'The Miller's tale' and Aristophanes' 'Lysistrata', not to mention Queenie Leavis's 'Give over with your Lawrence worship already, F.R- no way I'm letting you corn-hole me, you great big poof, so just scrub out your tongue with soap and get back down there coz tampons aint been invented yet and what do you think your Sainted Mom's black pud was made from anyway?.')- anyroad, to get back to what I was saying, it was only today that I got a dekko of Arthur Hugh Clough's entry, on the same subject, for the 1839 Newdigate (not Nudie-gate- as, alas!, I learn't to my cost at the tender age of 13), and ...urm... I've forgotten the precise point I was trying to make.

Dharavi. That's right. We were talking about Dharavi.

Ruskin and what he stood for- in his Salsette and Elephanta- Gandhi, and what he came to stand for after his meretricious commerce with Ruskin resulted in his 'Hind Swaraj', not to mention his 'kindly get raped' counsel to his dynasty's true Infanta- ensured that Dharavi would become a byword for a dehumanising slum and literary topos, or Res gestae, for the gravamen against Lord Shiva and the Devatas and Mithra and Brahmins and so forth- i.e. the usual suspects for Benthamite Utilitarianism's fag-hag-as-consort of convenience to early Victorian cackhanded Evangelism.

Clough- the guy who actually fucking helped Florence Nightingale unlike Ruskin who shat on everybody including his own parents and his wife and Whistler and so on- Clough shows how English aint necessarily crap- it's actually Vikas Swarup's Indglish avant la lettre.

Why? How? The answer is that, for Clough, Dharavi aint a particularly auriferous prospect in Darien but the jumping off point for an internal moral audit- not Ruskin's triumphalist, Racist, shite.
 Like Vikas Swarup, Clough shows us how, why, Dharavi is so thickly sown with auspicious stars that for it to enter our 'heart's deep cave' is to know Shiva as Smarahara- all one formerly considered worthy of Love, so utterly burned away, no fatality attaches itself to the Heart's faculties- all is auspiciousness and an eternal honeymooning with Ruth- fore-mother, ubiquitous Theotokos, of Christ.

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