Book Trailer: Thwarted Escape

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you/You must
travel it by yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach/Perhaps you have been on it since
you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere—on water and land.”
–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Watch out for the journey of my book THWARTED ESCAPE in Youtube as it transforms from a Journey awards winning manuscript to a published book and an Honorable Mention awardee at the LA Book Festival 2017.

#booktrailer, #youtubevideo, #bookpromotion, #Goodreads

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Review Of My Book THWARTED ESCAPE in Cafe Dissensus Journal

“Distance and memory are uneasy twins. As one advances, the other gallops in an interminable contest of catch up. This fraught relationship is at the heart of Lopamudra Banerjee’s memoir. The tension begins with the book’s title itself – Thwarted Escape – an oxymoron if you will, yet one that makes sense as the reader starts journeying through its pages.

The book’s four sections – on childhood, womanhood, motherhood, and life and death – reminded me of flower arrangements – of their evanescence, their beauty. Banerjee, the florist, crafts delicate narratives as she pulls them towards a theme bunch. She uses the present tense to a delicious effect, pulling the reader into the immediacy, and hence, the momentariness of her experiences. The beauty results from her love of language – the carefree abandon with which words spill onto the page. Then there’s the fragrance running through the sections – the author’s constant introspection, a memoirist’s greatest tool. And often her biggest risk.”

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It is my pleasure to share an overwhelming review of my book ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’ written by the brilliant writer/translator Bhaswati Ghosh, published at Cafe Dissensus journal, New York. Do read the full review here, friends.

Book Review: Lopamudra Banerjee’s ‘Thwarted Escape’

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.

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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

 

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Rimli

Get well soon, the apple of my eyes! Love–Mamma.

I bite my lips and the salty waters drain down
a labyrinth of pain.
Even if it did hurt from the moment
You were formed,
I embraced its melodies in a wellspring of love,
Wanting the pain glowing
In my body and spirit,
And then it hid away in
Unsung nooks and crevices
In absorbed moments, when
your little hands and feet
Imprinted themselves on me.
I didn’t know when your incessant splash of words and your hushed sleep became my lullaby.
The river crawled back,
Twitching haphazard my indolent face.
Each night, I wrap you up
Your tender mouth and face,
Give you the softest, warmest blanketed sleep,
Each new day, you slip from the tinkle bell of my womb’s sheltered dark.
The day unwraps you in splinters, tainted brown flesh.
I know the river will now pull you downstream.
There waits your world in light, wind, mayhem and danger.
Note: I wrote this little poem today for my younger daughter Sharanya (Rimli) in a bewildered mental state after she met with her first accident in her school and had a big cut in her lower chin. The doctor stitched the area today and she is at home now, taking some rest in her bed.

This, I Believe, I Am

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Image source: Morselsandjuices.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short creative nonfiction piece of mine, in which I essay my internal journey, the conflicts on the way and how I am happy to break the mold of stereotypes, ‘This, I Believe, I am’, published at ‘Morsels and Juices’, an e-journal, a community showcasing stories, articles and poems by aspiring women writers and published authors.

Sharing an excerpt of the piece here:

“When I was the skinny little dreamy-eyed girl with braids, pleats and an awkward posture, I found myself growing up in a house cluttered with old furniture and the sternness of rituals, with a father always away at work and more away from doting his child, a silent mother cocooned in her daily worries, an aunt making up with her supernatural stories, a school full of classmates stealing lunch from my box and discarding me as ‘vague, imaginative and weird’. Months and years flew past, swallowing me up with devouring loneliness. The sky seemed to loom, gray and dead, above me. Yet, in my mind, a sulfur glow of a different sun gave way to streaks of opaque dark.  I’ve been threatened and insulted by the mediocrity around, but in rare moments of clarity, I saw the world as it should be. I broke the chains of mediocrity, and felt free. I felt free with redeeming, everlasting imagination, with the ever-growing, luscious vines of music which I discovered everywhere around me. In the beauty of my solitude which then, had overpowered me, I began to look for the mystery of colors and brush strokes, with the inspiration and creation of artists I seemed to know from my previous births.”

To read the full essay, do visit:

http://morselsandjuices.com/tea-room/this-i-believe-i-am/comment-page-1/#comment-1502

‘Tobu, Mone Rekho (And Still, Remember Me)’

 

My mother has passed over to another domain, the ever elusive domain of death, and the much talked about, yet unsettling, mysterious domain of the after-life nine months back. I flew back to India to see if I could at all save her fledgling life, lying in deep coma in a small, almost unknown hospital in the outskirts of Kolkata. All I could see after I reached in the wee hours of the night was her corpse lying over heaps of ice, waiting for me to see her for one last time before being cremated. This was a sudden, unexpected blow to me and I have written about the experience at length in my full-length memoir, after the closure had come to a full circle. I have been witnessing the event of death in my family ever since I was five years old, the austerity, the sudden cessation and the rituals that have been a part of it, but this event has actually been the dawning of an entirely new realization, a new epiphany for me. As much as I have written about my mother in poetry and prose following her sudden death, all of it has stemmed from the fact that she had been and will be a secret, silent anchor, plaguing me with the burden of grief and loss with her death, yet showering my path with light, meaning and bliss.

On that note, I would love to share a small homage to the loving memory of my mother on the International Mother’s day. Since all her life, she has been a keen devotee of the songs, poems and literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, since she has transferred this unquestioned devotion to me in my childhood, I had to come back to none other than the bard himself to reiterate my thoughts on what our relationship had been about, and how the memory of her love would keep me going for the rest of my life.

তবু মনে রেখো যদি দূরে যাই চলে।
যদি পুরাতন প্রেম ঢাকা পড়ে যায় নবপ্রেমজালে।
যদি থাকি কাছাকাছি,
দেখিতে না পাও ছায়ার মতন আছি না আছি–
তবু মনে রেখো।
যদি জল আসে আঁখিপাতে,
এক দিন যদি খেলা থেমে যায় মধুরাতে,
তবু মনে রেখো।
এক দিন যদি বাধা পড়ে কাজে শারদ প্রাতে– মনে রেখো।
যদি পড়িয়া মনে
ছলোছলো জল নাই দেখা দেয় নয়নকোণে–
তবু মনে রেখো। (The lyrics in original Bengali, courtesy: Geetabitan.com)

There have been several translations of this song that speaks of physical separation, the pain and the inevitability of death, and the spiritual proximity of love, the gift of memory and reminiscence that transcends the physical spheres. I have been inspired by all these translations, but was tempted to write down my own version, which goes like this:

And, still remember me, if I go far, far away, remember me.
Even if the trappings of a new love shroud old ties of love and attachment, remember me.
If I remain close, yet distant from you, lonely and unrecognizable,
Like a shadow, remember me; still, remember me.
If tears drench your eyelashes, remember me.
One day, if the journey of this life ends at the stroke of night, still remember me.
One day, if my absence interrupts your chores on an autumn morning, remember me.
If, recalling my memory, tears do not moist the corner of your eyes,
Still remember me.

‘Sneher folgudhara’ (coining your own expressions in Bengali), the never-ending cascade of love that will bind us, forever, even after the body turns to ashes, and returns to the earth after death. Love–Your daughter, Papai, who will always remain a daughter, carry your bloodline forward and pass on your legacy of words, thoughts and unconditional love to my daughters, irrespective of your physical absence.

My favorite rendition of the song by Kanika Bandyopadhyay:

The bard singing the song himself (a rare treasure):

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Rest in peace forever, my beloved Ma. Only know that the candle of your love will forever be lit in my heart, Amen!

Lullabies and Birth Pangs: Journey of the Womb

 

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This piece happens to be the first full-length personal essay/narrative that I had written, in the form of a diary or journal entry during my first pregnancy. Today, five years after my elder daughter Srobona (Mithi) is there in our lives, I continue to revel in the countless joys, glories, the small milestones of victory and failure of our lives together, holding on to this precious bond called ‘Motherhood’.

This piece marks the beginning of my journey as a mother, and is also the stepping stone to other longer/shorter personal narratives in which I have celebrated this journey marked with awe, admiration and self-exploration. This piece is my humble tribute to God’s amazing gift—motherhood. 

It is my pleasure to include this personal essay in my recently completed memoir, where it resides along with other long-form, mid-range and short narrative nonfiction pieces in the section/volume ‘On Being A Mother’. 

It is also a pleasure to share this personal journey of mine recently published at B’Khush.com. To read the full essay, please go to:

http://www.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-journey-womb

Life Ahead: an Ode to Mothers, Babies and Mother Earth

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Notes for the readers: An experimental poem in four distinct segments, this poem has won the title of the ‘most creative’ piece in a writing contest hosted by Writerscafe.org. I started writing this piece in November 2009 as a sweet, feel-good gift for my daughter’s first birthday. But as the poem started unfolding in my mind, it didn’t remain a piece exclusively for me and my baby. Now, I dedicate this piece to all mothers and babies of the world, to unwanted motherhood, to starved orphans and to the throbbing life that resurrects in our Mother Earth amidst the suffocating agony of hunger, decay and the debilitating pain of humanity.

(1)

Child of delight, offspring of love

In this coarse life amidst stone, sand and soil,

I behold the softness of your misty sleep.

You float on the dreams of a silvery stream in Wonderland,

I kiss the beauty of your liquid sounds, your lifting smiles.

In whispers and living lullabies, I drink your life,

Carry your warm breath, fragrance and melodies

Show your tranquil light.

(2)

Mother of darkness, mother in gorging flames

Within you, I seek no flame of rebellion, no reformation;

I’ve walked my life on tattered soil and blackened streets,

Crumbling, decaying and scattered in dust.

Grinding and groaning in the curling smoke of memory,

I’ve sensed the skeleton of your growth,

Floating around quivering shadows of dirt and lies.

A petal bloom in glory, lust and greed of shivering nights

My heart pumps blood for you to wrap you around me,

To grow inside me, cold, parched, starving orphan.

I’ve held you in the wintry chill of thousand midnights

Endlessly waiting for a thousand splendid sunshines.

In whispered worlds of crimson blood, gore, sobs and sighs,

I seek the scarlet bliss of your blood,

A flickering flame of your shrieks awakens me.

(3)

Innocence screams, pain dances in a hungry earth

A wispy wind uttering secrets at night,

Soft murmurs hovering over a silent earth,

Howling voices of haunted longings and despair,

Scars deep in the soul, muttering and whispering

Rumors and pain.

The red rose wounds of battered infants dying

And living, breathing pain on streets of cold….

I stand alone among heaps of discarded dirt,

In a wasteland of screaming silence and barren shadows

And listen to the lullabies of a soft baby skin,

Straining through the solemn frost of a stony earth,

I follow the voice of an angel carrying divine autumn whispers;

Crossing lonely, dark streets, a sob breaks from my chest

To see a fallen tear, the want of an embrace,

The warmth of tiny fingers in soft caresses

Crushed in brittle dust.

(4)

Life ahead: calling the golden girl, calling the hapless kid.

Blessed be the breast that cuddles, milks and aches,

Blessed be the darkness of empty chests and frozen pain.

Blessed be the crimson blood of the cherubic babe

Seizing its way through dark corners of the heaving womb.

Blessed be the smile of the little boy that dances in the rain

In rasping joys, in the city streets of scarlet pain.

Blessed be the flickering flames of innocent lives

Crushed and battered by bullets under azure skies.

Mothers giving nectar and tender beds of care

Mothers giving the softest music and rhythm of life

To sleepy eyes, fragile bodies and rosy red cheeks

Dissolve in shadowed rooms in a stormy deluge.

In a different deluge, endless mothers breathe and live

In streets of cold, with cracked lips and despaired tears.

Blessed be their feet that walk through sand and freezing ice.

The life that lies ahead in a soiree of blossoms for the golden girl,

Calls out the hapless kids hidden in dust and tears.

Calls out in hunger, eagerness and pain.

The Other Self of Chaos is Love

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Note for readers: A prose-poem on love, my delightful daughters and cooked food.

If you want to know more about our home, pierce your feet in the stained carpets sticky with remnants of hot chocolate, chewed edges of ‘mickey mouse’ stickers and the foam of carpet shampoo. You can observe, over the next few hours, the unruly symphony of baby voices, the happy kitchen spatula cooking fried fish, the robotic stillness of the laptop, the prosaic murmuring of adult voices. You can see tears, bickering and grief, returning through the back door, like a hungry, homeless dog.

Let your feet soak the dust and dirt of the unkempt rooms. Let your fingers touch the walls smeared with crayons and pencils. Let your hands touch the unwashed linens, feel their crinkled corners. Do not still lose your mind. You are the uninvited visitor. You will know our little moments of disruption and calm. Wait until you listen to the rocking and weeping of tiny bodies melting into sweet dreams while you know, they will breathe safely inside the womb of an earth plagued with danger and pain. They will breathe, until the world outside will suck them, into ruthlessness and sin.

Welcome to the den of midnight movies and spicy fish curries. Wait until you feel the rhymes of our speech and the melody of lullabies. Amid the chaos and running around and the sputtering of hot oil and cooked food, you will see lovers. They will be there in the room, kissing beside the windowsill, looking at the pale moonlight in the frozen winter sky. They will find you, threaten to cover you like the dark fog rolling in. They will see your prying eyes, staring at their stained walls and carpets, unwashed bedroom linens, unclean kitchen, overloaded dishwashers and the stack of unfinished laundry. They will sense your cautious queries, your voyeuristic pleasures and curiosity.
Let them revel in their own, imperfect world of chaos and love. While you step out of this world, bid adieu to the noisy footsteps, to the rhythms and sounds, to the stains and dust that adorn the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Sweet Dreams and Fairy Tales

Author’s Note: For my daughters, the apples of my eyes, Srobona (Mithi) and Sharanya (Rimli), a small gift from Mamma on their birthday.

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty waltz with their prince charmings

In the painted carnival of cherry blossoms and butterflies,

In the wonderland of your dreams, sweet dreams,

Every night, starry starry night, where I behold you in your silky slumber–

With tender kisses and cuddles,

I seal my enduring trust in your tiny bodies–

My mind, a wanderer in the dark, lustful world,

Yet craving to embrace your sweet nothings….

Soon the wonderland of your dreams will fade away,

The mud and soil of this giant world will surround you,

Howl in your ears to grow up, let go.

Let there still be room for the serenity and magic of your dreamland,

Let the fragrance of human love and life be yours’ still,

In the vain world where you may open your eyes tomorrow.