Imagery in a Multitude of Voices
Semeen Ali
MRG TRISHNA AND OTHER POEMS by Indu K. Mallah Hawakal Publishers, 2019, 112 pp., 350.00
May 2020, volume 44, No 5

How long is the journey from the flash of insight
To the printed page?
Indu Mallah’s poems give the reader a glimpse of that journey which has to be made before one can pour out how one feels about the way things work. There is a beautiful poem titled ‘Jugalbandhi’ (duet in its simplest definition) and it brings up the relationship between a mother and a daughter with the help of various ragas of Hindustani classical music; the father remains in the background but it’s the play on words in this poem as well as in the book that needs to be paid attention to. There are lines in this book that create images which are profound as well as beautiful. Relationships are not given the usual run of the mill feel in this book. They are not characterized by the normative definitions that one can attach to them—be it of parent and a child, between siblings or even between a husband and wife:

Two travelers trapped
In the time capsule of marriage.

It is not as much the content but how one sees it, describes and feels it that matters. And Mallah’s poems are refreshing to read as they make you look at the plethora of relationships with an eye of a philosopher. These poems do not depict things as they stand but scrape the surface to show a multitude of realities that can thrive within.
Where does leaf end, and flower begin?

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And this is how her poems connect in the book with each other. There is no definite beginning and no final ending in this book. I quote a few lines that caught my attention:
What about the lingua franca of silence?
‘Do you sell the ingredients for poetry
‘Imported or Indian?’
‘What’s the difference in price?’
‘Depends on the make….’
And from another poem:
I do not like maps
They have no people.
The above extracts are just a glimpse of the nuances that have been carefully put together by Mallah in this book. It is not limited to a few poems but is spread across the book. A poem in the book feels like an echo of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem ‘A Year’s Spinning’ but Mallah gives her poem a nice twist and makes it an interesting read.
Now she is a butterfly,
Delicate, diaphanous,
Now a praying mantis,
Awaiting her prey.

The last poem of the book deals with the metaphysical elements of poetry and talks about the endless search for the Self that one does not realize resides within. The beauty of this poem,‘MrgTrishna’ is the manner in which it invokes the self to give up searching outside and listen to the voices within.
And when one is done reading the poems in this book, what come up are a multitude of voices and thankfully not bound together by a similar theme; all of them stand out on their own and do not need to be bound to each other.

Semeen Ali