The Empress

‘The Empress’ by Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla Reviewed by Antara Banerjee

The Empress‘ by poet Gayatri Lakhiani Chawla, truly seems to be a gypsy empress with an insatiable nomadic spirit. She traverses different spaces at different times with unabated ease and familiarity. She arrives at Istanbul in one verse and then flies back home, a home that has been long lost and yet so dearly missed… Jamshed Quarters…. ‘Hiraeth’

leaving our chappals in the yard,

the porch lights switched on

awaiting our quiet return

we walked away,

before we knew it.

 At one point she belongs to herself and at the other in ‘Bondage’ she is pawned in the dowry market ‘How much?’ There is an inherent sensuousness in her pen and then also a deep melancholy… a quest to find her true self

They gauge your height, your weight, the size of your vagina

                            Holding the mango erect and examining it visually

and then

                    How much?

Her Devi is powerful and yet vulnerable. In the poem, ‘Gayatri’, she acknowledges her dear one’s vis-a-vis herself, with an aloofness that is at once relatable and yet faraway and mysterious.

I am a mystic river that flows

through the Himalayan mountain ranges.

I am daughter of the Sun God

Her love poems are vivacious and fearless. They do not shy away from lust and longing and yes, they do not toe the social boundaries too. They are liberated, like the free spirit that nature has bestowed on the powerful feminine. She takes falling out of love also in her poetic stride as a fact of life and is not afraid to handle rejection.

Gayatri’s poems have a very earthy and gritty texture that takes you where she wants you to be. She draws on the heart-breaking pathos of the Partition and also to folk tales of tragic love like that of Sasui and Punhoon. She delves into magic, after life and curses, owning up to be the devil herself. Gayatri’s subjects always tend to go back to the lores of the yore. There is a secret presence, a god, in all her pennings. A certain poignance and nostalgia touches her reader in each of her musings. She uses a lot of vernacular words, that conjure a very earthy fragrance. One wonders, if she is gazing into a crystal ball when she writes, like an all-seeing sorceress… past, present and future. Sensual femininity, is the most striking feature that oozes from all her creations. Gayatri has a strong and yet subtle voice that doesn’t hammer revolution but definitely demands change and portrays reality with a masterful pen.

Antara Banerjee is a poet and novelist. She writes in English, Bangla and Hindi. She is recipient of the Sanmarg Aparajita Award 2019 as a Young Achiever.