‘I was intrigued by the relation of the book with Kashmir, its striking reference to “Welcome to heaven on earth”.’
Sayan Aich Bhowmik’s book ‘I will come with a lighthouse’ follows its own path of the themes related to horror, pain, grief, sorrow, longing, and spatial living in the places he witnesses his ‘existence’ the most-Dhaka, Kashmir, Calcutta/ Kolkata to name a few.
Uncomfortable with the blurred visions of partition from his memory that is associated to his lived spaces split in the vignettes of events which trace in him a sense of remembering and a feeling to write about his moving ‘cities’ in his book.
I was intrigued by the relation of the book with Kashmir, its striking reference to “Welcome to heaven on earth” and the fact that in a conversation with Sayan, where he had told me that he had never visited Kashmir directed to the several emotions converted into the feelings of pain which threatens one to self-exile and realities crippling many expectations.
The faces of partition especially the continual presence of his grandmother’s memory offers a fresh nostalgia for him and a distant echo of belonging both to the silence and the poems. And the recurring symbol of grandmother also becomes a way to heal and comfort in one of his poems, “Dhaka” he writes:
When I asked her if all this was true?
That women were raped, killed and raped again
That men lost their manhood
Before they lost their lives
She would smile at the Sylhette moon
Always an hour and a half here and there
Compared to the one in Calcutta,
And say, “Some yarns were sharper than knives”.
This volume begins with the section titled ‘Longing and Solitude’ evoking for its readers the matrix of people, cities, spaces all of which he knew one on one and by through the tales told by his grandmother.
The section, like others is a significant memory which maintains the decorum of his city of birth Calcutta and which he manages as the image of the sparkling moon: ‘Moths travel between Calcutta and Kolkata, planning a trip to the moon’
On another scale of ‘space and time’ he first plays with the language of Calcutta and Kolkata bridging a gap between its old and new factors and then compares both forms to an image of a ‘moon’. The city for him is a representation of ‘moon’ which sparkles on everything and everyone despite the odds they settle themselves in their daily lives. The image of this ‘home’ the one which is compared to ‘moon’ is where I found myself too close to Shayan and his poetry.
Shayan and I come from two different cultural traditions and backgrounds but given the strangest alliteration of the alphabet ‘K’- that of Kolkata and Kashmir helps me to compose our idea of home, connecting us even further.
So where do I meet Shayan, a professor cum poet, in this volume? Or what has this volume spoken to me? These stories develop through the lens of yearning, anecdotes, experiences, that sets out to the limitless idea and definition of home.
Home, the word which is aroused by the depiction of such places of Kolkata and Kashmir reminds me of a familiar cultural belonging and travel stories between individuals and people belonging to groups of its remnants.
To say that the end of Shayans’s volume dives deep into ‘politics of Kolkata’ would be a) plagiarizing the title from one of the sections b) going to place myself in the roots of Kolkata which I can’t do because of the absence of lived experience.
It can be seen in the perfect nostalgia which is bought up front close from the question that realizes a unique travel from memory to reality-my reality. In the line it can be seen such as:
The post-box outside his door had been emptied of brown leaves
that had been living there since autumn.
The first time I read the poem, ‘The Last Time’, I collected one of the former memories when I had first been away from home for almost seven years. I was reminded of the time, I had said the same phrase for several events such endless 2008 Kashmir curfews, killings, violence and the unnoticed silence on the streets of Kashmir. Also, in his poem, ‘Of Simple things’, a sudden sense of yearning creeps in when he writers:
No prospects of negotiations with the former lovers
Who spoke to like public address systems?
When I wanted to do was stand like a streetlight in the rains.
Sayan is a poet who longs for his language in the environment of strange but intriguing places reminding him of his own relation with them. In the section ‘Political poem’; for a reader outside Dhaka the memory seems to revisit through different paradigm (s). The spatial images found in the poems evoke the image of a missing ‘home’ paralleled with the broken image of it. I met it in the midway in the unity of two K’s. I’ll end with one of my favorite “Choices”:
The ones talking of madness in love
Not listed or classified
In western medical journals
Will slowly tip-toe their way of your study and pink
Swahili for itself
Then stand in front of you,
Not for your approval
But for a salute of once institution.
Hailing from Srinagar, Takbeer Salati is currently pursuing her PhD on works of Saadat Hasan Manto. Her works have been published in Life and Legends, Café Dissensus, Samyukta fiction, ‘Covid Metamorphoses’ available on Amazon, among others. Her forthcoming short story is due in Muse edition January 2022.