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Corona Doldrums by Anuradha Bhattacharyya

 


Corona Doldrums by Anuradha Bhattacharyya

Reviewed by

Annapurna Sharma

Dy. Chief Editor

Muse India, the literary ejournal

India



Corona Doldrums | Poems | Anuradha Bhattacharyya|

Authors Press, 2021, pp. 164, INR 795

ISBN: 978-93-90891-25-2

Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood – TS Elliot.

The year 2020 will be etched in the minds of humanity like never before. It was unexpected and deadly. Mankind is acquiring skills to tackle such crises. We are slowly and steadily acclimatizing our minds and bodies to the new normal. We are learning to fight, learning to cope, learning to thrive, learning to survive. There are several others who aren’t as lucky as the rest of us. My heartfelt condolences to the bereft.

In the midst of this chaos, yet there are several others who found ways to deal with the anguish within them. Dr. Anuradha Bhattacharyya is one such sensitive poet who let the words engulf her. She found solace in poesy. Her book Corona Doldrums is a log-book of sorts – chronicling incidents, people, places and so on. As the name suggests the verses absorb the temperament during lockdown. With 108 poems the collection appears overwhelming at first sight but when one begins to read, one gets sucked into its abyss. The poet has touched almost all the nooks and corners of life.

Dr. Anuradha Bhattacharyya is the author of four poetry collections, four novels, two academic books and several short stories and poems published in anthologies and journals worldwide. She received the Best Book of the Year (2016) Award from Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi for her novel One Word, Best Book of the Year (2019) Award for Still She Cried and a grant-in-aid for her collection of poems My Dadu, dedicated to her grandfather, Asoke Kumar Bhattacharyya, Padma Shri, 2017. Currently, she is Associate Professor of English in govt. college, Chandigarh.

Truth prevails when John Eliot (in the Foreword) states, ‘corona is what we want to forget. Alas, it will never be forgotten. Anuradha’s poetry will remain. It will remain as the source material for the year 2020.’

Dr. Christopher Okemwa in his introduction to the book says ‘the poet has, in her ingenuity and inventiveness captured the dread of the present human crisis in simple, easy-to-read verses. Her poetry unfolds like a black movie-reel in the semi-lit cinema auditorium. Her work is a massive contribution to the body of Covid-19 literatures from around the world.’

The poet claims that her poems are based on observations in the year 2020, mostly in the months of March, April and May.

Are humans guilty of their uncharitable behavior? Is it an unwitting question? Perhaps no one knows but the poet has set the tone of her book through her first poem ‘The Rampage’ when she calls the Earth a colossal ogress and humans, the obstinate bacteria, that rile Mother Earth with their ever-damaging activities. They leave her no time or space to heal.

Anuradha sagaciously traces the origin of this new organism amongst us with her second poem ‘The Epicenter’. She is careful not to hurt hearts but intelligently points out that it is a foreign invasion. As I read poem after poem, I notice how introspectively the poet has noted facts and findings. She writes:

It was torture

Of rubbing and scrubbing

The unseen

The untold

And the unnerving

Fear

Of contaminating.                                                                                           (The Unknown)

 

We can only wait and watch

While all along

Like the worm wriggling out of a cocoon

With gumption and fortitude

Try to become the better of ourselves.                                                            (Struggle)

By the end of four poems, it is quite clear how closely Anuradha followed the alien in our lives. She asserts that there is no escape but to learn to live along with it, making adjustments and amendments. She has very aptly named her book of poems Corona Doldrums wherein she diligently captures the unexpected twists and turns in human life, all courtesy to the new virus.

Humans have mistakenly gauged success with their logistically acclaimed brain but have forgotten the satire behind the very word ‘success’. The poet claims that nothing can save us except our acceptance. The last para of the poem ‘Nothing’ is transparent – it will never go/ unless/ there is/ acceptance/ after which/ progress can be made.

It is often said that Gods are envious of humans for their ability and adaptability. Even in such unprecedented conditions, humans have created a new world called virtual reality. The poet in a calm and composed manner alleges that this virtual reality is a hope, which is the opposite of hate and applauds ordinary human beings who worked in tandem to save lives. She also sings an ode to the street-end vendor who like the brave Abhimanyu dashed through the Padmavyuha to attend to human needs.  

She talks about the plight of the migrant labor, the scavengers, the police, the teachers, the Maoists, the students and almost everyone. She says that a virus as big as a droplet has perfectly locked us down. It is a pity that we are all doomed – bethe religious (believing in God) or the rationale (believing in science) or the economist (believing in money) – we are all doomed.

The poet clearly states that new protocols have come into existence. Be it a pauper or a multimillionaire, do they have a choice but to follow the protocols. Isn’t it an intelligent way of questioning that the protocols (soap, towel, cleanliness etc) were present earlier and none bothered but now the very same substances have left us no choice but to use them?

Despite the pathetic surroundings the dolphins feel at home with the crystal clean waters, the Ganga flows pristinely, accepting the love and prayers of its devotees while for man work has become a metaphor for epidemic as he waits for the hideous new diseasecalled Black Fungus to go away:

There’s no Sunday

To reckon with

Mostly, 24 hours drag

Into any length of the day.                                                                             (Work)

 

Whoever thought that the lame black streak

On the lid of a water bottle

Could afflict a huge organism

Such as us?                                                                                                      (Black Fungus)           

However, Anuradha is assured that humans will learn new ways to be social again for as long as there is hope, Herd Immunity, a door will open somewhere, sometime…