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





Some Random Thoughts, Seven Poems, A Memoir and A Photograph

I have neglected my blog since a long time. I mean apart from the news and photographs and recipes I haven’t really posted any stories, poems, memoirs etc. The reason is I am working on the MS of the novella I am writing and collecting the short stories, poems etc for publishing. Also, I am desperately trying to clean myself of patriarchal bullshit. This whole year has been amazingly annoying and hurtful at the same time at many levels. It has also been a mixed year for writing. This  winter is going to be long and harsh..

Now, coming back to the BS I mentioned above.

Patriarchal bull shit comes in more forms than you can ever imagine and it can be very subtle. AND where should I put the increasing number of labels the men are honouring me with? you can trust some people to screw your life when you least expect. It makes my blood boil but just the slogan shouting and walking out as a rebel defying the system seldom helps. Don’t ever think you can count on support of natal home. Nah.. it turns toxic sooner than you can think. Unless you have a job security and/or a heart of steel you get fucked both ways. If you don’t have good health then it is the cherry on top. I know.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears. Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of ” solid evidence.”

Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘Thinking for oneself’ is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels, her condition is even worse.

This is the ground reality of majority of women. The woman who works for us said a thought-provoking thing. She said,” Middle class non working women are in a worse situation than others. The rich have other resources to fall back upon, like money and all that it brings, and we, the poor, can just leave an abusive home, make a jhuggi somewhere else and work in homes to sustain ourselves. You can’t do that. So, its worse for the likes of you.” I couldn’t have agreed more. I have shared this earlier too but now and again the reality of it smacks me hard on the cheek, reminding me to shake the muck that I am allowing to grow on me and move away. Where? How? When? I don’t know.

I also know the hawk-eyed snoopers are reading this right now and itching to set the grapevine ablaze. Go ahead all you pinch-brained nitwits. I don’t give a hoot. Some others may be steaming within and wanting to say something nastier than what they said earlier but don’t know how. If you burn the bridges you lose more than you can imagine. By the way I always wanted to ask, “who it was that taught you to speak bullets without considering the exit wounds, tell me who?” Oh I love this line from Flatsound|you said ok 

Rant over. Now some good things.

Seven of my new poems got published in Cafe Dissensus blog. The news made me super happy.

Sharing one of them here but to read the rest do click on the link below.  Do explore the magazine, it has some excellent stuff.


loneliness curls in the spaces
between the notes of the rainsong,
the night bleeds neon, collects
in puddles near the wet sidewalks,
cigarettes, float like decomposed corpses
bloated with memories, voices, tense with
longing, rustle through the trees, possessed
and restless the midnight lingers.

I wrote a memoir long ago for Soul Curry that used to come in TOI but by the time I sent it they stopped that feature. It remained tucked away  in some folder until I chanced upon it sometime back, polished it and sent it to Readomania. for publishing on their website.

They accepted and here is the link.  The Old Black Trunk .

Do read and leave your views about these two in the comment section on the respective sites as well as here.

I will be sharing a few more poems soon and will try to keep the blog going.

Till then stay blessed.

darkness and pain?
well, that’s now a thing of past
now let’s look after
passions and
meanderings and

Memorable Kaafiya – The Poetry Festival And The Launch Of ‘Kaafiyana’

“Hey, where is the birthday party happening?”, a friend asked me a few days back.
“At the amphitheater of IHC. I hope you are coming.” I replied.
She looked confused. “IHC? Isn’t  Kaafiya – The Poetry Festival happening there? Anything special about this festival?”
“Yes, it is not just another poetry festival. It is an effort to bring the poetry enthusiasts from across the city together, going beyond the boundaries. An effort to take poetry, music and dance to a different level. ‘Kaafiya’ means ‘rhyme’ and the purpose of the festival is to bring the poets/artists together. You know, “mile sur mera tumhara, to sur bane hamara‘? Unity and harmony through different art forms.That’s Kaafiya for you.There will also be the much awaited launch of ‘Kaafiyana’, the bilingual poetry anthology. My Hindi poem is part of the collection. Do read. What better way to celebrate one’s birthday than by celebrating poetry. For a poet it is a dream come true. No?” I smiled.
“Wow! yes, of course. Sounds good. Congrats and best wishes. I will try to come.”She said.

I turned forty eight this year and celebrations for me have always had different meaning. Doing what you love most is the best  way to celebrate life. This was where i wanted to be.

I wasn’t able to attend the first day of the festival for health reasons but the two-day fest began on 10th of October with a bang. Day 1 saw a series of discussions with eminent personalities that included Shri Ashok Chakradhar, Peggy Mohan, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Nishad Zaidi, Prof Abdul Bismillah, Janab Sohail Hashmi (Delhi heritage Walks) to name a few.

Day one also saw some exquisite poetry reading by young emerging poets. The high point of the first day was a mesmerizing dance performance by guru Rashmi Khanna called ‘Timeless Lore of Love‘. The poetry recitation by Saumya Kulshreshtha and Rashmi’s spellbinding performance based on that held the audience captive. From what I heard this was one of those rare choreographed performances that will be etched in the minds of poetry lovers for a very long time. I regretted missing Day 1 of the festival even more after attending day two.
The reason I decided to write about Kaafiya is very personal. I support their cause. Unlike many of the other poetry events I felt an instant connect with the spirit with which the whole event was organized.

The beautiful amphitheater at IHC was radiating with the warmth, the love, and the hard work that team Kaafiya and its supporting partners Readomania and others had put in. There was a sense of harmony and belonging that immediately made you feel connected to everyone present there, known or unknown. It takes a lot of effort to win hearts and mentally stimulate the minds and thoughts of people and this poetry festival totally rocked at it. Everyone connected to Kaafiya , the main organizers, the volunteers, the participants, the partners, worked relentlessly to make this maiden event a huge success. The runup to Kaafiya began in August with events spread across the city, open mic, slam poetry sessions, creative workshops, lectures etc in collages with the help of their ‘poetry ambassadors’ and in private gatherings all across the capital, one of a kind heritage poetry walks were organized with youth for heritage foundation, and poetry events like Rhyming with Poet’s Collective celebrated the rich heritage of poetry all through these three months. Every Tuesday #KaafiyaMilaao trended at number 1 on twitter as poetry enthusiasts shared their short verses in both English and Hindi on this social network.The tradition still continues. Do join in folks.

So you can imagine that the overall festival was not just for these two days at IHC but was spread over last few months. Kaafiya fest at IHC was culmination of all these super events organized so wonderfully by Yaseen Anwer and other members of organizing team Dipankar Mukherjee, Saumya Kulshreshtha and Vikramjit Singh Rooprai. I think the most remarkable thing about this fest was celebrating poetry in both English and Hindustani. There is an urgent need to bring Hindi poetry to mainstream and I was thrilled to listen to some fantastic poems by the young poets. Kaafiya, in my opinion, is doing a great job in encouraging these young poets to come out and showcase their talent . To give them a platform is something amazing. It instills faith and courage in them.
I missed the first session of Day two but reached in time for the next. The eminent personalities that graced the second day included Sumant Batra (Kumaun Literary festival), Aditi Maheshwari, Raj Liberhan, Keki. N.Daruwala, Rana Safvi, Darain Shahidi (Dansangoi), Lubna Irfan, Vikarmjit Singh Rooprai to name a few. The topics for discussions were carefully chosen keeping in mind the relevance and importance of subject matter. The idea was to engage the audience in most fruitful way possible.
I loved ‘Dastaan-e-dilli’ , I had heard a lot about Vikarmjit Rooprai and was curious about his work. This section of Kaafiya was simply out of the world. To know the city of Delhi through poetry was a new experience for me.  I hope the videos will be uploaded soon for everyone to watch and listen.
‘Aawaaz-e-dilli’ was something I will remember for life. What an amazing blend of poetry. Shiva Singh, Tauseef Ahmed, Azhar Nawaz, Mudita Rastogi , all of you won my heart. Simply superb. Those you attended the festival will agree with me on this. The audience was jubilant and cheered the poets on every sher, every nazm, very verse. Thank you poets for sharing your treasure of words with us. I am sure you inspired many among us.

Another high point of day two of Kaafiya was the poetry recitation session by actor, poet, painter and photographer, the gorgeous and talented Deepti Naval. I know I am going a little overboard with this but I always loved her work. Her recent poems are excellent. Though “dark” in her words they touch you somewhere deep. At least they resonated with me deeply. The conversation between Yaseen and Deepti was delightful and she was so gracious in answering all our questions.
By now the crowd was euphoric. One could see the energy that flowed in the audience. It was electrical.

I will try and share the video of kaafiya anthem ‘Delhi ke dil ka arman’ . You must listen to the fine lyrics by Aseem Abaasi.
Adil Sami held us captive with his musical poetry. A very interesting blend of two.

The book launch of our Kaafiyana was unique and one of a kind. It was done through a magical Odissi dance performed by Adrija Sarkar. Unforgettable is the word that comes to mind when I think of it.

Kaafiyana is a collection of bilingual poetry (Hindi &English). It features poems by the ninety poets who were selected through Delhi Poetry Challenge organized by Readomania and Kaafiya.
I really loved the way team kaafiya kept calling young talents to the stage to recite their poems between the main events. Many poets got a chance to showcase their work and were encouraged and appreciated by the audience. A few poet contributors from Kaafiyana also read their poems.
By now the evening shadows had settled around the amphitheater and the air had become a bit cooler. The audience had no wish to leave. Intoxicated by the charms of poetry, music and dance they wanted more.
Girish Sharma (Bandey) set the stage on fire with some great music. You had to be there to believe the kind of impact his presence had on the audience. They cheered, sang with him, urged him to sing their favorite songs, it was sheer euphoria taking over. His song Lappujhania (you can find it on You Tube) made the crowd ecstatic and rightfully so. The guy is a terrific performer. This musical poetic soiree was cherry on the top.
It is always a pleasure to meet old and new friends during such events but these two days of Kaafiya will be memorable for many reasons. You can check out the FB page, Twitter handle, and the website of Kaafiya for more information about the stupendous work they are doing in making Delhi the youth driven poetry capital of India. Also, don’t forget to visit Readomania website to get updated on the events like Readomania #TalkFest to be held in the first week of every alternate month starting from November at India Habitat Centre.
Lastly , I want to congratulate all the poets who contributed to Kaafiyana. It is a pleasure to be part of the group. Thank you Kaafiya for this wonderful opportunity to share my work and for bringing poetry to us in such a unique way. I wish all of you tremendous success in future events. A big thank you to the volunteers, hosts and hostesses who made the show so magical. Well done.

The people who made it possible.

Friends, do get involved with Kaafiya movement in every possible way if you are in Delhi/NCR.
Readomania, thank you for ‘Kaafiyana’. Looking forward to more such milestones.It is a great feeling to find it at number 1 place on Amazon.

All those reading this can buy your copy HERE. Visit the Goodreads page for Kaafiyana and leave your views.

This is my author’s copy 😀

Here is a slide show of some beautiful memories from the two-day Kaafia Poetry Festival. A few pix are sourced from Kaafiya FB page and the copyright belongs to the rightful owners. Sunny Lakharwal, thank you for permitting me to use your photographs in the slide show.

Thank you for sharing the joy.

Kaafiya ka Kaafila badhta rahe” as Yaseen says.

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