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Book Review: Udayaditya Mukherjee’s ‘Rhythms in Solitude’

By Amrita Mukherjee

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.T.S. Eliot

I believe in every word in this statement of T.S. Eliot. There are some writings that have the magic to reach out even before you have managed to read every line and decipher every word. This is what I felt when I picked up Rhythms in Solitude: Love, Nature and Life through Poetry, a collection of poems by Udayaditya Mukherjee.

This poet can weave magic with words that strike at your heart and stir up emotions that you probably never knew existed. I wanted to see if others felt the same about his work as I did so I went to Amazon to check out the reviews of the book and I was happy that there are many more readers, who ratify my feelings.

Poetry is truly a feeling that people share through words and, as Rumi said, poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it.

The poems in Rhythms in Solitude are exactly that. It could be written about a far-flung place you have never been to, about a temptress you have never seen or about a love that you have never experienced, but you feel like you are there sitting next to the author as he sees a drop of dew dislodge itself from the leaves of a tree, as he experiences the flurry in his heart when he writes about falling in love for the first time.

What makes this book even more unique and contemporary is the inclusion of the thoughts of the author after each poem. That way the reader can create his own understanding of the poem first and then see how much it merges with the poet’s thought.

The book takes off with a short yet touching poem, “Aloof Silhouette”. It delves into the perspective of dynamism versus stasis when the shadow of a man stands alone and the world passes by merging hope and despair that represent our everyday reality.

The poem “Desire” takes off with the following words:

“The green grassy carpet, drenched wet, wants to be stoked by her light fingers, soaked and sloshed lines of palms seek love in caress of scattered careless breeze…”

The poem is a dance of words as much as it is a dance of love and desire of nature. It’s a sheer pleasure to read the poem and experience its resplendent beauty.

The poet himself explains his thoughts, “I had been just posted at a place by the sea and was greeted by the monsoons. Sitting in the balcony of the guest house it was a heady experience seeing the rain lashing against the sea. I felt desire was manifested in nature as the elements appealed to each other in a synergized and sensuous way. That’s when the poem came to me.”

The poet’s widespread travels and the opportunity to live and experience different lives have also added to the richness of his work. “Serendipity” and “Soldiers of the God” are poems that depict these experiences.

Love is a central theme in Mukherjee’s poetry and he moves from adolescence love to unrequited love through his poems “First Love”, “How Love Happened”, “My Kind of Love”, and “Jilted”.

Here are a few lines from “First Love” that stayed with me:

“Pain that pleasured from yesteryears, of unanswered questions and unheeded prayers, glitter of eyes stuck over frozen up smiles, kohl smeared tears over unending miles.

Tear drenched handkerchief kept preciously, in avenues of mind, wandering aimlessly, fragrance of teenage sweat pink in colour, a lump in the throat that ran out of favour.”

The poet’s thoughts in this poem makes it even more identifiable.

Most experience first love in their adolescence. This is that unclear, unexpressed, and knotty feeling that largely remains unanswered. It is an awakening to manhood or womanhood in a way to announce to the world, “Yes, I have arrived”.

The women in his poetry take different forms too – from pure and simple to demonic. That’s why “Woods and the Maid” is ethereal and “Sensing Her” is unique.

“The Siren” depicts womanhood in all its demonic manifestation as is evident in the following lines:

“The night was black yet there was some light, from the pit of abyss did she arrive, her shining mane so black and long, lashing like waves on her hips so strong.

Her eyes shone bright like lightning streak, piercing through flesh as blood go bleak, maddening smile flashing savagery white, tempestuous was her fearsome delight”

The imagery is goosebumps-worthy because everything associated with the beauty of a woman is turned against her giving her a devilish identity that creates a disturbing impact on the mind.

In “The Soldier and The Princess”, the poet expresses how a soldier, brave and chivalrous, is completely in awe of the power and respect a princess commands. He is supposed to protect this princess but he surrenders to her ethereal beauty and feels an utter sense of devotion that is compelling and inevitable. It is best expressed in the following lines:

“Descending down the stairs of time, the princess with her ivory glaze, draped in gold and freezing the chime, stood in front of her soldier’s gaze.

The opulence of her shining glow, her posture proud and glaring eyes, letting the shouldered cascade flow, she stood to commend and to entice.”

“Ode to Indian Housewife” is a powerful poem, which narrates women’s struggles and achievements. The poet’s sense of humour is beautifully expressed in “Barbie” and “Unreal”. These poems are written with a simplicity that I find more appealing than the others, which are more complicated in theme and language. I also think the poet could have explored more diverse themes given his prowess at the art.

But I feel the pièce de résistance of the collection is “Karna and Krishna”. That he has attempted such a difficult theme in his debut work is truly commendable. Throughout the long poem he completely mesmerizes the reader with his brilliant interpretation of the conversation that went on between Karna and Krishna when the former was dying at the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

These lines from the poem poignantly point out the dilemma that Karna’s character faces in The Mahabharata.

Tell me oh Lord, why in spite of being worth, Draupadi spurned me amidst all and Indra, the Lord himself unshielded me in disguise?

Why my mother, the purest of all love, wished away her love for me in rest of all my brothers’ favour?

This life has been cruel to me but I stuck to the rightful path, being benevolent in deeds and truthful in allegiance, my Lord.

In this world full of perceptions, was it wrong to be faithful to one who stood by me in all accord?

Duryodhana, in spite of his vengeful deeds, was the one who gave my due and revered my abilities, Was it not Dharma, Krishna, to have fought his cause and be loyal to one’s best friend in all extremities?

But alas I was cheated in every step by fate, even thy divinity did not spare me in death.

Karna was known as the greatest giver and he was known to have never refused anyone, if they asked for anything. When he was wounded and awaiting death at the battleground of Kurukshetra, Krishna had disguised himself as a Brahmin and gone to him asking for alms. Karna didn’t have anything to give him then but when he realised he had a tooth of gold he took it out and gave it to the Brahmin. Krishna had come to his real form then and had told him that he proved to be the real philanthropist. The Angels and Gods then came down from the heavens to chant his glory.

That was the precise moment, when the poet imagines that there was a conversation between Karna and Krishna and he has given that conversation a ballad form. The poet asks all the questions that admirers of Karna have asked throughout history and he seeks the answers through Krishna.

The poet writes: “It is an event which probably has not been deliberated upon with due importance in contemporary literature, yet a very significant one to understand the importance of our Karma through the futility of our worldly existence. Though the representation to certain extent is a figment of my imagination but it is an attempt to speak the truth spoken by the God himself, a re-affirmation of His sermons in the Gita.”

“Karna and Krishna” is the longest poem in the collection but it holds on to the reader’s attention and some are bound to revisit it to savour the power of this poem.

The preface of the book says that every poem describes certain emotions, as deep as a gorge and one gets drenched in the intensity of the poet’s feelings.

The collection does create Rumi’s dangerous illusion of being a part of the poet’s journey and it’s indeed a journey worth taking.

Rhythms in Solitude: Love, Nature and Life through Poetry is available here.

Amrita Mukherjee is the author of Exit Interview, published by Rupa Publications and Museum of Memories, a collection of 13 short stories, published by Readomania. Both the books are Starmark Bestsellers. She is currently a freelance journalist, who has held full-time posts in publications such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, and The Asian Age in India and she was Features Editor at ITP Media Group, Dubai’s largest magazine house.  She blogs here. Twitter: @amritamuk


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