Burnt Rotis, With Love by Prerna Bakshi

Prerna Bakshi’s poetry is not for the meek or sheltered. In the collection, Burnt Rotis with Love, Bakshi is unashamedly feminist, unashamedly Indian, unashamedly herself.

It is raw and unencumbered, which contrasts the subjects she devotes her prose to. For instance, in the poem “Family Gup-Shup (Chit Chat)” Bakshi narrates a (seemingly) normal family dinner where the guests find humor in the host’s “forced domesticity” despite her pleas for freedom,“See, he doesn’t take me out anywhere/ as the room will break out in laughter/ Please, say something!/ as everyone will continue to giggle.”

In one of the book’s most dazzling poems, “When the Poor Woman ‘Leans In’”, Bakshi shares an uninhibited perspective in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s popular book, “Lean in”. Bakshi asks “Where does the poor woman ‘lean in’/when she is living/in a 12ft x 12ft shack”? The collection, as a whole, is a response to mainstream feminism, which often times leaves out perspectives of women that are not a certain size, color, or race. Burnt Rotis gladly fills the gap and without asking, includes all of us.

If one had to complain about Burnt Rotis, they would say that the collection is unrelenting and heavy. Bakshi does best when she stands strong in her woman-ness, giving readers a multi-dimensional view that is vulnerable yet aware. It is unbelievable when Bakshi threatens to bite one’s finger off in “A Bite You Won’t Forget”, yet she absolutely shines in pieces like “Childhood Games”, where it is uncertain if she is channeling a figure in the news or if the poem is based on her own experiences.

That is the beauty in Bakshi’s poems, you cannot tell if the poems are based on your life, someone else’s, or her own. Her work, candid and heavy at times, serves as an icebreaker to bigger discussions and experiences that we all have been through. Baksi writes in “Silence”, “Of all languages/silence is my most favorite”. Here’s to hoping that her voice is never silenced.