Review of ‘The Rise of Yogamaya’ authored by Vidya Shankar
‘The most significant book of spiritual, soulful and divine poems that makes one contemplate and delve deeper into one’s own psyche’.
The book begins with testimonials of some distinguished and intellectual personalities who all have given not only their views about how our poetess is, as a human being and as a healer. ‘Sailakshmi Venkat a Social Worker and Curator has said ‘Vidya is a beautiful soul who carries unconditional love and acceptance. Chokanath Hyna, Founder of Palgenie Technologies Pvt. Ltd, has said that Vidya has many avatars. There are more testimonials who all have said much praising things about the poet. Truthfully at this point, I had no idea what this poetry book was all about or is going to be but had a kind of feeling from the cover that it must be an embarking reflection of the poet's spiritual journey and awakening.
Nevertheless, while I was in that stigma of knowing more about the book I landed to the ‘Preface’ Page and I have to admit that after reading the entire ingenuous account of the poet’s life I felt that she is a warrior and undoubtedly a Yogamaya who has risen from the dust of her own melancholic earth. This made me much curious to read the poems contained within the book and I was mesmerized by the seven most celestial segments the book is divided into.
The first segment is ‘Nireeswara- She who does not have any one controlling her.’ The first poem in this segment itself is the most enticing one which depicts the epic tale of ‘Draupadi’ in an unusual way. This poem I would say is the reflection of the agonies of a woman who had five husbands as we all know it from the Mahabharata, but the poet has portrayed the agonies and lamenting of ‘Draupadi’ as none of the husbands and the court full of men come to her rescue but only her blue divine friend saves her dignity in a hall full of ogling eyes to witness the uncovering of a woman who stands most vulnerable among an all men assembly. Another poem I enjoyed reading was ‘Scarlet Rising’ which effortlessly talks about breaking the rules and following the heart in a place where wearing even a sleeveless blouse is looked down upon. The poems mostly here talks about the narrow mindedness of the society and the non-willingness of accepting the women of who they are, and how they want to live? In poet’s words from the poem ‘Draupadi’-
The wall of separateness that Draupadi had built
When she had implored the help-less court
Fell to dust-she was Krsihna!
The saree that was ripped off exposed not her embarrassment
But her naked faith, and with it, her nobility and grace!
The second segment is ‘Janani- She who is the mother’. This is the most germane section of the book because it carries the story of a hollow womb yet how it carries the light of the universe and within her heart and in her lap. ‘Puthani’ and ‘Blue Baby’s Special Mother depicts that how the protagonist is a barren woman but she holds the divine child, the god as an infant into her lap. She is mother of the omnipresent and sees Krishna as her own child. From barrenness thus she becomes the goddess herself, a god mother in love with her divine child.
But Krishna, the blue baby, nestled in her arms,
Comfortably, and drew at her breast
The merciful warmth so emanated sent out of sensation
That tugged at her heartstrings.
Notably this segment has poems mainly on motherhood and depiction of woman as a mother of the divine and earth as the mother of humanity. There are some other sections out of which I was intrigued by the one where the poet has the most plausible way of expressing the love for the beloved. ‘Kaamya’ –She who is of the form of love. As the title suggests the poems in the segment are metaphorical, sublime and ethereal at the same time. I particularly enjoyed reading ‘A Midnight Love Song’ where you see the poet’s love for poetry where poetry has become her lover and when it summons even at the odd hours she is helpless but to be its muse and cater to its call and its again her lover poetry that lulls her to sleep. The deeper connection of a poet to poetry where the former becomes the muse and the latter her lover is a guileless and appealing concoction of thoughts and her contemplation as a poet.
There are poems depicting the mundane as well, ‘To My Coffee’ is one such poem but the most conspicuous element in this segment is that the poet has portrayed her heroine as the symbol of love, where she herself becomes love and the poem ‘Golden Heart’ takes you to a journey where her friend is addressing her as ‘Sakhi’ expressing the truth that she has a golden heart overflowing with love and her own self love will heal her. It somewhere again takes us to the place where it becomes vivid that only by talking out the pangs and pathos one can come out of depression and self healing can take place once we learn to love our self.
Let the yellow glow fix the brokenness
And make you lustrous again as ever
The glowing gold of your own love, not someone else’,
So you may be whole again.
The other segments are equally and amply absorbing, and must be read slowly to let the verses settle slowly within the heart, for each poem has a unique treatment of expressing the thoughts, emotions and sharing of the grief that the poet has gone through as part of her deep struggle which has only made her shine as a Yogamaya who now uplifts myriad souls not only through her selfless deeds for others but also through her verses and this is one such book that will indubitably uplift your spirits.
Chrysanthemum Chronicles' Verdict: The poetry collection ‘The Rise of Yogamaya has myriad insightful poems that say greater reality through verses, uplifts the soul and touches the heart tenderly. The poet has much control over the language and her poems are flowing like rivulets which not only are pleasing to read but take you towards a reality of how one can cope with mental illness as the poet has given a glance into her own life struggles and how she overcame it, and I am sure it can be a great read for people going through depression. Also there are most wise and relevant words and suggestions of some great eminent people who have talked about mental illness that how it exists in myriad forms and one needs to speak out to come out of it. Moreover the beauty of this book is the Mandala Art done in each page of the book by the author herself, which will fill you with great delight holding such an illustrative book in your hands. In the whole of the book can be seen is the abiding and the most unconditional love for her deity, her Krishna and I would like to give this book a 5 star rating and would recommend it as a must read to all because of it inimitable content and poems.
Review by: Monalisa Joshi
Founder & Chief Editor
Vidya Shankar is a widely published poet and writer, a blogger, motivational speaker, budding mandala artist, yoga enthusiast, and English language teacher with experience in instructional designing and content development. An active member of poetry circles, she is the recipient of literary awards and recognition and has been on the editorial of three anthologies, including Madras Hues, Myriad Views, and an anthology of prose, poetry, art and photographs on Madras. She has two books to her credit ― The Flautist of Brindaranyam, in collaboration with her photographer husband, Shankar Ramakrishnan) and The Rise of Yogamaya. A “book” with the Human Library, Chennai Chapter, Vidya uses the power of her words, both written and spoken, to create awareness about environmental issues, mental health, and the need to break the shackles of an outdated society.