Tuesday, 28 June 2022


 ''NO SENTENCE'' is a poem by Anjum Hassan. A striking feature of the poem, is the manner in which the poet , is able to creatively depict reminiscences of having lived in a small town like Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. Though she was considered as outsider in Shillong, as her parents who were from Uttar Pradesh, migrated to Shillong to take up teaching positions in the local academic institutions, she speaks fondly about the place like an insider. Acutely conscious of the invisible divide that was prevalent between insiders and outsiders, that is characteristic of most of the North Eastern states, Hassan does not allow that factor to stand in the way of her writing.

Instead, she fondly recollects her experiences in the North Eastern region, with limited opportunities and geographically distanced from the rest of the country and speaks in an unbiased manner. She has deep admiration for the distinct and unique culture of Shillong, with its rich musical tradition but is disturbed by the violence among the multi -ethnic groups within Meghalaya.

Poetry, unlike prose, is personal and in the poem, "No Sentence", Anjum Hassan, through a series of overpowering images and metaphors, captures fragments of her past. Viewed independently or collectively, the fleeting images are suggestive of  a wide range of experiences. Memories just come trailing by that there is no sentence that is long enough to contain all these memories and mere words cannot describe them. She recalls vividly even the minute details such as the wares spread out before the girls in the bazaars, butterflies fitting by, the landscape and its hues, the emotions she underwent on losing her mother, news reports of violence and protests, fissures among the people, angry voices of dissent within the inter -ethnic groups, and much more.

Each memory has an association for the poet as they are her "lived" experiences. These are some fragments of her past life which she wistfully longs for. Despite the fact that there are some unpleasant, bitter, painful memories, the acute longing for the past is unmistakable and brings out her regional affinity to the "place" she belongs to.


No sentence is so long as the waking moments of the night.

Every lunchtime butter garlic fries, the boys water

the lawn. No elegy equals blood and glass.

The bazaar girls spread their turquoise rings, their owls

and their dolphins. No one's earned the right.

I watch a butterfly swing by the frangipani.

No human is just human. Even the mosquitoes

Here dream as they bite. We discuss where

To go for dinner. No memory sheathes its object tight.

The sun drops low then fades out, the lanterns sway.

NO one can say - now, the banana flower, the gin on ice.

No joy is without gaudiness, no murderer lacks a name.

I dream my mother's missing. Nothing could make time

go by without newspapers and screams

and yet I can always find a way to say :

I mourn for it because it used to be my life.

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