My Encounters with a Peacock
by Ramu Ramanathan

This poetry book takes hold a sort of poetic excellence in an unordinary way. Ramu Ramanathan, who is also a journalist and playwright, is attributed with the deserved knack of grappling situation and circumstance in narrative poems. His poems here narrate a straight story of a series of encounters he had with a peacock, half a decade ago, on his trip to a small town called Dharampur located somewhere in south Gujarat. That day the bird was in a state of shock, for he failed to impress friends and pea-hens who walked away when he was performing a mating dance.
When I read I personify the peacock in the poems into a common man facing common problems at the turns of his day-to-day life, almost on all fronts. In a way, the poet deciphers the customary typecast of the peacock being a proud and majestic bird that has long been the national bird of this unhappy country since 1963. Ramanathan’s witty sequential 65 poems in the book give a vivid narrative of how common life goes on, on a zigzag path, when the flavour it requires is lost.

The 65 encounters of the poet with the peacock took place in a course of six months — starting from January until June, on an almost daily basis, so closely and intimately. What turned me on when I first encountered the ‘first encounter’ is the way the poet uses short lines in the form of conversation. The perspectives of conversation, in some encounters, shift into his state of mind reading what the peacock thinks and likes.
Some encounters take me by surprise as the poet shares his space and stuffs so closely with the peacock—be it his food or his house. In the fourth encounter, they share a joint and thereafter the bird enters the poet’s bedroom where his wife was still lying in her sleep at a pre-dawn hour, in the twenty-second encounter. Above all, it’s the poet’s use of ingenious poetic techniques that move everything sequentially from one encounter to another.
Ramanathan is a master observer of the perspectives of life’s tribulations that common people encounter. In the thirteenth encounter in the book, he visits a bank, The Pragithi Grameen Vikas Bank, with the peacock following him. He narrates what happens there:
The chowkidar prevents him from entering
He screeches
I come running back
What happened?
He can’t enter, says the chowkidar
Why I ask
He has no money, says the chowkidar
What is money? What is money?’ asks the peacock
Something you and I don’t have, says the chowkidar.
Simplistic and satirical, Ramanathan’s narrative in 'My Encounters With A Peacock' is one-of-its-kind style I have ever ‘encountered’ among the works of modern Indian poets writing in English, till date.


My Encounters With A Peacock
i, write, imprint, New Delhi
Pp 132
Price: Rs 300)