An Inventive Genius Making Her Debut in Assamese Poetry
“Living means fighting within you the ghosts of dark power, writing means putting on trial your inmost self” (Henrik Ibsen) The above comment by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen brings to light the dedication and hard-practice that one needs to write any sort of creative literature. The book under review “Mounatar Anubhab” (The feeling of Silence) by Dr. Padumi Singha brings to light the veracity of the above comment. This happens to be the maiden collection of Assamese poems by Dr. Padumi Singha. It contains 31(thirty-one) poems and each poem reminds us of the comment by W.B. Yeats, the Nobel prize Winner (Irish poet who wrote in English) for poetry in 1925- who said “Out of the quarrel with your neighbour you create rhetoric, and out of the quarrel with yourself and soul, you create poetry”. This apt remark is applicable to the poems of Dr. Padumi Singha. The poems have been written by the poet in Assamese language, one of the richest languages of India. Her poems remind one of the authentic comment by one of the greatest poets of Bengali literature Jibananda Das “All are not poets, only a few happens to be poets”. Dr. Padumi’s nice collection deserves kudos and her poems reveal the fact that she is a genuine and serious poet. She evokes sensitivity and compassion through her poems and love is one of the central tropes of the collection. Her poems are blending of emotions and intellect and they appeal to the readers’ heart and head simultaneously. Now it would be pertinent to discuss her poems one by one and also to try to measure out the optimum height her poetry reaches in the process of perusal of the readers.
“Hongopone” reverses our idea that a woman can only give birth to children after her period of pregnancy and the poem is not merely sexual in tone, but also an assault to the ordinary perceptions of the readers. From the very first poem the speaker talks about feelings and silence. “Anuronon” evokes a wonderful poetic sensibility. It reminds us of a poem by the late Urdu poet Nida Fazli. The entity of musical expression is expressed here which actually began in the 20th century when poetry aspired to the condition of music. The sound of the mother’s sweet voice merges with music. There is a mention about the speaker’s elder brother and the speaker getting back to the point of her infancy which is very nicely presented through apt choice of words. “Hunaru Fular Botorot” reminds one of Nilmani Phukans poems (a doyen of modern Assamese poetry) and the imageries are crisp, pithy and highly suggestive. It is like a Japanese “Haiku” in structure, which also brings to light Padumi’s command over World literature. “Chanda” (rhyme) is a rhyming poem on rhyme itself and it sings the ode of love in a very obvious tone, reminding one of the poems of Sylvia Plath. Here it must be mentioned that all of the poems of the collection are confessional in tone. “Atmojo” is an extremely rich poem that celebrates love, life, nudity, darkness, light, dream, unbearable time and music. There is a sense of sexuality which pervades the texture of the poem. “Hidina” is a poem of nostalgia and the reference to “yellow evening” reminds one of T.S Eliots “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the Movement poet Philip Larkin’s “Evening” and the poem reads like a play in performance. A sense of getting separated from the lover is also suggested. “Hahiful” is a poem of invitation to the lover to come forward like a budding flower. The poem is positive in spirit.
“Akha” is about the speaker’s daughter whose infancy and childhood are narrated through different boisterous images and metaphors. The glory of “Nature” and its call to human world to participate in the domain of Imagination is a hallmark of the poem. “Nitol” is a love poem where a very uncommon observation is made that time also “sleeps”. This poem follows the logic of imagination and brings to the light the authenticity of the African American Writer-poet James Baldwin that “If we do not love one another, then we would end up destroying each other”. “Prem” is a life asserting poem and upholds the view that Love is at the Centre of our universe. Though it is a long poem, yet it becomes successful to draw the attention of readers due to its profound feelings. A sense of magic realism is also observed here, though not prominently.
“Jatri” is an intellectual and self-reflexive poem where the poet talks about life’s unending journey in a rich, metaphoric and symbolic undertone. The concept of “travel” adds to it a positive aura. “Hondhan” is an experimental poem where the speaker talks about the possibilities of the expansion of language which reminds one of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous comment that “the limit of my language is the limit of my existence”. The poem is divided into three different parts and all the parts have the common motif of “search”. “Thikona” reverses our common understanding about the universe and it shows the poet’s inventive genius. “Songa” is about a poem, thus making it postmodern in tone. “Kiyodhonkho” talks about extremist problem of the region, here, Assam, the destruction of crops, brain-drain concept, a talented young boy playing guitar and corruption of our country’s administrative machinery. Common peoples’ helplessness also finds a place here. The poem also brings to light the gradual passing of time as one is reminded of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The poem lashes out against artificiality. The sound of railway engine is compared with the shrill cry of dogs, making it rich in imagination. The speaker has lost someone dear due to extremist violence. It also speaks of social ills. Since it is a long poem, so every pertinent point has been touched in a very oblique manner. “Sogotokti” is a poem of loneliness and awareness of changing season coupled with a reference to blood. Still, it sings the glory of love and life. “Obyakta” talks about the borderline between life and death, smiles and tears, sound and silence and spider web and void. “Pratabhramon” describes the onset of winter season with all its charm, morning walk of the speaker, the shades of diverse trees, existence of green leaves, the falling of dews, a sense of sigh for the loss of eternal glories of life. It is existential in tone. The speaker also speaks about a feeling of numbness due to cold weather and finally the imagery of “blood” makes the speaker utter rhetorical questions.
“Eibeli Mounator Anubhav” celebrates the glory of silence and its gradual shelter in the heart of the poet, nostalgia, the strokes of pen writing the pain felt due to separation of the lover and the beloved and also a shade of gloom. “Chitrokhor” is about the tough phase a painter has to undergo and there is also a mythical allusion. “Kollolon Hatot” is a poem of deliberate obscurity, a trademark of modernist poetry but it experiments with both structure and texture. “Hihot” mentions trees, ice, mountains, green field, the blue sky, the bluest sea, the returning of birds to their nest as the day breaks in a highly rich voice.
“Apun” is a poem of love and pangs of separation from the lover, but also about the metaphor of “waiting” of the beloved for her lover. “Dhuhoratha” is a poem of hope and gloom but ultimately it sings the glory of life. “Prakash” is a poem that uses very language of local people and a sense of feeling the perfume of love makes it unique.
“Bangmoy” is a symbolic poem of tears, reminding one of Tennysons “Tears Idle Tears” but the ultimate reference to the colour of “green” makes it positive in tone. “Hopun” is a poem of dream and hope. “Smita Hubakh” shows the loneliness of the speaker and the desperate attempt to clutch to words talks about creative hardship. “Atmojaha” is again a haiku like poem which speaks a lot in economy of expression and uses of imageries. “Protokhya” is a poem of ecological concern and human beings’ plundering of natural resources which would bring destruction to the world. “Hiruda” is structurally experimental poem and a young poet pays tribute to her senior poet, here, Hiruda- Hiren Bhattacharya and this is how the poets connect with one another keeping in mind T. S Eliot’s famous essay “Tradition and the individual talent”.
The poems are on various themes and nice illustrations are drawn by the poet herself and her little daughter Dhruhi Deepa Das that adds a different charm to it. These poems declare the arrival of a new but significant voice of a mature talent to the gamut of Assamese poetry. The poems should be translated into English and other Indian languages solely because they are rich, and novel.