WHERE I BELONG – MOMENTS, MIST AND SONG (Poetry)
By Smeetha Bhoumik
Xpress Publishing (An imprint of Notion Press) India, Nov 2019. (First published by Mwanaka Publishing, June 2019). Pages 163. ISBN : 978-1-64733-805-3
Bulbous, beetle shaped drops of rain crouch on my window sill. I look out at the skyscraper-laden Mumbai sky, punctuated with cloudy, blue stretches. It’s late-October and the ferocious Mumbai rains are tapering off. I stretch my hand out of the window, and open my expectant palm out. Rotund, well-fed beetles of rain, probably the last of the season, land gently on my palm. A few random, whimsical thoughts walk through the rusty corridors of my mind today. “Where do we truly belong?” “Where does our sense of belonging take root?” “When and how exactly does that sense of belonging sprout?” I walk to my bookshelf distracted, absent-minded, thinking about what I should read next. And my eyes almost serendipitously seek out Smeetha Bhoumik’s ‘Where I Belong – Moments, Mist and Song’. Sitting calmly atop a pile of other books. I have often wondered about this sense of belonging. Is it a solid, static, unmoving, unshakable substance inside of us? Or does it transmute and alter, ripen and mature, blossom and burst forth, like a Gulmohar tree, on a summer afternoon? Or perhaps flow the way rivers flow, in the peak of monsoons. Does our belonging, our identity buzz with an electric charge? Sometimes, a quiet, unresolved smouldering beneath our fragile skin that marks out the tall fences beyond which we cannot go. Telling us in an authoritative baritone, what we are and what we are not, or cannot ever be. Or is it a joyous, thunderous rolling that tells us we are fire and water, emeralds and lapis lazuli - untameable, unapologetic, unstoppable dragons - each one of us. The delicate fuchsia cover of ‘Where I Belong’ features an artwork by Smeetha that is just as delicate, surreal, evocative. And this illustrated cover girl with her tender lotus eyes, held my senses captive, even before I turned the cover to start reading the book. Smeetha Bhoumik is an artist, a poet and the Founder of Women Empowered-India (WE) Literary Community. She is also the Chief Editor of the first WE anthology: ‘Equiverse Space – A Sound Home in Words’. WE holds poetry in its heart, and has instituted five literary awards - the Kamala Das Poetry Award (2018), Eunice de Souza Poetry Award, Trailblazer Poet Teacher Award, Gifted Poet Award (’20). Smeetha’s poetry has featured in national and international anthologies and publications, and her art, has been exhibited in many prestigious exhibitions in India and abroad. In the elegantly written introduction, Smeetha writes, “The poems in this collection symbolise my talismans, way finders, weather-vanes, illuminators, pathways, dusty routes or shining gems culled from the deep reserves of the mind.” And Smeetha’s words turn out to be rather prophetic for me too as I continue to read, but I’ll come to that later. ‘Where I Belong – Moments, Mist and Song’ is a rainbow-hued collection, comprising seven beautifully distinct sections : ‘Identity’, ‘Belonging’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Perception’, ‘Treasure’, ‘Reality’ and ‘Of Dust’. Smeetha’s voice is haunting, enigmatic, pulsating and dreamlike.The simplicity of her writing, mind you, is merely deceptive. For her poems are filled with rich symbolism and vivid imagery that say a lot more, if you are willing to hear, listen, inhale, absorb. She paints many worlds – of frozen melodies and nimble footed hope, of nostalgia and neon signs - and then gently asks the reader to step into them with her. Her poetry dances in the gaps and the spaces, the voids and the cavities between where we belong, and where we don’t. What defines our identity, our gaze, our internal mapping, our holy grail and what doesn’t. Smeetha’s poetry navigates the rawness of doubts and feelings, hunches and rustling sojourns, filigreed with fragrant wisdom. Yet never preachy, never posturing, never holier-than-thou. Smeetha probes into far more than herself, and mere self-discovery. She dips her ink into a refreshing kind of universality. And her work is receptive to the beauty, intensity and sublimity of the world - nestling in every leaf, every droplet of blood throbbing in our translucent veins. ‘Mother-tongue: Earth’ from the section ‘Identity’, I read again and again. Its cadence, syllables and music are all a tribute to our greatest reality. Where we come from, and where we return, becoming nothing but a handful of dust "Maybe since birth I’ve spoken earth, its raw cadences in soft tones flowing on in the river Rispana beside my grandmother’s picturesque home in the Doon valley, Ive always spoken earth : ...." ‘Origins – Gold in Sepia, Baba’ from the same section ‘Identity’, is another personal favourite dedicated to her professor father, his thermodynamics, entropy and blackboard scribbles. “The chaos that entropy predicts for all natural systems, the astonishing equilibrium attained by water at its Triple Point, where all three phases – ice, water, vapour, coexist! What if such precise fact and notions could translate in a search for peace?” ‘Forgive and Treasure’, from the section aptly titled ‘Treasure’ is an ode to forgiveness, and made me introspect and take a fresh look at the treasures of the natural world. This poem almost held my hand gently, and led me through the caves and the creeks of my own meandering life, back to where my sense of belonging lies. “Deep graves dug into an aching bosom, no room for craving nor trepidation, just fissures where everything meshed and erupted into myriad kaleidoscopic treasures!” ‘Go I Know Not Where’ also from the section ‘Treasure’, is a poem that explores the concept of time and what time means to us. “Have you ever tried it – walking into a moment and staying there, gripping hard, not letting go as a mountaineer would cling on to an icy surface?” Smeetha Bhoumik’s ‘Where I Belong’ is an aching beautiful read. Making me realise that our search for our identities and the need to understand where we belong too is an achingly beautiful journey, with hardened boulders and sharp, sinewy rocks strewn here and there. Part shimmery, part untameable, part indefinable. Yet burrowed deeply under all the moss, the debris and the pile of yellow-chrome leaves is that path that will take us back to who we truly are. A place where the past collides into the present, and the present blurs and fuses into the future. Somewhat like the astonishing Triple Point of water, where all three phases – ice, water, vapour co-exist. Part aching, part beautiful.
Urna Bose is an advertising professional, writer, poet, and editor. Her poetry has gone viral, globally. She won ‘The Enchanting Editor Award 2019’, from the Telangana Poetry Forum, and the ‘Women Empowered - Scintillating Creative Impactful – Feminine Power Inspiration Award 2020’. And recently, the prestigious Nissim International Prize for Poetry, 2021. As the Deputy Editor for Different Truths, she also devotes her time to the ‘Poet 2 Poet’ column. Urna started her career in advertising as a copywriter and worked her way up, right through the ranks. Having worked with well-known advertising giants in India like R K Swamy/BBDO, McCann Erickson, Mudra, Lowe Lintas and others, Urna went on to become a Creative Director and an Executive Creative Director, thereafter. Urna’s iconic advertising campaigns have won both Indian and global creativity awards, and some are even industry case-studies. Urna believes that soulful poetry and gooey chocolate cake can fix everything.