That elusive nook

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Some good reads in Kannada

Chittara by Sabiha Bhoomi GowdaLohia Prakashana, Rs. 40You are writing your all-important project report and have decided you will not let anything in the world distract you. The "generous" husband has taken over the responsibility of cooking breakfast and getting the child ready for school. And then you hear the hiss of milk boiling over and the acrid smell of burnt toast. Nine out of 10, you will instinctively abandon all else and rush to the kitchen. And you wonder much later: what on earth compelled me to do that?This is a typical experience for most women — of suddenly realising that a "room of one's own" is elusive and generations of conditioning is hard to exorcise.The charm of Sabiha Bhoomi Gowda's Chittara is the way she can present such familiar scenes from a middle-class household in intricate detail and in an idiom that sounds so very fresh. The opening poem, "Aduge", adds another layer of complexity to this experience with a twist: just when the "enlightened" mother has resolved not to pass on the burden of a stereotype to her daughter, why does the little girl seem all eager to learn cooking?The business of severing oneself completely from a stifling and confining tradition becomes even more complex when it comes inextricably linked to an entire web of relationships and memories. The busy woman of "Meluku" finds herself absorbed in the time-consuming and messy job of making pickles summer after summer because it's a "yajna" that brings back to life happy childhood memories of pickle-making with her grandmother. Memory's complex and multiple faces become an important preoccupation in a number of poems in the collection. Chewing gum, for instance, becomes a metaphor for the double-edged nature of nostalgia — it can either keep you stuck to a place or be that flexible springboard that facilitates a leap into something new."Sarataka mattu Sabalikarana" strikes a different note by taking a break from the personal to address larger questions about the farce of government-sponsored empowerment. "Koli Anka" is another striking poem because it interrogates the tricky question of violence and non-violence as they are defined by a Brahminical order. This poem succeeds where "Sarakara... " does not because even as it raises a larger social question, it does so from within an intimate, personal space without making sweeping judgements. That surely is the mark of a poem that has found itself.BAGESHREE S.



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