Unearthing secrets: A Review of About Maya and Other Poems

Reviewed by: Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

Title: About Maya and Other Poems 
Author: Raja Chakraborty
Page: 88
ISBN: 978-93-91431-31-0 (Paperback)
Edition: (2022)
Published by Hawakal Publishers -India

    In Vedantic philosophy, Maya is defined as the “Illusion of the reality of sensory”. It is also an alternate name for the Indian Goddess of wealth and prosperity Laxmi. In Greek and Roman mythology Maya is the eldest of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes. About Maya and Other Poems is the fourth collection of English poetry by Raja Chakraborty a widely published bilingual poet based in Kolkata. W. Edward Brown had once said “the artist has one function—to affirm and glorify life” Chakraborty’s About Maya and Other Poems affirms and glorifies life and its subtle nuances. The myriad hues of life complement each other in his poetry. They add a thrust to the theme and rhythm, harmony, and thematic development. The book has a neat structure and is divided into two segments— the first part “Asymmetric” deals with existential questions whereas the second part “Together” is a commentary on the strains of human relationships in these troubled times.

      The titular poem “About Maya” is typical of a wide-eyed poet walking on the streets while the crowds and colour on the streets may be new to him, as a poet, he is not so overawed as to not keenly watch life go by. “Is it there, is it mine yet,/was it ever--/ this tree, those flowers, blue skies,/ songs of freedom,/ the road I walk,/ waves that splashed/ against my toes,”, “I open my eyes again/—visions come by,/ but I do not see,? I ask myself, / what have I missed?”. We all are perennial captives and the poet as a free agent tries to map the contours of this illusory meaningless universe where we are “spread over, scattered/ in little dots/ that never meet” (“Delete”). The poet explores the problem of human existence and centres on his experiences and feelings: “Spirals/ it’s all about spirals./You wait, mesmerized/ for your turn to be zoned out/ into oblivion/ beyond collective consciousness” (“Spirals”). The poems make the most out of the simplest joys of life and urge the readers to live it to the fullest. “I sit on my favorite armchair and reciprocate. No words/ exchanged, we still talk. My frail hand waves a hello as/ we discuss freedom in captivity” (“Photograph”).

      Chakraborty explores the theme of loss, love, imperfections, freedom, and conquests through his poems. The poet as the storyteller essentially believes that “There is no perfect story/ only attempts to write one/ because in imperfections/ lies the beauty of life” (“Of Imperfections”). Life is a garland made of beads of imperfections no matter how much one strives life is not and cannot be perfect but there is harmony in life. “And that has been my story--/living in perfect imperfectness!” writes Chakraborty.

      The second part of this slim collection of poetry carries forward the thematic development. Chakraborty inchoate secrets submerged in the mind like unknown underwater life that even the sun cannot penetrate. He writes, “such is the travesty of time/ my poison is diluted and sleep/ does not come easy to / these tortured eyes/ I fret and fume/I torment the useless/ hours into nothingness”(“Insomnia”). Anchored in the principle of a positive outlook on life, this technique of disarming simplicity by employing the “ungraspable human truths” makes Chakraborty’s poetry stand out. Often they read like fabric pieces with frills and lace unearthing secrets of life: “undressed, my heart spoke love/ in the language of flesh, fragrant/ from crushed lilies and fireflies and/ bare earth: the wind, witness to the/ harmony of souls and cry of new life, / sang across barren fields” (“birth”). “Winter woods” reads like a confessional monologue particularly intimate in its sense of loneliness and painful separation “all leaves taken/ naked branches and twigs/ mourn cold embrace/ and light a pyre/ to seek refuge in ashes”. Fed by the experiences of life the poet mourns the loss but celebrates nature.

      Life is about Maya everything in this life is illusory so “do not be fooled/ by the walls/ there’s a horizon/ waiting beyond/ hold my hand/ together we will” (“together”). These poems while unravelling life and its rainbow colours give us a glimpse of a horizon beyond. For those who love poetry About Maya and Other Poems is a must-read. The stunning book cover by author-publisher Bitan Chakraborty speaks volumes.

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BIO-NOTE: Dr. Sutanuka Ghosh Roy is Associate Professor English in Tarakeswar Degree College, The University of Burdwan, WB, India. She is currently engaged in active research and her areas of interest include Eighteenth-Century Literature, Indian English Literature, Postcolonial Literature, Australian Studies, Dalit Literature, Gender Studies, etc. She has published widely and presented papers at National and International Seminars. She is a regular contributor to research articles and papers to anthologies, national and international journals of repute like Muse India, Setu, Lapiz Lazuli, The Statesman, Life and Legends, Kitaab, etc. Her poems have been anthologized and published in Setu, Piker Press, Harbinger Asylum, etc. The titles of her books are Critical Inquiry: Text, Context, and Perspectives and Commentaries: Elucidating Poetry, Rassundari Dasi’s Amar Jiban: A Comprehensive Study. She is also a reviewer, a poet, and a critic.


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