Monday, October 31, 2016

Critical Appreciation - Fire by Taslima Nasrin

Picture Credit HERE
This is a critical appreciation of Taslima Nasrin’s poem in Celebrating India Love without Borders published by Nivasini Publishers. Everything said here is my personal interpretation and should not be taken as the publisher’s or poet’s point of view.

Fire by Taslima Nasrin
He is my husband, the dictionary says that he’s
chief, lord, master, et cetera et cetera
Society agrees that he is my god.
My doddering old husband has learned well
the prevailing rules and regulations to exert
He’s very eager to stroll over the bride of
to the glittering realm of paradise,
he wants all kinds of fruits, brightly-coloured
cordials and delicious foods,
he lusts after
the fair-skinned bodies of bouris to chew, suck
and lick.
Nothing’s written on my forehead but ill fate,
I spend my lifespan in society thrusting chunks
of firewood
into the oven of these earthly days.
In the afterlife I see my doddering husband
exult over the seventy-seven pleasures of sex.
I am alone, in the joyous garden of paradise I’m
Watching the blind obscenity of men
I burn inside in the everlasting fires of hell,
a chaste and virtuous woman.

At the face of it, what might come across as a purely feminist point of view, hides within its covers, a much deeper meaning than the subject of the poem, that being, the subjugation of women by men because society too supports and propagates this way of life. Whether a man is lame, old, deaf or dumb, his position, vis-a-vis women is always that of superiority. Taslima Nasrin laments this position and burns with anger within, yet must accept this as her ‘fate’ because, the man in her poem is her husband. And although she is seething inside, she must bear silently, as he enjoys all the luxuries of life, including his enormous appetite for women and sex.

But, if one looks deeper, the reader may see many other levels to this poem. For instance, from a psychological point of view, there is forever a conflict within the mind, between the norms of society outside and the desires of the female body inside. And although she herself is capable of far more intensity in love and sex, women allow the norms of society to bind them. The pleasure deriving sexual object she can luxuriate in, is in deep conflict within her, and must find her expression, mostly out of the normative framework of society, rather than within it. Hence, standing on the periphery and talking of the chains she is bound in, is to some extent, in my opinion, redundant.

From a philosophical point of view, the purusha/prakriti, outside/inside dynamics is the larger picture of the world. There is an inherent attraction/resistance in the very coexistence of these two phenomenons. What Taslima Nasrin does not spell out in her poem is what she is doing about this state of injustice. Seething in anger, but bearing it silently, because it is her ‘fate’ is a passive reaction to the situation. Unless she is willing to turn a submissive to an active, the purpose of lamenting the state is uninspiring.

From a personal point of view, the poet’s lamentation is indicative of her own state of being, the prisoner in her own body, which might agitate but is far from being free of the shackles that a male dominated society has bound around her. Thus, the poem expresses in no uncertain terms, her anger, which we can easily assume to be directed towards herself, only.

Taslima Nasrin, is a doctor by profession, who prefers to follow her passion for writing prose and poetry and is socially involved in bringing about change through the power of the written word. She shot to fame when she authored Lajja, which brought forth the wrath of the clergy in her own land, Bangladesh and ever since, she has been a resident of many lands. “In 1992, she won a major Kolkata literary Award for a collection of her co-ed columns and essays that criticised political leaders, literacy figures, and conservative religious values that conspired to oppress women.” (pg 183, Celebrating India Love Without Borders). Between these years she attempted to seek asylum in India, living in Kolkata, but was finally not granted it. Her heart wrenching plea that she found Kolkata closest to her ‘home’ went debated, but not granted.

“Because of her thoughts and ideas she has been banned, blacklisted and banished from Bengal, both from Bangladesh and West Bengal part of India. She has been prevented by the authorities from returning to her country since 1994, and to West Bengal since 2007.” ( See HERE )

Needless to say, the anger inside her must be so self-consuming, that it has tinted her tongue and her poem. It is her own state of alienation she is speaking of in the poem, where she is the protagonist, the shackled prisoner burning in anger, the woman.  

You may like to Get Your Copy Now from HERE

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review - Celebrating India Love without Borders

Picture Credit HERE
A maid falls in love with a blind man,
A bird falls in love with a kite
Monuments whisper love notes
and poetry that sings in the night
Separated lovers meet and unwind
A man searches virtually for another man
And many other stories and poetry
that leap borders of all kind.

These inspiring lines on the back cover pulled me like iron filings to a magnet to pick up this anthology of short stories and poems. Starting with Epileptic, Anita Desai’s beautiful short story of lovers who met in college and waited a long time to get married, Gulzar’s brilliant story of a bird that fell in love with a kite, the collection of 12 short stories and 17 poems are a delight to read, especially, because they are all about love in its different shades and colours. Untitled, a rainbow story, puts the ill conceived assumption that same sex love between men is all about sex only. Jatin Kubekar’s Tangled, is cute and shows how a helpful friend brings two shy of love people together. But when a fiercely independent woman, with a volatile temperament is mellowed by a man, eager to keep his tradition alive, Paulami DattaGupta, surprises us with how emotions mellow with companionship of two people quite different from each other. Closely following in the pursuit of intellectual partnerships resulting in love, is Githa Hariharan’s prose-poetry of an extraordinary story between a teacher of poetry and his student. 

But Kabita Sinha’s (1931 – 1998), perhaps deeply personal story is really one that touched my heart. So did, Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s Dismissal. There is something so personal in both these stories, they leave you to ponder long after you have put the book down.

The reason to read stories and poems, are many, but for me, it is this, this and only this – they keep the muse alive in me and my romance with the written word, short, crisp and continuous, like, as if I was entering the minds of different people for a short time and moving to the next set of people. The poems, ignite my thirst for the muse, who for long has not visited my ‘home & hearth’ – my mind.
The collection of poems, are inspiring too and the choices vast, but in all, it is all about love. In my former review HERE, I found some poems repeated here as well, but some were brilliant and original.

Marriage Vessel by Pratima Ray
Her youth spills over as the sun strikes her
Cheeks and is reflected back.
Her Marriage mark’s vermillion smeared from
Her brow back of the crown of her head.
The mango-leaf veil pulled down to her nose as if
she’s some silenced empress.

But what really stole my heart was Fire, by Taslima Nasrin! But for that, dear reader, you will have to wait until tomorrow.

There is one poem, I wish was not included in this collection. And that is The Tamilian. Really, no matter how you look at it, it is racist and distasteful, even though the northerner, Anjali Khurana, finally falls in love with the Tamilian. 

You might like to Get Your Copy Now from HERE

Monday, October 17, 2016

Guest Post: Playing With Love by Jaya Sharma

Photo Credit HERE
"A scene flashes through my head. The Delhi High Court. A (Section) 377 hearing in the summer of 2009. As we sat at the back, on the left hand side of the court room were the lawyers of the Home Ministry. I marvelled at their words. They spoke of holes – which hole was designed for what, and how wrong it was for this hole to be used for this and not that. And I listened to our words – dignity, rights, love… How unable we were to speak of holes. And, beyond a point, what does 377 have to do with love? It was bad enough that our lawyers told us to use ‘LGBT’ instead of ‘Queer’ because the judges would not understand Queer. And then to have to evoke the trope of love. Uff.

Not that love does not have radical potential. Ironically, it can have radical potential when love translates into marriage (or at least reproduction). Ambedkar was probably right when he said, “The real remedy for breaking Caste is inter-marriage. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of Caste.” But we know that love is also the glue that holds heteronormativity together. Love, in the context of modernity, helps hold together that same caste, same religion, manly man and womanly woman couple which produces heirs to inherit private property. And let those of us radical types who are against marriage, including same-sex marriage, not forget, that it is not just about marriage. Love is also the glue that holds together coupledom.
Love humbles, sometimes even humiliates, those of us who sincerely believe and loudly proclaim the criticality of friends in our lives and decry the hierarchy between ‘love’ and ‘friendship’. Oh, hang on. Here in lie many points to ponder." Click HERE to read more.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Review – Put Asunder by Lynn Bishop

Cover Credit HERE
In the first of the romantic novel, Put Asunder, placed in the period of The Peninsular War 1807–1814, author, Lynn Bishop, takes the reader on a journey where, her protagonists, Major Michael Glendon Rheese, known simply as Major Rheese, and Eva Brianna Sheridan Valdez, known as Eva, after a very brief wedding in the middle of the night, in Spain, are thrown apart for the next six years and must now find each other in Brigford Manor, south-east of Leeds, England. The extraordinary marriage, in the middle of the night and their subsequent journey in the very same night, towards, the land of their destination – England, fleeing away to safety from the imminent invasion by the French on Spain, the very next day, prevented either of them to see each other’s face at all, thus leaving their wedding ring, with an inscription “D”, carved on it, as the only common object of identification.

Eva, brought up in Spain by her aristocratic grandmamma, Doña María, is hurriedly married off to Major Rheese, in exchange of the affluent grand old lady’s hospitality towards Major Rheese’s three wounded comrades, who will find shelter at her home, till they are able to move on soon.

Major Rheese is captured that very night by the French, leaving Eva to find her own. After six years in a Convent, she heads to England to search for her husband. Having come to know, that he lives in Brigford Manor, Leeds, she starts her journey towards that destination, when the letters written to him in that address go unanswered. But on the way, she meets Mr Denborough and finds herself drawn to him, despite her loyalty to her husband, Major Rheese. Mr Denborough too, it seems is headed to Leeds and they form a good companionship, albeit, for Eva, it is a struggle to keep her sense and sensibility in place, in the face of a gentleman as kind and reassuring as Mr Denborough. Left with the last two pounds, she is forced to take Mr Denborough’s generosity, which of course she will return, as soon as she can. Travelling out with him on horseback in the last leg, soon they arrive at Brigford Manor, Leads and each goes their way, only to be flung together at the Brigford Manor again.

At this point, the novel takes a twist and leaves the reader in a shock. So what is Eva going to do in the face of her husband, Major Rheese, for whom she has travelled all the way to meet? How is she going to reconcile this blasphemous romantic engagement with Mr Denborough, whom she has begun to love, despite her loyalty to her husband? And most important, who is Mr Denborough and how is he related to Major Rheese? Finally, the romance takes on its natural end - from the wedding that happened six years ago, it is consummated six years after. But to find out with whom, one needs to read the entire novel, minutely.

A clean novel, Put Asunder brings forth, yet again, the genius of Madhulika Liddle, whose nom de plume Lynn Bishop for the romance novels, the Part I of which is the present novel, shines through as not only a brilliant period author, but a great story teller, now famous globally for her Muzaffar Jang detective novels placed in the Mughal period in India. A master craftswoman in the fine art of keeping her reader glued to her novel, I hope, the first of the novel on war wives, being in the Kindle eBook format will find a wider readership across the globe. Racy though it be at the beginning, the novel eases out a bit, as Eva finds herself falling in love with Mr Denborough, dear Lord, causing the novel to become a trifle too long, for an eBook. But the language is absolutely delightful to read and really, love and romance, grow slowly over time.

So, dear readers, relax, luxuriate and watch it happen!  

You might like to Buy Put Asunder HERE

For more about the Author, CLICK HERE 

Read More & Meet the Author HERE 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Poetry Appreciation - Aerogramme and other poems & Little Friend

Photo credit HERE
A few moons ago, Amit ji, (Poet Laureate at Delhi Poetree, Amit Dahiyabadshah), 
published a book called Here & Now, where my ‘Spiritual Poems’ appeared. Since then, there was only one time, when the muse visited me in Chhabees Gyarah. Not again, till this weekend of 1st & 2nd October, having picked up two books, both an anthology of poems, the muse has returned and I can feel the first stirring of a verse, growing in strength, as if I am ‘going to lay an egg”, purely by reading the verses, in these two books and being in the company of poets.

Aerogramme and other Poems by Nivedita K and Little Friend by K. Ramesh are published by Nivasini Publishers and have within their covers, poems that can change the climate within a reader to cause a rumble, signifying the coming of a shower of poems.

They say, for a poet, anything, and everything is an emotion so inspiring that even the most mundane thing can turn into verse. And it is proved thus, in these two anthologies.

From a simple memory in ‘We Never Knew’, poet Nivedita K, draws from her years, ‘From 1990s to 2015s...we grew we just never knew...The streets saw us, during games of ‘I Spy’, hiding behind a volley of Ambassadors, Premier Padminis, Maruti 800 and later, naively kissing each other’s cheeks, in a Premier Padmini.’ To yet another observation of day-to-day life, without the slightest trace of any highly complex issue or thought, which the reader can definitely associate with, including the pathos of the title poem, Aerogramme, when Hima, the protagonist of the poem receives an aerogramme from abroad and presses her nose against the white paper to smell the ‘hamburger sprinkled with his scent...there was no news of his arrival yet; she folded the aerogramme neatly and placed the torn pieces in her locker.’, there is a way these poems reverberate in our hearts because in one way or the other, they are so human, so delightfully close to our day to day happenings, in and around us. My favourite though is the brilliant composition, Philately, on a Sunday hobby that was.
‘The stamp album was one place where, Palestine and Israel shared the same space, The Queen of England followed Gandhi; where Taj Mahal was visited without going to Delhi. A world tour in a jiffy!’

There are 18 poems that comprise Aerogramme and other Poems, all written, between 2014 – 15.

It is quite another matter though with K.Ramesh’s Little Friend. The collection of 43 poems written over 25 years, are short and most only a one-pager. They are haiku and free verse, again written on daily observations, but the poems are vibrant with imagery. In ‘Toy Boat’ he writes, ‘In Mudurai where we grew up, the summer vacation would never come to an end without our visit to the annual fair...The big crunchy snow-white papad smeared with chillie powder and a tiny oil droplets, the magic mirrors which distorted our images in ludicrous manner...’

See! Do you remember, yourself going through the same experience? This and many more poems in the book are what you and I may have gone through ourselves but are delighted to be reminded of them, once again, through this collection of very inspiring poems.

K. Ramesh, who teaches in Pathasaala, a Jiddu Krishnamurthy Foundation School in south India, is a versatile haiku, tanka and free verse poet who has published poetry anthologies in India and abroad.
The Little Friend covers a wide spectrum of daily happenings, around ordinary people we encounter but may just let pass. But for the poet, they are food for thought. Take for example ‘On the Road’ – ‘His hands are dark with grease, Smiling, the bicycle mechanic asks me to drop the coins in, his shirt pocket.’

Now, imagine the extent of imagination and creativity in K. Ramesh, to turn a cycle mechanic to a poem!

Christina Cowling and Nivedita K, in their editorial write, ‘If you feel poetry is not your genre, then you must pick this up to prove yourself wrong.”

I agree in full! There is a poet in all of us, a verse waiting to find its wings to fly. The muse in me is awakened and threatening to burst forth; so must yours. Be inspired!

Get Your Copy Now from HERE

Photo credit HERE
 Aerogramme and other Poems @ Rs 60 and Little Friend @ Rs 150