Tag Archives: Shernaz Wadia

Sum and Substance by K Pankajam

sumAuthorspress, New Delhi, 2014

ISBN 978-81-7273-962-1

Review by Shernaz Wadia 

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This is a collection of poems written in forthright, simple language. The poems have an undercurrent of morality but Pankajam does not write like a preacher or someone who believes her destiny is to change the world. It remains for the reader to glean the pearls from between her words and lines. She writes quietly, reflectively, spraying quotidian subjects – Bus Journey, A Surprise Visit, Signboards, My City Seldom Sleeps, Rain Skills, Before The Ink Dries – with freshness and vibrancy.
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Resolutions will immediately resonate with the habitual resolution makers. Many will ‘rewind’ with the poet and ‘think of the debt I could not pay, the promises I could not fulfill’  She takes us relentlessly through each month of the year to finally wind up where we started, with “a fresh list for yet another year”.
She finds Faith everywhere from a plain sheet of paper to everything in nature. It is ‘in our expectation of a daybreak after pitch-dark nights, while our existence next moment/seems beyond prediction.’  
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She writes lucidly about the Indian customs, rituals and ethos she is a part of. (The Pipal Tree, Vishukkani, Hopefully…, Gruhapravesham) Nor does she shy away from what might be termed ‘superstition’. In Stains (Pg. 33) she visits childhood memories of her grandfather’s quirks.  Language of Childhood bemoans the loss of innocence and voices the universal desire for a return to it while Second Childhood compassionately revives the memory of an uncle who had slipped into dementia.
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 When the world is tooting gender equality and women of substance are feted, her women-centric poems stop us in our tracks and compel us to take a look at a different reality. ‘Morning Blues, Yielding… ‘You Are (Not) a Working Woman’, is the dismal tale of every homemaker, whose relentless toil is taken for granted even though she works herself to the bones. 
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Inching slowly, she saunters towards the bed
And slithers into the waiting arms. He murmurs:
“Thank God you are not a working woman!”
Her day continues…
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‘Solitude’s Whimper’ is one poem that shatters our complacency. It shames us out of our apathy as we stare with a dumb ache and with “the walls bleed silently”
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If a philosophical vein peeps through poems like The Journey, A Little Secret, The Ultimatum…, the poet’s humour drips from poems like ‘A Surprise Visit to a Bachelor’s House’.  I couldn’t help but smile at ‘A Momentary Impulse’ a poem most will be able to relate to
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No sindhoor on the parting line/a milky path to the kingdom of love/that kindles his passion to leap a bit.
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In ‘An Orchestra’ she becomes ‘a song in the concert’. In Muse-Inspired she says,
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Salty breeze from Bay of Bengal….give rebirth to my sunken moods/ raises my spirit to its meridian splendour/and soaks my soul in the pavilion of passions.
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Some subjects have been written about endlessly, but they don’t lose their poignancy. Life Is a Circle is a heart-wrenching letter from a parent in an old age home which concludes with the lines
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I taught you all about life
maybe not about relationships
and I write to say:
Don’t tell your son I am here.
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Another evergreen subject for poets is Mother. Pankajam’s ode to her’s is ‘You Visit Me in My Sleep’.
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In my sugared memories of the past,
your face blooms like a lotus that meditates
unfolds at sunrise, upright,
with flawless beauty and virgin purity.
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In Sum and Substance Pankajam serves us a varied fare which is appetising, appealing and satiating. There is a sprinkling of nature poems, love poems, poems that throw a search light not only on society but on her inner realm. We are carried along on her words as she questions, wonders, dreams, empathises, hopes and muses.

 

 

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.

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.
 

 

My Glass Of Wine by Kiriti Sengupta

my glass of winePaperback: 70 pages
Publisher: Author’s Empire Publication, India (April 26, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8192861902
ISBN-13: 978-8192861906
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Reviewed by Shernaz Wadia
 
As I held Dr. Kiriti Sengupta’s little book in my hand for the first time, my instant reaction was, “Oh, this shouldn’t be too time-consuming.” I was right in that it took me just a few hours to read it but it is going to take much longer to savour the delight of the wine in it – the heady wine of love and spirituality; of a curious, contemplative and open mind; a large accepting heart – all embodied in the simple, direct words of the writer that make you enjoy and revel in this intoxicating cocktail of prose and poetry. A delightful experience as we take sips from his glass! 
 
It has already been mentioned by others that this book cannot be pigeonholed. As he says in the preface “When I wrote the manuscript I deliberately wrote down what came into my mind. I never considered what genre my book would fit into.” To brand it would be to diminish it. It is a distillation of some momentous pieces…autobiographical word snapshots, each followed by a poem. This book is Kiriti’s humble attempt to take poetry to all book lovers so that it can ‘reach its pinnacle again’. With great simplicity he tackles issues of love, spirituality, relationships, the world and nature as he perceives them and brushes them with his poetic sensibility.
 
He cracks open little drawers and lets us peek into some uplifting moments of his life. The initial glimpse is into his first date with his future wife Bhaswati, which began on a slightly comical note that for him turned into the stepping stone of his literary journey.  His wife to-be was quite amused when she asked him about a Rabindranath Tagore novel and he replied that he didn’t read poetry at all! Because the novel was “Shesher Kobita”! This honest revelation by Dr. Sengupta at the start of the book immediately endears him to his readers and keeps charming them till the end.
 
The poet Kiriti was born from the agony of a painful relationship with a friend to whom he addressed his first poem in Bengali. While he says that with all its innumerable functions and facets poetry should also entertain, he believes that true poetry arises out of total consumption of one’s being.
 
Consumption
 
Consumed time/ like an infant consuming
milk; inevitable/ it remains.
Killed essence of
the eternal soul; and consumed,
Essentially I remain…
 
The second chapter from which the book takes its title shows us another side of Kiriti as he takes us along on a sacred trek. He is gentle but forthright in the weaving of this tale. We get whiffs of the wine that he imbibes spiritually and are given a peep into that part of his life which was experimental and experiential, culminating into the insightful observation that ‘red’- the colour of some wines and of blood – is divinely symbolic in Christianity, Tantric Hinduism and Islam.  Whereas in Christianity, (to which he received formal baptism after the priest was convinced that he had attained spiritual baptism) ‘red wine’ is representative of Jesus’ godly blood sacrificed for mortals; Tantrics also use alcoholic beverages in their rituals and hold ‘red’ to be the colour of divine power. And so their attire is blood red in hue. With these he compares the Islamic ritual of animal sacrifice – ‘Qurbani’ – and draws the conclusion that ‘the elements of blood, power, alcohol and red (are) associated intimately with divinity”.  “Blood Red”, the poem at the end of the chapter is a summation of this belief.  The poetic vision he lends to his experiences and deep meditation on things we take for granted in our indifferent stride, shakes up our mental lethargy and prods us to reflect intensely on such matters. 
 
From the sphere of spirituality, we go into an investigation of the word “Bhaiya” – meaning older brother – a tag given to him by his elder sister! From there onto his take on ‘name’ with which he plays a word game, replacing ‘n’ with ‘f’ and then with ‘g’. He muses that though many Indians are named after gods and goddesses, ruefully few imbibe the virtues of their namesakes – “Religion has left its profound mark in the psyche of Indians, but has failed to alter their behavioural pattern.”
 
Namesake
Whispers the tale fo your character,
colour and its fragrance merge to call it/ a Rose.
A lot matters, /if you remember/ the name…
 
In the next chapter, Southern Affiliation he talks of his association with the southern city of Chennai (Madras), whose charms have bitten him affectionately. His affiliation is further enhanced by Mr. Atreya Sarma, to whom he devotes a whole paragraph and dedicates the poem “Clarity”.
 
“Rains” is an allusion to situations that bewilder and hurt him; those thoughts, crowds, disciplines in which he tends to get totally drenched. These ‘rains’ have inspired poems from his haemorrhaging heart. His scientifically trained mind believes that love is “a strong cerebral affair.” It is the brain that rules the heart he feels and yet he says love is “a wonderful experience that enables you to feel your loved inside of you.”  How beautiful is that!
 
“My Master and the Cover” is the most significant chapter.  He talks about his initiation into Kriyayoga by his beloved master; about Spiritual awakening through the rising Kundalini – the Divine Feminine force – whereby an aspirant experiences a ‘winy trance’.  In the glow of his awakening he also tries to justify the cover design as substantiating Yoga in the light of literature, though there could be many different interpretations, as the designer refuses to explain his creation. But even as he exults in his Awakening he laments the moral degradation of the world and is grateful for his Master who helps him uncover the mysteries of life.
 
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As identical as ‘I’/through the slice of my sigh.
Like the sky; where the stars shine bright and/ the Sun ‘I’.
 
This book ‘stirs’ the reader to arouse his sleeping Kundali
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You can check out the book here:
 
 
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.

 

 

Poem Continuous – Reincarnated Expressions – By Bibhas Roy Chowdhury- Translated by Kiriti Sengupta

poem continuous us editionPaperback: 62 pages

Publisher: Inner Child Press, Ltd. (July 17, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0692233180

ISBN-13: 978-0692233184

 

Reviewed by Shernaz Wadia

 As Leonard Cohen put it so aptly poetry is just the ash, the evidence of a life burning well. When a poet fleshes up his emotions and thoughts and attires them with words, a poem seems to take on a life of its own but an invisible umbilical cord runs from the creator’s soul to that of the poem, making them indivisible.

 It has been said that a poem is never finished. Even if the last line seemingly ends on an air of finality there is no true closure. There remain gaps to be filled between the stanzas, lines and words. Poems grow along with the poet making them an uninterrupted process. Even if he does not alter them on revisits, new ones sprout out of that receptive emptiness giving them continuity. In this book, Poem Continuous, the ‘Reincarnated Expressions’ are birthed through their transition from Bengali into English, done smoothly by Kiriti Sengupta.
 
Bibhas’s voice pulsates with an undercurrent of passion…it is melancholic yet inflected with hope…pithy in words but loaded with sensitivity…it is a reflection of the loneliness of the poet’s heart and its aches. To quote Kafka, “(his) pen is the seismograph of (his) heart.”  I realised that these poems are not for idle reading. I read them once, I read them again and then again each time sinking a little deeper into their profundity, their challenging complexity, and emerged with an ‘aha’ feeling. That is the beauty of these poems…they plummet you beyond the tips into their inner core and thereby into your own deeper recesses, conversing with your sense of self. 
 
Minimalistic, staccato at times, as in “The Small Boat” – Bird…Bird…Bird…Bird/Fetch the sky
 
and again in ‘The Offering’ which is all of four very poignant lines dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore,
 
“Poison in the diet
the budding poet!   
 
Ye, the source…   
 
What is in your mind?”
 
The poet leaves us pondering. I have used more words to talk about the poem than he has to convey his distress at the pathetic marginalisation today of poetry and poets. In the third line he expresses his reverence for the great bard in just three words!
 
Bibhas’ poetry is enigmatic with a near mystical aura to it as he puts into words his innermost emotions about life, love, nature and other poets. He connects with both the worlds – that of matter and of spirit to find and define the meaning and balance in life. His language is fragmented at times when all he has are shards of pain to be expressed, for instance, in ‘The Tie of Brotherhood’, where he laments –
 
“We are finished, aren’t we?
Can you hear me, Gurudev? Ye Tagore?
Crowd no longer…no music…hands free!
Now the ties are lost, and so are the Bengalis…”
 
In his Translator’s Note, Kiriti says “… wounds are essentially native, and they are difficult to translate into other languages.” I think other poets will concur with me when I say that often wounds of the spirit are native to the individual soul and are near impossible to transmit into words. That Bibhas and in this case, the translator has been able to open up those deep gashes so movingly to the readers, is very laudable.
 
‘Bhatiali – Song of the Boatmen’, is pure anguish. It harnesses the distress of myriad souls who
“Wish my blood obliterates the Partition, on either side of the border…” His pain transmutes into obstinate hope as he ends his poem with these lines:
 
“In the core of my heart I nurse the wounded soul carefully/Union of the parted Bengal will aid in my recovery…”
 
Though the poet talks of a divided Bengal, the soreness of his words reflects an universal ache…no country, no people like the divides they are forced into by the scheming, screaming, contorted truths propagated by authority, by those few who snatch power, control minds and leave them defenceless.
 
The poet often asks questions in his poems. In The Horizon, he asks “What is poetry?” and concludes with these lines
 
“The blind bird/was painting/its nest so deceptive/on the water-body…” Let each reader and lover of poetry demystify these words in his own heart and mind, for poetry means several things to different people.
 
Don Martin calls this book “A Literary Tour-de-Force”. Full of praise for the work he says, “This is a seamless, and highly accomplished Bengali poetry. Experienced lovers of poetry will immediately recognise the significance and nuances of the work. Those new to Bengali poetry are in for a real treat!”
 
 
Shernaz-Wadia3Shernaz 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.