Thursday, March 15, 2007

The laughter in her lines

Revathy Gopal - poet, friend, bearer of smiles and cheer and wonderful words - passed away earlier this month. I'd lost touch of late, though we'd been friends - good friends - years back when we both worked for a magazine. Rev was amazingly youthful. That, and her writing, and her laugh and her fondness for everyone in sight, drew me to her. It seems awfully trite when I put it that way. But truly, Rev was a sheer delight to be around. She could always make you laugh, always say something that quite took your breath away with its generosity.

It's hard to think of her as having suffered physically, of having died. But if anyone had a capacity for life, an understanding of it and a love for all the sensations it could offer, it was her. I wish I'd picked up the phone and called when I first heard about the cancer from Sampurna. I wish I hadn't given in to awkwardness; had called and said, 'Rev, I heard; I'm so sorry.' She wouldn't have gone all awkward on me. She'd have smiled that generous smile of hers and said something wonderfully affectionate.

Among poets, she was one of the best. And among the most underrated. Though she was such a genuinely cheerful person, her poems were sometimes astoundingly sad. But they also had a quiet sort of laughter in them, so that while reading them, you could almost see her smile growing slowly till it filled her face and made her eyes shine.

Here is one that I found online. Not my favourite or anything, but just such a lovely piece of writing.

Picnic at the zoo

Most of the cages are empty, now;
once there were civet cats, panther and jaguar,
even a family of white tigers from the Sunderbans
that made a splash of light in the infernal dark;
a black bear and a binturong
I remember particularly,
because of its droll name.
They died or were moved
to kinder climes, perhaps.
But when the kangaroos (strange import!)
died, one by one,
the local paper said they
probably pined away.

Somewhere between the orang-otan
and the peanut vendor,
she lies stricken in the dust,
Victoria, Queen Empress,
head averted in clotted rage
as pigeons strut
and cheeky boys clamber
on that capacious lap
from which once flowed,
the long tedium of empire,
the unending reproach
of widowhood, somewhere
a haemophilic grandson;
and the men who walked away,
father, husband,
a recalcitrant son.

Rev used to write for Chowk, a column called Free for All.

I wish I had met her before she died. Wish I had called. Wish I had made a trip to meet her - back and baby notwithstanding...

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Rev was how much other people loved her. I hope she knew that, knew how many people would miss her and treasure her memory.

More tributes - by Todd Swift the poetry editor of nthposition and by another friend.


Space Bar said...

Anita...we've never met, but I keep hearing about you from Hansa and Sampurna. It's a pity that it had to be because Reva passed away.

I had also been meaning to call her, but I kept postponing it. The last time I spoke, it was in Jan and she seemed to be getting better. Which is why all of this came as a tremendous shock to me.


Laura said...

Anita, I think you have described her personality so well which I thought could never have been expressed in words.
I do remember Revathy as a person one could communicate with comfortably irrespective of the age gap.
Her poems are so beautiful...I wish I had known her more.