Words from Isolation: Abhra Pal

By Indranil Halder

Covid pandemic lockdowns are over. International travel is back on track. Directly flew back to Australia from India with Qantas. Next morning, found a parcel containing Abhra Pal’s new book Words from Isolation on my table.

Who is Abhra Pal?

Abhra Pal is a Bengali Australian who lives in Melbourne, Victoria. Graduated in Electronics and Communication. Works as a Senior Solution Architect in Financial Services in technology industry. Born in Shyamnagar, near Kolkata, India. Schooled at the Ramakrishna Mission School, West Bengal, India.

Today, Abhra enjoys his new life in Australia, spends time with his young daughter and explores creative writing both in Bengali and English languages. Writing is part of his life. Poetry was among his first loves. Submitted many of his poetries to publications. Now, finally , he has put together his own collection of poetry in a book.

About the Book: Words from Isolation

Written during poetry writing month. At a time, when the world was threatened by Covid pandemic. A perfect time to think, reflect and implement. Born from the lockdowns, is a debut poetry collection. Introduces us to a fresh new voice. Introspective. Tender. Empathetic. Abhra says, “ This book is for you if you’ve ever felt consumed by love, loneliness, or grief –– a timely reminder that you can both feel deeply and live fully.”

“Let us lean

on compassion,

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but drink to the pain

that made us more resilient than yesterday.”

During unexpected Covid pandemic, restrictions and isolations were part of every day life. Local, national or international travels were disrupted. Majority of people found their lives reduced to four walls. Prevailed a kind of silent and colourless world. Yet through such time, poet Abhra was committed to finding the colours of life which transcends all barriers. Created an individual verse for every day of the month. The verses centred around memories, love and life. Certainly offers readers a glimpse of their own lives.

The first poetry that resonated with me was Journey(Chapter 9). After a gap of more than two years of complete isolation from my transnational life between India and Australia, I travelled to India to see my family. The poem took me back to the smell of people, street foods and smoke and jogged my memory. My sentiment is reflected with lines such as,

“Tears I was holding on to

until everything

faded around me.”

The second poem, that I loved was Motley(Chapter 29). Abhra has successfully highlighted the Bengali perception of the world around himself with the addition of Mount Macedon( sixty four kilometres north-west of Melbourne,Victoria)in his poem. For me, he has successfully transcended India and Australia cultural boundaries and brought the two countries closer together through his personal experiences. Lines that highlight such transcendental sense of existence are :

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“You come to my balcony often

and look at the horizon

Look at Mount Macedon rangers

and the everlasting clouds “

I feel, Abhra being a great photographer, should have included a collection of his photography in his book.

Preserving the rich Bengali cultural :

During Covid lockdowns which effected Australian state of Victoria incredibly hard , Abhra kept working on unifying Bengali diasporas, to promote writings in Bengali language and publish books. Abhra is of the strong belief that languages and their cultural integrity are at serious risk of losing themselves unless an attempt is made to preserve it digitally.

Abhra has formed an organization called ‘O Kolkata’, to unite the Bengali diaspora across the world, to promote writing in the Bengali language and to preserve the rich cultural heritage. It can definitely provide those living far from home, a taste of their homeland. And also those provide living in India, a taste of adventures and life abroad. Books such as A House for Mr Biswas (V. S. Naipaul), Lieut. Suresh Biswas: His life and Adventures ( H. Dutt) and Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia (Samia Khatun) reflect on such Bengali adventure and life abroad whether be Trinidad or Brazil or Australia.

Over years, ‘O Kolkata’ has accumulated a group of talented contemporary writers from across the globe and continues to publish different genres of stories and articles. Currently, a ‘O Kolkata’ virtual team across different continents works together to ‘O Kolkata’ publish books.

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Some of the many objectives achieved by ‘O Kolkata’ initiatives are : creation of a platform where authors from across the world can write meaningful stories and articles in the Bengali language and development of a cross-platform mobile app for both Android & iOS platforms (for both online or offline readers irrespective of their locations). Print on demand technology feature is also being added to the app for electronic books. This will help any international publication to print Bengali books in Australia and publish Kindle books in Bengali language too.

Abhra has now registered himself as publisher in Victoria. Partnered up with global service providers to publish both books in print and digital. One of his greatest strength is, if someone buys a book in print, the book will be printed in the same geographical location and sent via local post. It has the potential to reduce high delivery cost from a foreign location(which is a standard practice but problem with most self publishers) and delivery time.

By taking steps to preserve Bengali culture through proactive approaches, use of technology and penning beautiful poetry from heart, I am certain, Abhra will continue to unite the Bengali diaspora from across the globe.