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Learning from Travels

Ketaki Kushari Dyson

By Shanta Acharya
Arc Publications, Todmorden, UK, 2010, pp. 67, 0.00


Reviewing Shanta Acharyas previous collection of poetry, Shringara (2006), I had called it a sheaf of grief, an elegiac volume about the loss of loved ones, through which a rawness of the pain still throbbed. In the present volume, her fifth collection, we see her emerging out of that phase with the help of those precious resources which she has always commanded and which continue to sustain her in her diasporic life. These include a deep vein of philosophy which runs through all her poetry, a capacity for meditation that can draw peace, comfort, and hope from immersion in the simple phenomena of nature, remembered travels, vicarious journeys through the perusal of books and other documentary material, a wry sense of humour that does not abandon her even when she is clearly making a passage through tough times, and, of course, family loyalties and childhood memories. Two quotations at the head of the book, acting as epigraphs, reinforce the theme of learning from travels. The first is from T.S. Eliot: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. This sounds wise indeed, but I confess that I cannot let go of a nagging feeling that there is some poetizing verbal trickery in this statement, for when we return to the place from where we had originally started, it will not be the same, it will have changed, so there is no way, really, of arriving where we started. Besides, in so far as the scenes evoked in this book are concerned, we as readers are always seeing them with Shantas eyes, as she is showing them; there is no way that we ourselves can see these places for the first time through her narrations. The second quotation is from Marcel Proust: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Again, this has the ring of a sages paradox, but a little voice within me says that while sometimes we are able to look at familiar landscapes (both natural and human) with new eyes, at other times we stumble upon scenes which are genuinely, stunningly, even brutally new to us, which we could not have imagined before, and which overwhelm us. I would say that as readers we really learn more from the ...

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