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Book Review | A unique meditation on the metaphysical realities of life

Published Dec 27, 2022, 2:05 pm IST
Updated Dec 27, 2022, 2:05 pm IST
Cover page of Shadows of the Fragmented Moon
 Cover page of Shadows of the Fragmented Moon

It’s rare to come across a book of poetry wherein all the poems question notions of physical, emotional, and spiritual reality of life and beings. Shubhrangshu Roy’s book is a unique amalgam of Rumi, Rabindranath Tagore, Shakespeare, and Socrates. Each poem in this 212-page book is a testament to the identity crisis most individuals go through. The book is divided into twelve sections which are aptly titled by words that describe the configurations that humans put themselves through almost every single day. Roy has them listed as: Time, The Eye, The Mind, The Senses, The Shadows, The Forest, The Ocean, Fragments of the Mind, The Teacher, Death, The End of Time and Freedom.

Dedicated to “the veiled one,”the coquettish, yet bold, our very own moon, the book represents the poet’s comprehension of two texts from Hindu mythology, the Yoga Vaistha and the Ashtavakra Gita. There is an inherent mystery in the poems as if the poet intends it to be on purpose like a philosopher or spiritual guru. The poems have innumerable questions, some of which are Socratic in nature and encourage the reader to ponder, deliberate, and further question. Some are like a devil’s advocate, enticing us to scratch areas of our consciousnesses we might not often do or perhaps have forgotten because of the unfaithful nature of age, or illness. Like in the poem, “T.I.M.E” in the section Time, Roy’s articulates or vents, much like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be or not to be?”, saying at the end, “Can memory exist on its own/ Who knows?!”The poet seems to be grazing the ambiguities of a declining mind that slips into Dementia or Alzheimer’s. While the statement could be viewed as a teaser, the question mark that accompanies the exclamation mark adds to the alluring brew the poet seems to be stirring. Further, for example, in the poem, “Brahman!” in the section, The Teacher, the poet emphatically pronounces at the end, “God alone knows Who Am I/Mindsport Am I! Mindsport Am I!”In effect, therefore, beckoning and enticing the reader to follow him on the circuitous non consummating dribbles of the Pied Piper’s rats.

The poet, like in The Alchemist, is on a journey of the mind, the most it seems, less so of the heart or the soul. And while Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, “Where the mind is without fear,” is a bellowing to the new glory that could come from independence, Roy’s explorations into the pleasures, anxieties, and optimisms of the mind are too about freedom of a different kind-salvation (moksha) perhaps from the arduous path of a human from birth to death. However, as Roy epitomizes in his poetry the emotional and the spiritual cannot be distinctly or clearly demarcated from the psychological without traces of cross relevance and influence. The subtext of Roy’s book is, A Time Travel into the Depths of Mind. Only a very wise person, an extremely thoughtful and empathetic person with tremendous grasp of the scriptures and universal philosophies could write such sweeping soliloquies with poignant depth about issues of time, space, and matter. Soliloquies that might seem to be intended for the personal inquiry yet have a universal outreach as these compel readers to delve inherently into the crux of the poetic questions and exclamations. In turn into the core of their very own existence and its basic, raw meaning.Many lines in Roy’s poems leave the same delible mark on the reader, which is organic, authentic, yet visceral like the chilling lines in Rumi’s poem, “Don’t go back to sleep”, ‘The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”

Leaning on the two texts from Hindu mythology, Roy presents his poetry in human cyclical motion of existence, endings, existence, endings. Quite often he appears to be walking in the thick of self-created tensions and conflict or imposed by the other and outsider or someone within the self or from his/her most intimate spaces. Traces of the four phases of a Hindu’s life (traditionally), Brahmacharya (period of celibacy, education and self-growth), Grihastha (the householder stage of marriage and family life), Vanaprastha (search for the meanings to one’s identity, life and sheer existence) and Sannyasa (renunciation of all mortal/physical needs; a stage that very few are able to actualise), are clearly and meticulously outlined in the various sections, especially as the reader proceeds towards the last three sections, Death, The End Of Time and Freedom. Roy like a sage is attempting to motivate people towards deliberating upon all the stages of one’s life, Hindu or otherwise. Truth, honesty, hope, loneliness, emptiness as well as the human relationship with nature and the planet are all woven into the enigmatic poems. Perhaps the first and last poems in the book outline the poet’s intrinsic philosophy. And perhaps ours too, for isn’t that what the poet is attempting to rouse — our thoughts, our analysis, and our actions? In the first poem, “The Storyteller”Roy says, “Memory and experience/In a neverending(sic) spat/Between this and that/Where that’s your memory/And this, your experience/The smarter of the two/Lives to tell the tale.” And in the last poem in the book, “Que Sera, Sera!” Roy says, “What will be, will be/What will be done/Will be done/By the wise/Here and now/Egoless, unselfish/Unviolated.”The fact that the titles of both are well known euphemisms tell us a lot about the intentional design that Roy crafts in his poetry. These are heightened, judicious, clevermessages that those who can decipher will do, or at least attempt, and in the process possibly benefit from these self-explorations in the long run.

This is a must-read poetry book and I commend Shubharngshu Roy for his grasp of mythological texts and of the metaphysical conundrum of our universe and humanity’s conception and potential culmination. Roy leaves us roaming in the realms of realism and surrealism while driving us to seek transcendentalism. No direct solutions are provided, quite much like historian E.H. Carr in his timeless book, What Is History (1961). And we are left quite unsatiated in that regard yet hungry for more, and eager for contemplating, even meditating into Roy’s cleverly, sagaciously, perceptively worded hidden missives in his inexplicable, cautionary, at times daunting yet exulting and inspirational poems.

Shadows of the Fragmented Moon
By Shubhrangshu Roy
Hay House




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