Review by David A. Estringel, Poetry Editor at Fishbowl Press
Kiriti Sengupta’s Rituals offers an intriguing glimpse into the concept of ‘ritual’; however, one cannot help but feel as they flip the pages that there is deeper meaning to be had yet. This book of poetry’s title surely sets an expectation of what might be found within, largely influenced by the reader’s own conceptualization of what ritual is, but Sengupta’s offerings—in an alchemy of their own—seem to transform and change as you hold them up to the light. Sengupta’s work is inextricably grounded in the mundane of the day-to-day of his world but at the same time reflective of the deeper spiritual meanings that connect us all and bring order to our sometimes-chaotic lives.
We first encounter “Comeback,” which introduces to us the concept of space (and placement) as ritual. A direct challenge to our grasping of the notion of order and control of the natural world that ritual provides us, we find there is no certainty in a world of entropy except that nothing is immune to change and the passage of time. Whether pointing to the absurdity of expecting things to remain the same or the reality that life’s uncertainty is the only thing we can truly place our trust in, our eyes are opened from the ‘get go.’ “The Resurrection” does much of the same, as we see how the messy heralding of the return of a soul to this physical world is prepared for by the purposeful manipulation of a room and its implements.
Sengupta reveals more than just the sociocultural artifacts—rites of passage—that in many cases are universal: he pulls us into a collective consciousness that allows us to connect to the commonality of life experience and emotion (“Male” and “The Expectant Mother”). Dualities of life and death (“Screenplay”), good and evil (“When God is a Woman”), creation and destruction (“Accommodation”) are explored, leaving the reader to ponder if these grand concepts are indeed polar opposites or parts of a multi-hued tapestry that is woven from a singular divine thread.
In reality, there is no upheaval in Sengupta’s world, just organized chaos. Even the most horrific events serve a higher spiritual purpose in that they offer opportunities for us to reconnect to our faiths, not sever them. This concept is, perhaps, most eloquently achieved in “Kalpavriksha,” where wish-fulfilling trees stand like beacons of faith for those who believe in something greater and more powerful outside themselves, open invitations to return to the divine (not panaceas of secular ‘quick fixes’ or—even worse—spiritual desolation). While one might look at such manipulation from ‘on high’ as cruel, one must also stop and ponder the reality that without such disturbances in our lives we would likely never pause long enough to take a good, long courageous look at ourselves and the world around us to embrace and facilitate self-correction. We find this most evident in “The Untold Saga” that tells of the tragic story of Nirbhaya, a young woman who died from fatal injuries sustained during a gang rape in Delhi in 2012. The horrific facts of this act were broadcast around the world, leaving many of us grieved and mourning the loss of our naïve conceptualizations of humanity, as well as having to take an honest look at our own capacities for cruelty.
Rituals does a marvelous job in presenting Sengupta’s life experiences in all too human terms, ranging from the sensual (“Masala Muri”) to the mournful, but steeped in existential and spiritual significance. His writing is honest and vulnerable (“The Unclad God”), and I—for one—and the better for flipping through his book’s pages. Thank you, Kiriti.
David Estringel is an avid reader and poet. Writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, & essays. His work has been accepted and/or published by Specter Magazine, Literary Juice, Foliate Oak Magazine, Indiana Review, Terror House Magazine, Expat Press, 50 Haikus, littledeathlit, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Route 7, and The Good Men Project. He is currently Contributing Editor (fiction) at Red Fez and editor/weekly columnist at The Good Men Project. David Estringel can be found on Twitter (@The_Booky_Man).