Between Two Words: Reading ‘Hyphenated’ By Mihir Chitre

Sarbajaya Bhattacharya

Sarbajaya: A part-time everything.

Mihir: An IT engineer, advertising professional, storyteller, conversation-hunter and a batshit crazy dreamer, Mihir, one day, found himself writing something he thought was poetry. That day was nine years ago. What he wrote then, thankfully, never got out of a folder on his computer; what he writes now sometimes turns into a Sahitya Akademi publication.

Baudelaire had Paris. Eliot had London. Constantine Cavafy had Alexandria. Closer to the place I call home, many poets who wrote in Bengali, beginning with the poets of the 1940s, had Kolkata or, as they called it then, Calcutta. This rather limited and insufficient list allows me to draw a conclusion, which, irrespective of the nature of the list it is derived from, is actually not quite flimsy in itself. The conclusion is quite apparent. Poets, at least since the period we call Modernism (which emerged at different times in different places), have expressed in their poetry the relationship they share with their cities. But it is not only this relationship that is expressed through this kind of poetry. It is not just the city that comes alive, endowed with human feelings. There is something more, something else. The city becomes a poem. Take Baudelaire and Cavafy, for instance. In their poetry, Paris and Alexandria transcend their definition as geographical locations. They haunt the imagination of Baudelaire and Cavafy, enter their poems, and then, in a sense, become poems themselves.


It is not possible to read Mihir Chitre’s Hyphenated1 without being reminded of this trans-continental history of the city-poem, or the city as poetry. Why? Because the first thing that strikes the reader of ‘Hyphenated’ is the fact that the city of Mumbai pervades the poems. If there is one element that is apparent to all readers, it is the fact that Chitre writes about Mumbai. His poems are for Mumbai. His poems are about Mumbai. Mumbai is his poem. But is that all?

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