BOOK REVIEW - ROADS (A Journey with Verses)
Vandana Bhasin & Smitha Vishwanath
Writing a review of a collection of poetry is a daunting task, for unless you try to understand the poet, a true interpretation of the poem and its imagery will not be possible. It is not a book where you can say I could finish it in two hours or a day and be done with it. It takes a long time for serious lovers of poetry to really get into the mind of the poet. I took a long time and felt guilty that I could not come out with a review fast enough, for I know that whether it is prose or poetry the author looks forward to the reader's reaction and it means a lot. And now here I was grappling with understanding the minds of two poets.
Smitha says ‘This book is serendipity’, a happy occurrence and hopes that the poems remind the reader of their own journey and inspire them to stay positive all the way. For Vandana it is ‘Like any other journey, all roads on this journey were full of exploration, learning, treasuring new relationships and rejoicing along the way’. She also says that writing helps to justify her existence and deepens her understanding of life.
Looking to the content of the book, the cover is very well-conceived and conveys the journey towards the distant horizon very much in sight but still a long way to go. The figure on the cover, that of a lady with her tresses gently blowing in the wind and walking alone on the road towards her destination (a surrealistic landscape) is both attractive and symbolic.
The structuring of the book into three broad sections – 1. Courage, Wisdom, Serenity 2. Love, Strength, Compassion 3. Joy, Hope, Gratitude, makes it easy for the reader to follow the trend of thought. If the book is a compilation written over the years by the authors separately and now arranged as per the sections indicated above, which I feel is the more obvious, taking into account that our thought processes do not occur in compartments, but are random, it is a massive effort of matching and compiling and embarking together on this journey ‘Roads’.
A notable feature are the small passages, more in the nature of a preface at the start of each poem, help us appreciate the poet’s trend of thought conveyed in the poem.
Smitha comes out as more mellow and inclusive in expressing her feelings, Vandana is the quintessential votary of individual action. In the section on ‘Courage’-
Smitha writes in the poem ‘Hesitate and seal your fate’
‘Break the chains that hold you back
Shatter the walls that make you slack
Drop the baggage from your cart
It’s never too late to start.’
Vandana in her poem ‘I am the heroine of my life’ writes that she believes women are stronger than the dishonor meted out to them after the abuse, despite no fault of theirs –
‘Do not sympathize, for I am a phoenix
I have the prowess to recuperate from ashes
I will not relinquish, for I intend to revolutionize
I am not subservient to accede to sacrifice.’
In the section ‘Wisdom’ in the poem ‘Treasure the little pleasures’, Smitha writes –
‘Wisdom I gained, after a while
These were things that truly matter
The little joys that made me smile
All the rest, incidental clutter.’
Vandana in her poem ‘It’s all in the state of mind’
Ah! This pessimism is the toxin of my life
That has paralyzed the powers of my mind
If only I change my perspective
And just remember, ‘It’s all in the state of mind.’
A very interesting contrast comes out in the section on ‘Serenity’
Smitha in her poem ‘The sounds of the countryside’
‘A tranquility I feel in the countryside-
Nestled away from the chaos, the clamor of the city
In solitude, I gaze – no hurry, no rush; my time bide
A blissful serenity’
Vandana- in her poem ‘Solitude and Me’
‘In solitude, I seek my answers
When adrift in the labyrinth of life
Solitude show me light’
Both these poems captivated me since I have echoed similar thoughts in my poems ‘Tranquility’ and ‘Solitude’.
The poems are replete with each poet’s own individualistic view on the same subject matter. I would refrain from going into every poem and quoting for it would make this review too long. There is a strong connect with the father in two poems which as I age, I feel quite emotional and know that my daughters feel the same way –
Smitha in the small preface before her poem ‘Hush daddy! Don’t fear’ writes
– ‘Taking care of an ageing parent isn’t always easy. It’s a vicious cycle of guilt, duty, love and responsibility. As for the parent, there’s no refuting that ageing is an extremely difficult phase of life and a lonely journey.’
‘I watch you; a fraction of what you once used to be
Dread, loneliness and emptiness, in your eyes I see’
Vandana writes in the preface to her poem ‘A father’s shade’-
‘My father never told me how to live, but demonstrated it, by living it himself.
The pride they take in our success, is the most evident expression of selfless love’
I have read the poems and admire the sensitivity with which each poet (pardon me for not saying poetess for I do not believe in making distinctions. A poet is a poet) has penned her view of life and constant endeavor to understand and move towards the end of the ‘Road’.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
I used to be amused when people asked me how come a banker has taken to writing, but I have seen a number of them doing just that. So, it was with a sense of joy to note that two young ex-bankers are poets. I am going to restrict myself to what they have to say about themselves-
She understands change is the only constant in life. With a ‘Never say die’ attitude, her writing is one of hope and courage. When not writing she enjoys painting, reading and spending time with family and friends.
She believes in making life more meaningful and rewarding by consciously choosing happiness and optimism over monotony and pessimism. She has won numerous accolades including Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee Award018byArpita Foundation and Women of Influence Award 2019 by Garnet and Gold.
I walked down the ‘ROADS’ with the poets and I see in the horizon a bright light, a light that would illumine in dispelling the darkness that we fear will enfold us. Thank you.
A book to open and read and reread, a possession that should find a place on your bookshelf.