“We live among stories. Our past is the story we know and the future is the story that will be told to us. Our story is already written by the puppeteer above us, but it is we who choose its genre.” Journey Across the Street by Madhusudhan R. is a beautiful tale of two best friends, with poles apart attitude, who saw their friendship blossom into love.
The protagonist of the novel is Goutham Jain, a young final year engineering student, with a knack for film-making. His life is quite ordinary with his sets of friends who are also his film-making crew, regular parents, and family, constant complains about seemingly stupid have-to-dos in life and what not. Goutham is equally popular among girls and has a trail of girlfriends behind him. However, one name –Rhea Patel- often came to his mind; for she was his childhood friend, who lived across the street; and was out of talking terms for fourteen long years.
Rhea, on the other hand, is very different from most girls of her age. Apart from being smart and beautiful; she is caring and loves to meet new people and travel to unknown places by often notoriously vanishing from her house. She dared to live her life carefree and discover places no one knew of. She lived stories and memories of people she met.
However, her odd lifestyle often gave birth to rumors across her back regarding her character. Interestingly, after a hiatus of fourteen long years, Rhea crosses the street to meet Goutham one night. From then on, there is no looking back; as both fall deeply in love with each other. What followed this was a terrible incident which was given birth due to unfulfilled desires, inequality, stigma, and non-acceptance in the society. The question that follows is will Rhea and Goutham be able to fight against all odds and spend their lives together?
Journey Across The Street is a very coming-of-age novel. But what I liked about it is that it explores a lot of social themes under its contemporary storyline; for instance, the importance of a mother. A mother is an important part of one’s life, no matter how much we fight with them. Even if we have a good father, there exists a void with the absence of a mother figure which cannot be easily filled. A mother’s love is irreplaceable. Thus to find similar love, people can take extreme actions. One can also notice that those with a single parent often feel neglected and ignored. This gives rise to various distractions like substance abuse or trying to find love in extreme conditions. One often feels lonely and it can make one rebellious in nature, just as Rhea had become. But she never lost her humane side. She was a regular visitor at an orphanage and was sensitive towards people and their needs from a very young age.
Madhusudhan has also dealt with an important aspect of social acceptance. Often those who belong to the lower rungs of the society are not equally accepted in it. The idea of class difference based on monetary assets still exists in contemporary worlds, no matter how much does one claim to be equal. More often than not, those who have been brought up by honest parents through hard times have come to accept the fact that this world does not respect those who are moralistic, hardworking and honest. In fact, it disregards them and their existence, often insulting them. A combination of these social factors can affect an individual’s psyche such that it can bring out the criminal instincts in them.
Journey Across the Street, as the title suggests, is a journey made by both Goutham and Rhea to find true love, to immerse in each other’s life; knowing well that they had distinct and opposite personalities. As they say, opposites attract, such was the case of these two lovebirds where two strong contrasting personalities came into each other’s lives only to nourish it, strengthen it and become each other’s support in difficult times.
The novel is well written, however as a reader I found two issues. The story starts with a narrative of a boy trying to woo a girl. After reading the entire sequence, one would figure out that it was actually a scene from a short film written and directed by the protagonists. This strategy works really well on-screen but in a book, it might be a little misleading and at times disappoint the audience. The second issue that I found was the lack of crisper editing.
Nevertheless, Journey Across The Street is the kind of book that would make for a great companion on long road trips or vacations or simply when you are looking for some me –time with a book and a cup of coffee. The book is available on Amazon and Flipkart.
*Disclaimer: I was sent an e-book of Journey Across The Street by the Book Planet PR as part of their Author Highlights and Review Tour, in exchange for an honest review.
The mighty Indian epic- Ramayana recounts the bravery of Rama. However, the life of Sita is almost overshadowed in the epic. Her journey, emotions, lessons and the ultimate Liberation of Sita has been portrayed by Volga in her book.
Volga raises certain pertinent questions about the lives of women and womanhood, as such; most of which are still relevant. Women, from time immemorial, has been placed as objects of politics and entertainment in the society. Often political relations were established by giving off a princess in marriage to the allies or enemies; like in the instances of Gandhari from Mahabharat or Jodha to Mughal Sultan Akbar. But ‘Do women exist only by men to settle their scores?’ Ar their lives always engulfed by the clouds of politics? One such woman was Surpanakha, often seen as a villainous and lusty character in the epic. However, the only mistake committed by Ravana’s sister was to be bold enough to profess her love for Rama. Should women bold enough to accept their feelings, silenced with the same fate as Surpanakha? Or was this a political strategy played by Rama to invoke the wrath of his enemy, the Demon King? Surpanakha, on the other hand, suffered many hardships to realize ‘ that the meaning of success for a woman does not lie in her relationship with a man.’ A woman is capable to be a successful person on her own and at times more successful than men.
During her life at the Palace, Sita had heard of Ahalya and how men and women alike despised her, for no mistake of her own. Despite being warned to stay away from her, Sita befriends her; and Ahalya becomes her guide during some of the roughest phases of her life. She taught Sita the essence of trust in the relationship between a husband and wife. ‘What does conducting an enquiry mean, Sita? Distrust isn’t it? ‘ A man repeatedly puts his wife through tests definitely distrusts her and her actions. To this Ahalya takes the stand of self-authority. she tells all women to refuse to bow down to these tests and patriarchal subjugation. Nevertheless, Sita did bow down once when Rama asked her to walk on fire. But years later, upon her return from the forest, she refused to submit to any more conditions and embraced the touch of Mother Earth.
The Liberation of Sita narrates the tale of Renuka who was the mother of Parashuram and was instructed to be beheaded by her husband. Parashuram took the responsibility of doing so on himself. Sita was taught the lesson of sacrifice by Renuka. Renuka experienced that although women gave birth to the future of the Kingdoms, they had no control over the future heirs. the allegiance of a son lies wholly towards his father and not his mother. Thus, Sita at the end of her life’s journey decides to leave Luv Kush with Rama before departing from the world. The same can be seen in the Mahabharat when Ganga sacrifices her son Devrath and asks him to pay allegiance to his father, King Shantanu. It was believed that sons were given birth to, for the greater good of the Kingdom and the society; and thus it was best to let them perform their duties rather than be tied down by personal relations. The knowledge of ruling a Kingdom could only be passed down from one King to another, or from Father to Sons. Hence, the fathers had a greater hold on their sons as opposed to the birth-giver.
One of the most forgotten characters in the Ramayana is that of Urmila, the wife of Lakshmana. She went through the severe penance of separation from her husband during his exile for fourteen years. Any woman in her place would have been red with anger throwing tantrums against the injustice brought on her. But Urmila chooses to adopt a higher path of self-discovery, self-authority, self-contentment, and liberation. She realized that an individual is bound by no authority and relationships in life, but by self -authority. Maintaining self-authority through gaining knowledge and meditation is the ultimate stage of life that one can achieve. The idea of being unchained gives one the power to forgive and forget, and embrace any situation with practical understanding and an open heart.
As a reader when you pick up the book the name of the novel would quite literally mean the Liberation of Sita, but the implied meaning also suggests the liberation of Rama. Sita, by learning the importance of the many facets of life from women of strong mettle liberates herself from the shackles of society and its so-called imposed ways of life. And by doing so, in fact, protects Rama. She forgives and forgets the wrongs done to her and frees Rama from the bondage of a relationship which he could not justify, as his duties demanded him to act otherwise. She even went on to sacrifice motherhood by leaving her sons behind with Rama.
The Liberation of Sita is an ultimate realization of women empowerment. The fact that a man is not necessary for the survival of a woman and that she alone has the ability to embrace peace, thus liberating herself and those around her, are the biggest takeaways from the book. The Liberation of Sita is written in Telugu by Popuri Lalitha Kumari (Volga) and translated into English by T. Vijay Kumar and C.Vijayasree. The book is available in all major bookstores and can be ordered online through Amazon and Snapdeal .
Borderline by Shabri Prasad Singh is a beautifully crafted story of a vulnerable young girl, Amrita Srivastava and the idea of human psyche and self-identification. It traces the journey of Amrita through various cities and continents and uncovers psychologically relevant challenges that she faces in her life.
Amrita Srivastava, the protagonist of Borderline, is seen to be very attached to her father. In fact, she can be truly called ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, though her love for her mother must not be overlooked as well. Things came crumbling down when her parents took an extreme decision in their lives; and with her father’s untimely death ,the shock was too much to take in .
She started finding the same love and comfort that her father expressed towards her, in all the men she met. But each relationship ended up in a disaster crushing her inner strength a little more. The last straw to it all was when her friend in whom she confided her life’s struggles betrayed her in the worst possible way. This led her to the end of her endurance ability, ultimately leading her to being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. But Amrita was a strong girl and determined to not give up. Borderline focuses on her journey before and after being diagnosed and her actions and reactions to her condition and situations in life.
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Borderline emphasizes on some of the very important contemporary issues which should be dealt with seriousness and spoken about in the society without inhibitions. Parents are an essential aspect and part of every child’s life. Their influence is primordial during the growing years. But when parents tend to drift apart, the sense of loss, belonging and allegiance starts interfering with the normal functioning of the heart and mind of a child. This can give birth to passive psychological issues which can manifest themselves to a great extent when triggered by a memory or a situation. Another facet of today’ harsh reality is finding true love. Every girl desires to be loved and be able to love the man of her dreams. But what happens when the man is only in search of a female body and the girl crosses all limits in trying to make him fall in love? It is of terrible consequences! Thus young adults are often warned about the paths they embark upon and the people on whom they place their trust.
Shabri Prasad Singh has been very bold to point out the need of psychiatric welfare for an individual; especially among the young adults. Discussing a visit to the counsellor has often been seen as a taboo in the society. People hesitate to talk about it openly and many do not voluntarily opt for counselling sessions. But it is a necessity in today’s world that one need not be ashamed of. It is equally important to take care of one’s emotional and psychological well-being besides physical well-being. One should remember that in the end hope always wins. There can be dark days in a person’s life; but the silver lining always awaits. Hence, one must cling onto hope till the last breath.
I would recommend all my friends to read Borderline, as it deals with a relevant story arranged and presented in a way that is bound to leave its desired impact on the readers. In fact, it is also a must read for those who are connected to the field of psychology in any way. Some of the gravest concerns like love, self-acceptance, suicide, loss of belonging; self –hate and others are well addressed through this book. It is an eye-opener to the world regarding the victims of Borderline Personality Disorder as it highlights the truth through a first person narrative. It also makes the audience realise the importance of physical and psychological well-being and that through acceptance, love and understanding every problem in the world has a solution.
Much has been written about travel and tourism in India and abroad. But how much are Indian citizens aware of the phenomenon of Book Tourism? The Pustakanch Gaav in the village of Bhilar, near Mahabaleshwar , has turned itself into a unique destination for Book Tourism. The concept of the village is very interesting and it’s an epitome of our cultural philosophy, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. There isn’t any central library in the village. These books are placed in 25 houses and the local temple, where residents have opened doors to total strangers for their common love of books.
There are about 15,000 titles which are organized in 25 distinct genres. A few genres are very unique; for instance, the Diwali Ank (this is a collection of Diwali edition of magazines in Marathi language) and The History of Shivaji Era (this is a collection of books on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj). Genres such as Humor, History, Poetry, Science, Feminism, Culture, Hagiography, Children Literature, Travel, Biography, Short Stories, Novels, Award Winning Literature, Exhibitions and Newspapers are also present. While the book village houses a few books in English language, the vast majority are in Marathi language. The walls of the houses are adorned by colourful paintings. It is interesting to know that the paintings outside a house reflect on the genre of books that are available inside. According to the Education Minister Vinod Tawde, “Seventy-Five artists have creatively designed the 25 locations with support from Asian Paints Ltd.” The tourists are given a catalogue to browse through upon their arrival in the village. This helps them to understand where different genres of books are housed. The readers are given access to a vast treasure trove of book free of cost, although a minimum amount might be asked for contribution towards the maintenance of these mini-libraries.
The Origin of India’s First Book Village:
The idea of a book village is the brainchild of the Maharashtra Education Minister, Mr Vinod Tawde. Inspired from Britain’s Book Village situated in Hay-on-Wye near Wales, he set on to build a similar book village in Maharashtra, India. This project was inaugurated in May 2017 by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The Times of India reports that according to Mr Tawde, “Around 15,000 books (in Marathi) would be made available in the village premises. Also, the state has provided several facilities such as chairs, tables, decorated umbrellas, and glass cupboards to local villagers to help them enhance the reading experience of literary connoisseurs visiting there.”
The volunteers have expressed that the project and the resident’s involvement in it are completely not-for-profit in nature. Residents are simply supporting the Government initiative and there aren’t any monetary gains in return. The key driving forces of this project are passion for literature, appetite for knowledge consumption and enthusiasm for promotion of culture. The total population of around 3000 people has collectively turned Bhilar into a Sanctuary of Knowledge promoting not only dissemination of knowledge but also a unique concept of book tourism. In contemporary times, given the rising level of security concerns, it is not easy to open one’s doors for complete strangers. But the passion and enthusiasm the people of this village feel towards this project and towards sharing the habit of reading, has made them forget security concerns and welcome guests like one of their own; connected to them by the invisible thread of love towards books. The residents have also started contributing towards the infrastructure which would sustain this project. Some have built additional staircases to separate the library from the main house; many also provide meals upon prior request.
Bhilar itself is undergoing a change. With the residents being aware of the large volumes of tourists coming to visit the village, they have started keeping a vigilant eye on the beautification and cleanliness of the village. The residents have become more responsible and disciplined in their approach towards life.
Coming to travel, accommodation and food; Pustakanch Gaav is very strategically located in Bhilar. Good connectivity by road makes travel easy. There are hotels and home stays. A few home stays charge just about Rs. 500/- per night if the sole purpose of the visit is reading. Other accommodation options range from Rs. 1,200/- to Rs. 1,800/-. Authentic Maharashtrian cuisine is something that you’ll cherish. Although, the weather in Bhilar is pleasant, it can get a bit chilly in the winters and monsoons.
Responses from the Tourists:
Pustakanch Gaav is getting positive responses from the travellers and guests. Being situated close to Mahabaleshwar, which is a tourist hotspot, many have started including a visit to Bhilar on their holiday itinerary promoting the concept of book tourism. Most tourist come with their families or alone to spend some quiet time browsing through books. They are in awe of the concept, as it is very new in the state and India as a whole. This has benefited the youth population in a larger way. Instead of going out of the boundaries of their village in search for books on competitive examinations, they are now made available to them in the comforts and precincts of their own village through this project. The elders of the village are now quite relaxed seeing their children slowly imbibing in the habit of reading while staying away from electronic distractions for at least a few hours a day.
The Future of Pustakanch Gaav
According to Mr Fadnavis,“With this concept, the residents of Bhilar have carved a niche for themselves in the country’s social scene. Henceforth, Bhilar will be the definitive destination for bibliophiles and I urge litterateurs and publishers to freely host events here for the promotion and preservation of literature and literary ideas.” Currently the mini-libraries of Bhilar houses only Marathi and a few English titles. But there are plans of expanding the project in the future by adding volumes by Munshi Premchand, Barsanelal Chaturvedi, Harishankar Parsai. There are plans of stocking up the libraries with books of other languages like Gujarati and Tamil. Apart from this, events like book meets, poetry readings and the like would also be organised in the near future.
The Fifth Mountain is one of Paulo Coelho’s finest works that I have read so far. It traces the journey of a young prophet who is forced to flee from his homeland and take refuge in another country. Coelho has dealt with several philosophical themes throughout the novel. Further, if you find an uncanny resemblance with the life and times of Ben Hur and Mozes; then you would probably be absorbing the book the same way as I have.
Conflict is recurring theme. It is seen how conflict plays a major part in deciding on the destiny of Elijah- the protagonist. It was a conflict that drove him away from his homeland. It was a conflict that forbade people to listen to him, ultimately ushering in a disaster. It was his inner conflict that made him choose between people and the Lord whom he served. Coelho, through his choice of words and creation of situations explains the various types of conflicts man faces and how he deals with them.
The Fifth Mountain also portrays how pure love can be- Beautiful, Serene, Selfless, Rational and most importantly Pure. It is not through physical proximity that love can be attained. It is also through the sharing of similar intellects that one can redefine love. It need not be the union of bodies, instead it may well be the union of the mind, soul and heart; which leaves a greater impact on the minds of the readers and those of the characters involved.
A very important facet of life is depicted through the story- that destruction is always followed by the zeal of constructing something mightier and re-establishing equilibrium. Destruction and Re-construction is a continuous vicious cycle which has to go on in this world. Both are like the two sides of the same coin.
Fear plays a tragic role in our lives. Fear has somehow become the basis of making decisions for humans in contemporary times. In fact, this has also carved ways for parents to exert pressure on their children, based on their fear values. Elijah, as a young boy faces a similar situation in his life when is parents in fear of societal ostracization pushes him towards a career in carpentry which engulfs him in a curtain of self-doubt.
The Fifth Mountain due to its contemplative nature can often be misinterpreted as a slow, boring or non-relatable novel. However, I believe it just takes the correct frame of mind and a correct age and wisdom to understand the depth and complexity of the situation. The density of inner conflicts and its actionable consequences have been dealt with very maturely in the two hundred and fifty pages of this novel, by master storyteller Coelho. Otherwise, the theme being such, it could have well become a well-researched history book instead of a well-researched fictional novel. Hence, The Fifth Mountain definitely needs a certain level of maturity from the readers to understand the crux of the matter. I would suggest if you had read it earlier and did not like it, you might want to try reading it once more after one or two years. Maybe you would find a fresh perspective to the storyline- one which you had missed out on earlier.
The Fifth Mountain is available in all leading bookstores and can also be ordered online through Amazon and Snapdeal. If you like my reviews then please do subscribe. You can also catch me on Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this review or opine otherwise, I would love to hear about it, so please leave your valuable comments below. Happy Diwali and Happy Reading!
Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends? By Sumrit Shahi is set in a modern background highlighting the truths and troubles existing in the life of two best friends, who are from the opposite sex. It is said that destiny is the biggest teacher in one’s life. That is probably why Tanie and Aaryan met in a foreign land , exchanged their stories and found out about the valuable bond that they had each scraped out of their lives not so long ago.
Aaryan, the casual flirt falls in love with a girl during a MUN. What follows is a hilarious and not-so-hilarious ‘ walk to remember’ in trying to woo the lady of his life. But somewhere down the line, this virtual and one-sided relationship takes a toll on the bond he shared with his best friend, Boza. Tanie, on the other hand shares everything with his best friend, Sumer. They lived next door, knew each other’s friends, covered up each other’s faults and lived a happy life until Tanie had to choose between the love for her boyfriend Rehan and her loyalty and friendship for Sumer.
Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends is very relevantly titled. It is a general misconception that girls and boys cannot be ‘only’ friends. It is taken for granted that they share special bonds. However, the society does not understand the beauty of a bond created by friendship between a girl and boy. Remember Rahul and Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Was that not a bond of purity, friendship, companionship and most importantly trust? Keeping the Cannot-Be-Just-Friends attitude in mind, society often mistakes infatuation as love. In fact, in most cases, the best friends are unaware of this deep, pious bond between them which actually qualifies as love as opposed to the general predicament of love being the jaw dropping mesmerising beauty and handsomeness in front. This is often due to their opinions being shaped by the society around them.
Sumrit Shahi has picked up two different stories from the lives of teenagers and presented it to the youth. Girls and boys today find themselves tangled between the webs of insecurities that they face vis a vis their best friends and their girlfriends or boyfriends. Every individual reacts differently to these situations. But often it is found that friendship is the most compromised relationship of the two. Although, in reality it is the most beautiful, secure, independent and lively relationship. There is no holding back, no careful selection of words being spoken, fights end up just as fast as they had erupted and above all both sides of the coin are utmost comfortable with each other to make this friendship last- things which are often not found in a relationship termed as love.
Sumrit has written the book in a very informal way which often reflects as if the protagonists are conversing with the reader. This makes the reader feel almost like a silent character in the book. It was a great read and is definitely one of those books which can be read on a lazy day or a rainy relaxing day sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. However, a crisper editing would have done wonders to the book. What I liked best was that Shahi, brilliantly makes an open ended conclusion for the readers to make their own decisions about the fact that Can a Girl and a Boy Be Just Friends?
What had I just experienced? Was it a mere hallucination? An illusion or just a figment of my fertile imagination? – Page 133, Darkness There But Something More. . . An individual is groomed to be self-sufficient and confident from a very young age. But there are times, when the bridges of confidence rustle under the burden of the unknown and an individual is surrounded by the clouds of self-doubt. The esoteric is a mysterious realm, that is ever researched on and always spoken about; but only those who have felt it closely can be one step closer to the truth of this omnipresent enigma.
Darkness There But Something More, is an anthology of thirty stories written by thirty different authors and co-edited by Lopamudra Banerjee and Dr Santosh Bakaya. It deals with the territory of the unknown and the unseen through thirty short stories. Being a collection of stories, I would of course have my favourites to choose from. Hence, I would list down my favourite stories.
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The White Man’s Bungalow by Dr Sunil Sharma
The undead often make old houses and garden their home. This in turn earns the place the commonly used epithet, haunted house. This story speaks about one such house engulfed in stories and rumours from every perspective possible. It is only when a Journalist enters the house in the pretext of researching it for a story, do the readers find out the ultimate truth.
Two things attracted me the most towards this story- the description of the ‘haunted house’ and the fact that a Journalist uncovers the truth. Being a trained journalist myself, I do wonder at times, if some story somewhere would give me an opportunity for an otherworldly encounter, as well. Sadly, I don’t see that happening too soon!
The Last Trick by Shabir Ahmed Mir
A magician wants to practice a newly configured trick. However, he faces one issue. Thus, he wakes up his next room neighbour in the hotel and rehearses for his latest show. Looks pretty normal right? It is only the story that you have to read to find out what went wrong and where.
The story begins with a beautiful quotation by Christopher Priest from The Prestige. Apart from the story itself, that quote won my heart. Also, this short story had been awarded the First Prize at the Ghost Story Contest hosted by Learning and Creativity E-zine.
The Peepal Tree by Ramendra Kumar
A group of young girls are celebrating a friend’s birthday party. Things go wrong when animosities between girls are expressed through dire consequences.
The Peepal Tree deals with an important social subject- bullying. No one can fathom when and how can pent-up anger within the victim, transform into such deadly vengeance. Supernatural or not supernatural, bullying is definitely a subject that one needs to pay attention to and seek professional help if need be. I would also mention that this story had earned a Special Mention in the Ghost Story Contest by the Learning and Creativity E-zine.
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All Out and Over by Cathy Sydlo Wilkes
All Out and Over is a story which is narrated by a marmoset depicting the plight of many circus animals and their afterlife.
What I liked the most was that, not every ghost story needs to be scary with visions of blood dripping fanged vampires and crooked nosed witches. Some can be heart-warming as well. This is one such story, where trapped creatures narrate their story and cross over to their ultimate destination.
The Reunion by Sarmita Dey (Ghosh)
A tale of love lost so suddenly; and yet patiently awaiting a chance to meet the lost love in some other realm, in some other life, is rarely written by an author.
Not all love stories end well. But the most important lesson of life is to let go. There are things beyond our control, and in those times, one should submit to His will.
But for a crisper editing, the book would have been devoid of flaws. Nevertheless, Darkness There But Something More is a read that I would recommend if you like to read about the esoteric. It is definitely the kind of light reads that you would want to carry with yourself to your vacations. It is available for online purchase through Flipkart and Amazon.
Lopamudra Banerjee, is a Writer, Poet, and Translator, currently based in Dallas, USA. Her prolific writings include a range of books to her credits. She is the co-editor of two anthologies, ‘Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas’, published by Readomania in collaboration with Incredible Women of India and ‘Darkness There But Something More’, a collection of 30 ghost stories published by Blue Pencil, where she is a resident editor now. Thwarted Escape, her debut narrative non-fiction work, has received Honorary Mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017 and has also been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews and Media LLC, USA. Her recently released books, ‘Let the Night Sing’, a poetry collection and ‘The Broken Home and Other Stories‘ have already received much critical acclaim. She has received the International Reuel Award 2016 for her English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novella ‘Nastanirh’ (‘The Broken Home’) instituted by The Significant League, a renowned literature group on Facebook and she is also the recipient of the International Reuel Award for poetry 2017. Apart from books, Lopamudra has got many of her works published in numerous literary journals.
It was my privilege to be able to take her interview, when we got connected on her recent trip to Kolkata, India. This interview was electronically conducted via mail.
1.What draws you towards poetry?
Poetry has been my home and my shelter and my refuge from the banalities of the outside world ever since I can remember. Blame it on my mother who had first sown in me the seeds of reading and appreciating Rabindranath Tagore or my English classes during my college days and beyond which introduced me to a vast and magnanimous world of the English romantic, Victorian and modern poets, I have woken up, drenched in their sweat, their rhythm and their cadence. Later when I started writing poems myself in various life situations and when that gained momentum gradually, I also realised that poetry can be the ultimate form of attaining my own personal catharsis. It can be the lens through which I not only perceive the world around, but also dissent about its vast periphery of subjects, unabashedly, without any inhibitions. So, in a word, poetry is the essence of my heart which I cannot escape, and also the weapon with which I try to fight in my own small way against indiscrimination or atrocities or discrepancies of any kind which I see around me, and poetry makes me accomplish small but significant wins in a way no other literary form will probably make me accomplish.
2. Which poets, authors or books have fortified you as a writer?
That is really a difficult question as there are a huge gamut of poets, authors, books and even songs and their lyrics which keep inspiring me, fortifying me, strengthening me in their own inexplicable ways from time to time. While some days I might gain inner strength as a writer from Maya Angelou’s “I Know When The Caged Bird Sings”, some days it is the intricacies of the mythological narrative of “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra B. Divakaruni which makes me put on my thinking caps. Some days, a song of Bob Dylan or Tagore or “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman might make me delve into my quintessential inward journey; some days, short stories by Maupassant or O Henry or even essays by E. B. White or Annie Dillard might nurture me with their haunting, long-lasting and emotionally impactful narratives. It is such a vast, boundless ocean out there and a lifetime is not enough to explore it. What I have mentioned here and also, what I have explored till now might be just a mug of water from that boundless ocean. I would always remain thirsty for more.
3. How has writing changed your life?
Oh yes, in countless and inexplicable ways! Writing poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction has, first and foremost, taught me to respect solitude and to celebrate the little, minute nuances of human life in words, embedded in those blissful moments of solitude. Writing poetry, especially, has endowed me with rhythmic compositions that are born out of sweet nothings; out of raw, naked emotions while embracing the language of longing. As writers and artists, we might be thousand times poorer than other professionals, but on the other hand, thousand times richer when it comes to the manifestation of our longings, our expression of feelings that we give birth to, in the garb of an aesthetically refined literary form. It is equally true for all artistes—writers, painters, musicians, singers et al.
4. Tell us something about your latest book. What are some of the themes you have touched upon?
In 2017, I have come up with two books of mine as of now, launched almost back to back. My debut poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ (Global Fraternity of Poets, India) is a collection of 70 poems, most of them born as lunar musings in the wee hours of the night. The poems are the manifestations of a restless child woman and also a restless sojourner who celebrates the splinters and shards, the broken pieces of life in its continuum in this meticulous assortment of musings. Divided into five short volumes, through the poems I have attempted to trace my various trajectories starting from my girlhood and puberty to being a woman and grasping my own inner world as well as the world outside which has been a vital part of my womanly being and consciousness.
The second book of mine, ‘The Broken Home And Other Stories’ (Authorspress, India), released in Delhi Litexperia in August 2017, is my English translation of eight selected works of fiction by Bengal’s illustrious Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, including two novellas, ‘The Broken Home’ and ‘Laboratory’ and six short stories where women are the nucleus of the fictional narratives. All these eight works of fiction by Tagore are deep, enthralling sagas where women have been scripted in an inimitable, powerful aura. As a translator, I have tried my best to portray the essence of their complex emotional world, originally depicted by Tagore. In this context, let me add that I have received the International Reuel prize (category: translation) for ‘The Broken Home’ in summer 2016, when it had made its first appearance in Amazon Kindle, a year before its appearance in paperback.
Apart from that, I have co-edited with Dr. Santosh Bakaya an anthology of 30 spellbinding ghost stories, ‘Darkness There but Something More’, which also has a story of mine in the collection. It has been released in July and evoking very good response from the readers. The dark and esoteric has always fascinated me to no ends and thus, this book has been a dream project for me ever since its inception. Let us see where all these diverse books lead me to, but for me, the journey is more important than the destination, if any.
5. How do you deal with criticisms?
I have always welcomed constructive criticism in any form whatsoever, regarding my writing. As writers and creative artists, we keep evolving in our craft and it is the critics who value and appreciate our craft as well as see through our loopholes to help us evolve into better, more consummate writers. So their comments, if made in good sense and with due respect to our craft, is always much sought after. On the other hand, each negative criticism I have endured in my life till now has stoked the fire in me deeper and more vigorously, so I am thankful to all of them in a way. More than a decade back, when I went to Delhi to learn about the publishing industry and make a place there, I had been told by a cousin brother that I do not have the makings of a writer at all. Today, after so many years, I AM a part of the publishing world in my own small way and my literary journey has gained momentum in the most unthinkable of ways. Had I not faced criticism and rejection during those days, I do not think I would have striven to push my boundaries and emerge stronger as I have done in all these years. So I am thankful to the criticisms and the bouts of rejections too, which has made me what I am today.
6. Do the reviews that you get from your audience, affect your writing in any way?
No, I wouldn’t say that the reviews I get from my audience/readers distract me, or affect my writing in any way, because as a writer, I feel it is my job or responsibility to pour my thoughts and feelings on paper and serve the cause of literature in my own humble way, no matter what the reviews/feedback might be. Having said that, I must also say that there have been many detailed, insightful reviews of my books, ‘Thwarted Escape’ (my memoir, published by Authorspress, 2016), and ‘Let The Night Sing’, my debut poetry collection praising my poetic craft and my narrative style which has brought a wide smile on my face and filled me with inspiration and gratitude. On the other hand, if I come across a negative review of any of my books ever, I will try to grasp the essence of the reviewer’s words as much as I can and see if working on those would help me in becoming a better writer.
7. How would you describe the market for poetry in India? Do you think it is suffering a setback considering the sheer number of fictions being released in comparison to poetry books?
Let me tell you here that no matter how many works of fiction are released and read all over the world, poetry as a superior art form will always have its niche readers. Had it not been true, there would be no Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley or Byron, or no Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Kamala Das, or no Walt Whitman or Pablo Neruda. Poets in all ages and eras, for that matter, have survived and even thrived in their own peripheries amid the ruling estate of fiction and the best ones among them have carved names for themselves and are read and remembered even after ages. So poetry will always have a long shelf life and sustain itself as an art form as long as there are readers who swear by the sheer artistry and captivating nuances of languages expressed in the genre.
8. In the age of Social Media, how would you see it connecting you with your readers?
In today’s age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, the world at large is a small village and every miniscule voice is being given a platform and sharing words, pictures and creative outpourings in a pace that was unthinkable some years back. When I started writing poetry as a mere teenager, I wrote in complete isolation, with no media to express. It was like that for many years before the virtual world and the Internet came in my way and changed the way I look at things forever. Now due to the internet, there is a surge of creative energy, and voices dispersed all over the globe are converging and coalescing. There is a greater virtual-turned-real community, where vibrant Poetry groups all over India are doing substantial work. In Mumbai, I know of a woman empowerment group which employs poetry, as a vehicle of protest. In Dallas, Texas, which is my home now in USA, there are various poetry groups with diverse demographics which are both physical platforms to share poetry and dissent in big public spaces and also strong virtual spaces in Facebook and Instagram where poets from all over the state and the nation share their works. So the possibility of connecting with more readers with the passage of time is immense and will continue to expand our horizons as more forums open up in the days to come.
9. If you had a chance to talk to a dead poet, who would it be and what would you tell him/her?
It has to be Sylvia Plath, the mad and melancholy poetess because I see so much of myself in her, sometimes. I would like to ask her why she went away so soon and let her know how much she invades my mental space. I would definitely read out a couple of poems from my poetry collection ‘Let The Night Sing’ to let her know how much I was influenced by her raw vulnerability as well as the surreal, alliterative rhymes in her poetry.
10. When can we expect your next book?
As I am writing the answers to this interview, I am also checking the final PDF version of an anthology of women poets: ‘Cloudburst: The Womanly Deluge’ to be published very soon by The Poetry Society of India, which I am co-editing with Dr. Santosh Bakaya, another prolific author, academician and poet. It will be an assortment of verses penned by 28 women poets of the Indian origin, including myself.
As for my own book of fiction, I am working on my upcoming book ‘Of Frailties And Old Flames’, which will be a collection of short stories on love, betrayal, promises, old ties and all the virtues and vices of human relationships, with women at the core of the narratives. I am taking some time to finish and fine-tune the manuscript and will then submit for publication.
11. Any message for your readers. . . . . .
Be yourself and express yourself freely, without any inhibitions in your art. That is the only single factor that will let you push your boundaries and justify your work at the end of the day, no matter what others have to say about what you create. If it comes from your heart, it will touch other hearts too.
Lopamudra’s book are available in paperback . They can be purchased online through the following links:
A power -hungry politico; and a quest to save a home with several unique people and their adventures. This is the best way I could sum up Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a cantilever bridge is defined as a ‘bridge made of two cantilevers projecting from piers and joined by girders.’ Had I not come across the book and seen the beautiful cover, at a city bookstore, I would not have bothered myself about the Howrah Bridge and its make. For me, it has always remained and will remain as an ideal symbol for the City of Joy. It is the humongous and majestic structure which has been a silent witness to everything that Calcutta and Kolkata has been through, since its inception. Just like the ebb and flow of the Ganges which flows beneath it, it has seen the change of power and authority, liberalism slowly making its way in to the minds of the people, the natural destruction to the city and the beautiful celebrations of every festival. It is the epitome of romance for lovebirds who manage to steal a few intimate moments away from the eyes of the self -proclaimed sentinels of society.
Just as the bridge is witness to numerous stories daily; similarly, the protagonist of Cantilevered Tales, Khokhon Lahiri, stands witness to numerous tales of people surrounding him- people whose intentions, motives, interests and love are joined by the ever charming cantilever bridge. The book consists of twenty-six chapters that are unique narrations on their own and are yet connected to each other through a broader storyline.
The characters written about in the Cantilevered Tales make sure that they are relatable to someone who has been a child of this city for long. The protagonist is surrounded by lovable, witty and strong characters; each having an exceptional upbringing or background story. As the story progresses their life, habits, relation with the narrator and personalities are unveiled to the readers.
The story has some interesting themes. Two such themes which really caught my attention are the importance of upbringing and the need to fight for one’s right. Upbringing is an important part of every person’s life. Being deprived of a proper upbringing can lead to various psychological issues in a human being which can later turn against the individual making him/her a social outcast. Often in such situations you do not understand whether to pity them or hate them. Further, the need to fight for one’s rights is very important. One should never leave the path of justice and truth. There are times when the future might look bleak and the road might seem to have come to a dead end; but that is when your faith on justice and truth needs to be strengthened even further to guide you through the darkest days. The characters also display a certain comic sense. This often reminds us that we are usually always surrounded by one or two such ‘specimens’. But, most of the time, they are the ones we turn to in times of need and they always stay by our side.
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So, if you are in for some light reading this season, with comic moments, and an want to venture on to an unthinkable path to save what is yours; then grab your coffee/tea , get a comfy setting and dig deep into Cantilevered Tales. It is available in most bookstores near you and can be ordered online through Amazon. Happy Reading!
Should I walk through this maze of reluctance?
Should I paint my hands and feet in mud,
Learning to fall in bones, sphincter and grace?
The water whispers seductively.
Between us, a zebra-crossing of blood and blossoming,
Of sacrilege and promiscuity.
– Lopamudra Banerjee
Poetry is both an art and science of expressing oneself. Poetry is like the gentle breeze which blows past your face; making you experience moments of relief, on a hot summer’s noon. Poetry is the like the beautiful calm on the sea or the light ripples that are formed when that calmness is disturbed. Poetry is that one overarching form of expression, which has the power to express anything in this world. Hence, US-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Editor, Lopamudra Banerjee uses Poetry to express herself in her latest book of poems – Let the Night Sing which was launched at The Doodle Room, Kolkata last month.
The book launch was organised and initiated by PR, Events Manager ,Poet and Artist, Sufia Khatoon. The book launch saw an amalgamation of art forms and literature throughout the evening. The event opened with the inauguration of a painting and poetry exhibition based on the theme Let the Night Sing which was followed by a panel discussion, the panellists to which were welcomed by Lopamudra.
‘Womanhood and its exploration in Contemporary Indian English Poetry’ was the theme for the panel discussion. The eminent panellists were Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta, (Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta), Dr Santosh Bakaya, (Academician, Poet and Author of ‘Ballad of Bapu’ and ‘Flights from My Terrace’) and Lopamudra Banerjee. The topic was initiated and moderated by Sufia. The panellists briefed the audience on the effect of poetry in contemporary life- the influence it has on the choices that we make.
After finally unveiling the book, it was impossible that in a poetic atmosphere, there would be no reading from the book. Thus, Lopamudra, Sufia and Dr Bakaya read out from the newly launched book which was synchronised with beautiful melodies by the musicians.
The evening then progressed onto an art and poetry exhibition presented by the Rhythms Divine Poetry Group. Musicians Pavlu Banerjee, Kolkata Music Dairy band, Akash DasGupta and Sahil Sarkar enthralled the audience with their mesmerizing music and made sure that everyone joined in. This was followed by a performance poetry which was presented by poets Sufia Khatoon, Amit Shankar Saha, Anindita Bose, Subhajit Sanyal, Aiman Abdullah, Arjun, Tanya Sengupta, and Aparajita Dutta on the theme Let the Night Sing.
Let the Night Sing is a collection of 70 poems which highlights on the theme – a journey to womanhood. Its stunning book cover has been designed by Sufia Khatoon. The poems are in a continuous linkage with each other; each one taking the poet one step closer to experiencing womanhood. It is a unique blend of experiences celebrating sometimes a child woman and at times a woman trying to put her life back together from its broken pieces. These myriad hues of life put together in a few pages evoke an emotional journey in the reader’s mind- a journey that every reader willingly undertakes through the poets thoughts and verses.
The evening was a memorable one with a blend of poetry, discussions, music, performances and art. The event saw not only the launching of Let the Night Sing but the evening actually sang and progressed into a beautiful night. One that would be etched in everyone’s memories for a long time. Whenever one would pick up a copy of the book, one would praise it for being the whirlpool of artistic influences at the same place, on one July evening in Kolkata.