Ari Sitas is a poet, dramatist and sociologist who is also involved lately in musical work in and around the Indian Ocean. His first poetry collection “Tropical Scars” was published in 1989 and has subsequently seen another 7 volumes published, the last of which was “The Vespa Diaries” in 2018. His work has been translated into many languages. Some of his Sociological and creative work has been published by Tulika Press in India. Sitas has had a two decade association with JNU which granted him in 2016 the inaugural Baghat Singh Chair in Historical Studies. His latest work was the staging of “Giraffe Humming” a musical and visual reconstruction of the tale of the move of three giraffes from Africa to Bengal and then to China in 1414CE. He has been awarded the Order of Mapungubwe, by the South African presidency in 2019 for his contribution to scientific and creative work.
I was moved by the ways in which, at key moments in the dialogue, rhythms shift, and instead of call-response between the poems, we go into each poet’s memory – a call-response between present and past. As they traversed back and forth between private parallel hum – after all, hum is “we” in Hindi – and direct synapse, I loved how freely they responded to both inner reverie and external stimuli. In some of Ari’s poems it felt like he was revisiting earlier trips to India – so that the duet was not restricted to what has just been received but what has always been residual – suggesting collaboration as a pretext – for return? Ari’s riverine contemplations counterpoint Subhro’s archetypal majhi (the boatman) made unmetaphorical. From Tagore’s golden boat to Subhro’s carbon kayak, what rapids have been crossed?