Book Reviews

Kalpana Singh Chitnis: Love Letters to Ukraine

Love Letters to Ukraine from Uyava by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
River Paw Press. ISBN: 978-1-7366871-4-7 PP 108

Love Letters to Ukraine from Uyava is a breathtaking poetry collection that directly appeals to the human heart. In an era of vested interests, Singh-Chitnis emerges as an epitome of nobility, spreading the message of love and sacrifice. She not only endeavors to soothe the grieving souls but also silently whispers into the ears of humanity to bring solace to the sufferers. These poems appeal to the bloodthirsty demons to be compassionate. While giving a poignant description of disasters and traumas of war, she discreetly pleads with the world to be sympathetic towards the afflicted souls who are in desperate need of comfort.

I shiver in fear, like a leaf on an amputated branch/ My children are home, but I can't turn around/ War is a one-way street. We can only pull back./ The hospitals are filled with injured and burnt bodies./ The buildings and homes are engulfed in fire./ I have no weapon to fight./ I may not return home tonight./ (War: A One Way Street)

The terrifying portrayal of the war and gore leaves us gripped with fear, like a frightened child unsure of which path to follow. The poetess herself is deeply wounded, witnessing the wretched state of people who suffer greatly without any fault of their own. They are compelled to endure numerous deadly attacks simply due to their unwavering love for their nation. It is the epitome of cruelty, where no one stands up to defend the innocent, instead, observes their gradual descent towards a tragic end.

I'm a woman raped and mutilated by my enemies,/ and a limb hanging from the window of a building struck. / I'm a fallen soldier who died defending his country./ And my slayer does not know what he is fighting for.(War: A One Way Street)

In the face of such dreadful occurrences, she emerges like a compassionate Bodhisattva, shouldering the burden of suffering souls, offering them solace amidst the horrors of war. We are indebted to her sacred soul, as she wishes to selflessly sacrifices herself to save countless lives. Encouraging collective efforts, she envisions a glimmer of hope where violence will undoubtedly cease.

The burdens on his shoulders are ours./ He is tired—give him the flower./ He stops suddenly, refusing to walk in the direction, the world is going. / In his halt are the hopes for the future. (Sunflower)

In a brief moment, we observe pessimism taking over the courageous spirit of the poetess. She hesitates to write love poetry, fearing it won't ensure the safe return of brave soldiers. But at the same time she is taken by the yearnings of the warriors who not only want to read love poems but also wish to carry them like seeds of sunflowers in a hope to suffuse the world with love again:

He wants to sprinkle them in chornozem,*/ stained with the blood and tears of his nation, / with the hope that love will grow when conflict is over. (A Warrior Wants to Read Love Poems)

We cannot unite, but we can't be separated either. / And I do not know if we have a future. The world talks about our love, but does not see the pangs of separation—/ the only affliction of my heart that can't be cured./ I stand alone on the edge of my desolate land, ...with my desert songs. (Saffron Love).

Her selfless love has the power to tame even the Satan. She is willing to risk her own life to defend the distressed, leaving us astonished as she willingly embraces a scenario where the agonies of a nation are disregarded. What truly matters to people is the unadorned portrayal of truth. In today's world, there is a dire scarcity of empathetic individuals who can truly feel the pain of the innocent. Under such ghastly conditions the poetess not only touches our heart but succeeds to make a way to our soul. She remains indomitable and unbeatable while offering herself to the demons to save the humanity. Amidst these horrifying conditions, the poetess not only touches our hearts but also manages to reach deep within our souls. She remains unyielding and unbeatable as she offers herself to the demons, striving to save humanity. She surpasses all boundaries to bring solace to the tormented souls and put an end to the infernal war, which is like a venomous python, ready to devour all without discrimination. Her compassion and love for the Ukrainians transcend limits, as she stands prepared to even embrace a demon in order to shield them from all forms of suffering.

But I will open my window/ and let the beast into my home, / as long as it promises to leave your door..../ I will read him the poems I wrote for you, but you never read. / I will seduce him with my sweetness, make him fall in love with me. I will give him my sword to slay me,/ after we make love, so it won't be thirsty for anyone else's blood. / I will do anything it takes to defend you. (Defending You )

When everything is topsy turvy, the only ray of hope is one’s faith in God as no one can feel the pain of sufferers but the Almighty. Here we witness the unshakable faith of the poet in divinity when she sees a celestial light even in utter darkness. She knows deep down in her heart that Goddess Durga will surely come to rescue the tormented souls. She is sure about the fact that a mother can’t leave her children unprotected. Her sweet and sacred songs vividly portray the pious picture of Maa Durga who is a protector, yet a destroyer when it comes to the eliminate the evil. She is sure that Goddess Durga will not only protect them but bless them again with happiness and prosperity:

She holds a trident in one hand and a heap of lotus and sunflowers in her other.../ She is going nowhere until the victory is yours. / She will be here to fight the last battle against the demons, from this to the other end of the universe. / And the day the triumph will be yours, / she will blow her conch shell to declare your victory. (The One With Her Lion)

This world has the potential to become a better place if we approach our differences with patience and love, yet in the relentless pursuit of power, everything is abandoned, leaving the downtrodden even more miserable. It is the pinnacle of cruelty, where even the humble commoners who fight for the love and loyalty towards their nation are not spared. In an era overshadowed by pessimism, the poetess remains optimistic about the triumph of the righteous. She is appalled by their plight but refuses to surrender hope. She dedicates herself to composing sacred songs of love until the very end, offering support to the tormented.

I know you will fight till the end—/ for this day to arrive in your promised land./ And for every drop of blood— shed on your battlefields, / every bead of sweat on your forehead, / I, too, shall write a love song till the end. (A Year of the War - II)

She not only discusses the problems but also provides the solution as she clearly specifies that all the problems of world can be sorted out with love. Her spirituality is mingled with her kindness to provide love as a cure for all the diseases. Here she reminds us of the great Roman poet Virgil who famously proclaimed, “Omnia Vincit Amor” meaning ‘Love conquers all.’

In this high-tech era where everyone has become mechanized, her sensitive soul yearns for love. She openly discusses the necessity of love verses and declaring it to be a must for all the soldiers. Her message to the world is crystal clear as she announces love to be the ultimate goal of one and all. None can live in absence of love as it is an inherent aspect of human psychology to love and to be loved by others:

No one should die without love. No one should live in its absence. (Poems of Love For Ukraine)

Through her love letters, she successfully captures the essence that has the power to sustain the spirit of humanity. We are astonished to witness the passionate tone she employs when describing the enchanting power of love. The poetess's true philosophy resonates in her words, as she unequivocally states to the entire universe that love is the miraculous weapon to conquer the world. It is the fire of love that continues to burn in the hearts of Ukrainian warriors, compelling them to fight relentlessly for their nation. Despite immense suffering, they are adamant to shed the last drop of their blood. Amidst the abundance of sorrow and hardship, love retains its unwavering value, as she depicts it as the greatest virtue of humanity, commanding everyone to kneel before its power.

Love, this one word/ can change the entire world... / Love is the only remedy to uncountable problems.

The suffering of Ukrainian people break our heart, but our spirits are revived as we partake in the sweet nectar of her love poems. This immortal collection is like an embrocation to the desolate and distressed who are in pain but not broken. These are the admonitions that cruelty will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Throughout the poems we don’t find even the slightest "hint of blandishment to pacify the Satan.” Instead, the poet's endearments are reserved for the true warriors, who are ready to blight their enemy for the sake of love and patriotism.

"Love Letters to Ukraine from Uyava," masterfully translated into Ukrainian, by Volodymyr Tymchuk, a poet, translator, and Lieutenant Colonel in the Armed Forces of Ukraine has earned recognition as “among the most important books of American, Ukrainian, and Indian literary societies with a cultural mission." This praise comes directly from the warrior poet and translator himself, highlighting the significance and impact of this remarkable literary work.

Undoubtedly, the book is a perfect amalgamation of purity and sanctity where we feel the sheer strength of the poet's spirit. It is impossible to resist her sweet symphonies, which bring solace to our souls amidst the raging inferno of war. This thought-provoking collection compels us to contemplate the true meaning of life and choose between love and war. It forces us to reevaluate what we must offer to the world: a sea of skeletons or a river of love. The blooming lotus of love within her reminds us of the beauty, purity, and tranquility that make life worth living. However, human ignorance leads us to the destruction, just for the sake of pelf and power. We feel overwhelmed by the outpouring of Singh-Chitnis' heart-touching symphonies, cascading like a shower of beautiful flowers, filling us with elation. These poems give a new dimension to the concept of spiritual love, far removed from ethereal love. Here, love is not blind or demanding; instead, it is sacred and self-sacrificing. The intensity and anguish of her songs compel everyone to empathize with the miseries of all Ukrainians. These masterfully crafted love songs rise from the purity of the poet's heart, like an unfathomable sea where the souls of her readers drown. It is a must-read book for all who carry a flame to save humanity, and especially for those who courageously fight their battles and emerge like a phoenix from the ashes.


More by :  Dr. Mallika Tripathi

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