Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review - Lei : A Wreath for Your Soul by Somali Chakrabarti



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I am an ardent lover of good poetry. Whenever I am feeling low, poetry provides hope and strength to my soul. So, when Somali Charabarti, who blogs on Scribble and Scrawl came out with her book on poetry, I jumped with joy. I have known her through her writings and have found her to be deeply introspective and intelligent. I was eager to see how much more wisdom she had brought to this world. So, very keenly, I got hold her book. She was kind enough to tell me when it was available on Amazon and I promptly grabbed a copy of it. 



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As I started reading the book, which is a collection of poetry written in the format of Japanese haiku and tanka, I realized how astute an observer she is. While sticking to the technical style of writing the format demanded, she was able to bring in her own insight into topics related to Life, Nature, Illusion, and Inspiration. These are the four subjects under which her poems are classified. All four sections are related to each other. Without Nature, Life is impossible. With Life come Illusions, and to break away from them, Inspiration comes in handy. 


Nature


Nature contains snippets of insight which if comprehended, can make life worth living. The section, interestingly, begins with "waking up". The period of torpor is brushed aside as the bright sun bathes the nature with its radiance. The dullness is done away with and with the sunshine comes a promise of life. The light of the 'Moon' fights all shades of darkness. The immensity of Nature in the form of 'Everest' challenges the human spirit and makes us ask a question - Is the human spirit brave enough to defy the unrelenting enormity of Nature? In Nature, one also finds unpretentious modesty. The colors of nature in the 'Valley of Flowers' vie not with each other, rather co-exist adding to the harmony of a beautiful life. There is promise of love as the swans sail together and there is promise of birth and new life as the "pollinator" bee searches for nectar. With the alluring beauty of Nature also come its spoils. The blundering plunder by human greed is tersely conveyed in 'Tusker. The section ends with 'Fractals in Nature' which focuses on fractal patterns in Nature which convey its beauty in perhaps its most precise form.


Life


This section touches various aspects of life - love, friendship, luck, memories, devotion, hatred, ambition, history and death. It aptly begins with 'Lei' which as the writer in the beginning of the book notes is a sign of welcome in the Hawaain tradition. It is a garland to be worn as a symbol of affection. The intricacy of relationships, of love and trust, of belonging, of possessing and letting go are nicely dealt with the subsequent poems. Imagery from nature is used again to depict the force of emotions and memories on one's state of being. My personal favorite in this section is 'Thoughts'. In a few words, the writer compares the volatility of thoughts with that of an erupting volcano. They can be perilous and precarious, they can be heretical, divisive, rebellious. There state of being great or otherwise makes them both dreadful and endearing. Faith and prayers unite as the Divine Being is welcomed in 'Mahalaya' and experienced in 'Whirling Dervishes'. 


Illusion


The tanka 'Illusions of Life' with which this section ends sums it up all. The life that we live is a myriad of impressions received and lived at the tangible level. The way up is the way within. And the way within is the way not easily discovered, actually rarely discovered by anyone. We live at the physical level, like 'Flickering Shadows', putting on a show by wearing 'Masks'. 'Dormant Desires' explode, bringing us closer to our doom. The sham appearances that seem to enchant the senses in reality hide a "vast vacuum" inside them which we fail to perceive. 'Between the Rocks' highlights the precariousness of life. In attempting to balance it out, what if we fail? Can our consciousness be our savior when it itself  hangs delicately on a rocky bed of desires? The irony of a 'Sublime' view is well juxtaposed with the doomed fate of the enduring mortals.

Inspiration


To break away from the deceptive failures that illusory desires bring, Inspiration becomes vital. Once again, the writer draws comparisons from Nature. A 'Mountain Goat', a solitary tree, weather-beaten but unbroken rocks, birds and a lone flower blooming in frigid cold - they all seem to say one thing. Don't give up. Life brings forth challenges and a spirit that sustains against all odds is the spirit that wins. Inspiration comes not from physical strength but firmness of mind and toughness of spirit. Steadfastness of purposeful living brings order to an otherwise chaotic life. The spirit of the writer perhaps finds the best expression in the 'Bliss of Creation' wherein the creator and the created find unity and peace. The being of the creator finds solace as the boundaries between the real and the 'created' meet, overlap, mingle and become one.

Conclusion


The writer at the end of the book tells why she "must" write. It is not a vocation for her. It is something that adds value to her life. It is means of exploration as well as enlightenment. It is a tool that helps her connect, and it also helps her liberate her soul. A close reading of the poem clearly depicts the meaningfulness attached to writing and also exhibits the sensitivity that the writer brings to her works.

I have dwelt on the book in great detail simply because I felt I needed to do full justice to the beauty of this book. Again, poetry speaks to me in ways I cannot describe. I hope that those who take the time to read my review before and after reading the book will understand why I have spent so much time and words on this gem. 

I want to sincerely thank Somali Chakrabarti for sharing this book with me. I feel so enriched by her wisdom and I urge my friends and whoever reads this post, to pick up a copy and read. It is definitely worth it.

22 comments:

  1. I’ve read the book and it’s indeed a good painting by words as demanded by Japanese poetry forms haiku and tanka. Each poem in her book is like a fragrant flower which is meant to celebrate life, generate positivism, and soothe the soul. If I have to summarize it into a haiku, it’d be:

    The lei of haiku
    Sense of beauty and wisdom
    A wreath for the soul

    Regarding review, I must say that you have done full justice to it. I enjoyed reading it. It was like a treat. :)

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    1. That is a wonderful tribute Ravish. And I am glad you liked the review. Thanks!

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  2. That's a great review Sunaina :-) I yet have to get hold of the book..

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    1. Do read it Archana. Since you yourself are an expert at writing haiku, I think it will add to your experience.

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  3. That is a wonderful review done Sunaina.
    Glad to read about her work here.

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  4. Sunaina, this is just like you got in my mind, pulled out the thoughts which played in my mind while writing the poems and put them in this post. Can't thank you enough for this.

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    1. I am so so happy that I could do that Somali!

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  6. Great review, Sunaina...I just finished reading and reviewing it. I completely agree with you regarding the poems... :-)

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    1. I am going to read your review soon, Maniparna. Thanks!

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  7. Very few reviewers take as much effort as you have done here to grasp the spirit of the book.

    I haven't read the book but am familiar with Somali's poems through her blog.

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    1. Thank you sir. Indeed, Sunaina has very astutely captured the spirit of the book and written such a wonderful review. Many thanks to you Sunaina for taking up this effort.

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    2. Thanks for reading the review Sir. I just tried to do my best. These responses are what I actually felt while reading Somali's book.

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  8. Somali's work is explained with all amazing words. Since poetry is your favourite read, you clearly said why one must read the book. This is a great way of reviewing a book, nice review Sunaina :))

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    1. True Prasanna. I love poetry and could not say it in any other way.

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