WHEN THE LOVE STORIES END
Avvaiyar, the legendary Tamil poet and wise woman, takes centre-stage in the poem The Fine Art of Ageing in Arundhathi Subramaniam’s latest anthology, Love Without a Story. ‘Spare me the desperation of the old/ she says/ and the puerility of the young,’ Subramaniam writes in the first section of the
sequential poem. In another, she says: ‘She’s done with the nightmare/of smiling and finding she’s forgotten/ to wear her dentures.’
The poems are a reflection of Subramaniam’s growing fascination with the idea of the crone and the gendered disparities that accompany ageing. “When men age, they become sages. When women do, they become hags. We fetishise youth and beauty so much that growing old for many women is about turning increasingly powerless. I was curious about female figures who don’t lose power, but gain strength and wisdom with age,” she says, when we meet her in her Mumbai home.
Love Without A Story comes five years after her last book of poems, When God is a Traveller, that was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. The new collection by Subramaniam, a recipient of the Khushwant Singh Prize and the Raza Award for Poetry, straddles themes like travel and nature as effortlessly as it does relationships and time. While her last book was all about journeys— geographical and imaginary— in this one, Subramaniam says she was interested in exploring kinds of intimacies—between friends, lovers, parents, or that defined by mystics or monks. “For many years, I’ve battled with the idea of intimacy and freedom. I value both, but I’ve never quite known how they go together. I’m now becoming aware that they can co-exist. That’s why I say I’m interested
FOR BETTER AND FOR VERSE Arundhathi Subramaniam
LOVE WITHOUT A STORY Arundhathi Subramaniam CONTEXT `499; 107pages