Witness to Life: a review of The lotus of the heart: realization stories 1

Reviewed by: Sutanuka Ghosh Roy


The lotus of the heart: realization stories 1

Author: Gayatri Majumdar
Page: 104, Edition: (2021)
ISBN: 978-93-84216-01-6 (Paperback)
Published as a Brown Critique Book.
Printed at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry, India.


Gayatri Majumdar
    In his essay “The Decay of Lying” 1889 Oscar Wilde had opined that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. Gayatri Majumdar’s latest non-fiction book The lotus of the heart: realization stories 1 truly resonates with Wilde’s thoughts. The Preface is written by the award- winning poet Vinita Agrawal. The trials and traumas of the pandemic—the utter bleakness of isolation, the fear, the loss is cuddled in these stories. In the introductory note, she writes, “ I began to write these ‘realization’ stories just before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit Indian shores…It was a way to get back to the thick of things and complete the circle”. She thus gives her readers a subtle message that man is not answerable to Nature alone for his action, but to man as well. As one goes through the stories one realizes that it isn’t just Covid. Her realization about this fragile life, her philosophy, the journey of self-realization is cradled in a stand as though it were some sacred manuscript.

Sutanuka Ghosh Roy
    “You will share a cup of Cappuccino with yourself at this dream café where a thirsty fatigued broken ‘self’ meets Self –and in that grand peace-making rendezvous, you can literally melt in Self’s arms. That for you is the ultimate moment of recognition. The final cut”.  This journey within is the key to life. Her readings of various divine texts are kneaded with her own experiences which hold myriad hues of life. She does not renounce life rather she embraces life but shuns away from the extras that trap us. She writes, “I’ve struggled to discover this for a millennium: trying myriad ways to get here—from service to love to sacrifice to sex to hard labour to fame and hurt to altruism. And all that time, it sat quiet frozen with its Monalisa smile, never with urgency for it had the confidence that one day it would surface like a good penny and my whole world (as I constructed it) would come crashing, landing me with ‘pure nothing’ but for this indescribable moment—and the sweetness of it; the sheer bliss of it” (“You Are Safe Everywhere”).

       An implicit angst pulsates as the chilling subtext of contemporary life itself: the mind is a whirlpool of thoughts and no Guru can teach how to quieten the roller-coaster ride of the mind. One has to look within one has to embark on this journey to discover one’s self. Majumdar a clairvoyant, writes, “So, only on the path of ‘self-knowledge’ can you take the ‘spiritual journey’—being quiet and in an environment which is conducive for such recognition.” (“Tranquille, a Farmhouse Near Pondicherry”). Tranquillity is not a ‘noun’ it is an ‘adjective’ for life. Nobody can define ‘peace’ for ‘peace’ is self-realization. The collection of stories will make one think deeply about life and will offer the readers a holistic approach to life. Majumdar has been successful in creating a new genre of short stories—‘realization stories’. The language is simple yet deep. Each of these ‘realization stories’ bears witness to life, simple structure, claustrophobic mindscape, confinement, and the revolving door of life. “There is so much more pain in ‘escaping’. Stay. With the sun and the roses and the brothers and birds the babies and the lovers and the distant horns and the grass and the expanding universe; the silence and the love. Grab this moment. Live” (“Zakir Rose Garden, Chandigarh—The Great Escape”). In life, distress is a recurring theme--things fall apart no doubt but things can be put together too. Thus ‘living’ is more important than ‘escaping’.

    The titular story “The lotus of the Heart” is intensely personal. Majumdar writes of her grandmother Charulata the wonder-woman who held the fort with grace and élan. It was she who named her Poddo (Padma) –Lotus. In many different cultures, the Lotus flower is regarded as a symbol of purity, rebirth, self-regeneration, and enlightenment. Its traits are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are submerged in the murky waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower. “Charulata’s was the lotus of the heart”. “With life’s distractions and urgencies, we have missed or overlooked simple joys.” “Yet, once we start taking those steps, we find so much to smile about and look forward to waking up to this dream every morning. The new day begins and the universe is flooded with light” (“Conversations in Wonderland”).

     Majumdar’s stories have a soothing effect on nerves frayed by the stress of these fraught times. One can almost hear the rustle of the grass and the murmur of the clouds. This book of non-fiction is sure to make an indelible mark in the literary world.

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