‘I Hope You Are Irreverent In Your Young Age’ and other poems

Prithvi Prabhu Pani V

2022

Introduction

The first thing that struck me when reading Prithvi Prabhu Pani’s poems was the register of voices she offered me. The shouty angsty love of Vinnie Maasi; the endearing archaisms of Mani Sir; the needy despair of an unnamed ‘she’ toggling between social media and self-critique.

When reading with my ears, as I often do, the next and necessary step is to see whether that aural offering synchronizes with the visual composition. I was delighted to find that it did. The ‘staging’ of each poem is achieved with the lineation it needs. If Vinnie Maasi demands a run-on spillage of words, Mani Sir and his beloved Begum require a more delicate orthography, suited to the “scented stationery” of their epistolary escapism. The most difficult of balancing acts, though, has had to happen in the third poem here. What might have stayed splintered—an atmospheric necessary to convey the divided attention of the poem’s inhabitant—comes together with a single deft closure.

These poems do not strive to be clever, nor strain to accomplish assigned tasks (sometimes so apparent in the work of emerging poets). I enjoyed their free-range, their attunement to the world, both immediate and removed. They made me feel like I knew the people who live in them. If, as I once wrote, “Voice is an immigrant looking for a shape”, Prithvi’s poems seem to hold out a promise of asylum.

— Sampurna Chattarji
The Bombay Literary Magazine

I Hope You Are Irreverent In Your Young Age

Vinnie Maasi wrote out messages like she spoke on the phone,
screaming and urgent,
vague and sideways,
and at least half her words meant for other people,
sometimes red and snarling with saliva,
sometimes didactic and sometimes factual,
like a poet in the business of making airport announcements.

The day after she had been suspended
was the day every other relative took their potshots,
made mournful, meanspirited palm readings of her future,
but Vinnie Maasi alone wrote on her Facebook status, half-shouting:

    TO ALL FUTURE TEENAGE ASSHOLES, AS THE CASE MAY BE

If I meet at the age of 85, a really mean tempered teen—
I HOPE YOU ARE IRREVERENT IN YOUR YOUNG AGE
and dismiss everything your elders tell you,
and I hope everything is a joke to you,
even as you continue to take everything too seriously—a hypocrite through and through.

And I hope you have a bleeding heart, and that you cry at every disappointment,
and I hope it calcifies into a lump of wood no one can penetrate, sooner or later.

I hope you show disdain towards smiles, even as you can’t help yourself smirking.

I hope you whine at every misfortune, big and small, and I hope the smallest achievements
make you boastful and sore.

And I want you to love God and hate the church, and I want you to love the congregation
and hate the priest, and I want you to scorn it all in the end.
I want you to hate it all with your heart.

I want you to rebel against everything
for no reason and for a later curfew and no wars and against global warming and because
your hormones are acting up.

I hope you hold nothing holy.

I hope you learn a lot of lessons through heartbreak, and I hope you make enough mistakes
to fill up a biography, and I hope your diary is dramatic and badly written and tearstained.

I want the world to be at your command, and you to never be satisfied, and I hope
your teenage years hurt and I hope you know
DESPITE THIS ALL AND THROUGH THIS ALL AND BECAUSE OF THIS ALL!
how very much I love you.

 


 

The Day the British Left India

It was a good day for lovers,
even the ones apart,
that day when the British left India.

Long-sought freedom crept into the spring of every tapping foot behind the wooden desks.

Like a card declined at the ATM machine,
or an organ rejected by the body,
when off set that last English ship,
so did the students of class X ‘B’.

The distance between Ooty and Hyderabad
never had inspired lovelorn poetry, until
that day when the British left India.

My Beloved, wrote Mani Sir to Begum Safina Achmed Sultana.

Pack your bags and flee.
I will find a land fit for us to dream,
and perhaps even grow mogra by moonful,
to adorn your hair as you preen.

The fighters laid down their pens,
the architect of this victory swapped his thumbed textbook for scented stationery,
that day when the British left India.

I’ve covered Modern Indian History, wrote Mani Sir, B. Ed,
Miss Beena can handle the Non-Aligned Movement, and the World Wars.

A life we shall build in a land where they speak
not a lick nor scrape of Telugu,
and between us it can be
our secret tongue
for some place like Manali.

The letter traveled swift,
that last glowing day of autumn semester,
that day when the British left India.

Come and get me at once, wrote Begum Safina Achmed Sultana,
her smile curved carefully into each letter.

I have not much I wish to bring,
neither clothes nor books and very little gold,
just my heart which is anyway yours,
and a desire that together, entwined, we grow sturdy and old.

 


 

In Times of Great Joy and Sorrow

57 DEAD IN BOMB BLAST
were the first words that greeted her that morning;
but when she put on her glasses it read DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN SHAMPOOING YOUR HAIR WRONG ALL THIS TIME? instead,
and well, she was closer to having a shower than traveling to Kabul.
(Although there had been a thread that said it, too, had been beautiful, once.)

Halfway through tweeting about #indvsaus,
even though she was only checking the scorecard and watching the latest
Friday night HBO show, the one everyone was talking about,
she remembered the book she’d bought and abandoned halfway through chapter two,
a litany for whales who found themselves on beaches,
about coming up for air and finding yourself stranded.

Apocalyptic fury and a fear of confrontation a deadly combination,
as was her purple and bright red dress under bad lighting,
and she couldn’t choose which to be more disappointed by that day, so she logged out and played Candy Crush instead.

In times of great joy and sorrow, alike,
she checked and doubled-checked the spelling of wizened before she posted the poem—
it felt careless to write feelingly about her heart and its griefs without an audience;
the same way it felt useless to experience emotions worth these words without proof.

In the end her life resembled less the grand see-through ocean it was packaged online to be,
and more a rack of meat hanging from the rafters of an insouciant chapel,
too raw to be devoured,
too limited to hold Mass for the whole damn town,
perhaps even a little holy, but only in desperate times—
like after an accident, or before an exam, or when cleaning out the old shoe stand and hoping for no cockroaches, or before she put up yet another Story.

Contributor


Image credits: Kimiko Nishimoto.

Kimiko is a 95-year-old is an Insta sensation. Her photos captured for us the spirit of Prithvi’s subversive humour. Her posts show her racing down the streets in her wheelchair, levitating before an idol of the Buddha, mounting a broomstick to depart for parts unknown, eating Ramen noodles with alarming gusto, including the one favoured by several of our editors, Kimiko deliberately jamming a door shut on a young man’s gonads. Rock on, Kimiko.

Contributor

Prithvi Prabhu Pani V

Prithvi Prabhu Pani V is a college student and writer from Bangalore.

In her own words: I’m a first year B.E. student from Bangalore (swing a cat!) with a life long passion for writing. I’m a voracious reader who is just starting out in my writing journey by sending out pieces to publications and it has been a nerve-wracking but wonderful time. This is my first submission to a literary magazine. I love listening to music (while making a mental playlist for my characters) and day dreaming. Huge fan of sports and worrying about my favourite teams’ chances, so of course 2022 with its multiple sporting events has been uniquely stressful.

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