Prabodh Parikh is a Gujarati poet, short fiction writer and visual artist. He retired recently as Head of the Department of Philosophy at Mithibai College, Mumbai. His book of poems, Kaunsman (Between Parentheses/In Brackets), published in 1993, is a significant collection in Gujarati literature, representing thirty years of work in poetry. It won him several awards, including the Best Poetry Collection of 1993-94 (Gujarat Sahitya Akademi) and the G.F. Saraf Award for Best Gujarati Book in 1992-95.
Parikh is also the author of a volume of short fiction (which he describes as “twenty-four long prose poems”) and a book of correspondence which comprises a selection of letters he wrote to Gujarati scholar, Harivallabh Bhayani. Another collection of poems entitled Mitro is due for publication by December 2006. Kauns Bahar, a book of essays on philosophy and Gujarati literature, is also due for publication. His poetry and fiction has been translated into Bengali, English, Hindi, Marathi, and Punjabi and published in various literary journals.
Parikh holds a Bachelors degree in philosophy from the University of Bombay and a Masters from Oklahoma State University at Stillwater, USA. His varied areas of specialization include Buddhist philosophy, Existentialism, contemporary Gujarati literature, comparative Indian literature, contemporary Indian arts, aesthetics, and aspects of Indian and Western philosophy. He has delivered numerous lectures and participated in various national and international seminars on these subjects.
Several poems from Kaunsman have been translated into English by Gujarati playwright, Naushil Mehta, and poet and art critic, Ranjit Hoskote. These are due for publication in a volume entitled Stillwater.
Sensuous, metaphorical and surreal, Parikh’s poems reveal a sensibility that clearly owes a debt to varied modernist masters. He himself describes his work as “Baudelairean and Rimbaudean”, and speaks with passion of the work of writers ranging from John Cage to Labhshankar Thakar. The enigmatic dreamscapes that arise in these selected poems reveal certain recurrent tropes: the quest for sanctuary in the world of the imagination, an awareness of the chaos that simmers close to the surface of art and life (which explains his impulse to write “a kind of Gujarati that is always on the edge of disintegration”), a restless inability to accept inherited certitudes and an equally restless need to recover some sense of coherence, some notion of peace – however “corpulent, bloody/ and fluttering” – from the dislocated, violent and fragmented reality of the contemporary world.
Parikh describes his relationship with poetry as ‘careless’. He believes his oeuvre would have been considerably larger had he allowed poetry to be more of ‘a single-minded preoccupation’. “Many of these poems happened as a result of a continuous churning,” he remarked in the course of a recent conversation. “I would have probably written more if I’d done more jam sessions with myself.”
What kept him from this sustained engagement with his art, he believes, is “something chaotic deep within”. “I’m a restless person,” he declares. “Perhaps I’d have written more if I’d been less scattered. Perhaps I’d have felt more at home if I had written in Bengali. I might have found the literary climate more congenial to my sensibility. Perhaps. But what my long years of writing have equipped me with is the ability to sometimes recognize outstanding poetry.”
And what, in his opinion, is outstanding poetry?
“A great gift for writing,” he says, “but matched by extraordinary commitment.”
Also on this Site
Essay by Prabodh Parikh
Kaunsman, Collection of Poems in Gujarati, R.R.Sheth Publishers, Mumbai, 1993.
Karan Vinana Loko, Collection of Short Stories in Gujarati, R.R. Sheth Publishers, Mumbai, 1997
Priya Bhayani Saheb, Selected Letters in Gujarati (1978 – 2000), Image Publishers, Mumbai, 2002
Mitro, Collection of Poems in Gujarati.
Kauns Bahar, Collection of Essays in Philosophy and Literature in Gujarati, R.R. Sheth Publishers, Mumbai.
Stillwater, Collection of Prabodh Parikh’s poems in English, translation by Naushil Mehta and Ranjit Hoskote.
A Poetry of Urban Psychopathologies: Abhay Sardesai’s essay (September 2004) on the poetry of Nitin Mehta also contextualises the work of other Gujarati poets, including Prabodh Parikh.
The Cathartic Potion of Living Together: A thanksgiving text by Panayiota Vassilopoulou and Jonardon Ganeri on Convivium VI, a series conceived by Probal Das Gupta, Michael Mc Ghee and Prabodh Parikh to create exchange between Indian and European thinkers.
Brief report on the Katha Asia Film and Documentary Festival curated by Prabodh Parikh
A report on the letter of thanks sent by the Standing Committee of the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies to Prabodh Parikh, Chairman of the Mithibai College Film Society, for organising a one-day Tibet Film Festival. This parallel festival marked a protest against the Asian Film Festival’s withdrawal of Tibetan films under pressure from China.
Mention of Prabodh Parikh’s talk on Imaging Traditions in New Delhi, September, 2002, for the Sahitya Akademi.