Films, Mills, and Poets poster

The Bombay Poets were young in the 1960s, rebellious and outspoken, brothers in spirit to the Beat Poets of the US. Now, half a century later, they are grand old men of Indian letters. The personal and literary papers of three leading figures have been gifted to Cornell in recent years.

This exhibit celebrates the new Bombay Poets Archive by exploring the place and the time when Adil Jussawalla, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Dilip Chitre, and their companions began their illustrious careers.

Bombay is a fabled city by the sea. Its most famous product is movies, commercial Hindi films, and the very name 'Bollywood' signals Bombay. ‘Mumbai’ is a more recent and perhaps a less liberal place to be. By the middle of the 20th century, the texture of the city’s fabric was changing. Art Deco buildings appeared beside the colonial Indo-Gothic landmarks. The textile mills that had drawn migrants from all over India and generated wealth for a century were still rolling, but storms were on their horizon. And in this fabled roiling city, the Bombay Poets crafted and published a new Indian literature in English and all their languages. They transformed Indian poetry from flowery to direct and even gritty—distinctly modern.