XXL – By Aditya Shankar

Review by Rajesh Subramanian
Aditya Shankar has been trying to set a unique poetic path for himself, with an unusual language structure, metaphoric themes and cosmopolitan subjects. After his earlier volumes, After Seeing (2006) and Party Poopers (2014), the latest collection XXL has 77 poems with diverse themes. Though the poems in the collection do not have a unifying thread in terms of a theme or concept, they all appear bound together like a stringed necklace with multiple gems.
The poems in this collection are noteworthy for the way they look at things. Even mundane observations turn into unusual visions and interpretations. Below excerpt is an example: 

The Stray Dog’s Tail
For a stray dog,
the curvy tail
is a dangling noose.
A tail that assumes shapes:
A sickle,
for the one on the run
weeding a flourishing debit.
Urban life’s paradoxes never end. Even while leading a cursed life, it is only a comic sense and the ability to draw fun out of one’s predicament that enable’s one to overcome everyday difficulties. Below poem captures such situations: 
To the Crane Flying Past My Car
Thanks for flying past, and not
blessing my car with droppings.
Thanks for being a low-cost
eco-friendly locomotive for
the Tick, Coccidian, Aspergillus,
I’m sure parasites love a free flight as well.

Some poems are remarkable for the way they display a sense of magical realism. The poem makes an entry with a particular facade and exits with an entirely different one. As if one enters the Taj Mahal and leaves out of the Red Fort. For example, in the below poem, a bird turns into a poem and vice versa.

A Bird Recognizes a Poet
There are hundreds of birds
in this city, unnoticed.
I recognize the one
that flies from this page.
There are hundreds of poets
in the city, unnoticed.
The birds remember the one
who gave the space to fly.


Aditya Shankar’s skill in keen observation of  human life and its fallacies is evident in many poems. “Secret” succinctly puts forth the ultimate predicament of the man of today.

A diary dated up to 2018,
an envelope with a reply card,
candles for the Sunday mass,
umbrella for the monsoon,
one year prepaid internet account,
stashed away meal coupons,
uncorked wine bottles,
a new car,
5000 square feet villa,
75 Kg of weight,
4,999 FB friends, and
60 years of memory.
The man who died yesterday
is a fool, like us.


Most of the poems deserve special mention for their precision; the poet has scissored words admirably to cut down on words that do not serve any purpose and to maintain tightness of language. The poems are not complex, but to a discerning reader, could present multiple interpretations. Therein lies the success of the poet and his poetry.
To quote a line from a poem :
When children ask what is left
when a bird flies off from the tree’s branches,
Have words ever been adequate to carry their meanings in full, ever? Has every person always found the words he always wanted to convey some deep thoughts ? In a broader sense, has language ever been efficient enough as a carrier of meaning ? The poem ” The Word ” (excerpt below)  evokes such thoughts :
The Word
No word is big enough
to be its meaning.
No word is a magical hat
to pull out a sea from the
gigantic skeleton of whale
in the town museum.
Our words are not big enough
to hold our worlds.
The poet’s cosmopolitan outlook lends him different points of view. In the below given poem, Aditya Shankar transposes the concept of mathematical shapes onto everyday observations, creating an enjoyable crafty blend.
Geometry of Solitude
In newspapers,
happiness is
a box declaring
an unexpected holiday.
Pain is a 
rectangular thorn
that pierces my leg.
In the ignorant nights,
in a deep sleep,
fears, dreams, lust
come marching –
Along unknown roads,
in unknown shapes.
The poems in the collection are reflective of the trends in modern Indian English poetry and will definitely engage the attention of serious literary readers, across geographies.

Details about the book:
XXL –  By Aditya Shankar
(A collection of poems), INR 350/-
Published by : Dhauli Books ( www.dhaulibooks.com)