Book Reviews

Nandini Sahu’s Magic Cadence

of Poetic Thoughts Reigns

Sukamaa and Other Poems.Dr Nandini Sahu,Published by The Poetry Society of India,Gurgaon ISBN: 978-81-925839-2-1, p106. Price: Rs.150/-. Print.

I am Indian, Odia by birth, with
Wheatish brown skin, dark eyes. I am just a poet—
English or no English — my taverns filled with Muses

  Bridge-in-Making, p.6, Sukamaa and Other Poems
Sukamaa and Other Poems is a wonderful poetry anthology of 50 well crafted poems  of Nandini Sahu which I  have recently gone through. In this brilliant poetry collection which has been considered as the lyric biography of a Dalit tribal woman, Sukamaa, the poet chronicles the different shades and colours of human life which centers round love, empathy, peace, her loveliness etc. This magical book of verse is decorated with beautiful imagery and metaphors which will aesthetically attract the readers, irrespective of their age, caste and religion.  

Let us now focus on the title of this collection.

It has two parts - Sukamaa and Other poems. Sukamaa, an unknown, unsung, unheard dalit woman is her symbol and Sukamaa is the representative of a poorly cast ridden long oppressed community in our free India. Renowned poet Yayati Madam G Gandhi, who is also the president of Global Fraternity of Poet, in his comments to Nandini Sahu’s anthology beautifully wrote “Dr Nandini Sahu is an acclaimed poet from Odisha, who like her predecessors, Jayanta Mahapatra, Niranjan Mohanty and Bibhu Padhy, is known internationally as the voice of the marginalized and the subaltern”. In his short introduction, he briefly spotlights on the inner essence of her poetry which is marvellous. Through her poetic lines, a subaltern marginalized woman becomes alive even after her death. Thus the first part of the title has a deeper  symbolic meaning and significance. The title poem is indeed a testimony to her empathy with the subaltern.The poet aptly writes:

“Her story is an incredible mosaic
About a generation, our generation
Of the metropolis, the NRIs—
Ashamed of Sukamaa’s poverty amid
Our chaotic urbanization”
  (title poem,p.3)
Dr Jaydeep Sarangi, a noted poet and author in his Introduction to this collection comments, “Her work is named after Sukamaa (Suka’s mother) - the tribal(kondh) dalit woman who was her domestic help during childhood. Sukamaa was almost her virtual mother. In 2010 when the poetess had been to Odisha, she learnt that Sukamaa had passed away”. This incident shocked her and out of gratitude to this woman, the poet had composed this beautiful title poem.
One of the makers of modern Indian English Poetry, Poet Jayanta Mahapatra whom the poet is personally acquainted with, in a letter to Dr. Sahu wrote,“When Nandini Sahu states in her frank, intriguing way on her use of English in her poetry (in the poem “Bridge-in-Making”)…. she makes the music of poetry, arouses our curiosity and leaves us floundering inside her emotions”. This is true to all her poems.
The poet and her poetic self are inseparable.The poet unfurls her wings riding on the vehicle of poetry.It is a door through which she peeps into her own soul. Poetry soothes her agonized soul. The poet has brilliantly  presented this concept of poetry in her poem “Poetry Reigns”. Like the Romantic poet Percy Byshe Shelley, she too considers herself as “the unacknowledged legislator of the world. She avers,

Poetry wins
Crossing so many et tu Brutus
Moments in life…
Then the feathers of poetry soothe..
(p.7,Poetry Reigns)
Her motherly love for  her son is also envisaged in the poem “Lines to My Son”. This beautiful poem touches the inner corridor of hearts of the readers. This marvellous lyric ends with a powerful melodious heart touching note:

And if ever, dear, if ever, you, the wayfarer
Get trapped in the illusions of life may offer
Look back, hold my hands
In your memory’s lane I would be eternally alive.
(p.11, “Lines to My Son”)
Apart from being a folklorist, and a mother, she is truly a poet of nature. Nature - its seasons,l andscape, sea, winter become alive with the magic spellbounding touch of her ink. In the poem “Odishan Landscape”, the poet feels nostalgia, a kind of homesickness for her native Elysium, her innisfree. The Odishan landscape, the temple, the river-all these haunt her and she feels a restless longing to mix up with all these beauteous forms of mother nature. In an interview she expressed her feelings and longing for her native land. To quote her own words  “The Odishan landscape in its varied hues is what I’ve grown up with, so it’s very deeply rooted in me. The smell of the first rains of the season, the vivid understanding of the seasons by relating to the change in nature, the landscapes,mountains of Kalinga Ghat, the sights, the sounds, the flowers and the birds, the temples which have an ethos of their own, the sea, the rich cult of Lord Jagannath and even the people – every bit of it I carry close to my heart even though am in Delhi since last eight years.”
She poetically ventilates :

There is love,there is hope,
Happiness amid all pain..
(p.31, “Odishan Landscape”)

Her poems like A Drop of Nectar, Shadow, Between Myself and Myself, The Unnamed, The Puppet, She is That Woman, Re-telling an Old Tale, The Other Side of Silence show her artistic skills as a mature poet. These are gems to be read over and over again. One of the poems of this anthology “Shoes” will aestheticallly compel the readers to immediately fall in love with her magic lines.It reminds us of Daddy of Sylvia Plath and a bit of Tagore (head is held high). There is a wonderful flow of thoughs and she has almost created myth about shoes. The thundering effect of the shoes of her grandfather is beautifully and symbolically described in the opening lines of her poem. The simile produces an awe-inspiring effect on the minds of the readers. And in a confessional tone, the poet has wonderfully depicted the character of her grandfather - an honest govt officer, a blind follower of his British boss and she has presented before us  a beautiful and vivid  account of her Grandma-

Mem Saheb, wearing full-sleeved blouses,
imported raw-silks, kundan jewelry
chewing betel and supari.

The shoes of opression, shoes of Patriarchy, from the time of her grandfather(producing awe-inspiring noise) through her father’s polished pitch-black shoes, then the dominating Shoes, shabby, unpolished and at last there is a pair of small shoes neat and tidy, her son’s shoes - all these expressions knitted with heart touching imagery and metaphors catch the attention of the readers. She asks:

“Do androgyny and patriarchy
give you the space
to think otherwise?

these lines strike the key note of the poem.

Dr. Sahu is also a great writer of haikus. Some of her haikus - Life, Happiness, Maa, Rain, Wings, Memory, God, Oblivion are worth mentioning. Poetry to her “is an expression of the insipient self …both an introspection and a liberation, an expression that is wily nilly shaped by a very intricate study of literature and musings on the journey of life - both aspects that I’ve always been very passionate about.”  Her words dance on her pen’s tongue. True to say, her poetry  collection Sukamaa and other Poems is a welcome addition to the world of poetry and a worthy entry to the personal and library collections.

Yes poetry wins!


More by :  Santanu Halder

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Views: 3478      Comments: 2

Comment Sahu's Fourth volume of poetry has remarkably succeeded in giving ' a local habitation and name ' to the cause of marginalized women .She has done India proud by addressing the sensitive issue of the 'subaltern' . The brilliant review would certainly stand poetry lovers of the globe in good steads to make in roads into the world of Nandini Sahu

Gagan B Purohit Eng
R .N .College ,Dura Bam ,Odisha

Gagan Bihari Purohit
05-Oct-2013 21:38 PM

Comment Really this anthology of her poetry comes up with deep issues and thoughts. It's full of erudition.There are certain poems which are tributes to the marginalized people in various corners of the world. I salute her and do hope that such powerful poetry will continue from her mighty pen.
Lec. Eng.
CASS Adikeih,Asmara,Eritrea NE Africa

vipan kumar Lec. Eng. CASS Asmar Erirea NE Africa
29-Sep-2013 06:09 AM

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