Book Review: A Poet’s Voyage to Sainthood: Hoshang Merchant’s Sufiana: Poems

Hoshang Merchant’s  Sufiana: Poems.

New Delhi: Harper Collins. 2013. PP. 162. INR 350.


Rasheda Parveen, National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, Odisha

Sex and Spirituality have no boundaries, so have been the articulations of the subjects in literature. The poetic of sexuality moves from being reflective of bodily sensuality to terrestrial pleasure and transcends itself in metaphysics. Hoshang Merchant’s Sufiana: Poems (2013) takes such a perspective towards “sexual pleasure” and endangers the intersections of the sexual and the spiritual. Experimenting with numerous traditions in composing poems—may it be Spanish troubadour, Indian mysticism, the subversive ghazals, prose tradition or Sufi style as in Bellagio Blues (2004)—he has finally settled his heart upon Sufi renditions of the homoerotic cult. As that of the wandering dervishes of Konya and Tabriz, he has set himself into a journey of fana—annihilation in the worldly companions. And at the same time, his desire for using an exceptional imagery reigns supreme in all his poems in the book. The language of sexuality gets portrayed through the musical notes and the vivid colours in the canvas of the poems and ghazals in Sufiana: Poems.
Depiction of sexuality has remained a central theme in most of the literary writings in India. With the Victorian values crossing the geographical boundaries with the colonial modern, the influence of the dictates becomes strong enough to bring in the active role of the binary opposites—heterosexuality and homosexuality. The influential portrayal of sexuality in the native literature has made it to lose the openness of the Indian philosophical minds. Hoshang Merchant true to his publicly projected image of a Parsi homosexual leads the portrayal of a sexual cult vis-à-vis experimenting with traditions and traditional symbols and images. The sexual mythology operating massively serves the literary canon in recovering what has been lost and what seems to have been endangered. Merchant who claims to be a “Parsi by religion, Christian by education, Hindu by culture and Sufi by persuasion” (Yaraana, 1999) alludes to the sacred way of living practiced in Indian societies which develops young ones into a homo-social group while taking them into an adult upbringing to adjust in a system of hetero-social cohabitation…Access Full Text of the Review

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