Words of Introspection - Book Review: Manu Kurup

Reflections on Salvation

Author: Kiriti Sengupta
ISBN:  978-0996270465
Page: 48
1st edition (Paperback): July, 2016
Published by Transcendent Zero Press, Houston, Texas
Reviewed by Manu S Kurup [PhD]
Assistant Professor of English
H&S, MLR Institute of Technology
Dundigal, Hyderabad (Telangana) India.

Spirituality has many dimensions. A few, known and discussed widely. Much more, waiting to be explored individually, based on personal experiences. As a teacher of mine once remarked, “It can’t be taught but it can be learned.” So, when Casey Dorman’s first sentence as the foreword to Kiriti Sengupta’s Reflections on Salvation reads as: “Spiriuality has always been a concept that has troubled me,” I instantly connected with it. My journey from a believer in the childhood to a doubter in the teenage and later as an atheist-Marxist in the twenties to a total materialist (in a rather philosophical way) confused at the intrinsic consumerism and blatant disregard for humane qualities of the world, has been tough. My present philosophical self hinges on my readings of Nietzsche. Yet, reading Kiriti Sengupta is a tougher choice because it sometimes requires me to flip through the pages of certain books I had purposefully left behind a long while ago. Nevertheless, it certainly is a testing situation and I enjoy one when I get it.
The concept of salvation is a tricky one. Just like the word “culture,” it is multi-faceted, thanks to the last millennia that provided us with many interpretations of it. The theoretical explanation of “salvation” in the Abrahamic religions is contrasted heavily with the more complex meanings it has in the Indic religions. If Abrahamic religions have an over-obsession with the term, Indic religions, especially Buddhism and what became Hinduism, are heavily influenced by the thought. What Sengupta, whose poetry is based on his strong philosophical foundation, portrays in this rather small book with a heavy content is the friction between the textual interpretation of “salvation” and its applications in an era that has gone too far beyond the realm of “spirituality.” In a nutshell, Reflections on Salvation is a remarkable parallel of India as a nation that is torn between its culture rooted in spirituality and life fixed in fast-paced liberalism.
The first shocker of this beautiful collection of thoughts comes in the title “Stagecraft.” Sengupta says, “Salvation is but enlightenment, achievable only by actions, and through your sensory gateways.” In the next title “Third Molar,” Sengupta evokes laughter through a witty remark to his patient who was troubled with her wisdom tooth. Just like that, Sengupta draws parallels from random day-to-day affairs of life and his understanding of scriptures and the nuances of it. In a way, he introspects the practices that a large population fervently follow and how hollow they can be if looked from the perspective of the current world. In the chapter titled “Fire,” Sengupta says that when the word yajna make you think of “liberation,” it makes him think of the amount of ghee consumed and the number of trees cut down. He points out that The Vedas did not consider malnutrition and environment, and he also wonders if The Vedas were written by a group of men who never lived on earth.
To draw out the alien-ness of the teachings to a generation that has travelled so far from the roots of it is not an easy job. In fact, it is an introspection in itself though there exists a layer of humor in these pieces of Flash Wisdom. Sengupta says, “Saffron adds color and flavor to certain delicacies, but when it shows up on your attire, I find you saintly pious.” The word “saffron” has a contemporary political relevance in India which is hardly pious. But what Sengupta focuses on is “renunciation” and “attachment.” He laments about the mind that is trained to accept what certain colors are associated with.

Reviewer: Manu S. Kurup
Poetry has many layers, perhaps more than that of spirituality or even philosophy. The very hybridity that is the unique style of Kiriti Sengupta is the best to chart out the questions that this book of Flash Wisdom offers. Poetry is never easy to read, especially if it questions one’s faith and beliefs. For someone who has not subscribed to any, it is even more difficult. But Sengupta’s style of writing liberates the reader from such passiveness. Instead of just prodding the reader to a question, Sengupta cunningly provides a context in which the very act of thinking a question becomes a revolution in itself. And, such thought-revolutions are the need of the hour. I have not gauged the effect of the title Flash Wisdom yet, however, it is the power of these “reflections” to make us reflect on our mundane experiences that matter to me. In that, Sengupta is a winner, as always.

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