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Prof. Swati Pal’s In absentia is one of the most touching collections of poetry that I have ever read. Each poem brims with love, loss, and longing, and fills the reader’s eyes with tears. This book is the author’s dedication to her son Mohan, who passed away tragically in a drowning incident.

The greatest pain a parent can undergo is that of losing a child. The author has channeled her pain into her poetry and each verse tugs at your heartstrings. In her foreword, ‘In search of permanence,’ she articulates the immense grief she felt when she first heard the news.

She picked up writing to cope with her loss. She wrote this book of poems as a tribute to her son, acknowledging his presence even in absentia. Through these pages, you get to know more about her son; full of life yet gone too soon. The author also includes a poem written by him at the end.

Each page brimmed with emotion. Some verses had me bawling. I had to take breaks to let the emotion wash over me and the feeling sink in. I have highlighted some verses here.

The author converses with her son and asks him,

Do you tread the garden

And make it bloom?

Are you a dewdrop or moonshine

Making sure your ma stays fine?

She reminisces and recollects fond memories of the times spent with him. The yearning that comes alive in the words is unmissable.

Oh, the games we played!

Running after the ball on the field

I promise you, my son

We won’t leave any game incomplete.

She tries to render him immortal through her words:

You will not be a memorial

You will stay alive

In my words

In our laughter

She laments that her happiness is with him.

Happy was 

The Ludo 

We played 

Non stop

No, Happy 

Was you and me

Forever one.

She concludes this poignant collection with a poem on how life goes on and how she tries to don a mask of normalcy.

So everyday

One puts the mask in place

Only the loving eye,

Knows that it’s the mask

Which every night lies asleep

While I lie awake.

If there was ever any book that captures the different stages of grief – this, is it. The author mentions that both presence and absence are here, and both are evoked to create a potent whole, something that makes a lot of sense after reading.

It took me days to pen this review after reading it, as I was so shaken. I had no idea that poetry has this power to invoke such feelings and I cannot imagine what the author must have gone through. Lots of strength to her.

I received this book in a Penmancy Giveaway.


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