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The Fisherman in the Luit From the nebulous light of a new day Surfaced a silhouette Of a sinewy man with a stoop. His moth-eaten wooden canoe was Moored on the edge of the white floodplain. The pale pink cherry blossoms Ravaged by the cold gale of the gloaming Lay bruised and broken on the ground. I had worried About the repercussions of the dark squall As I sipped a toddy Within the warmth of our home. At the break of dawn I opened wide the front door To let our feisty golden retriever out— I saw the fisherman huddled by his boat Tarry a tad longer in hope. In the violent darkness His catch could have been naught. But the River was wide, vast, limitless, With a gamut of riches To tantalise a thousand palates. Who knew what magical gift it could spring on him Under the wire before the auction began In the ancient fish market in Uzan bazar? I sighed as his head drooped and His hunched shoulders slouched further. A scintilla of a tug on his net A blessing from the river gods Made him turn back to the River Poised like a brown-winged kingfisher His ebony frame arched To heave out the trophy. ********* Published in Better than Starbucks.Link: https://betterthanstarbucks.wixsite.com/sept2020/international-poetry
In Tawang Through roadless routes I traversed, A gutty drive On an off-roader Under rocks spilling waterfalls; Braved landslides And shooting stones; To arrive at Tawang In search Of my Shangri La. Wound my way To every revered and famous spot Breathing in a spellbound sigh As we all do upon Nature's plethora In awestruck wonder. Named and unnamed Lanes did I walk, Paid homage At each monastery To every statue, Hearkened to the centuries old Words of the monks. Read the age old books Preserved in the libraries. Attended prayer services with the priests. Still, my heart pined for Shangri La: Where gaiety mitigated tears, Blissful beauty bloomed in my heart, Vanquished the evil eye of the devil, Love divine reigned supreme in every soul. Where truth Overpowered the naysayer, My senses soaked All the goodness in life I sought. Then, I heard peals of laughter Across the rugged ranges, Gamboling and gliding; dipping and rising, Like the musical notes of a maestro, Sweeter than the sweetest bird song. Happiness, Beauty, Love, Contentment, Was their sparkling laughter saturated with; Enveloping me in a merry breeze Of a sultry Indian summer day. Small bodies In coarse homespun maroon sarongs, Vibrated with mirth; My little wish-fulfilling Aerial lanterns . Like fireflies, Their mischievous eyes lit and danced. Their sunburnt smiling faces crinkled, Ready to bubble forth Droll declarations. I found my Shangri La— In the melody of the tiny monks As they jumped up and down, Smiled and laughed, blowing flying kisses. Their happiness elevated my spirit lickety-split. My search ended, time stood still, As our souls reached out to connect, Smile in sublime union For long, sacred moments. All too soon, it was time to bid adieu. As I waved them goodbye, I mused—Yes, we humans once Laughed without any expectations, With spontaneous heartiness, We were humane once. I moseyed my way back, Euphoric that the enshroud fortune I had ventured out in search of On my trip to Tawang In resplendence was unveiled for me. ***** Heartfelt thanks to Brigadier P.K. Jaiswal for extending his warm hospitality in making our journey to Tawang memorable.
Teak Flowers Cantrip Shush, silver stars, Slink away; Surrender the sky, Let dawn dazzle. Anon, Nyx salutes Aurora: Golden sunbeams Dabble with warmth. Birds chirp, Hopping branches, Butterflies brighten Saturated colours of flowers. What sweet scent Suffuses this bright day In the garden below? Not gardenias or jasmines, Is it an aroma Of seasonal anthesis Bordering The stone walls? I sniff, crane my head, Eager to spot the blossom Blooming the prettiest, Brightest, biggest. Neither the garden nor The driveway did grow A bud whose essence I could not identify. On the deck, bowing, To ruminate upon The soft moistness my Bare toes squished and bruised I gasped, spellbound, As a waft of Pristine perfume Permeated every pore: A shower Of Teak flowers, Lay drizzled by the breeze Upon the wooden planks: Shivering snowflakes Spread white Entwined into fragrant Guipure lace Lilliputian flowers Floating from the tree With a gargantuan trunk, Elephantine leaves, Emanated An essence In Elysium One would breathe. Stooping, I picked and perched A frail flower on a fingertip, It stood poised— A flawless ballerina: Bashful and bold, Strong and fragile Graceful And unassailable. **** Published in Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi, New Delh
An introduction by Anil Sharma
The anthology of poems, ‘From the Alcove‘, has divine spark as it begins with the poem ‘Feels like Heaven’ and ends to experience resplendence within, throwing a rainbow of thoughts in the flowing waters of a river where the drops rebound the riot of colours. Although Nilakshi has not absolved herself from the materialist existential world and her poems strike a note of realism, still her work maintains the higher altitude of sublimity as it is enshrined in the soul of Nature.
Let us begin with the first poem: Feels like Heaven which is a miniature painting in words drawn within the contours of eternal hues of Nature and brushed with personalised strokes of modern digital world. The blend seems to be stamping the ‘Time’ and catching the fleeting moments of heavenly experience. The riot of colours like blue and white coupled with the myna, satiate the sight of human conscience’s third eye.
Dalim*– is a nostalgic poem but laced with universal and mythological connotations. Although it begins with ‘Like dalim seeds were my teeth, /Father said when I was a little girl./ but the sojourn of the poetic outpour is tremendous. It explores through the Buddhist and many more cultures of the world to delineate the significance of Pomegranate and its blossoms. At the end of the poem, the poet consciously adds two lines which implode with message of the celestial song of Gita- meant for only those who want to listen.
Playing the melody of life
For all who desire to hear.
Olena- the turmeric flower– has been penned within the confines of kitchen garden where beatitude with utility blends. The poet has offered concoction of the universally accepted medicinal plant’s blossoming and its hailing from root to refreshed sprouting. Her heart dances to welcome the panacea among plantation:
Olena, Olena, I wish I could sing like a bird
Sing a new song praising your glory.
The Papaia Tree- is a sort of elegy written on the sudden untimely demise of The Papaia Tree which was instrumental of delight all around. The emotional bonding and expression of sentiments find their zenith when the poet laments:
Splintering her trunk into a thousand tears
Felling with a wail and howl.
In Alignment with Nature- the poet emphatically presents a contrast of twin worlds of the vegetation’s homogeneous existence and mankind’s feats of reckless exploitation. The lack of harmonious relationship has been painted with heart-shaped peepul leaves using the symbolism and metaphoric brush at several places to highlight the nuances of poetic craft. As we read the poem, it seems we are strolling in an ancient garden which still has virginity as its virtue. The poet warns of the impeding danger in case ‘Nature’ abandons the ravaging ‘Man.’
What if Nature,
Tired of our greed,
Decided to exit from our lives?
Teak Flower Cantrip– is soaked in pristine perfumery. The poem itself comes to life and it begins breathing with sound and sense as the reader goes through its stanzas. With all my limitations to quote, I chose the following stanzas for your feast:
One would breathe.
Events- a concluding poem of the first chapter is like a bird observatory relaying the minute details of the ‘events’ enshrined in the syndrome of ‘empty nest’ with which the whole humanity is suffering. Nilakshi has not only picturised the avian couple’s sufferings, aspirations but also the pleasure of rearing the little ones by ‘fetching food for your fledglings/flying fast to and fro/ you raise strong young birds.’
Diving deep into the turbulence of events in one’s life, the poet conveys the universal lesson to humankind:
A monumental lesson
My winged friends taught me that day:
An empty nest is also
An event of our life experience.
Part II- Indian sub-continent is blessed with several sacred rivers but all of them have been christened with ‘female’ names like Ganga and Cauvery. There is an exceptional grandeur in a ‘male’ river known as ‘Luit’ (Brahmaputra) which hails from the Tibetan heights and flows beneath the terrains, length and breadth of Assam. All the seven poems are dedicated to ‘His’ mighty spread and flow which is brimming to engulf and overwhelming to love. We witness its emerging, merging and submerging tentacles that are part and parcel of the Assamese life and culture.
The collection of these poems addressed to the Brahmaputra river i.e. the Luit, shall do justice, if we endeavour to read them between the lines of Santiago’s optimism personified in the ‘Old man and the Sea’ and the mystic Manu’s glimpse of the dawn after the proverbial mythological apocalyptic deluge. The ‘break of dawn’ in a poem dawns a much awaited ray of hope and optimistic omens to open the door for fresh lease of life. Nilakshi’s turbulent mindfulness finds solace at ‘dawn’ in the poem ‘The Fisherman in the Luit. To quote:
“At the break of dawn
I opened wide the front door
To let our feisty golden retriever out—
I saw the fisherman huddled by his boat
Tarry a tad longer in hope.” (The Fisherman in the Luit)
Nilakshi’s fantasy rises from the white sheet of the river and flies like a kite in the sky’s void of silence. It glides in elation while riding on its wings accompanied by the tribe of its inception. The parallel depiction and comparison of ‘kite’ with the ‘silent birds’ is unique in style and composition. The flapping, fluttering and soaring gives life breath to poetic excellence.
“A kite skims in silence,
Takes wing to glide
With the others of its kin;”
Silent birds to
Warble and croon,
Flap, flutter, soar in delight.
The wait is over!(The Wait)
The poetic personification of Brahmaputra is incomparable in excellence as it has expansive spill over its bed.
‘Brahmaputra, brimming with the monsoons,
Has spilled over his bed’(The Deluge)
The usage of ‘the wet Sun’ is also remarkable in paradoxical presentation. The majesty of Nature has been depicted in picturesque style comprising the minute details like a seasoned painter. The gruesome scene of the Mother Nature contains all the dynamics of action imprinted on the sands of time and space especially in its womb impregnated by the monsoon.
With their majestic bodies, their unique horns, their mammoth weight.
Rhinos, lions, tigers, elephants, humans and deer—
They float like vulnerable babies
In the waters of the impetuous river.(The Deluge)
The remedial empathy bursts forth from the core of poet’s heart, when the poet witnesses the apathy of humankind. She throws her suggestive ‘little’ help and the tiny human effort sought for restructuring the embankment of the vast and mighty Brahmaputra against the colossal edifice of Nature.
Oh that the Brahmaputra
Could host his burgeoning weight
With a little help from humans.(The Deluge)
The summed up scenario of monsoon rains in Assam and ‘oceanic’ presentation of the Luit is comprehensive and exhaustive in depiction and didacticism. The existentialism coupled with the finesse of fantasy can be located in her poetic presentation. Nilakshi aptly calls the Luit- ‘a rebel river’ which is source of all benediction and boons yet ‘He’ remains untamed, unshackled and unbridled like a proud rebellious regal.
The pride, soul,
Beauty of Assam,
Serenades, streams on, seemingly still,
Drowning entire villages with monsoon rains.
An ever flowing blessing remains a rebel river.
(Thoughts on an Afternoon)
Nilakshi transports the reader to the land of the Luit with her verdant narrative encapsulated in the starred meanings of the flora and fauna of the indigenous habitat. The grand and majestic river’s fragrance shrouded in the stanzas soothe the senses of the readers in the poem
The metaphorical replication of hills with the ‘teenager’ and his ‘whims’ appears as fresh as the virgin snow peaks of the Himalayas. The ‘frenzied play of life’ connotes the youthfulness, the energetic and enraged romance of hills with the bubbly winds. The sound and sense creeps in the poetic outpour and the ‘fickle’ness and ‘whims’ are appropriate epitaphs for any teenaged romantic nomad:
In this frenzied play of life
With every whiff of the wind.
Fickle as the whims of a teenager.(Oscillate)
The title of the poem ‘The Hungry Kite’ seems to be interesting and attractive as it is beyond the purview of hackneyed wordsmiths. The gyrating ‘kite’ represents the eagle in humankind hovering over the earthly victims to be swallowed as food. The metaphorical dichotomy takes the reader’s imagination to the existential crisis of food as well as the spiritual hunger of the soul which denotes the veneer of mysticism.
To circle.(The Hungry kite)
The last poem in this section is ‘Carpe diem’ which appears to be didactic on its surface but slowly it reveals the innate depth of its literary significance. It begins with the metaphorical presentation of the ‘silt’ and gains momentum in symphony sung by the soaring birds. The tiniest disposition of the creatures including humankind is pitted against the infinite expanse of the sky. The residual evocation of serenity coupled with transience of human might comes forth in her train of thought. The gospel truth hails from the ‘embrace’ and ‘gratitude’ shown by the tossing and gliding birds to Eternal Time.
Nilakshi concludes that the futuristic calculations and forebodings seem to be futile. The ‘vague’ and ‘hazy’ mindfulness melts in front of the manifestation of vastness in moments that you have lived with ‘force’ and ‘frailty.’ Nilakshi discovers the overwhelming moments of vigorous indulgence and ecstasy and confronts them to the human fault-lines of impulse and repulse. She enchantingly puts both the evocations together and embodies them in the Luit’s grandeur and might of multitude.
Revel in the immense
Vastness of the moment
That you with your force and frailty
Part III- Romancing Assam- Ethereal Romance– is thematically a mythological poem and it takes the reader to the Pauranik Pedagogic tales told by pundits of the yore. Another poem Of Reveries and Reality although has contrast amongst the two domains of our mindfulness, yet, the poet is engrossed in the sumptuous sensory feast:
Sounds, smells, sight and soul
Of living a life of abundance,
Season of Goddess Durga- mesmerises the poet and the serene surroundings surrender to invigorate the sensibilities of the poets to say: To emerge out of this nebulous world/When Ma arrives/. Similarly in poem Season of Muchness- the poet Herald a celebration of gratitude/.She has expertise in depiction of native iconic persona, flora and fauna who especially take wings with the advent of new seasons like spring. The shyness of nature and its creation, pristine glory, purity and perfumery, the inflamed forest of Gulmohar, bring hope and love.
Part IV- Lost in Laiktor- Cycle of Life– has only four poems in its gambit, the first poem Thoughts on a Winter Evening in Laitkor begins with sensuous winds licking the flames of campfire to warm up bodies in cold climate. The fall of mountainous tree leaves, the cyclic inception and demise has been described so vividly that it gives three dimensional visual effects. The optimistic note concludes the poem in philosophic tone and tenor which gives rise to the affirmation of poet’s faith in cyclic reincarnation:
They will rise again
To enrich the soil,
Nurture new growth.
A new cycle of life.
This Moment– seeks to depict humankind’s stride to outshine even the starry nights with the neon lights sparkling at night across the modern cities. The ‘twinkle and fading away’ of natural objects has been used conspicuously by the poet against the continual beaming lights of artificiality. Myopic Musing conveys a message against the threat of pollution which has overshadowed the whole planet. Nilakshi’s solitude can hear the Sounds and Silence of the cricket, whose shrills and silence is penned with gusto of emotions.
Part V- In Tawang, the poet’s sojourn is like an ethereal experience vouching the divinity with naked eyes. She feels resplendent and exclaims the eternal chant:
I mused—Yes, we humans once
Laughed without any expectations,
With spontaneous heartiness,
We were humane once.
Walk in the Heat is a depiction of the sordid state of affairs which man has created in the name of development. Man has invited frenzied response from the overheated Sun and all other fundamentals of nature. The poem is contemporary and bears signature of existentialism. Hole in My Head has been written with the same vein to denounce drilling and polluting the serene lands and waters. The lamentations continue in Human Silence also which seems to be inspired by the scourge of Covid-19 that has threatened the human race across the globe. Covid finds Childhood ends the anthology of poems which is reunion with the feelings of infancy. The joy beyond materialistic heaps and delight emanating from the sparkling soul provides some relief to the poet at last.
The stream of consciousness has been explored graciously by the poet in What do I Call Thee. She unifies the whole gambit of religious symbols spread on earth and looks for a place to dwell which may be independent and has no tryst with them. Ultimately her vision is struck in the symbolic stream of human conscience where rainbow colours are still scattered. All those colours she visualises in the flowing waters. She turns mystic and murmurs in silence:
Where I do dwell, the mist wrapped river
Unfurls to silver, orange, grey, blue, pink.
Anil K. Sharma author of Samveda-A Logical Decode in verse with Vishleshnopnishad
Editor-in-Chief: Contemporary Vibes ,Writer,Essayist,Poet.
Excerpts of Poems From the Alcove
Springtime in Assam
When the kuli* croons the first notes of spring
In Assam, from the verdurous gardens and woodlands green;
Below the crystal blue heavens-
A thousand bells ring….
Read the complete poem in From the Alcove.
First published in Indian Literature,Journal from the Indian Academy of Letters, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
From the volume: Lost in Laitko
Laitkor musings, Shillong, 23rd September 2017.
The distant impenetrable forest
Is home to the jackals
Who howl long and loud
In the hushed, numbing nights….