Femininity – Poetic Endeavours by VVB Rama Rao, 2016. Authorspress, New Delhi, India. pp. 138
It is indeed a privilege to write a pre-publication review of VVB Rama Rao’s latest book Femininity – Poetic Endeavours. The matter of equality irrespective of age, wealth, education, race or gender is close to my own heart, and my literary efforts. This book will help restore or reinstate the equality of the “feminine” to its rightful place in both India and global societies.
One of the main reasons this book is so enjoyable and important is VVB Rama Rao’s dual approach – both an academic/scholarly analysis of leading Indian female poets is undertaken, together with a deep heartfelt sensibility. This is no dry academic study of feminism. Rather it concentrates on the feminine rather than feminism per se, an important difference to recognise, which is expounded throughout the book.
Dr VVB Rama Rao has over more than fifty books published (in English and Telugu) including novels, biography, short stories, literary criticism and hagiography. He is a specialist in literary translation of Teluga to English and vice versa. His works explore both sacred and secular subject matter.
There are nine chapters together with a Foreword (by Sachidananda Mohanty – VC of Central University of Orissa), a Preface and Acknowledgements. Each chapter discusses the poetry of one or two Indian female poets with extensive excerpts from their poetic works. This allows the reader to enjoy the poetry, in tantalising morsels, alongside VVB Rama Rao’s discussion and analysis of the works. The poets featured are: Pankajam; Bhagyalakshmi; Padmapriya; Shernaz Wadia & Avril Meallem; Preeta Chandran & Pankaj Kumar; Indira Babbellapati, Sukrita Paul Kumar and Chitra Lele.
The book is soon to be published by the renowned and highly respected Indian publishers, Authorspress from New Delhi.
To help the prospective reader get a feel of the book’s approach I give below the chapter titles which should entice the curious reader to purchase this book and devour it, as it were.
Chapters 1 - 8
1 - Exemplar of Humanism and Femininity (Pankajam)
2 – Anguish, Devotion, and Femininity (Bhagyalakshmi)
3 – Young and Talented (Padmapriya)
4 – A New Vista, Fresh Genre, Ingrained Femininity (Shernaz & Avril Meallem)
5 – Brave and Brilliant Beginning (Preeta Chandran & Pankaj Kumar)
6 – Vignettes of Femininity with Birds of Maimed Wings (Indira Babbellapati)
7 – Compassion, Delicacy, Devotion and Femininity (Sukrita Paul Kumar)
8 – Happily Heavenward (Chitra Lele)
The feminine covers the wide spectrum of “femaleness” including daughter, mother, lover, matriarch and goddess. Chapter Six, Vignettes of Femininity with Birds of Maimed Wings is also the title of Indira Babbellapati’s book. VVB Rama Rao takes this work very seriously is evident in the following, “Writing a critique of Indira’s latest book is not a run of the mill affair. The work is about the myriad facets of woman’s life, trials, and tribulations, feelings of pain and very rare sweet pleasures and infinite hues in deep feeling.” (p. 88)
Further VVB Rama Rao observes in Indira’s book that the poems are vignettes of numerous women, not just the idiosyncratic poems of one woman. “Myriad experiences of umpteen women – now the called second sex – are recorded in this collection. Calling them (persons of) second sex is a travesty of justice. The poets “I” is the speaker’s, the sufferer’s “I”. All these ”I”s are the unfortunate birds whose wings are unmentionably maimed.” (p. 98)
As with all great poetry much of the poetry presented in this book has a visionary quality dealing with affairs much greater than a single individual’s personal problems.
Sky is her heart,
river is her desire,
sea, her passion,
fire she breathes
and walks upon the earth,
She’s the universal woman. (p. 10)
VVB Rama Rao details each aspect of the feminine in Indira’s book. The feminine notion of the world, Mother Earth is well articulated in most cultures. Here he notes:
“Some flowers are cherished as the most venerated. With her flair for talking about beauty and other aspects of women, the poet also considers the feminine as the handiwork of Mother Nature”
A parijaatha that flashes
In the silence of pre-dawn
a perfumed dawn
A punnaga that flashes
down to earth
meteor like (p. 22)
In this brief review I am not going into detail of all the chapters and poets, I will leave this for the pleasure of the prospective reader. The above discussion of chapter six is simply to give an idea of VVB Rama Rao’s approach, not to specifically single out this as more or less important than the other chapters. All are equally important and enjoyable.
I will very briefly mention the work of Chitra Lele (Chapter Eight) as it has the poignant influence of a very young poet, combined with a deep wisdom of devotion and the divine. Her book of poetry discussed Divine Decorations (2016) has as the theme:
Divine declarations are waiting
To be found on innate meadows,
Which will overcome all shadows. (p. 134)
“There is a saying in Sanskrit: Baalaadapi subhashitam. Wise words can come even from children (and such words should be accepted). This poet is young but her thoughts and words are great.” And I would add so are all of the other contributor’s words and poems in this rather unique book.
Some lines from one of Lele’s poems:
Gazing at the wonders of His creations –
The rising sun, the azure waters
The striking butterflies and
The green mountain tops,
I experience endless elations. (p. 33)
It is a brave man who takes on the task VVB Rama Rao has done of discussing and analysing feminine values, poetry and their place in the world. In Australia the indigenous people call this “women’s business” much of which is “off limits” to males completely. He has in my opinion done an excellent job dealing with such sensitive and at times volatile issues.
As Professor Mohanty notes: “He offers a lucid and extremely readable account of contemporary women’s poetry. Free from self-conscious jargon and pedantry, the volume, it is hoped, will reach a wide cross section of readers.” (p. 8)
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of literature and poetry, students, and especially those concerned with a gentle, though powerful, approach to helping all women, in all countries, regain their rightful non-patronised position of equality and respect.