Posts by Jagari Mukherjee

Hi. In my earlier avatar, I used to be a technical writer. Currently, I work as a college lecturer. I squander away the precious hours of my life in fiction, poetry, and interesting blogs. I had a book of poems recently published, and have won international awards for poetry, short stories, and book reviews.

FOUR MORE INDIAN ENGLISH POETS TO READ DURING LOCKDOWN

Will the lockdown end soon? Or are we in for a longer haul? Whatever it is, I find it very soothing to read poetry when I am anxious. Here are four more Indian English poets to read during the lockdown, listed in no particular order.

1. Ampat Koshy – Author of several books in multiple genres, Ampat Koshy is known best for his rebellious, anti-establishment poems, the hallmark of a modern, mature Shelley. Instances of these traits can be seen in his brilliant poetry collections like Allusions To Simplicity (2015) and Birds Of Different Feathers (2018). One simply needs to glance at a poem like “Setting The World On Fire”, a composition breathtaking in its scope as Krishna’s revelation to Arjuna of his cosmic self; a poem that sweeps through and then transcends the known universe. Dr. Koshy has contributed to the cause of poetry in many ways: he is the founder of the prestigious Reuel International Prize, and has authored a book on teaching the art of poetry to willing learners, entitled A Treatise On Poetry For Beginners (2012).

2. Sanjukta Dasgupta – Prof. Dasgupta’s poetry burns like a bright torch in the realms of firebrand feminism. Her fifth collection of poetry, Lakhsmi Unbound (2017), takes and acknowledges the inspiration for its title to P.B. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and seeks to liberate women from the traps of patriarchy. Although many of the poems employ the first-person narrative technique, the “I” of the poems is the persona, the narrator(s) who are victims and survivors of crimes against women. A chilling poem like “I killed him M’ Lord” narrates a horrific tale of domestic violence along with deceptively beautiful similes to play up the horror. Sita’s Sisters (2019), the latest of Dasgupta’s books, contains poetry that debunks the myths of Sita as the perfect, submissive wife, as well as more eclectic compositions.

3. Sharmila Ray – Dr. Ray, a professor of history, makes a profound observation in her short poem “Sarnath”: ‘Remembered history plays/snakes and ladders with/intricate time.’ This poem is an extract from her eighth collection of poetry, Scrawls and Scribbles (2016), a volume where the beauty of expression bazes up like a sudden star. In the poem “Coffee Bar” the poet longs for coffee with cinnamon but defers it because she is in the process of writing a poem, and attempts to conquer her longing for coffee, a beverage symbolic of pleasures and temptations. Ray’s poetry is reminiscent of the Great Metaphysicals, both contemporary and looking forward to the future.

4. Gopal Lahiri – Lahiri’s collections are shot through with multiple colors in theme and style. His last volume of poems, Return To Solitude (2019) contains haiku that paint vivid pictures, some of which are adapted to Indian themes. His longer poetry can be accessed in collections like Tidal Interlude (2015): the opening piece, “Secret Code” is a poem on peace and happiness, reflected in ‘the eyes of rain-washed birds/tempered with silken feathers and rummaged greenery…”. The concrete and the abstract blend seamlessly in Lahiri’s compositions, thus giving them a touch of magic that is the domain of the greatest and the best.

Apart from Ampat Koshy’s collections, most of the other poets’ books are published by Hawakal Prokashana, Kolkata, and can be ordered from their website.

FIVE INDIAN ENGLISH POETS TO READ DURING LOCKDOWN – Part 1

If you are a poetry connoisseur, then what better time to catch up on your poetry reading than during lockdown? Here are five Indian English poets, not listed in any ranked order, whose works will blow your mind, and whose books deserve to find a place on your bookshelves.

1. Mallika Bhaumik – The author of two collections of poetry, Echoes (2017) and How Not To Remember (2019), Mallika is the poet you turn to after a hard day’s labor. Her poetry soothes the soul and is tinged with beauty and tenderness rarely matched by any other poet. The pieces in her second collection are fraught with nostalgia as narrators or characters reminisce about their past. In both the books, there are train journeys which symbolize life itself, and the past which is wrapped in peach and lavender a mother’s sari.

Amit Shankar Saha – Like Mallika, Saha is the author of two collections of poetry, Balconies of Time (2017) and Fugitive Words (2019). Saha’s versatility is apparent in his choice of subjects: there are poems in the voice of Radha, love poems from a man to a woman, feminist pieces, elegiac compositions featuring Gaza and Aleppo, a series of poems covering Lahore blasts. We travel with the sensitive poet to different corners of the world, and also within his hometown, Kolkata. According to eminent poet Nabina Das, “Saha’s poems are replete with color and light.”

Sufia Khatoon – Before her maiden book Death In The Holy Month (2018) was published, Sufia had already garnered fame as arguably India’s best performance poet. Sufia’s book is an iconoclastic work within the tradition of contemporary Indian English Poetry, giving Confessional Poetry a spiritual thrust. The thirst for understanding the essence of life and death, makes Sufia the successor not of any of the other poets in the Indian English Poetry scene, but of mystic poets like Omar Khayyam. There are gorgeous colors and imagery throughout the text: Sufia’s style is by no means austere, but embellished like latticework.

Devika Basu: Basu is mainly known as a critic who has contributed many acclaimed reviews to journals like World Literature Today. However, she wields a powerful pen too in her slim volume of poems, Resonant Recital (2018). Resonant Recital is to poetry what Charlotte Bronte’s Villette is to novels– an unsurpassed cry of a woman’s emotional pain. Heartbreak and loneliness are the prominent themes of this book, yet, along with the darkness, there is light and hope. Written in the Confessional mode, Resonant Recital forms an exquisite narrative of a courageous narrator.

Nikita Parik – Nikita Parik is a young sensation in the field of Indian English Poetry. Her maiden book of poems, Diacritics of Desire (2019) was launched by none other than veteran poet K.N Daruwala. With a master’s degree in Linguistics, Nikita brings to the table her intense relationship with language within poetry. An avowed feminist, she explores themes such as love and sexuality in terms of a woman’s language, often substantiating with literature what French feminists sketched in theory.

Most of the books mentioned above have all been published by Hawakal Publishers, Kolkata, and can be ordered on the Hawakal website. Mallika Bhaumik’s Echoes was published by Authorspress.

AT KHARBANDI GOMPA


After 23 years,
I search for my
fifteen-year old self
in the Kharbandi Gompa*
at Rinchending – silently looking
at the lovely golden Shakhyamuni Buddha
in the hall that comforts me
like a mother’s womb
where, safe as a fetus
I prayed for good results
in my board exams.
I turned the four giant prayer wheels –
red, with colorful motifs –
and prayed for ninety percent marks.

Today, I yearn for the clock
to turn back 23 years, transporting me
to Kharbandi, where I will walk
all the way from Phuntsholing
soothed by wildflower-covered mountains.
Entering the prayer hall,
I again become

a carefree fetus in the safety
of a cool dark womb
blessed by the Shakhyamuni Buddha.

I will turn the giant prayer wheels again
this time – grateful to have found
the only refuge for my bruised soul.

* 1 km uphill from Phuntsholing, Bhutan

ZODIACS

1

I open a vintage notebook

and place my blue-ice topaz

next to your blood-drop red garnet.

I place my chrysanthemum

in your hand

and adorn my hair

with your carnation;

your Saturn defeats my Mars

in all cosmic wars;

the waters of  my being

seep into your earth.

 

2

 Had we been children,

then there would be no shame

in holding you –

perhaps no lust.

We might be naked;

we might look

and touch and feel;

and never regret the past.

We might (even) wonder

at the differences

we have seen.

 

For instance, in essence,

topaz is different from garnet

because red is not blue.

But then, only you have

taught me how to

paint a tsunami

with dark, watery hues.

 

The stormy sea on our canvas

is a turbulent purple-green.

 

  • Jagari Mukherjee

 

An Ode To Tea

A cup of delicate chamomile!

How do you beguile

Me when I want to rest –

Transporting me to a fuzzy nest.

A mug of exotic sweet peach!

How like a queen you are rich –

Smelling of orchards bright,

And making Life seem just right.

A pot of jasmine makes me cool –

With peace is thus my heart full.

A glass of Turkish green apple hot

Is like the flower forget-me-not.

Packets of Darjeeling, Assam, and Earl Grey fine –

I hold dearer than French wine.

 

There’s a part of me that believes

That the future lies in fragrant tea leaves.

And if in Heaven I ever chance to be –

All I ask for is a jar of tea!

Script

SCRIPT

I could only read the script of your eyes,

And wish I could touch your expressions with my fingers

As softly as I would touch

The wings of butterflies…

I also did read your wet eyelashes

And wished I were a teardrop

Touching your infinite delicate stories

As if they were roses…

 

I am haunted by the script of your eyes,

Day and night –

I am in agony over the possibilities

Of roses and butterflies…

 

 

The epic journey to the US, including losing my Nivea cream

The journey to the US was a long one of over 25 hours. From Kolkata to Mumbai, Mumbai to Heathrow, Heathrow to Detroit. Not entirely uneventful. I stood at the wrong immigration line at Mumbai and then went under the ‘divider ropes’ to join the right line. I seemed to lose my way everywhere. I lost my beloved jar of Nivea cream at Heathrow as the security check personnel told me it was too big. He threw it into garbage right in front of my eyes, to my great agony. Moreover the plane’s jerkiness made me nervous and sick and the flight attendants kept saying, especially during the journey to London, that the weather was ‘bad.’ I decided, like the previous time in 2015, that I would never undertake such a long journey again…i.e. never visit America again.

And then, after I came out of baggage reclaim, my sister was waiting for me with a large bouquet of roses and a box of apple cider caramel chocolates. We went outside to a beautiful, sunny afternoon. I realized that every aspect of my epic journey to the US had been worth it, including losing my Nivea cream. And my sister gave me a replacement when we went home. 

Preparations for a trip

And so, in the midst of the festive season, preparations for my solo trip to America are on. I say ‘solo’ because unlike the last time, I will be going alone. Of course, like the last time, I will be staying with my sister who has proved her love for me by booking my tickets and buying a respirator for me. In turn, I have proved my love for her by buying Haruki Murakami’s ‘IQ84’ trilogy for her.

My sister also tried to help me out by sending the link to a website with the weather forecast for Ann Arbor in the month of October. In the body of the email, she said that it would be chilly and asked me to get sweaters and socks. When I opened the link, I saw that the weather is mostly predicted to be sunny. But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and go by what the authority, i.e. my sister says.

I packed my sweaters and then realized that I had only two complete pairs of socks — the rest were all missing their pairs. So, an expedition to City Centre to meet a childhood friend turned into a quest for the perfect pair of socks. Anindita patiently helped me pick out two sets (three pairs each set) based on their aesthetic value rather than practical considerations.

If my mother is to be believed, many more expeditions are in the offing before before I fly next week. I better believe her and prepare myself for Rush Hour.

A confession: I am nervous about traveling solo without my mom and dad. After all, I’m only in my thirties…