Book Reviews

Nitin Soni's The Broken Boat

The Broken Boat (A Collection of Poems)
Poet: Nitin Soni
Publisher: Authorspress; Ist Edition edition (2016)
ISBN-10: 9352070933, ISBN-13: 978-9352070930

Nitin Soni’s The Broken Boat is a collection of 35 new poems. Known as ‘The Curly Poet’ and honored with the title of ‘Most Popular’ (at Delhi University), Nitin is a poet, storyteller, script writer and social worker who feels the pulse of the people in streets and countryside. Dr. Sukrita Paul Kumar, Poet, Critic & Academician has rightly called him 'a budding poet who is bound to blossom and flower'. The Broken Boat ferries away to the shore the fragmented sensibility of the weaker sections of society grappled with a variety of issues - social, moral, personal, familial- ranging from poverty, racism, hunger, identity, frustration in love, failure of the system to gender inequality, and woman’s plight. He has tackled all this issue with a touch of social and political realism. Some poems are lamentation over the loss of ethical and moral, human values. The poet also cries out (at) the dehumanized and devitalized nature of man in modern times. Agonized sensibility of woman has found a hyped-up demonstration in Nitin’s poetry which is concerned more with modern man and pressing problems around him. True, ‘this is a sentimental ride which reflects our society.’

Nitin Soni is a humanistic poet with cosmopolitan outlook. Humanism is the crux of his thought and philosophy.His poetry is a universal appeal for creating a ‘harmonious world of virtue’. He cries out in his poem “Such Are Wounds” :

My wounds are human
Humanity is wounded!

I can't describe the scratches inside
Are in a variety of giggles
And masks.

His love for humanity and sympathy for the beggarly people gets reflected in the followings lines taken from the poem “ Do you Know”:

Wear a cap of humanity
I call it 'Love', not charity!

Nitin is a poet of love and romance. Wonderful image of romance and love is well depicted in his poetry. He, in the poem " Do You Know", avers :

I have seen a bridge
At her lips;
Where I stand in peace,
And transfer joyful glances
Into her eyes; nothing left behind!

Most of his poems in this collection are woman-centric. His sympathy with woman is recurring themes of his poetry. He is saddened to see the plight of woman in society. The treatment meted out to her is appalling and demoralizing. Killing of a girl child is a social stigma on the face of humanity. “Womb-to-Tomb” a poignant poem that presents a pathetic condition of a womb that meets its tomb even before it sees lights of the day-

Blessed soul in womb
A boon for the human race
Her future, pre-decided
A bane for the human race!

The poet conveys the sad saga of an unborn girl child through his sensitive poem “Say No to ‘Abortion’” Which unmasks our misogynistic attitude:

The unripe fruits of my dreaming world
Waving hands to the cruel skull
Discoloured, abandoned, and aborted I am!
Farewell to the world full of colors…

His poetry is in fact a universal appeal for uplifting her uplift and overall betterment. He vehemently criticizes the killing of girl child. At the same time in the poem dedicated to “To A Girl”, he also highlights the killer instinct of woman to rise up like a phoenix:

Punch me I have a heart
Hit me I am not the last
Blow me out and I will light up again
Throw me out I will not complain.

Woman may be an ‘innocent creature’ who can dance ‘gleefully on melodious songs’, with no words but ‘the pain and agony’. However, she is a woman of substance who can fight all odds of life with great aplomb. That’s why the poets reproduces her proclamations and firm determination in his poem “She Speaks Tears”:

I want to fight adversity. I want to stand tall.
With determination.
Confidence. Will-power. I won’t give up…

The poet in him is vocal about while seeking honor and basic rights to be bestowed on her. Some of such poems are – Blind Girl, Womb-to- Tomb, To a Girl, Oh, Ugly Woman, Poor Mother, Black Woman, Even She, I saw her in my eyes, She Speaks Tears, Laali, etc.

He is a poet of minute observation of life around. He finds so many things that either please him or dishearten him to such an extent that he takes up his poem and express wistful or pleasing thoughts and ideas. He selects his poetic stuff from common scenes of activities. Of such social observations captured in his poetry, man-woman relationship amply arrests our attention. He presents a very common picture of a family rooted in traditional customs where woman is very docile, meek, and submissive. However, the male attitude is questionable. “Man And Woman” is a bitter poem which lays bare everything including lecherous longing of man:

She always
The dust
From my feet.
And I always sucked
The breasts
I had been provided
To feed.

I was a man
She was a woman. Indeed!

In another poem “Even She”, he presents a loveless side of man’s heart and mind where lustful obsessions have taken a permanent root for the satisfaction of his carnal desires. He takes the side of a ‘whore’ and brings to light the lustful attitude of man:

As soon as she made an attempt to flee away,
She saw a bunch of people looking at her with stones in
hand, and condoms at the edge of their lustful lips!

Woman is mother. Her motherly ethos is what makes her complete that supplements the cycle of humanity- a continuum of creation. Her children are her world. She can sacrifice her life for their sake, not to talk of selling her body. She has to adjust herself between marital and sexual responsibilities. The poet has thrown sufficient light on the darker side and the plight of a prostitute who has to take of her customers and children alike. He makes us peep into her life which is like ‘an old dying and defeated boat’:

I knew she sells her body
And- shuts the door
To his lustful desire-
Always present
And naked on the floor

The poet criticizes all those men who regard woman as an object of desire. His resentment and antagonistic attitude to such men can be witnessed in lines of ‘Oh, Ugly Woman!” which contains the elements of womanhood that makes her greater than any other creations of God. The poet’s weapon of circumlocution for making fun of man is superb:

Oh men
Go ahead
Keep mocking at these
Ugly women.

He holds religion responsible for the sad plight of woman and takes religious community to task. With a very witty and gritty of expression, he tries to make fun of ‘religious scholars’ who make a great hue and cry over a trivial pertaining to woman. The triviality of this issue is expressed in the following lines of the poem “Of Religious Scarf”:

That black scarf,
Her identity,
Her pride,
Her religion,
By the window

In his poetry, he depicts a very sad picture of woman in distress. His poem “Poverty’ is such a serious documentation of sad end of a woman’s life. She is sexually, physically and emotionally exploited and subjected to prolonged tortures and then brutally killed. He cries out-

Hungry body
Wounded Soul
Digging earth
She is no more…

The questions of so-called scholars as to ‘who took off your scarf?’ and whoever will be killed’, meets an eye opener when the girl replies that it was the window who had taken off her scarf.

Going through his poems, it is evident that his poetry is also the expression of intense resentment against the social and political system of the country. He feels that the systems devised for the uplift of the common people fail to bring smiles on their faces. The lack of proper channelization of providing succor to the poor people is eating into the vitals of the democracy.

She was loved
Yet she was raped
Her dreams shattered by
Those beasts
Who molested humanity, love, affection, brotherhood, sisterhood
And celebrated wickedness

In the same poem he makes fun of the concept of “Incredible India”. He is critical and satirical of the moribund system prevailing in India. He leaves us baffled with the question put to-

How can I be proud to be an Indian?
Is India safe? Is India great? Or is it “Incredible India?”
Nonsense! It’s not “Incredible India”
It’s a place where you can rape innocent girls

In his poetry, there is mixture of sense of loss and sudden realization. He makes a wonderful juxtaposition between romantic fantasies and reality. Apprehension in love is well reflected. He as a lover seems to be under constant fear, fear of losing his beloved to some other person.

I face reality
And find myself all alone
feeling lonely,
I hide in a corner
As someone approaches to destroy me
By taking her away. (Dusk and Dust pg 48)

However, realization dawns to him in the long last and he comes to terms with the reality and this is what leads to the positive and sanguine conclusion of the poem “Dusk and Dust”. He gives a noble dimension and orientation to his love. He shifts his focus from the physical beauty and love to the metaphysics of love. He feels the companion of his soul along the insightful journey of his life. With inspiring succor so mustered, he feels ecstatic as he is ‘going to meet my creator!

His poetry is replete with description of incest relationships with Electra and Oedipus complexes that shock him to such an extent that he scathingly lambasts the vain manliness of the lecherous people. The people, black sheep of society, are indeed loathingly disgrace to mankind. His personal feelings and observations find a vent-out in the poem “And Golden Apples” that deals with the relationships between his father and mother:

Too much pathos in my mother's face
And too much lust in my father's eyes
Who, after mouthing the simple
Breasts of his better half, came
In to taste the apples
I was growing up with.

Such a disgrace
To mankind.

His poetry also contains melancholic and poignant strains. Patches of pessimism are palpable in some of his poems. He is saddened to see that ‘Scholars of medicines’ have ‘ruptured frailty’. ‘Feelings of bereavement’ surge in the atmosphere of festivity as “lovers celebrate the death of love’. In the poem “Strange Lover”, he laments death of love –

I am a bird of the new age,
Freedom I have earned well
Emotions and devotions have not paid off well
As my love is down into a grave

However, he adds a very unique dimension to his bereavement. Since in the celebration of his love’s death, his tears are not welcomed, he gets philosophical and brings about idiosyncrasies of reconciliation when he accepts-

Death of love is a way to freedom

In short, Nitin’s The Broken Boat is a poetic endeavor to sail through quagmire of social and familial evils, with observation and realization, irony and satire, furrowing the world with feministic perspectives either side, leaving behind the foams and tides for the readers of poetry to get a feel of his feelings and intensity of emotions. Human predicament, utter negligence of the individuals, isolation and alienation of the self, perversion, nerve- shattering experience, minute observation of life etc find a realistic treatment in his poetry, mostly compressed in a feminine voice and that is very unique of his writings.

In his poetry, he is not only ‘romancing with poetry in fluffy notions of love’ but also puts forth glaring social issues with great compassion and sensibility. Addressing the social problems is of prime concern for him. The system has failed to come up to the expectation of the people. Hence he has lambasted the system for its failure. The Broken Boat is punched with satire, irony and severe resentment and indignation, love being the motivating stimulation for rowing on the river of his thoughts and intense feeling. He wants to zero in on the positive ideology of social and global harmony and symmetry and comprehensive values of morality and ethics and of course, humanity. He has succeeded in echoing his voice around the globe for ushering in the internal utopia of purity of heart, love and relations and external world of global fraternity and harmony. His poems show sense of loss, new age dilemma and reflections, dejection, despondency and disillusionment of modern ways and approaches to love. On the other hand, they also articulate realization of reality evading romantic fantasies, and apprehension of and fear of losing love. He has dealt with all this with great panache and elegance. The following lines from the poem “Farewell to Rumors” best describe his poetry as sensible, sensitive and realistic reflection of human existence with its upheavals as it has

a mirror of impracticality
A shadow of blind-reality
The time roars higher,
Stating: the chaos was to those who live in chaos.

“The Broken Boat” is sure to lead the readers to explore the layers of consciousness after sailing through the quagmire of myriads of social and moral evils, and personal and impersonal depravities and abnormalities.

Happy reading!

(An abridged version of this review was published in Asian Signature, Third Volume,No 2, (August) 2016)


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

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