First Review Of ‘Wayfaring’ And City Musing


 I’ve watched this city moult. The change in its personality. The struggle to live and work through the masquerade of urban beautification. The slow and painful makeover. The contradictions. The altered demographies. The inequities. The restlessness and the river that quietly flows through it all.  I’m composing a new set of Delhi Poems. Somewhat ungrand this time.

The city around me is a fucking cemetery darkened with age where buildings stand cramped together like old, forgotten headstones representing a rift between living and dead. Pigeons, like monks at prayer, line up on balconies and window ledges. Nothing romantic or mysterious. Nothing historic or glorious. Nothing eerie. What lies beneath is dead. What lies above is stagnating. Slowly it will all crumble and die to give place to a yet another set of graves. Funeral is the word filling my mind right now. Somewhere a bird sings a mournful song. Must be a nightingale.

I muse about this as I walk around the city of Delhi. I feel that the culture has died in the eyes of almost everyone you see. If this is a fact, then I guess we must be independent of it, and seek out those who are also independent of it, in order to live at all among the ruins. I look at a different perspective. Vitality lies in the past, whose traces remain in those very ruins, but we cannot go there: our relationship to that, like our relationships to those we love, must advance, change – which is the very thing the ruins refuse us – but in its balance of decay, a change disrupts it, so any thought is a victory. Nightingales can learn plenty new songs. Delhi has layers and layers of surprises. It is a city full of emotions.

Emotions make me think of a blue Yamuna, a river we have collectively brought to a slow death with our neglect and apathy. No one cares to visit her banks or give a little thought to her. The monsoon rains give us a glimpse of the glorious river momentarily but then again she reseeds to be dismissed as a dirty sewer. No one thinks who turned her to be what she is now. I think of the women in my country as I look at her from a distance longing to reach out and touch its waters. There is something so deeply comforting and soothing about sitting at the bank of a river. I am dreaming of a blue Yamuna.

The River Yamuna from Nizamuddin Bridge, Delhi.

I’m sailing on silent waters
between dreams and 
half rememberings
In a floating world 
where nothing is as it seems

 

November has been benevolent in more than one ways. Someone special has brought good tidings in my life. A daughter I always yearned for. Bless her. She’s an exceptional poetess too.  There is still a hint of autumn in the breeze but slowly we’re heading to the real Delhi Winter with all its glorious flowers, snug, colorful woolens, fests, music and art festivals, visits to the monuments and parks. Winter is also the ideal time to experience the incredible Delhi Street food, the pipping hot aalu tikkis, kachoris, gajar halwa, hot jalebis, spicy sweet potato and fried potato chaats and also cold rabri falooda. yes, I’m one of those who love to eat ice creams and kulfis in winter. 🙂 exploring the city for authentic food is a journey of discovery in more than one ways.

Speaking of journey reminds me to tell you about Djelloul Marbrook. He is the editor-in-chief of The Arabesques Review Magazine. Originally from Algeria, he lives in the US now. An exceptional poet, writer, he’s someone I look up to as a student learning the craft of writing. You must check out his website and YouTube channel. It is a gold mine for poetry lovers. When my publisher and friend James Goddard told me that he’s reviewing my book I was slightly nervous but at the same time extremely happy too. This is the first review for ‘Wayfaring’ before it releases on the 20th of Nov. I don’t have words to tell you how proud I feel right now of my evolution as a poet and as a writer. He has written a glorious review of the book and touched the soul of my poetry.

Here’s an excerpt : 

Tikuli is a skilled plein air painter; her palette of words is spare, meticulously chosen and applied in a variety of metrical patterns that, while not avant-garde, are modernist and reliable. The reader is never required to study her metrics; her focus is on the act of recollection and its requisite imperative. She has stories to tell, portraits to paint, ghosts to address, and issues to redress.

The complete review can be read here – A Journey Beyond the Baggage of Pronouns in the tradition of Hafez Rumi and Al Arabi 

The review moved me deeply and to place my poetry in the league of some of the greatest poets of all times that I love and admire is very humbling.  Thank you Djelloul for this precious gift. I will cherish your words forever.

On another note, I have not been very regular with my blog post except the recipes but will soon resume updating the other blog categories too. I plan to visit some old, historic places this winter.

I’ll meet you at another place, another time, another field. The prettiest and most resilient flowers grow in broken spaces like the cracks in the sidewalks. Look out for those places.

In The Light Of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez


 

After reading a book if something changes inside you for better then it is a good book. I found light from this one. Simple stories told from the heart are the best. Our lives, across the globe, are all connected with fragile threads. Sometimes these threads quiver just a little to make us aware of their existence and of the beauty of life that is unfolding despite everything. Threads that help us ‘cross over’, to move past regrets and sorrows and embrace life to the fullest.  These potent threads lead us to one another when the time is right and makes us whole again.

I went to the book launch of In The Light Of Darkness last Saturday and met Radhika for the first time. Though we had been in touch on Facebook since some time and I had read her blog occasionally I wasn’t too familiar with her writing. The book is published by  Readomania and their events are always heart warming. You must check out their other books and website too.

When I got the invite for the launch from her I had not seen the cover. The name itself was enough to convince me to look forward to the event. When she shared the cover, I was blown over. It just drew me in. A lot of emotions stirred inside and I thought what a beautiful poetry in picture it was. Later, after reading the novel, I realized how apt the cover was. It sums up the entire human saga of patient waiting of a woman, a mother, a son to being to closure all that needed to be closed. It sums up the very essence of the novel, how ‘the light of darkness’ eventually finds a crack, breaks through and brightens everything around it. It tells the importance of befriending,  understanding and embracing those ‘dark’ phases in our lives for these phases are an important gift for our overall growth and well being. I personally called them ‘rooting years’ .

The novel is exceptionally well written. One of the best I have read among emerging Indian writers. What a fantastic debut.

During the conversation Radhika told that it was Mary Oliver’s famous poem ‘Uses Of Sorrow’ from her book ‘Thirst’ that inspired her to write the story . Incidentally it is one of my favorite books and poem.

While reading, one can see how  beautifully she has captured the essence of that poem  and blended it in the narrative with such affecting simplicity. Throughout the book there is an underlying current of hope and faith. In the midst of all the struggles the character continuously find some thread to hold on to and renew their faith in life, in relationships, in themselves.

That brings me to another thing that has receded in the shadows of time. Letter writing. There is something very personal in writing a letter with hand. Words that came alive and pulsated as you run your fingers on them. Letters that evoked so many emotions in you even after years of receiving them. Letters that bridge the distance and sometimes bring things to closure, assuring a new beginning. I remembered such letters as I read Susan’s letter to her son. there is a certain clairvoyance in it. A light in the dark. I have known the power of such light and could see how beautifully it lead Matthew to the path he had known but never had strength to take.

This isn’t  book review or critique of her work. I am writing this to tell you how the book connected with me at many levels.Page after page I paused and lingered at places that took me back in time in my own life. So many things came up to the surface and eventually found closure. A feeling of Déjà vu made me so uncomfortable at times that I did not know whether to continue reading or to pause and then I realized I needed to go on, go on to find something that will provide the catharsis. If a story helps you look within it always heals.

Sometimes a line becomes so significant that it plays in the mind on a loop. This book had many such lines and I was tangled in them. I could have read the book in one go but as I said there are words that pulled at my sleeves like a kitten seeking attention. We all choose our karmic path and are responsible for our decisions especially the toughest ones. Decisions that drastically alter the whole flow of life, shaking the very bonds of love, of comradeship, of trust. We hope that those who are directly or indirectly affected by those decisions will eventually understand. This hope sustains us, gives us a reason to live.

A mother-child relationship is much more than just a natural bond. The author has dealt with the complexities of this bond so effortlessly. The book makes you wonder about the woman who is torn between being a mother and a woman. It makes you reach out to the son who is struggling to find the light of hope in the darkness that was gifted to him by life. For me, it brought back the memories of a similar decision I had to take for my son. As the story unfolded I was filled with the memories of those dark times and how that box of darkness became a gift to me and possibly for my son in a different way perhaps, but none the less a gift. Not many narratives shake your conscience  the way this one does.

When the story is too close to home it often messes with your mind. In those times I wrote to Radhika and poured my heart out and then I found why this book is so special. Radhika has this innate ability to comfort and love which instantly made me feel better. It also made me realize that time is insignificant to connect deeply with someone. Only a person with so much depth can touch lives with her words.  I know I will cherish this one for long.

The book conveys an important message. I don’t know where your reading of the book will lead you and I am not discussing anything about the plot or the characters here. I want you to find your light once you read it.

 

Go pick your copy of In The Light Of Darkness

.

 

 

 

A Bowlful of Butterflies by Ritu Lalit – Book Review


The début novel of Ritu Lalit , A Bowlful of Butterflies, has a fast paced  story that revolves around a middle class family based in NCR region.  The novel is primarily written for young adults but it resonates deeply with all of  us who have  been part of such extended middle class close-knit families. The younger generation of readers will surely relate with it.

It effectively portrays the angst, growing up pains, insecurities, complexities of relationships, new-found sexual urges, first crushes, dilemmas of career choices, continuous peer and parental pressure and the rebelliousness among the characters around whom the plot revolves.

As you progress reading the story holds your attention and urges you to become a part of  it, to participate  in the conversation. There were times when I felt like saying , ‘”where the heck was all this fun when I was growing up? why didn’t I have friends like Chandini ( Chandu), Amrit,  Soma ? It is an enjoyable refreshing read.

Some of the social issues like sexual preferences,  relationship issues like extra marital affairs, repercussions of parental discord on children are dealt with such subtlety.  The unspoken desires, hidden urges, the emotional upheavals that run deep through out the teenage hood are portrayed very deftly in the book.  Acceptance of  Vickramjeet (Vicky) as gay and his unconventional career choice of becoming a musician is a shocking experience for the middle class Ratra family. A reflection on  our society’s closed mind.

It was interesting to see Ritu bring out the attraction between Chandu and Jogi. It made me laugh as I remembered my teenage days and the huge crush I had on my cousin.  Not all accept it but it sure happens that  often the first crush comes within the extended family.

The novel certainly gives a cue to follow ones passion and make desired choices without succumbing to social pressures. The readers are left to ponder and gain some insight from the happenings in lives of these youngsters and their families.

I thought the dénouement was a bit weak. It seemed the author wanted a happy ending and a quick closure.  

The title A Bowlful of Butterflies is symbolic in more than one ways. Butterflies are symbols of the impressive process of metamorphosis. The kind of energy this transformation expends in such shot time is commendable. The plot of the novel spans a period of four months which show  transition of Chandini from girlhood to womanhood as she embraces the chances of her environment and her body and emerges with unfurling glory of  multi-hued butterfly. It also symbolizes the endless passionate bonds she shares with her siblings, childhood friends Soma and Amrit, her cousin Jogi and her first love Avni.

I am sure at some point or the other the story would touch a heart string and create music in the reader’s life. Life sure is a bowlful of Butterflies,  fragile, colorful and transitory.

Overall a light, entertaining read.

you can buy the book  HERE