My perception of a poetry is the free flow of a poet’s imagination intertwined with a flood of emotions and adorned by figures of speech. Half the fun of reading a poem is in its ambiguity. I admire the intentional ambiguity in the poetry, as it leaves it to the imagination of the readers to decipher and interpret the meaning by using their hearts and brains. Having said that, sometimes I enjoy reading poems to take a walk down the memory lane or be showered with the depths of emotions that a poet delivers in their poems.
Who Shall I Be Today? by Sunita Saldhana lies in the latter category. She has not tried to marvel the readers by introducing various elements of poetry, rather she has poured down her feelings in the form of her poems. The major tone of the book remains grief. This is not to say that she has conveyed only sadness in her poetry. She has presented many shades of a woman’s life; nevertheless, the main ingredient of her recipe is undoubtedly pain. At one point of time, I paused and wondered what must be the source of her endless hurt.
Sunita bared her life and soul in the 40 poems in this one book. While reading one of her poems, Just a little glad, I realized that she shares the experience of being physically abused by the husband like many other women of her society. My heart melted right away.
I’ll no longer fear the beatings,
Or the lashings of your belt.
I can feel the disappearance
Of the fear that I once felt.
Although she mourns the loss of her husband, a sense of relief washes her soul because she does not need to be afraid of the physical torture of her husband. The sad part is, though, that even this relief does not keep her away from the cries of a lonely heart. The loneliness of her heart reminds her of the good times that she had with her husband. The memories of all those golden moments spent with her husband haunt her. There are contradictory emotions at play. Although she is relieved of being away from the beatings of her husband, she cannot run away from the good memories.
The symbolism in the poem Pending Storms is remarkable.According to me, the arrival and violence of storm denote the arguments and fights between her and her husband.
At home too, the storm arrives, vicious and cruel.
But having spent itself, it changes.
It is as if all the tension of the previous days has just disappeared.
As if it never happened.
The gentleness and love is poignant with regret
And though I know it is just as much an illusion as the rainbows outside,
I hold these moments close,
Knowing that I have a respite for some time at least
And I can breathe once more albeit for a little while,
Till I start dreading the build up of another storm.
She has personified fear, silence, death, and other feelings. The usage of the oxymoron in “The quietness is deafening.” is very amusing and delivers the message beautifully. Sunita has gracefully incorporated numerous elements of poetry in her poems that exhibit her credibility as a poet.
Her poems do not leave their interpretation to the wisdom of the readers. I believe that she poured her heart out without worrying about using all her poetic skills rigorously. She writes about her affection towards words, the joy of being a woman, a woman’s capability of putting on a face as per her mood, a girl’s journey to adulthood, the delight of raising a kid and the sadness of watching them emptying the nest, the unbearable and dreadful feeling of loneliness, and many more memories. I enjoyed accompanying her as she revealed her deepest and buried wishes. The delivery of her sentiments through poetry has been praiseworthy.
All said and done, I loved the collection. I think the target audience of this book would be women — preferably mothers, who have observed many ups and downs in their lives. Every woman would admire the depths of emotions that Sunita has scribbled in Who Shall I be Today?
P.S. I have received the copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.