Not just in creative terms, but with great prudence, the poet, Varsha Singh, has come to redefine herself in her work as a potent social commentator on matters concerning long standing traditions. Through old customs, and stringent belief systems, such matters continue to promote restrictions on human rights issues including the individual right to exercise his or her free will to choose a personal redefinition of self without the censorship of culture. In her most recent collection of published poems, the poet has invoked her poetic licenses to create and use the word ‘Unbangled,’ as a noun instead of an adjective to initiate the title of her new book.
The word Unbangled has become the reoccurring theme vibrantly resonating in several of the poet’s works. It stands as a metaphor for change and liberty in the redefined self on the journey to self-actualization. It is the poet’s antitheses for the root word bangled. Neither form is listed in the dictionary. However, the word, bangle, is listed as a noun suggesting a thing. It is defined by Merrian and Webster as a stiff ornamental bracelet or anklet slipped or clasped on. The slipping off of the bangle may suggest releasing a mental shackle of perceptions in the pursuit of civil liberties. Varsha Singh has echoed the idea of the infinite self in the concept of the Unbangled much like her predecessor, William Blake, the great English Romantic poet and illustrator who once stated that “if the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”
Once again, through the Romantic artery, Varsha Singh has employed nature as a vehicle but in a metaphoric way to make a point about the human social conditions tempered by religion and politics. Several works like Beyondness, Foggy Wilderness, Breathless Sky and A Piece of Sky are some examples of the employment.
The infinite aspect of Being in such work as Beyondness, includes a spiritual experience surpassing all physical and mundane experiences in this life’s journey—perhaps the illuminating glimpse of light erupting in the Foggy Wilderness. It is the unpunctuated question, “What if /stars create borders/far above the sky/and your turn then comes/to select/your bunch of sky, in the poet’s most profound work, A Piece of Sky. Here, the illuminations of borders are outside our realm, perhaps out of reach. It seems like the selection process is nil in the perception that the partitions are nonexistent in our space. In essence, the outreach to our Beyondness appears to become the uncharted depths of the poet’s notion of the Unbangling of our perceived being in Liberation Predefined. On the next page of her book, the poet then contrasts the idea of the active perceiver, the truly liberated being in the poem, Liberation Redefined, as the one perceived becomes the active perceiver in defining his or her actions in determining self.
The process of the Unbangled seems to be a complicated matter, as the poet attends to the conflicting, cocooned thoughts in her head—“each struggling for exactness,” she said in her poem, Struggling Thoughts. Later, in another of her poems, Where the Mind is Fearful; the poet spells out the details of the bangled life of bondage. The fragmentations of a broken world, the tireless striving whose outreach is rejection, and sidetrack reason lost in the dreary desert sand are all images of bangles—the experiences of confinement in Wish-fulfillment: “They wish to tie me/rope, like a cow/domesticated/and impound/when my will is/to fly high/liberated/in sky!” said the poet.
Varsha Singh appears also hopeful that the bangled experience is soon to become the Unbangled. A few poems like Rescue, and Voices of élan, relate the poet’s moments of relief. For example, in her poem, Rescue, she relates that salvation is nearing as the subject is saved from the darkness that was about to engulf him or her. The source of salvation at this juncture is unknown, but perhaps an enlightenment as hinted in the similitude citing a full moon.
In Voices of élan, the anticipated salvation seems close by the form of a felt energy or perhaps the oomph inside of us that leaps to free us from the bondage of the callous thoughts. Its presence is striking, as the poet draws on our senses of hearing and touch. “I hear the sound/ I feel its blow/ It’s coming soon/ with a huge bellow!” said the poet.
The ingenuity of the poet, Varsha Singh, is underscored by her poem, Country Within and Out—a stark comparison of her country from two vantage points. Within, it’s a place devoid of caste, class, creed and section—all terms of division. Within, is also the sublimity of variations including culture, language, traditions, and celebrations. However, Out remains a place marked by these terms of division—the perpetuated bangles in flawed perceptions, systematic rituals, absolute rules, and constant regulations in the practices of the archaic culture.
In retrospect, the poet has given us a prudent advice in her opening poem, Unbangled:
Keep them in bangles
Tighter and enclosed
threats they are
I give my highest praise to poet Varsha Singh for the great efforts she has exhausted in this truly thoughtful, provocative and most sublime work that stands as a beacon of enlightenment. The work not only informs but inspires us—in effect, a good provocation in the argumentative mind.Reviewed by Paul C. Blake | Independent thinker/writer