Touch, a collection of poems by Meena Kandasamy, reveals her as a poetess capable of expressing views on diverse ideas and ideologies. She seems to be looking at the world with a clear-eyed honesty, as she draws fresh perspectives on the triumphs and failures that are concomitant with our culture. Social justice is a persistent theme for her, but she does not look at the vagaries of casteism through a sense of despair, rather she takes it head-on, as a challenge. Even as the world around as changes alarmingly, Meena Kandasamy reminds us that before we harbour hopes of a bright future, we have to make sure that the ghosts of the past, ghosts like casteism and untouchability are consigned to oblivion.
Cynicism runs through Meena’s poetry like a leitmotif, but alongside there is also a certain kind of rough music and a rhythm as that of nerve endings open and alive, of veins open and overflowing with blood. In a poem on Mahatma Gandhi, titled ‘Mohandas Karamchand’, she minces no words and cries, ‘Stop it. Enough taboo’. The poem ‘Frenzied Light’ is a promise of love, but it also sounds like a lament on the ephemeral nature of love.
In all there are 84 poems in the book, which is divided into seven sections–’Bring him up to worship you, Touch, Add some spice, To that more congenial spot, Lines of control, Slander is a slaughterhouse.’ The different sections run like a musical symphony traversing across a whole gamut of emotions, conjuring vivid and suggestive allusions to love, joy, rebellion, edge of despair and stoical perseverance. It is in the poems contained in the section with the eponymous name, ‘Touch’ that Kandasamy delivers her tirade against a social system that evaluates people on the basis of pedigree. [...]