Strik­ing a Chord

Southasia - - BOOK REVIEW - ‘So why not sleep?’ ‘Old Tes­ta­ment’, ‘Bhur­ban’ No mu­sic ac­com­pa­nies them They sway in time to sad chords Of an ab­sent orches­tra Tight morn­ing mouths Dis­ap­pear­ing in a tun­nel of time Which they devour Like the fat gour­mands of quite or­di­nary dishes The H

read­ers may ei­ther find them­selves en­thralled by the tex­ture of the lan­guage or feel short­changed by its com­pli­cated na­ture.

The ti­tle poem be­gins with the im­age of ‘ mov­ing di­a­monds of the night’. Un­like Rana’s im­agery in this im­age is straight­for­ward and draws on the tran­si­tion from day and night.

Some of the most en­light­en­ing po­ems in the an­thol­ogy per­tain to the places Rana has vis­ited through­out her life. In her poem on Gil­git, she recre­ates the scenery of snow-capped moun­tains and trees. Through a short and crisp poem, Rana ex­plores the story of the beau­ti­ful val­ley. The poem concludes that the city is “a lonely grave­yard” even though it is filled with end­less beauty. On the other hand, presents a vivid de­scrip­tion of the re­gion while Rana’s poem on ‘Afghanistan’ of­fers a glimpse of the coun­try be­fore the Soviet in­va­sion.

In a can­did por­trayal of a group of or­phans play­ing in Cam­bo­dia, Rana demon­strates the abil­ity to em­pathize with the chil­dren with­out ex­ag­ger­at­ing their mis­ery. The au­thor has a ten­dency to use thought-pro­vok­ing metaphors to give ex­pres­sion to their suf­fer­ing. The poem uses the images of a dance to high­light the ab­sence of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them. The fol­low­ing verse is a good ex­am­ple of this form of sym­bol­ism:

A large num­ber of po­ems are also built on in­ci­dents and ob­ser­va­tions which are fairly com­mon­place. In ‘The Toronto un­der­ground’, she sums up the ex­pe­ri­ence of trav­el­ling on a crowded sub­way in a sim­ple and ef­fec­tive man­ner:

On first glance, the poem ap­pears to build on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences rather than the re­cesses of the imag­i­na­tion. In ad­di­tion, the poet as­sumes the role of a par­tic­i­pant rather than a dis­pas­sion­ate ob­server. More of­ten than not, it adds a per­sonal touch and pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for ag­gres­sive self-de­scrip­tion. Rana tries to un­der­stand her own fears through the fol­low­ing stanza:

Over­all, the po­ems de­pict a jour­ney to un­der­stand peo­ple, places, be­lief sys­tems and, more im­por­tantly, the essence of life. They do not leave the reader with a tall tale which gives them false hope. To the con­trary, Rana takes the threads of hu­man emo­tions and uses them to cre­ate a patch­work of re­al­is­tic ideas.

Greta Rana has de­scribed her work as ret­ro­spec­tive that “track(s) the sen­sa­tion of ( her) life”. In the pref­ace, she ex­plains that the writ­ten words rep­re­sent a jour­ney through life. Rana’s po­ems are driven by life ex­pe­ri­ences but ce­mented by pow­er­ful ob­ser­va­tions. The shift­ing sur­faces be­tween past and present are han­dled with care and used as a means to take the reader on an en­light­en­ing spir­i­tual jour­ney. The writer is a poet and au­thor. He is a law grad­u­ate of SOAS.

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