Reviews

Semeen Ali is currently pursuing PhD in English Literature from the University of Delhi, Delhi.

Her words in The Book Review on my poetry selection, Trips and Trials, published by Pepperscript, 2018.

“—the last two books in this review have been written by women poets and yet again, as a reader and a reviewer I see the similarities thematically that I would like to look at—Trips and Trials by Jayshree Misra Tripathi and Fragrant Words by Rajni Sekhri Sibal.

In the quiet shadow of
evensong, I ask you,
Do you miss me while I am
still here?
I apologize for all our lost
sunsets,
But you owe me
too…words, just words of
faith.( Tripathi)

The bride in bright red
Behind a gossamer veil,
Charming and exquisite
Yet nervous and pale.

The shehnai drowns down
Her choked unheard voice
A soft anxious whisper
‘Do I have no choice?’ (Sibal)

The alphabet has turned into a weapon in the hands of these two. There is no subservience but a questioning. Questioning the threshold that becomes an invisible line that must not be crossed. These two distinct voices ready the reader for what to expect in their works. There is a reversal of the idea that women’s poetry should ideally reflect on women’s experiences. There is a rewriting of the gendered conventions of how women should express themselves.

She deftly extols
The nuances of ancient tales.
She nimbly evolves
with every subtle move she
makes…(Tripathi)

I leave footprints in the sands of time
For I matter
I am matter
I am
I matter.(Sibal)…” https://thebookreviewindia.org/

Dr. Jaiwanti Dimri is a bilingual writer, critic, translator and former professor of English at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. A recipient of the Arya Smriti Samman (2002) in the genre of Hindi short story, her stories have been published in national journals, magazines, anthologies and translated into English, Telugu and Marathi.

Her review of my poetry selection, Trips and Trials, published by Pepperscript , 2018, in The Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature Journal, Vol 314, November-December 2019.

Available at http://sahitya-akademi.gov.in/journals/indianliterature.jsp

Amrita Sharma
Amrita Sharma (born 1992) is a Lucknow based writer, currently pursuing her PhD (English) from the University of Lucknow. An aspiring poet and short story writer, her works have been published in journals like New Academia, GNOSIS, Dialogue, The Criterion, Episteme and Ashvamegh. Her area of research includes experimental poetics and innovative writings in the cyber space.

Trips and Trials: A Selection of Poems and Songs | Jayshree Misra Tripathi |
Pepper Script, 2018| ISBN: 978-93-84411-52-7| pp 116 |  290

An emotionally vibrant journey

With poetic circles continuing to offer new flavours of poetic appetite each new day, Jayshree Misra Tripathi’s recently launched verse collection titled Trips and Trials- A selection of Poems and Songs remains yet another addition to this year’s poetic diversity. Dedicated to her late career diplomat husband Sibabrata Tripathi, the book offers a collection of forty two poems divided into seven sections that present an emotionally vibrant journey across the varying paradigms of the ‘lived’ human experiences.

Drawing upon the overshadowing theme of ‘Love Conquers All,’ this collection clearly indicates the poet’s strongly reverberating endeavours to convey the intensity of her ‘poetic self’ that remains deeply interwoven within her diction and forms. Dividing the entire collection into six subsections of seven poems each, the poet designates the six ‘Ls’ as the defining sub-themes of her poetic narrations, namely ‘Love,’ ‘Loveless,’ ‘Lament,’ Lust,’ ‘Loss,’ and ‘Life.’ Thus sketching her poetic canvas around these broad abstractions, the poet presents forth a vivid range of reading experiences that take the reader back and forth along her unevenly carved poetic landscape.

With a visibly strong affinity for both the ‘concrete’ and the ‘abstract’, the poems compiled together attempt a seemingly tactful balancing of these two extremes, as the poet herself notes in her ‘Preface’ to the collection: “My words are not terse, taut – as emotions are held in check, yet overflow. Harsh realities are not accepted easily. Concrete images are blurred by shadowy tears.” And what adds to the vividness of the reading experience are the complementing sketches by the Delhi based visual artist, Moonis Ijlal , that commence each of the six sections and offer an equally stimulating appetite for the visual senses. Thus presenting an equally creative association of both the pen and the brush, the book, from its cover design to the title and content, offers an impressive packaging that appeals and attracts attention and interest.

With the thematic canvas ranging from the ‘personal’ to the ‘universal’, the collection touches upon the fancies of joy, sorrow, pain, nostalgia and hope that appear to be surfacing along the poetic grounds as one travels along the pages. From “Lost Sunsets” to “The Decay of Munificence”, and from “Hope for Love” to “The Collector of Grief”, the poems collectively offer a rich reading experience that is further eased by simplicity of words and their natural occurring rhyme.

Also standing out as a poetic product of a female psyche receiving vivid experiences of life across different national borders as well as undergoing a first-hand experience of the different phases of womanhood, the poems encapsulate a uniquely feminine tone that finds expression from the very first poem of the collection to the last one, but in varying degrees. An example of a feminist tone may be found in the poem titled “She” that opens as follows:

SHE with the sorrowful eyes…
In the mist of shadows at dusk, alone
From morn till eventide
Tears somehow blur her vision
Inside this space she calls home.

However not confining her verses to the encapsulation of the womanly pathos, the poet rather presents a hopeful conclusion, as in this particular poem, she concludes: “SHE with the sorrowful eyes now smiles- / It lights up her face / HER true colours will ever shine on…” Thus what emerges as a collective whole is a realistic and socially aware representation that remains strongly firm in tone and expression.

The poems compiled in this collection thus seem to appear out of a dynamic poetic persona whose presence seems to dominate the perceptions that project out of the songs and the poems. What also leaves an imprint upon a close reading of the verses is the deep integration of the social ethos within the psychological nuances that govern and dictate the construction of many verses put forth for the reader in this collection. Ranging from childhood to death, despair to hope, and love to loveless, the poet touches upon diverse aspects of everyday experiences that remain connected through their inevitably ‘human’ linkages. However what may prove disengaging at times is the over-simplistic narrativity that at times appears redundant due to lack of novelty.

Overall written in a lucid, clear, simplistic and engaging style, this poetry collection stands out for its captivating sense of strong emotional ties that remain very contemporary in their poetic flavour and demeanour. Offering both a comforting or even at times disturbing encounter with words, the book remains a recommended collection for all those intending to undertake some new poetic ‘trips’ and ‘trials’ that stir your soul and entangle your mind.♣♣♣END♣♣♣

Issue 88 (Nov-Dec 2019)Book Reviews MUSE INDIA the literary e journal http://museindia.com/Home/Index

Humra Quraishi
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. Her books include Kashmir: The Untold Story; a volume of her collective writings, Views: Yours and Mine; and a short-story collection, More Bad Time Tales. She has co-authored seven books with the legendary writer, Khushwant Singh. She has also contributed to the anthologies, Chasing the Good Life: On Being Single and Of Mothers and Others.

From Trips and Trials: A Selection of Poems and Songs, published in December 2018, by Pepperscript Publishers.

“Poetry cleans our souls and lights the lamp to search for the meaning of life. Jayshree’s poetry does exactly this. When you read her poetry,
“A finger taps your cheek,
As you ponder solemnly.
On life’s many burdens”.
Her poetry has a vision which comes from her own life experiences and it is that vision which is like “gentle, mysterious, seductive” as waves, as also the “Eternal flame, Symbol of hope”.
The advaita of water and fire is the essential quality of Jayshree’s poetry.”
P. Lalitha Kumari (Volga)
Writer & Poet

“To feel the salt of a truant breeze from the sea, the rough yet soft brush of sea-sand with it, is to be with oneself. To stand on a hill’s promontory and see the scatter of silent stars, over which clouds darker than the dark sky waft is also to be with oneself. These precious poems are about being with oneself, that rare condition which slips away before you have
sensed its presence. Hold them!”
Gopalkrishna Devdas Gandhi
Former Governor of West Bengal

“These are gentle verses that seem to drift down at twilight like vagrant petals tired of pretence. Not to be grasped or stained by fingers, they are to be felt simply in their evanescence, like the inky hour before dark. Unobtrusively, like passing seasons, Jayshree moves from image to evocative image.”
Navtej Sarna
Indian Author-Columnist, (Former) Indian Ambassador to the
United States

“…lovely, moving, deeply felt and sometimes seemingly autobiographical. Certainly, worthy of compilation!”
Shashi Tharoor
Politician, Writer, MP (Lok Sabha)

“Regret, restraint, rapture, remonstration; anxiety, anger, ardour, anticipation; desire, daydreams, despair, devotion….Jayshree M Tripathi evokes the conflicting tide of emotions that her multiplicity of identities— daughter, woman, mother, wife, lover and, yes, widow— have swept her life, with a powerful economy of words. Less is more, so much more when her tightly coiled feelings about life unwind in a supple, mesmerising flow. A must read, especially for those who shy away from poetic reflections”.
Reshmi Dasgupta
Editor, Lifestyle and Travel, The Economic Times at The Times of India Group.

From The Sorrow of Unanswered Questions, published in 2001,by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Sorrow of Unanswered Questions by Jayshree Misra
Love as Struggle, Love as Transformation:
A Foreword by Professor Neloufer de Mel, Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Two powerful themes animate Jayshree Misra’s collection of
short stories and poems entitled The Sorrow of Unanswered
Questions. They are the themes of love and transformation.
The loves are those of struggle, regulation and pain, but also
celebration, with the power to heal deep wounds. The impact
of these loves are most keenly felt on the women characters
whose voices and perspectives are dominant in this collection.
As they attempt to understand the meanings of love, these
women, whether they be wives, daughters, mothers or sisters,
struggle also to be true to themselves and their aspirations.
Their voices are infused with the author’s intensely personal
evocation of her own life’s experiences which form the body
of the poems in the second half of the collection. She too has
known the entrapments of duty as daughter and eldest sister,
a bitter marriage, domestic violence, and healing through love,
although anxiety always attends it. This is where The Sorrow
of Unanswered Questions can be read as the personal which
is political, as it comments on women caught on the one hand
between yearnings for modernity encompassing the urban,
education, travel and profession, and on the other, tradition,
which expects ties to community, age old customs and sense
of duty.

It is in their struggle to overcome the community as a
regulatory site of marriage, culture and sexuality that women
seek to transform themselves, displaying a powerful
determination and agency. Trapped in tradition, they are
cynical about love. ‘Sister’ is a story about a young woman
who goes to her arranged marriage as to a funeral. The day is
not suffused with joy and anticipation for her, but sadness
and foreboding. The story juxtaposes the sister’s thoughts as
she walks to her bridal mandap with those of her brother,
newly returned from America, outcaste because of his own
marriage to a foreigner. The two voices come to a climax when
the sister passes what seems like a note to her brother which
is, in effect, her death warrant. It is a melodramatic climax,
but all the more chilling because bridal suicides, stove burning,
dowry deaths are a part of reality in South Asia. Yet, this story
is about suicide as agency, the choice of a young woman who
prefers death to a loveless marriage. Her transformation is at
a costly price.

There are other women in the stories who show
determination and courage in confronting social expectations
and go against the grain of those expectations. Jn ‘Mother’,
Janaki is a widowed mother who leaves her dead husband’s
home where she has lost status, to support her children by
earning a living in the city through sewing. Her achievement
is bitter-sweet. While she single handedly educates her
children, her son leaves for America, never to see his mother
alive again. The tenacity of these women is celebrated by the
author. Their refusal to give in to the boundedness of tradition
and the regulations of the community elicit our admiration.
But the price they pay for challenging hierarchy is also always
before us. They lose their children to the diaspora, are cynical
about love, at times, fatalistic about the journey of their lives.
The plots of the stories are quick, and the writing lingers on
the emotions of the characters, avoiding sentimentality. As
the author links women’s roles with a vignette each of what it
means to be a mother, sister, friend, daughter and soulmate,
the composite picture of the women who inhabit The Sorrow
of Unanswered Questions is that of a wounded being who
nevertheless does not give up on hope. A sense of humour
also helps. In the poem ‘Epilogue’, a wry elan is the only
defence of a woman who goes through the different stages of
life and approaches middle age with calcium tablets to stave
off the osteoporosis and HRT to keep the body juices flowing.
And most importantly, there is always hope in love. In keeping
with the twist in the author’s own life, love, in the right hands,
promises the possibilities of transformation.

At a time when South Asian literature is gaining
international acclaim and attention, this collection of stories
and poems raises questions about what is South Asian, or
Indian, literature? The language of The Sorrow of Unanswered
Questions is not overtly South Asian. A few words here and
there locate the contexts of the stories or poems within India
or Sri Lanka. But more importantly, the situations of the
women as they are caught between tradition and other,
alternative aspirations for themselves is very much a South
Asian concern. As its societies undergo radical transformations
through globalization, the ambitions of South Asian women
also shift. Their roles within the domestic sphere no longer
go unchallenged by them. Their perspectives in The Sorrow
of Unanswered Questions, essentially middle-class and urban,
in keeping with the author’s own experiences, tell of the varied
opportunities available to women.

But this is also where patriarchy re-asserts itself to
control and regulate women. The resulting tensions are those
commonly experienced by South Asian women as they
negotiate their various duties, ambitions and identities.

A sense of the cosmopolitan is also valued in the stories
and poems within The Sorrow of Unanswered Questions. The
author is the wife of an Indian diplomat. As she celebrates
her “Rainbow Children” in the poem entitled ‘Foreign Service
Children’ for instance, Jayshree Misra salutes the idea of a
global citizenship, confident and at ease in any part of the
world, eclectic in cultures, languages, habits and manners. Her
own voice and the inner language of her poems, however do
not reflect such an admixture because the language of The
Sorrow of Unanswered Questions is very much within a
standard received English with familiar poetic images.
However, it is this very familiarity that makes the urban
English educated, middle class South Asian reader identify
with the women and their situations in The Sorrow of
Unanswered Questions. The courage to write about intensely
Personal experiences involving pain and loss becomes salutary within this framework of identification, and ultimately, therefore celebratory.

Afterword by Radhika Coomaraswamy ,Director,International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
U.N. Special Rapporteur On Violence Against Women

Valentine Daniel, in his book Charred Lullabies, reflects a
great deal on violence, the effect of violence and the
representation of violence by scholars and activists. Violence,
he argues, in the lives of those he interviewed was a
transformative moment. Some people were destroyed or broken
by the experience. Others were transformed, their experience
giving them enormous strength and conviction. They take
control of their lives, give direction to those they love and
take measures to preserve their humanity. Women, he argues,
are often in the latter category.

Jayshree Misra is a survivor of what some feel is the
worst form of violence, the violence between intimates, when
trust is broken and when escape is often impossible. And yet,
like the great survivors of Valentine Daniel’s story, she has
emerged strong, reflective and full of a passionate love for
humanity. Her poems are about love, fear, tragedy and
violence. They are also about renewal and regeneration. They
explore the depths of feelings and relationships in a voice that
will strike resonance with many people living in South Asian
societies. The poems are all vivid in themselves but an
underlying thread of compassionate humanity, coming out of
lived experience, holds them together. As a result, her poems
are full of the rich texture of life and living.

In my work as United Nations Special Rapporteur on
Violence Against Women, I have often met similar women who
have experienced tragedy, bereavement and violence but who
regain their faith in humanity because their personalities are
full of love and caring. They turn their experience on its head
by making it into a creative moment allowing them to emerge
wiser, stronger and full of life’s energy. They reflect the
triumphant aspects of the indomitable human spirit. Jayshree’s
poems are in the same vein, making us realize that the
despondency we feel about tragedy in the real is counteracted
by the strength, surprises and playfulness of the human spirit.

Let us hope that Jayshree will continue to be an inspiration to the
Many women who have to face violence in everyday life.
Let us hope that this book of poetry will help them escape the
cycles of violence and cruelty by giving voice to their pain and
fears. Let us also hope that the book of poetry will help them cope with their
tragedy with strength and compassion, realising that tomorrow is theirs to create.

Words by author Jaishree Misra on Twitter

Reading the past, writing the future this World Literacy Day

We shall yet again discuss some statistics and the scope of development in the education field around the world and celebrate the minor changes that have impacted the society. Now, I’m not trying to mock this day, but I’m stating a fact that everyone thinks and doesn’t say out loud. Although we cannot brush past the tremendous efforts that some of the organisations of the world are making to reach the goal of educating every man, woman, and child around the globe.

UNESCO Director-General sends a message to the world on this occasion of 50th anniversary of World Literacy Day, and he says,

“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all.”

Before we move on further, what do the statistics say?

We shall yet again discuss some statistics and the scope of development in the education field around the world and celebrate the minor changes that have impacted the society. Now, I’m not trying to mock this day, but I’m stating a fact that everyone thinks and doesn’t say out loud. Although we cannot brush past the tremendous efforts that some of the organisations of the world are making to reach the goal of educating every man, woman, and child around the globe.

UNESCO Director-General sends a message to the world on this occasion of 50th anniversary of World Literacy Day, and he says,

“The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all.”

  • 758 million adults 15 years and older who still cannot read or write a simple sentence 
  • Roughly two third of them are females
  • In South and West Asia, youth literacy rate is 84 percent
  • Of the global illiterate population, 114 million are 15 to 24 years, 509 million are 25 to 64 years, and 135 million are 65 years and older

source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics 

Forest Whitaker, Actor and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation also has a message on power of education.

Educationist, Jayshree Misra Tripathi says, “India Female Literacy ranks at position of 123 out of 135 and we have an estimated 60, 0000 (60 lakhs) children out-of-school. An educated parent will ensure the education of his or her children and this fact must be underscored. A literate mother will be able to take part in her child’s learning process.”

An estimated 92% of government schools are yet to implement the policies of the Right To Education Act that came into force on April 1st 2010.

While poverty is a reason for why people cannot even afford education in India, another main hurdle that comes in the way of education is social negligence. This negligence is mostly towards girls and women. In village communities, girls are only expected to stay indoors and do only household chores. Gender bias has taken a toll on the education policies in India and turning that around is no joke. A society cannot change with some literacy programs that run for a few weeks and hope for change, it cannot even change with few rounds of intensive discussion with the communities that do not allow girls to get educated. These norms and, rules I’d call them, have been so ingrained in the society for centuries that even women think they need validation from their family and the society when they step out of their homes to get education.

Many don’t realise that education gives these girls and women better financial opportunities also which will be beneficial for the whole family. Instead, they fear empowerment will only lead to the doomsday of disrespect when women will speak amongst the men.

India still has a long way to achieving the goal of  hundred percent literacy, but government too is doing their bit to catalyst this change. Case in point the beti padhao, beti bachaoscheme. In the coming years, the numbers will hopefully change, and all we can hope for is that is happens quickly.