Book Reviews

Nomadic Nights: A Study

of Indira Babbellapati's Eloquent Nocturnes

Nomadic Nights is a beautiful casket of brilliant poems by Dr. Indira Babbellapati, who calls this anthology ‘one long poem about night’. In fact, it is a narrative poem which presents ‘different facets of the night’. All the sections of her narrative poetry, fragmented in presentation but synthesized in the tone, deal with external realities of the world involving ‘inwardness’ of the poet who present them with extra display of her aesthetic sense and experience. Most of the poetic pieces are introspective and reflective in tone and tenor and leave an indelible impression on the psyche of a reader. They are mystical, impressionistic, expressionistic, suggestive and meditative in approach. The most remarkable point to be made about the book is that the sections of these poems have no ‘individual title’.

In the beginning of the anthology the poet expresses her dedication and salutations to her ‘muse’ and pleads it not to ‘desert’ her. She further explains what poetry is to her. In view of the guiding force of the poetry, she affirms :

Poetry to me isn’t
extraneous; a dialogue
infinite with self
It clarifies and
cajoles; helps me accept world
and self. (p. 6)

Silence is a speaking note of her poetry. To the poet silence of night with ’flakes of darkness’ seems to have ‘a mystic pattern’ drawn around the ‘personal cosmos’ of the poet. She reveals her subjective thoughts mingled with objective layers of darkness of the night. She writes:

As if layers and layers
of enigmatic, silent night
inhabited an unknown space;
as if flakes of darkness
settled one over the other
into a mystic pattern
yester night, in layers and flakes,
the night spread over
my personal cosmos… (p. 7)

In another piece she reveals:

Silence sits beside me
like a thick dark night
without any ripples. (p. 41)

Personal grief pervades her poetry. It’s much more visible to the poet when darkness falls in. Her ‘tired eyes’ are in search of some sustaining and consoling force to help her out. She calls night ‘desert’. She finds a parallelism between her own sorrow and ‘wailing winds of night/ sweeping through the desert’ of life. However, she proclaims:

I stand
on the rim of the desert-night
like a pair of tired eyes;
weary after traversing
the molten sands
I drink my own tears night through
for sustenance… (p. 8)

The poet is skeptic and disillusioned. His distrust and disillusionment secretly underlies her poetry. She accepts the futility of her search. Her search for love and life eludes her. Her realizations comes in full circle here-

I once tasted love and life
in fleeting moments though
under night’s 
blanket, I murmur
into a stoic night-silence (p. 63)

She has no hesitation to accept --

as nights wrapped me in a blanket of suspicion
and toyed with my emotional
and bodily contours (p. 79)

The dark and dead night conjures up the image of her love lighting her way. It is amid the dark chamber of her heart that she recollects those moments filled with loving warmth-

bursting forth a secret
that’s hidden deep within
unknown to myself
I’m now as light as
light…! (p.9)

Yearning and longing are also being felt in the lines of her poetry. It is much more intense and fervid in the darkness of the night. Darker night aside, she also mentions ‘night of longing’. Longing dribbles and crawls in the trajectory of her consciousness:

The night having
conveyed its longing
coils back to what
it always is:
coils within coils… (p. 11)

Some love pieces are the most passionate and impassioned-

The enervating nights
hold back the agonies
of love
Muted longings explode
silently within
as the day breaks (p. 46)

The poet personifies night in different ways. She uses several epithets for night which as ‘chameleon’ which plays ‘hide and seek’ within one’s confines of self. One instance can be seen in the presentation of an analogy of night as a bird with ‘clipped wings’. The night is also personified as a ‘ballet dancer’. In short, the nights have ‘several elusive patterns.’ She calls nights ‘doppelgangers’. 

Another kind of night the poet mentions is the ‘powdered night’ which is scattered in ‘all corners’. However, it is gone with the dawn of the sun which brooms away the powdered dusts and patches of taunts, torments and assaults.

Every morning
the powder gets
swept away with
the routine broom… (p.12)

There is a juxtaposition between personal darkness and objective darkness and with this pattern, she weaves her poem on this thoughtful –sensitive pattern of night. The poet says- ‘darkness and I / become one.’ She further says-

As I slowly
open my eyes
the darkness around
turns visible…
And is
lifted in a blink… (p.14)

Another instance-

…….the night descended
in several layers and textures.
I draped the night and with it
its layers and textures…
The night and I
now inseparable;
conjoined twins.. (p. 16)

Reading between the lines of her nuanced poetry provides ample evidence of philosophical strains palpable in her poetry. Search for the ultimate reality of Self is best expressed here:

As I look into
the dark mirror
there appeared a
stranger I knew not (p. 17)

Burning issues of sexual assaults rampant now a days also find sensitive articulation in her poetry. She brings to light ‘the greedy vultures/ of the night’, who ‘relish only the live flesh’. She is bewildered when-

A night-hungry infant’s
Wails in the dark night
Dissolve into a darker oblivion (p.24)

Through some hinting lines, the poet very sensitively throws light on man-woman relationship and frustration of some lonesome heart. She is opposed to the relation in which ‘forced embraces’ bring no emotion attachment-‘In the night of/ forced embraces/nearness has no meaning.’ With such treatment, ‘life crawls/ in a vacant corridors/ a centipede’. She remarks-

Shallow emotions
Shallower relationships
Echo and re-echo
Through the night… (p. 38)

In her poetry she skillfully creates dreamy atmosphere. Her dreams are galore. Every dream represents the imaginary fulfillment of some ungratified wish. She feels inundated in tears in ‘emptiness of the vacant night’ though her ‘dreams get flooded’. The poet's desires are disguised as her poignant thoughts. She feels nostalgic when

Dreams pour in
on night’s screen;
moving pictures (p.33)

Far from the gratification and fulfillment, her repressed and unconscious desires remain unfulfilled. She unlocks her heart-

The night in its womb
conceals many a dream
that fade away at the site  
of an insensitive sun… (p.49)

However, later, she comes to realize the futility and transitoriness of all desires and dreams. Some dreams cannot be translated into reality-

No reality can ever morph
into dreams; no dream can
ever turn into real-
a boon! (p.49)

Mystical, mythical and spiritual approach of the poet towards life get manifested in later poems. She seems to be grappled with an existential question of life and death-

Was your wombly sojourn
only to give me a glimpse
into the elusive riddle of
life and death
that you alone were
privileged to have
the knowledge of… ? (p.53)

Her poetry is also animated with sensuousness but its depiction is poignant and full of nostalgia. Hers is ‘a lonesome voyage through the seas of night’. In the extreme solitude of longings she explores the empty embrace but finds nothing except the following sensuous sense that ignites the secret passion-

Limb to limb
lip to lip
seeped in a silver sea
we moved in cyclic rhythms
on the undulating waves
of passion the skin ignited
in each other at every touch (p. 62)

In a common sense the destiny shapes up everything relating to life. At the same time it is also responsible for human predicament and all the twists and turns in a person’s life. The poet is person who seems to believe in the working of destiny. She remarks:

This I’ve known for certain
there’s a path chartered
for us much before we
landed on this earth
from an unknown sphere (p.75)

and accepts her lot because

we’re moving through
a fixed time and space
just like how a day is
squeezed between two nights
or a night struggles between
two days… (p.75)

The poet is docile, knave, credulous and submissive by nature. She has no protesting voice. Nor has she any courage to stand against the torturous ways of the world. Instead, she accepts her lot with passivity but with great stoicism and explore the way to resolve routine anxieties, conflicts or confrontations in the little light. She also accepts this fact;

I surrender and withdraw
myself into the folds of
insomniac night for
tete-a-tete with an intruding
light that had thrashed the night
In the burning bulb
the night melted
drop by drop. (p.84)

Finally, the poet and her problems- mental and emotional- and the darkness and the light become one unified with the seamless void of eternity where no desire exists. This is how the poet gives a new dimension to her poetic thoughts of despair and despondency with optimum optimism and positivism-

the two unified as one
in a moment of desirelessness
and dissolved as a wave
in an overwhelming dark sea
of a new moon night…(p.84)

In addition, a few technically controlled haikus and senryus also enhance the aesthetic beauty of the book.

In the final analysis it must be said that in Nomadic Nights, Indira Babbellapati presents herself as a nomad traversing silent spaces of sleepless night and in the process she finds silhouettes of nocturnal thoughts in form of various facades of darkness. She makes brilliant analogies and presents them from ‘lines to patterns’; from nothingness to some shape and form encircling her profound thoughts and ideas. She brings out everything aesthetic and consoling, turpitude and quietude from the dark world of nothingness, and gives an ‘order’ to confusion and disorder. Her expression is unique in several ways. While using different metaphors, personifications, symbols and allusions for nights, she articulates her thought-patterns in a singular way. Her roving imagination renders a lot of stuff with which she builds up a fabulous tapestry of thoughts and ideas, conception and perception in an unconventional way. This is what makes her different from her contemporary poets. Hers are not the formal lines of poetry; fragmentation of the poetic pieces makes the anthology remarkable for its aesthetic excellence and linguistic and semantic brilliance with a note of intertextuality. Her patterns of thoughts deriving out from the nocturnal movements and her experience are worth relishing.


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

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