Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras - Book Review



Title: Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras
Author: Maitreyee B Chowdhury
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
ISBN: 978-9382473848
Number of Pages: 78
Price: 125 [INR]
Genre: Poetry

Blurb on the Book:

Benaras is a book that seeks to tell the little stories that make us who we are. The author believes that Benaras resides in all of us Indians, in some beautiful often unknown way. The author is the Sutradhar, in that she attempts to connect an India that many do not realize exists, in that it is everybody's story. Radha, Krishna, Ganga, Benaras and Me are all characters in this deluge of poems.

This attempt at telling the story of the ancient, of love and of faith is to instill the confidence that poetry exists in all of us, everywhere, all that is needed is to smell its fragrance.

To those outside India, the book does not seek to be a representation of what India is or was, but a whiff of what it also can be. It is an attempt to ask people to see the little stories that govern all our lives, stories that we often don't see, but those that are important.

The audience for this book might be strewn across the globe, for faith is not religion-centric, it is people-centric and often without dimensions.

In poetry there is no beginning, no middle, nor no end. Like faith it is everywhere, it is omnipresent. The book affords no answers, nor no questions, but if you listen and read carefully you will see new things, a new beauty perhaps, one that has been silent so long.

My Review:

'Where Even the Present is Ancient: Benaras' is a collection of poems by Maitreyee B Chowdhury. When I first saw the cover page of this book, I had no idea what to expect. I just knew that it was something different. So without much delay I flipped to the first poem and there was no stopping from then. I finished reading all the poems within an hour and half.

Benaras is the religious capital of India. It is a place looked upon by us with devotion. But what is the reality? Is it really as holy as it looks for us from a distance? What is the truth? The author had made a commendable job of nudging us towards the reality of this place through her wonderful poetry. 

The book is a collection of short poems, which holds great meaning. The characters in the book are most essentially us. Small, yet thought provoking, these poems will leave a deep impact on us.

Here are a few verses that I loved:

"You haven't lived,
Till you've lost'
He seems to say -
'Most of all Yourself"

This verse if from the poem 'Faceless in Benaras' which is the poem I liked the most in the book.

Verses like 
'Spat some Benaras into his Ganga
       and
'God greets you in his stench,
pure and full of Bacteria'
    gives you a reality check about the condition of Ganga and places in Benaras.

I have never visited Benaras but reading this book, I felt like I was in Benaras, seeing it through author's eye. 

Here are some of my favorite poems:

All in all, the book makes a good read. I recommend it for poetry lovers.

My rating: 4/5 stars!

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About the Author 

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Maitreyee B Chowdhury is a web columnist and creative writer. She is author of Reflections on My India, a book of Indian traditions and spirituality in parts. Maitreyee is also author of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen- Bengali Cinema’s First Couple and Ichhe Holo Tai, a bilingual multi media presentation of poetry. Maitreyee is featured amongst other Indian writers such as Gulzar, Shashi Tharoor and Deepti Naval in an anthology of Indian writers Celebrating India.

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