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Celebrating a century

A genius celebrates his first hundred years


K.D. SETHNA inherited more than a fine Parsi nose from his parents when he was born to a Bombay-based doctor at the turn of the last century. Kekoo as he was known, inherited a fine sense of discernment and an enquiring spirit that helped him push past the limitations imposed on him by polio and a stammer. While pursuing a brilliant education at St. Xavier's, Bombay, he led the life of an agnostic finding his feet and his soul only after meeting the revered Shri Aurobindo in Pondicherry in the deep Indian south. Sethna, who Shri Aurobindo renamed Amalkiran, continues to reside at Auroville more than three-quarters of a century after that first meeting.

But it was to honour his not-so celebrated life as a poet and his unrecognised literary genius that the Poetry Society of Hyderabad came together to commemorate this living legend's 100 birthday. A contemporary of Sarojini Naidu and Hridaynath Chattopadhyaya, genuine access to the essence of the man lay in his writing alone. The literary pedigree Sethna possessed required no annunciation and provided memorable reading. The Society in an outpouring of rich voices delivered passages from his poems and prose. Sethna had written 52 books on topics as wide ranging as the Aryan question, the Indian poet's view of Wordsworth and the days of Michelangelo. But it was from some of his fine examples of mystical poetry that Prof. Sachidananda Mohanty, K. Vishwanath and Kusum Vishwanath read - Tennis with The Mother, Fulfilment and The Parsi.

Sethna's poems offer insight, plumb depths and are a veritable prism to colonies of the soul and to worlds that are peopled by people like us. With wit, passion and courage these poems bring to the fore the true meaning of want and wanderlust, great attention to form and comment on thought and craftsmanship. The completely self-effacing poet through the painful bitter-sweet nature of most of his writing lets the poem make the point. Incantatory and full of mystical wisdom, throughout his long innings, Sethna has affirmed the importance of the spirit without sacrificing the here and the now.

D.A.

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