Book Reviews

Dr. Charanjeet Kaur: Mirror Image & Other Poems

Words hide within themselves
And teach you how to draw the curtains
Between you and yourself
And yes, sometimes, words also mean.
   - ('Words' - Page 13)

When a book of poems has such an insightful beginning, it is but natural to be drawn deeper and deeper into its pages as they involuntarily turn and have us enraptured and entrapped in the play of words! That is the mesmerizing quality of Dr. Charanjeet Kaur’s ‘Mirror Image & Other Poems’. Not for her verbose or highfalutin poetry. Her poems come in short, crisp and succinct verses; they don’t burst into our face; instead, they follow a smooth and soothing path that takes the readers along a sublime poetic journey ...

This compact book of poems has been divided into 6 chapters with telling titles like ‘Words…’‘The Untouched…’‘Rain Songs…’‘Purdah…’,‘Reclaiming…’, and ‘then life, again…’. These are not tightly stone walled sections…Some poems can easily be interchanged with other sections and yet they would continue to carry the same impact. Here’s a bird’s eye view of each of the sections: 


In this very first section, words have been employed at their economic best for maximum poetic impact as demonstrated by the poems ‘The Inside Room’ (Page 14), ‘Silence’ (Page 18) and ‘Celebration’. The section serves as a curtain raiser to the book and also as a forerunner of the great poetry that follows. 

it took on a shape
with care
it grew into the form
he loved so well

he knew it
it was his dream
 - (‘Lost’ – Page 16)


The poems in this section are highly introspective and reflect the poet’s deep thoughts on various issues - ‘Karma’ (Page 26), ‘where is his god’ (Page 27), ‘The Night the Tree was Felled’ (Page31) ….

Did they become the sounds and the dust
inside the sightless tunnel? 

The Untouched.  - (‘The Untouched’ – Page 25) 

these two living eyes
have gathered the dust of pilgrims’ feet
and moulded it into this body of mine
to set themselves in, again and again
- (‘Caretaker at the Shrine’– Page 30) 

hate – like the bark of trees
bruises, draws blood, - dribbles…
but doesn’t let it flow.
- (‘Betrayals’ (v) – Page 32-33) 


This section presents glimpses of the poet’s intimate insights …

This muddy puddle
so big and inviting
shimmering wavelets
always moving ahead …
What a big splash will it make
If mamma lets me jump in it

Just once… - (‘Rain Songs (for Simran)’ – Page 38) 

Without a blink, without a sound
you felt it shoot,
course through your veins,
mingle with your blood,
and you made it your own,
intimate inside you.
-(‘Pain’ – Page 44) 


This section comprises just four short but powerful  poems that portray the poet’s concerns for the status of women.

USE ME – hard coired fluff
 wide-eyed wait for the wink of a knock
with your four-inch heel
stomp on it good, my dear,
it will not know the point:
  - (‘The Doormat’– Page 50)

by default
 - (‘she’ – Page 51)

V - Reclaiming 

In this section, the poet reclaims and shares a slice of the various stages of her life, whether it be the delicate expression of yearning and saudadeseeping through the poems ‘Reclaiming’ and ‘The Last Letter’ (Pages 55-56), or ‘Death’ (Page 59). 

The quick, sprightly step – always in a hurry –
that took you – too soon, I fear – to your destination;
I can still sense it
when the evening breezes blow softly on the green grass.
- ('Reclaiming’ – Page 55) 

It is your final act of love, I know,
So close to betrayal … so brutal …
But it wasn’t to hurt anyone that you died so quietly.
  - (‘The Last Letter’- Page 57)

Letter from a Daughter to a Father’ (Pages 62-64) is a sensitively penned poem that depicts the journey of the poet’s life with her father Bapuji and the deep empathy that she felt for her mother. Understandably, this is perhaps one of the longest poems in the book – not an easy task to encapsulate one’s relationship of a life time with one’s parents in just about three pages! 

Cloud Burst’ (July 26, 2005 – Mumbai) is a set of poems marked (i) to (vii) that speaks of the scary and haunting scenario of the 2005 Mumbai Floods that caused mayhem in this Maximum City!

Commencing with poet’s description of the rains to how it impacted life, living and livelihoods… and above all, the human values it brought forth in ordinary people, themselves affected by the rains and flood, the poems present the Mumbai as it was during the floods and the resilience (sorry to use this clichéd expression to describe Mumbaikars!) of the people who take the situation by the horns and conquer it! And then, it is life as usual for your Mumbaikar! 

The Floods in the Mind
No less than the floods in the streets
  - (‘Cloudburst’ (July 26, 2005 – Mumbai) - Page 67) 

To ease our conscience
we piously turn to join the blame game
as smartly turned out men
and women in studio refined accents
bay after the blood of
ministers, commissioners, corporates,
electricians, train/bus drivers
garbage boys and everyone else
for the sins that have infiltrated our city spaces
for sixty years.
Yes. We turn bitter and muse
‘Look! What Man has done to Man!’

Impulsively, we get up and give
an extra chappati to the servant girl,
bring out worn-out tee-shirt for the sweeper boy,
call up our distant suburban relations …
- ('Cloudburst’ (July 26, 2005 – Mumbai) - Page 69) 

(I have quoted extensively from this moving poem as it has sensitively brought out human nature, tendencies and emotions in times of crisis like this)    


Aptly titled ‘Then Life, Again…’ after ‘Reclaiming’, this concluding section showcases the the spiritual and philosophical side of the poet, presented through sublime verses that reflect her deep faith in the Almighty. 

the mind is quiet
with the peace of sleep after a bad accident
no longer the pacing through the dark nights
no longer the slow rhythm of the tired sweat
   - (‘then life, again’ – Page 75)

The patient earth has seen it all,
the first flight, the falls, the struggles to rise,
the flowers that cushioned it
and the thorns that bled it
- ('Reflection’ – Page 77) 

The pilgrimage, my Lord,
is incomplete.
You look away Lord.
Don’t pretend you don’t.
Lord, if only I could teach you
to look straight into my eyes
and face yourself in there!
  - (‘Prayer at Shirdi’– Page 80-81)

Words just smoothly flow out of Dr. Charanjeet Kaur’s pen (contemporarily speaking, her Mouse!). In her ‘Foreword’ she says “My poems speak, I hope….Poetry also is the process of…coming to terms with the world – with all that one has seen, felt, emoted, willed, loved, hated, thought, experienced, expressed, withheld … And, yes, sometimes words also mean” 

Dr. Charanjeet Kaur’s poetry does all the above and much more. And her poetry collection‘Mirror Image & Other Poems’ bears testimony to that!

‘Mirror Image & Other Poems’ by Dr. Charanjeet Kaur
ISBN 978-81-8157-823-5 (Hard Back) 978-81-8157-824-2 (Flexiback)
Price Rs. 150/- (Hardback) Rs. 100/- (Flexiback)
Publisher: Writers Workshop, 162/92, Lake Gardens, Kolkata 700045.


More by :  Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy

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