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Red Seeps – Droplets of Doubt, Destiny and Devotion in Verse by Sadia Riaz Sehole

a16284Publisher:    Authorspress, New Delhi, India
Language: English
ISBN- 978-81-7273-932-4
 
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Reviewed by Shernaz Wadia
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Here I am, getting acquainted with Sadia Riaz Sehole’s maiden book of poems Red Seeps, Droplets of Doubt, Destiny and Devotion in Verse. The airy blue of the cover, with the title oozing red, belies the monochromatic visuals on the inside, both, together with the layout by Geetali Baruah. Striking! Will the 3Ds (Doubt, Destiny and Devotion) turn the readers into oysters that will nurture the pearl shown on the cover page? To find the answer, I obviously had to read the poems. 
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Poetry, to be good, should blend craft and magic; it should flow from the union of head and heart. All emotions can make a poem mushy…only hard-headed thoughts, without the mellowing edges of feeling and a poem can sound harsh and abrasive. 
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The back cover says, “For Sadia, writing is an outlet for a plethora of feelings, agony, dilemmas, chaos, evens and odds in life.” 
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Here’s what I found in Red Seeps.
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The poems are short, some of only four lines and simply crafted. They spew angst, screams, dumbed-down dreams, smothered passions, hidden trauma –   the exploration and revelation of the trajectory of a tempestuous emotional journey. A raw vein aches and pulsates through the book, interjected here and there by hope, prayer and courage. These try to balance the unnerving, unexpected harshness of the world with mature thinking. Each black and white image too is startlingly perfect…a stark reflection of the poem it illustrates, one complementing the other and making the book a visual delight despite its disturbing darkness.
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One could easily say the poems are ‘I-centric’ because almost every verse is in the first person but that would be over-simplifying and undermining their universal impact.  Though she is a woman and I can identify with her, let me clarify here that this is by no means a diatribe against men. Nor does Sadia whine in self-pity. Her quiet words give voice to all silent sufferers – male or female.
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One poem that haunts is ‘Silent Screams’.  
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“Alone and exiled/Disdained and assailed…..
…Soundless ache like boundless sands/and emptiness all around/Simply because I am too big to cry.”
That last line is a forceful lamentation on society’s collective conditioning where often we don’t let even children cry saying ‘Grown up boys/girls don’t cry.’
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‘Lament’ is another very relatable poem.
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“Mourning for the long-since-washed-away/Sand castles I had built on the beach/Eternally ephemeral/Evanescent/Ever-ending”
Hope, courage and self respect peep through ‘Torn Yet Not Worn’.
Yet little by little/A brave, relentless struggle/Regaining my pride/Carving my way…”.
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and again in ‘Courage’.
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The title poem ‘Red Seeps’ is about the cathartic value of writing – Inconsolable and insane/I picked up the pen/And here red seeps….
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Yes, the red of welts on the spirit, the red of passion, the red of open wounds and suppressed anger seeps on the pages of this anthology but there is also the incandescent colour of faith and devotion – “To the One and Only Invisible Being”, “Glory Unto You God, The Gracious”; if there is the blue of gloom there is also the glowing crimson of love – “Paean To My Parents”, “That’s What I’ll Be Without You”, “Dear Unseen Friend Across The Border”, “Brother, Brother, Oh My Brother”, “A Friend Like You”, “Nectar if Love”, “Absent”. 
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We also see the grey of doubt “Bewildered”; and the ambiguous hue of fatalism – “Me”, “I Wish To Die”, “This World”, “Time Ticks”.
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There are many more tinges and colours here, splashed from the spectrum that is life. I feel tempted to reveal them but I think it is only fair that I leave it to the readers to find those that blend/merge with/clash against the colours on their individual palettes, trickling through the vignettes of their life experiences.
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This is a fare bridled with the complexities and paradoxes of life. It is not so much Freud’s ‘play of childhood’ flowing into her creativity; it is the angst of youth. As Sadia weighs and processes her experiences and feelings we get glimpses into the twilight of a tormented soul; we see the ferret of fear gnawing; with her we also realise that there is hope – In my lonely world/Yet dawns a hope benign/An oyster may come/And make me its pearls. This is the complete   poem titled ‘Ray’.
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The preface by Vinita Agarwal is very sensitively discerning.
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A little more tightness of editing would not have left those hardly noticeable blemishes in an otherwise beautifully published work. Kudos to the publishers – Authorspress
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Before I end, a little about Sadia Riaz Sehole. She is a teacher and researcher, born and brought up in Lahore, Pakistan. After an early education in Science, she pursued Literature and is currently working on her PhD dissertation..
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Now  try and get to know her better, through her impressive book. 
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Shernaz-Wadia3– Shernaz Wadia, a retired teacher, lives in Pune, India. A free-lance writer, her articles, short stories and poems have been published in many online journals and literary magazines like Muse India, Boloji, Kritya and The Enchanting Verses etc. Her poems have been anthologised in Poets International, Roots and Wings and Caring Moments. Shernaz is in the process of publishing her poems in a book titled Whispers of the Soul.. She has also co-authored a book of poems titled “Tapestry”, with Israeli poetess Avril Meallem. It is an innovative form of collaborative poetry writing developed by the two of them.
 

 

Meena Kumari the Poet : A Life Beyond Cinema- Translated by Noorul Hasan

meena-kumari-the-poet-book-reviewPublisher: Roli Books, New Delhi, India
Publication Date: 2014
Binding: Paperback
First Edition
ISBN 10: 8174369678 / ISBN 13: 9788174369673
 
Reviewed by: Ananya S Guha
 
 
I begin on a very personal note. Today I am in Jorhat in a posting for the university I work in. In the 1970s when I was a college student I first watched the movie ” Pakeezah ” in Sibsagar which is around 50-60 kilometres away from Jorhat. When I saw ” Pakeezah ” what struck me was the anguish of the heroine, and to my mind the real impinged upon the imaginary- what I mean to state is: in being absorbed in Meena Kumari‘s acting I felt that in reality she might have experienced the anguish of the protagonist, empathy or call it what you will. I remember snatches of the movie, but what I can recall is breathtakingly brilliant acting. Somewhere at the back of my mind was the Kamal Amrohi ‘ story ‘ and I was also aware of the fact that this intensely poetic movie was directed by him. Perhaps this was one of the most ‘ poetic ‘ movies I have seen in addition to say Satyajit Ray’s ” Charulata ”. 
 
In reading these translations one is not only transported into the world of ineffable poetry, but one is made aware of deeply felt sensitivities and questions such as life, death, love and relationships. This kind of poetry is ‘ opposed ‘ to the kind of clever, cerebral poetry we are witness to today. It is poetry of the heart and felt experience. 
 
Yet the motifs are many and varied: light, darkness, night to name a few. The obsession with night is a haunting reality and leitmotif in the poems. Bharati Mukherjee once said that a creative writer writes out of obsession. Meena Kumari’s obsessions with night, darkness and an intuitive feeling of death give to her poems a starkness. Yet hope in some way or the other does figure, but there is again and again, questioning and self questioning. Darkness and night are not synonymous here, while darkness is metaphorical, night signifies an end, or an open ended question which the poet is forever grappling with. These are sensuous poems, they echo perhaps Omar Khayam , but there is no hedonism. Yes there is celebration, that of life and poetry, life’s dualism, painful living, unrequited love which are some of the themes present here, themes in the context of the poems which are cataclysmic. Some poems have turn of phrases which are aphoristic. 
 
Yet if there is darkness, the antimony light is also present. See for example the poem ” The City Of Lights ”:
 
… The light of the ages 
    Have slunk away 
    To be part of some jubilation 
    Leaving all around
    A shivering, savage darkness.”
 
There is constant and recurring interplay of light, darkness and scalding nights! This gives to her poetry many dimensional aspects, at the same time making them lyrical and evocative. But it is always the pain that rings through clearly, The pain of irretrievable love, the pain of being a woman, the pain of the inner conflict having to ‘ live up ‘ to the celluloid image. In their excellent introduction Daisy Hasan and Philip Bounds assert that the poems can be viewed as a ‘ barbed critique ‘ of popular culture, the culture which Meena Kumari represented through her films, but which ironically and trenchantly took away her life. The poem ” The Empty Shop ” is perhaps a commentary on crass consumerism. The ” Shop Of Time ” she says is vacuous, gives nothing. In the poem ” Words ” there is juxtaposition of words, light and darkness. 
 
That a public figure is desperate to get away from this image and live more ‘ privately ‘ is something that can happen to ‘ celebrities ‘. The example of the Bengali actress Suchitra Sen is a case in pint. She shunned any public gathering for almost four decades! 
 
All that I have said above would not have been possible if one cold not read these cogent translations of Noorul Hasan. They are very well crafted and attempt to be as sincere as possible to the originals. Yet translators do take some liberty. This is the poetic license here. The translator has done painstaking work which is researched, and I am sure over quite a period of time. This shows the hard work and tenacity that have gone into these brilliant translations. 
 
Through these translations Noorul Hasan has made a contribution to the world of poetry, revealing Meena Kumari’s  true penchant for the pen.
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You can check out the book here:
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ananya-Ananya S Guha works at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as a Senior Academic. His poems in English have been published in International / National Journals and e zines. He also writes for newspapers, does book reviews and writes on matters related to education.His recent works appeared in the Harper Collins Book of English Poetry edited by Sudeep Sen. He also writes book reviews, articles for newspapers and articles on education, distance education and vocational education.