Shiva in Manhattan is the first book of English Poems by Haraprasad Das, a leading contemporary Indian Poet, known until now for his Odia poems. The English poems in this book traverse a wide range of affinities and concerns. The poetic voice is that of an urban bilingual Indian at ease with the traditions of both the languages. There are poems in the collection that interpret the metropolitan images of New York, London, Copenhagen, Warsaw and other cities. There are more poems that reinvent the colloquial, iconic and ethnic subtexts of Indian identity cutting across geographical and linguistic barriers. In ‘Temples of Bhubaneswar’, ‘Rocks of Kutumsar’, ‘Lutyen’s Delhi’ and ‘Malabar Songs’, to name only a few, the kaleidoscopic Indian experiences come alive in vivid metaphors and tantalizing word plays of incredible beauty. The title poem Shiva in Manhattan is dedicated to A.K. Ramanujan, the celebrated Indian-English Poet. One can see many interplaying nuances and hear the subtle cadences of both metaphysical and lyrical poetry, in these poems. The fading hymnal signatures can still be read from under the neon alphabets so beautifully crafted in ‘Praying in Half-light’. A worthy addition to the rich stock of contemporary Indian Poetry in English. A ‘must read’.
Haraprasad Das belongs to a significant body of brilliant Indian poets who were highly trained in the languages and cultures of the world and were simultaneously and deeply entrenched in the racial and civilizational memories of a shared destiny. They, in a way, de-modernised the Indian reality of the borrowed modernity and decolonised the colonial space. That led to a subtle and slow reversal of the heavily accented idiom of the West by the lyrical metaphysics of the Indian aesthetic quest. Haraprasad perfected a speech rhythm that conveyed the anguish of the time and the hopeful reawakening of the Indian essence in the spiritual recesses of a reluctantly transforming society. It is not easy to translate the poetry of Haraprasad Das because of its complex and multi-layered engagement with the Indian reality. Prabhanjan K. Mishra, a distinguished Indian poet who writes in English as well as Odia, has rendered the poems of Haraprasad Das into English with the twin advantages of knowledge of Odia and that over English. In this English rendering the sensationally subversive triumph of the local over the global in contemporary Indian Poetry by the poet has been maintained. Haraprasad Das has just published his seventeenth volume of Poetry. His book of original English ‘Shiva in Manhattan’ was published by Har-Anand Publications in 2013. Haraprasad Das is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award of the Indian Academy of Letters and the distinguished winner of the Moortidevi Award of the Bharateeya Jnanpith, and the Gangadhar Meher National Poetry Award.