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Under the Banyan Tree- A Review

Windows

Clean, plain, open, closed, bright,
light, shaded, paned, shuttered, blinded, boarded,
rusty, dirty, smoky windows.
broken, shattered, run down windows
Windows that protect and hide,
a mirror to the world outside
and sometimes to the world within,
unraveling layer by layer, revealing
a glance into a soul,
a tool for introspection and scrutiny,
secrets and smokescreens,
evasions, denials, half-truths
Windows, they tell it all.

“Under the Banyan Tree” by Simi K. Rao

I felt as if after reading Simi K. Roa’s, Under the Banyan Tree, I was able to take a glance into her soul. This eloquent morsel was released in August of last year and is less than 150 pages in length. Rao was born in India, but she has been living in the United States for several years now. She has also published a few other works within the last few years, such as Inconvenient Relations and the Accidental Wife. Under the Banyan Tree was the first work of hers that I have read, but it is definitely now a favorite that I highly recommend.

What attracted me first was the title. I had never heard of a Banyan tree, so I searched it.

Originally, they are from the writer’s home country, where underneath the tree is often a center of activity in many of their communities. Magnificently, Banyans can grow up to be 80 feet tall, cover about 14,500 square feet of space, and live to be over two and a half centuries of age. Often, the tree symbolizes fertility, life, and even resurrection. Hindu texts dating back over 2,500 years reference the Banyan tree as a “world tree,” it’s roots reaching the heaves and delivering blessings to earth.

Significantly, the concept of the vastness of this tree, with it’s sturdy roots consuming all in its path, is more than appropriate metaphor in my opinion. It would be difficult to use one word to encumber all that is contained in Rao’s, Under the Bayan Tree. However, if I did, I would choose a word that a Banyan tree itself represents. Life.

Life penned by Simi Rao, as I read, had been written through the many lenses that she wore in her time. A Mother. A Physician. An Innocent Child. A Mischievous Teen. A Lover. An Immigrant. A Dreamer. Every poem and short story is coated with her observations of human nature, her experiences a cross-cultured woman, her internal struggles, her perceptions of love, and her emancipation from the darkness that can tend to follow us in life.

The poems were written in a variety of different styles, which I find is important in books such as these. It is more engaging when authors change the rhythm, rhyme patterns (or not rhyme at all), and the topics as well. She accomplished that skillfully, and she also included some excepts from her other books and a few short stories. The poem “Windows” was my favorite poem style wise, and I thought it was very deep. Rao gave us a peek through her window. Through it, the inner workings of her humanity was laid bare, which made almost everything she wrote easy to relate to. I felt as if I could almost feel her soul in some of the poems. Her affection for others and nature was plain to me. Her love of her culture was also evident. In the vivid short story “Mr. Tim“, a little girl befriends a squirrel in a tree. At the end, I almost shed tears just as the character did. The poem “Phobia” cleverly explained how tragic it is that fear can imprison us, even when freeing ourselves from it’s control is more possible than it seems. Simi shared her experiences as a physician with writing of a cancer patient, an addict, and an elderly woman with dementia. And of course, the love stories “Crush” and “A Cup of Chai” were heartwarming.

All that is included in Under the Banyan Tree was touching in it own right. As Simi describes it, we must all ride “the carnival of life,” and it is bumpy ride. With all the unrest occurring in the world at present, the burden of simply existing is not foreign to anyone. Nonetheless, Roa reassures in this composition that there is light awaiting after the dark, somewhere a hand is always out-stretched, the beauty of love flows in unlikely places, and that rain will always fall to spread the roots of the Banyan tree.

Poetry by Rupi Kaur: A Review

Poetry has always been a style of writing that I loved. I write a bit, but I have always loved reading poetry. To me, it’s a very freeing and vulnerable sort of writing. Poets reveal pieces of their hearts, convey their values and ideas, and express concepts in a often illustrative and touching way.

I have had the pleasure to read Rupi Kaur’s books, “Milk and Honey” and “The Sun and Her Flowers.” Usually, the poetry that I read is much different than Rupi’s. At times, when a poet touches a deeper concept, they don’t write about it directly. They may use figurative language to describe it and leave the reader to decide what it means. Although this style has its charm, it can lead the reader to be a little frustrated if they are not able to comprehend the meaning the poet is trying to express. However, this is not the case with Rupi.

In Kaur’s poetry, she evocatively and vulnerably describes the thoughts and feelings that come with loss, love, abuse, femininity, family, beauty, and identity. She does not hold anything back in her poems, and writes them in a language that is accessible to anyone.

In “Milk and Honey,” she cleverly sections her book into 4 portions: The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, and The Healing. In the first portion, she candidly goes into her experiences and feelings of a past abuse, confusion with her identity, objectification, and neglect. In “The Loving“, it dives in with very passionate and colorful poems expressing her feelings of love, and “The Breaking” being the intense pain and desperation that comes with the loss of that love. The last portion, “The Healing,” takes a positive and empowering turn with writings about moving forward after the abuse and failed relationships. I really was found her rawness and authenticity, and how she was able to show how emotions or thoughts aren’t always easy fluid. Sometimes her poems seemed like they were taking a positive turn, but then sometimes it would drop down again to the negative. It would go back and forth at times, like an internal struggle. Her writing style seemed very psychological in that way, and I admired that.

Similarly, in “The Sun and Her Flowers,” she divides this book into five chapters: “Wilting“- which deals with grief, “Falling“- which deals with self-abandonment, “Rooting“- which goes into family struggles and honoring one’s roots, “Rising”– which dives into a new love, and “Blooming“, like “The Healing,” ends the book nicely with positive and empowering messages. I enjoyed this one a little bit more than the first, because I found many of the poems very relatable. However, I found the feminist and immigrant themes very pivotal, especially with the various issues that seem to be dividing the United States currently. Rooting was educational, and I appreciated reading about a her, a child of immigrants, pride and awe of her parents sacrifices that gave her and her siblings the opportunities and freedoms no one in any of their families generations had, specifically women. I really enjoyed reading Rising also, because I was glad seeing her move on to a new love, as scary as that can be. I found myself saying “HA!” at one of the poems where she saw her old boyfriend in the coffee shop and didn’t have a single care. That was definitely a highlight.

I would recommend these books to anyone of a mature mind, especially girls and women. Many of the poems are empowering, and even if this book is taken apart and some specific poems are selected, I think even a young child might appreciate it. However, I believe that both the books in whole are definitely better suited for who are of an reasonable age (16+ maybe), because some of the poems might be disturbing or confusing to a child.

Overall, it was truly a great read, and I am considering buying them so I can read it over and over again. Have you read “Milk and Honey” or “The Sun and Her Flowers”? Tell me what you thought of it!

Below are some of my favorite poems from Rupi, mostly from The Sun and Her Flowers.

8/8/19

What makes a good book?

“If a book is well written, I always find it too short.”

Jane Austen

 

At some point, everyone reads a story that touches them. Whether it was a book your mother or father read to you as a child, a book you were assigned to read in school, or a book you picked for yourself, books have the ability to make lasting impressions on us. However, some books stand out to us the most. The good books, the ones that are more than just a well-written story. These are the ones that have really become treasures to humanity. What is it that makes up ones of these sort of stories?

Here’s some of the elements that I think make a book worth the read. 

  • Strong and alluring opening
  • Charming and unique dialogue
  • Diverse characters with qualities, emotions, and difficulties that the reader can relate to.
  • Takes place in a “world” that has a measure of depth
  • Captivating conflicts and character relationships
  • Has educational content
  • Original and suitable style of writing
  • Involves themes in which readers can make their own perceptions
  • A satisfying, yet compelling conclusion

When we pick up a book that have these components, it’s almost as if you never really want the book to end. Maybe you’ll even want to read it again. These are the stories that make you forget that you are just reading words off a printed page, but they make you feel as if you are traveling and are in another world entirely. These are the ones that will evoke deep emotions and thoughts. These are the sort of books that contain the power to shape us.

What are some qualities that you think a good book should have, or what is a good book that you have read? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

2|2|19

Our Unrelenting Inclination

“Since I first gained the use of reason my inclination toward leaning had been so violent and strong that neither the the scolding of other people…nor my own reflections…have been able to stop me from following this natural impulse…”

Juana Ines de la Cruz

libraries

If anything had triggered progress in humanity, it is probably our innate, burning desire to know the unknown, to understand what we do not yet understand, and to grasp what may have been previously deemed indecipherable. So much has come out of this somewhat unconscious inclination.

I feel that reading satisfies this desire. With books, we are able to enjoy learning, and even experiencing (through our capable imaginations) almost a infinite number of topics. Everyone is curious about something and have questions that they want an answer to. However, we live in a world in which we have everything at our fingertips, where an answer is merely a click away. Personally, I find it much more gratifying and arousing to learn about my curiosities through a book. There’s something more magical about it, reading the lines on a page in which a writer laboriously fabricated for the motive of piquing the mind of it’s reader.

Often, our unrelenting inclination towards learning is often left unsatisfied. It’s often fear of being unpopular that I believe hinders the process of  intellectual growth. Maybe the primary way that many people may attempt seeking their mindly interests, whether they are unpopular or not, may be through a quick internet search on their smart phones. It also may because having curiosity in certain subjects is frowned upon or even rejected in their community. I have experience both firsthand. Nonetheless, I didn’t allow it to keep me from from finding books, and learning about the things that fascinated me.

If there is matter that fills your mind with wonder and intrigue, you should not allow anything from stopping you from hunting for information about it. In the end, there is are only a few thing things more rewarding than searching and finding. Personally, I recommend libraries, which are our world’s free intellectual havens and open sources of knowledge on almost anything. Pick up a book or two, and it will start you on a journey that you may have never guessed you’d be on before.

 

1|30|19

On Books & Reading

“Reading [is] my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.”
Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies

There is something to be said about the power that beholds a human being with a pen in their hand. 

Surely, most often, their objective is not to create works that bring happiness to people of various ages, that can inspire change, or that hold knowledge that could bring fulfillment to its reader. However, a writer surpasses common script when they choose to do their work with a meaningful purpose that benefits others, and give an outlet for introspection and imagination.

There are far too many examples of writers of this sort to list. However, when a child is given the ability to read these writings that people have put to the feet of the world to pick up and to indulge it can be quite the impetus for something brilliant.

Unfortunately, this is often not taken for granted.

I love reading. But…I remember I hated it. When I was about five years old, I didn’t want any parts of it. Nevertheless, I did love stories. I made them up every day when I would play with my siblings. I loved hearing my mom read them to me. I loved the warm and dreamy feeling they gave me. Thankfully, I eventually became more open-minded, and I graduated to reading chapter books with pictures. I would read about 100 pages every night before I slept, but only because of my academic obligation. When I did finally start reading books without pictures, after much encouragement, everything changed for me. I could see the imagery of the story that the writer was describing, like a movie playing in my mind. It was as if time had stopped. I had entered another world, another universe. Such a powerful object it was, that I was holding in my hands.