By Ishan Kukreti
“Poignancy opens the reader to something which no other emotion can.” Akhil Katyal says.
Katyal is apt and all and sundry get the same feelers while listening to him; recounting the poetic tales of walking hand in hand with a beloved or trying to make a lover understand that “I didn’t say that I don’t want to see you anymore. I’d said, I don’t want to see you anymore, and you listened, like always, to the words.”
A DU student, PhD from University of London, Katyal released Night Charge Extra, his first anthology of poems in front of a house full of admiring eyes and keen ears. He also teaches at Shiv Nadar University.
Katyal is a known face at capital’s underground poetry circuit and is one of those rare and delicately masculine voices emerging in Indian poetry that slips softly into the ears, leaving a warm, fuzzy feeling thereafter without being too lopsided on sentimentality.
The collection, which features 64 of his poems written over a period of 10 years, has been published by Writers Workshop and the “…gold embossed, hand-stitched and hand-bound by Tulamiah Mohiuddin…” limited edition does not betray the Urdu-Persian bent in Katyal’s poetic raptures.
Night Charge Extra, in this sense is a true Mughal architecture in all its grandeur echoing words that see, feel and talk as they tessellate on its 100-odd pages. The multilingualism in Katyal’s poetry is apparent in his choice of translations too.
The innocent obstinacy when he reads Amrita Pritam’s ‘Main tenu fir milangi‘ and the heart-sinking sense of longing when he recites the same in English are two entirely different experiences that are united in essence and separated in pathos. There are reasons for Katyal’s preference for words picked from various branches of assorted language trees.
“I was first exposed to mushayra in Lucknow which used to happen in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi; then during my college days, I was reading English poetry; but after my PhD, I realized I was losing out on so much. So, I came back into poetry with a different sort of vocabulary. I am not a purist,” he says.
Although the work was compiled over a period of 10 years and has poems touching on a wide array of subjects and emotions, there is a unifying and thematic undertone to it.
“There is some sort of longing that predominates throughout the poem; longing for lovers, aspiring for kinder political universes, and pining for friends are visible. They all interpenetrate each other in these poems,” the poet added.
Akhil Katyal’s poems are indeed a lover’s lullaby, a father’s bedtime story to a child, and a ‘flirtation with sorrow’. Night Charge Extra is the poet’s overwhelming concern for everything from international relations to a man chasing a DTC bus, put down with an understanding that seems to unite them all with the reader.
The title is up for grabs at Writers Workshop!