Writers International Edition

Echoes of Serenity: A Review of Johanna Devadayavu’s ‘Flight of a Turtledove’

It’s indeed a pride and privilege to receive a copy of the latest anthology of poems from the author herself. The delight is doubled when the anthology is gifted by the poet. At the very outset, I would like to place on record my heartfelt love and gratitude to Johanna D.S. Chittranjan Madam for hosting us at her haven, Laharinagar. The auguries of an auspicious rendezvous made me realize and know more in detail about a philanthropist like Madam Johanna. Without further ado, let me come directly to the Flight of a Turtledove published by Writers International Edition. I could not resist myself unfurling the pages of the lovely book where she has given multifarious impressions to the stages of her daily life.

“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives”, says the renowned American writer and philosopher, Audre Lorde. Poetry is considered an excellent expression of the pent-up emotions couched in real flesh and blood. It speaks to the hearts and remains as a reverberation of multicolored impressions blooming from the shards of experiences. The loftiest and untamed human emotions find a voice through the sanguine medium of language.

Johanna D.S. Chittranjan, a staunch voice in the poetic realm has emerged as a cooling breeze rustling through her weaving of words and images. Ms. Johanna who has been living in South India for the past 40 years, hailing from Switzerland has emerged triumphant in painting the rhythm of her daily life in simple and powerful words with a blend of unparalleled imageries. Her poetic lines make one traverse through the ensemble of one human persona in myriad forms; a beloved wife, a loving mother, a caring grandmother, a hardcore philanthropist, a born pantheist, and whatnot! The soul-stirring collection of 51 poems made me finish reading them off in a single go.

As the title suggests, The Flight of a Turtledove is a collection of poems that articulate her boundless love for peace and kindness. The poet like a turtledove endeavors to share the soothing power of love and the indomitable strength it upholds. The hustle and bustle of human beings in the world of verbal visual chats and online interactions, their upended life during the testing times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the confessional outlook of the poet: all these assorted experiences evince the soulful flight of a turtledove. The poet has unraveled her feelings with the touch of reality in her raw and honest words etched in poetic essence with nature as her objective correlative. Her insights on life are molded through the umpteen occurrences she has seen, felt, breathed, and experienced in her life. The poems ‘My Dwelling -Place’, ‘The Moringa’, ‘An ode to the Soul’, ‘Wow- Woman’, ‘A Boy’s Lovely Kite’, ‘Farewell Brother’, ‘Husband’, ‘Embracing Life’, ‘New Year’ ‘To be Love’ etc. makes one feel that they are the motifs churned out from the lifeblood of the poet. The poet has diligently given an account of the blissful flow of life in ‘Now’.

Most of her verses are sheer reflections of the poet’s personal experience. The opening poem ‘My Dwelling- Place’ enables one to appreciate the grandeur of the homeland and accept the warmth of the land that offers her ‘clarity from the endless maze. Her diasporic expressions are explicit in

“ Switzerland, a land of natural beauty
With cheese and chocolates in bounty”

A sense of solace or satisfaction pervades in many of the poems. Her deep sense of appreciation and adoration for her mother is manifested in her lines. She is too full of the milk of human kindness and her motherly feelings make one empathetic about the divine umbilical connection that persists in her for the ones who still carry the 23 of her chromosomes albeit they are geographically different and distant. Time, the subtle chief of youth has taken her beautiful, chubby baby girls. Their memories still resonate in her:

“You liked the song ‘Twinkle twinkle little star… up above the world so high…’ one day one of you asked me, “Mummy, why can’t we sing Ammabove’?- The geese, instead of goose-vathu, were called ‘vasgootu’. The mango instead of mampazham you named ‘mazhabam’. – A descending aeroplane you called ‘erango-plane’. – A song book you named ‘pusta-paadakam’ instead of paatu-pustakam”

These fond recollections of a kind and caring mother exemplify the naïve and incoherent queries of my three-and-a-half-year-old baby boy. I could sense how a mother’s heart beats and feels for her babies no matter how far they go and grow. She teaches us to become the love that is ‘caring, forgiving, serene and calm’. Her love for her better half serves as a paragon of love. The magical and mystical power of rain makes one yearn for a drizzle:

“Music of the rain
A joyful refrain”
Feeling with nature
Relieved from torture”

These lines took me back to the poem I liked the most during my early twenties penned by the great Romantic poet, William Wordsworth: “ Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”. Her pantheistic emotions are eloquent in poems like ‘A Story of Love’ in particular.

“Every lovely tree
In Laharinagar has
A story to tell
In quietness
One can hear
Their conversations
A Story of Love”

How can one not fall for the magnificence of these lively verses? Her experiences have given life to these lines. Having been to her haven of Laharinagar now makes me feel she has madly fallen for the sweet sounds, ecstasies, and harmonies of the green pastoral landscape that flourishes her creative scapes. The poem “What’s Ahead? portrays the predicament of the modern man filled with ego, androids, computers, and the internet. She urges us to embrace our life with ‘lo-fi’ (love fidelity) as our life on this earth is precious and clear. She reminds us to follow a new ‘recipe for wellness’ adding

“1 TS of gratitude, of confidence, of courage
1 cup of Faith, of Hope, of Trust
2 cups of Forgiveness, of Satisfaction
Of Charity, of each-
After adding, set them aside to absorb
Deeply for 1 hour in Meditation.”

The poet’s philosophy of life makes us comprehend the healing effect of soul, mind, and body that will enable us to transform into love. Her feminist emotions are aroused in ‘Wow-Woman’ which gives an account of a lady who begins a new era of her life on the very wedding day:

“Getting up early every morning
She washes, cooks, serves, cleans,
Manages, cares, prays and cheers,
All day long while charmingly smiling”

She asks us whether the Wow- woman is acknowledged or accepted in real or not. Her insights on life and nature are thought-provoking in poems like ‘Moringa’ and ‘A Story of Love’. Many poems in this collection remain as evidence of the poet’s lived experiences that will surely make the readers marvel or feel empathetic.

Ms. Chittranjan’s poetry offers solace as well as solutions to the day-to-day life complexities of a normal human being who remains aloof from nature and the self. Her adoption of readable style, short words, a handful of poetic lines, and insightful themes of peace set the ground for a great clarity of vision. In a way, her poems take the flight of a turtledove unlocking the heart of the readers bestowing an antidote to their ambivalent psyche. Her rich armory of the word will alter one’s recess by the time one finishes reading and many sporadic writers like me could feel the urge to redraw and redefine the patterns of her verses with the divine power of love.

I don’t wish to elaborate on the pulse of the poems in detail as I wish to keep something afresh for the upcoming readers to read, think, and decipher Ms. Johanna’s poetic expressions. My utmost love and wishes to the graceful Turtledove. Looking forward to reading your poems of profundity.

“The river met the ocean after a voyage-long
The depth beckoning where you belong
Merged in the vastness of the ocean-wide
A tiny sparkling water drop am I”

As the poet Johanna D.S. Chittranhan wishes, let her remain like a tiny sparkling in the vastness of the ocean spreading her rays of hope and aspirations for her fellow beings through the uniqueness of her novel verses. Let her go on with her untiring journey soaring high in the skies and seas of her poetic frenzy!

About the Author

Dr Aparna Ajith writer and her travel experience in goaDr. Aparna Ajith serves as an Assistant Professor in the PG Department of English at Sree Narayana College for Women, Kollam affiliated with the University of Kerala. She is the author of Musings of Venus, An anthology of poems. She is the recipient of the Panorama Global Youth Literary Award 2020. She is one of the recipients of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy Research Grant 2020. Being a freelance journalist, she writes and translates articles for the Information and Public Relations Department, Govt. of Kerala. She is an avid reader and blogger who dabbles in the world of prose and verse. Having lived in four Indian cities and a quaint hamlet, she soars high in the sky of artistic imagination wielding her realistic and diasporic impressions. Her academic and creative pursuits bestowed her the opportunity to travel to 18 states and 2 union territories in the country and get a glimpse of their varied cultures. Beyond her professional pursuits, she finds joy in navigating the highs and lows of life alongside her beloved baby, Anvik Sujeeth, whose presence often breathes life into her poetic expressions.

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