"Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit. "
~ Jawaharlal Nehru

So Far ~ Poems by Gerson da Cunha

Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta reviews
Gerson da Cunha's Collection of Poems
Publisher: Harper-Collins
Price: Rs. 150/- pp 130.

There are all too few multifaceted personalities left in these one-dimensional days we live in, and Gerson da Cunha is one of them. After a long career in advertising, he moved on to a decade-long stint in UNICEF, his work taking him to many continents and countries. Today he works actively with child relief and citizens' action groups in Mumbai, and is still a familiar kurta-clad presence at poetry readings, plays and cinema screenings.

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Poetry is another facet of Gerson da Cunha's life. One might be forgiven for imagining that they are merely an effete and very private indulgence, the sort of poems that ought to be suppressed swiftly. And Dom Moraes has written, in his brief foreword to this collection, describes his surprise when he read these poems for the first time: "I knew that Gerson had led a full and busy life, mostly concerned with action. The poems were the record of what he had thought and felt during this life of action." And Moraes judges them with his inimitable crispness: "probably better than the work of many people who are ranked today as leading Indian poets in English."

We travel with him through Uganda and Tanzania, Brazil and Argentina; and then, suddenly, to London: at the Olivier,

"People gentled by Anouilh
hold doors open for each other
lusts and terrors
masked for an evening.

" In Bombay Wallahs, at an exhibition of photographs by Ketaki Sheth, he remarks,

"Nowhere is ever home
but this may be the town
of least effort for me."

But there are also visits to Goa:

"I went to Goa for the silver of my ghosts
and you for answers of Heidi on the sands."

The poems are intelligent and gentle, whether about an afternoon at Lake Victoria or Thanksgiving in New York. And they are surely enriched by the experiences, outer and inner, of a man who has travelled a great deal. I especially liked the little observations of the natural world: the eagle on the lawn, the neighbour's spaniel limping across the road for a cookie, the snowfall on the tenement. A pleasant experience.

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