ABOUT THE POEM Karthika Nair’s poem, one of a series spoken by the “voiceless characters” of the Mahabharata, uses a poetic form that has its origins among the troubadours of 12th-century France, the sestina (six six-line stanzas, the last word of each line from the first stanza finding an echo in the following stanzas in strict mathematical order, and a three-line close). Uttaraa is the wife of Abhimanyu, the young warrior slain at the peak of his youth and radiance in the great war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Her utterance, at once lament and curse, evokes a future in which the cycle of violence will never be broken, since “hate, once seeped into bloodstreams,/ is an abiding love”. It is as if Uttaraa’s disillusioned gaze reaches out into time, registering proleptically the entire history of violence of South Asia. A versatile formalist, Nair here imaginatively works the viewpoint of a minor character in the epic into a vigorous, clashing and corrosive war music.
Uttaraa: I. Life Sentences
by Karthika Nair