Category Archives: Books I Write

Back To Bengal

Standard
Source: Madhurima

Source: Madhurima

The City of Joy Lay Within Me

I was setting foot into the city of joy – Kolkata – after more than twelve years. This was the city where I was born, the city that had selflessly lent me my very first sense of identity and belonging. Even before I had realised, the city and its culture had infused in me mega portions of ‘Kolkata’ that had refused to abandon me in spite of my apparent disconnect with this place later in life. There was more ‘Bengal’ within me than there was ‘me’ in Bengal. I was now anxious to see how my disdainful NRI heart would react to this culturally rich and memories-clad city.

“Didi, do you need some help with your luggage?” asked a gentleman in Bangla at the Kolkata international airport.

A sudden sense of comfort and excitement consumed me as I could instantly relate to the language that held the status of being my ‘Mother Tongue’. Since this was the language used at home, I instantly related ‘speaking in Bangla’ with ‘being at home’. I had a hunch now that this would be a trip that I would treasure for the rest of my life.

As we crossed the city outskirts from the airport, the driver introduced me to localities and monuments that I struggled hard to recognise. One after the other, the city cheekily started throwing hints at me. I saw the tramline and even crossed the Victoria Memorial Hall that looked no less majestic than the Vatican in Rome! It brought back memories of my visits there as a child with my grandparents. I realised now that there was little that I had managed to forget about this lovable city, perhaps a handful of facts had faded away, but they seemed irrelevant now. And so, in spite of suffering the temptation of playing the quintessential visitor, I decided to rely on that little inner voice that cried ‘this feels like home!’

But I was here on another commitment. I was here for less than half a day before heading off to my next destination, IIT Kharagpur. As the noise of buses and trams poured into my ears, my practical NRI heart began to melt into the nostalgic Bengali’s heart once again. The only respite now was that my next destination was no less significant, though in a completely different way.

An Adopted Alumnus of IIT Kharagpur

After a two-hour drive from Kolkata I reached Kharagpur, a place with which I share a strong connection even without having visited the place even once. The unassuming route, replete with rustic charm, led me into this colossal college campus. On this side of the institute gate there stood a different world – quiet, clean, extending beyond the distant horizon.

Coming from a family where most around me had graduated from IIT Kharagpur and other IITs, this venerated acronym had clung on to me almost like a second name, though none in my family would have ever imagined my remotest association with this esteemed institute. But here I was, heading to that very IIT to don a judge’s hat at their prestigious National Level Debate and Mighty Pen contest at their annual Spring Fest.

The common thread that connected me with this feisty bunch of students I encountered here was our independent thinking. We shared a love for expressing our opinions unabashedly and unapologetically. We revelled in our non-agreement and our ability to question prevailing mindsets. After all, only an enquiring spirit could make one think, question and pave the way for progress.

There seemed a strange similarity between these students and my book ‘Goddess & Whore’ too. Both celebrated the questioning spirit and the freedom of the eternal human spirit. My book had finally found the right home in the hands of these eloquent orators and budding paradigm-shifters. It was an honour for me, as a judge, to hand out copies of ‘Goddess & Whore’ to these winners. I returned with a heart full of good memories and an acquired status of being upgraded to an ‘Adopted Alumnus’ of this prestigious institution.

Source: Madhurima; at IIT Kgp Spring Fest 2014.

Source: Madhurima; students at IIT Kgp Spring Fest 2014 showcase the book ‘Goddess & Whore‘.

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2014

‘You Think Only Women Are Stereotyped?’

Standard
Source: ridiculouslyefficient.com

Source: ridiculouslyefficient.com

I often recall my childhood days when my cousins and I would get to meet each other more often; boy what a riot that would be! From my father’s side of the family, we were four brothers and five sisters, I being the youngest. My maternal cousins were of course much younger then, so I couldn’t quite reveal my demonic self as unapologetically as I did with my equally mischievous yet doting paternal cousins. Placing our age differences aside we would indulge in pulling each other’s leg, watching horror or comedy films, going on picnics and gorging on restaurant (junk) food every time we got together!

Over the years life has taken us in different directions where we have forged new ties and made new commitments as a companion, as a parent or even as an ambitious professional. But I have realised of late that in spite of our being so preoccupied with our respective lives that have moved at varying paces like parallel universes, our bond has remained intact, quite effortlessly in fact. I suppose it is the pure honesty within the relationship that has refused to fade off with time and so, on the eve of the release of my book ‘Goddess & Whore‘, I wrote a text-message to my eldest cousin brother, without a second thought.

In dizzying nervousness I sent him an image of my book’s cover that hadn’t yet been revealed to anyone. After that I waited in excited anticipation for his response that I have always greatly valued. After a couple of minutes I received a text message that read:

‘The title and artwork look exciting and provocative! What is the book about?’

This was a question that I could answer even in my sleep these days since I have had to ramble on about the book in the press release, the book’s cover and other collaterals too. In fact, I must have sounded just as rehearsed as I had feared I would as the well-manicured words poured out of me:

Goddess & Whore is about a woman’s journey, after she decides to disentangle herself from all her social identities, relationships and abuses only to discover her true identity. This story is conveyed through a collection of modern poems that question traditional mindsets and relationships even as they celebrate life and the bonds we share with each other. ’

The number of questions tossed at me from the other side was now increasing even as the time gap between them was steeply declining. I decided to rise to the occasion and brave the barrage of questions with utmost precision and honesty. We spoke of every dreadful word that had given me sleepless nights, like: promotion, marketing, timelines, pricing, et all. Anyway, just when I thought that I had managed to tackle the more difficult questions, I was asked why the book was titled Goddess & Whore. This had also by now become one of the FAQs that I could answer in a trance, though I still stood by every word I uttered:

‘Well you see, we dwell in snap judgments and extremities. We either glorify women as a mother or a goddess expecting her to be an epitome of selflessness, or we blame her for being a home-breaker or a whore! We are so used to stereotyping women that we are not able to accept her as an ordinary human being with desires and aspirations and her share of inadequacies and imperfections.’

Until now most of what I had explained had been received with appreciation and without the slightest demur. But following the last reply I sensed uneasiness at the other end. After a brief pause my brother replied:

‘You think men are not stereotyped? You think they have it easy?’

Those last few words suddenly seemed to stir within me a zillion stray thoughts that I wouldn’t quite say I was a stranger to, though it was very rarely that we dealt with it on an ordinary day. Things like, ‘It is not usual to see a man emotional. They don’t cry or get hurt as easily’ and so on. Men too are judged all the time. And more often than not they aren’t even granted the allowance to play the ‘victim’.

After some thought I informed him that the collection represented every human being as anyone could relate to the inner quest, the urgent need to realise one’s purpose in life, just that I had chosen my protagonist to be a woman…for a reason better known to me. I typed back:

‘Thankfully, poetry allows several equally plausible interpretations with no right or wrong answers but just an honest experience. The poems represent the eternal conflict within every human being and the constant search for a sense of peace. Hence, as the book mentions on its back-cover too, the poems represent the transformation of every human being in the course of his or her journey towards self discovery.’

He wished me luck and left me with my thoughts once again.

Now available on Kindle too!

Now available on Kindle too!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Goddess & Whore Listed Under ‘BEST FICTION BOOKS’

Standard
Now available on Kindle too!

Now available on Kindle too!

‘Goddess & Whore’ has been listed under the ‘BEST FICTION BOOKS’ category on BookAdda. The book has also been showcased on BookAdda’s Home page, along with three other noted titles! …This might seem as a ‘no big deal’ to most reasonable people, but somehow I just can’t stop smiling at the thought!…cheers to all!

The book is now available on Amazon and Kindle too.

Link: http://www.bookadda.com

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Autobiography Of A Writer’s Notebook

Standard

“Look closely this time into the white spaces of my pages and you might perhaps get a glimpse of that destiny that had been gifted to me by a force that invariably fails to be explicit and unambiguous, leaving every precious detail of life indefinable just so the likes of me can learn to discover ourselves. My pages were bound to preserve the honest musings of a dreamer or poet, though none of this I would have known if it wasn’t for that dark-eyed gentleman who bought me. He was a well-known writer, I am told, though rumour had it that as a boy he had dreamt of being an adventurous sailor, just that his father had imagined a much quieter life for his son. And hence, he and I met…

You see, had this writer not torched my heart with stories of insane murders and deceit that made me cringe within, I would have perhaps remained oblivious of what I so desired to fill my pages with – poetry. And so I loathe that man just as much as I owe this revelation to him too, as it was on that terrifying and fateful day that I remembered the destiny once read out to me and inscribed on every inch of whiteness that seemed blank to most of you. All this while, the imperceptible had waited in silence for the obvious to happen. And my pages were forced to overwrite their desire with someone else’s bruised sense of purpose. I was writing a destiny that wasn’t mine. I was made into a thriller novel that barely resonated with what I was meant to be. Like a million others around me including my offender, I too was living another man’s dream. The single consolation that I now zealously held on to was that I had discovered, at least, what I was born to do; was that a blessing anymore or a curse instead?

I quietly wait now with pages filled with lines that speak of intrigue and lust, violence and mistrust. I get the impression, that is what appeals to men most…and I wonder why. I survive the wait and the weight of those words forced upon me as the lines of poetry and love groan unheard underneath the facade that is meant only for sale. Until one miraculous night, the enchanting moonlight spills on my ruffled pages and washes off every vulgar word written with dishonesty. I feel light once again after a very long time. Those words of love and nature rise and fill every space with their beauty and joy! I am no longer a ‘thriller novel for sale’ that looks like every other book on the shelf but a ‘book of poetry’ for the dreamer instead. These days, I only wait for the moonlight to melt away my miseries so I can come alive for a short while…”

“…As the feather gracefully descended
back to the moist earth

the breeze softly whispered to it –
i’m carrying you to a poet’s study
for her muse should write your destiny.”

(**this concluding stanza has been borrowed from Goddess &Whore)

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

Now available on Amazon, Flipkart, BOOKadda!

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Press Release: Goddess & Whore, Now Available Worldwide

Standard
Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle, and in selected bookstores across India!

Goddess & Whore: Now available on BOOKadda, Flipkart, Amazon, Kindle and in selected bookstores across India!

October 2013, Singapore.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – reaches bookstores worldwide this festive season.

Goddess & Whore – a collection of modern poems – weaves into a vivid narrative of a woman’s journey as she steps out of her various social identities and abuses to discover the true meaning to her existence. What begins as a nagging sense of disquiet and discontent evolves into a quest for inner peace. She draws inspiration from nature and begins to disentangle herself from all those relationships and resentments that she once carried, and only then does she discover her real indestructible self and makes the crossover that signifies the transformation of a being.

The poems celebrate the joys of womanhood and the beauty of nature even as they address certain social issues like the position of women, the rejection of the girl child, the violence against women, the traditions of fasting, and dated customs and rituals; and all these concerns culminate into a single question – ultimately what matters?

“The book aspires to convey the simple desire of a woman to be accepted for who she is, along with her dreams and aspirations, follies and foibles. She doesn’t wish to be glorified as a goddess nor be despised as a whore. At a broader level, this sentiment holds true for all human beings, whether man or woman,” explains Madhurima. “The book is available on Flipkart, BOOKadda, Amazon, Kindle and also in selected bookstores across India.”

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

My Goodness…My Goddess!

Standard

Source: Madhurima (2010); getting a tattoo made of the Goddess Durga

Source: Madhurima (2010); getting a tattoo made of Goddess Durga

Source: Madhurima (2010); That's me with my goddess!

Source: Madhurima (2010); That’s me with my goddess!

The most potent concoction of fragrances that contains a zillion memories of my treasured past is the scent that fills the air in India during the start of the autumn season announcing the festival of Goddess Durga (better known as Durga Puja). The air, just rightly nippy, smells of fresh earth and paddy fields, flowers, incense sticks and camphor almost as though nature has performed its own celestial ritual of cleansing the space inside and outside all of us. Petite white flowers called the Shiuli with their sleek and slender crimson stalks and delicate lingering fragrance bloom in several parts of the country setting the stage for Goddess Durga to return home to visit her parents and family. We are her family. Like most children hers too latch on to their mother, and her four children – Lakshmi (Goddess of true wealth), Saraswati (Goddess of knowledge and arts), Ganesh (God of fortune) and her youngest son Kartik (God of valor and bravery) accompany her on her annual sojourn to her parents’ abode. Like a dutiful and beautiful wife and mother she embarks on her vacation home with her gorgeous children in tow where we welcome her with open arms.

For people of Bengal, who hail from the eastern part of India, this time of the year marks a special significance as they prepare for this festival, irrespective of which part of the country or world they live in. However, I must confess to being perennially struck down by nostalgia and thus highly unsuccessful in finding or replicating that spirit and space around me since I have moved out of India. I haven’t the slightest doubt that this is solely a matter of my own deficiencies and inabilities, but I am still to find those soul-quenching beats of the drum (dhaak) that I had heard in my childhood with my grandparents beside me. It was an explosion of energy that created a vibrato within my ribcage as every molecule and heartbeat in me resonated with that breathtaking rhythm. It was an overwhelming feeling, I recall distinctly. Since my grandfather always insisted on reaching the venue early during the evening prayers so he could hear the dhaak, I had the luxury of tagging along with him. The rest of the family joined the two of us much later after getting appropriately decked-up for the evening’s function that followed. During the prayers that my grandfather and I attended every Saptami (the seventh day of the festival) and Ashtami (the eight day) evenings the air smelt of incense sticks and fruits and flowers. The space smelled sacred.

In those days too, there used to be the ceremonial ‘dhunuchi’ dance on the eighth day of the festival (quite a stunt really!) where men and women carrying an earthenware filled with a layer of smouldering coconut husk sprinkled with incense and camphor, danced to the frenzying beats of the dhaak as they offered their prayers before the majestic idol through their dance. I have always wanted to perform that dance but my courage has always failed me at the eleventh hour. Perhaps one day I will. It was after this prayer that the crowd would begin to thicken and the air would start to smell of perfume and flowers, as the pandal (marquee) would fill up with gorgeously dressed men and women and their jubilant laughter and music. Where there are Bengalis, there must be music, arts, good non-vegetarian delicacies and of course sweets! And so these pandals were outlined by several food stalls that sold mouth-watering cuisine prepared by some of the most talented culinary-craftsmen!

Every stall was engulfed by a distinct aroma that would entice passers-by seducing and pulling them closer and closer till they succumbed completely to its hypnotic effect. Right from egg-roles, mutton roles, the inimitable moglai parotas, kebabs and cutlets, biriyani, luchi-aloor dum, delectable Bengali desserts, to tea, coffee, ice cream, mineral water and Coca-Cola…they had it all! The rankings of these stalls would soon spread through word-of-mouth by their boisterous clientele. Some stalls even ran out of food if we reached late! And there I’d be, in my gorgeous new clothes, running around with my friends far away from the jurisdiction of my parents who were only approached for money. Grandma had her own food stall that would be robbed of every morsel of grub even before we got there for a second or third helping. Grandpa played the quintessential consumer with utmost passion and humour.

On some afternoons there would be fun competitions like quiz contests, singing contests, drawing contests, among others. The most interesting among these was the ‘shankha-dhwani pratiyogita’ that tested the longest one could blow the conch shell without pausing for a breath. It was a test of one’s lung-power. The year I participated in that contest, I must have been in my eighth grade in school. Grandma would train me every afternoon and teach me the tricks and the science of the trade; she always taught me to be sincere and to honour every challenge that was tossed at me. I remember how I was introduced to the lady who had won year after year in that contest. I defeated her that year. I played the conch for over a minute, breaking even the record set in the past years!

Another specialty of these afternoons was the ‘bhog’ (a special menu of food that is cooked fresh by dedicated volunteers and cooks for offering to the Goddess) that was served to all of us on plates made of dried palm-leaves. Somehow the concept of catered food and packaged plates containing a formula-44 menu that I could easily purchase at just any restaurant seems like a disturbing and a much altered variant of the ‘bhog’. The concept of self-service rather than having volunteers running around to serve the hungry devotees seems like an unfortunate inference of ‘convenience’. In my younger days some of us eagerly volunteered to serve the piping hot khichudi or pulao that had been offered to the deity on that day. We learnt to put our own hunger aside to first feed the elderly and the children.

By the time I moved to college, we were in Baroda (a beautiful city in the western part of India) where these nine days of the Navratri festival were celebrated in a completely different style though it carried the same spirit as that of the Durga Puja! People danced in thousands, in concentric circles, to the beats of Gujarati folk music that mainly sang praises to the Lord Krishna or Goddess Durga. As though in a trance this huge wave of men and women dressed in colourful ghagra cholis and other traditional Guajarati dresses undulated in rhythmic grace for most part of the night. I would join my friends at the Garba grounds after marking my attendance at the Durga Puja pandal.

But beneath all the celebrations what few noticed was my growing faith in Goddess Durga. Every time I stood before the beautiful idol of the Goddess I felt humbled and overwhelmed as I would be consumed by a deep sense of calmness and assurance. Even today, from time to time, I have found strength and courage in those eyes. I have always known how much grit and determination lay within a woman’s heart – as a mother, as a daughter or even as a wife – and I have turned to that strength from time to time to fuel my own mind with that powerfulness and energy. However, I have never prescribed to the idea of glorifying a living woman as a goddess since I believe that the goodness and goddess resides within every human being, be it a girl or a boy. I have often found the crowds overlooking the finer (and more real) facets and honest desires of the human heart every time they have focussed their energies on putting one on a pedestal where one can be tagged as ‘selfless hence divine’.

The concept of God is personal and can be practised in a million ways but to derive a shallow corollary from that seems utterly convenience-based and therefore totally unacceptable. Goddess Durga always reminds me of the power of good over evil. I have seen a glimpse of Durga in several people beyond their basic identities and differences. During this festive season, I pray sincerely that we all imbibe the capability to notice the divinity in every human being and also respect the free human spirit, instead of being overwhelmed by the external façade.

Jai Mata Di! Joi Maa Durga!

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Goddess & Whore: Cover Launch!

Standard
Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

Goddess & Whore, to be available in bookstores soon!

5 October, 2013. As we enter an auspicious time of the year, when we celebrate the goodness and godliness in every human being, I use this opportunity to share with all of you the title and cover of my upcoming book, ‘GODDESS & WHORE’. The book is scheduled to reach bookstores, in and outside India, very soon. I sincerely (and selfishly) seek all your good wishes and blessings that should help me retain my insanity and utmost sincerity towards life and my craft. The cover/artwork of the book has been consciously kept bold, festive and unapologetic – characteristics that resonate with the very essence of the book’s content and intent too. This book marks the beginning of a journey that should most definitely contain several lessons through which I shall get to know myself better, as a person and as a writer. Do bear with me, be with me and guide me through this journey…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

The God I Saw

Standard

an infant i saw

under the staggering light

of the earthen lamp

on that still callous night…

when meaning had crept

out of every human heart

when hopelessness ‘n’ remorse

had ripped open every vulnerable part…
she had arrived
to save us all

and lead us
to a fresh new start

no weapon she bore

not a crown she wore

only a pure innocent heart…

patient ears to hear our woes

dark eyes that exuberated joy

her four little hands held aloft

a book

a flower

a flute

a toy…

yet familiar to me she seemed

while in blinding radiance she beamed

i recalled alas
that frail ‘n’ hungry cry

of a newborn girl

discarded and left to die…

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Nine To Five

Standard

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

the tiny cloud
o’er my coffee mug
slowly fills
the air-con space
the rhyming clicks
on my black keyboard
begin to pick
their daily pace…
i take a sip
and retrieve my lip
the stain of red
still on the mug
i answer my phone
in rehearsed reflex
and feel a frown
upon my brow…
i haven’t much time
to fill my mind
with thoughts
of disappointment and fear
my coloured nails
in harmony click on
without a sign
of remorse or cheer…
i pull back my chair
that yields to my will
and stride down
the quiet corridor
my four-inch heels
confirm my being
announcing themselves
on the lacquered floor…
this is my world
from nine to five
when i decide
my destiny
no judging eye
can reach me here
no ladle nor knife
can make pieces of me…
I’ve seen
the raised eyebrow
the look you give
from time to time
but i choose this time
my book instead
and leave you to fuss
o’er my alleged crime…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Romance II

Standard
Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

the satin sponge
that smells of talc
sets the stage
for the act to start
for day after day
it waits on me
to mask my flaws
with its magic touch…
the contour brush
with its gentle strokes
runs its fingers
o’er my neck and cheek
it teases me
like an ol’ lover i know
it can sculpt me
fierce or meek…
the dark chic stance
of the liner’s tip
kisses mine eyes
with its soothing moist lip
like a childhood pal
it reaches within
and quietly discovers
the dreamer in me…
my oldest romance
the charcoal stick
loyally guards
the defenceless in me
as it traces my eyes
with its own dark song
seeking to cloak the tale
that remains untold in me…
the lovely lipstick
tries to stay
within the space
in me she fills
yet time and again
its mind does stray
and once again
the colour spills…

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013

Poetry Vs Cigarettes

Standard

(another poem from Madhurima’s book ‘Goddess & Whore‘)

click click
click click…
the keys of my laptop
no less of a poet
echo their only rhyme
only to celebrate
my words
that have just been born
as i suck the bitter air
from my lit tobacco stick…
its tiny red ambers
like rubies breathe
alive and ablaze
each time i filter
a lung full of fresh air through it
but they reduce to soft ashes
soon after
and collapse
disillusioned discoloured
as i set the smoke free
from my lips
that provokes once again
my senses…
fifty thousand words
‘n a million cigarette puffs
it has cost and earned me
yet i argue on
with questionable irritation—
why these damned cigarettes
sell more than my poetry!
deep within though
i have a nagging doubt
if it’s my vanity
that seeks solace
and similarity
with the bitter taste
of the burning tobacco
that reduces quietly to ashes…

© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013