Mantram Beach review: Finding solace in the ordinary

The New Indian Express

CEO-turned-poet Arun Kumar’s book of poetry is also an affirmation of hope at a time when the world is relentlessly seeking a sense of normal.

Flock of pigeons seen over Chennai's empty Marina Beach amidst Coronavirus pandemic which has resticted people from gathering out in large numbers. (Photo | Martin Louis, EPS)

It has been a treacherous year. We, the humankind, were collectively made to feel a monumental amount of grief. As the number of bereaved multiplied with each passing day, the restlessness found its way to our hearts. 

But, 2020 has also been a year of the heroism of the ordinary, where everyday workers fought the COVID-19 battle standing on the front line. Many perished but left us with enormous hope.

CEO-turned-poet Arun Kumar’s book of poetry is also an affirmation of hope at a time when the world is relentlessly seeking a sense of normal. Mantram Beach follows in the path of Plain Truths, his poetry debut in 2010.

Kumar draws joys and sadness from the banality of everyday life and weaves them into stories. For him, even visiting the family temple around the corner, perhaps where he finds solace, is a cause for inspiration. 

“Wading through the darkness/ drenched/ we entered/ refugees from a storm”…

When the unprecedented lockdown started settling into our consciousness, some walked hundreds of kilometres in search of their home, while the fortunate ones found comfort in whipped coffee and art. Kumar too seems to have used art as an escape from the lockdown.

Although he says that the book was compiled over 10 years, the volume of 42 poems published by Aleph finds mention of the stillness of locked cities.

“A new life in our human chain/ Now floating in a fluid sac”…

Kumar, for the most part, romanticises the beach, his old home town in the US, and writes from a lived experience. But while his words bask in the melancholic glory of nostalgia, they embody a foreign gaze. The meandering topics of the poems often take a dark turn and for better or worse punch you in the gut.

In ‘The Shearing’ he writes:

Puzzled, slightly bruised
Naked, she looks at us
Have you seen enough?

In an interview, Kumar said he wants his book to reach people who don’t read poems. 

His words are simple yet parts of it leave an impact for long. As Nietzsche once said “poets are shameless with their experiences, they exploit them”. Kumar too takes traces of memories from his travel expeditions and turns them into poems.

Mantram Beach is not a book of literature, rather some of the poems lack the compelling notions more polished authors conjure. But, poetry is food for the soul, a hug during troubled times. The book does a decent job.

Mantram Beach 
By Arun Kumar
Publisher: Aleph Book Company