Book Review: Moon in My Teacup

Review by Jindagi Kumari

Moon in My Teacup
Author: Basudhara Roy
Publisher: Writer’s Workshop
Year: 2019
ISBN: 978-93-5045-189-2
Price: ₹ 300.00


Basudhara Roy’s maiden collection of poetry, Moon in My Teacup, is safely a “highbrow” book, with its promising profundity and novel aesthetics like “kohl freshly gathered”.  

As gathering kohl requires burning of wick and deposition of its flames, poetry of Roy, too, seems to emerge from deposition of intimate experiences subsumed in ingenuous articulation of the prismatic topography of a woman’s life and her mind.

Roy curates reflective pictures of throes of female desire; nostalgia ,love, loss, waiting, commitment, creativity, hope, misgivings, anger, and bitterness, with a tingling wistfulness that renders the mundane otherworldly. Consider the poem ‘Saffron Rain’:

Basudhara Roy
You lavish, today,
fulfilment unasked.

Had I but known
it were your day of charity,

I would have begged at your door
for some saffron in alms,

that there might rain
upon these denuded palms

auspicious lines—
where you refused

a lifetime ago—
to etch promises. (p.34)

Jindagi Kumari
The poems’ form of impassioned monologue where the persona invariably addressed a ‘you’ lends it a notable vigour. The lyrical mulling of reminiscences of betrayal and hurt, expectations, and resolves, alternates between tones that are grave and garrulous, sentimental and belligerent.
  
The poetic unveiling of remorse, recollections, and reconciliations makes one wonder whether the poems are aimed at self –therapy; a coming to terms with self through “concealed reeling confessions.” (‘Commitment’ 28)  

However, the tales of personal journeys are redrawn “to incorporate an-‘other’”— an echo against the normative and male centric meaning making where women’s desires are judged as “inviolable lust” while she is reduced to a mere “womb”:

I am all the people I have met,
I am the old woman
With face like baked apple, (“Labyrinthine Thoughts in Linear Space”, p.43)


In the Bal Kanda of Ramayana Valmiki credits compassion for the  “possibility of genuine poetic expression.” He says to his disciple Bhardwaja; “From my soka (lamentation) has come a wonderful sloka (verse). Many of Basudhara Roy’s poems spring from the well of “soul-blood” and a discerning camaraderie with fellow women:  “The wombless  body, desire-snubbed / retracts like a scorned pariah”and:

….insomnia claims
the other side of  an unequal bed—
                                         (‘Used Body’, p. 66)

There is a bitter disapproval of the patriarchal dynamics of conjugality and consequent lack of mutuality in relationship:

…I keep giving;
you royally receive,

God-like, divine,
you pour love like wine
fortifying what dwindling self

with illusions megalomaniacal?
It’s high time, I think,
You stopped playing God. (‘Unrequited’, p.41)


The poem ‘Pillion riding, on a Winter Evening’ offers a comprehensive list of common worries of Indian women:


Two middle-aged women,
credulous faces, untended hair,
lost to hypertension, thyroid, anaemia,
to never-ending family cares,
budgeted shoppings, bickering helps
filial discontent, spousal neglect,
caesared bodies,  stormy passions,
stretch-marked hobbies, lost careers,
and virgin dream gardens— (p.88)

But women are not always cribbers; proud of their beings, they embrace and celebrate their limitations and self-pity with confidence and immeasurable optimism:  

“attuned only
to our gains
we pocket the change
from each transaction, the jokes, smiles, laughters, phone calls
borrowed lipsticks, dresses…

The poet also charms with her scathing ironic eyes, unmissable, specially  in poems such as ‘Rumours’, ‘Resolving’ , ‘Thus Spake the Godman’s Lover’ and ‘New Year’:

“I am planning to get a makeover
this new year,” I confide.
A wall for the heart,
Diasphanous tissue for the face,
Still mirrors for eyes.as for my thoughts,
I have considered replacing them
With scale, to measure and weigh
All that they get and give away       (p.78)

 Processes of nostalgia, memories, and time are other points of poetic reflections: “And memories roll into one another. /Like water breaking from a dam/or from the womb. (64)

The poet’s seamless wizardry of words; witty analogies, unique repertoire of idioms and imagery inspired by the corpus of dietary and savory (‘Culinary Love’ and ’Memorial) arboricultural, parenting, and housekeeping, keep the reader hooked. The following poem illustrates how the imagery of gardening and home space functions as vehicle to the poetic mind space:


…as they stoically await
each morning
the watering can
and the customary parted –curtain
greeting to the sun, (p.70)

only that I know, that walled and cornered
within the periphrastic prose of concrete
their kinship with the forest
is long –since sundered; (p.69)


In the last analysis, Basudhara Roy’s collection of 52 poems is a corsage of a caring rebel determined to continue a vehement dialogue with the conscience of society around conundrums of a woman’s individuality and her place. 

Assessing Roy as a poet, one agrees with P.Lal’s pronouncement in his credo of Writer’s Workshop (printed on the inside of the back cover of the collection): “It does not print well-known names; it makes names known and well known…”  
  

Works Cited

“Bala-Kanda.” Ramanyana: the Story of Lord Rama,presented by Bhakti Vikasa swami.p.7
 Oliver, Kelly. (ed.) French Feminist Reader. Rowman &Littlefield Publishers: USA.2000


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