Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nandini Sahu : A Poet - in - the- Making

Nandini Sahu is a new  promise  from the Land of Odissi and Geeta Govind . Her poetic output may be small  at present,but it  holds the promise of a rising star on the eastern horizon of India .

Her poem Bridge -in  - Making serves as an apt self- introduction . This poem is intensely reminiscent of Kamala Das's poem An Introduction . Every Indian poet writing in English has found it necessary to justify their use of English . There is nothing of Kamala Das's vehemence in Nandini  Sahu's vindication of her use of English .Kamala Das says to her critics :

                  Why not leave
Me alone , critics , friends , visiting cousins
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like , The language I speak
Becomes mine , its distortions , its queerness
All mine mine alone , It is half  English , half
Indian, funny perhaps, but it is honest

Nandini Sahu's justification of English is a subdued one She says :

I guess what I write is not English
Still it's  a negotiable alternative
To breathing , to the art of living
It is the aroma to keep my spirit buoyant
It's a reconciliation  a bridge-in- making

At times Nandini thinks that  her poetry is subaltern speaking . Yes, it is subaltern speaking back to the centre . She has successfully broken down the barrier between the periphery and the centre .Her poem is indeed a pearl of post-colonial poetry which is as delicate as "watered-rice-brinjal-fry-and dry fish"

There is a marked distinction between Kamala Das's and Nandini Sahu's attitude to English Kamala Das says

I speak three languages, write in
two, dream in one

Nandini's language to dream in is, of course, her mother tongue , Odia . It is the language in which she likes to think , feel and dream! It is  as real and inevitable as the funeral pyre . . English, on the contrary, is her garland , her sword , and refuge . It is the voice of her longings and belongings . It is as real as the elemental fury of nature.   Nandini takes her imagery from the world of nature which imparts to her poetry  a touch of elemental power. See how a poet's use of a single metaphor can replace a myriad words ! Speaking of English as the language of her poetry , she says " it is like rain-drops shaped into a pearl "The crowning glory of this striking pageant of metaphors can be seen in the lines

The alphabets of the English I use with their
Jingling anklets , flood my world with joy 

My Home reveals Nandini in a different light . This is a delicate poem which captures  a rare mood of nostalgia and melancholy. What are human beings if they have lost their capacity to dream ? Nandini's dream home is in Delhi " Delhi away from Delhi" . , at the foot of a hillock , all covered with flowers .

Here I am given more 
than I could ever ask for 

Peacocks dance to the rhythmic beat of the rain  , camels graze at will, birds sing  soothing melodies to calm her frayed spirit . Her son is playing around and the country road is a feast to the eye . She sings a tune in her velvety voice . She holds a book close to her chest while the trouts with joyful haste swim in the aquarium . There is silence throughout winter  The instabilityof life is reflected  in the fickleness of the seasons.. Summer night's silence is broken by the frantic songs of nightingales .The passionate rain reveals yet another aspect of nature  After all, man and nature are so closely linked - one only reveals the other!

Thank you for visiting 

Prof V.P.Rajappan


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tagore's Gitanjali:Opening Lyric "Thou hast made me endless"

Thou hast made me endless , such is thy pleasure" this opening lyric of Gitanjali  may puzzle modern readers of Tagore's masterpiece . To Indian readers who are acquainted with the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads , the opening song may not be particularly hard to understand . What Tagore does in this lyric is to re-phrase  the cliché of Indian philosophy that the soul is immortal and that it casts off worn-out body like old garments . It is old thought , but a thought  never so well expressed! Abstrct philosophical thoughts are concretized when they are expressed in metaphors and similes . The density of imgery suffusing the starting lyric makes it  a fitting prologue to Tagore's immortal masterpiece.

Tagore uses the term "Thou" to refer to the Supreme Being who is immanent in the Universe . . The terms I and me are not personal , they are universal , representing the entire humanity . The second verse substitutes"frail vessel" for "old garments" to which Lord Krishna compares worn-out body in the Gita . Apart from this substitution of one metaphor for another is there anything else? You will see the amazing originality of Tagore 's mystic vision from the next verse onwards . --"this little flute of a reed "

Tagore's tone right from the beginning to the end of Gitanjal is one of absolute submission , the submission of the servant to his Supreme Master . The metaphor of the frail vessel accords with the little flute of a reed .They emphasize the need for man's total submission to the Lord . He is indebted to the Lord for every gift that he has received from Him . Though he is the humble flute of a reed , God has breathed through it soul-stirring music ! Man may be of earth , earthy , but he seems to have been fathered by the starry heavens  !

The first stirring of spirituality in man gradually marked him off  from the rest of animals   Man emerged from darkness to light . The history of man's advance is recounted through poetic imagery . God is the iinspiration behind music and poetry . Foreign readers of Gitanjali may not realize what spirituality means to to the Indian mind . It is contemplation of God that inspired Indian poets and musicians  to pour out their souls Indians consider poetry and music as the gifts of God .  Music  is not just a concord of sweet sounds , but it is the language of the soul .  Indian poets and music composers like Thyagaraja, dikshitar , Swatithirunal etc were all inspired by ardent  devotion .  Therefore, Tagore believes that poetic and musical  gifts have taken man to the pinnacle of  power and glory !  "
 Ages pass and still thou pourest "
Man has still heights to conquer . but still he needs God's  bounteous gifts to scale new heights . Materialism will only put back the clock of human progress .Spirituality   alone can ensure peace , progress and happiness for man This is the essence of  Tagore's vision as set forth inGitanjali

Thank you for visiting

 Prof , V,P,Rajappan  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gieve Patel ; the Belated Link

Can poetry make things happen? After reading the poems of Gieve Patel one will be in no doubt as to the power of poetry to make things happen . The output of this most unpretentious of Indo-English poets may be small , but it is a highly significant one . He is the belated link between Romantic traditrion representd by Sarojini Naidu and Modernist tradition represented by Nissim Ezekiel .

Gieve Patel loves to dwell in his inner world and depict his feelings with the utmost sincerity and sensitivity . He has no use for gaudy ornaments . His poetry is marked by sparseness of similes and metaphors . At the same time it has the power to disturb you , make you ponder and open your reluctant eyes to to see the seamy side of life . He is at home when he is describing people who live in hunger and deprivation . 

I consider NARGOL the most representative poem of Gieve Patel . In this part of the world where there are more beggars than stars in heaven ,the poet's experience is everybody's experience !Pesky beggars importuning for money is a common sight in India . In the opening stanza of the poem , the poet describes his feeling of relief when he does not encounter tne beggar-woman . But the thought of the beggar-woman was not far from the poet's mind . :

At the back of my mind
Behind greetings, dog-licksand deeping
Safety I continued to look for you .

He cannot help feeling that the beggar-woman is physically following his elbow . with her necklace pendulant as her skin and her cringing smile pointing at her disease . Her importunity only begets resistance in him . He sends her away , trotting out excuses like " I hane no money " and You meet me later " . The poet is not exactly lacking in charity bur her obstinacy  only creates an equal and opposite reaction in him . Are  there not occasions in life when we hehave  like petty beggars despite our high social stature ? For the poet"giving" is "giving in " ! He chooses to be a winner  by not giving in to a  beggar-woman's importunity . 

Let her follow let her drone 
Sooner or later she will give up 
Let herself recede 

The poet does not get riddance from the annoying beggar-woman . If she spares him  in the street , it is only to re-appear in the privacy of his home !. The poet is unable to concentrate on his book as the woman is trying to catch his eyes "between page-turns" . The oft-repeated  phrase " I will give you later"  finally does the trick . Why should the beggar-woman pick on him ? Is it need or some private battle? 

The mystery of it all is cleared in the concluding part of the poem . The poet vainly hopes that his pact with the woman will give him riddance from her for a year ! 

My strolls are to myself again 
The sea is reached with ease 
Reading is simplified 

It was not to be a win-win pact , after all ! The battle between the poet and the beggar-woman is indeed an unequal one . The poet is destinrd to be the loser . He loses to a power that never admits battle . Meanness may be a defence for people like the poet . , but not for the beggar-woman . Surrender is the poet's option! The beggar-woman may be dead , but she may re-appear and disturb him because she is the symbol of the deprived and the dispossessed  who are on the trail of the wealthy . 

She is dead , I thought 
And after relief , the thought 
she'll reappear
If only to baffle!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Nissim Ezekiel- "Poem of the Separation"

I consider "Poem of the Separation"  as a unique poem  by Nissim Ezekien. The poetic  Muse seems to have snatched the pen from his hand for the moment and written the poem for him. Unfortunately, Nissim Ezekiel has a tendency to be too flippant or too philosophical  , and this has marred his poetry . A poet may be a profound philosopher , but his poetry should convey  philosophical truths in an unobtrusive way . Generally speaking, readers do not enjoy poetry that has a design upon them . Ezekiel's preoccupation with philosophy has taken a toll of his popularity The tone of flippancy that shows through even his most serious poetry  is another disconcerting feature of his poetry. ''Poem of the Separation"is a  refreshing contrast to the rest of his poetryHere the higher truths of life are conveyed through the natural setting of romantic loveThe poet takes the reader to a bizarre  world of delicate beauty  The higher truths are conveyed  wrapped in the mystic halo of a spiritual  experience   

The poet opens the poem with the genesis of his love . Love has its own strange logic ! It is no respecteor of place and time . The poet met and fell in love when Kashmir was burning .Ezekiel captures the moment of love in these haunting lines

When the bombs burst in Kashmir 
my life had burst 
and merged in yours 

Love begets strange feeling in the hearts of lovers . People indulge in odd behaviour under the influence of love . 

Love is blind ans lovers do not see 
The pretty follies that themselves commit  (Shakespeare)

Ezekiel expresses the same idea in his own inimitable way  in these lines 

the season, time.and place
rejected their usual names 

As their love progresses, the beloved has the inevitable feeling of growing up . The sentiment of love may make men and women whirlwind and lightning . That being impossible, they had to make do with buses to take them to cafes , beaches and parks where they made love ( music) . Like the human wife in Matthew Arnold's The Forsaken Merman , the poet's beloved becomes fed up with  material life .  She cannot live on echoes - mere illusions in this illusory world . The call of the spirit grows more and more insistent and irresistible . 

The pain of separation has been described by many poets . But none of them has brought forth the poignancy  of separation as Ezekiel has done in these lines 

Ten thousand miles away 
you became a shower of letters
a photohraph, a newspaper cutting
a smell at night 

The great city of Bombay is the  city of his birth and rebirth . In this city she was a new way for him to laugh at the truth . The poet desires her physical presence badly, very badly indeed ! .She can impart to him happiness which she seems to wear so lightly '. - supported by her shoulder , breasts and thighs , symbols of woman's feminine charms . But she is so absorbed in spiritual  contemplation that she cannot think of returning to material life . All that she wants now is merger with the Lord's feet . 

This poem has a quaint atmosphere  and a delicate beauty . It has a haunting beauty . It will linger in the reader's heart like'a  smell at night'

Thank you for visiting

Prof. V.P. Rajappan!




Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bijay Kant Dubey : The Ferry Man

When I read Bijay Kant Dubey's maiden poetic venture, I was reminded of Coleridge's famous remark , " No one was ever yet a great poet without being at the same time a profound philosopher" . Dubey's thought-provoking Preface to The Ferry Man is what Preface was to Lyrical Ballads The Preface to the Ferry Man sets forth in clear terms Dubey's poetic credo While going through all the 97 lyrics in this maiden poetic venture of a young poet , I could experience the truth of what Dubey says in the Preface "The stream of philosophy murmurs by from the river of poetry " .

Bijay Kant Dubey does not apologize for the use of English to express his distinctly Indian sensibility. He calls his poetry a pretty 'Anglo-Indian belle" whose father is an Indian philosopher and the mother an English lady . Using a different metaphor he calls Indian poetry in English "an English flower grown up in the Indian Land" . For all that modern linguisticians might say, Indian poetry in English continues to be an enigma , and the contradiction is succinctly put by Dubey in the Preface ,"Oh, the nice medley, the language is foreign but the literature is native" .Thus Indian poetry in English gives the lie to the linguistic theory that a language is rooted in a particular culture !

'"The Ferry Man" is imbued with Indian philosophy . It is soaked in the wisdom enshrined in Indian philosophical works like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita and the Puranas . The metaphor of the ferryman powerfully communicates the poet's concept of the Divine which he identifies with Lord Shiva as the ferryman who can ferry the human souls across the ocean of existence . How powerless is the human soul without the strong hands of the ferryman to guide it ! The poet's trust in the ferryman is absolute and unshakable . The poet says in Lyric No 10

Ferry across, ferry across kindly
The fugacious vessel of my life .
Oh, Thou Ferryman , my Lord Siva

The poet's firm faith in the loving kindness of Lord Siva makes all fears vanish from his heart when the vessel is crossin the 'terrible sea " of existence .

The conception of the human soul waiting impatiently for union with the Divine , her lover, is a recurrent image in Tagore's Gitanjali . This is in accordance with the conventions of Vaishnava devotional poetry . - the delightful blending of romance and devotion . Dubey, too, makes good use of this Vaishnava convention. Take , for examplem Lyric No 9

The beloved is restless
In bearing the pangs of separation
Yea, innumerable pains and pleasures vex her
The heart throbs fast

And aches deeply
When wilt Thou meet me ., O Lover?

And Lyric 14

The night is dark
And I am all alone
In my house
The soul is restless
O, she the soul is love-lorn
And lying in her sick-bed
Wilt Thou come and see me my Lord ?

Man as a traveller on the dusty road of existence is a recurrent image in Dubey's poetry .

I am way- worn
The snares and troubles
Of this dusty world
Have made me much fatigued

So, I want to lie in a deep slumber of bliss .Lyric No 15

In Lyric No 17 the poet calls himself a traveller who has lost his way

I am a traveller
The real path is unknown , unseen
It is Thou , my Guide, who showest me
The invisible path of illumination

The Ferryman is is inspired by Tagore's Gitanjali. But Bijay Kant Dubey's thoughts and imagery are daringly original , fresh and unconventional . He showed great promise as a new star on the horizon of Indo-Anglian poetry with his maiden venture , The Ferryman But his later poetry shows an obsession with death and mortality . That may be the reason why editors do not show enthusiasm to include him in their anthologies!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Keki N. Daruwalla: A Poet That Dwells Apart

While reading the poetry of Keki N.Daruwalla one is bound to have the feeling that he is being transported to a bizarre world No other Indo-English poet delves so deep into the mysterious inner world of the human psyche as does Daruwalla . Daruwalla writes with a vision , and the vision follows him like a shadow . Whlle reading his poetry, the reader will have occasion to remember several poets . His attitude towards nature will remind one of Tennyson, . His morbid pre-occupation with death will remind one of Emily Dickinson . His supernaturalism will remind the reader of Coleridge . His poetry as a heap of broken images will remind us of the poetic technique of T.S.Eliot.
We can see Daruwalla's worldview in his meditative poem Ruminations . The poet has glimpses of the true nature of life . He can see violence and hatred in the air . They are so omnipresent! Man cannot wash away these evils from his mind , try hard as he will! They stick deep . As violence and hatred reign all around . the natural corollary is death- wish . The poet says

Death I am looking
for that bald bone-head of yours!

Flesh is man's ultimate destiny . Alas! it is a prey to corruption. Neither rose-water nor insense-sticks nor flowers can drown the smell of death .

The drift as it comes to us now
is aroma/stench/nausea
jostling each other

Violence can disfigure the human body . The corpse of a woman lying on the verandah of the morgue , the victim of her husband's jealousy , has a grisly look , her nose being sliced off . Man is submissive to his ultimate fate .

bury him
and he is steadfast as the earth
Burn him and he will ride the flames
Throw him to the birds and he will
surrender flesh like an ascetic.

Can man ever have a cleansed feeling such as one gets while walking to  the temple after a river-bath ? No, says the poet . Nature has a cleansed look after rain .

the hedge smiles
the leaf loses its coat of dust
the scum spills from the pool

Alas for man .!He can never experience the cleansed feeling ! Sin sticks so deep that sophisticated man is incapable of redemption .

I have misplaced it somewhere
in the caverns of my past!

Daruwalla elaborates the theme of sin in his poem The Death of a Bird . The poem has the same motif as Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment Man has to pay dearly for perpetrating sins on inoffensive animals and birds . The victim of the poet's cruelty is a king monal that was engaged in love-making with his mate . The sinner and his female companion cannot get away with the sin . "Why did our footsteps drag ?""

Depressed a bit we took the road
walking like ciphers disinterred
from some forgotten code

The consciousness of sin begets weird feelngs and sensations . The terror that the sinner experiences is more-than-life-size. The glazed eyes and throbbing heart of the dying monal fill the poet with terror and foreboding . Every incident after the perpetration of the sin however trivial has a nightmare horror . The pony's cry as it fell into a gorge drowns even the roar of the river . The sinners are even incapable of enjoying love-making!

Death and nature's cruelty , the two pet themes of Daruwalla, form the subject of The Ghaghra in Spate. The changing moods of the treacherous river are described using unconventional imagery . In the afternoon the river is a grey smudge on the canvas .At night she is overstewed coffee

At night under a red moon in menses
she is a red weal
across the spine of the land

The river's relentless fury and man's unequal fight for survival are brought out in these lines :

If only voices could light lamps
If only limbs could turn to rafted bamboos

The people take their tragedy with stoic indifference .

They don't rave or curse
for they know the river's slang, her argot

What baffles the poet more is man's indifference to the tragedy that befell other human beings . It is time for celebration for some! Women come in chauffeur- driven cars to collect driftwood to decorate their drawing-rooms . Nature's orgy of destruction is not yet over . Fishes in the fields are strangled to death through an unholy alliance between the sun and mud !

This is the frightful picture of the Ghaghra painted by Daruwalla . The world depicted by Daruwalla is not a pleasing one . It is a sombre world where man is at the mercy of relentless elements . His poetry provides a unique experience for readers of Indian poetry in English . Daruwalla is indeed a star that dwells apart in the firmament of Indo-Anglian poetry.

Thank you for your visit!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sri Aurobindo : His Poetics and his Poetry

Many know Sri Aurobindo (Aurobindo Ghosh) as a mystic and as a poet . But how many in India know of his poetic theories? His critical views lie scattered in the numerous essays he published from time to time They are the gems of Indian aesthetics.Being the product of Western liberalism, Sri Aurobindo could successfully harmonize Indian aesthetics with Western thoughts . Aurobindo's essays , therefore, deserve a niche reserved for the best critical literature of the world.

According to Aurobindo, poetry is better described than defined. While trying to analyze poetry through description we make two kinds of mistakes . We think that poetry is only an elevated pastime . This kind of mistake is made by the uneducated people .Aurobindo admits that pleasure is one of the aims of poetry . Aurobindo asserts that poetry is not merely an aesthetic pleasure of the imagination , the intellect and the ear . They are not the true recipients of the poetic delight . They are not the creators of poetic delight, either. They are only its channels . Sri Aurobindo says the true creator or the true hearer of poetic delight is the soul. Poetry ,therefore, transmutes pleasure into the highest form of delight- a divine Ananda (supreme bliss)

While describing poetry the learned among us are apt to make another kink of mistake ..They consider poetry as a matter of "correct and exquisite technique " . Aurobindo admits that in all arts technique is an important first step towards perfection . Poetry makes use of the rhythmic word .This word has a sound value, a thought- value and together they make a soul- value . This power, says Aurobndo, soars high beyond the" laws of mechanical construction ". A poet does not have to create with his eyes fixed on the technique .

According to Sri Aurobindo the rhythmic word of the poet is the highest form of speech available to man . Poetic utterance has a great intensity . Why? .It is because the poets use words in a special way . We use words as conventional signs for ideas . as if they had no life in them! .It was not always so . Words had a life of their own . They denoted feelings and sensations . Sound has a natural property to raise vibrations in the soul . This made primitive languages very powerful . This power was lost when language gained in clarity and precision . Poetry tries re-gain this lost power by making use of the suggestive power of sound .


I consider Revelation as the most stupendous expression of Sri Aurobindo"s poetic genius . Among the Indo-Anglian poets only Sri Aurobindo could have conceived and written such a short poem of immense power . Only the blessed can have the rare vision of the Divine . Sri Aurobind belonged to the blessed few who could experience the vision of the many- splendoured but awesome Divine! To have the experience is one thing , but to put that into poetry is quite a different thing . The poet joins hands with the mystic in Aurobindo in shaping the poem . The seemingly unutterable experience of revelation is concretized through tangible imagery -wind-blown locks, a startled bright surmise, a cheek of frightened rose, a hurried glance behind , a thought ere it is caught - all these capture the fleeting moment of divine revelation .

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