My City is a Murder of Crows by Nikita Parik

Photo by Alka Balain

A City Awakens into Consciousness — Nikita Parik’s My City is a Murder of Crows

Alka Balain

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Hawakal Publishers (2022); ISBN 9789391431426


Pages: 100

Author of two volumes of poetry, Nikita Parik is the recipient of the Nissim International Poetry Prize 2020, has been shortlisted for the Rama Mehta Writing Grant 2021, and is pursuing the Charles Wallace Fellowship 2023 at the University of Stirling.

Parik’s second volume, My City is a Murder of Crows, mesmerises with her command over language and her ability to exercise restraint in expressing the beyond while staying rooted in the earthly. 

‘Scripture’, the first poem in the book, sets the tone, as the poet says: “My mouth is a prayer / waiting / to be translated.” Our mouth is holy, and Parik elevates it to a higher level retaining the connection to the earthly. In Indian culture, a baby’s father puts a drop of honey onto the newborn’s tongue and whispers the divine word in its ear. Parik’s rooh (soul) remembers the ritual. 

In ‘Glass Rotundity,’ the placement of the jhumka-seller (earring seller) near the India Gate sounds well thought of and centred at the heart of the capital city. And then equating them to an eye of the sea and the sea to a moon leaves the reader spellbound. The poet, in doing so, refers to the light that births and sets the direction home, while portraying the intricacies without getting overly emotional in her expressions. 

In ‘Jharokha’, the city is personified: “Begum Bazaar is / the fabled navel in / the eye of antiquity.” 

Parik’s poems are without closure and leave readers to craft their interpretation. In ‘Chimera’, the play of “may or may not” have loops in inconclusiveness. 

Parik writes in ‘Bangalore Talkies’: “In my imagination, I understand / all of this too well.” Carl Jung calls this active imagination, through which a poet’s pen wields power to bring that imagination into reality. 

“All faith / prerequisites / abandonment / So this prayer / abandons me / and becomes itself” (‘Skyline of a Prayer’). Can we become what the Ultimate Omnipresent wants us to earn in this poem? 

Parik picks nuggets from everyday experiences to convey transformation, whether in ‘Quicksilver’ or ‘Alchemy’. 

She displays multilingualism in her writing, be it cauchemar, sawaan and bhado, weltschmerz, or aag and aab

In the ekphrastic poem, ‘Death by Language,’ Parik addresses orgasm as a little death, a momentary loss of what is pleasurably around us: “Now here is the promise / of a thousand nirvanas!” She crafts the poem in and out of the octopussy fantasies swimming between the two artworks.

In ‘Zuw Myon,’ she uses figurative speeches: simile in “letters blossoming like fireflies,” and personification in “nouns clenching and declenching inside.” The image she creates stays in the heart of the reader. Likewise, in ‘Improv’, “a city awakens into consciousness.”

Upon probing deeper into the museum of her memorabilia, the reader visualises these lines from ‘Stealing that Storm in a Teacup’: “Your shifting identities / I stole over time, / cataloguing them into / neat rows for / perusal in lonelier times. / I stole and stole until I / became a salient / museum of your youness.” Parik displays confidence in her writing and sets her own rules, be it a line break at a preposition or no inhibition in creating words not in the dictionary.

One wonders of the poems written during the poet’s stay in the hospital during the pandemic: was she conscious enough to express the experience with such linguistic beauty? Her experience left her as a different person, shaken, stirred, and valuing life more intensely. 

In ‘Hiraeth’, she gives a lease of life in words to her grandfather’s house that has the “stench / of abandonment. It is / comatosed hours, poetry in paralysis, / a calendar of absences.”

It is befitting that the book was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2021-22 and is the only poetry book nominated for the 2023 Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar. 

My City is a Murder of Crows can be purchased here.

Alka Balain lives in Singapore. She was shortlisted for the Word Weavers Poetry Contest 2022 and is one of the winners of PFS Catharsis 2021. Her writings have appeared/appearing in several magazines with Usawa Literary Review,, Poetry India-a wing of Ethos Literary Journal, DREICH, and others. She has also successfully organised a literary event, ALS Singapore Caravan 2023. The panel discussion on indigenous languages got listed by UNESCO.