Cut the chatter and savour life with ‘Noise Cancellation’

Hyderabad-based assistant professor Jhilam Chattaraj’s book of poems encourages readers to find joy in everyday moments

“I am grateful to life for emerging out of the pandemic with a poetry book; something good to offer to the world,” shares Hyderabad-based assistant professor Jhilam Chattaraj of RBVRR Women’s College. Her new book, Noise Cancellation (Hawakal Publishers, ₹350), a collection of poems was launched recently. It celebrates simple things such as potatoes cooking in poppy seeds (‘Aloo Posto’), a wet sari soaking in the heat of the sun (‘Sari’) and a homeless dog looking for shelter. The poems rekindle memories and encourages readers to find joy in smaller, everyday moments.

Spiritual metaphor

“Conceived in 2019, the book’s beginning was ordinary,” recollects Jhilam. When she wanted to buy a set of headphones, her brother’s suggestion of a few brands with a noise cancellation feature. This suggestion acted as a spiritual metaphor. “I realised there was so much background noise in my life and wondered if I could listen to what I really want to.” she adds. Jhilam immersed herself in poetry and what emerged was a thoughtfully curated work where each poem tries to cancel one noise or other — capitalism, environmental damage and even online classes. By 2020, she had a collection of poems that was published in journals Room, Porridge, Guftugu and West Trestle Review.

“The pandemic gave me the time to edit, structure and curate the poems within a relevant and useful perspective. I got the time and space to refine my craft,” she says, referring to her life as an academic, time consumed by online work and the general sense of anxiety that affected all.

Book cover | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The book, reviewed in The Colorado Review, is divided into two parts — Active Noise Control with longer poems for traditional poetry readers and Portraits in Pods, which has cinquain variants, poems of only five lines in 22 syllables, for on-the-go readers. Her crisp writing technique, with a refreshing use of language has been the focus, says Jhilam who published her first book of poetry in 2018.

‘I Ran the Marathon Without Shoes’ (on the noise of online classes) that was recently published in the American journal, Inflections, was inspired by her experience of online teaching. “Virtual teaching was hunky dory in the beginning but soon became monotonous. I could feel the emotional disconnect between teachers and students and finally, education becomes uncertain.”

She also talks about the noise from ‘notifications popping up all the time’ in the digital world. A poem on sustainable consciousness talks about the need to feed the mind with the right kind of diet. To the query, if it is practical and possible to stay away from social media in today’s world, Jhilam responds, “One cannot escape social media. One needs to use it in a balanced manner. One can try to disconnect from the phone and connect to things that can help us gain a perception of our day-to-day realities.”

Besides poems with a humorous touch, (how a virus is now a poet’s muse), there are a few on migrants and their issues, without a preachy tone. “The poems aspire to heal the mind, body and soul affected by the chaos of the pandemic-affected world.”

Noise Cancellation is available on Amazon and.

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