The poems of Sanjukta Dasgupta express purpose rather than passion. They depict the whimpers of femininity used, abused and ‘then turned out by the ear’ just like a kitten; of womanhood yelling out in agony that it is not a user-friendly door-mat; of the perceptive woman who waits for the midnight hour to transform herself into Kali; and finally of the empowered woman who realizes fully well the plight she is in.
Though most of Dasgupta’s poems deal with chained femininity beating its wings ineffectually in the dark, there are poems which remind one of the Wordsworthian admiration for nature too. To her, rain drops on a muddy road are no less captivating than golden granules on a silvery path. She is enamoured of the bursts of orange-red blossoms that ignite the blue sky in the evenings and sings passionately of moonlit nights, silver days, the warm summer winds and of the incessant gold showers. The poet’s love of nature sometimes confounds her too. In the very first poem itself, she’s in a Dilemma. She knows not whether to take refuge in the secure warmth of nature – of buds, flowers and fruits or to take up the challenge of rashly driving into the heart of urban life in a cab of seeming sophistication. Her opting for the latter choice decides her destiny once and for ever. She condemns herself to a life which falls somewhere between the precarious lives of unwanted female fetuses and the hated and despised lives of witches slaughtered for no obvious reason. Shame, like a glutinous lotion clogs every pore in her body and the graceful five-metre long saree which according to the poet is ‘Draupadi’s textile trap’ shrouds her up, crippling her limbs for ever. The heart-rending agony expressed in the poem, at first, numbs the mind but afterwards discloses to it vividly the shocking truth.
Perhaps, the greatest charm of this volume is the chain of strikingly original and strong images that the poet draws up in her poems. Thus in ‘Shame’, there’s Kali – the dark warrior in tempestuous rage with a garland of skulls around her neck and who annihilates shame-enforcing demons. In ‘The New Mildewed Millennium’, there are the images of witches slaughtered; of hapless women pushed into burning pyres; of daring women writers exiled from home; of Dopdi; of Mrinal; of Satyabati and of several others. These images and characters sway the mind of the readers, scatter in them the awareness of past injustices and fill them up with a strong moral indignation at the present state of affairs for women.
Echoes of past poets resonate in this collection not just through their characters. They themselves receive mention. Thus, Rabindranath, Hemingway, Andersen and Taslima stroll through Dasgupta’s lines scattering around strong memories of their poetic efflorescence.
It is mentioned in the book that Dasgupta has always been very careful not to write for the English departments. But how far she has succeeded in her attempt is to be considered. The English enthusiast in her occasionally peeps through her lines and tries out various experiments. Why else should one write poems fit for the scribble pad, on ‘Analysis’ or ‘Alliteration’?
The language of the poems though strikingly forceful in general, loses its mellifluous quality at times. Most of the times, the turbulent rage of eternally wronged femininity fills her lines with a violent passion and acts as a fountain head of soulful melody which wafts through her words and embalms the heart. However, this spontaneous music is missing in some poems which are rather prosaic descriptions of events. In such cases, music oozes off from her words leaving them dry and colourless as in SAARC Writer’s Conference – 2001 or Reconstructed. Thus, Dasgupta’s collection which provides happy reading also reminds one that sustained excellence is hard to achieve in poetry.
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