HYDERABAD: How does a poet ask a rose its name? Or ask the flower its time? Or better, refuses to ask a rose to wait as ‘There’s no time in its petals only the saga of one sunrise and one sundown.’
What does it lead to? The heart of the naked rose? Bombay-based poet Rochelle Potkar makes this opening poem ‘Timely’ an essential bookmark in the journal of your daily insipid routine so as to make you come back and smell what otherwise gets bottled and smuggled away from the sap of life.
And the book opens petal by petal leading you to a garden: a real composite of time leading to serpentine lanes of Bombay and its belly that defines and aligns what’s otherwise left behind in a Kafkaesque manner.
Even one year after its release, the poems still smell fresh taking a matured scent to offer to its readers. That’s how I opened it again walking through the rows of poems that the poet has planted and gone away to give shape to other gardens waking up in the still morning of another creative process.
Rochelle’s images are carcass of light that trap visions only to add more colour to them. Her approach to poetry is fresh even when she’s writing about oft-written-and-exhausted images of trains, Goan curry, airports or parks as ‘there’s nothing new in the world except the history we don’t know’.
The poet polishes her craft inviting the reader to take a closer look at what she creates – closer than hers, deeper, keener enough to pull gossamer covers and peep into a garden of words that sway, sometimes punctuated with linguistic ambiguities. In the poem ‘Train to Bombay or Mumbai’ she draws the parallel between both the names of the city with lines like:
“...Bombay. Your libaas, your fitrat hasn’t changed.”
Bombay in her poem stinks, becomes naked and reeks of urine. The Urdu words try to bring some ‘saliqa’ to this hag of a city and move inside the reader’s mind like a slow-motion cinema pulling him inside the ‘Other Self’ that he himself hasn’t been able to face or come to terms with.
In her poem ‘Knotted Inside Me’ which talks of her hometown Kalyan, the image of the town multiplying around her like shoes outside a temple is interesting and makes the reader travel to this place whose memories are the poet’s own and her possessiveness is evident the way she carves the art of belonging.
Her language flows between the poems ripe with plots she crafts, dexterously more so because she is a short story writer, too. In some of the poems you wonder if the poet wanted to add a few more lines and put her pen aside to watch a tree of the poem stay as the stump of a tree and nothing more. You feel like searching for those lines but find the poem has come to an end.
The poems offer an amalgam of both universal and personal themes and sometimes overlap each other. The book, after a year, has matured like customised wine whose taste might or mightn’t
appeal to all as cultivating and understanding certain tastes need time.