Sunday, 31 August 2014

Book Review : Where Even The Present Is Ancient : Benaras by Maitreyee B. Chowdhary

The Blurb
Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras is a book that seeks to tell the little stories that make us who we are. The author believes that Benaras resides in all of us Indians, in some beautiful often-unknown way. The author is the Sutradhar, in that she attempts to connect an India that many do not realize exists, in that it is everybody’s story. Radha, Krishna, Ganga, Benaras and Me are all characters in this deluge of poems.

This attempt at telling the story of the ancient, of love and of faith is to instil the confidence that poetry exists in all of us, everywhere, all that is needed is to smell its fragrance.

To those outside India, the book does not seek to be a representation of what India is or was, but a whiff of what it also can be. It is an attempt to ask people to see the little stories that govern all of our lives, stories that we often don’t see, but those that are important.

The audience for this book might be strewn across the globe, for faith is not religion-centric, it is people- centric and often without dimensions.

In poetry there is no beginning, no middle, nor no end. Like faith it is everywhere, it is omnipresent. The book affords no answers, nor no questions, but if you listen and read carefully you will see new things, a new beauty perhaps, one that has been silent so long.


Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras, much like the city has many layers. It is almost like the poet is the city, exuberating different shades of it through her words. Each poem is complete in its story and still leaves a lingering feeling, of wanting to see more, experience more and you hurriedly would move on to the next.

This is the first time I read Maitreyee and generally I like poets who paint through words. Maitreyee paints magnificently through her words; as colourful as the city and as grey as its shades.

There were many pieces that literally left me breathless (I always have a physical reaction to good poetry), there were many that made me skip a heartbeat, there were some that made me sit up, and there were some I went back to again and again. It felt like I lived a life through this book. I made a mistake of trying to read it in a hurry and immediately realised I won’t be able to stop once I start. I read it through two nights and still feel didn’t do justice to the soul of it.

Some of my favorite poems/ lines are:

A Fisherman’s Ganga
A fisherman sat nearby
Perched on the helm of his boat
Looked at the skies,
And spat some Benaras
Into his Ganga.

The parallel between the spat and Benaras is absolutely brilliant. Who can carry more Benaras in themselves than a fisherman and his inner core?

The Cry of Death
While the son bargains on Chandanwood price,
the Purohit chews on the fragrance of Benaras.
The smell of flesh,
in everyday gutters,

The poet has so casually spoken about the cycle of life and death, that it hits you deep. What would be the charm of the place where life and death are so normal? How would you so casually live where smell of death is as normal as smell of food, rather more normal than smell of food?

The Ancient
In Benaras,
Even the present is ancient
In the long nights of sleeplessness,
sleep sits across like cows…
In random splendour
like pale ghosts
from yesterday's history.

Nothing describes the city better than the first two lines of this poem; Banaras is indeed ancient in present. It is glowing in the lights of yesterday’s history.

An Invasion so Complete
This poem left me wanting to know more. What was the story? And what was the end?

The Benaras Market
Divinity is cheap, I think
And so is living-
It is only the dying and the dead,
That becomes priceless

The stanza hits hard. Infact the whole poem does. Another one of my favorite;

You touch a wall,
Shiva grows in your hand,
Somewhere along the road,
Krishna sleeps,
lazy and ignorant
of worldly woes,
Chunnu the dog
Lifts his leg on both,
delicately and methodically.
A territory marked for each

The deity and the dog, the worshipper and the worshiped are lost and found in the line that is blurred.

And I would like to sum up with my favorite work from the book;

A God Every Minute
A man emerges naked from the waters,
leaving his entirety,
as if to Ganga.

There is no loincloth to cover his shame,
Or the lack of it
He sits then on the ghats
And minute by minute,
Becomes God and his incarnate

It is absolutely brilliant. So many things are conveyed in so less words. It speaks about the charm of Ganga and Benaras; a place where a Sadhu emerges every minute; a river that absorbs all the sin, minute by minute, and covers the distance between God and the human. It dies little by little and unites the soul with her deity.

About the Author


Maitreyee B Chowdhury is a web columnist and creative writer. She is author of Reflections on My India, a book of Indian traditions and spirituality in parts. Maitreyee is also author of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen- Bengali Cinema’s First Couple and Ichhe Holo Tai, a bilingual muti media presentation of poetry. Maitreyee is featured amongst other Indian writers such as Gulzar, Shashi Tharoor and Deepti Naval in an anthology of Indian writers Celebrating India.

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Maitreyee's Blog Tour

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pieces Of Me

Lost in the neverland,
beaten and broken
If you look around me
you will see,
just pieces
scattered here and there

Look at that,
a piece of my heart
red and bleeding,but 
not dead,
still beating
I let it go,but 
it didn’t let me
It still has blood,
It still has love

Look at that,
a piece of my eyes,
glassy and tearful
I wanted it to shut down
I wanted to suck out all the dreams, but
it didn’t let me
It wanted to see,
the mystery of tomorrow,
the after of sorrow

Look at that,
a piece of my leg,
all slaughtered and chewed
I wanted it to stop walking, but
it refused to do so,
it wants to travel,
so many places to unravel

Look at that,
a piece of my hand,
shaking and trembling, but
refusing to let go
of the pen
of the verse, still
floating in the air
I wanted to give up, but
 it didn’t let me
So many more
chapters to live
So many more
chapters to write

Look at that,
a piece of my soul,
lying robbed and slain
I wanted it to leave me, but
it is still holding on
Holding on to me,
the little child of it,
waiting for it to grow

Look at that,
a piece of my body,
lying naked and wanting
I wanted to leave it alone,
to let the thirst die,
to douse the fire
It is burning on,
eating through the darkness,
beaming through the pyre
of a dead yesterday
and looking forward
to the better tomorrow

Dedicated to E.E.Cummings and inspired from one of my favorite poems “I Will Wade Out” by him.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


The urge to reunite with her core was stronger today. Siya knew she didn’t belong here; her true self was inside. With a swift motion she dug the knife inside her and touched her bones. She reached the skeleton of what she was. She will never be incomplete again. 

Image Credit here

Friday, 8 August 2014

I Was Alive Once

I was alive once
Breathing in the scent of earth
Kissing the pearls of rain
Extending my hands
And enveloping the warmth of sun

I was alive once
I danced in the moon light
I ran to the ocean
I made sand castles
And I went with the motions

I was alive once
I questioned, I reasoned
I got angry, and I threatened
I cried in pain
And I cried silly in joy

I was alive once
Once for a very long time
Once a very long time ago
Before I met you
And then I died

Death Spawn by D3vilusion

I am dead now and forever
I have no voice
I have no fervour
I don’t talk
I just listen
I don’t walk
I just follow
I don’t question
I only answer
In yes and no

I am the skeleton
Of what I was
I represent
What could have been
A great life
But is now a carcass

I was alive once
But I am not anymore

(C) Juztamom

Image Credit here

Dear Old Man

Dear Old Man,

Torn faded clothes, full of mud and dust
If I saw you elsewhere, I may have looked away in disgust
But that day I needed you
You were my last hope

For a second I resisted
I didn’t even look at you directly
You did all the talking, and
Didn’t even try to bargain
I was ready with my speech
But I suddenly realised
There is no need
You agreed for the bare minimum

Just then I noticed the smile
Red, white and yellow
But still so honest and warm
Not for a second,
I could look away
Where did the ugliness go?
I didn’t know

Just then I noticed your voice
Oh so mellow and full of wise
The warmth filled my core
And made me glow
I forgot the suffering
And went with the flow

You did your job
Job that needed no talking
Work that needed no personal touch
I extended the money, but
You folded your hands and refused to take it
That second you were richer, than
the richest person on earth

You came forward
Extending your hand towards my head
A gesture to pass on blessings
I nodded with tears in my eyes
I didn’t know why I cried
Only thing I knew was
Just then I was the richest person on earth
Just then I had met my angel

I was 9 months pregnant and was supposed to travel to my parents’ place. I was heavy and due to various reasons I could barely walk. We reached the station late and at the last moment our train had changed tracks. We were to cross over to the other side of the station, through a foot over bridge but it was impossible for me to do so. The only other way was to cross over through the tracks at the back but the distance was too long for me to walk. We needed a wheel chair. It was late in the night and there was no one around to help us find a wheel chair. Suddenly an old man appeared with a wheel chair who agreed to help us. We discussed the money and he readily agreed to what we offered. I agreed to go with him alone through the other side, since my husband had to carry the entire luggage; we decided he would cross over through the bridge.  It has been almost 6 years but I still remember his face. I was scared of him initially. But within a few seconds he started talking and I was at ease completely. We crossed the track and I didn’t even realise. I said thank you to him and took out the money to give him. Not only did he refuse to take the money but he also extended his hands and with a very gentle voice blessed me. Even before I could say anything, he left. After a few months, my husband went back to the station to look for him. He wanted to pay him his dues. But no one had heard of him or seen him there ever. It was like he never existed. Many may not believe me (like my husband) but I know he was my angel. He was my Govind.

I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 6th in the list is a letter to "A Stranger"

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Dear Dreams

Dear Dreams

You have a life of your own
There are multiple me living somewhere
With lovers and alone

Remember the time,
You let me fall, in the deep dark ditch
Naked and broken
My pieces falling and
Talking to each other
Each is a me
Crying and weeping
For everything lost
Everything died

Remember the time
You let me fly
High up over the mountains
Sitting on a feather
Through the most gentle breeze
Singing lullaby
To every passerby
Who were they?
Why were they flying with me?
All pink and blue
All nice and new
Full of life

Remember the time
When you went from flying,to
dying in a split second
Then getting up
And talking to me
Asking me to get up
Telling me it is just a dream

I got up talking to you
Who is one more me
Leaving a dying me behind
Holding your hand
When you pushed me again
In the deep ditch
And I started breaking in pieces
Even before I could reach the dark
Each me trying to get up from the dream
And each me failing
Each me falling

Remember the time
One of us survived
And got up from the dream?
Yes that’s me
I always survive you
Come back, live, and
Test you again

(C) Juztamom

I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 5th in the list is a letter to ‘Your dreams’

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

War On Children

painted deep red
eyes locked in the future
I barely lived

Image credit here

Dear Sis

Dear Sis,

I picked a pen to write something to you
I opened my notebook to say something to you
But I failed miserably
How do I talk sense?
How do I be sensible?
When it comes to you

I am the silly,
You are the grounded
I am the hyper
You are the ground
You are my child,
You are my mom
I am the tide
You are my calm
I have wings
And you taught me how to fly

wouldn't have lived
As much as I do
If it was not for you
wouldn't have loved
As much as I do
If it was not for you

wouldn't have survived
wouldn't have thrived
If it was not for you

I am what I am
Because you are what you are

I don’t know how to write a letter to you
I don’t know how to tell anything to you
Because you always know
I don’t have to write
I don’t have to say


I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 4th in the list is a letter to ‘Your siblings’