Monday, February 25, 2013

From the Anklets of a Homemaker – A Book Review

As I open my eyes to the bright day
I am pure dew
The daily trifles make me human.

It’s always a difficult thing to critique a friend’s work, but in the case of Subhashini’s newly released collection of poems, it was easy.
 I’ll tell you why in a bit, but first a little about how I got to know this poetess
Subhashini is a Twitter friend and I was drawn to her by…okay, let me do this the way they announce the winners of a contest.
So, the second runner-up was the occasional messages and tweets we exchanged – it seemed that there was a common ground of like-mindedness. The first runner-up was her beautiful name and the incandescent smile in her Twitter “DP”. (Which also happens to be on the book cover.) But the winner, by a million miles – and what made me “follow” her in the first place - was those exquisite little compositions that she’d post every now and then.
And that go by the awful name of “micropoetry”.
Awful because I always read it as “microproperty” and that always reminds me of the tiny, cramped Mumbai matchboxes  that squash “1bhk” in 500 square feet of space and unashamedly call themselves flats. Also, ‘micropoetry’ is misleading because it implies tiny slivers of poetic offerings, stunted by the cruel binding of 140 characters.
So, the description that I’d like to use for these beautiful compositions is English haiku. Because haikus are tiny concentrated drops of the universe that you put on your palm and then gently lick again and again to let them unfold in front of you. (What is it that William Blake said? “Eternity in a grain of sand…” ?)
And that is exactly what Subhashini’s poems are…
A pawn thinks it is the queen
when it moves forward.
She calls me to her side –
Shows me how lovely her children are-
With a whiff of their fragrance-
White jasmine
After my first reading of these poems, I had a quarrel with the title and even told Subhashini so. It was mainly with the word ‘homemaker’ and the often apologetic (when women use it to describe themselves) and sometimes more than faintly derogatory (when others use it to describe women) connotations of it.
But on second reading – yes, this is a book that you can read over and over again as all good anthologies of poems are – ‘homemaker’ is just right. Because the poems conjure up Subhashini, sitting quietly in centre of the vortex of everyday life, watching to its everyday-ness  swirl around her, listening to it talk to her and unfold its wisdom.
Dew.  Vegetables in a shopping bag.  Bird song. Electric Wires.
Perched on –
High tension wires –
A pair of doves –
Tension free.
Toys. A clock. Love. Puddles. A pillow. The rain. Non-stick pans. Traffic signals.
Traffic signal
Vehicle stops –
Thoughts do not
Books. Disappointment . The sky in all its many moods. Even a gibbous moon.  And a plate…
Whatever happens
the plate –
seeks food.
And  I imagine Suhashini  carefully plucking  this very everyday-ness and then weaving it into these delicate little braids of poems. And as I read them, little windows open this way and that and their fragrance wafts in and  the words, the nuances fall inside my head like the soft, silvery sounds of anklets. Cham. Cham. Cham. Cham.

Write on me, I will remember
Said the paper to the pen
So that was the easy bit.
And now, we come to the part where I have to talk about something that I didn’t like about the book or I’ll be accused of gushing.
Well, there are a few things.
The poems are divided into three sections - Reflections of a Summer Rain, Rivers of endless desire, Meditating Ocean. But for me, the divisions unnecessary and the poems are interchangeable.  And, a few  poems stick out because the words are uncharacteristically clumsy, explaining too much, lacking the delicate subtlety of the rest of poems .
There. I said it.
But Ali McGraw wouldn’t be Ali McGraw without that crooked front tooth and nor Jay Leno Jay Leno without that jaw
So let it be.
And I’m done. And if all that I have said hasn’t already made you order this book, here’s my final word on the subject. (On Twitter, they’d call it a ‘re-plug”)
Or rather Subhashini’s
Be my sky, he said.
Am I the clouds, sun, stars or rain?” she asked.
“You are its essence,” with closed eyes and –
A deep smile –
“Be my sky,” he said
Cham. Cham. Cham-cham-cham-cham-cham

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