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Review:  ‘Lilies of the Valley’

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By: Bhat Wasim

In the tapestry of Literary firmaments Lily Swarn ‘s stature stands as tall as a majestic chinar;it’s branches laden not with leaves but with the verses of sagas , narrations of human discourse woven intricately into the fabric of time. Her diminutive frame effortlessly holds her powerful creativity and her charming demeanour remains buoyant. Her transparent, cheerful visage is a mosaic of knowledge etched with the quill of erudition. I have noticed from social media posts, some of her admirers and well-wishers call her Tiny Titan out of love,because her work penetrates through hearts and transcends boundaries like an eagle crossing celestial realms.

Master at mining anecdotes, there is a mini treasure trove of nostalgia, in Lily’s collection of Essays,” Lilies of the Valley “.From the Alpha and Omega of these essays, what stands out is her flair for the emphatic

Master at mining anecdotes, there is a mini treasure trove of nostalgia, in Lily’s collection of Essays,” Lilies of the Valley “.From the Alpha and Omega of these essays, what stands out is her flair for the emphatic .She employs trite situations with the halo of something worth reading. Like her poetry there is a sacred geometry in her essays .Grappling with gloom after losing her son  , she has learned to have faith , taking interest in the why and how of things .

This intrepid bard, surrounded by the serenity of nature sought refuge in the written word, her companion in solitude. When grief, the size of Poland, strikes a human being and social interaction proves elusive, solace is observing the ebb and flow of life from a distance. Expressing love for her departed son, GobindShahbaaz  Singh, Lily Swarn shares in the prologue of the book :-

“I wrote these words, sitting in an armchair in my late son’s room in the wee hours of the dawn. There was hallowed aura in the air as if his spirit was watching and smiling benevolently. The strains of Holy Scriptures wafted in the room from the window. An odd cuckoo bird often called its mate plaintively from a lone mango tree. My early morning walks were a series of revelations and solitary ruminations. The thoughts encapsulated here could just as much be yours as they are mine, I am sure of that.” This is no doubt a moving threnody for her late son. The pall of gloom took the form of ink!

“Hold on, stay tuned! Scroll across pages and you will relish each precious essay. From the essay, Gossip to Gift Thyself, her mystical nature is infectiously seductive and the clarity of thought wildly sensuous. Vibrant hues of human expressions across epochs and locus of daily encounters!

Gossip is a heinous crime that we humans always broadcast through the medium of mouth, without even realising the magnitude of affliction it can have on the victim. We need to mobilise as humans on the shared ethics of love, respect, equality and peace. That is what a writer like Lily Swarn, whose soul is adorned with colours of wisdom, resilience and unyielding optimism, wants to tell her readers. Cursing our own cocooned perceptions for others, this woman of substance and author of steely nerve crafted the words:

‘Have you heard the latest?’ or ‘You will never believe what I am going to tell you’” or the very dramatic Punjabi version ‘Hai main mar jaanva’ …., ohnetekithhe da nahichhadeya!’ (She has shamed me so much that I can’t show my face anywhere)-Murals of her poetry and prose pass beyond the deft strokes of her Sheaffer Pen.

Then came another Essay ‘Smiles’. This tiny gesture of human attribute that is nonetheless euphoric in nature really warms the cockles of a singeing heart. A person splashing a megawatt smile for another person is a tonic unto itself and the joy one feels is like the gentle touch of gooseflesh,as if souls are foraging into shoreless, restive oceans. The mysterious smile that one breaks into when alone is perhaps the most natural and orginal, without any hint of artifice. “The plastic smiles of celebrities must be making their cheeks hurt and their whitened teeth lose their shine.”

While reading this book of essays, as an avid and voracious reader, I felt like I am reading the essays of Feynman and watching the movies of Nolan. Susurrations taken the place of words! There is a hue of romance and feel of candour in her writings for there is a mention of the soul connection between Shireen – Farhad, Heer-Ranja, Sohni-Mahiwal and Sassi-Pannu in the essay ‘TEARS’. These are molten emotions lurking inside the sinews of one’s being that unless let out give us no peace.

Lily Swarn is right when she remarks that both tears and sweat are brine in flavour, one wrenches the body and other wrings the soul . But as an emotionally sensitive and psychologically brittle human I wondered what could be amiss in the author’s life .Is it the tiresome ho-hum of living or feeling the absence of lovedones ? As per Lily’s own words:

“Generally each evening passed in hope but today there is something amiss for I cried as soon as it was dusk. Sometimes I weep at my fate and at others I have complaints against the world. I cried at every step of my journey.”

Her essay, ‘Love’ draftsthe mystic feeling that can never be kept inside too long . Lily quotes “Ishqaurmushqkadenachhupdateh lakh chuppaye (It is impossible to try and hide love and perfume however hard one tries). “It is neither magnetism nor a gradational pull andthe feeling is without prejudice and bias. Pure and crystal clear!

She gives Carte blanche to her pen to move at its own will with aplomb and gusto. In Lily’s words, “the Bonfire of true love blazes stronger into an inferno with chilling winds. “Like love is at its zenith when a newly born baby is suckling its mother.This is gibberish and gobbledegook when you we talk of love and adulation in the same breath .

This can be simply introspected by her own narration ‘The Ittar (perfume of rose) like aroma of love, perfumes the palms of whoever brushes with it. Its sweet -scented, hands bouquet can never be washed off, like Lady Macbeth’s blood stained hand. These essays are not mere portals to deeper reflections and connections, but a gentle caress and polish to the soul. She is pushing us to look beyond our screens, our daily errands, rigmarole and connects people with us.

The author is a seasoned Wordsmith giving us a nudge, to slow down, take a breath, observe, feel, relish and embrace life with all its unpredictability and beauty. Almost each essay begins with a famous saying of a legendary writer and there are dulcet lyrics of Hindi films that have enhanced the flavour of this read. It is a joy ride worth taking. A highly recommended book that deserves a place in bookshelves and libraries of colleges and universities!

The Reviewer can be reached at [email protected]

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