Madhura Banerjee’s second book of poems – Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing– is cleverly worded leading to multiple interpretations, backed by the reader’s perception. The myriad emotions presented by capturing different moments, takes the readers through a whirlwind of destinations and feelings. The countless palette of subjects dealt with, attracts interest from all ages. The over 70 poems luring the readers to a world of imagination, makes the book refined, hard hitting and plays with metaphors and analogies to perfection. While all the poems are incredible, I would take time to discuss a few which struck a special chord with me.
The Ganguly’s Garden – takes up the issue of refugees living in Kolkata. No matter how hard they try, are these displaced citizens truly accepted by the city and its people? The poem goes on to describe the ‘walls’ between the city and the migrants where one fights for existence and identity every single day. It talks about the ‘walls’ existing between the shared memories of the refugees and the local residents. Most importantly it goes on to describe the perceptional ‘walls’ that the people of the city has built towards the migrant dwellers. These ‘walls’ symbolize prejudice, injustice, struggles and unacceptance in which the refugees dwell – sometimes lifelong.
Fictional Picture Frames– Reading the poem will take the reader back to the world of physical photo albums. Treasure troves of memories printed in B&W or color and cautiously placed in the pockets. Sometimes these albums do not have a chronology to the memories; but have reminiscences bending time and age, placed together forming its own fictional narrative. Banerjee’s glimpses of captured moments through this poem is commendable. It is sure to evokememories or the curiosity to start swiping album pages instead of left and right!
A Reflection- It is said that if heaven exists on Earth, then it is in Kashmir! From the beautiful snow-capped mountains to the rustic local villages exuberating warmth and hospitality, Kashmir is a sight to behold. The poem, set around the Dal Lake speaks of the man-made distances Vis a Vis the uniform Nature. While Nature made man find ‘a mosque and a temple/ between the oars of a Shikara’, man created unforgettable distances between their ‘lost brothers’ from the same soil. It truly makes the readers reflect on what Kashmir was meant to be and what it has been made into.
Melting Glaciers – The analogy between melting snow and a widow’s withering emotions is outstanding! As the snow melts every season taking with it the memories of the past, similarly, a widow’s emotions, memories and habits melt with time. Banerjee draws the reader’s attention to the widows, who have been treated as discarded clothes for decades and this raises some pertinent questions. Do widows not deserve respect as humans in the society? Why are they subjected to the harshest terms of living? Why are they made to feel as if their existence has ceased when their marriage life melts away in fire? As India progresses it is crucial to restructure age old social traditions and rituals giving widows the chance to live their lives, just as they deserve it.
The Teesta Flows in Bhatiali- with the East Coast falling prey to occasional rain storms and the devastating Amphan and Yaas, this poem could not have been more futuristic. So what do the coastal men communicate through the Bhatiali, their folk song? Do they measure their paths deep into the sea or invite the subtle waters to their homes? Questions go unanswered leaving behind a whirlpool of probabilities for the readers to imagine. While we crave for gourmet seafood, it is interesting how less we talk about those who risk their lives every day and in return get much less than they deserve. The underlying message of this poem is the highlight of the fishermen/ boatmen and the plea to understand their plight. The immense sorrows in their hearts are as deep as the waters they tread. One can, at least try and aid them towards a better livelihood.
Palmists on 21st February- The International Mother Language Day is celebrated to honor the regional language, many of which are lesser known or forgotten with the dominance of certain majorly spoken languages. Historically, it originated through the Bhasha Andolan in Bangladesh – a movement taking the form of revolt, seeped in bloodshed, betrayal and loss. The poem reminds one of the shared history between the Bengals in India and Bangladesh.
Train of Thought- The last poem in the series, Train of Thought is cleverly worded. It is the countless things that a traveler thinks while journeying to unknown lands. It is literally a train, taking the traveler to numerous destinations, each offering its unique experience. It is the thought that enters the mind of a traveler urging them to constantly compare the West and their home. It is the simplicity of remembering instances while crossing a station in a train. IT is all of the above!
Monsoon Arrives at the Junction Crossing is a Pandora’s Box of emotions bursting from every page. From the mountains and valleys of Kashmir, to the Ghats of Varanasi; from the dunes of Jodhpur to the hill stations of Bengal; from the happening beaches of Goa to the highways of Maharashtra, Madhura takes the readers on a journey of a lifetime. When the pandemic has restricted us to our homes, this is the best way to travel. Words take the readers to journeys of their own, where Nature becomes their best friend and memories come greeting like long-lost friends.
What is quite unique in the poems is the reference to social causes. The unique analogies and metaphor filled poems often draws the reader’s attention to social standards of living in India- the loneliness of widows, the helplessness of boatmen, the desperation of refugees etc. Consciously or unconsciously it can be interpreted as a call to action urging one to open their eyes, identify the social wrongs and try in any littlest way to bring a smile to someone’s face.
Lastly, her visions of the City of Joy wins the heart of every Bengali. It compels the readers to stop, think, and visualize Kolkata / Calcutta/ City of Joy/ Bengal as an emotion, not a city. For me, my city is a young woman standing on the rain-washed streets of Chowringhee, surrounded by a horizon of traditions and colorful hues, moving towards a new beginning, every day.
For those who love to read poetry this is a must read to exercise your I(maginative) Cells!
No. of Pages: 129
Publisher: Dhauli Books
Cover Design: Debaditya Naha
Available on: Amazon
*Disclaimer: The above poems have been described as per my interpretation.