Abhay K is the author of nine poetry collections, and he seems preoccupied with geography, topography, and landscape. He was till recently the Indian Ambassador to Madagascar, but we are concerned with him as a poet. Abhay’s latest book is Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing.

He has had earlier trysts with geography too, which I find most fascinating for a poet. For instance, an earlier book of his, The Alphabets of Latin America, comprises poems that explore different landscapes in a unique way. I am aware that in his book on Latin America, for instance, he speaks about the world’s driest place, the Atacama Desert.

Poetry and topography

In the preface to Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing, the poet traces how he came to write a love poem that connects India and Madagascar. One of Abhay K’s books is a translation of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta into English. So, this preoccupation with topos – topography, so to say – remains firmly in the poet’s oeuvre.

I would look at the idea of place is a very positive way. I am immediately reminded of the iconic poems “Ithaka” by CP Cavafy and “To Go To Lvov” by Adam Zagajewski. In the preface, as Abhay says, one of his debts – or a poetic, oracular flash of inspiration – is to the acclaimed poet Simon Armitage’s poem, “Lockdown”, which too had a reference to Meghaduta or The Cloud Messenger.

Abhay traces the poetic and eclectic journey that led to his book on Monsoon, in which Kalidasa’s Meghaduta played a rather important part. To quote the poet himself, “Translating Meghaduta was a transformative experience.”

There are quite a few discoveries in the Introduction to the book Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing. Abhay writes, “Monsoon is a homage to the rich natural world of the Indian Ocean islands and the Indian subcontinent, their vibrant cultures and traditions and to the great Kalidasa who gave us Meghaduta and Ritusamhara”.

Bridges, not divisions

In fact, as the Introduction and the book of poems articulate, the monsoon that comes to India originates near Madagascar and traverses the Indian Ocean, bridging cultures, lands, languages, sensibilities, peoples and so much more. What resonates across these is the language of love.

I was quite amazed to see references to Porbandar, my mother’s land, where my maternal grandfather settled in 1950, and a reference to the iconic Farrokh Bulsara, later popularly known as the singer Freddie Mercury, who was born a Parsi Zoroastrian as my mother is. Reading this fascinating single poem – yes, it is actually a book, which is a single long poem, written in 150 quatrains or four-line stanzas – is an enjoyable reading experience and the message is loud and clear: what bridges us is far more important and much stronger than anything that divides human beings.

Those scholars, academics and researchers who work on Indian Ocean Studies as an academic discipline in different universities across the world, might want to look at Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing. As I was reading and re-reading Monsoon and reflecting on the idea of monsoon and love, Sting’s song with Cheb Mami, Desert Rose came to my mind. Here, too, Sting sings, “I dream of rain” and immediately thinks of his beloved.


Let me just leave you with a few quatrains from Monsoon to enjoy and ponder over:

“I wake up with your thoughts
your fragrance reaching me
all the way from the Himalayas
to the island of Madagascar.”

— Quatrain 1, page 1

“I dream of you every night, the shimmering dawn
snatches my dreams but the morning breeze comes
whispering your name, permeating my being
with your thoughts, only your thoughts, my love”

— Quatrain 3, page 1

“In May, the white sand will glitter like diamonds,
to welcome you in Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
love-birds will head towards Diglipur caves, their
sweet moans mixing with the sound of your rains”

— Quatrain 47, page 14

“Biharis will celebrate your arrival listening
to sweet old Bhojpuri songs of their kinsfolk
brought by you from Mauritius and Seychelles,
farmers will start sowing paddy singing rain songs”

— Quatrain 57, page 16
Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing

Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing, Abhay K, Sahitya Akademi / National Academy of Letters.