Review of Amruta Dongray’s “Past Present”

by samantakbhadra

Smart and delectable strands of thoughts characterize Amruta Dongray’s “Past Present”.  It is, essentially, a book of poetry. On digging deeper, one might be pleasantly surprised as there is no end to the digging. Each poem has a life of it’s own, dragging the reader in different directions on all possible or imaginable planes. As one flips through the pages, the colours start oozing out slowly and coyly and after a short period of time, one is at the centre of colourful concentric circles. These circles protect as well as imprison the reader. They shield him from the stark boundaries of reality and open up new avatars where seemingly every day inconspicuous elements and thoughts are concerned. The sheer brilliance of the book is brought out, rather emphatically, through how the common man can easily relate to what she has to offer. One does not need to be a philosopher or a thinker or even a poet. Even a casual glance through one of the many short poems would reveal a Pandora’s Box of emotions, thought processes and meanings.

A wonderful example of the wings bestowed to an ordinary element is brought out in the poem “Rubber Band”. Through the poem, the poet is able to stretch the limits and delve into the very atomic existence of this seemingly inconsequential element.The rubber band is portrayed through various eyes as a tortured soul, as a flexible heart, as an accommodating persona and also the ever-patient and resilient character that snaps when circumstances cross a certain unmanageable limit. The poem “Heena” is a poem that puts on the garb of subtle romance. Here, henna, is the personification of a beautiful lover that complements the beloved’s grace. Henna, by itself, transforms, from a mere design to a magical creature that changes colour, form and definition. The poem ends with Henna bidding adieu to the beloved on a warm note, beseeching her to celebrate life in the same manner as they both had experienced.

A poem like “Waterhole” is a sarcastic take on the present day political and warlike scenarios. Our existence is saturated with images of violence, political negativity,terrorism, revolutionary elements and so on and so forth. The poet smirks at this grey and black existence by comparing this environment with that of a waterhole. The poem, dexterously, acknowledges the negativity and the bitter hatred among us and all around us. After the declaration, the reader is quickly steered towards the futility of it all by portraying that, in the end, basic human needs will force all and sundry to drink water from the same waterhole irrespective of the degree of negativity in our souls. “Double Helix” is, on the other hand, a masterful take on the paradoxical nature of certain elements. The poet talks about the DNA strand where the two strands of a DNA run alongside each other in a co-operative and serpentine fashion although they are essentially moving in opposite directions. Poems such as this reflect the growing concern about modern day social issues at a time when religious intolerance is displaying its ugly head with a frequency that is quite unnerving.

Thus, Past Present ceases to exist as a book. While on this journey, the reader experiences a hundred different souls of varied shapes, sizes and colours coming together to narrate their stories; stories that are unique, stories that speak of human nature, stories that grow wings and gallop into the shimmering moonlight and stories that veer off the road and makes the reader roll over plush meadows and jump over sharp-edged cliffs. When a book of poetry ceases to be simply pages bound to each other and when worldly boundaries cease to exist,one can safely conclude that the book is simply a mask for what is in reality an intrepid journey into an enchanted world.

My rating of the book is 8/10 .