Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Light Between Words by Nirmala Pillai

“I am not a poet. This is a genre that leaves me baffled.” I told Nirmala when she requested me to review her book of poems. But I could not refuse her, as she is a colleague bureaucrat and now a friend. I am glad that I read her poems.

Each of the 46 poems captures a slice of emotion not just from our daily lives, but from our lifetime itself. There is happiness, there is sorrow; there is satire, there is also the comic; there is life, there is death; there are poignant moments.

An example – A Small White Hair. I could not imagine that a poetry could be written about the moment when one first discovers a white hair, and the pain that it causes.

Another example – Her God, “Patidev”. The abuse a woman bears at the hands of one man, as She cannot kill him. She cannot die… In his death She ceases to be- He is the ‘God’ He is her “Patidev” How can she? A stark reality of our life across different social strata.

Or Mumbadevi which is a search for the Goddess of the city of Mumbai, Yes, goddess You live in high places.

Poetry lovers would certainly love this book.

The review is by Sanjay Chandra, author of The Gymnast.

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My Two Angels

Inspired by a poem by my friend Joyita

I asked the demon living in my head,
If it would live on my shoulder instead,
I would still want it to respond to my name,
I would still want it to criticise me,
And keep me away from mischief.
The demon was happy,
To come out of the cage of my mind,
And breathe fresh air,
And look at all the lovely people,
And the beautiful sky and the flowers.
It still had its own condition,
To split in two,
And each to sit,
On either side my my shoulder.
I now have two angels on my shoulder,
Temptation and conscience.
It feels wonderful,
To sometime give in to a little temptation,
When having a glass of wine with friends,
And knowing when to stop,
When conscience whispers,
Its sweet nothings in my ears.

The Tree

I see it every morning
Sitting on the tree
A solitary blue feathered kingfisher
Waiting for the dawn
To fly in the sky
Certain in its skill
Of finding fish to eat
In the nearby pond.

I see him every afternoon
Sitting under the tree
A man wearing blue clothes
With hopes in eyes
For the steps to stop
For a shoe polish.

I see her every evening
Wearing a faded dress
Rushing past the blooming tree
After a day’s work
A longing in her arms
To cradle her child.

I sit here every day
Watching the sun rise
Against the infinite blue sky
For another beautiful day
Day of new blue flowers.

Oh! The Jacaranda outside!

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: The Me In I by Diptendu Roy

I‘ is the persona, the face that is seen by the world – my family, my friends, my acquaintances. But is that the ‘Me‘. Or the real Me is someone lurking behind the I – afraid of the insecurities of life and relationships, or someone taking life headlong.

It is this Me in I that the poet’s 13 poems explore. The first poem is about friends, who have been there since childhood. ‘Friendship is a boon and, friends are precious… try not being fake or pretentious.

There is a poem to find an answer to a dilemma – ‘Why I Write?‘ Is it for fame, or for the one whom I love, or for posterity, or for something else? There are poems about lost love; truth – bitter but a saviour of conscience; tears – saline waters of the sea of emotions within – of pain, sorrow and even happiness; why am I an introvert – is it the fear of loss?

I have time‘, but it is not infinite. ‘I got to make the most of limited time‘, to untangle the barbed wires of ‘prejudice & pride‘.
If death is the destination, then I will live life. Every second, minute and hour to the fullest and die once, not multiple times’.

And the quest continues – to discover ‘The Me In I.

Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Garden of Fragility, A Collection of Poetry by Neelam Saxena Chandra

I am more of a prose person than a poetry buff. I am under the notion, probably mistaken, that it is straightforward to understand fiction; but there may be several interpretations to poetry, which may be way off to what the poet wanted to convey. It was with some apprehension that I picked up this book of poetry when it was recommended to me by a friend. I would say that I was not disappointed, though my interpretations may not be in consonance with those of the writer.

Our life is something fragile, hanging by a thread. One does not know what the next moment may bring. Our relationships are even more fragile. It is easier to break than to mend. One single spoken word may be enough to break relations of a lifetime. Life and relationships are a garden of fragility, to be nurtured to strengthen, not to be wasted away or broken.

This collection of 50 poems by Neelam is about this garden of life. The poems are a celebration of life, even death, friendship, mothers, daughters, children, parents, and most importantly about I. Yes, I am the most important person in this Garden of Fragility. Everything else is nothing without I. As the poet writes in the poem titled I – You can walk side by side with me, But don’t try to stop the flow that defines me…