Wednesday 26 August 2020

And then Arrived the Goddess

Title: Eight Armed Goddess
Poet: Sindhoor Varkoor
Publisher: Adisakrit

Sindhoor Varkoor’s ‘Eight Armed Goddess’ is creatively brilliant and simply unputdownable. I confess, I didn’t expect I would be as impressed with the Goddess as I had been with the poet’s earlier collection of poems, Musing Madhawa – Viraha Madhawam. But that was before reading the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong really. I read the first poem, and I knew I was hooked.

After everything
Gets over
Only outlines of memories
Remain like kohl in the eyes
Smudged into life
Nothing gets erased
(Outlines, p.7)

That was enough to make me sit up and I didn’t put the book down until I finished the entire collection. The poems portray the woman and all her facets.

I have stories
Of spilt milk
On burning coals
Watching carefully
I let it simmer and spill
I have stories
Of lost wars
When like the iron-gate
I still stood
Bearing the first slashes
I have stories
Of waiting
Like drought for rain
Deserted I live In vain
I have stories
Of bottled life
Filled to the brim
Like grave silence coffined in dust
(Stories, p. 8)

You can see the everyday woman here - the woman who is bearing it all in silence. And the woman who has faced her challenges, who stood her ground and never gave up even as she lost her cause. There is also the woman who refused to quit even when she was left with no other choice. And then there is the woman who realises all of it was for nothing after all. Of course, a woman is all of these rolled into one, and this echoes and re-echoes through her poems.

…When glass shattered
You know how many pieces
Made it
When they scatter all around
You remember how it stood there
As one piece once in time
—A monument
Shelved and wrapped in aroma…
(Spice Jar, p. 9)

In the above lines, you can almost hear a soliloquy of submission – a deceptive submission, for, she, the woman, having “…come/This far…Will not/Go back…” (‘Goddess’, p.10). And the Goddess in her had to reveal herself at last.

Do not play with this Goddess
As if she’s in your fold
She plays with you instead
This eight armed Goddess
Needs no single-shouldered bliss
(Eight Armed Goddess, p. 11)

In the same poem, the Goddess jolts you out of your stupor when she says

In her heart she holds and unfolds
Your universe as it is
And can shut your eyes
With a single kiss.
(Eight Armed Goddess, p. 11)

Here’s where the poet emerges in all her glory. With her poetry, she can show a mirror to your soul, she can shake you until your fa├žade slips leaving you facing your truth, she can take you on a spiral of bliss. The poet, or the Goddess (because here both are one and the same), fills you with fire, consumes you in fire, and what’s more, turns you into fire.
Varkoor’s poetry is intense with emotion. When the Goddess says, “My tresses can be angry dark waves/Sweeping you/Into their night” (Just because, p. 12), one so wished she did just that. The sheer beauty of the words makes you want to lose yourself in them. The poet has this knack for catching you unawares.

Do not think
You can cross those bordered isles
And become dew drops
In dreaming eyes

I may shut them once
To choke you twice
(Just because, p. 12)

But what is poetry if it isn’t filled with these little, yet profound, surprises? Varkoor’s metaphors are beautiful. In the poem ‘Rapunzel’, the poet defines the golden-haired beauty as,

A braided mystery twisted
You cannot hold
Or unfold
(Rapunzel, p. 13)

One finds this Rapunzel so perfect perhaps because one can see oneself in her. And finally when the poet says,

For you do not want to
See her face smile
Her eyes yearn for you
You will not dare look into them
As they show only a reflection
Of you

You will
Find it there
Where all ends end
Into a new beginning
Where you have her
Face to face
(Beheaded, p.17)

you come face to face with the woman who is, alas, liberated. For all the poignancy and profundity in her poems, the poet also displays occasional humour.

The endless curry contest has just begun
Hers versus mine
As I start cooking his favourite dish
My pickled poetry and her jarred emotions
All for him—hers and mine.
(Contest, p. 22)

In ‘Excavation’ emerges the liberated woman again, the woman who had to pay the price for it, like all women, of course.

The corals still preserve their pale red
Once a deeper shade
May be I can wear it on
Without mending it
Antiques have a price
That’s priceless
I wear it on now
The new old ornament
My Pride
(Excavation, p. 25)

‘Ma’ (p. 27) is so full of pain, hope and imploration, I feel I should leave it to the readers themselves to delve into its fathoms. Varkoor can make silence speak through her poem, when she says,

I like dolls
Their perfect pout
That perfect silence
(Dolls, p. 28)

The silence here speaks volumes.

Something I had particularly noted was the complete lack of punctuation in the entire collection of poems. Surprisingly, I noticed it only when I was halfway through the book. Without the distraction of punctuations, the poems seem to flow freely laying bare their intrinsic emotions, sometimes ending in an ultimatum.

Do not
Hate me
For I am Love
If you do not dare it
Bear it
Fare me well
(Stigmata, p. 57)

Picking the best out of Varkoor’s collection of poems is difficult. There is something in every poem that you want to take away, that you want to keep locked within your heart forever. Her poems are so rich in meaning that different readers may relate to them in different ways. As Varkoor herself says,

All of us from the same weave
Will drape life
(Mother’s Banaras Saree, p. 29)

[As published at

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