The Heart Is an Attic by Srividya Sivakumar

The cover to The Heart Is an Attic by Srivadya SivakumarKolkata. Hawakal. 2018. 88 pages.

Blessed are the ones with attics in their homes. For an attic is a rare construct that serves as a repository of bits and pieces of memory, which in a hectic life are treated as redundant.

For Srividya Sivakumar, “the heart is an attic” as the title goes, but it becomes a storehouse of not only memories but also the new and immediate. One of them is a tchotchke, a trinket, and she says, “Love is a Tchotchke.” As a Tamil and a cosmopolitan, she stashes the “three languages” that she can swear in. Or it could be “a poem that has sunk without a trace.” Or some hometown memories “in the brass memory chest in her mind” and in her attic. Or it could be the social stigma of not bearing children. Or they could be “fifteen of the forty-eight moles that map my body.”

Strange contradictions exist in this magical attic. For every memory brings forth a nonmemory, too. Dichotomies work as love and nonlove, mother and nonmother, lover and nonlover, Tamil and non-Tamil, rural and nonrural. See this drama unfolding in the attic: “new love is sitting at the table next to me holding hands . . . old love is looking at newspaper and not speaking.” The attic here turns into a theater of conflict. Attic is where all rebellion happens.

For example, picture this: “The first thing I did when you left me for good, was to cut my hair.” She is talking about pubic hair. Her body she describes as “Reclaimed land.” Whatever is reclaimed from the man, I presume, goes into the attic: “my body . . .
my lips . . . my cunt . . . my heart . . . my writing . . . my life . . . my people.” Sivakumar is an unashamed recorder of Everywoman’s life but also excels as a confessor. She can jolt the reader with her direct and fleshy approach to love, but she is also the one to be found in the darkness of her attic mumbling confessions to herself. The attic is the confession chamber for her, and it exists in her heart.

Ravi Shanker N.
Palakkad, India

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