poetry

Three Poems – Megha Sood

 
Ruins

Days rolled into nights
and seasons turned into years
air turned heavy with
memories from
the yesteryear

And the warm breeze
doesn’t soothe me
the ground
has been cracked
parched,
sullen for years,
it is not forgiving anymore
put blisters in my sole
and cracks
hard to bear

The big old giant
standing
tall in the courtyard
has shamelessly witnessed the
massacre
with its weak branches and
flailing stems
falling apart

That dark wretched well
hollowed and empty as
the widow’s eyes
and too dried up
to comfort any more souls
of the passerby

Those broken picket fences
once valiantly
marked the boundaries
has fallen from its grace
has lost their identity

Those aged doors
like my shattered
dreams
bears
my name
on its cracked plate

This old town
rolling around in the dust
has lost its identity,
those broken souls
sleeping around me
are buried within
the folds of time.
 
 
Colloquy

I stand on the balcony and
look for those fireflies in the garden
dancing and circling
around every blade of grass
lighting it up
with the fire in their bellies
I soak the beauty
in those buzzing insects
in the hope they
can fill up the sadness
imbued in
every corner of my life
The noise and the cacophony
of the thousands of the
air conditioner
hanging like tongues
from a dead body
cooling us and
heating up the anger inside
people look like insects
crawling towards their
home smaller
than their hearts
tonight
the alabaster moon
hangs low tonight in the
heart of the ashen sky
I snub my cigarette and go back
inside in my house
away from this cacophony
where mind
begins its colloquy with the
the deafening silence
I’m at peace again.
 
 
Nakedness

Nakedness
has no concept
No definition
My poems have been devoid of emotions
utterly stripped of verses and syllables
with words stripped of its frame
and body
nothing seems to hold on
and stay glued to it
the body is bare
ready to mocked and scraped
and devoured by the
unscrupulous mind
with their turbid thoughts
As the night is patched by the
one eye of the
dark and sullen moon
I stare in the nights
my eyes are devoid of the light
gazing from the emptiness to nothing
they have lost the definition of hope
like the feeling of satiation
in the sunken folds of stomach
Of a hungry child
Like the palms of my granny
whose lines have been scraped clean
by the merciless
whiplash of time
I stand here with the
barren mind
devoid of thoughts
searching fervently
waiting for the new thought
to take birth
while my soul stands here
starting at the abyss
with it’s
Nakedness.

 
 
 

Megha Sood lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is also a contributing author at GoDogGO Cafe, Candles Online, Whisper and the Roar and Poets Corner.

Her works have been featured in Visual Verse, Modern poetry, Spillwords, Literary heist, Poethead, and coming up in Modern Literature and many more.

She recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest. She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/

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interview, poetry

TQL Interviews Monalisa Joshi

 
 
TQL: Monalisa, how long did Terracotta Dreams take for assembling all the poems into one collection?
 
Monalisa Joshi: Well I was writing many poems from the year 2014 and enjoyed posting them on my blogs at WordPress, Facebook and Blogspot. And within two years time I had written some 50 poems, then I started compiling them as a manuscript. However since the urge of writing poetry was more stronger than assembling them so I wrote more and didn’t realize that I had written almost 200 or even more poems by then. Since I wanted to get them published so I began to combine them as a book however this process alone took me two years as I often used to add some then remove some poems until I was satisfied by the final draft. So to sum up I would say it took me nearly four years to get my poems transformed into a book with the title “Terracotta Dreams”.
 
 

TQL: Who are your favourite poets? What interested you in them?
 
Monalisa J: There are many but the ones that I was truly inspired by was Christina Rossetti, Kamala Das, Robert Browning, Pablo Neruda, Shakespeare to name a few. Christina Rossetti was a Victorian poet and I love this particular time of poetry by the women poets, as it was the time when they were trying to make a difference through their verses by being blunt and trying to depict the situation of the women in those times. My most loved poem by her is ‘Goblin Market’, it clearly depicts that how woman are fragile and were lured by the goblin men who could easily fetch away their souls and can leave them as fallen woman who would not be accepted by the society.
 
The style of writing is ballad and this is the poem from where I started writing long poems. My poems like ‘Baring’, The Sculptor’s Sculpture’ are truly inspired by the ballad form of writing though in a contemporary style. Moreover I found Kamala Das’s poetry extremely modern yet simple in diction and the lament in her poems could be easily seen which truly caught my attention of writing more candid poems expressing the emotions and feelings as a woman. Pablo Neruda is the most romantic, sensual poet whose love poems stir easily into the soul and I found them sweet and most profound way of conveying the love messages and this inspired me to write more love poems and musings which I keep posting now and then on a facebook page with the name “Monalisa’s Musings”.
 
And last but not the least you can find the use of archaic terms in many of my poems; this is because I truly found this way of writing more expressive, when I particularly started reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets. This not only gave me the courage to write in fourteen line stanzas like sonnets but again fusing it in contemporary style while developing the whole body of the poem. Thus, I gleefully and soulfully used archaic terms like thee, thy, thine, thou in my poetry and find these terms to be the most alluring way of writing poetry and expressing.
 
 
TQL: What kind of upbringing you had as a child and as a teenager? Explain the role of family, kinship, community.
 
MJ: I had a value based; loving and filling upbringing which I must say has shaped me as a woman and as a creative person. I was born and brought up in a typical medium class Bengali family. My father had served in Air Force and retired as a Sergeant at the age of 35 and after that he served as a Government employee, thus the whole life of our childhood till my youthful days we had a strong disciplinary environment like everything needed to be done on time and punctuality was top priority.
 
Apart from this I had a very joyful childhood and I still cherish those days when we used to spend two months of our vacation time in Kolkata. My soul was truly an observer, it had caught the glimpses of all the moments I had spent there, from the view of the Ganges, to those Sari clad women doing everyday chores, my aunts’ and uncles’ love towards me as I was the only girl child in the family to my grandmother’s whole presence and how she always kept herself busy in doing prayers.
 
I have grown up watching these daily scenes and didn’t even realize that they were all settling inside of me and now at present when I am far from the city married into a different household it shapes me to be the person I am as I truly can say that I do carry the essence of my lineage in my whole being.
 
Moreover I have seen in my maternal family the flow of artistry as my maternal uncles were great painters and I have seen there made arts on the wall of our then maternal house. Unlike any ordinary girl I was a keen observer of things that were different and usually didn’t attracted children of my age.
 
Unknowingly I imbibed it all and now that I enjoy writing, those things from my past and from my childhood days play a huge role in the backdrop silently and constantly working inside of me and evolving and making me the woman I never knew I would shape into. Thus I can admit that during my childhood to teenager days I had mostly seen and keenly observed a typical yet modern Bengali environment where one could hear adult people talking intelligently on various topics, be that about a fish or Rabindara Sangeet, about literature and even discussions about Authors, their books and those who had claimed prizes for their writings. And I had stared at them with big curious eyes gulping those moments within me. And today I am filling those same values and bit of that bygone atmosphere within my dwelling and into my children as well.
 
 
TQL: How do you see contemporary poetry scene in India?
 
MJ: Till day I can say the contemporary poetry scene in India has became much better and wider as compared to earlier days. And a big credit for this goes to internet and social media. In fact, I would like to add that we are living in those times when technology is playing a pivotal role by helping many writers and poets to reach out and come up with their voices, perceptions, thoughts in vocal or written format and share it with many others alike of them including other people also where they can easily share their craft, artistry and much more.

 
So I see this time as a very good and brilliant time for writers particularly women writers who mostly remain confined within their own small world but can actually share their writings through blogs, video blogs in front of the world. Nowadays there are myriad groups of poets and writers as well who are trying to take poetry to another level of its existence. These groups assemble and do open mics, poetry slams, poetry readings and much more and this is all happening and has become possible because of the social media across countries. One such group is Poetry Darbaar with which I am associated as well.

 
But if I were to see the readability of poetry books or have to measure the amount of books poets can sell, the ratio is very low. Readers still find and chose fiction over poetry books and unfortunately there are very few publishers as well who take unsolicited submissions of poetry collections. Fortunately however, there are many small presses, magazines who take submissions on varied themes which I feel is a great opportunity for new and aspiring poets to come into the limelight and get published. Also there are some traditional publishers as well who consider poetry manuscripts which is a good thing for poets. The only thing that I feel is that poets should lead from the heart to survive in this competitive world where mostly fiction sells easy.
 
 
TQL: Does poetry reach to Indian Women easily? Why not?
 
MJ: Well this totally depends on the two class or I must say two types of readers more precisely. There is one those are readers and there is one those are non- readers. Readers would surely lay their hand on books and some of them definitely would read poetry. And as it’s most commonly seen that most women love to read so in a way if they are connected with the web, visit book stores and have keen interest in finding about good books then surely poetry can reach them. But for non- readers I would say it remains more difficult as for them it won’t be their part of interest.
 
However if I have to talk about writers which I must since I am among those kind, particularly women writers, then I would say that not only poetry reaches them but they reach out to poetry and myriad books of great poets would definitely be sitting on their shelves. I am fortunate to be connected with such few women writers as well and this gives me confidence that poetry is not only loved by many but preferred as well. But if we see the general scenario of women buying books then it is mostly fiction they prefer so the ratio of reading or getting reached is that of fiction more. But being in the circle of writers and having explored myriad pathways I feel nowadays many women poets are coming out of their coy shells and breaking out from the mundane they are paving a way for new age poetry.
 
 
TQL: What recollection do you have of your childhood?
 
MJ: I remember as a child; I had been a very reticent, calm, quiet, and a timid girl. I mostly stayed into my own world of imaginative friends, talked and played with them and loved my solace. I often used to play roles of adult people whom I saw around and significantly I remember I used to play a teacher teaching her class with few students (of course they were all imaginative and invisible) and I would babble for hours giving them lessons and writing with a chalk on the walls.
 
I also used to write words and sentences that didn’t even made sense at that time, but I would lay my hands on my father’s old or used office diaries and filled them up with my incessant scribbling and naive words and letters which were not even known to me because mostly I used to think at that time that I was writing or speaking different languages.
 
One thing that I clearly remember from my childhood days is that I had always loved writing. I loved to hold pen or pencil in my hands and write on papers and slightly as I grew older that love of mine got poured into my studies as I used to make amazing notes and most of my school teachers loved my answers. And this part of my memory has become more alive in front of me because of my younger son, as I see him doing the same things which I had done in my childhood but except of the writing part he loves to draw and paint and for hours and hours he can do that. Childhood is truly the most precious stage of life that stays locked forever inside of our hearts’ when we are grown up and in the later part of our lives.
 
 
TQL: How do you observe your mother and her role in shaping you?
 
MJ: As a woman today whoever I am the credit of course goes to my mother. My mother is a strong person, completely fearless at times but she has a warm, caring, tender and a loving heart. She was amazingly beautiful during her youthful days, still is and the way she used to clad those simple Saris and yet looked so beautiful were the things that I have always looked up to, her beauty, her energy, her thoughtfulness and her presence in and around the house.
 
The way she did chores; took care of us―me, my brother and father as we were a nuclear family but we often had guests which happened quite random in our house and yet found out time for her reading habits. I remember I was a little girl of six or seven may be, she used to hold my fingers and we would walk to a local library from where she used to borrow few Bangla books and she used to read as far as I remember Satyajit Ray’s short stories and some other writers as well. She even used to tell us stories at bedtime. I was more attached to her as a child and still am till day. And today as a woman I truly feel all these qualities like taking care of the house, loving the family foremost, being a warm and kinder person and above all being a woman that I am, I have truly imbibed from my mother.
 
Now that I am also a mother of two sons, I tell stories to my children, love to read and write, take care of my family and does household chores as a typical homemaker. In fact I would say I am a woman behind the confines clad in a Sari with the heart of an artist, holding on her shoulders the lineage that I have seen and absorbed within my soul from my mother and my maternal household.
 
 
TQL: Do you identify strongly with feminist movements in India and abroad? Which wave is it that bought the most crucial change in lives of women in India and in other countries?
 
MJ: Although I am not a staunch feminist, but I do identify with feminist movements in India and abroad and mainly in India. Because I strongly feel that Indian women in many parts of the country still remain unheard, unvoiced and receives unequal place in the society. However; there are few other countries as well worldwide where women have completely degraded lives and place in the society, they are merely seen as possessions or beings to serve their opposite counterparts and mainly as an object of sex to them. But I wouldn’t here talk about those things as it’s quite depressing and the world would seem then as a miserable place to live in.
 
I would rather like to put light on the good things and the positive changes that women have brought in the society and have gifted to the world. The most crucial movement that I consider changed the lives of women was the post independence revolution in India that brought myriad women in the outside world and in the forefront as they rubbed shoulders alongside men and not only got our country free but made a platform for today’s women where we can stand now with equality, dignity and self respect.
 
The most revolutionary change I feel was brought about after the independence was women’s education as not only men allowed the females in the house to educate themselves but also take up employment so as to support their families monetarily. Similarly in other countries as well I feel it is education that plays an important role for the overall development of women.
 
There were some other legislative changes that were also made effective post Independence in India for women like right to equality, right to freedom in every aspect of their lives but truly if we will look closer and try to take up the present day scenario these things are still not provided to uncountable women living in rural areas. Even in urban cities women have other set of problems that they face and the most dreadful thing that bothers them today is their safety. Women truly are not safe in any part of the world. Yet they have always fought and raised themselves up from all the difficult situations. It’s not easy to change the whole world but women are speaking louder now to make a meaningful and safe existence. I feel all the love that nurtures and flows through the world breathes from the women’s heart. They are made by god for love and this universe still continues because of their presence in all and many men’s lives.
 
 
TQL: You have read Kamala Das. Is her poetry a marker of spiritualism, love and transcendence where desires are not pushed behind but are explored in relation to the societal reality?
 
MJ: Yes, I have read Kamala Das. And till day she is one of my favourite modern poet who spoke her heart with ease and most defiantly. She was a rebel from the heart and her poetry clearly speaks of that. Of her time as a poet she was creating words that were going to affect the future writers and readers and addressed issues that were not done before so bluntly by other female poets. Be it her love life, her myriad life experiences, her personal life as a housewife, her life as a writer and particularly as a woman she was way ahead of her time breaking free from the taboos and conventional norms she was a true rebel. And somehow for these reasons I find her poetry most resonating yet conveying the most profound messages across.
 
Personally; however I would not call her poetry utterly spiritual but it was rather more on the transcendental side as she expressed her soul’s longings and voice through her verses. But of course her passion towards writing poetry and prose seems more spiritual. It was like food for her soul as can be seen in many of her poems that speaks of the mundane, the stereotypical in a much contemporary way which shows that she was a keen observer of things going around her and jotted them down all in her poetry. Talking about love and transcendence in her poems she never clogged her thoughts or desires from being stopped neither as a person or in her writings as well and this truth is visible from many of her poems.

 
Yes, it can be said that she believed in expressing her feelings, emotions and desires in a quite candid yet sober manner that it didn’t sounded offensive or amorous yet again the soulful meaning hidden in those could be easily grasped and she had always been able to express herself in a more sane poetic manner. One such poem that I truly admire and love is “The Looking Glass”. This poem of her’s is an alluring and most subtle way of expressing the desires as a woman and how she must be admitting towards her feelings by letting them reflect in her gestures, allowing her man to love her. Honestly; I feel words from my mouth are not enough to describe Kamala Das; she describes herself most flawlessly through her poetry.
 
 
TQL: Thank you for giving us your time.
 
MJ: It is my pleasure. Thank you.
 
 
 

Monalisa Joshi is a writer and a poetess. As much she loves to write poetry, she also relishes in writing prose and fiction. She is presently working on one of her fiction book and few short stories side by side.
She enjoys blogging and is quite active on social media platforms. She is an active member of an International poetry group called ‘The Awakening poets’ and also can be found on Face book and Twitter.
Much of her writings and poetry are showcased in her blogs and can be visited at https://monalisajoshi105.wordpress.com/ and http://monalisa-wwwlisa.blogspot.in/
 
 
 

Letters

A Letter To My Son

My dear soulful son,

When someone asks me about death, now, I say I was never scared of it until unless I’m on the verge of losing my heart i.e. you. Yes! My son, I may not be with you telling you stories, singing lullabies to you anymore but I’ll be always there in you and also in that sweetest poem written by your dad to you. Your dad is a wonderful poet, a husband and he would be the best father too I’m sure. He gave me the most precious thing that is you my son. When people will say I’m twinkling among the stars somewhere; you tell them that I’m somewhere sparkling in your eyes.

The fingers have gone a bit weaker now, the one that you once have held to walk. The hairs may not get rolled on to your fingers now as I’ve lost them with gusting wind of grief and sorrow. The desire of embracing you in my arms is just like my last wish now, as I’m spending my most of the time on the chair adorned with the moving wheels instead of standing on my own feet to hold you and hug you tight in my arms. I will miss your mumbled words that I could hear if I lived little longer. I will terribly miss the impressions of your wet kisses on my cheeks. Now these all memories are left on my heart forever. Remember when you spoke “I love you mom.” Don’t miss me for those whispers of “I love you too” but I will keep my voice in your dad’s mouth to reply you back after I depart from you. I am sure you will see your mother hidden inside wraps of love given to you by your father with whom you will share your secrets, your desires and of course your crush my baby. I know he will give you advice the way I would do. Time changes and so does your friends, honey! So think that you’re replacing your friend, from your mom to your dad. Darling, now that I will die, just remember your new journey will start along with my last letter and your dad will be both your mom & dad. I won’t survive the disease called cancer that at first threatened and then is now snatching my life.

My kid, this is for the very first time that I am afraid of my death. With every breath of me, this fear of getting away from you forever is breaking me down. My heart is sinking deeper and deeper in both pain and your love. I may not be with you after you read this letter but my love will always be here between these words. I will be there in our sweet home watching you silently and may be crying too, as I would not be able to touch you and feel you in my loves. I am sorry my son, time is dragging me away from you. Love you my baby boy.

Yours loving mom,
Priya Acharjee

Priya Acharjee
is a young poetess from Asansol, West Bengal, India. She started writing poetry at the very young age. She loves reading books. Apart from writing poetry and reading books, she has immense love for music. She’s a singer. She has done more than two dozen of cover songs. She has performed as the lead singer in various musical programs. In spare time she loves to paint her blank canvas. Her latest publication is with Roney Oenophile in the Ink Drift Magazine.

Book Review, poetry

TQL Reviews Terracotta Dreams ( A Book of Poems and Musings)

“With dawn I followed the dew,
Drops on the green, they dripped,
In concert and the soil quenched.”

“Oh! She has smelled many and more elixirs,
Yes she has smelled of flowers, of perfumes fine,
Of fresh morning breeze to the prayers divine,
Of warm slumber afternoons, to the last dew dusk,
Of night’s cold robe filled with twinkle mass,
But her senses filled only with his essence!”

– Monalisa Joshi

The Establishment: Understanding Editor, Language, and a Poet

Editing is an art that has shaped many great works of literature. The job of an editor becomes more crucial to shape a body of a novel, trimming it down, making a sensible pause here and there, but this art of editing is rare and rare are the editors now in our world, those few who have it and who have known the beauty of pinning themselves down to allow a sinking text to float for the love of literature.

On the other side, editing of a poetry book is neither discussed much or talked about except in workshops or seminars where time is a privilege for those who are able to have a critical look from the eyes of another poet. Out from the institutions of learning, a world of capital market arrives on our face and it does not like poetry because it does not pay or create a serviceable value, and yet poetry is becoming the major force of twenty first century where n number of people are arriving from deeper silences with new curiosity or as first learners in their families without worrying too much about the world of extreme mode of capitalism. It is poetry which speaks when everything becomes unclear and blurry. It allows in that brief space, an encounter with our world as it is and like a magical wand, the poets keep coming with new verve to excite a generation that is hooked on mediums of technology. It is a positive value in times of great mishaps of fact and fiction blur, because when people try to reason out their lives in our contemporary period, poets arrive with an ecstatic feeling of production of texts which are shaping the consciousness of people living through the connected world of digital theatre. Poetry expands our world even if there is a chaotic network of too many things at once.

As I started to write this review about Terracotta Dreams, a poetry book recently published by an Indian woman writer, Monalisa Joshi, I wondered about the role of journals, publication houses who sift through materials to give voice to some at once while keeping behind a log of many others who never make it out in the world with ease. It is hopeful to go back to Susan Sontag and her equivocal hope on breaking the barriers of high and low culture, if one were to see what poetry is doing out in the world. It however also adds a certain dilemma on small presses and journals that have to give wings to others who are not streamlined in the mainstream of letters, while hoping for a financial break out to arrive. In most cases, it does not happen and this lack of support in arts is more prevalent in India where no such government support or outside institutional support has ever existed except in small pockets of privilege, class and older people of literate backgrounds who are tuned into a sense of cultural bias, that is to not allow outsiders or new age people. How can one hope for an intervention in matters of financial support and moral support to such people who want to see a different platform where youth can arrive and speak amid youth and not older people, where no labels are needed of familial reference of elitism. Literature suffers in India because of this reason. The traditional modes of supporting arts and literature through government aid in regional languages as well as English language is a very closeted network of oldness where nothing new has happened in terms of outreach of regional and national literature to a wider audience through mechanisms of public discourses, modern technology, suitable employment of right people in right places. This space is occupied by few and even with modern means of communication, there is no firm support to new age people.

Language and Chores: Indian Women and Writing

Editing is an important art but reviewing a book of poetry is also important. Poetry often finds a small mention along with new featured novels and rarely do they have a proper column dedicated to their art and craft which is the opposite of prose writing. One clear reason is how poetry leads a reviewer to wonder about this art which has had to struggle for its moorings in public imagination and how it has no potential readers because of the lack of interest to understand poetry in the first place. The invention of novel somehow could have led to the epic verse form to go back and let the world of imagination and digression arrives in the form of storytelling. A poem can however speak more than a novel could, but as so the present situations, we have hardly good reviewers for poetry.

To pick this book by a relatively unknown author has made me see the role of language and poetry because a poem or two can be reviewed minutely, but a whole collection is an ardent task at hand, to give justice to the voice of a poet. The work by Monalisa Joshi is not a perfect piece of collection, but I have reasons to review it and one of them is grammatical errors which is why I had to evoke the condition of editing in the publishing industry and the need for celebrating poetry.

Monalisa Joshi is a blog writer on WordPress and BlogSpot. She is currently writing a work of fiction. She is a mother of two young sons and is a woman married to a man who is a silent supporter and observer of her creative penchant, of putting her passion and hunger in writing which has, in her own words, become an uncanny reflection of her world. Terracotta Dreams is her second book of poetry after “Stirring Spoonful of Emotions.” She does her chores of home amid writing activities and is an editor of an online magazine, “Plethora Blogazine.” She is also an active member of an international poetry group known as “The Awakening Poets.”

The book is divided in two portions. One is a collection of poems and the latter part is full of musings. In the preface to this book, she expresses gratitude to her mother who taught her kindness, love, and strength and believes in her artwork through the element of love as she says so:

“it inspires me to write fantasy poems, romance, and love poems, ballads and more. Maudlin emotions also inspire me to write but it is glee when I am most productive.”

The collection of 81 poems is a mélange of romantic love, yearnings, depiction of Indian women, places far and near in a language that is metrical leaving a faint assurance of an old English form of sonnet. She is deeply inspired by Elizabethan poetry and Victorian women poets like Christina Rossetti, from where her deep affection for ballads and folklore poetry arrives. The poems are long and exquisite with their material texture of abstract words used to ponder and reflect on life, but there are errors too in poems. I did not mind them, because one reason I thought was: “it was a quick job to publish it and yet it had known years of silence.” I do not mind mistakes which are grammatical and possibly this shows the state of editing and lack of human resources in the field of literature in India. The most beautiful parts of this collection are the musings as a poet which are brief, fragmented and carry the finest quality of confessional art where there is no need to bother too much about authority and how a poem should be written.

There is a recurring theme of antiquity in her poems of love and yearnings which play open the dichotomy of cage and light while the meaning to drive the point towards both is shown through shadows which are dark, haunting at times, and yet are rooted earthly in expression. It is a gradual release of expression through words that allows a poet the very precise medium where things are collected, nuanced, and understood.

It is the poet who knows how shadow works in showing the light of a poem to impress upon its fabric, its colour, its breath, and its desires. A poet always opens things and in this old ballad inspired poems, Monalisa shows such beauty of restraint and release, in holding a line, surrendering to the art while reflecting on one level how wings do not remain for long and how despite their being gone, the lament is there of what was present around the fall into the void. It is ethereal to see how she weaves back and forth to show the loneliness of it:

“Withered and tattered pieces fell,
From my bare body, emotions melting,
Down my cheeks, in white rivulet,
My eyes swollen red, I hide my face,
I stay behind the doors, a tiny space,
The curtains flow at times when soft,
Gust blows; it soothes me with the scent.”

In this above quoted lines from the poem, “I am not a Goddess,” she later opens up the horror of being lost in a web while telling us how the past always creeps up in loneliness, where the void is questioned, where the doubter in her mind arrives when she says looking back at the grave, a facade where dreams have cracked open and yet there is a strong sentiment to capture the heart, “I am a wingless woman, I have the curves. Yes!” which turns into a yearning for love, an eternal potion of it while flowing endlessly with struggles that were present:

“Go to pilgrimage! Bow my head to whom?
My peace is devoured by you, my darling!
Making love to me still in times of havoc,
Haven’t you been much demanding lately?
Forgetting evermore, that I am not a Goddess…”

There is a seething amount of suffering that arrives from beneath the grave in remembrance of a past that is alive and yet unreachable. This is pertinent feeling that is present in many poets like A.K. Ramanujan who show the nostalgic side of life in suffering, to ease the pain, like her poem, “I Stood a Mannequin” which charts out a hazy description of infancy, youth, war and old age and yet there are constant plays of mirror and shades to describe each emotions that passes through her, when her poems open up the sensual desires carried within and outside to a lover:

“Quivering she took his coarse hands to,
Her heart that thumped loud and swift,
Beneath her supple bosoms, his heart now,
Dancing to the tune of her swift beats.”

This is one of the finest poems in the collection which most of the time evoke the longings of the poet in love. There are other poems, however, where fear is equally emoted about falling into a trap of maze where the urgency to hold someone dear to life is present in a manner which shows how intimately vulnerable we can be as humans without touch, kindness, desires that make us alive as humans and most importantly hope which allows us to cling to it, even though the path is not clear.

The collection of disparate and distinct poems do not go well together most of the time, but if they are seen as independent creations charted over a long period of time, then they make sense of the flowery language that is weighed at times in eighteenth century poets in strictness and at times it flows like a mundane detailing of tea, cups, love, places.

There is evocation of muses, nymphs and fantasies of the poet in many poems which are altogether stitched in other verses where detailing of Indian life as a woman is shown through the chores and silent banging of the kitchen, the spices, the sarees, the bindis, the teas, which altogether reflect the reality of Indian women revered as Goddesses while keeping them behind the closed rooms in chores here and there to bend and bend over and again. One cannot overlook at such heightened reverence given to Indian mothers by men as Goddesses of homes to keep the family unit intact, because these men further the same project of patriarchy while selling her the version of Goddesses to take away her energies which can be spent well in education, emancipation and change. How would Indian women arrive on the roads with pots and pans to show how they live silently weaving their own stories where heroes always are the sons. This is a problem of tradition and rootedness, where a daughter from a normal Indian family learns precisely at a very tender age when she is asked for her help in chores, even if she is being sent to the school.

This gaze is shown in her poem, “Indian Goddesses of the Kitchen,” where she affirms the identity of Indian women as Goddesses of the kitchen while showing the creative energy that flows with her being as a member that holds the family in check, in control while spending that energy in chores. It is a celebration of the endurance of Indian women who cook and rinse and tell stories through silences, but what is evident is that the poem works against itself to show how this image of the women has been sold to her while not providing an equal position in terms of finances, education, and ideation. I am obviously talking about the average Indian women who come from rural towns, cities, village, whose education could have been stopped just after schooling years as if the graduate college is not meant for her to taste what is freedom like.

This theme is best conveyed in “That Long Silence” by Shashi Deshpande, where the lead protagonist, an educated and liberal woman of a middle class family goes through the scrutiny of male gazes and who fights back to not change her name according to her husband, to know how the history of women in India has been written in homes and chores, and to know how with a literature degree the woman understands her place, her identity after contemplating and detailing about her daily life revolving around her parent’s family home, her husband’s home. It is a work of literature that truly captures the heart of India and that is the women who aspire, who struggle and who have to move through the chores and create their own language to speak.

The musings of Monalisa Joshi opens up that aspirational desire to reach out and grab the dream even after knowing that there are setbacks and hurdles:

“I was standing alone on the world’s stage,
The impish sprite laughed from behind,
Mocking more often, I had no horde to hear.”

In all this, however the identity of being shaped by Indian women like mothers, aunts, the poet seems to embrace the peculiar Indianness of these women in whose reflection she follows her craft as a poet while celebrating Indian womanhood:

“Myriad women on the mirror who,
Stood tall, beside their men, my mother,
And aunts, I have seen them all,
And now I follow into their,
Footsteps and feel proud of them all,
The legacy of gracious Indian,
Womanhood continues with me,
And shall with,
Many alike of our reflections.”

This celebration is of agility of being an Indian woman against the face of bleakness, of having an ability to smile through the pain which moreover speaks about them being at the edge of receiving a silent treatment of ignorance, as if whatever the Indian women did was out of love and compassion. Which also begets a series of question as to:

1. What is the price for this compassionate side of Indian women who inhale in their lungs, the spices and aromas as Monalisa describes jubilantly in one of her poems?

2. What are Indian women made of?

3. What is the cost of her tears, her agony, her comparative jealousies, her moribund fears, her need of warmth, her need of solid heart to push through all that the dark days can bring?

4. What makes her wild to desire and dream, to control and release, to understand suffering and happiness equally?

Anais Nin had echoed that it took hundred men to write about a woman because the woman showed a different face to each and which shows how important is to experience life as a woman with myriads of colours unlike a single white colour that absorbs all―if one were to consider the oral narratives which they keep moving in their hearts and minds to teach their children about the world when everything is going down in the drain, when they offer their silent gaze to fight back and take the place that you want as your dream. Is that ability of storytelling known to many?

It is not, because the world of dominant letters pushes back these women to mould themselves like men, while in reality they need not do such a thing but to embrace their womanhood which knows the ability of understanding and transcending the pain of body (menstrual rivers), the world of stories, and the world of magical healing which they bring with them as carriers of words, as silent storytellers because they shape men and women equally through their wild languages and because they know how to raise children with authority and freedom to mould them as free dreamers which no father can give except pushing the need of discipline to berate his children.

This equally, on opposite side, shows the role of Indian mother which has been a constant site that is of the Indian mother who is always the mother of suffering, compassion, and agility. The problem is their typical role which has been caged around chores with a consistent negligence of her role in the family as the provider of warmth and balance to her husband and her children which shows her silent suffering in between dishes, where pleasure of life is bound inside the walls. This is where neither feminism, modern or its different variant, has ever talked about such women who keep churning out the same role over and again, educating her children, helping them believe in their dreams and then she is shunned like a cow as if the metaphor were real: milk the cow and milk the woman, no difference is there in-between. This is a legacy of close-knit system of communities in India, where such woman adjust their lives while equality and education of women is closed to women like her, who are the majority of Indian female populations.

It is so that her oral narrative is also going through amnesia, as she becomes the carer, the giver of the family while financial literacy is far away from her to release her into the world of freedom.

Supposing, if woman could be like the eternal void where on one hand, everything is stored or kept unto them to forget like objects to objectify her appearance or glorify her through metals, diamonds, fabrics, while keeping her at the center to neglect her feelings, her thoughts, her stories, then would it not say enough about the Indian women who are used like a sacrificial matter while throttling them in the homes to be the face of family? This position gives birth to compassion in her while in reality it is she who has been kept asleep deliberately to not know more about the world.

There is a problem of navigating modernity for her through traditions and this role of Indian mother is quite compressed and shown in a poem ‘Morsels of Love’:

“When the whole town was asleep,
Shutting down their doors till evening,
She remained awake, holding a plate full,
with lunch, a plate full of coastal meal,
She fed me with her hands bite by bite.”

The imagery might have changed now in modern India (upper class demographic, because there are many Indias which are in silence), but the essence of the Indian women remains the same as the carer who sacrifices her dreams, her life to uphold the virtue of motherhood.

I knew the book I took to review had its flaws which needed attention, but I took it after a year of ignoring review work for the magazine, because of the notion of not presenting anything with which I could not relate. To read through her work, you can buy her book here:

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995340_1070986946302160_2811386903564809486_n
Monalisa Joshi
Author of Terracotta Dreams

Fiction, Short Story

Colours

Gael sat scribbling in his journal, one fine day in the park. He glanced up at the white sunrays falling on his book, emanating from the black giant star that he had studied was actually yellow. Or was it orange?
The grey pen he was holding, made random patterns on the paper when he heard a soft voice behind him,
“Hola.”
Gael turned around to look at the source of the beautiful voice. It was a girl of roughly his age, probably 20, and she had exquisite white skin, and her hair– that appeared black to Gael—was swept back in a bun at the nape of her neck, barring a few silken strands that hovered around her ears.
“Hola,” Gael replied, smiling dashingly. “¿Cómo puedo ayudarte?”
“Actually, I don’t speak a lot of Spanish,” she said, sheepishly. “Do you speak English?”
Gael nodded, getting up from the bench. “How can I help you?”
“Thank god! My name is Amelia, and it’s my first trip to Spain, and I seem to have been separated from my best friend and tour-guide,” she chuckled nervously, and then continued, “and I cannot reach her phone. But can you help me get back to my hotel so that I can call her?”
“Sure,” Gael smiled again. “Which is your hotel?”
She produced a white card from her pocket.
Gael stroked his chin. “It is just a few blocks away. I can accompany you if you like.”
Amelia shook her head embarrassingly. “No, I don’t want to interrupt your writing, I’d feel horrible—“
“Not so much writing as trying to write,” Gael chuckled. “Come along, it’s no problem.”
She blushed, and a rush of grey climbed up her cheeks.
Gael thought it was beautiful.
Amelia picked up her bag and pushed a stray hair behind her ear and took a tentative step towards the exit of the park.
Silence reigned as they walked towards the destination.
“So tell me about your trip,” Gael asked, breaking it.
“I reached here just yesterday and today I am lost,” she replied, shaking her head.
Gael laughed. “You should have learnt some Spanish. Everyone here doesn’t speak English.”
“You do,” she pointed out.
“That is because I studied in the UK for three years.”
“Oh?”
“Why is that so surprising?” Gael asked, lifting a brow.
“I live in the UK!” Amelia said a little too excitedly.
“That is interesting.” Gael grinned and looked away.
They slipped into silence again.
Gael berated himself for not thinking about something better to say. That’s interesting? Who says that to a girl this pretty?
Amelia watched him out of the corner of her eye. She couldn’t help noticing his defined jaw, the twinkle in his black eyes, and how her heart fluttered every time he chuckled.
A sudden gust of wind swept past them, brushing a few strands of Amelia’s black hair back onto her face and Gael resisted the urge to touch her cheek.
A few minutes of internal struggling led them finally to their departure point.
“This is it, then,” Gael managed a smile, pointing to a three storeyed black building. “Your hotel.”
“It is,” Amelia nodded, feeling an alarming tinge of sadness. “Thank you.”
Gael nodded, and waited for her to say something.
Amelia felt his eyes gaze at her intensely. She looked anywhere but at him. What should I say?
Gael turned to go, and almost instinctively, she placed her hand on his shoulder, feeling him freeze under her touch.
“Hey,” Amelia said. “I never caught your name.”
Gael faced her and stopped mid-way through his smile.
“It’s Gael—“his jaw dropped open.
Amelia stared at him too, tears forming in her eyes.
His eyes weren’t black. They were blue. An electric blue.
The tree beside her changed colour from black to what she assumed was green.
She could see. She could see the colours. The sun is actually orange, she whispered to herself.
Her hand was still on his shoulder.
For what felt like an eternity, neither of them spoke.
The world was not important. Only they were.
“You have red hair.” Gael’s voice was almost a whisper.

***

Five miles away from where Gael and Amelia stood transfixed, in love, and teary-eyed, Sebastian—his brother– was gazing at a birch tree, looking at the monochromatic picture he had of her.
Mariana.
Just thinking about her name filled him with trepidation. He had finally plucked up enough courage to ask her to come, meet him.
He’d laid eyes on her for the first last month, and had immediately fallen in love with her.
Life was black and white for half of the earth’s population. Colours were something only the privileged could see.
His thoughts wandered to the millions of people living on earth, and how so many of them chose love over colours. They didn’t care if they couldn’t find their soul mates—it was a big world after all—and had made peace with the fact that the person they loved, was the person they wanted to be with.
His parents were one of those people who didn’t care.
Unfortunately for him, he did.
Sebastian wasn’t a coward. But he was afraid of fate. His fears kept him from accidentally bumping into her, and see for himself if she was the One.
In my heart, I know she is.
Gael had advised him to just go for it.
He glanced anxiously at the black and white dial of the watch he was wearing. She should be here any minute.
His palms felt sweaty, and his head felt dizzy. He couldn’t bear the thought of letting her go. Maybe, he would just have to wait and see.
In the last one month that he had known her, their conversation had been limited to waving hands, and they had often texted.
To the best of his knowledge, she still had not stumbled upon her soul mate.
The thought was encouraging.
He heard a rustling behind him, and turned in time to see Mariana walking through the clearing, with a smile on her face.
The white sundress she was wearing ruffled along with the wind. Maybe I will find out the actual colour of the sundress today.
“Hey,” Mariana said shyly.
“Hi,” Sebastian breathed. “So we finally decided to meet, huh?” He asked with a chuckle as he wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans.
“Yes, we did,” she laughed. The sound was like the twinkling of bells.
“These are for you,” Sebastian presented her with a bouquet of lilies. They had been taught that the lilies were originally white. No deception there. Sebastian hoped that Mariana would see the symbolism.
She buried her nose in them for a brief second, and gave him a dazzling smile.
Sebastian felt his cheeks grow warmer.
“Why don’t we sit down?”
They walked around and sat on the carefully placed mat that Sebastian had laid for them in the clearing.
For a few seconds, he let the fact that he was sitting here with the woman of his dreams sink in.
Then he asked the question he had dreaded this last one month.
“Can I see the tattoo on your hand?”
She smiled, looking at him with a strange expression. “Of course.”
She handed him her hand, and with the briefest of touches, he held it gingerly, and let the feeling sink in.
He closed his eyes before he could see something else.
Her hand feels so perfect in mine.
He took a deep breath, and exhaled shakily. She had become very still.
His eyes fluttered open.
His heart elated.
The world had colours.
“Mariana,” his voice was a whisper. “I knew it. See? Everything’s so beautiful.”
He felt euphoric. His heart leaped inside his chest with an intensity that it could jump out at any moment.
“See what? Everything is black and white.”

***
Years later from that fateful day, Sebastian could still hear his heart shattering into a million pieces.
Gael made things better. Amelia, his wife, was a lovely woman. Their kids were lovelier.
It was everything Sebastian had wanted, and yet never gotten.
The one thing he was grateful for though was that now he could see the colours. He had been, for fifteen years now.
One would expect him to get over it—but how do you get over something you never had?
He reflected on this while he sat on the porch outside Gael’s house, sipping his tea. He had been living with them since forever.
He turned as he heard Gael’s footsteps behind him. A hand touched his shoulder.
“What’re you thinking about?”
“Her.”
Gael sighed. “Seb, you shouldn’t—“
“Honey,” Amelia chimed as she joined them, and gave Gael a look. Sebastian knew the look well. It translated to you-have-no-right-to-say-anything-about-his-feelings-for-Marianna look.
Gael sighed again, and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, burying his face in the crook of her neck. Both smiled blissfully.
Sebastian looked away.
A loud shrill of the phone ringing inside the house drew Amelia back in, Gael trailing behind her.
“¿Hola?” Amelia spoke. “Si, esto es Amelia.”
Gael smiled as he watched her speak. She’d taken his advice and learnt Spanish.
Amelia’s expression however, changed from pleasant, to horror.
Gael raised an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?” he asked, as he watched her shaking hands, put the phone down.
On the porch, there was a crash of a certain teacup shattering.
Amelia and Gael rushed outside.
Sebastian had gone very still.
“Seb,” Amelia barely whispered. “It’s Marianna, she—“
“I know,” Sebastian said. “The world’s black and white again.”

Story By: Mahima KhetiyaFB_IMG_1521222178179

poetry, Prose Poem

Leave Request

Between a wrinkled cotton sheet and a lumpy coir mattress, I hide my unsaid
prayers, unfinished, unedited, not directed at anyone in particular, just angst
and offers of trade, a bribe or two, the distilled bitterness of failure, my
winding diatribes and discourses smudged by a river of incomprehensible
tears. I remember grandpa teaching me to write a letter to my teacher, a
recipient, a subject, a literary prostration, all for a day off from school. Which
benevolent creator would look at these jumbled supplications, smelling of left
over school lunches, later reeking of the stale emptiness of beer and smoke, of
the same song on a loop, of time that had passed as god after illusory god had
ignored the unaddressed tirades, not even returned them with loud red circles
and remarks that read, should be more polite, more contrite, or a slightly distended
oval that said complimentary close necessary before neat signature. I cried myself
to sleep on my neighbour’s sofa while my family went ahead. My leave
request wasn’t approved. It didn’t seem, the school said, that it was important.

Poem By: Rajani Radhakrsihnan

rajani-radhakrishnan

Rajani Radhakrishnan is a poet from Bangalore, India.

Fiction

Photographic Memory

 story by Mahima Khetiya

 

***

“I have a photographic memory,” the old man living in the tiny, stinky studio apartment on 5th Avenue used to say to people. He said he remembered the engraved date on an old Picasso painting that he had once seen in an art gallery. He remembered every phone number he had dialled. He also remembered the day he had seen snow for the first time when he was a child.

Not that people cared. People hardly cared about him. He had no one, except his own mind and a diseased cat that he had named Minnie.

The old man loved taking a walk at 2 in the afternoon, when there were lesser people on the road and he could take pictures without people staring at him. He almost felt like people had never seen an old photographer. Maybe they really had never.

People used to think for quite some time that he liked using the phrase “photographic memory” because he was a photographer. But then again, that didn’t make sense and they didn’t care enough to give it a thought.

On one of his afternoon walks, he clicked a picture of a little girl on her orange bicycle, cycling furiously on the road. She had a bouquet of lilies strapped to her back, and for some reason, the contrast of white and orange attracted Jerry enough to capture it into his camera. He headed back home, transferred the pictures onto his computer—a piece of junk that seemed like a blow of wind would shake the mainframe and shatter the machine.

Flipping through the pictures of last week and re-checking his mail once more to make sure that he had no reply from the company where he had gone for an interview a few days ago, he came across a picture he didn’t recognize.

It was of an old lady, munching on some bright pink candy floss just around the corner of his neighbourhood.

Another unrecognisable picture. A sparrow twittering in the early morning smog, perched on a pine tree.

Another one. The girl with the orange bicycle—except this one was taken three days ago.

Jerry almost ran to the police station. He claimed that someone had been taking pictures from his camera.

The officer made him sit, offered him a glass of water, and flipped through the unknown pictures.

He then flipped through the set of pictures that Jerry knew he had himself taken. He asked about the girl with the orange bicycle. Jerry shrugged and mumbled something about it being artistically pleasing.

The officer was intrigued by the man who looked like a homeless person, was an old photographer with no job and no family, and how his utmost concern was that someone was taking pictures from his camera that he could, otherwise, have passed off as his own and that would have landed him a job. He suggested the same thing to Jerry.

When Jerry walked home that evening, and checked his computer, he saw a new mail notification, but before he could go over and click on it, his cat let out a sick moan and scratched its ear with a dusty paw. Jerry noticed a rash, and checked the cob-webbed jar in which he used to store money.

Only three cents.

Sighing, he decided that it would do Minnie some good if she had some fresh air.

It was night when he returned, and he drank a bottle full of water, and called it a day.

 
***

Miles away from his studio apartment, the officer was sitting on his desk, inquiring the little girl with the orange bicycle.

The girl said she delivered flowers to people, and that she passed by that same route everyday at 2 to deliver a fresh bouquet of lilies to the widowed lady on the street across from where the old man lived. She claimed that she had no idea that the old man had ever taken a photograph of her. She definitely didn’t know Jerry so she surely did not know about the stranger taking photos, too.

Scratching his beard, the officer stepped out into the night’s crisp hair, and tried to understand how it was possible that a stranger sneaked into Jerry’s house, took photos and went away– without even deleting them. And such beautiful photos they were. Jerry even remembered the exact timing of every photo he had taken, and so he seemed pretty sure his photographic memory had no memory of the unknown photos. The officer believed his sincerity.

Yawning, he retired for the day. He concluded that Jerry must have taken his advice and would make some money out of the unknown photos.


***

Next morning, Jerry woke up, sat flipping through his photos, having some leftovers for breakfast, scouring the streets with his diseased cat, and randomly striking up a conversation with some homeless people in the dark alley behind his apartment. He told them how he remembered the engraved date on an old Picasso painting that he had once seen in an art gallery. He remembered every phone number he had dialled. He also remembered the day he had seen snow for the first time when he was a child.

He went home, refreshed his mail, awaiting the reply from the company, ignoring the mail he had received yesterday. He put it in the spam folder.

Flipping through the pictures of the last week and re-checking his mail once more to make sure that he had no reply from the company where he had gone for an interview a few days ago, he came across a picture he didn’t recognize.

It was of an old lady, munching on some bright pink candy floss just around the corner of his neighbourhood.

Another unrecognizable picture. A sparrow twittering in the early morning smog, perched on a pine tree.

Another one. The girl with the orange bicycle—except this one was taken four days ago.

Jerry almost ran to the police station. He claimed that someone had been taking pictures from his camera.

The officer leaned back, as realization dawned on him.

He asked Jerry what he was doing the day those photos were taken. He said he was sleeping.

And yet later that day, when the officer talked to the old lady who was photographed eating candy floss in the unknown picture, she gave a toothless smile and said how Jerry had asked her to pose that morning, and how she pitied him for not remembering things, how he had been like that for years, how she had been secretly taking his sick cat to the vet so she wouldn’t die and leave him all alone with his forgetful mind.

When the officer nodded sympathetically, thanked her and was about to leave, she touched his arm with her wrinkled hand, and told him, “Officer, do let him live under the impression that he has a photographic memory. That is the only thing he constantly remembers.”
 
 
 
Mahima Khetiya is a writer from Mumbai, India. A 20 year old English Literature student, blogger and bookstagrammer she has a passion for reading, writing short-fiction, novels and a little bit of poetry. She always reads more than she writes, and buys books more than she reads them. Currently co-authoring a novel to be published the following year by Bombaykala Publications. She likes looking at white flowers, aesthetic things, and old buildings.

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