India Today - - LEISURE -

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

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