Desirous Water, Translated by Kiriti Sengupta, Publisher-The Poetry Society of India, ISBN-10 9383888059, ISBN-13 978-9383888054
Reading Sumita Nandy’s Desirous Water is like swimming into the immense ocean of desires, traversing though the flux of time, gaining multitudes of subtle experiences with yearnings and longings for inner progression, of self with lofty-paced flow of thoughts spraying straight from a feminine heart. Marked with a considerable unique sense of ambiguity, spontaneous sensuousness, and romantic imagination, Sumita Nandy, a Bengali poet, unlocks her heart only to vent out her feelings, emotions, and ideas which may mean many things to many minds in millions of ways. Here the word “desire,” real or symbolical, brings the central point of essence of human life, emotions and tender most ambivalent feeling of love. Don Martin has honestly approved her poetic skills and remarks that her poetry is “enlightening, encouraging and in a way comforting.” In short, it is a sweet, soulful, heartfelt reverie of the poet. It is a strong stream of feminine consciousness that flows off innermost desires.
This collection is an endearing endeavor and touching trans-creation of three beautiful minds and hearts: poet Sumita Nandy, editor Don Martin, and of course, translator Kiriti Sengupta. Their spontaneous, sonorous, unanimous and collaborative venture has cast out the gems of poetry from the bottom of the Ichchemoti, a river flowing along the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh. The ambrosial sip of the poetic liquor enlivens reinvents and re-energizes reader’s minds, heart and soul together. Poetic vision of the poet, linguistic flair of Kiriti and befitting editing by Don Martin together present a beautiful landscape with concrete images and imagery, drawn from the subtle world of desires before our eyes.
In the very first poem of the anthology we find a brilliant metaphorical expression about the poet’s stand before the time:
I nurse this time that stands still
Like I hug my pets
Moving my hands gently over it.
I can see the inflamed body of
My lifeless dream.
It has its flow
Now the question is what is desire? Since time immemorial it has been considered to be a binding force constraining soul hence a negative term. Nandy feels her desires are condensed in the pot of smiles after “exchanging the sensuous words of conjugal act” in her “indifferent room of love.” She has more importance to attach to the strong feeling of desires swirling and whirling in hearts. In all ways, she tries to glorify the purgatory power of desires in a sacrosanct way. Sublimation of libidinal energy finds a purified culmination in inner satiation of physical, romantic, and spiritual urges. Nandy is ecstatic when she says:
You continue to purify your wants
Through your serene desire
Leaving behind the sweat and stinking dirt
The purification process is at its best further that she leads us to get involved:
My eyes look and induce
The pure in you
Furthermore, with juxtaposition between urban and rural life, particularly of woman residing at the bank of the river Ichchemoti, she goes to the extent of singing and poetizing the serene beauty of the countryside in spite of her “injured voice.” The woman in Nandy cries for liberation from the familial, physical, domestic, mental turmoil. As a poet of feministic sensibility, she succeeds in establishing a rapport with the rhythmic “voice of the flowing water of Ichchemoti.”
Commitment and loyalty are the vital themes taken up at some places. She holds the view that as long as we are in the physical dirges; we need to “do it like a virgin / no matter if you made love / a thousand times before.” She doesn’t separate the love of the body from the love of soul. Flashes of sensuousness and wafts of desires apart, transcendental thoughts are the crux of her poetry. Nandy sings about the physical celebration of love to the spiritual elevation of soul. She leads her readers to traverse through from sexuality to the metaphysical aspect of being. In critical times, her inner awareness provides succor to cope with failure of life. Water is symbolic of inner consciousness. She reveals:
And in the dry pad
I hear the call of my water once again
While the bed dampens…
The imagery in the above lines is feministic and lays bare everything spade by spade. No inhibition as such prevails in the heart of the poet. She seems to have risen above the shackles of bodies – male and female, and reached the zenith of a super psyche with no gender aspect as such.
The poet is well aware of her limitation as a human being. Like common people, she also expresses her wishes, desires, apprehensions, longings and confusion, and inability of comprehension. Whatever be it, she is jubilant to enjoy everything she has been provided with, by the river Ichchemoti such as “dry land,” “skin and exposures,” “urban crowd,” “deep wood of mediation.” She points out
You did not define, but confined me
In the spirals of my condensed desire.
And you allowed me to taste…
The poet is baffled at the bizarre ways of desires and love. She accepts her inability to comprehend it in totality. Philosophically speaking, it is a fact that love can never be defined in concrete forms. One needs to go down deep to have the ecstatic feel and abstract experiences. Nandy asserts:
I have failed to define you,
Yet I am no coward;
I dive into your deep with much pleasure
Unhesitant … in extreme desire…
In her poetry she underlines the predicament of human life. Facing the heat of life, we are inching towards the graveyard every moment. We wipe off sweats and move on yet never give up our quest for exploration of love that tempts us through camouflage of desires. Her search for the desired depth is still on:
For years I have been digging for the grave yards…
I am wet in sweat,
Her beautiful expression “Down the graveyard lives a latent life” is suffused with contradiction and irony. She expresses her unflinching faith in the philosophy of life:
A life remains live
At the end of a cycle
Sumita Nandy is a woman of substance. Courage, struggling stamina and her numbness to the pains of the world are very articulate in her poetry. It is evident from the following seminal line:” I stand still in solid pain while my lives turn stone.”
Epicurean philosophy is dominant and dormant in her poetry. Nandy believes in making the best and most use of everything around. She enjoys the whole world:
The whole world seems enjoyable
Much lively, and fragrant in the smell of the soil.
I desire to love again;
The odor exudes the heat of passion.
Love for the soil is another beautiful aspect of her poetic thoughts. She doesn’t bother about any dejection or illusion or Maya.
In addition to social realism, the desire for divine realization is an oft-recurring theme of her poetry. Soaked in the divinity, her expression is quite different from the previous ones. She doesn’t wish to be bound or tied to the flesh and physical charms and chains. Rather, Nandy wishes to go even further — to the realm of divinity. All the paths leading to love are beautiful to her, while it is the touch of the body or flow of the “desirous water.” Nandy intends to transcend beyond love. She validates:
I intend to go further
But not for the sake
Of this skin and exposure
My desire travels beyond love…
Her realization is well reflected in the following remarkable lines:
As far as I have seen,
Worship, mantra, rituals, and other adjuncts
Immersion rings the final bell…
Do you hear the murmur of the deity?
I desire to follow a way of no-worship…
And hence she suggests her love partner:
Let us: You and I
No, not alone, but
Through my desired travel…
Last two poems of this collection are the divine culmination of all the desirous thoughts of the poet into amalgamation of all the gross and subtle desires and passions and herein lies the true beauty of her poetry. Nandy realizes the stark reality of life that “Demon and Passion walk on the land / together!” She reveals:
I have only merged with your inner desire…
One hears the coital voice of my desire…
In Desirous Water Sumita Nandy underlines the mutual cooperation, love and longing for each other. The poet ever desires to stand by her love, “painted in joyous hue / both in joy and gloom.” Her love is her journey and destiny, and the world of achievements despite all the temporal losses. She holds the view that “All the worldly chaos sheds in silence…” and that is why she is instrumental in creation of her own world of poetry. The objective behind the subjective expression of her innermost feelings, emotions, strong passions and desires lies in her beautiful, seminal lines of the concluding poem where she lays bare her heart:
The demon of love
Holds the pen of desire
In the chapter of such intense want.
Strong flashes of vivid imagery, drawn from her ‘veil’ and the ‘vale’ adjacent to the Ichchemoti river bring to light the vivid inscape and snapshots of a feminine heart whose innocence, longings, cravings, aspirations for multi-dimensional aspects of life is beautifully reflected through the vast reservoir of water of the Ichhemoti, the river of desires, ever flowing from heart to heart since creation. Lucid imagery, irony, ambiguity, contradictions, symbols, metaphors and of course the punctuations, all aptly used in her poems add beauty to the candid poetic expressions suffused with sense and sensuousness. With the comprehensive meanings well retained, the sole original intent of the poet seems successfully maintained with all the flow and continuity.