It's hard to believe that I met her only four years ago; I feel like
In the months that followed, our conversations flowed and our writing flowered. If for nothing else, I would have to thank Revathy for that.
She would have been sixty in less than three months. This was the year in which her first book of poetry would have been (perhaps already has been) published. The last time I spoke to her, in January, she had sent off her final proofs: The Last Possibilities of Light (pub. Writers Workshop, Calcutta). I hope at least, that she lived to see it, because elsewhere, she never got the recognition she deserved for her poetry. You won't find her in any of the major collections of the last decade; not because she hadn't been writing, but because - actually, who knows why? I don't. I only know that she should have been there, as a major and strong voice in Indian poetry today.
I saw Revathy for the last time in September, when I had gone to Bombay. She had breast cancer, and at the time it had just spread to her uterus. They recommended a hysterectomy, but that had to be postponed because she was severely ill with some medication, unable to keep down any food. When SC and I went to meet her at her home, we were very nervous, as only the young and very healthy can be, while visiting someone very ill. But Revathy put us at our ease in no time at all. Soon, we were giggling, sharing our poems with her and behaving very badly. In a little while, her husband came in and gently reminded us that Revathy was really not strong enough to talk for so long. We left, feeling slightly guilty but also cheered by the thought that anyone who could laugh as Revathy had, could really not be so unwell. Surely she will get better, we thought. A hysterectomy will contain the spread of the cancer; things will, they will get better.
But she didn't get better. I spoke to her in January, with no idea that the cancer was spreading. For the last week, I had been meaning to call her, but like all good intentions, this one came to nothing. This morning, SC mailed to say Revathy had been in hospital for the last week, and had died this morning.
There is no end to the regrets one can have: not enough conversations, didn't see her, didn't talk to her; didn't see her book, didn't didn't didn't. But for her, who struggled with pain without letting anyone know how much, it must be a release.
Poems by Revathy here. Rama's tribute to her here (Revathy was Rama's aunt).
And finally, a poem by Revathy.
Carved In Stone
I shall not be inconsolable. There will be other rooms, other faces, open spaces, long stretches of time when I shall not even be conscious that you are not there.
I count the cost in concrete terms. You will not know my children’s names, nor I yours. That I may look at a photograph and remember my eyes looking at you looking at me. That some green girl in love with herself will hold your life in her hands.
I shall not say your name again, not even by chance.
One day, perhaps, love may die of disuse, left to rust in wind and weather.
Rest in peace, Revathy.
Update: Nthposition has a note at the head of its main page in memoriam. Todd Swift, Nthposition's poetry editor and Poet in Residence, Oxfam Great Britain, will have a post about her tomorrow, on his blog.
Update 2: Dilip D'Souza has a tribute to Revathy on his blog. Kees Klok, who has translated Revathy's work into Dutch, has a tribute here.
Update 3: Uma's tribute here and Revathy's son, Kartik's post about her last days, here.