Poetry of Dr. V. V. B. Rama Rao
A prolific author/translator of more than sixty books with hundreds of reviews and articles, Dr V.V. B. Rao is a retired English Language Teaching Professional and Trainer, now lives in Noida and continues to write at leisure with passion and intensity. When one talks to him, he appears agile, vibrant and full of life. For Our Grandchildren’ is a collection of sixty-four lyrics (Publisher: Gnosis, an imprint of Authorspress, 2011) dedicated to children with a few exceptions.
Beauty as a feast to the eyes blesses everyone with inherent joy but the real beauty blesses a man with a sense of devotion, perhaps in the knowledge that it is the creation of the Supreme, and so bhakti is a tribute to the highest Lord. Infusing a sense of devotion and faith appears the objective of the poet and if he rejoices in transcendental and pure thoughts, he does godly work for the coming generations. To the eyes of seer, everyone appears a god’s gift and so he is confident that even a devil can change to virtuous life. ‘All(e)gory’ makes an interesting but witty reading while ‘Stop Press’ 4 is deadly ironical and talks of bankruptcy of politicians and politics where the rulers:
Rob taxpayer Peters
Pay rich leader Pals
Creepers, crawlers, climbers
Over and under fences
Into assemblies and committees.
In an unexpected shift in thoughts, he recalls experiences of ‘Winter Rain.’ He is striking and dramatic as people continue to walk along the bitumen topped road while many seek warmth. Images of swishing leaves under feet and chilly breeze, and guarded jumps and crawls of mouse or mongoose excite and thrill. Again, ‘Jingles and Whispers’ underlines desires of a poor domestic help, who watches lords and madam’s linen, and aspirations move higher and higher but cursed living is a destiny.
To live in deprivation with little wishes is the fate of people living in slums and dirty bastis. any such verses are impressionistic in nature. The poet looks at a certain object, conjures up various possibilities and plays with object with terrific imagination, and it results in poetic outbursts with symbolic phrases and sound of words where deliberate construction of text surprises a discerning lover of poetry.
Truths and realities of life at times, disturb the poet. He looks at things and contemplates over the ultimate. Something happens that appears not very genuine. In ‘Down-to-earth,’ he talks of the mentality of people in different backgrounds. He looks at rickshaw a poor man drives as a crook sits with a fearsome and frowned face harbouring dangerous intents. He is in a hurry, for perhaps, he wants to avoid eyes of people, and the rickshaw puller with wrinkles of anguish on face speaks of poverty and miseries. Another scene depicts cautious movements of a pundit, who rushes to the patron on the death of some relation of benefactor so that he earns. Absolute materialistic thoughts determine the mind of even a learned and religious man.
Pundit does not walk displaying concern or sympathy. It is a detached participation. Sheer monetary indulgence determines his knowledge of convenient life and worries for the dead. No one is worried about anybody. Everyone wants to run and go and if anyone is tired, weak and worried, seeks help or a lift and feels disappointed when gets no relief. Then, a caring and loving mother walks with a sure quickness through meandering streets carrying domestic needs, for she is worried about children and family. He looks at the school going boys, and experiences:
Many times a day
See I God attired in an array of colours, laughing loud
Carrying satchels, water bottles and food packs
With shining morning faces, with a spring in the step
Crossing the road cackling like merry geese, carelessly.
— (Down-to-earth 16)
Away from the jungle of images and allegories, the poet for once, takes up brush, and paints realistic pictures of life in varied colours. He shocks, provokes, stirs sympathies and excites curiosity and that make it a great poem. He looks intimately at each individual and incident, and then relates to experiences he gathered earlier. What changes he noticed in the intervening period appeared merged in the present situation, and then, he defines the images and gives a certain framework. In many lyrics, he creates collages and interpolates feelings, reactions and thoughts tellingly.
On notices uniqueness in style and language of the poet and if one wants to understand, one has to correlate different paintings in words to an integrated major lyrical painting. ‘Up and Going Targets …Targets!, Closes the Spiral Only to Open, A doodle on Our Walkway’ and many others verses offer word pictures in contemporary context. Loud-speaking word paintings arouse curiosity, provoke to think of dullness in life today and then, make a satirical statement on life and conduct of man.
He observes in a word picture:
The dog on the grass with a handing tongue dribbles
Looks at the passing scene absent-mindedly, wagging its tail
The jostling, milling crowds hasten to finish the chore
Appear to be running, hoping to live a little longer, if possible.
— (“A Doodle on Our Walkway 70)
He narrates a tale of a beggar in ‘Beggar and Better Half’ 28. It is touching, poignant and realistic, and reflects on the attitude of man in various easy and thorny situations. A woman going to temple has nothing to offer to a poor and hungry beggar, who looks on while she disappears. He silently walks away. He is indifferent, detached and therefore, has nothing to nitpick or lament. No one looks at the beggar as everyone thinks ‘time is money; no time to throw away’ while a ragged beggar goes away, a little girl empathizes with the poor non-descript man and follows. The verse underlines egocentricity of man who can compromise for personal gains. The poet again attacks ego and self-concentrated life.
As usual, the poet is critical of unsympathetic attitude of people. An innocent girl chases with a kind of compassion and undefined relationship. Another scene crops up. A funeral passes by, the beggar looks at the mourners, who appear not very genuine, and the next moment, he stands under a tree while observing a burning pyre….the tale continues. The beggar pulls out a burning log, and cooks whatever he had and at that moment, the girl wants to share food. She wants to bestow a boon. Through the lyric, the poet wishes to tell man that everyone is an image of god and so he should learn to love everyone. Poet’s shift in thoughts from the worldly to the extra-terrestrial astonishes, for it moves away from the main thought the verse wanted to communicate.
The poet in many verses, surprises the reader at the end of lyric in a sudden swing in thought, which at times, appears unconvincing:
The mendicant is the homeless vagrant
The one who gives Him all is His other half.
The two are inseparable: Shiva and His own Shakti.
A strange passivity and helplessness squeezes a patient in ‘Morbidity’ 33, who tries to survive, for he has lost sense of dawn and dusk. However, it is just a sad lingering of life, and again the poet reveals cruelty and loneliness in different perspectives.
In ‘For Our Grandchildren’ 37, the poet in thoughtful, loving and affectionate moments, wants children to know the value of time, cleanliness of mind in feelings and thoughts, sweetness in speech and acts, and at the same time, he wants that the little ones must understand the value of money. Philosophically, he tells youngsters to ensure that nobody goes hungry and none is sad. He tells to remain patient and in a soft way, he counsels:
It is not enough to be god loving and god-fearing
You should work to help other around to be so.
Here, he is plain, clear and obvious like a teacher in a classroom. Certain poems are moralistic in nature and the poet does not hide the inclination to teach ethics if need arises.
In another verse, he shows social anxiety and seems faintly explicit but maintains scathing irony. He knows the role of the rich, the miseries of the poor and glib talks of so-called democrats. He observes:
Three jeers for Demonocracy
One for fabulous promises of those in power
One for the money-spinning ruses of haves
one from those, seething below the poverty line!
— (Three Jeers 51)
In another lyric, ‘Summer F(l)are’ 71, he smells distortion in the conditions of life. A certain heat agonizes and the change in season is not a happy sign the poet feels and then, sadly but with a ray of hope warns dishonest men.
There are crashes, collapses and catastrophes
No, surely not
All things are falling apart
There are all kinds of heat, all around
Is it a warning for corrupt man without compunction!
He celebrates talks of the charity, and fruit of trees. Trees face angry nature but soon, braving difficulties new plantain leaf sprout to please and promise:
Promising, consoling, assuring,
Slowly comes out
An evergreen joy.
Hope never dies.
— (It Never Dies 57)
Indirectly, he speaks of the beauty of values and principles, goodness and charm in life that never fades away even when man is no more. In ‘Mother’ 38, he speaks of a sacred relation. She cares for the child and never permits sufferings to come near the child, but teaches him the art of life so that he attains insight immeasurable, without reward. Even the mists children see are:
Sublime they are of approaching effulgence
Wings she gave her children to fly sky-high
Mostly to steer above the vanity of vanities
To see, understand and be blessed with wisdom infinite.
The world of man always looks strong, vast and unrestrained. It falls on man how he moulds and controls the flow of time and space while living on earth. Faith and belief in ‘self’ determines the march of life to destination and meaning. A few relevant questions can resolve the mystery of a bold and purposeful life.
It is better to be dead tan to be killed
To be assassinated than to be executed
It is better to be martyred than be blasted
To be cursed and half burnt…
The dispensation is either from above or below; one never knows.
—(What I Believe)
The answer to the puzzling (straightforward?) conundrum would make life happy. Rao observes in the beginning, ‘In the very conception, a poem creates for itself its context, space and structure.’ At times, he is rhetoric but stylistic propensities require need a striking treatment and therefore, he appears pleasing and very authentic. When he penetrates deep into the psyche of man and inquires into the awakened and cataleptic mechanism, he is fine and sensitive and thus, at the psychoanalytic level he fascinates. True it is and in this way, a creative artist paints authentic and realistic world pictures and it is readers’ obligation to interpret colours of words in an aesthetic and evocative milieu.