5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Buy
Reviewed in India on 6 September 2020
I will not show as verified purchaser for this anthology because I didn’t buy this on amazon. But what I can guarantee is a verification for Jayshree Misra Tripathi’s sheer brilliance with words. I bought this book at its launch and flipped through it as the ceremony was on, each word tugging at my heart and longing to be read again.
Poetry does not sell well has been told to me by many publishers. But this book of poems must. Why? Because it’s hard to decide which poem in the book should find more love from the reader. Every poem demands that love. Tripathi shines in verse. Her poems make you think, lose yourself in memories of your own past or imagine a future you may desire.
Her words make you wish they came from your own pen. Her imagery forces your lips to curl in a smile sometimes and a cry on others.
You would want to finish reading the poems all at once but it’s difficult to do that. Tripathi’s poems can’t be swallowed. You chew on them slowly. Mostly you’ll find yourself, reading through and then putting the book down to travel someplace in your heart.
And that’s the beauty of this book of poems. They make you travel without physically moving an inch. And isn’t that what awesome poetry is all about?
If you’re looking for some classy stuff, buy this book and let it be the most common gift you ever give your friends and family.
Tripathi’s words will travel with you. They will also travel within you.
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.”
Indian Author-Columnist, Indian Ambassador to the
“…lovely, moving, deeply felt and sometimes seemingly autobiographical. Certainly, worthy of compilation!”
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”.
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
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.”