It’s better to stay away from poetics to present in prose someone who wrote in verse that his poems have no forewords, critical studies or words of adulation. My patron saint in this endeavour is Malayalam writer N S Madhavan, who dribbles with words when he writes on football,a style interspersed with quotes and blows of vuvuzela. One can take it or leave it.

‘For men, hitting at objects before them with feet seem to be a predisposed genetic trait, like the webbing gene in spiders’

My poet friend M.S.Banesh and I were reminded of ringworm infections a decade ago, when the 2010 world cup football was on.  M.S.Banesh’s ‘UllamkaalMeghangal’ (Sole clouds) had already albumed itself in my as one of my favourites. It was in the same season of rains that my Ammachi(mother), fit as a fiddle, opened her eyes one fine morning only to close them a short while later. Later, watching a small film I made, in which the body of Ammachi was lying with a framed bespectacled picture of her above, one of my disciples quipped an aside: ‘One can have photos taken with eyes open and eyes shut’.

… ‘It stood with us

till the time of depart,

in company of yellow

frogs from dear homes

lighting fireworks

on nightly puddles

with their feet to celebrate

the rain’s Vishu fest…’

– (Sole clouds)

 

I could feel an itch spreading from under my feet as I read this poem, which took me back to the childhood days in my village Kadamakkudy spend stomping through slush, the mad scrapings between the pale wet toes and junction violet anointments of naked feet camaraderie. Now the staccato tap-tap of polished shoes on marble surrounds me. This poet plays the game of cooking rice-gruel and curry not in a pot, but the crucible of time. Time with shoes on its feet and ring worm-infected soles.It perhaps steps on earth to search for earthworms, to cook organic biryanis.

… ‘I waited bathing

legs in water

warmed by a smoky

hearth, gazing at

the awning’s

wintry weaves and

the night-yards where

the rain rollicked.

 

Scratching, scratching

scratching as I read,

skipped meals

and wept,

hoping

the insufferable itch,

love’s canker, would

subside…  ’

– (Sole clouds)

A poet, an amputee beneath the knee, once said he can’t help stretching the arms to scratch the shin and it dawned on me suddenly – memories can be stored in your fingertips.

The relation between father and son is something cemented by football. In 2010 world-cup too, thousands of sons – mostly from Europe – were spotted in the stadium with their fathers, sporting colours of their favourite teams. ‘Ole, Ole, one of them was patiently trying to transfuse the Spanish tune on to his son. While on their way to football matches fans are likely to feel the warmth of a thick finger in their palms. Football often instils memories of your father. You don’t have to look elsewhere to find the emotional foundation of the game.

Prof M N Vijayan

I saw poet M.S.Banesh first on a TV screen well before we got acquainted, but I knew him through his poems. Hails from the hometown of ‘Vijayanmash’ (Prof M N Vijayan), his father, now a taxi driver in Kodungallur, steered the car as M N Vijayan, a powerful orator and public intellectual, went around giving lectures. On the day ‘Vijayanmash’ died, a strange fate would befall him: anchoring television debates, which reduced this multi-faceted persona to that of a mere university professor. That is how present Chief Minister of Kerala Mr.Pinarayi Vijayan, who was a student of Prof.M.N.Vijayan tried to reduce his one time guru as just a university professor. Prof.M.N.Vijayan is celebrated even today in Kerala as a renaissance figure. His collected works of writings and speeches are testimonials of how the intelligentia refers to his thoughts for analysing the poetics and politics of contemporary India. Mr.Pinarayi Vijayan who is a Stalinist would never forgive even a departed soul. Vijayan Mash kept on reminding the communists about the original text of communism and their deviation from that ideology. Poet M.S.Banesh decided to make amends for the sin of anchoring the television debate reducing Vijayan Mash as per the diktats of his employer. He made his father drive that car to Vijayanmash’s residence. That solo drive of his father was throbbing with the absence of its celebrated traveller at the back seat.

… ‘When the grandmother

wet herself for the fifth

time, turning a puddle

of pee, the roar we let

out sounded like a sea.

 

Younger brother came

with ‘Snuggy’

for adults. We drove

cars into the humdrum

of our daily lives

aided by amnesia

of excuses.

 

On day 7

immaculate worms

took the cot leg route

crawling up from

deviceful diapers

pointing their

punishing fangs

at us like Thakshakas

set against the Pareekshits… ’

 

– (Sleep)

 

It was Vijayan Mash who said the poet’s grandfather used to dabble in poetry. Watching one episode of the weekly TV documentary series anchored and directed by him that celebrated for nine long years, people caught in the news and those in the margins excluded by it, I was shattered to the core. The lines from the poem ‘Sleep’ had done the same to me. In a decrepit house in Thalassery a mad woman had delivered a ‘fatherless’ baby for the second time. The horrific news reached the public because of the stink. A cocktail of lochia and breastmilk-vomit. One doubted how such an astutely political being, who understands the power of words, and a poet-lunatic together found a hiding place in this handsome anchor, narrating without emotions that the child died sucking the breast, sucking, sucking, sucking again and again. Vijayan Mash perhaps sought the answer to this particular question in his rustic-fantastic grandfather,who had in him the skill of instant poetry. One word he heard was enough to set forth waves of poetry that mounts a horse, turns into wind or spins a yarn. The family lore has it that the playfulness with words found a physical extension in his philandering persona. While delving, known or unknown, into the theme of Rasaleela, this understanding seems to have helped the poet silently resolve against following the old man’s footsteps and instil the audacity to put on trial even his grandma through ‘deviceful diapers’ in the poem ‘Sleep’. But being unsettled is something he could not help.

… ‘If the slightly

distended belly of

actorReshma

caught between the blue

jacket and verdant skirt

in that film poster

calledLasyam

had an identity of own

what would it tell us:… ’

 

The poem Greenflag, which begins with these lines ends with nature extending its scalpel to the navel: a natural keyhole surgery.

 

… ‘Today,

after several weeks,

from under the wall

the wet shoot

of an unknown plant

touches your navel.

 

Beyond the bleached flour

gluten and Sivakasi gilt

You lie in the buff

sucking a thumb, amply

touched by a green sun… ‘

 

– Greenflag

 

‘To play football is to partake and share;the pass is the soul of the game’

The passes that he employs while presenting news are deeply poetic. The news about breaking the Ramzan fast would suddenly grain new ground with a pass to Manipur.  An effortless and elegant pass that shoots the question when will Irom Sharmila break her political fast, on for  16 years?( will write about my escapades of meeting and taping Sharmila in her custody at a later stage).But a photoshop intervention is necessary if  poet M.S.Banesh is to make it to the cover story of Malayalam poetry. He is too good-looking to be accepted as a poet in Kerala.

The reality show of poetry runs on matted beards and phony music. It has not stopped scouring the pockets of a poet who dropped dead in Thampanoor. They may desist from editing poetry, but the publishing pundits have no two minds when tampering with titles. The poem called ‘Girl examining excrement’, when published, turned to ‘Girl awaiting offerings to deity’. This reality show of publishing fixated on appearance worships false excitement over excrement, stops poets from combing their hair. Among the pragmatics that plays safely, afraid of displaying even a modicum of the hideous or grotesque, his effortless passes would not easily pass muster.

‘Semi-finals are the most boring game in a world cup. Both the teams would play defensively, afraid of defeat’

I am not sure if the poet M.S. Banesh gets down on the ground having rehearsed his moves in mind. But I know one thing: In him is poetry that tilts the scales and a playfulness that can set off explosions on water with feet, bottled together with melancholia and oodles of cheer. It has a nipple the reader in me wants to suck again and again. That is why cinema can arrive at a spiritual level only if the medium disappears like in great literature, which for me personally  happens whenever I watch an Andrei Tarkovsky film like ‘MIRROR’. Tarkovsky had embellished the narrative spaces of his film with the poems written and recited by his father. It is not the recitation makes a film poetic but the magic of the maker,makes it a poetic experience.

Joshy Joseph is a film maker and writer


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