Arun Kolatkar is an influential and well-known Indian poet. He is an accomplished poet who writes in both Marathi and English. For ‘Jejuri,’ he won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1977. He gained notoriety and prominence as a result of this publication. Kolatkar’s poems are outstanding in terms of subjects and stylistic structure. His sensibility has been described as neutral, calm, sardonic, surrealistic, metaphysical, and so on.
As a visual artist, Arun Kolatkar understands how a simple shift in perspective may defamiliarize and transform mundane reality into beauty. Kolatkar employs a distinctive, non-committal tone, as well as uncommon views, to transform everyday events into artistic ones. Kolatkar is cognizant of tradition while employing experimentation. Both trends are seen in his poetry.
Despite the fact that Arun Kolatkar is mysterious outside of India, he played a key role in the Bombay poetry scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Kolatkar was a successful marketer in the city as well as an undiscovered poet who spent his time sitting in cafés, analyzing the streets around him, and seeking new methods to express this post-independence India. He was a man who shied away from acclaim and despised publishers.
Kolatkar is inextricably linked to Bombay. Alternatively, he might be associated with a Bombay that is musical and humorous, twisted and desperate, and still exists today. A visit to Kolatkar’s Bombay is a visit to a city woven together by a poet. Ordinary things are amplified and flipped upside down. Multiple lives collide in poetic lyrics that delicately depict the collateral impact of a metropolis beset by growth. While Kolatkar’s Bombay is a global metropolis, it does not convey the illusion of globalization as one dominated by skyscrapers and successful stories of getting wealthy and renowned throughout the world. This illusion is distorted by the very real results of unequal development—pockets of affluent and poor, past and present, beautiful structures, and mountains of garbage coexisting.
His writings encourage focusing on the marginalized members of society on the streets and the stray dirt on the ground in any other city. Kolatkar captures them in delicate and playful poetry that never takes themselves too seriously. The poems are as shocking and didactic as they are amusing and melodious.
Kolatkar sees the city as cumulative, flowing from one sharp but calm realization to the next, and it constantly defies clear monolithic classifications. Kolatkar’s cityscape exemplifies diversity, while his poems exemplify the quality of their union.
The poem ‘Irani Restaurant Bombay‘ is an excellent example of imagery. Kolatkar has shown a thirsty loafer lighting a match in the tea circle and watching it rise as a suitable and compelling image. Kolatkar creates an environment that is both dynamic and enigmatic. He writes:
as when to identify a corpse one visits a morgue
and politely the corpse rises from a block of ice.
the burnt match with a tea circle makes a rude
campass, the heretic needle jabs of black star
The majority of Kolatkar’s work is marked by a keen awareness of the economic underpinnings of urban life. Intrusions that are obviously commercial and consumerist in character weaken places that were formerly indicative of religious effervescence and holiness. Even the pilgrim village of Jejuri is more of a tourist trap than a religious destination. When the narrator arrives at Jejuri by bus, the priest, the pilgrim town, and, even the bus, are all involved in the deceit, and all three are equally dangerous and deceptive.
Arun Kolatkar’s ‘Jejuri‘ is a seminal work of Indian poetry in English which is one of the poems on noteworthy experiences that’s been written for a long time. It is of Aristotelian proportions and has a beginning, middle, and end. It is a notable poem on a thematic level because it depicts an important encounter between two cultures: urbanization, westernization, education, and secular on the one hand, and non-urban, traditional, and religious on the other. The poem as a whole conveys a feeling of continuity.
Jejuri is a divine journey taken by a man who grew up in the city. The poem depicts the precarious situation of modern Indian intellectuals from the middle class. The narrator is a twentieth-century guy who lacks religious zeal, dedication, or sentimentalism. It’s a portrayal of modern urban skepticism as it relates to ancient religious heritage.
The poetry collection ‘Jejuri’ is an ironic poetry collection that describes a trip to Jejuri. The first portion of the poem is titled “The Bus.” The poet’s trip into the realm of experience is depicted by the bus. The poem’s opening lines are quite intriguing, and they depict the pilgrims of Jejuri’s mental isolation and narrowmindedness.
Another portion, titled “The Priest,” depicts an ironic portrayal of a temple, with the priest waiting for the bus to arrive in the hopes of obtaining “Puran-Poli in his plate.” The priest shown in this part is not holy, rather he is a money-hungry and selfish individual. The poet then passes past Karhe Pathar’s Maruti temple. He sees the remnants of Maruti temple, as well as a mongrel bitch and her babies, in ‘Heart of Ruin.’ The term itself conveys a lack of trust that is typical of modern times.
‘Hills’ paints a vivid picture of mountains as devils. Surrealistic aspects include depictions of devils being slaughtered by Khandoba and changed into hills. Kolatkar has mythical references as well as a description of hill characteristics in terms of human anatomy. He admires the butterfly since it has no history or future to tie it to. The poet’s notion of the life force is depicted in ‘The Butterfly.‘ It is a representation of life and happiness.
Kolatkar, Arun. Jejuri. Pune: Pras, 2006.
King, Bruce. “Two Bilingual Experimentalists: Kolatkar and Chitre.” Modern Indian Poetry in English. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Arun Kolatkar: Collected Poems in English, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Bloodaxe Books, 2010