Book Reviews

Pankajam: Voyage through Words

Pankajam, Voyage through Words,
Authors Press, New Delhi, 2019,
pages 116, Price Rs. 295/-

I am reminded of the Sanskrit words of Mammata Bhatta, the ancient poet of 11th century A.D., who wrote Kavyaprkaasha in which he averred that Kavya – read poetry – is one with the gentility of a woman and her preaching (kantaasammitayaupadesayuje). Synthesis – call it fusion - of ideas, concepts and aspirations contributes to enrichment and progress.

Voyages are matters of yearning for adventure and achievement. They make interesting for readers young and old. Pankaj has already carved a niche for herself in the Parthenon of Poetry. The blurb on the back cover is very stimulating. She has eighteen books in two languages, English and her mother tongue, Malayalam. Her poems are translated into French. She is one of the editors of the journal Teesta Review. Her poetry has been discussed extensively in the book Feminity-Poetic Endeavours. She won several awards Shree Atal Bihari Vajpayee Award 2019, is latest. She won Rock Pebble National Literary Award in the same year.

Coming back to voyages we read with enthusiasm, this is a different voyage, a voyage of words. Ulysses of Tennyson, fiction Sindbad the Sailor, Treasure Island and a film like Titanic. This book is a totally different one, a voyage of words. The book is marked “For my husband”.   One may think that this is some husband and wife marital matter or something heard but, this never seen or heard of matter.

I begin with the beginning:
Roosting in my soul
hope sings a wordless poem
which meets fireflies dancing in your eyes.
I find poems of life there, tells me
there is world beyond words.  -  (Voyage through Words, p. 15)

Usually, any voyage has a destination, reaching a desired place or point. This voyage of words leads to intense cerebration. The end purpose is acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. Looking beyond, looking within and around is the tenor of these poems. The basic object is understanding by all the three processes. Some poems reflect vairagya, freedom for passion or worldly attachment, through self-restraint and pious reading.

Femininity is fundamental womanliness. This poet goes deep into marital oneness, safety and caution.


Juggling with sore lessons
women acquire more might
yet at times feel frail from within,
in a world that does not belong to them,
As they are extra vigilant at ever juncture
requiring to take calculated steps
to refute the charges
they remain calm and composed.
rigid ones grow brittle and break. - (Weak, Yet Strong, p.17)

Thoughts of death are deep in the poet’s mind,

The enveloping warmth
inside the soft surface of the woollen throw,
the liveliness in the ambience
that tugs at the hidden blaze
within my heart,
the songs of chilly winter,
all in wait to drag me
to the world of fairies,
to gift the honeyed millets of dreams
and raise me to heavens façade. - (At Heaven’s Façade, p.19)

One conclusion is this: either one should conquer or get conquered.

Equating fulfilment
to possessions and positions,
in wealth, love and comforts
yet on attainment
leaves them feeling empty,
feeling incomplete
until they find the real love,
to conquer or to get conquered.  - (Conquer or Get Conquered, p.21)

The sense of responsibility, owning power of action is expressed here. Faith brings deep understanding. This is expressed briefly. True, brevity is the soul of wit.


Words are ceaseless, firm like autumn frost.
Neither fangs nor claws can catch them,
the realization which gives me warmth
and embraces me like spring breeze. - (I Own My Words, p.22)

Beauty is a fascinating feeling, a usual woman- thought - speak. It is a fine life furbishing thought. A new vista, a fresh ingrained femininity of concepts, is evident here.

No picture can reveal my beauty
because it resides inside me
neither jars nor scales to measure.
A smiling face cannot be ugly
no cosmetics can compete with it  -  (Beauty, p.23)

Two poems ‘Shame’ becomes Shameful and Lifetime Agony on the same theme which worked together to come up with a tapestry lacing the poems together is opening a new vista and inaugurating of a new genre. And then there is femininity at the heart. Pankajam is of that school of femininity with more gumption and honesty.  

‘Shame’ becomes Shameful and Lifetime Agony are companion pieces. In fact, the two could have been one only.

When man turns into beast
each little girl is a toy
to be played with, torn
mutilated and discarded. - (Lifetime Agony, p.25)

Here is piece of advice, an elderly woman giving to a young one with affection and concern.


You start aging slowly
if you can’t appreciate humour,
the punch line of jokes,
not when your citadel of decrees tumbles
When the child in you loses its thrill
you start aging slowly.
Don’t blame it on drooping eyelids
or the crow’s feet around your eyes. - (You Start Aging Slowly, p.27)

Death is an idea at the back of the head, a natural phenomenon t in the fast aging


Before my limbs go nippy, eyes star to daze
fingers freeze and senses tend to grow fainter
let me write the last lines of my unfinished poem
for which I frenetically plead.
A little time I want to gain
to the trees, plants and flowers,
ask them to wait till I re-emerge amidst them
as a thicket, shrub or tiny grass
and record me remorse for impairs done to mother earth
who wants to lend her lap eternally.  - (When Death Arrives, p.31-32)

Of love and hate, the two areas of feeling and perception, Kashmir has been an integral part of Bharat down the centuries. For the turbulence in that area worries us all and smothers peace. Here is poem about that which cannot be left out untouched by any poet.

Here is the sibling of intolerance
Hatched from the eggs of cowardice
Language of terror is written in red
Human bodies, palettes to draw beastly arts.  - (To Pulwama Victims, p. 105)

Some poems take us to instances and happenings which cannot even be imagined. A foot note could have helped. Sleep Son, You Sleep Now is one such.

The poet gives a very clear indication of the purpose of writing a particular poem. The following is a case in point. This is fate, she says.


Energy that drains out in my body
gets crowded in my heart and soul
and it multiplies with every smudge of abuse
Like malleable metals hardened by heat
trials by fire only make me tough.
And I want you to realize:
What I strive for is what I am slated for.  -  (Agni Pareeksha, p.110)

When one limb is lost, the other becomes shaky
to restore poise, one needs to struggle hard.
As seeds of hope lied buried under the debris of loss
to scoop them one’s shovel needs to be longer.
The lane of grief with cries and sobs is dark and long.
and one has to pass through it to reach the sunny lane.
Opposites or auxiliaries, death meets life every day
without mixing with each other,
like waters in the Gulf of Alaska. - (The Lane of Grief, p.114)

In conclusion I must tell you what I feel about Pankajam’ s voyage. It is the apologia of a sincere poet who has feelings and sensibilities with deep womanly, motherly emotions and feelings with a firm zeal to convey them powerfully and convincingly.


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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Views: 3326      Comments: 1

Comment Respected Rama Rao sir. I'm deeply touched and glad to read this review,which showcases almost all poems from this collection so richly and vividly. My words are not enough to convey my gratitude for this literary favour. Respectful regards.

23-Sep-2019 02:42 AM

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