A review of ‘A Maiden of 29’ by Daya Bhat

by K K Srivastava

DB BookA Maiden of 29 – A collection of poems

Author – Daya Bhat

Publisher – Writers Workshop, Kolkata

Price – Rs 100/ Pages 50

Daya Bhat is a poet and translator; she writes poetry both in English and Kannada and translates books from Kannada into English. She contributes articles to Times of India apart from being a painter. A Maiden of 29 is her first collection of poems published by Writers Workshop in 2013.

“Poetry has always fascinated me. I have grown up reciting and memorizing poems as a student and appreciated poetry in later life for the joy of it,” she writes in the preface to her book. The muse has its own joy and those who know the perils and pleasures of the muse also know the joy it imparts. Daya Bhat is one such human being who does not get mellowed at the thought that “you don’t sense my warm vibes” but still hopes that her “message in the cloudless sky” would be seen someday, for “it was never my whim to be an unsolicited intruder”. (“To the Mynah on my Backyard Tree 1”). In this poem and the next one with the same title (2), Daya captures beautiful images of “Your nest—a refreshing vista of my mornings”; “A veil of shifted loyalties” and “future perilously swings” to illustrate the relationship between struggles and sadness.

In the poem “In the Name of Modernity”, she leaves lingering impressions on readers’ mind when she makes inroads into the insight of the paradoxical persona of those “who hit upon a new low each time/ celebrate the delusion of floating in heaven”. In all its vitality, the spontaneity of time when “a few of whom shed their virtues/ by the shore, one by one” is embedded into realities floating from what she refers to as “a surreal lake”.

Like many poets, for Daya too, despair and despondence occasionally come through entities like faces and crowds. It takes courage to make a voyage into “unfulfilled dreams” as Daya has made in her poem, “Face in the Crowd”. The cry of the poet—”I grasp…I gasp….” is reminiscent of pathological, social and personal sufferings that overwhelm the sensitivities that depict a face or a few in a crowd with its penchant for gnawing alienation and neglect of sensitivity of “just another face in the crowd”. The face that Daya has in mind grapples with “the stillness of nights” when “the world sleeps”.

Silence plays a vital role in the creative impulses of any poet of distinction. So is the case with Daya who lets her silence tackle the theme in “Nowhere to Hide”. “Life stirs on my canvas/colours flow from and to me;/finding me from beneath/all colours I have donned…”— Does this poem signal hope? If it does, it is only transitory. This poem gives different dimensions to Daya’s internal deliberations; one being the discovery of questions that may come from your own creations. To a question—”Did we paint you in the right colour?” it is not Daya but her silence that answers. But to find that answer, one has to visit another of her poems—”Rescue”, where words flow—”We aren’t ready from the world to part/ to fistful of hopes we hold on at heart”. “Rescue” is a poem of wistful possibilities in the glory of which “mankind shall hail”.

DBThe themes in Daya’s poems come in different guises. “What she says to the Mountain King” has more than one theme (elation and depression) but yearning for love is the overriding one. “Don’t look for your missing bits and pieces/they fell into my palms when you brushed me aside/and I lovingly carried them within me to our little one”. Here the lover, not oblivious of the linkages between the past, failed love and futility in the end, still is hopeful of reunion—”I am still in the process of finding that one road/that could flow me back to you, upward”. Reunion is going upwards—the ultimate triumph of love over loss and loneliness. An avid reader will certainly capture the moment in Daya’s imagination with the same intensity it is penned with.

Poems like “Untamed”, “Egotism”, “Monotony”, etc. defy easy classification and carry complex tapestry but their being pure poetry is something which cannot be disputed. Like other emerging voices in Indian poetry, Daya’s voice too is a search for identity; it’s a journey which stirs the reader’s conscience as much as that of the poet.

Twenty nine poems with their dense and highly concentrated images take the readers through different shades of life—the past and the present, the near and the far, the distances and the proximities are all there to look at. She intermingles language, metaphors and realities to skilfully bring to the fore concepts each one of which represent by itself an episode of significant happenings around her. Her poems dazzle and she has very successfully tackled themes (though she says her book is not theme-based) with remarkable flair. The beauty of depth of thought accompanies her poems.

The cover of the book charms and Writers Workshop of Kolkata (of late Professor P. Lal’s fame) has done an excellent job in designing and bringing out this book. These poems stem from, as Daya says, her “navigating through life so far”. Her navigation as reflected in these exquisite poems is very graceful and lyrical and the desire to merge with the larger canvas of metaphysical meanderings is comforting. The world of poetry is enriched with this first collection of Daya’s poems and discerning readers hope to lay their hands on the next one to savour her further thoughts which might be wading through the vicissitudes of life.

KKSrivastavaK. K. Srivastava is Principal Accountant General-Kerala and an acclaimed poet and reviewer. His third poetry collection Shadows of the Real was published in 2012 by Rupa & Co, New Delhi. He reviews for The Daily Star, Kitaab Singapore, The Pioneer and Bureaucracy Today.