Poignant poetry

Book Review by Subhash Chandra


Nostalgia Crafting a Home Within
Author: Mahua Sen
Year 2024
Pages: 122
ISBN 978-93-92494-52-9
Price ₹ 349 | USD 9.99  

Quite some time ago I posted on my FB page that all poets share the same address: RAINBOW. 
It was an impulsive act. Impulses, we have been told by psychoanalysts, spring from the Id (the Unconscious), and therefore, are chaotic and irrational. However, they have a subterranean logic that is not graspable … at least immediately. If reflected on after a lapse of time, often you begin to understand the rationale. 

Thinking back, I realise, why the Rainbow is Poets’ habitat. They are empathetic, blessed people who have been assigned the responsibility to create beauty through their poems (songs, even the sad ones) that make the world beautiful and create peace and harmony which the world has always needed … and does now more than ever.  It is not for nothing that the planets move in harmony and the process creates the music of the universe.   

That my impulsive statement was not a meaningless effusion is borne out by my encounter with Mahua Sen’s poetry collection, Nostalgia Crafting a Home Within.  The title is multilayered. It has depth and universality and is delicately suggestive. It indicates that the idea animating the poems is YEARNING – yearning for Home and all that goes with it: love, understanding, warmth, security, freedom from responsibilities, and the comfort of the lap of the grandmother and her stories to boot.

All of us irreversibly lose home through a shift in place/space or through the process of growing up, but the longing for home becomes more intense with time and we attempt to retrieve it by crafting it through memories (nostalgia).
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Life is full of vicissitudes; we are vulnerable to crises that cause worry and stress. Each day seems an arduous climb and, at times a harrowing task. One can either find ways of dealing with the situation or go under and slide into depression.

In the poem “Red,” the poet is overwhelmed by the exhaustion caused by confronting nettling issues during the day, and sleep eludes her like a mirage in the ‘desert of the night.’ She wraps herself “in the warm, crimson hues of nostalgia … A comforting cocoon [home] that shelters” her “from the harsh winds of the present.” (!3). 

Trudging the cratered road of life is exhausting, and the drained sojourner looks for the evergreen ‘Live Oak’ under which s/he can rest in the dense shade, replenish her energy, and resume the journey. The ‘evergreen tree’ is the grandmother in the poem, “Grandmother,” which I find is one of the most heart-touching and beautiful verses in the collection.
To wit: “I still hear the faint chime of my grandma’s bangles, 
…. …
In the labyrinth of days … 
Her lap, a sanctuary from life’s tempestuous climb.” (15)

Craving for love and romance is universal. Each individual cutting across gender, class or caste, and marital status, is struck by Cupid once in a lifetime, even though it is well-known that unrequited love causes anguish.  This pain is captured in the poem, “Charulata,” who carries within her more of her ‘lover’ than she does of herself. 
“The epicentre of/my being now bears the weight of memories, suffused with the scent of 
bloodstains, amplifying the tumultuous chaos within” (16). 

There are other poems like, “Echoes of Childhood Fragrance,” in which
“Nostalgia seeps through the cracks of my heart, crafting a home
within.” 
And on “Certain evenings, in particular, carry a profound aroma, a scent
that resonates with ‘home.’ (23). 

In “Desiring Simplicity, 
“My heart longs for a voyage back in time, 
To days of innocent bliss and lavish twilight affairs, 
I muse upon the shade of nostalgia’s hue …” 
Even if the poem is not demonstrably about the yearning, the imagery unmistakably conveys dwelling in childhood: “They attempted to strangle my Hope
But my Hope is an infant
Unacquainted with the art of silence….” (‘Hope is a Thing with Feathers.’ (19).

To conclude, there are poems in the collection that may be outside the pale of the defining framework I set out with. But you will find memory, that is nostalgia, at work to create a comfortable, protective niche for the poet. 

If you enjoy poetry with poignancy, sparkling imagery, mesmerizing rhythm, and poetry with a purpose, then plunge into Nostalgia … Mahua Sen’s book!

1 comment :

  1. Thanks a lot for the wondwrful review! Thanks to Setu for giving it a beautiful home.

    ReplyDelete

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