Do You See?

>Review published in THE CARTIER STREET REVIEW


Check out my review of a poetry collection by Basanta Kumar Kar, who works in the nonprofit sector in India and writes about marginalized women, belonging to discriminated social groups like the Dalit, the Tribal or the Adivasi, and the Other Backward Class. Joy Leftow, principal editor of The Cartier Street Review, had this wonderful assignment for me. And although, most of the earlier reviews I’ve written for newspapers or journals were art or film reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Reason number one was my own work experience in the Indian nonprofit sector. Basanta has an extended association with the Chhattisgarh-Orissa-Andhra Pradesh region where he has witnessed the life of the aforementioned women, especially the Dalit and the Adivasi women, from very close angles. And the most striking aspect of his writing is how easily he assumes the voice of his subjects, all women, and weaves it into poetic expressions.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Marginalized Women’s Voices from India:

THE UNFOLD PINNACLE by Basanta Kumar Kar – A review by Nabina Das

Basanta Kumar Kar’s involvement in the Indian nonprofit sector for years has afforded him a close-up of the tribal societies, the backward classes and marginalized sections of that developing and diverse country. He practices with flourish the first-person voice of personas as varied as an under-aged girl with a history of abuse to a Gond or Maria tribal woman struggling against the onslaught of modern civilization to a mother-cum-sex worker reflecting on her fate in the ruthless city. As a professional in his poetic role, Kar brings alive the disillusionment and haplessness of India’s marginalized women, especially those from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). He is involved in his subject’s plight and at the same time lets his subjectiveness to position himself as the keen observer. Kar shares the wealth of his experiences with his readers in the rather long 73-page collection.

The Wikipedia defines the SC/ST as ‘Indian population groupings that are explicitly recognized by the Constitution of India, previously called the “depressed classes” by the British, and otherwise known as untouchables. SCs/STs together comprise over 24% of India’s population, with SC at over 16% and ST over 8% as per the 2001 census… Some Scheduled Castes in India are also known as Dalits. Some Scheduled Tribe people are also referred to as Adivasis.’ Commenting on the crisis of faith of these underprivileged communities, in the aptly titled “Faith First”, Kar writes:

Smoke and cloud work in tandem
swings of snow peep
hills draw lines, mesmerise
they butcher;

The actions embodied by the elements smoke, cloud, snow, hills etc. are swift and brutal, akin to the experience of his subject. Nature provides no succor. It is a constant reminder of bad fortune. In “…mesmerize/they butcher” this is particularly amplified. The short staccato sentences metaphorically and literally “work in tandem”. The cosmogony of the women Kar writes about, socially denied and deprived, and often under a double yoke of social stigma within their own communities, comprises of humanistic elements that surprise us with their animateness, the only source of comfort for the subjugated lot:

I understand my neighbours
tamarind tree, dates and nuts
pigs and chicken, ghosts and spirits
traditional healers.

The weltanschauung of the women is stark yet conveys the environment they thrive in:

We are together

no one more equal than others.

Do go to The Cartier Street Review – Home and click on the little RED link CSR July 2009 Edition to see the full issue and the read the review. Also, clicking on the title above will take you there. In the spotlight is poet AnnMarie Eldon, featured poet is Michael Annis and there is the regular editorial column by Joy Leftow — “Leftow’s desk”. Bernard Alain, founding editor of the CSR, has again turned out a superb issue with Joy and staff Thomas Hubbard.

Image from The CSR cover by L. Bellini: “Fragmented Man”

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This entry was posted on July 19, 2009 by in bernard alain, Joy Leftow, Nabina Das, poetry, review, The Cartier Street Review.
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