K Pankajam | Whispering Waves | Writers Workshop. 2013| ISBN 978-93-5045-067-3 | Pages 70| Rs 150 (HB)
Poetry runs through the veins of K Pankajam; so it would be a sheer delight to plunge into it. A bilingual writer, she has published four volumes of poems: Look Beyond (Yeti Books), Echoes (Window Publishers), Whispering Waves (Writers Workshop), and Sum and Substance (Authors Press); three novels The Quest, Beads of Memories, and Karmakshetra - Land of Karma; and one work of fiction in Malayalam Ormakalude Thiranottam. She also translates from Malayalam into English.
With 47 poems in a net of 56 pages, Whispering Waves has been brought out by the noble-hearted Writers Workshop with their proven aesthetics.
The poems on a melange of topics are straight and clear devoid of devious and woolly abstractions, testifying to perfect clarity of mind and concept. Flawless in language, felicitous in expression, and aesthetic in style – the poems draw you into varying spells of the poet’s thinking and feeling, crying and descrying, chuckling and laughing, querying and wondering.
The very first poem ‘My Soul Sings’ greets you with its multi-coloured pennant of aptness of description and richness of imagery, lilting alliteration and sonorous rainy rhythm –
Raindrops rapping on the rooftop
present a harmonious feat,
their silver-scaled veins
descend from the sloping roof
as coils of twisted ribbons — (My Soul Sings)
Rain being enlivening and life-saving, everyone in India, especially children and farmers wholeheartedly welcome it. Pankajam continues the spirit even into the concluding lines –
The crescendo lifts me heavenwards
And I sing in delight;
and goes on singing the rest of the 46 poems also with an equal élan.
When her little son sulks over his absence in the wedding photo of his parents, see what the ‘bemused’ mom does – touching our hearts with a pinch of impish humour –
My effort to ease his predicament
fails in efficacy, nor to distract him.
Exhausting the last tool in my artillery
I make him choke in a deep embrace. — (A Guiltless Tale)
While many have perorated on the ravages of war, Pankajam muses over its binary effects – positive on some and negative on some others –
War knows multitasking
better than anybody else
Lulled by the rejuvenating effect of the night, she casts a somnolent spell on the readers, while singing paeans to it –
Your soft pillow is full of music
the breeze is still and chill
and you slide slowly
into blissful abode
A poet with a facet of social consciousness, Pankajam speaks out her angst –
Poverty and frailty
remain Siamese twins.
No words near perfect
to put agonies precise... — (Children of Streets)
And she expects the “Society to wake up and act,” and to release, imbibe and disseminate “Our values locked up in vaults” (Vengeance).
In the same poem she decries, with an evocative metaphor, the attitude of violence and the negative defiance that instigates some of our students –
Knife has no stomach,
Still it is hungry,
hires hands that hold pens
to eliminate a teacher
Isn’t this a sound warning to those groups of bullying students who take the law into their hands and want to be their own teachers, management, syndicate, senate and government? The academic portals where such rebellious students stalk – haven’t they turned into dens of one-sided militant trade unions rather than being temples of learning, how they ought to be?
Medical tourism having gained momentum in India, even Pakistani cardiac patients have come to prefer Indian hospitals. And when they travel back with new hearts donated by their Indian brethren, see how the writer asks a curious and pregnant question laced with a chortle –
At the borderline
the donor’s soul asks:
“Will be beat for India?”
In an increasingly disconcerting atmosphere of cacophonous, cynical, motivated, self-righteous and unduly self-flagellating criticism of everything Indian by certain cabals of Indian chatterati and intellectuals, the sane voice of Pankajam rises with a robust and infectious optimism –
I open my eyes into a new dawn
to greet my country, fully enlightened
... ... ... ... ... ...
and I find the lotus smiling in my courtyard. — (My India)
In the same spirit, she salutes the national tricolour and pays tribute to our freedom fighters –
the fighters of freedom, the immortal heroes,
glory to you we sing, for you made our flag fly high. — (We Salute You)
The tongue-in-cheek Pankajam animates things like a cursor, a feather, a perfume and an ant in the bread and makes them narrate their petite, light-hearted autobiographic tales in her ‘First Person Talks’ –
Squeezed out into the air
apace, unseen to eyes
swaddled in fancy pots
make nostrils broad,
cries of flowers
waiting to be crushed
make my spirits down,
yours get a boost. — (Perfumes)
Among her ‘Short Verses’ the one on her womanly multitasking is endearing –
Morning I am a home-maker
a professional during daytime
evening into a chef’s role
a woman during night time.
Rest of the time I am a poet
And I lie to my pen that it is the least. — (I Lie to My Pen)
The poem ‘A Green Galore’ expresses the role of a mother in preserving and continuing the traditional values. Armed with mother’s advice and her own faith and devotion, the writer grows strong in spirit. In the process, she doesn’t mind the ‘barefoot walk on the rutted lane’ and the ‘bruises on feet do not hurt’ –
All this while fasting
on first Mondays of the months
and my mom pleased immensely
that I truly obey her words
Everyone of us, one time or the other, and across every eon, is baffled out of wits while thinking a little deeper of the phenomenon of creation and its cause. And so is our probing writer after exploring the depths of the earth and touching the limits of the sky, but only to get back to square one –
The egg or hen argument
Goes on forever... and ever...
And what more befitting conclusion could be there than quoting the concluding prayerful poem in the book that mirrors the poet’s eclectic, syncretic and universal spirit –
If the roses in my garden
rejoice mournful hearts,
candles I light
remove darkness from minds,
chatters of my anklets
pacify ailing bodies,
tinkles in my laughter
heal soaring wounds,
magic of my fingers
lightens scars of whips,
tunes in my heart
fill music in the universe
and the power of my prayers
brings eternal peace in the world,
I lived here.
It would be an unforgettable treat to feast on the poems in Whispering Waves which are certain to tickle us as by whiffs of zephyr and besprinkle us as by monsoon showers cool and gentle.
(A condensed version of this review was published in The Hans India daily, June 28, 2015)