Book Review: Oindri Sengupta’s ‘After the Fall of a Cloud’

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By Rochelle Potkar

Of all the rasas on the spectrum of emotions, it is brave to write poetry around pain and loneliness. These are abysmally lonely topics. But if intimate experiences of melancholia are well-handled, palm-collected as in this book by Oindri Sengupta, it can reach a point of collective catharsis – as least for those who read it.

“Reality gives life an illusory reality,” states the poet and that already sets me thinking.

For all the times we feel alone and haunted, the lines from this book “That life is full of irridescent colors of monotony” might make sense. Most poets spend their lives seeking and finding; Oindri Sengupta on the other hand seeks hiding places instead. But even her disguises are transparent and betraying:

“I must stand where the evening builds its home/But my home is lost when I tried to find one.”

The bravery of pain can be seen in riveting phrases such as: “trying to create days from endless nights”, as a curation of dejection and human sorrow. Tell me if this is my thematic apperception test, but then what is art if not in its myriad appreciation?

This book is an entrapment of many-a-daydream, reminding one of the quintessential hours when synapses fire through infinity and the subconscious makes sense of what the conscious mind fails to. The title of the book, After the Fall of a Cloud, itself is an enigma, because clouds don’t fall. They water cycle rather into rain. But the poet reimagines it, as if a fallen angel of hope and harvest. The poems in this book too seem to drift through devastation, levitating to new hinging of metaphysical abandon.

I must admit being a staunch storyteller and gravitating toward person, place and phenomena. This book’s poems slipped around the bends and curves of my mind like fast-retreating shadows, I always couldn’t catch. Fleeting, flitting they were more than other poetry, but not before leaving behind a lingering aftertaste of sadness.

But that is also the delight.

That a poem should escape you on the page even as it is framed on it. It can evaporate and defy the notion of gravity. Sengupta dwells in abstract spaces from where she pencil-sketches her experiences of miniaturism, taking a pause through the magnifying glass of abstraction. Standing and staring is the mode and tone imperative to this book.

You don’t always read a poetry book to review it. As I read this one, over a month, I searched for answers to my life’s current questions and if not to the questions I didn’t have yet, living vicariously in the poet’s travel-beaten, weather-borne shoes. Any answer could work. All food is edible against hunger, against cravings of just one kind and this book doesn’t disappoint in its offering. Traveller of darkness, Sengupta waits for light to turn a whole semicircle whence she sets afoot on her mission of summation. Sample this: “To begin is to hear what ears cannot/and to understand what forests say/about minds of man.”

Like a thesis on the genesis, when silence is the only word. Her poems bring lonesomeness and hope, quietitude and restlessnes as stark imagery gives these moments its vividness. If the axiom of clay-carving your pain into art is true, the poet speaks of a distillation, but also a detachment by transfering pain intactly to art. Images slip over the hairpin bends of pastoral galatical spaces. “Lost tales are not always found/inside unopened doors”, and studying time or eternity to courting in-between temporality is seen in lines like: “It takes years for the moon to burn like dew.”

Sometimes the poet speaks as if from the eyes and ears of goddesses, metamorphosing from humankind: “I heard that the sun too changes its colors/All you need is to give your skin.”

This book takes up no easy topic from deliberations on death, but with redemption, the poet curates the vintage effects of time on scope and memory of infinitesmal spaces. She articulates abstractions. But somehow her poems don’t leave you disturbed, even if they court sadness. There is a rainbow, a ray of sunlight, a shaft of light, an open window, a footprint of the past that gets excavated enough to bookmark towards a brighter tomorrow. “When a crow forgets to return to its nest/because it remembers too much of the light,/the home that lives within, comes alive/with all its fruitless longings.”

Sengupta’s exploration on existence comes from humility and the strength of much love: “Sometimes all I want to do is just breathe./After sleeping with a spoonful of stars/under my skin.” This poet transports you to a glade where first steps begin in her own words, “And here I am in peace/The peace of the dead.”

Sleep is oblivion’s second child.

I rest my case. After all the happiness when you want a sigh of solace, come to this book.

Bio:
Rochelle Potkar is the author of Four Degrees of Separation and Paper Asylum – shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. Her poetry film Skirt was showcased on Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland. Her short story collection Bombay Hangovers released in 2021 to rave reviews.

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, born in New York City and currently based in India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Exploring Motherly Instincts: Representation of Mothers in Indian Cinema”, edited by Srija Sanyal, Ronin Institute, USA.

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