Sunday, January 21, 2018

New Delhi Love Songs (Book Review)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Name of the book: New Delhi Love Songs
Name of the Author: Michael Creighton
Name of the publisher: Speaking Tiger
Price: Rs. 299
Pages: 122
ISBN: 978-93-86702-78-4
e- book available

The review can also be found here:

A quaint piece of art that subtly dances in the reader’s mind and makes a place in her heart, refusing to let the charms of Delhi, the gentle scent of loss, the gust of summer wind, the sense of longing and so much more fade, for a long time.

A middle school teacher and library movement activist in New Delhi, this is Michael Creighton’s first book. As a reader, it looked to the reviewer like an evolving poet’s work. There were some poems that left the reviewer aghast. But so addictive were some others that it did not let the reviewer put the book down. Little surprise then that the book was savoured in a single day, with the aftertaste remaining for a long time.

Around 75 poems are grouped under different sections namely New Delhi Love Songs, On the Badarpur Border, Circle, Intoxicated and Garhwal. The cover page is a premonition of things to come in the pages that follow. There is a gentleness in it. A gentle breeze rustling the leaves, flowers that look like sea horses swaying along or are they ready to take flight? It displays possibilities that are beyond the imagination of the mortal beings. And yet, these possibilities are rooted – probably meaning that nothing is impossible if we give a chance to the refreshing breeze that blows even over a ground where a funeral pyre has lost the last of the amber glow and turned to grey ash.

The facile descriptions are worth experiencing. For example, in Bend, the poet not just paints a picture of Indian Railways but also makes the reader live it.

‘By the bend at Bina junction,
We are twelve in a space
Meant for eight’

The sounds, sights and smells drift in and lull the reader into a deeper sense of being. The whiff of ‘gentle scent of loss in every gust of summer wind’ might have gone unnoticed if not for the poet’s charming poem Scent. An event as gory as the Gujarat riots has been spoken of in a few words and yet they leave so much more to be thought about –

‘The squirrel my son raised
with a dropper and soft fruit
walks away in the mouth of a cat.’

The immense sense of change – of lives being shattered – have been described so gently and yet so powerful has been the impact.

Hinge gave the reviewer an entirely new perspective. It tugs at the heart strings and makes one think about moments that are fulcrums on which ‘a whole world swings.’

In Brother, there was a line that caught the reviewer’s breath,

‘You asked me: how would longing feel,
Without a word to hold it?

100 feet down and dry has a line – ‘high walls wreathed in sharp wire’. That’s what readers need to be wary about. As we turn into robots with a schedule to follow, a routine that we fall into and a head that at times tries to process more than we actually want it to, this book is a calming tonic. It soothes the marks left by sharp wires on our beings.

These and many more such gems await the reader in New Delhi Love Songs. However, some poems have left the reader baffled. It made her wonder whether those poems too were composed by the same poet who rolled out some gems in the book. Probably it is the reader’s block trying to knock on her door. She might open it but not before she re-reads the ones that baffled her. And probably then, the poems would make more sense. If not, there already is a collection to treasure for a long time.

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