Arun Kolatkar (1932), works in Bombay for an advertising agency. He is a bilingual poet who writes in both English and Marathi. His Jejuri published in 1976 won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize awarded for the best first book of poetry in English. His works have appeared in Opinion, Literary Quarterly, New Writing in India (Penguin) and The Shell and the Rain (George Allen & Unwin, 1973).
Kolatkar’s first long poem The Boatride has come up for considerable critical attention. The poem strikes the reader as a series of snapshots presenting scenes which shift constantly from the movement of the pair of knees streaking up and down to the spreading of the sail, the appearance of the stony-faced woman and her child. The surge of the sea which provides the basic rhythm to the poem lends a sense of unity and continuity to the whole poem bringing the snapshot perceptions into a well-unified orchestration.
Jejuri is again a long poem written in thirty-one sections and this is perhaps Kolatkar’s best work. The poem has been considered as “the poet’s irreverent Odyssey to the temple of Khandoba at Jejuri, a small town in Western Maharashtra” (R. Parthasarathy). Written in a style which is ironic and humorous the poem has a colloquial flavour which goes well with the level at which life is portrayed.
The poem is actually about the spiritual journey of the city-bred man to the temple at Jejuri and each of the thirty-one sections is a poem in itself and together they make for a pattern of pilgrimage, namely the arrival, the round of visits and the return. The irony of the entire work lies in the fact that it is a pilgrimage without any religious or spiritual purpose or vision and that the “pilgrim” shows little interest in or sensitivity to the presence of so many gods in the place.
“The Bus” is the first poem in the series and describes the arrival of the pilgrim at Jejuri on a rainy dawn.