at my doorstep by Tapan Mozumdar Yavanika Press, 2021
Reviewing Editor: Suraja Menon Roychowdhury
A debut collection of haibun from Tapan Mozumdar, 'at my doorstep', would resonate with every reader who has lived through the deadening year and a half of the pandemic. These haibun, capturing short and ordinary instances in the day-to-day life of the poet are infused with the ennui of the times. Not being able to go out physically brings the focus closer to home.
‘flashing the torch onto myself middle age’
The book comprises of short vignettes of immediate family, neighbours and people on the street - as if the world is shuttered in with occasional rays from the outside such as the exquisite photography of Tom Clausen. Things that would ordinarily elicit a response are now met with indifference. Sisyphus, the opening haibun, is a good example where a mother's whimper about her knee, a wife's text reminder about the insurance and a meaningless deadline at work juxtapose with a crawling cockroach - all just not worth the bother of a response. Instead, the poet prefers to lose himself in mindless video games. Family relationships are thrown into light, sometimes with irritation, sometimes poignant - as in Child's Play, where the family eats lunch together, strangers to each other now, unable to express their love towards one another.
“After a long time all of us have lunch at the same table, at the same time. I don’t like pasta. My son hates Bengali fish curry. We continue watching videos on our mobile phones to avoid conversation. AI knows our favorites well - we can’t say that about each other”
Hypocrisies are thrown into stark relief. Falsetto is a great example of the need to be seen as a connoisseur. The haiku in each haibun are little concentrated bursts infused with sameness, and yet with a new angle, a different light on the situation in the prose.
how long can you wait
for the rains?
The horrors of the pandemic - someone testing positive, the wail of a siren, the need for oxygen cylinders - are starkly accentuated by the ‘greyness’ of the daily mundane.
“What’s the difference? People are dying and you quote Eliot”….And on writing poetry: “What’s right with it? Will your anguish laden metaphors get my brother-in-law an oxygen cylinder?”
Tom Clausen’s black and white photographs provide a striking companion to these haibun. Readers will relate to these glimpses and perhaps realise the unintentional gift of having the time to ‘stand and stare’. And when the pandemic is history and humanity reverts to its usual breathless race towards some meaningless goal, readers will remember the flavour, the pace of these days and perhaps, pause.
in the middle of the road…
There is an ease and relatability in Tapan’s writing. The book itself is a great example of DOING something to combat the sameness of the days, a carpe diem.