“Open Sky and Earth”: a review of Home Anthology

Title: Home Anthology
Author: Gayatri Majumdar, Sekhar Banerjee& Gopal Lahiri
Page: 120
ISBN: 978-93-84216-05-4 (Paperback)
Edition: (2022)
Price: ₹ 300 INR
Published by Brown Critique Books

Reviewed by: Sutanuka Ghosh Roy

       When a creative journey of three poets unfolds in a retrospective, its poetic resonance lingers. Edited by Gayatri Majumdar, Sekhar Banerjee, and Gopal Lahiri, The Brown Critique Home Anthology includes works of fifty poets from home and the world. The volume excavates the concept of ‘home’ through a contemporary lens. As goes the popular saying ‘home is where the heart is. A cozy corner in a room or a hot cup of tea at the end of the day or a smile on the aged lips of a mother makes up the home.

      The introductory poem “When my Breath becomes Air” sets the tune, Abhay K. writes “don’t care/ to build a shrine/ read my poems/ I live in them/ they’re my home”. In “The Voice” Amanita Sen redefines home as the primary connection between us and the rest of the world. She writes, “hold on to, cuddle, be lost into it, / be lost unto it to be found again, like/ it is not merely a voice, but a form”. Aneek Chatterjee delves into the sense of ‘homelessness’ that can perhaps be attributed to the distance—of realities, class, lifestyles—that separates the poet from the subject, “Shattered railings on the footpath/ are perfect shelters for amused clothes. & the rice boils in tandem/ with the anger & anguish of the lady” (“Home”). In “Tonight” Anu Majumdar has keyed in visual narratives in a colourful, animated, and innovative manner “but tonight I am still/ a wave in the heart/ a feather grown free”. Anju Makhija In “Sometimes it is a bird” writes of dark thoughts for the mind to battle as the concept of ‘home’ is becoming illusive. “Why then/ Must we still remain/ So human?” Ayaz Rasool Nazki is “In Search”  “of my home/ in the rubble/ Of memories/ Among the debris / Of time”. Thus he makes it clear that ‘home’ is an idea, a social construct, a narrative we tell ourselves about who we are and who and what we want closest in our midst. In “This Dark House” Basudhara Roy further explicates this idea. She writes that there is no place like home because home is not a place. “The house looks different all the time, they whisper. / I tell them it is growing steadily each day. / They are bewildered”.

     “Home could be a place with no walls; a place of unimaginable horror, a room without a view or emptiness without belonging”. This is echoed by Candice Louisa Daquin “but when night pulls her skirts down and darkness envelops/ the quiet, I wonder how/ anyone survives/ a home without/ you”. In “Elegy on the Way Home” Dustin Pickering writes about a sense of alienation and purposelessness, thus providing us with an alternative concept of ‘home’, “after the initial shock of the fall,/ i looked where i landed/ but,/ like Icarus,/ I was alone to suffer my fear…” “Dasvidaniya” in the Russian language means ‘until (the next) meeting”. Gayatri Majumdar goes down the memory lane “ Remember the forked-tongue propaganda/ at home those days?—Hissing static blue 45 rpms-/ while Soviet clouds, gorgeous folk dancers/ floating about our rooms; Span, Vogue from America?” and brings a chunk of the yester years in an evocative manner. Perhaps the entire idea of ‘home’ is metamorphosed. Nostalgia casts a spell as one reads Gopal Lahiri’s “One Evening” where “in break of day, at least one evening you feel/ home is only a white pillow, a murphy radio,/ an old wall-clock and those blue white rubber slippers”. Thus the poet has interpreted the theme of ‘home’ in a variety of ways including the physical characteristics.

      Jagari Mukherjee has an altogether different take on ‘home’. “My room is a poem/ written in a garbage can./ My double-bed is a library/ of books and handmade diaries/ that have stone-embedded magic covers”. The city of Bombay has ensnared Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca as she feels the pulse of the city every day : “This is the city that haunts me day and night/ This is the city of darkness and light. / This is the city with the octopus arms/ It has me ensnared forever with all its charms!” A pair of birds find a home in an empty house while the rightful owners were away “just a week”. Once the owners came in the bird couple gave them “jaded looks/ Like old men at a village chaupal”, Lina Krishnan thus weaves a story in “Bulbul”. Megha Sood on the other hand has “called many places home/ I have yet to make one though” (“I have called many places home”). Raja Chakraborty’s “Whitewash” is a layered, cerebral exploration of the concept of ‘home’. “Only memories knew it was a place where they/ could forget themselves, in quiet arrogance of a / whitewashed past”.

     “Yet, it can always be argued that Home is not always a sanctuary of hopes and dreams, an abode for peace and tranquility,” as echoed in Robin Ngangom’s “My Invented Land” where he writes, “My home is a gun/ pressed against both temples/ a knock on a night that has not ended”. “With constant reminders to stay home since the pandemic hit this planet nearly two years ago” this volume delves deeper into the very concept of what constitutes a home. Sanjeev Sethi’s “Home Truth” is a reminder of the dark eerie days of Covid-19, “when I realize there is no call, no email. / C-19 hasn’t revived us. / The whirligig of wooing is behind me. / I’m home-bound”. As one reads Sekhar Banerjee’s “In a Gooseberry Forest”, “Now I don’t know who is lost./ It might be you, / the moon or all of us; / Home is never a mutual world’; one understands that ‘home’ is perhaps more than a physical domain, it is a psychological/imaginary concept. Sharmila Ray writes, “home” is a manuscript framed, beaten out of/ love spent and unspent…” Thus these modernist poems with their unique identities and idiosyncrasies look at ‘home’ through an up-to-date lens.

      In “The Houses of Nattalam” Sonia Nair plays with the old memories that are in sync with the form of the poem that is peppered with idyllic breaks, the skillful maneuvering of the village (Nattalam) conjures up a remarkable verisimilitude with the real ‘home’ which of course, is instrumental in stirring the emotions of the readers.  The concept of ‘home’ is beyond ‘home’ as envisaged by “the homeless duo on/ the pavement, under a broken/ awning, / claim the open sky and earth as the/ original home” in Sunil Sharma’s “An Unacknowledged Cell…And Freedom Reclaimed”. For Vinita Agarwal “Home is a crusade” and “good to believe in/ good to lean on/ good to bleed into, every single day” (“I have Five Homes”). . The Home Anthology is thus a seminal work on the ‘concept of home’. The editors deserve all praise for putting together the myriad hues that are kneaded into one haven and one heaven called ‘home’. The cover design by Kavita Dutta and the subtle illustrations on each page speaks volumes.

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