Hetero loves are known for the complete imbalance of power within which they operate. Declarations of eternal love are not concrete enough to hold together relationships. Mostly, they work within the realm of male domination. Any woman who discovers its pitfalls is either a victim or someone able to surmount it in rare cases.

Simantini (Boundless), a collection of nearly 100 poems by Preeti Singh, is unique in the sense that all the poems have a single theme running through them- that of hetero love. It’s a constant monologue that the “I” in the poem (whom we can identify with the poet) uses to address the “you.’ This is a long tale of love that goes through many phases which we are familiar with but comes out with variations depending on the individuals.

Thus, the title ‘Simantini (Boundless)’ is also an intriguing term. It speaks of surrender and release at the same time. Simantini usually refers to a married woman, but it can also be interpreted as one within bounds. By adding the word ‘Boundless’ within brackets, the poet indicates a woman who is at the same time within bounds and without. This is an interesting concept that determines the whole character of the poems.

The book has two Sections – one, that points towards surrender and pining, and two, that points towards a kind of liberation or realization.

Thus in Section I , the opening poem itself speaks of a loss of identity due to love at a very young age or adolescence.

i tried to be
a girl and a woman
in the struggle
i lost my identity.

This, obviously, leads to a break from the patriarchal power that was holding her within its confines till then.

father,
you were left behind.

After that, there is a relentless out pouring of love towards the man. But, at no time is the flip side ignored.

love,
you have the suppleness of a deer
the surrender of a slave

the finality
of the
statement
i love you
killed something.

a writing in my being
in the stalemate
of my existence.

Her existence by now is seen as a stalemate. The fact is that there is a liberated soul with her which for the time being is incapacitated by her love. There is an awareness of what is going on.

in the restlessness of your waves
i will find my calm
we are bound
and yet not

love will grow
change forms
and
come back to me

There is a clear realization that, despite its imagined immortality,  the eternal love is proving itself to be finite. The lover has turned her into ‘a broken piece of humanity.’ The love is being broken up, but yet there is no committed reciprocation from him. She has to cry out –

come take me before
i am sold
come deflower my virginity
before they rob it
by force.

this hearse of a body
is still mobile.

In the poem Simantini, which does not come with the word Boundless as in the title of the collection, she realizes his coldness to her warm entreaties though she wants to see his eyes still lit up with love.

kintu your sona
dear simantini
forgot the way
to your lovelorn gaze.

a restless world
shall turn to rest
but you didn’t come.

Instead of love, what she sees is this – ‘ there is night/in your eyes.’ But, she quite gallantly is proud of the fact that she is releasing him from the burden of loving her – ‘ i am glad/ i could give you back/ to yourself.’ Her plight is well etched by this time. She has been wounded by love.

in the numerousness
of the stars
i count my wounds

She is in despair. She doesn’t know what to do. Patriarchy in the form of customs and in the form of love has her in its grip. She is devastated.

stop the watch
and hold the time
tomorrow’s light
must never dawn

In Section II and in the last poems of Section I, we see a different her. She is already questioning his motives and attitudes instead of being distraught.

why did you arrive
to disturb the stillness
of my soul?

there was strength
in being a stone.

Now, she is able to confront him and tell him in clear terms, ‘i do not want/to be there only when/you need me.’ What the man has done is also clear.

playing truant
with my emotions
you over drew from
a bankrupt account.

for my sin
of loving you
i turn into dust
in life itself.

Hetero love, here, becomes a sin. He is unable to see her pain or her tormented soul.

you cannot see
the gaping wound
the lava burns
and you cannot feel
the torment within.

This is the moment when the poet in her awakens to work even though she even desires death. The demise is imagined like a poem stuck in the throat.

one day i will
quietly fade away
a sad demise
a poem stuck in the throat

She hopes to find solace in her new found freedom content with the experience she has gone through.

i am one with all
i am the infinite
in finite case.

Though,

the bruises that you gave
and those which others did
have become
festering wounds now.

One is amazed by the simplicity of language she employs to describe her love life. There are very rare moments of outburst. Mostly, the poems are subtle to the extreme. The language is guarded and even anger is controlled. The poems operate with utmost decency and concern even for the lover who strayed. Words are pruned to their essence, like minimal flowers arranged in a vase. Gaudiness in expression is totally avoided. These are rare qualities that are not found in the poems floating around these days. And, remarkable is the way small caps are used throughout and the way words and lines are arranged. This is possible only by a very mature poetic mind.

Having said all this, she has made a lovely dedication of the book to –

my father
the only man
who loved me unconditionally.

All in all, a beautiful set of poems on and of love, dejection and deliverance.”

Ra Sh is a poet


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