An Ode to ‘Ijaazat’: The Final Approval

Note: My poetic tribute to the haunting, melancholic, yet the beautifully touching saga of love gone awry in the hands of destiny, the irresistibly deep and unforgettable chemistry between Mahinder, Maaya and Sudha in Gulzar’s timeless love saga ‘Ijaazat’, based on the Bengali story ‘Jatugriha’, by Subodh Ghosh.  The film, unforgettable till today for the tenderly crafted lyrics of Gulzar Saab composed with finesse by the phenomenal R.D. Burman,  followed the story of couple who are separated and who accidentally meet in a small waiting room of a railway station and discover some truths about their lives without each other.

ijaazat_movie

 

Like weary travelers, lost in the waxy orbit of time

We lose our shores, and then, keep coming back

To where our stories began, the Ground Zero

Where you slouched against my caramel skin,

Lost in the deep, blinding maze of a past, passionate, drunk

With the lyrics and heartbeats of Maaya, the wandering girl,

Her eyelashes, soaked with the salt and oil

of the forbidden randomness of your wants.

“Ek akeli chhatri mein jab aandhe aandhe bheeg rahe they

Aadhey sookhey aandhey gile, sookha to main le aayee thi…”

The raindrops pelting on the window where she stood,

Forlorn, dreamy still, asking you to return the cloudbursts

Of your memories in spurts, were mine too, the clouds which I stared at

Like forbidden turrets of your leftover dreams overlooking

Our half-baked love songs, yawning with an emptiness

As I had rinsed off their remnants from our rooms, our plates,

Our cups and dishes, our breaths, entwined, yet not whole.

I did look for you and long to hear the syrupy strains

Of those lovelorn lyrics, which you had once hummed to me.

I did look in the hand-delivered letters of the postman

For the silhouettes of those sullied memories and burnt out poems

Which never reached me, as I settled down, colder, less rippling

And more permissive, in a new mooring.

Forgive me, today, as I dried off your wet hairs, drenched in

Our once-familiar raindrops in an unfamiliar station,

Waking up to dig in the dust of our forgotten, forsaken days

Waking up to your frostbitten face, bursting wide, crooning

In the smoked mirror of this tiny, clumsy waiting room.

Forgive me, like Maaya, the sad, wandering girl who gagged herself

And was washed away in the crossroads of your tyrannical trails,

The sky, drunk, sunken, taking in both our salty waters, and crackling.

Forgive me, today, as I seek your approval, for one last time

To drive off to my moorings now, as you will drive off to your own,

The smudged lines of our story, hanging loose, askance,

In this Ground Zero where we had stumbled upon, and burnt.

 

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. February 17, 2017

 

Watch the full movie here:

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Saath Saath: The Longing, The Despair, The Closure

Note: My poetic tribute, dedicated to the soulful ghazals sung by the celebrated musical couple Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh jee

unforgettables-chitra-singh-jagjit-singh

Image Source: Learningandcreativity.com

 

I don’t know how the kohl-smeared nights would dissolve

Into the fresh dawns, squinting into the day, when your voices

In the unison of duets, would waft in the lingering, dark silence

Of a bedroom with crinkled bedsheets and the recycled language

Of the two-in-one stereo, my unrequited wants, cocooned in

The sweet, fleshy cracking of your ghazals.

I knew not, at the end of those nameless siestas, when my senses,

Handcuffed, trudged through those uncertain mazes, how I would

Unwrap myself, lapping up your waves, losing myself in your shores.

“Tumko dekha toh iye khayal aayaa, zindagee dhoop tum ghanaa saayaa”…

 

I only knew that in my first love’s eyes, I was a washed out night raaga

From the flesh of your moonlight’s swirling melody, a raaga that

Would come back to you again, with my cheap tears of a love,

A tight embrace gone awry. I only knew that in my eyes clamped shut

In that clumsy bedroom, all by myself, I would hum, together with you,

“Iye tera ghar iye mera ghar/kiseeko dekhna ho gar/to pehle aake maang le

Meri nazar teri nazar…”, feeling my rib cage, my bones and the throb

Of my man’s Adam’s Apple, brush against the twilight music of a love nest,

A nest where our smudged syllables would one day, give in to stark, dead silence.

 

You both knew the trail, didn’t you, the trail of quivering, lovelorn hearts

Who hummed along, biting deep into the flesh of those lyrics in symphony?

Did you know the smog, seeping through your incandescent tunes,

As you sang, every strain filling through your own cracks, your own pores

While you couldn’t rain together anymore?

Did we all know, us, the sagging vines, hanging around

Your bestselling albums, that even melodies could gag,

In life’s unmarked road where you clasped tight

your tragedy, your only route to break free?

 

I come back to those nights in nameless, grey spirals, your ghazals

The cinnamon wants traipsing around them still, rolling slowly

In my senses, like a dream, forbidden, interrupted,

Which might make a lover out of me, yet again.

jagjit-singh-chitra-singh-us-mod-se-shuru-kare-phir-yeh-zindgi

The Unforgettable Duo. Image Courtesy: MusicMyLife

Also, visit this link to listen to the soulful melodies by this classic duo:

 

Book excerpt: ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’

An excerpt from the opening chapter of my recently released memoir/autobiographical novel THWARTED ESCAPE: AN IMMIGRANT’S WAYWARD Journey in my own voice.

Publication details:

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Authorspress (2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9352074254
  • ISBN-13: 978-9352074259

Available at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481749124&sr=8-1&keywords=thwarted+escape

http://www.amazon.in/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479401004&sr=8-1&keywords=Thwarted+Escape

Flipkart link (for India only):

https://www.flipkart.com/thwarted-escape-immigrants-wayward-journey/p/itmenxzywcgtt549?pid=9789352074259&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&lid=LSTBOK9789352074259QJJJJT&qH=fd2a924a13abed98

My New Baby, ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’

Hello friends, you might be wondering about my long (yes, somewhat) absence from this blog. Let me apologize for being away from you for these few months and make a happy announcement! My new baby, ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’, partly autobiographical novel, partly memoir, has recently been published by Authorspress India and launched with my literary friends in Delhi, the capital of India and in Kolkata, the cultural epicenter of India. A personal journey of seeking the essence and meaning of HOME, the book is characterized by my quest for my self-identity as a woman, a mother and a daughter, while being ten thousand miles away from my Bengali hometown.

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The book cover of ‘Thwarted Escape’

The book, which had first started taking shape as a diary entry addressed to my unborn daughter during the third trimester of my first pregnancy, later gained momentum as an autobiographical narrative journey of a wistful immigrant woman as I gradually found my moorings in Omaha, Nebraska, a Midwestern city in the United States. The seed of this book was first sown in a Graduate writing program in a university based in the city where two of my creative nonfiction mentors Dr. Lisa Knopp and Dr. John T. Price egged me on to explore this beautiful, volatile, passionate journey.

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Thwarted Escape Quotes

In essence, it is a subtle, complex and organic journey of my transformation from a small town girl in India to a woman who reconnects with her ancestral home, her emotionally fraught childhood and puberty. In her emotional, spiritual journey, she looks back, releasing her pent up thunder as she recounts her first tryst with death of a loved one, her first encounter with sexual abuse during a Diwali night, her first brush with her ancestral Hindu rituals, with love, procreation and motherhood.

With the lens of a time-traveler, she also looks back at the aromas and fragrances of her native Kolkata with wistfulness and nostalgia while trying to find her feet and strike roots in her adopted home. Moreover, she also tries to deconstruct the meaning and essence of Home, of Diaspora, of migration, realizing in the end that her physical attempt to break free of her ancestral roots and filial ties in an adopted home is, after all, thwarted.

In this roller-coaster emotional journey, mostly written in poetic prose, I attempt to uncover the slices of my soul while looking back at my roots in Kolkata and Barrackpore, my ancestral home, and my cultural traditions.  I attempt to unravel the inner core of my identity and my epiphanies derived as a daughter, a woman and a mother.  In the latter half of the book, there are travel memoirs in different parts of US and India, including Niagara falls, Seattle, Minnesota, Puri, Bhuvaneshwar and Konark, Orissa where my inward and outward journey forms an integral part of my self-analysis.

thwarted-escape-book-lopa-banerjee-and-friends

The book launch in Delhi with eminent authors, poets and the publisher of Authorspress

In this seamless journey, I also look at the ever-flowing cascade of life from the vantage point of death and despair, ultimately surrendering to the oscillation between the binary feelings of alienation and attachment between two different worlds of my existence.

The title ‘Thwarted Escape’ touches upon the metaphor of home and the act of sub-consciously embracing the physical and emotional landscape of our birthplace, however much we evade it. Quite early on, the protagonist of the book discovers the feminist literary worlds of Taslima Nasrin, Virginia Woolf, and later, Sylvia Plath, and a rebellious streak inside her persona compels her to delve into the roots of her ancestral Hindu traditions, question them, at times, even break free of them. However, in her self-chosen exile in the US, she discovers that deep within; her ancestral roots are also the wellspring of her psychological, spiritual existence. In the process, she keeps on oscillating between assimilating and disintegrating, which forms the core of her journey.

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The Kolkata book launch of Thwarted Escape,with eminent poet and academician Sharmila Ray, Art Rickshaw, Hindustan Park, Kolkata.

The book is available in Amazon worldwide now, and in Flipkart, an online e-retailing store in India.

Amazon links:

https://www.amazon.com/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480621429&sr=8-1&keywords=Thwarted+Escape

http://www.amazon.in/Thwarted-Escape-Immigrants-Wayward-Journey/dp/9352074254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1478420969&sr=8-1&keywords=Thwarted+Escape+Lopamudra+Banerjee

Flipkart link(for readers in India):

https://www.flipkart.com/thwarted-escape-immigrants-wayward-journey/p/itmenxzywcgtt549?pid=9789352074259&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&lid=LSTBOK9789352074259QJJJJT&qH=485274c1f834c173

Goodreads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33021719-thwarted-escape

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thwartedescapethebook/?fref=ts

 

Jinxed Interlude: Short Story

(1)

Tireless, she meandered. The city, a painted whore with her chipped off nail polish, her smudged kohl that seeped into the burst of the echoing calls, her smashed lips, gnawing. The cars cruised their way into the zigzagging highways. The numbness burnt her, as she shrunk, slowly, surreptitiously, into a shadow of dark circles, seething, lingering in columns of smoke, burnt out conversations and the stinking froth of forgotten kisses.

dark rain

Enter a caption

Image Source: imgarcade.com

The mist and the sporadic orphaned tears that stung in Amrita’s eyes, appeared known, all over again. But why? Hadn’t the grief that had birthed it, long been murdered? There, she had emerged under the same flyover, five years later, looking with her intent, yet distant eyes at the people swarming out of tunnels and chaos, sweating, swearing cuss words, waving hands, smoking.

“Was it here that I discovered Joydeep first, in that dainty little coffee shop, where the chaos of unknown voices spiraled out of control?”

“Was it here that my curls went flying with the unrestrained peals of laughter when we celebrated our first year of dating each other?”

“Was it here that we left our entwined skins in a wreck of washed out memories, amputating our existential texts?”

“Was it here that our differences and distances soared, sinister, dark, between the burst of our growing silences?” She asked herself in between the abrupt halts of traffic signals, shuddering, as she tried holding on to the embers, long frozen.

“What was the silk rope that tied me to him and his professed love?” She thought. It did bruise when she wrote her last love letter in a plea before splitting up; it did bruise when their fingers and lips slipped into each other, into the metric lines of the poem of their thwarted union.

Back at home, the relationship wasn’t a secret anymore, where every single soul asked her if she was really ‘committed’ to that wayward, bohemian indie musician guy who refused to have a career apart from his touring rock band.

“Have you ever thought if it is a momentary whim without a sound future for any of you? Have you gone nuts, thinking you can walk out any time with a worthless, aimless boy while you don’t even know if he is capable of providing for you? …Well, so you are going to provide for him, is that the idea? How do you think it can work?”

She gulped in all of it, occasionally creating a havoc, shouting her heart out, occasionally choosing to brush it all aside, till the last day they met at their most frequented park.

“Joy, Can you please return all the letters I had written you in the mad haze of these years? I don’t think you will need those thousand stupid lines anymore. Lines about our future summer rental in a virgin, Gothic island with an ochre pool where kingfishers swim, where granules of strawberry and pink roses swim in the tranquil water. Lines about our future twins, a boy and a girl who appear and vanish with swift switchboard clicks, whose cherubic bodies sway, wax and wane on a leafy swing, the boy and the girl carved in our mashed up images, in our bones, blood and the palette of my primal wants….”

She handed him another letter, this, the last one.

“I do not know what to say if you insist on breaking up today, right now. Only let me take your hand in mine, for one last time before you let me blow away in smithereens.”

“Do let me go.” She had pleaded, her mind scrubbing hard to wipe out their censured years of being together.

At the New Year’s Eve party, in the heady concoction of cocktail drinks and enthused friends lurking in between smudged teardrops that she rubbed off, vigorously, she covered up with fake grins and smiles. Her throat exploded as she gulped the thorny pain. Those were the friends, the faces who had conjoined both their fates, those were the ones who watched them twittering, chirping in the magic spell of the silhouetted evenings. Those were the faces, voices who engaged and disengaged themselves in various phases of their turbulent love song of three years.

“….Ah, look at them, don’t they look snugly fit in each other’s arms, aren’t they just made for each other, a picture-postcard couple?”

“…..A very happy three years’ anniversary of being together, Joy and Amrita, officially, as a couple. When are the marriage bells ringing? When do we get to have the big fat treat?”

“….Look, don’t you think you should take charge of things and move on? When is this guy going to talk to your parents and ask for your hand in marriage? Or, are you guys going to just live together without legal encumbrances?”

“….You know, just cry your heart out, today, for one last time, and leave it all behind you.” The voice of an old friend, a bestie, for that matter, and the pale crimson light of the large, dark room emerged in her eyes, and the words, bulging, buoyant, choked her. Those were the several voices, distant, near, playful, indolent, soppy, withering, swimming across the dark undercurrents of the ocean she plunged into, half-forgotten names, faces fermenting in the restless undulations.

*****************************************

To be continued…

DeJa Vu

FOR # NAPOWRIMO #
 
You and me have traveled that tattered soil before,
Look how its nameless rocks beckon us.
The streets, like molten lava, the harvest moon
Bleeding, the chipped edges calling out our names.
 
You and me have drifted, swallowed our distances
of several different births. Had this land devoured us
When we dipped our rusty nails in waxy sands?
Look how we resurface, our unfinished story ablaze in the land.
 
Look, how the lamp still burns, I encase your warmth, flickering.
I track your musky breath in the city’s labyrinth.
The sepia temple echoes my grief in crushed ashes.
The vermilion, smudged, straining, awaits our hushed voices.
 
Look how the sand stones carve our last, intertwined breaths.
Look how the ruptured skins of our memories
dance, splutter around the wet, rainy fields.
Do you see those kohl-rimmed teardrops, pirouetting in the rain?
 
Do you see the jagged edges of the river banks where we slept?
Your silver touch, licking my dark spots, my sun-kissed orchard?
Look how the river song seeks us again, surreptitious, vicarious,
Come, let us hold hands and plunge, nude, surrendering.

For My Mother, Rama Bhattacharya, On Her 3rd Birthday in Heaven

Ma and me

Many moons back, when life was a bliss in my mother’s arms, when her hands held mine and the world stood still.

When you won’t be able to trace my footprints, imprinted on the roads, you won’t see me then, in the jetties, I won’t be then to row my boat.
(Rabindranath Tagore, translated from the original Bengali song ‘Jokhon porbe na more payer chinho ei baante”, Geetabitan).

Meet my mother Rama Bhattacharjee, the source of inspiration and creative energy in my life, my first guru, my first teacher. Discover the unsung travails of her life as I, her only child, pay her a tribute to her on her 3rd birthday in heaven today.

Thanks a lot Rhiti Bose, my co-editor for giving me the wonderful platform of Incredible Women of India to feature this incredible woman, my dear Ma. I am sure she is seeing this from up above.

Read the story of love, loss and legacy here:

 

https://incrediblewomenofindia.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/rama-bhattacharya/comment-page-1/#comment-524

Metamorphosis: Poem published in READ FINGERS

Note: A poem reflecting on the estrangement of a couple in love, published today at READ FINGER Journal. Do read, comment and share:

Memories of hands clasped,

lips locked, tasting

The intoxication of contentment,

remembered, outlived.

Memories floating

in languid waters, the amplitude

and awe of picking pearls

and weeds, together

as the man and wife;

only an act of encoding, storing

and retaining a past

that no longer matters.

To read the full poem, do visit:

http://www.readfingers.com/portfolio-item/metamorphosis-by-lopa-bhattacharya/

The Mountain Refrains

A love poem I have written recently, based on a fictional narrative with the gorgeous, lush green mountain terrains of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado as the backdrop. It is a pleasure to see this poem published at Learningandcreativity.com. Sharing excerpts from the poem:

Colorado Rockies

Image credit: Lopa Banerjee

“The leaves whisper, as if in an endearing trance,
the sweetest whistles of unfathomable love
rustle in the mountain bends,
the bends where the despairing lover boy
wistfully looks for the last glimpses of his lady love…
Did he find her?
Did he utter his last words to her
in the silken weave of the night’s lovelorn sky?”

Friends, do read the full poem here, and comment if possible:

http://learningandcreativity.com/the-mountain-refrains/#

Story published on StoryMirror.com

Hello friends, I have entered my story/personal narrative ‘Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes’ in a short story contest held by StoryMirror. The story, written fictionally, but actually a creative nonfiction piece, is a small homage from me to my departed mother, written after her death. More than a story, it is a journey of discovering the intersection between life and death.

I hope you will read, comment and vote for my story if you like reading it.

Do go to this link in Storymirror to read the story and would appreciate your valued comments very much:

https://storymirror.com/story/559189362086f72b577d2d58