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I have passed through this surgery a number of times. Mostly it has been skin-deep only. This is the first time it's an open-heart surgery - and Shailja is the Surgeon. She has touched deep down at the core of my poems


Says the Moonsmith himself

The Moonsmith Gulzar - orbiting the celebrated words reviewed by teji sethi

the body of Gulzar's literary works under the scalpel of a deft writer-surgeon Shailja Chandra

In the प्रस्तावना to her book, Shailja has gracefully laid out the simplest yet profoundest of prescriptions–--if you cherish a deep bond with Gulzar Saheb, the kind that is worn like a sacred तावीज़, आप इस किताब की तासीर को कुछ हद्द तक महसूस कर सकते हैं



कितना गहरा रिश्ता है गुलज़ार साहेब से यह तो पता नहीं, if Shailja has baptised him, the Moonsmith, I see myself as the tiniest speck of the same universe, that for light years had craved for her share of the Moon. उस रिश्ते के वास्ते से, I gather my guts and take a walk into this cosmos of mysteries.


holding within

the secrets of the cosmos

a falling star

What pulled me into reading this book is my love for celestial wonders. The title intrigued me. Tossing its pages, my eyes caught some terms that lured me further. For the past few years, I have immersed myself in the haikai literature (Japanese literature) that dwells on brevity. To my delight, I find pieces from his poetry scattered across the ether. In between the excerpts, are Shailja’s annotations exactly like a seasoned haiku critic gives a commentary on our haiku. It felt home.



Orbiting the celebrated words----in celestial mechanics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an object, such as the path of a planet around a star or a natural satellite around a planet. Here, Shailja orbits around Gulzar Saheb’s verses holding deftly her scalpel and pen. Believe me, a surgery so extensive can be intimidating. Her words shine effortlessly, without getting eclipsed in the process.

With a researcher's eye, I see it as a research paper with Gulzar Saheb's verses-----the source that nourishes her pen as she interprets them in her capacity as a surgeon and his protégé. As a poet I feel, she goes beyond the layers of the skin of his verses into the soul of his writing. I put her reflections in another haiku


there must have been dark

from where they come -----

fennel sprouts

She’s pulled by the musk of his words. She takes an exploratory approach and offers a fresh read into his already acclaimed verses. The themes she chooses to touch upon are the most obscure yet significant dimensions of ones existence-----khuda, sach, pyaar, maut, rishton ka taana baana and a blend of sensory perceptions-----poetic synesthesia that I have been researching on in the haikai literature these days.

lonely tonight ...

the blue of a ghazal



In her journey, she pauses around his words, breathes and bathes in them as one takes a dip in the waters of the holy Ganges. She refers to him as a Sufi - poet who offers his own vulnerabilities हम सभी दर्द से पैदा हुए हैं, despair, hopes rather than lofty ideals on existence, who explores the complexity of the ब्रह्माण्ड and the बड़े मियां. What she calls a masterstroke is his writings on an indifferent खुदा and His apathy towards mankind with incredible ease. ‘बड़े इरेटिक लगते हो, कायनात में कैसे लोगों की सोहबत में रहते हो?

In the same chapter, she offers a glimpse of the heightened awareness of his हैसियत in the cosmos. कितना छोटा मिरा कद है जैसे हर्फ़ से एक नुक्ता गिरा हो, captures his humility and his belief in the accidental and serendipitous occurrences in the Universe.

Shailja unfolds another chapter, where Gulzar Saheb talks of love with a blend of mysticism and pragmatism. Love----the journey between the things we long for and the thing that torments us. She, from her orbit captures the ever evolving/mutating emotions of love as he illuminates ‘कोई भी इमोशन एक तरह से नहीं रह सकता', It evolves into another emotion.

पनाह, the total surrender in love. ‘तुम्ही से जन्मूं तो शायद मुझे पनाह मिले, the most poignant and intimate of expressions I ever found from his nazm is deftly unraveled by him, in one of his conversations with Shailja, where he seeks to be born from the कोख of his beloved. What a marvel! As she travels further, she is enticed by the ताना बाना of this skillful जुलाहा. तेरे उतारे हुए दिन टंगे हैं लॉन में अब तक... allegorically he narrates the pangs of separation.

In haikai literature we dwell on makoto----the truth. In the chapter आइना of truth she explores his quest for reality ‘ऐसा नहीं होता है, जो अपनी सोच है वही है बस... and zoka----the natural reality of the continuum of creation, वक़्त रहता नहीं कहीं टिक कर, आदत इस की भी आदमी सी है.

Further, in the pages, resonates his voice where he contemplates about environment, soil and society. मोड़ पे देखा है वह बूढा- सा इक पेड़ कभी? मेरा वाकिफ है, बहुत सालों से में उसे जानता हूँ

मैं जंगल से गुज़रता हूँ तो लगता है मेरे पुरखे खड़े हैं ....


carrying a lifetime

in his womb

an old banyan


spring zephyr

caressing the wounds

of a barren tree


His verses can pierce a heart and heart of the matter with equal ease. मैं सिगरेट नहीं पीता मगर आने वाले से पूछ लेता हूँ कि 'माचिस' है ?


The last three chapters speak of poetic synesthesia, kintsugi and the ultimate freedom-----death, each one of them reveals a new facet of his profound poetic persona. Kintsugi-----the art of retaining precious scars, as I call it, again is a Japanese art. गुलज़ार साहिब इन्हें नज्मों के टाँके कहते हैं, the creative process that works as golden joinery.

azure waters

fill the cracks of my poems

I heal

as this लौकिक यात्रा ends, I thank Shailja for offering this poetic प्रयाग to the pilgrims of literature.

मेरी यात्रा यहीं से आरम्भ होती है ....


the haiku cited in the above article are my published works that have appeared in The Haiku Foundation, Usawa Literary Review, INNSAEI Journal.

no urgency to be home -a review by teji sethi 

Neha R. Krishna

Neha’s debut collection of haiku and tanka, ‘no urgency to be home’ is an evocatively spun weave of moments and memories. Neha embraces the spirit of haikai with open arms and one can feel the ripening of her poems in texture and technique
within the pages of this collection. 

‘city of another language’, her opening poem, evokes a deep sense of cultural alienation and takes an unexpected turn when she says “I feel no urgency to be home.” Is she a maverick who enjoys the unknowns of life or a recluse who finds peace all by
herself? To me, she is a sojourner who gathers bits and pieces of stories on her way.

like one of Basho’s poems 

forever afoot
thought Basho, seeking the way
I live like this 

Neha’s poems have an auditory and visual appeal — the cinematic element, where she delicately captures the shifts in nature. 

gentle rain
even on the graves 
with no flowers

a ripple
in the pond 
moon shivers

She has an eye for the mundane and the ability to transform it into something amusing and light hearted. 
first date
loose thread of his sweater 
takes all my attention

She touches the denser tones of absence, solitude, and despair with equal ease. Her poems, like line art, sketch the contours of a story leaving adequate white spaces to the imagination of the readers. 

wolf moon 
opening my ears 
to his silence

canvas blues
with my finger 
i stir the sky

I have had a chance to translate some of Neha’s haiku into Hindi and they render themselves beautifully in the language. She even retains the flavour of Hindustani words in some of her ku. 

long gossip
grandma puts another paan
into her mouth

henna on my hands has the colour 
of his love

She nourishes her poems, sets them free and lets them have a voice of their own. They stand on their feet and speak for themselves. 

selecting gods 
religion will decide who 
i should love

setting sun
the redness of the sky 
scratching an old wound 
till it bleeds

The brevity and brilliance with which she writes, she comes forth as an artist who packs little pleasures in the folds of her poems. 

with each fold
i unfold the artist in me 
origami class

spring rain
i walk to him 
One of my personal favourites is a senryu that has the zaika of a zubaan considered to be the sweetest — Urdu. I am aware of Neha’s association with Kaafiya and can hear the murmurs of Urdu poetry in some of her creations. 

parting kiss
he leaves his Urdu
on my tongue

Another piece that pulls me is 

summer song
tree branches 
laden with moonlight

moonlight or chaandni has lit the imagination of poets for ages. It symbolises ishq (love) tanhaai (loneliness) hairat (wonder) and arzoo (longing). When she says laden with moonlight, it could be any of these or all of these.

As I journey through the pages of the book, I find myself enjoying the maze of her verses, the said and the unsaid. What holds this collection together is Neha’s skill of crocheting visuals, sounds and flavours deftly into a vivid tapestry. I am sure
readers would treat each poem with equal nazaakat as Neha has put in crafting them.

नो अर्जन्सी टू बी होम 


नेहा आर. कृष्णा  समीक्षा : तेजी सेठी 

नेहा का पहला हाइकु और तनका संग्रह, ‘नो अर्जन्सी टू बी होम’ पलों और यादों से बुना चित्रपट है। नेहा खुली बाहों से हाइकाई की भावना को गले लगाती हैं और इस संग्रह के पन्नों के भीतर हाइकाई कला व तकनीक में डूबी उनकी कविताओं की परिपक्वता को महसूस किया जा सकता है।


सिटी ऑफ अनदर लैंग्वेज, उनकी पहली कविता, सांस्कृतिक अलगाव की गहरी भावना पैदा करती है और एक अप्रत्याशित मोड़ लेती है जब वह कहती हैं "आई फ़ील नो अर्जन्सी टू बी होम”। क्या वह एक मनमौजी हैं जो जीवन के हर क्षण का आनंद लेती हैं या एक वैरागी जो स्वयं में शांति खोजती हैं? मेरे लिए, वह एक मुसाफिर हैं जो अपनी यात्रा पर कहानियों के टुकड़े इकट्ठा करती हैं


जैसे बाशो की यह हाइकु


फॉरेवर अफुट

थॉट बाशो, सीकिंग द वे

आई लिव लाइक दिस


नेहा की कविताएँ ध्वनि और दृश्य प्रधान हैं , उनमें एक सिनेमाई तत्व है, वह बड़ी ही बारीकी से प्रकृति में हुए बदलाव को दर्शाती हैं।


जेनटल रेन

ईवन ऑन द ग्रेव्स

विद नो फ्लावर्स


अ रिपल

इन द पॉण्ड

मून शिवर्स


उनके पास रोजमर्राकी घटनाओं को शब्दों में ढालने की कला है और उसे मनोरंजक और हास्य में बदलने की क्षमता।


फर्स्ट डेट

लूस थ्रेड ऑफ हिस स्वेटर

टेक्स आल माइ अटेन्शन


उनकी कविताएँ, अनुपस्थिति, एकांत और निराशा जैसे गहरे मनोभावों को बड़ी सहजता से छूती हैं । वे

लाइन आर्ट की तरह, पाठकों की कल्पना के लिए पर्याप्त खाली स्थान छोड़कर एक कहानी की रूपरेखा को

स्केच करती हैं।


वूल्फ मून

ओपनिंग माइ इयर्स

टू हिस साइलन्स


कैनवस ब्लूस

विद माइ फिंगर

आई स्टर द स्काइ


मुझे नेहा के कुछ हाइकु का हिंदी अनुवाद करने का मौका मिला है। वह अपने कई हाइकु में हिंदुस्दुतानी शब्दों का ज़ायका बरकरार रखती है।


लॉंग गॉसिप

ग्रैन्डमाँ पुटस अनदर पान

इंटू हर माउथ



हेना ऑन माय हैंड्स हैस

द कलर ऑफ हिस लव


उनके शब्द बेबाक हैं। वे अपने पैरों पर खड़े हो खुद के लिए बोलते हैं।


सेलेक्टिंग गॉडस

रीलिजन विल डिसाइड हू

आय शुड लव


जिस संक्षिप्तता और प्रतिभा के साथ वह लिखती हैं, वह एक जादूगदूर के रूप में सामने आती हैं जो अपनी कविताओं की सिलवटों में छोटे छोटे करतब छुपा कर रखता है।


विद ईच फोल्ड

आई अनफोल्ड द आर्टिस्ट इन मी

ऑरिगामी क्लास


स्प्रिंग रेन

आई वाक टू हिम

बेयबे र फुट


मेरे व्यक्तिगत पसंदीदा में से एक सेनरीउ है जिसमें उर्दू ज़ुबान ज़ायका है। मैं काफिया के साथ नेहा के जुड़ाव से अवगत हूँ और उनकी कुछ रचनाओं में उर्दू शायरी की सरसराहट सुन सकती हूँ।


पार्टिंग किस

ही लीव्स हिस उर्दू

ऑन माय टंग


एक और हाइकु जिसने मुझे आकर्षित किया


समर सॉन्ग

ट्री ब्रांचएस

लेडन विद मूनलाइट


मूनलाइट (चांदनी) ने युगों से कवियों की कल्पना को रोशन किया है। यह इश्क, तनहाई , हैरत और आरजू का प्रतीक है। जब वह कहती हैं, ‘लेडन विद मूनलाइट’, तो यह इनमें से कोई भी या सभी हो सकते हैं। जैसे जैसे मैं पुस्तक के पन्नों से गुज़रती हूँ, खुद को उनके शब्दों की भूलभुलैया में पाती हूँ , नेहा ने दृश्यों, ध्वनियों और स्वादों को बड़ी कुशलता से ढाला है। मुझे यकीन है कि पाठक हर कविता में ढली नजाकत का आनंद उठाएँगे।

The poet is a rosary


06 Sep 2021 By Hawakal Publishers

Looking at Teji Sethi’s moss laden walls, Urvashi V. finds the collection cinematically significant. 

Teji Sethi’s moss laden walls is a ceaseless collection of loss ripening (like a cuckoo’s voice and mango blossoms in one of her poems) through sun and rain—the very first offering, previous even to the book’s first section break indicating ‘haiku and senryu,’ memorializes a lost father:

starched turbans
in your wardrobe
long to be

Memory acts in her poems as the verses themselves do—revisiting grief, she nourishes it, grows it into being as all but embodied kin out of absence, wounds, silence, the caress of incredible emptiness where there was warmth, stillness echoes, and felt music where there was movement and audible sound, ‘nothing’ where there was ‘something,’ light sunk to shadows and darkness, formlessness that remembers shape, and the sigh of words:
reading between lines
the silence
he never wrote


the only sound
he left behind
rustle of leaves

In her tanka prose piece titled ‘Fragments,’ an old woman “lost in the echoes of the past” sighs as she braids the poet’s hair, “puttar jis Lahore nahi vekhaya o jamiya hi nahi”—child, s/he who hasn’t seen Lahore hasn’t (even) been born. Sethi’s poetic intervention terms her (or perhaps herself, gathering to herself the woman’s past) “weaver bird / picking up the strands / of unfinished stories.”

Partition is kireji, spoken or unspoken, a cutting word through poem after poem: “line of control / my identity / in halves.” Just as she traverses Delhi, Lahore, and the borderlands in between, Sethi wades through metaphors in three poetic landscapes—all in their own ways liminal.
In one series of experiments—and all her poems are experiments, “swinging door[s]” through which she ‘learns to unlearn’—Sethi associates a familiar turn of phrase or image with an object unfamiliar, even antagonistic, a manifest opposition, to it:

city lake
a cluster of hyacinths
choking its breath

In another, she makes (an invariably many-dimensioned, aged and stratified from birth, startlingly beautiful in its vari-tongued, multi-meaninged) metaphor out of quotidian circumstance:

looks up at the sky
parched lips

And again,

menopausal blues
it is not red

In a third kind, the poet brusquely brushes metaphor way as an excess—the possibility of metaphorical construction always crowds around the edges, of course, but the visceral urgency of sensation being expressed seems almost to ridicule is presumptuousness:

pruning bonsai . . .
father talks of
a pay hike


shattered glass
wrapped in white muslin
another stillborn

Or, parsing the pandemic,

tree sap

the life in
quarantine d me out

Sethi’s verses are, one and all, cinematically significant—backdrop and soundtrack populate with a single word or phrase the stage or set upon which figurations of poet or those she is inhabiting play their parts. In the prose piece ‘Countless Days,’ “[t]he walls of the wooden lacquered room look forlorn” as kehva simmers unceasingly through an uneasy, drizzly dawn. In a “childhood home / the walls still nurse / a shape of an old picture” and elsewhere, “desert winds / a caravan of camels / loses its way.”

What binds this rosary together is that, subtextually and textually, it characterizes itself as such. The scope of the substance Sethi gifts her readers with in moss laden walls is impossible to pin down, fix, or delineate—memory is everything, after all, everything an individual, her kith kin and communities have touched or imagined. Rivers, forests, wind and wit (that vehicle of the human being’s travel transformation and transpositionings) run through the verses, carrying written word and reading consciousness across time space and scales of feeling. But in the end, it is they that encircle the whole: creations of her craft, they bind the one she speaks to in a kaleidoscope of deeply personal meaning as surely as the finite, physical pages of the book contain her sea of joy in sorrow. The poet is the rosary.





Moss Laden Walls: A Review 

by Dr. Pravat Kumar Padhy

By Teji Sethi, (Hawakal Publishers, 2021). 107 pages; ISBN: 978-93-91431-05-1. Price: Rs. 350, USD 14.99, Available on Amazon




Teji Sethi is a bilingual poet and anthologist. Her haiku are often illustrated by the sense of wabi-sabi (aesthetics of natural simplicity and solitude). She is emotional and the memories strike the note in her poems:


moss-laden walls her fingers trace remnants of the past (p. 9)


It reminds me how closely it makes a poetic parallel with the haiku written by Gabi Greve: mossy steps overgrown by time and loneliness

She has intelligently engaged the sense of touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste:

autumn breeze …

her forehead still moist

with the parting kiss (p. 12)


Creativeness and contrast imageries have been often enamored as poetic metaphors when she presents:


Ganga aarti …

a million suns

sink into darkness (p. 18)


She often blends science with poetic symbolisms when she awaits the rhythm of the moon and tides:


new moon

the stillness of sea

awaits a tide (p. 37)


She is bold, evocative, and paints womanhood with sharp contrast:


menopausal blues

it is not

         red always ( p. 45)



She is equally brilliant in crafting senryu with a touch of wit and human attributes:


shelling peanuts

neighbours once aggrieved

share a gossip (p. 43)


therapy session

with her autistic son

she learns to tie a lace (p. 53)


Teji writes haiku with lightness (karumi) and elegance (fuga). She articulates vividness through the art of juxtaposition.


mango orchard

the planter sings back

to the cuckoo (p. 49)


origami swans …

father shares

it is time to depart (p. 89)


migratory birds …

carrying home

a piece of sky (p. 91)


She has also tried a 4-line haiku (haiqua): bus ride … / waving at a friend/ I grab/ a handful of wind (p. 81) and an experimental vertical array in the haiku on pandemic (p. 87):


tree sap the life in quarantine d me out







Teji recalls the trauma of partition of India in haibun, ‘Tapestry’ and ‘Fragments’. The tanka prose ‘The Road Not Taken’ is a brilliant piece of reminiscence. She enumerates the contrast between the crowded modern city and the serene silhouettes of the mountain range. The concluding tanka manifests the ‘dreaming room’ (to quote Dennis M. Garrison). a beam of moonlight sieves through the window … the mesh of relationships I have lived all these years


When she writes, “a tender plant/ pushes through the cracks/ cemetery” (p. 21), I recall the ray of optimism portrayed by Issa:

moss blossoms

blooming a little crack...

stone Jizo 

Kobayashi Issa (Tr. David Lanoue)

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