Poetry And The Art of Being

ANANYA S GUHA.

In “Letters To Namdeo Dhasal” Chandramohan S strikes brilliant roots with poetry, its efflorescence as a source of instructive power. This is the power to change, correct and to demonstrate that through the poetic power of words, consciousness about injustices that can dominate the heart. The heart is the mind, not intellectual will, nor material gain or supremacy. The human heart is caste less, religion less.

Much of Chandramohan’s poetry is devoted to objectifying poetry as transformational change. The theme of the ‘Poem’ recurs in his poetry as means to show case truth (as he understands it) and nudge out any illusory effects that poetry may have. Poetry is grounded in reality and such reality is brute force, political power, caste and religious hierarchy. Chandramohan dismantles set beliefs regarding the above, so that they should fall like a pack of cards.

“Conform or Perish”.

(Elegy for the Slain Bloggers page 18)

The poet would of course like to live but not to “conform”. Chandramohan’s poetry constantly seeks repudiation of voices of suppression and greed.

Yet, there is the pathos and tragedy of everyday life:

“A child of hope …

Dies six hours later”

(Stillborn ceasefire page 21)

“Heckled poems – dynamite at election rallies”

(Write Poetry page 48)

The point is that the fractiousness of living has consumed the poet’s mind. The total lack of identification with mainstream society borders on nihilism, a voyeuristic urge to display vulgarity.

“History will catch up with you in your rear-view mirror”

(Thirteen ways of looking at A Black Beard page 34)

Chandramohan’s poems are subversive inversions of Indian realities: caste, untouchability or sheer poverty. It is poetry of dislocation in a fixed world of lustful power. He writes in a style which is terse, epigrammatic and witty. His poetry stands out for its ‘newness’ in the culture of social and political poetry where he attacks not only the ‘other’, but also the ‘self’. The self and the other are discrete entities.

This is surely powerful and beautiful poetry grounded in a world of disaffection. But poetry or a poem can wean out such untruths, through sheer word   power. The complexity of his poetry arises out of its art. His aesthetic is in word power, jugglery of images,  infusions of  past, present, myth, history and satire.

‘’ Letters To Namdeo Dhasal’’, ( Desirepaths Publishers, Vadodara: 2016; pp 67 price  Rs  150).

Poetry Editor’s Note: Nilim Kumar’s poetry in Assamese ( these are translations) evince a rustic and pastoral flavour. They echo subtly philosophies of life in co  juxtaposition  of the universal and contemporary. They are reflections of subtle chaos in human soul, but also an earthiness and rooted in the native soil. Nilim’s poems ambiguous, recalcitrant and poignant drive home the artistic dilemma of poetry, poets, love and death. There is nostalgia, mourning almost for things and people gone. Nilim Kumar’s voice is prominent among contemporary Assamese and Indian poetry. Read these poems for their flavour of the universal soul entrenched in deep seated questions of life, death, paradoxes and the elemental.

SALT

Salt

Is

White

Dazzling

Like sorrow

 

Salt is nothing

But

Sorrow

 

This earth where three-fourth is water

It is the tears of the world

From where salt is born

 

Because we take salt

Our blood is salty

Our tears salty

Our sweat salty

Even our heart!

 

The heart is the

storehouse of sorrow

storehouse of salt

So the heart patients

Are barred from taking salt

 

We feel sorrow

Just because we take salt

So three-fourth of our life is sorrow

 

But still

Salt is everyone’s favourite

We can’t take food without salt

Without salt nothing appears tasty

Our taste buds prefer most the salt

We take salt without any cause or reason

 

We get hurt

Without any cause or reason

Our tears are salty

In happiness or in sorrow

 

The children do not take salt

They need happiness to be mixed in their milk

That is sugar

 

Then gradually one day

They too start liking the taste of salt

Then, their mothers announce to neighbours

That

Her pair of children do not like milk

They like only salty items

Just salty

 

Thus the children too

Gradually become victims of salt

Of sorrow

 

The trees like salt

They grow if they get salt

 

Do the wild animals like salt or not

I don’t know

Even if they do

Where they find

How they manage

I don’t know

But the domestic cattle heads

Do like salt

Their masters try to

Make them share his sorrow

By feeding  salt

 

One day

Salt asked me

What is his relation with the elephant

So that

Elephant has to be buried with a load of salt?

 

It asked

Is the powerful animal loaded with sorrow

That, it is to be covered with salt?

 

I didn’t reply

How do I  explain

The science of humans

Salt too is quite emotional

 

Salt would remain

Even if human race is eliminated

Salt would remain

Even if Earth is destroyed

 

Because then

God would shed tears

And tear means salts

Salt would stay

Salt would remain

In the teardrops of God

This salt with its mysterious and deep character

That has given so much

That has allowed us to survive

An ocean of tears

That has taught our life

A unique beautiful lesson

 

O Salt of sorrow

I bow to thee

I bow to thee

~

HE HAD BEEN IN THREE CITIES

He had been

In three cities

He loved

Three women

 

Bought lands in three places

And

Built three houses

 

Wherever he goes

He carries the houses along

 

Like a vagabond

He lifts water from roadside wells

To take bathe

 

One day while taking a bath

Keeping the houses on the rings of the well

All the three houses

Fell into the well

 

A great splashing sound was heard

Three women broke down weeping bitterly

Three towns went into deep mourning

 

And he went to watch a football match

Munching peanuts

 

He didn’t become remorseful

Because

He didn’t know

How to

~

RENTED HOUSE

He sits in one of my chambers

And studies

 

In one he uses to dine and eat

In one he sings

In another he sleeps

 

He takes on rent

All the four chambers of my heart

 

He is none else

But

Sorrow

~

CREMATORIUM

There is a crematorium under water

For the fish

 

There is a crematorium in the sky

Or the stars

 

There is a crematorium in the forest

For the green

 

But where is that crematorium

 

The haunted tree didn’t speak out

Where is that crematorium

 

Where the birds set fire to my beloved

~

DREAM TRAIN

Through a railway track

Much older than history

In an archaic train

Our travel from the Earth

To  hell and heaven

 

My father is in heaven

My mother, my grandfather-grandmother

Great grandfather is in heaven

 

Heaven and hell lie in the same route

From above and below

From below to above

The Earth is the junction

 

Our train flew above the Earth

At breakneck speed

Sea after sea

Desert after desert

Field after field

Forest after forest

Leaving everything behind

At breakneck speed

Chug chug chug chug

A train more ancient than history

 

Arrived at the heaven

At a time one can’t decide

We met everyone

Both the parents

Both the grandparents

And everyone else

Mother pulled us onto her lap

Said – here too no peace

The heaven is like the Earth

 

This time our train

Came down at serpentine speed

Tearing the light of heaven

And entered into hell

Through a huge deep hole

 

My sister

Who committed  suicide

Is in Hell

My revolutionary friend

Who died killed  by police 

Is in the darkness of Hell

I kissed my sister

Embraced my friend

 

They too said

There is no peace in Hell

Hell is like Earth

 

Heaven is like Earth

Hell is like Earth

Even after death

Earth

Even after salvation

Earth

 

Then we came up to Earth

Tearing the darkness of Hell

 

The same route

From this bank

To that of history

From that bank

To this of human travel

 

Riding the train

More ancient than history

We kept on travelling

Through history

 

Ultimately on the way

We noticed in the watch

The Present

We disembarked

 

Riding a train more modern

Than the Present

Our second travel is scheduled

Towards the days

Beyond future

~

LEGEND

The stone idols arrive to take a dip

In a river at midnight

 

The idols take apart their clothes

On the dark bank

 

When the nude idols get down into water

The moon flies away like a bird

The stars fly away like a swarm of bees

 

For people this scene is prohibited

 

Only I came crawling on sand

Wearing a stone dress

And watch silently

 

~

WAVE

Here is wave in the water

Silvery golden waves

 

The waves are fish

 

The waves are moving against the current

People are catching those in the nets and Jakois*

 

The waves have brimmed over the Khalois**

The blood of the waves have stained the Moida#

 

The waves are sparkling

With the tinge of salt and turmeric

 

The womenfolk are cooking the waves in the noon

 

The waves are brimming over the bowls

 

The waves have entered into the stomach of the people

 

The golden-silvery waves are

Like an impossible poem

 

Jakoi* – A bamboo fishing implement used in shallow water to catch small fish

Khaloi** –  A bamboo pot tied to the waist to keep small fish caught in the Jakoi

Moida# – A curved thick blade fixed to a heavy piece of wood, used to cut fish

~

CONCUBINE MOON

Sleep eludes my eyes

The concubine Moon is sitting

There in the sky

 

Opening the windows and doors of the hut of the cloud

Is sitting the concubine Moon of Krishna Dwittiya

 

No one has gone near her

She is removing her clothes

Lying supine in the pond

 

She is writhing, her body like a snake

The water smells

Mesmerizing me

Sleep eludes me

Concubine Moon

~

COMPANION

Where are you going

O’ brother

Where are you taking the dead birds

Carrying on your shoulders

 

Sister, I am going to my mother

The birds are killed by the rain

I shall get back their lives

Brother

Where does your mother stay

 

Over the peaks of the mountains

Standing like the vultures

Over the houses of the winds

Over the procession of the clouds

Over the stars in the sky

Songs in the crematorium

And-  sobbing

And my mother stays on a lily there

 

How would you go traversing  the hill

My brother

The wind would crush you

The cloud would bury you

The stars would burn you to death

 

Sister, I would go there transformed  in to a song

Through the rocks

Shaking the leaves

 

Would you take me along  too

Brother

I’d also call your mother, Ma

I shall open my tresses in your songs

Extend my hands, open my hearts

Sister, mother   will  become angry

If I take you along

Because I am lonely

 

Then I’d turn into a bird, my brother

Rain will  kill me

I shall ride on your shoulder turning into a dead bird

~

HOLD ME IN YOUR WOMB ONCE AGAIN

 

ONE

Ma, please hold me in your womb once again

 

I didn’t know what happened during these ten months

How I spent the slumber under water

The darkness of the night

Where had been your lips, breasts and genitals

 

Ma

Call my father

I have dug up a night

On the Earth

 

TWO

Evening

On your navel

 

Your eyes burning like a earthen lamp

The winds are burning

 

Sorrow is beckoning

 

The dark breath

Has spread on the field

 

THREE

Father is waiting on the bank of the river

 

~

A POEM IS DYING

A poem is dying. The first two lines have leaned forward.

One middle stanza is immobile in pain. The words are bleeding. Some words are bleeding. Some words have dried up like sand, the paper is ruffled as if it would turn into pieces. Its  smoking and the words have caught fire. And some words are asleep in deep slumber, as if they are dead and they have sensed nothing. Some words are trying to flee, but couldn’t cross over the limit of the paper. Some have bled to senselessness stabbing themselves. The last line has been drenched in a rain of blood.

Who has written such an ominous poem?

WHOSE FOREHEAD I WOULD TINGE IN COLOUR

The one that wouldn’t allow me to remember the nights gone by. The one that would pierce me with an unbearable goodnight and good morning. The one who would tell me to draw the tiny dreams with the colour of tears, to sit down on the dining table together with me, to comb the restlessness of my hair, to put a cover on my pillow, to spread a cold sheet on the bed and whoever would come to wipe out the darkness of my infatuation, whoever would give me the happiness of his look and touch. Whoever  would entwine my two arms like a creeper on some night, whose sleep of tresses would lie coiled on my chest, who would hide my red shirts, burn my favourite letters, would keep aside the old poems that would not be treated as hostile as it was beyond her comprehension. And who would become stranger for me day by day would move further away from my heart. Does she want to come to make my sorrow more unbearable, on whose parting of hair on the forehead I would tinge with colour.

POET WALKS ON A FOOTPATH

Am walking over the footpath

Seeking a rightful answer

Pondering over the sorrowful question

Why haven’t you composed poem for a long time

Taking a walk on the footpath

That is concrete and safe

That bears the weight of thousands

And

That has offered its rock hard chest

I felt like giving a namaskar

To the footpath

 

Then

I saw through a manhole

The drain with its putrid content

Flowing beneath the footpath

And I started disbelieving the footpath

The path that is used by the poet

The same one is also used by the readers

 

I came across an acquainted reader on the footpath

Who is already lost

In the world of poetry

And now has taken refuge  in  pages of fiction

 

The reader said

I haven’t read your poem

For a long time now

So I am feeling very forlorn

Loitering on the footpath

 

The readers have left

Pondering about my character

The character from which he is free

And I thought

O’Henry has beguiled the reader

 

I used to call O’Henry just O’

When I would be writing poems

He would be looking over my shoulders from behind

As I was recollecting the days of those memories

The footpath suddenly took a turn

 

Actually

The drain has taken a turn here

So the footpath also had to

And I too followed it

Though reluctantly

Everyone perhaps feels a causeless sense of reluctance

While taking a turn

 

Therefore a betel vendor puts up his tiny stall there

Where I light a cigarette

And puff

And proceeded over the footpath

Footpath?

Or over the covers of the drain

 

These footpath have practically laced the town together

The town that I live in

(Which town do I live in?)

There many other poets who  also live

So some more readers do also live

They loiter on the footpath

Fleeing from poetry

I know O’ Henry has beguiled the readers

 

The reader that says –

Haven’t read your poetry for a long time

So I am very forlorn

But still

It is natural for you not to write …

 

Why haven’t you composed a poem

For a long time

Though I may not know its cause

The readers know

 

MAYA

 

Maya was waiting under the long  shadow of my house

Sensing her fragrance, I moved near her

Gripped her wax like smooth hands

The words that she whispered pressing her soft lips tenderly to my ears

My house started breaking down

The roof collapsed bringing down the ceiling

My bed with its four legs broke into pieces

My clothes stand shattered,

My glass cupboard cracked and its pieces clattered on the floor

And the books, porcelain vase, terracotta dolls, inkpot lay strewn inside

My favourite mirror lay shattered getting offended

Chairs, tables, tumblers, water bottles, eye-glasses were thrown

All the utensils of the kitchen ignited

The utensils creaked and got deformed taking a strange form

The captive water got freedom as the bucket tumbled

My dear, most pet dogs started barking

 

Maya embraced me and said

This house false

Fire, water, air, sky – everything false

This world fake

I thought – then I too, am false, this dog false – that which is barking

The dog rushed towards me to bite as soon as I thought  this

I started running away to escape

But the dog dug its teeth on my foot and asked

If you too are false, I am too, then why are you running away?

 

Maya winked at me and I said

That this running away is also not true.

~

THE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN 

All the beautiful women get down from the city buses

And walk along the footpath

The city bells chime eleven times

As the beautiful ladies arrive

The town keeps all the windows open

To watch the beautiful woman

They dazzle in   different warmth

As they buy wools in the woolen market

The beautiful women do not compose poems

The beautiful women shampoo their hair once a week

And comb their hair sitting under the Sun

A poet named ‘Hemanta Sesh’* composes ballads on  beautiful women

The vegetables enjoy the ride in the bags carried by these beautiful women

The beautiful women buy vests for their husbands

They take paani-poori# standing on the side of the footpath

They become eager to return home before sundown

They embark on crowded city-buses

The town then withers

The town can’t follow the beautiful women

But if they wish to

They can hunt down the town

 

*Hemanta – Autumn; Sesh – end; Paani poori – an Indian titbit dish

~

FLY

A swarm of flies arrive flying

And swarmed over

The carcass of the dog

 

The same one

That would die the following day

Crushed under a car

 

But

The swarm of flies pondered

Isn’t it too preposterous?

 

And so they decided

To go have a look at the car

The same one

That would crush the dog

They must thank the car in advance

 

They flew away in swarm

And identified the car

The one

That is shattered

And lying by the side of the road

The flies remained silent for a while

Like a bereaved family

In front of the corpse of the car

 

Then again

They became agitated

Thinking that

How strange

This very car would crush the dog to death

Tomorrow

 

All the flies returned again

Prancing along their path

And

Swarmed over the corpse of the dog

Stated to die the following day

 

The life of which dog

They could not identify

To the best of their effort

~

GHOST

If your room suddenly starts shaking

And you hear some chirping on the roof

If the windows suddenly open up

And you see

The fluttering curtains

If at midnight

The sound of flute wafts in

From under your floor

Wouldn’t you scream in  panic

 

Just try to remember

That very peepal tree

That has been playing with the wind

Year after year

Which you chopped down

To build your house

That   peepal  tree shakes your house

At midnight

 

That whiff of wind makes your curtains flutter

Forcing open the window

 

Countless birds from far away

Come flying to rest on the peepal

 

They sang, made hell of a noise

Some built nests

The chirping sounds of those birds that you hear at midnight

At the roof of your house

Even now the souls  of those birds come searching

Their singing haunts the place

For their lost nest

A cowherd used to sit under the very peepal tree

And keep an eye on his animals

Playing the flute

 

That you hear the sound of flute at midnight

Emanating and appearing to rise from under your bed

It is the sorrow of that very flute

He used to play the flute

Lying on the ground there

Where you have your bedroom now

 

Even now they come searching for their own place

 

Because

This Earth belongs to

That peepal tree

Those birds

The wind

And

The flute played by the cowherd

 

Cutting down the tree

Driving away the birds

You built the concrete house

You became the master of the house

Rendering them homeless

 

But

You can’t chase them away

They stay there

Only thing is that

You stay during the day

They stay at night

 

Therefore at midnight

Your house shakes

Chirping sounds at the roof

The flute from under the floor

The wind forces open the window

Making the curtains flutter

 

Why do you term them as ghosts?

~

SUNSHINE

Sunshine has no house

It lies anywhere

On the ground, water, sand or hills

On the trees, flowers or the nests

On the courtyards, verandah, or the roof of the house

On the road walls, garbage or the drains

The sunshine falls everywhere

 

Sunshine is little adamant

It enters without asking for permission

Through the doors

Through the windows

Through the crevice of walls

Through the holes in the roof

 

The sunshine enters the bedroom too

Also the kitchen

Even in the bathroom, if there is a hole

You’d see  sunshine entering

And we don’t feel shy to that sunshine

 

People name that sunshine

Golden sunshine soft sunshine

Strong sunshine sweet and soft sunshine

Some say searing

It’s an old diehard habit of people

To keep names

 

Some poets literally discard sunshine

He wrote to his sweetheart

‘looking   at you, I feel

You are a deep shadow

Life is a scathing sunshine’

 

Sunshine has never harmed anyone

Still we sometimes

Hurt the sunshine

Beckon it to be beside us in the winter

Embrace it

Pull onto our lap

And

In the summer

We chase it away

Hold the umbrella

Wear black goggles

Shower verbal attacks

 

Is sunshine our slave?

We would pat it

We would scold it

At  our will?

 

I don’t wish to argue for sunshine

 

It itself is homeless

 

Perhaps sunshine is an innocent child

That day I noticed

On a building ten storeyed tall

Some people caught it

And made it to boil water

Water for people to take bath

 

Had it been possible

Our civilization would have used sunshine as slave

 

But sunshine is free minded

Indifferent

Vagabond

I won’t argue about sunshine

Let it remain in peace

Hale and hearty

 

Perhaps sunshine is a strong person

A woman of this city adores him

She arranges the chair for him

Sunshine eases himself on the chairs

Entering through the window

Wherever sunshine moves

She carries the chair there

She has named her son ‘Road’

And her daughter ‘Rodali’

The sunshine comes to this Earth

Not just for the lady

But for everyone

Sunshine extends its arms towards humans

Through people’s skin

Through flesh and bones

It wants to penetrate

The heart of people

 

O’ Hills

Just bow down a bit

Let the

Sunshine arrive

*Road, Rodali – Assamese word meaning Sunshine

(Nilim Kumar has 17 collections of poems, three novels and a book of essays to his credit. His poems has been translated into French, English, Hindi, Nepali,Gujrati, Panjabi, Urdu , Marathi , Uriya  etc and has visited France and Bangladesh for poetry.)

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.