Making Art out of Grief: By Rabindra K Swain
“The Collector of Grief” in Jayshree Misra Tripathi’s collection Trips and Trials. It is an art on another form of art. The collector of grief is there to professionally wail over the dead. But as an artist she is in her best of her costume and make up. No less is her art: “Bejewelled fingers trace her cheeks,/ in ancient seduction, yet it is sorrow she must depict/…She cries, her tears flow and/ the soft chant, her ritual song,…The courtyard echoes/ with her deceptive wails of grief.” Then the poet goes on to say “She grieves for my dear friend’s widowhood” not without adding “Does the Collector of Grief sing for me?” It is like John Donne warning to never ask “for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” That is Jayshree Misra Tripathi—making poems taking leaves from the storm-battered tree of her life. The tree is shaken but not uprooted.
And the single motif that runs through the collection in her admission is: “Life has passed by me”. Yet, she does not give up. Her tenacity is reflected in poems after poems gathered in six sections, all the section names beginning with the letter “L”: “Love,” “Loveless,” “Lament,” “Lust,” “Loss” and “Life.” The running theme is basically a life of love as well as a life without it and the consequential joy and grief which are found in almost all the poems in equal breath.
The poems in this collection chart her journey from a happy childhood to her lonely sixties. One such poem in the section “Life” is “Dance the Decade” that is measured in decadal growth. There could not be another intense autobiographical poem than this which dissects her life in such clear divisions as “When I was 10”, “Then at 20,” “Then at 40,” “When I was 50” and “Now at 60”. This poem begins with lively lines like “Joyful as a newborn” but gradually slides into anxiety which is put well in such befitting lines: “Disruption/ of home, hearth—heartless, merciless time”. There is overseas journey that augurs happiness, sadness too; like they are siblings. There comes an inevitable time when the poet finds herself “forlorn” “At 50” with the distancing of her husband and children going abroad, and entering their adult world. This is the stage in the poet’s life when she feels “secluded” and realizes that “It is the Beginning of the End”. “At 60,” there is nothing but “agony”, “retirement rearing its ugly head.” That does not mean she is going to lead a morose life. A believer in the karmic life, in prarabdha, she declares “Karma must have the last laugh.” There are a lot mentioning of the word Karma in this collection Trips and Trials.
Beset with grief one is prone to wavering in one’s belief in one’s action and fate, but this uncertain tilting is put to rest with a light reprimand “Dead is Dead” from “him”, a modern Charbak. That rips her from her vulnerability tokeep waiting for her salvation: “Am I being readies for future revelation?” Revelations are hard to come by and we are no Buddhas. The most concrete shooter of her grief must be her “Confidante”. She does not mince her words when she expresses her gratitude to him for “Being vanquisher of my foes.” At the end of this poem “Confidante” she says “Thank you, dearest friend,/ For being there for me.”
What is redeeming about this collection is that despite being riddled with grief the poet has exhibited a spirit of buoyancy. Knowing that “The Garden has been betrayed” in the poem “I Believe” she feels “the derisive disbelief/ permit the hoi polloi,/ But I do believe and pray/ When I want, I say—/ And I know I am good and kind,/ That’s all that needs to be said—/ My exit if perfectly timed!” At some point she ends her poem with Shanti, an Eliotian ending.
Although the poems, thus, are arrayed thematically in different sections all of them carry in their veins the songs of a wronged woman who is sensitive, who wants to be believed, to be listened to. “Simply Love,” is one such poem where she readies herself to start her life, at every stage, “once again”.
Not to cavil, one wishes she could have avoided words in many poems beginning with upper case, some even being totally in upper cases, and that she should not have used archaic expressions like “I know not”, “per chance,” etc. All these overlooking apart, Tripathi’s collection Trips and Trials marks her entry into Indian English poetry.
Rabindra K. Swain has written five books of poems, the last being This House is not For Knowing and five books of translation from Odia. He is the managing editor of Chandrabhaga, a Poetry magazine, published in Odisha, founded by the poet Padma Shri Jayanta Mahapatra.
Trips and Trials: Jayshree Misra Tripathi
Publisher: PepperScript, New Delhi.
Cover Design: Moonis Ijlal
Price: Rs. 290.