Review: Realm of Understanding
By: Sujan Bhattacharya
Presently Kiriti Sengupta is one of the most prolific literary activists in and around Kolkata (India). You may wonder why I’ve termed a competent young author to be an activist! Is it not an attempt of undervaluing him? This is the term that suits Sengupta better than any other self-proclaimed individual. History suggests every author remains focused on the development of individual identity. Sengupta thinks a bit differently. He is certainly busy with his own creations, but at the same time he has taken up his agenda of translating a few Bengali poets into English to make the English speaking population conversant with the rich treasure of Bengali poetry. He has co-edited three widely acclaimed poetry anthologies that involved many global poets of much renown. None would differ that such a combination of activities uplifts an author to the level of a missionary, a self-devised protagonist. In spite of such tiresome literary activities, Sengupta incessantly drives himself through a passage to unknown and unfound terrains all the time. He has his own vision of himself and the world around, and he is extremely conscious in depicting his views in front of others. He has some well-formed messages for his readers, who are not expected to be in uniformity with them all the times. But you cannot ignore the mode he presents his expositions in a most lucid and spontaneous manner. He seldom argues; very rarely confronts contrasting views. What he does is a simple conversation with someone present before him, and without much delay you will find out that he is actually speaking to himself. To which genre shall we place such writing? A free prose? Oh well! The manner in which he intermixes a poem, narration of an incident, or his final exposition, crosses the boundary of any known genre of literature! I would rather like to identify the genre to be a new category of “personal prose.” The Reverse Tree is Sengupta’s latest work that perfectly fits the bill.
Sengupta has urged that a human being resembles a reverse tree. A tree keeps its roots down wherefrom it transfers the nutrients upwards. Here the author says the source of all actions performed by our limbs is the brain. I may disagree by saying that the brain itself has undergone changes by the impacts of the outside realities, but it will not be a truthful attitude to reject his attempt just because of this theoretical contradiction. He develops this idea on the basis of a few verses chosen from The Geeta with lucid and fluent translation. Here the author refers to a marriage counselor who “has grown tired of fixing issues that have lately been surfacing in a large number of households.” Sengupta identifies a recession in the values of relationships, and with citing an example of translating a poem from one language to another he finds his own way of reflecting a soul into another. He derives his conclusion from his “experiment” of editing an anthology of Epitaphs. Sengupta says, “My concern is: If the poets fail to consider death as an inevitable reality, what will be the readers’ stand?” Explaining his stand on reversal further Sengupta concludes, “Enjoy life even in death.”
In The Reverse Tree the author deals with the issues of the third gender in the chapter entitled “Crisis.” Sengupta comes out openly in support of gay-sex. He sheds off his basic and innate style; he not only argues, but also tries to confront prevailing socio-legal stance on the issue. He presents a poem and identifies the existence of both the male and female beings in it. Later he moves on to the story of Lara, a transgender sex worker. Her agony, lost love and her desire for a cozy home with a loving husband and children are sensitively depicted in this chapter. The story of Lara is amply enough to establish the bi-faced attitude of our society to persons whose psyche opposes the outwardly physical attributes. The stance of the author in support of gay-sex has its root in his own priority on soul above outwardness. Sengupta is not only sincere, but he is also cogent in expressing himself here. The attitude of the entire Sanskrit Literature in the context of gender-terminology is neither biological nor psychological, but purely linguistic. In Sanskrit Varya is feminine, Dara is masculine and Kalatra is neuter while all of these refer to wife.
“Anti-Clock,” the first chapter practically serves as the prologue. “In Other’s Shoes,” the second chapter is based on the author’s experience of an incident that involves mimicry. Here Sengupta vividly describes the whole incident leaving no single point for the readers to imagine, and his discourse ends with a question: “How does one get into another being so effortlessly?” The question is simple, but opens the door to a vast horizon. We all have been accustomed with putting our legs in other’s shoes. It may be a dress code, a food habit, our life-style, and also the cultural impediments. Sengupta does not step ahead; but his inquisitive narration will certainly put a sincere reader into probing him/her self.
“Jet Lag” is another chapter that will also inspire the readers to think deeply. It’s often said that life has speeded up. The pace of changes all around, either in technology or in social thought, puts all of us in a dilemma. Sometimes these changes lead us to a complete negation of the surroundings. As the biological clock is to be adjusted, one has to cope up with his reality accordingly. The narration of the author drives us to that realm of thinking.
The Reverse Tree
Author: Kiriti Sengupta
Reviewed by: Sujan Bhattacharya*
ISBN-13: 978-93-84180-78-2 (Paperback)
U.S. edition, October, 2014
Price: USD $8.99
Publisher: Moments Publication, India.
Page count: 62
*Sujan Bhattacharya is a bilingual poet, essayist and critic and he is working as a Commercial Tax Officer, Directorate of Commercial Taxes, Government of West Bengal, India.