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’ is a collection of fifty vivid poems portraying the city called Benaras; wading through the fragrance of Benarasi Kaththaa to the fisherman’s Ganga eventually describing Ganga to the Dashwamedha ghat, Assi ghat, Panchganga ghat and Manikarnika ghat to the various hymns chanted on the banks of the river Ganga to the foreigners and the Benaras market.
The poems are simple yet striking taking you to a journey of a land forgotten and seen mostly through the cinematic lens. Each and every word, the sentences, did strike a chord with me making it a transparent experience of sorts. Also, the little notes at the bottom of the poems makes it easier to understand and interpret the poem thus feeling a sense of belongingness to the city called Benaras.
The author has brilliantly painted a string of emotions attached in her poems through a thorough description of the revered city of Benaras that lingers in your mind for days.
Few Striking Verses:-
Pg. 45. While the Ganga swelled,
tousled hair, met wrinkled face.
They had crossed their own distances,
To mate philosophy with poetry,
in a melting pot called Ganga.
Pg. 48. Divinity is cheap, I think
And so is living-
It is only the dying and the dead,
That become priceless.
Pg. 60. Her waters drown me somehow,
deep within her.
She is the beginning and the end,
She shall wait and stand by me
And in her I shall be free. Overall: A rare collection of poems that takes us through the mystic city of Benaras. A must read !!! Ratings:- 4/5*
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 suchas Gulzar, Shashi Tharoor and Deepti Naval in an anthology of Indian writers Celebrating India.
Rrohan Kachalia is an avid reader and writer who has a keen interest in reading fiction and writing stories which revolve around love. His short stories and poetries are published in various anthologies, Taking his writing to a next level, his first co-authored project and a novel 'The 23rd Girl' is out. Also, he had penned two poetry e-books 'Amorous Love At Racy Nights' and 'Annoyed Thieves Amid Darkling Armies'. You can reach him on Twitter - @rohank01 & on Instagram- kacrohan