gayatri-chawalBeyond Sight: In The Realm Of Awakening

Every form of art reflects the perspectives and understandings of its creator. The same is true of poetry, often referred to as the highest form of literature. A body of work like Invisible Eye a collection of forty-five poems by Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla too reflects the real-time experiences and sentiments of a graceful poet who lives her life with dignity and courage. Her poems stem from a deep-rooted desire to be become one with her existence – an existence that is laced by the emigration of her forefathers from Sind, an existence where love holds the key to happiness, an existence where the plight of women in general mars the world and where little things matter much more than ostensible, celebrated joys.

Gayatri’s poems unroll like rich, velvety carpets embroidered with deeply woven meanings fascinating readers with the threads of her thought and sensitivity. In Anagram, she writes

He’s cheerful, he imagines he’s a famous poet
who doesn’t love to be loved,
loved some more.

**

A rich imagery assails the audience of her poetry. Her verses are scattered with words of local dialects, giving her work an endearing Indian flavor. Her mental perch invites all that she sees around her in everyday life, making her poetry earthy, relatable and delightful.

Yesterday he dreamt he was a child,
playing cricket with the boys of the mohalla
“Don’t go too far my son,
The valley of moonflowers will entice you across the barbed wire.”
The words resonate again and again.
How does one switch off the little voice?

**

Indeed how does one switch off the little voice? The little tenor that needles long forgotten memories to dear, painful life. How does one forget the long mornings that one’s long lost relatives spent, kneading ten kilos of papad dough with a handful of spices?  Thoughts of a long lost homeland are poignant. They blaze into the mind like flames and settle into it like silver frost. Leaving Sind, my personal favorite in Gayatri’s collection, stands out as deeply touching and sentimental.

Occasionally I feel the loss
of place
of inheritance
of a homeland,
not because my grandfather said it
or my father felt it
just a needling sensation
a homeland
of my own.

**

Indeed that is how roots beckon…and for those of us who have been uprooted or whose grandparents have been uprooted, a sense of being adrift afflicts the family. Almost a sense of half life – like a tree that was given a soil in which to grow but denied the opportunity to network and entwine with other trees of the area…the intimate clasping and supporting that goes on between roots beneath the soil for overall flourishing.

” I wonder how it would feel
to leave behind Jamshedpur Quarters
the window overlooking the Sindhu
the white sheets left unfolded on a bed undone,
wardrobe stripped of its identities
suitcases filled with pangs of insecurity
pretending it would get better
I wonder how it would feel
to be homeless.”

**

Her poems on partition and the devastation it provoked are a gut-wrenching read. They stem from a very real pain, throbbing in the blood that recognizes no boundaries, no geography and no maps.

“How can I forget
the machinery of that night
it’s veneer ambushment
tied in gunny bags
blood-stained hands rooting themselves
hunting for birthmarks in vain.”

Gayatri also has a background in French, and some of her poems are liberally interspersed with French words. They throw more light on who she is as a person and give the reader an eclectic reading experience.

She has the ability to get microscopically intimate with her poems. She is by no means detached from them like some of our poets today who have nurtured a cult of armchair poetry – by deliberately distancing themselves from that which they write. Gayatri’s work is disarmingly involved and evocative. Her imagery is real and one often feels as though one has seen a photograph of what she meant to convey through her words. Invisible eye, in that sense is the perfect description for her ability to scan below the surface of things and present it before the reader with stunning accuracy. Her book also contains  prose poems that are confessional in nature, expressing her love for Bengali sweets and gourmet and another about a deeply scarring spell of loneliness.

Midway in her book the mist of nostalgia disperses and urbanity creeps in. Women-centric issues dominate the themes of her work. Words about escaping an artificial life, a superfluous existence and finding the real inner self, build up and settle before our eyes. In a poem titled Concealer, she writes,

“Buy now and say goodbye to marks and dark circles
She thinks from behind the hijab
Will it hide the bloody scars of last night?”

displaying an empathy for abused women. Also in another poem called Classifieds on the subject of random arranged marriages through newspaper advertisements, she pens,

“I anticipate
knotting my neck into a bow
stuck on a gift for the wedding.”
Clearly, our social conundrums make Gayatri think and protest effectively in the manner she knows best, through poetry.

In a poem titled Brewing, Gayatri displays a lissome, womanly charm and seductiveness. It evokes a very special mood, a place – Cairo, an adventure of the heart and also a pragmatic  surrender to reality.

“…but sooner or later it happens to all of us,
farewell is inevitable
like the orange ball of fire
setting in our lives.”

**

Gayatri’s book is for that one quiet afternoon when you want to be transported into multiple layers of time – of leaving and new beginnings, of realities and dreams of daring recklessness and trysts with practicalities. It is a book about life in all its myriad colors. Her words aim for your soul and reach there. Her thoughts swirl around you long after you’ve closed the pages. A delicate perfume of words, that defies time and space, lingers. It draws you in again and again, back into the fine, delicately woven world of the invisible eye, like the pure, timeless incense that surrounds these unforgettable words:

Occasionally I feel like an island
an unnoticed speck
a lost postcard
with no address,
sitting in the Post Office
with a stamp reading ‘Undivided India’.

*

Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla is a poet , freelancer and French teacher from Mumbai. She holds a Masters in Commerce (Mumbai University), International  Diploma in Teaching (University of Cambridge)  and  Degree from Alliance Française de Bombay.  Some of her poems have been published in The American Poetry Anthology, The Indian P.E.N., The Brown Critique, The Journal of the Poetry Society (India) , The Brown Boat, Taj Mahal Review and Pea River Journal. Her poem ‘Anagram’ won the 2013 Commendation Prize at The All India Poetry Competition.

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Vinita Agrawal
Author of three books of poetry, Vinita is a Mumbai based, award winning poet and writer. Recipient of the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award for Literary Excellence her poems have appeared in Asiancha, Constellations, The Fox Chase Review, Pea River Journal, Open Road Review, Stockholm Literary Review, Poetry Pacific, Mithila Review and over a 100 other national and international journals. She was nominated for the Best of the Net Awards in 2011. She was awarded first prize in the Wordweavers Contest 2014, commendation prize in the All India Poetry Competition 2014 and won the 2014 Hour of Writes Contest thrice. Her poems have found a place in significant national anthologies like Suvarnarekha and Dance with the Peacocks in several international anthologies compiled in Australia and Israel. She was co-judge for the Asian Cha Poetry Contest, 2015. She has read at SAARC events, at the U.S. Consulate, at Delhi Poetree and at Cappucino Readings, Mumbai.

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