Dr. V. V. B. Rama Rao (b.1938) retired as an ELT professional. Though a prolific writer in English and Telugu with published work in several genres, he produced slim volume of poems, For Grandchildren & Other Poems, as a desktop edition, with 51 poems on various themes. Two things impress his work: the crystallization of a concept of his own: “In the very conception, a poem creates for itself its own context, space and structure” and the twin qualities of variety and brevity his work displays. Srinivasa Rangaswami reviewed SEEING GOD and other POEMS (now enlarged and issued with a new title) at first, some years ago, for a journal of international repute, declaring with aplomb: “With the poet – (Rama Rao) the immediate leads to something beyond the moment. And whatever the message, he must deliver it, get it off his chest, as it comes, without stopping to carefully ‘decorate’ it. This spontaneity, with its surprises makes for his instant appeal.” The veteran identified the poet’s sense of urgency, subtly though.
The very first poem, ‘Beauty and the Feast’(1) begins with the Supreme Power whose decision and order is carried out by other deities. All events – from “the fall of a sparrow” to the budding of a plant and twining of a creeper – of this world are His beautiful decisive dispensations.. The beauty of the world has beautifully been delineated by Sri Adi Sankara in his creation Saundaryalahiri, the work which the seer affirms to be “the envisioned Supreme, the celestial and divine.” This permeates “the blessed beings” who have complete faith in Him. Saundarya, beauty, is enshrined not in any kind of vanity but devotion – “bhakti”. What is Beauty if it does not bless one with Bhakti!
‘The Seer’s Eye’ (2) opens with an image of “a white vulture’s feathered nest” made comfortable with soft “fleece”. The seer ventured to know whether that presented a “fore or hind” – future of past – sight. The subtle reference is to the tyrants and despots dead and alive. The poem ends with an optimistic note: ’Sure they do.’ Confident, the seer says.”
‘All(e)gory’ (3) is full of pun on words, especially proper nouns ranging from contemporary “Bobbit” and “Bush”, taken from history like “Machiavelli”, “Chanakya”, “Kautilya”, “Ghori” and “Chengiz”, from historio-literary allusion “Kubla Khan” and another allusion to place, “Xanadu”, where Kubla Khan is supposed to have been buried. It is an imaginative allegory, though not allegory in the truly literary sense of the word, but when “e” is taken out, what is left is all gory. It seems to me a limerick – a humorous poem for reading to amuse not only the poet but also the readers with subtle barbs to living ‘dictators’.
‘Stop Press’(4) is, ipso facto, a political satire.– “A click’d do” – for a fee, on-line. Money is the force indomitable these days. A turn in thought occurs in the thirteenth line when the poet talks about governments’ often repeated statement that “there’s a financial crunch” when “Whopping 2K crore a year” is wasted on printing advertisements in “self-praise”. The politicians use all ruses with money bags to enter “assemblies and committees.”
‘Winter Rain’ (5) is the poet’s rumination while on walk in the morning. The poem opens with poet’s description of Delhi having “green lungs” - ‘Foul Play’ (6) refers to the worldwide misery while the “clowns”, who can help mitigate it, “stood looking on / For the kingdom” that is never to be theirs. The exit, “only exit”, that was there, the protagonist fails to know whether it was for “more villains to enter/ … / Or, clowns showing off as villains”. The poem ends with a literary allusion to Don Quixote, the chivalrous hero of Cervantes’ novel, who tries to rescue the oppressed in an unrealistic way.
‘Jingles and Whispers’ (7) is again about the poor. “Born under a makeshift tarpaulin roof” a very young woman says that “priced hygiene accessories” are beyond her imagination. Her pathetic life is revealed in the remark
‘Storm-clouds’ (8) is in three parts: one, the seer’s words; two, the seer sees, and again; three, the seer says. The very title of the poem is symbolic which tells of something ominous:
Vultures white and red fly high
Calling for order – blowing trumpets of caution
The white dove soars high for hearing better
Sees the blue pigeon running messages back and forth
The poet uses three birds, vulture, dove and pigeon, symbolically to suggest cruelty and high-handedness, pious innocence, and means of communication. The symbolic ‘vultures’ “spit and spew venom … blow hot and cold” and in the process all communication system is destroyed; the “committeemen opt for suicides” as there are possibilities/certainties of “alarms all around.” The seer is witness to it all. While the last line, “They’d be dressed to kill or killed and dressed”, has pun on the word ‘dress’; the three lines that precede it suggest disaster, because
The bobbitted ones exit – tail between legs
Scriptures quote the Devil –
Vultures are altruistic
‘Ars Poetica’(9) has creativity as its theme. It also develops in three stanzas: the first depicts the ritual of maidens in which they stick coloured followers in the blobs of cow dung; they sing and dance joyfully. It is a ritual to pray for fertility in the human world. The second depicts a cat with her brood of kittens suckling them. The poet asks the rhetorical question: “Did cats ever send up prayers for fecundity?” juxtaposing it with the prayers of maidens in the first stanza. In the third, he believes that artistic creativity is different from human or animal creativity/fecundity; it can never be accomplished either by praying to the God of fertility nor natural like that of a cat. Artistic creation comes by intuition when the imagination is “always extant and alive,” which needs tickling and is known by various names: divine, spark, inspiration, and/or frenzy. The three kinds of creativity, as mentioned in the case of human world represented by “Nymphets” in the first stanza and by cat and kittens in the second stanza is likened to artistic creativity in the third stanza by the use of the word ‘orgasm’ in “orgasmic feeling of satiety”. ‘Soul in transit’ (10) is dedicated to Michael Newton the writer of The Journey of Souls. This poem has “Karmic suffering only purges of dross” as its theme. ‘Alcatraz Around’ (11) has human suffering as its theme. Alcatraz is an island in San Francisco Bay which remained the site of Federal prison (1934-1963), where people had to suffer. The poet states that dictatorship, in this world, comes under different names and faces. In this world the “helpless cannot wriggle out”; they are “swimming, gasping, in ice-cold saline waters”; their sufferings have no end. “Dark ‘shining’ Alcatraz is real: all else a promise.” ‘A Penny…” (12) describes the funeral rite of a person. On one’s death everything (good, bad: debts and balances / Passion, pass-book, pension) is left behind. A natural death is better than dying in a bomb blast or dying in an accident by being “crushed into pulp under a giant wheel”. “There’d be a few for seven steps” to chant RAM NAM SATYA HAI.
In ‘Down-to-earth’(13) the poet presents pictures of “a goggled crooked” who scowls at a rickshaw puller, “a pundit with sacred smears” making his way cautiously through a crowd to perform death rites and profit by “the charity-on-death dispensation”, some on waiting for a lift in an endless “waiting”, a “tired and wan” poor and weak lady slowly making her way through the milling crowd to reach her workplace and, the picture of happily school going young children. The last picture reminds him of the God revealed these carefree children. While all the former four pictures reveal the people in their worries and penury, the last picture of children exhibits the presence of Godly goodness and innocence in their faces.
‘Up and Going’ (14) is a beautiful portrayal of an old man. He finds that all those things which bolstered his “complacence” now frighten him; his mail also “gets thin”. All these things hurt his ego. Doctor’s visits become kind and caring. He loses interest in all things.
‘Fig-leaf’ (15) is a satire on human hypocrisy. People in positions cause more harm to humanity by their acts of slogan-shouting and fighting wars in the name of world peace. In such acts of hypocrisy, the devilish nature of man is revealed; in due course of time both will have to reap the harvest they have sown in life: “And the hangman’s rope/ For both would surely claim”. He writes: “True colours / The fig-leaf never hides.” The poem ends with an interjection: “Thy Kingdom Come!” – a wish for the rule of justice.
‘Look Within’ (16) is a poem that tells that as man grows, he/she starts dissembling – his/her true face is veiled behind the mask – and one can “wear many a mask”. Even the face of Mona Lisa, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, is not true – “What we see is a mask: Hence an enigma”. In other words the poet seems to suggest that with age innocence of man is lost and enigma surrounds. The poet exhorts one to “Look for the infant’s face in the one you love: / just look within!” This act will discriminate between the true and the false one. And what is true, innocent is a replica of God.
‘Winter Blossoms’ (17) begins in an Eliotesque manner – “Month of cuddling amorousness / December is delectable.” Because in this month
Thigh on bosom and face nestled in hairy chest
Or, legs intertwined and breathing pleasantly hissing
It’s all not mere concupiscence: it is more an overture.
Then the poet recalls Osho’s philosophy, from sex to salvation, “Isn’t body a means for fulfillment Ultimate? / And that a step towards bliss divine?” and infers that this is in conformity with Hindu philosophy of Advaita :
Giving to take and taking to give
It is all God and all love,
For God is Love and Love is God!
‘Targets … Targets’ (18) is a fine poem which lays stress on the present age in which there are targets to be achieved. Goals find relegated. In this craze “Man becomes a machine and a moron.” The poet, in the concluding couplet, tells that there is “the Ceaseless One on top of all” – above and beyond these targets. Man should not become slave to targets but also set some goals for himself, as “Targets get you – let goals be your ends.” – that man should lead his life according to his own beliefs and not be subordinate to others.
‘Seeing God’ (19) opens with rhetorical questions if one has ever seen God. The poet answers himself that he sees god daily. Thereafter, he proceeds on to describe where, when and how he sees God. He loves to watch the little boys and girls – to “watch and energize my love”. In their smiles and innocent faces, he finds “genuine joy and genuine Love!” This is not mundane love, but spiritual.
‘Interface – Inner Face’ (20) is a poem which presents with economy of words an E. D.’s Board room where the lady interviews a candidate. The situation is tense. er. The interviewer asks, “Married?” It also exposes the psyche of the officer– “A sigh stifled any articulation / Only the exhalation was heard across the table.” There lies poem’s intriguing ambiguity: whether “the exhalation” is of the interviewer or the interviewee. The reader keeps on meditating ad infinitum till he comes to some rewarding answer.
In ‘Vetting a Poet’ (22), the protagonist wants to write some beautiful lines in eulogizing his love – “add another hue to the rainbow”.] Lust is more powerful than any - “chanting mantras” – piety of mind. In the last stanza the poet/persona rises to spiritual heights and avers: “The dark labyrinths (of mind /heart) need to be flushed with radiance” of knowledge “where languor and lust can harbour no more” and the “islands of bliss are accessible to the good.” Here the word “good’ refers to piety of thought. The poem leaves the reader with an advice: “Suffering ennobles – compassion is all.”
"Beggar and Better Half” (23) is a 87-line long narrative poem about a beggar who walks with an empty and torn bag for begging alms. A girl follows the beggar: at the bifurcation of the road, he takes "the rutty, pot-holed way." He walks into the dark braving the rain as if that is his perpetual fate. The girl now encounters four men carrying a corpse followed by a "large group of mourners". The beggar "walks up to a dark, ancient Neem" away from the mourners and hearse and the cremation ground. He hangs his bag (joli, I think it must be jholi, a Hindi word of a bag) and sits under the tree looking at the hearse being consumed in the flames. The little girl still tracks him and, perhaps, wants to talk to him and "wants to offer him her service too." The girl sees, after the mourners have returned and the hearse consumed, that the beggar picks up "some burning poles" to light his fire and puts his alms of the day in his pot to boil. The girl seeks his permission to join him for the meal. The magnanimity of the beggar has been brought forth in his these words: "You do not need my permission - / The food is as much yours as mine." He offers her the first morsel and in this course she eats his entire food. She appears to be no simple, ordinary girl but some fairy who wants to give him some boon. In this dialogue he asks her: "Give me what really is yours" her dainty reply is :"I've given you myself, my better half, / Nothing is left mine own: still you are mine!" The poet reveals at the end: “The two are inseparable: Shiva and His own Shakti!"
'Mall Malady Moron (24) is a poem of 24 lines and divided into four stanzas of 5, 4, 3, and 12 lines. The first stanza tells us about the stupid craziness of the rich; the second stanza about people, who are neither beggars nor motorists but stand for endless "grief and pain". "Islands of pleasure-seekers" come up on road sites – it's a Mall culture. The people who have money spend money to get pleasure. The third stanza of three lines stands for the poet's comment: malls are mushrooming on roadsides so that the rich don’t have to walk long; it is a generation of senseless people whom the poet aptly calls "Morons drive and thrive". The fourth is in the form of a dialogue between the persona and his self: the self asks "Whither goest thou?" to which the answer is again a question, "Whence have you come?" which retorts the stupidity of the first question and tells that he doesn't know. Then the sad and helpless sigh murmurs, "I know – from nothing - / With nothing in your wallet!" which is the crux of the poem.
'Morbidity' (25) tells about the modern disease which has overtaken the whole locality, nay the world. Dawn and dusk have disappeared; night merges into the dawn and day thaws into dusk – no dividing lines days and nights of twelve hours each have lengthened into "fourteen by fourteen" enveloping the whole world in this span of time.
'To My Teacher RAS A' (26) is about "RAS', his teacher at college. He falls in a sort of reverie remembering the joy achieved while enjoying his teacher’s lectures replete with "Ras(a)". The scholar-teacher lived in "his erudition, charm and commitment"; his language "held us captive, enthralled, roaming in regions ethereal" – spellbound. It was a "veritable treat" to listen to the verses of various poets – eastern or western – in true spirit. The picture of the teacher that the poet presents is that of an oriental teacher – His sola topee drew smiles" but this smile was not "risible", in stead, a smile of wonder at his true knowledge. He was a true "rshi" – full of knowledge, only knowledge and nothing else.
''Be'ing' (27) is a philosophical poem which begins with the connotation of Rene Descartes' statement – "I think, therefore, I am" – Cogito ergo sum. Freedom of thought does not imply that man is also free. However, this free thought "is fraught with danger." The poet from thinking comes to "seeing" and infers that whatever we see is also not real; reality is somewhere else. This apparent world is only Maya – false appearance.
'Seeing through I. C. U.' describes the experience of someone who goes to meet one in an I. C. U. the patient is in "semi-conscious or comatose". Medical jargon: ward-boys, oxygen masks, physicians, gloves, and ambulance all appear. In the meanwhile the soul of the person is rising upward and looks for "for a suitable yoni to get born" is based on the Hindu philosophy of re-birth - that an individual is reborn after death. The patient is bound to die when all artificial means to keep him alive are removed. Then the moral of the poem is envisaged: "Sadness is pitiful: it doesn't make one spiritual / Spirituality needs wisdom and piety."
'Under a Tree' (29) opens with the mention of mosquitoes' whine and "stink" that reigns all around. Jhuggies come up destroying all "Flora and fauna" of the area. In the cacophony of "whining airplanes" and "concrete jungle" the sight of a green tree is impossible and impossible is it to stand beneath it; it all remains a dream. It is futile to find any "shady retreat" and leisurely watch the "squirrels scurrying back and forth". The poet juxtaposes the movements of the squirrels with the hurried movements of human beings to do their errands.
'For grand children' (30) is full of advice to the young grandchildren. 'Mother' (31), a 20-line poem is about the attributes of Mother. Her spirit of cheerfulness has been shown by the use of the word, "spring" and her sometime stern nature "for Some by the use of word, "autumn". Clarity was her hallmark – "Never had she any labyrinths of befuddlement". The mother in the countryside was little aware of "bomber-planes and chemical warfare". Her "penitentiaries" for the children were "far better". Her thoughts were clear, full of "effulgence". She taught her children to imagine things far superior – "wings she gave to hr children to fly sky-high … above the worldly vanity of vanities …" to see for themselves, understand the world for themselves and get the bliss of infinite wisdom with this knowledge.
'Beast of Prey' (32) is a satire on our present leaders represented by Laloosaurs. The poem begins with a reference to "Triffids" in John Wyndham's novel. They, in the novel, have been described as carnivorous plants. The poet thinks that such "Triffids" are now "Donning vestments of MAN". He believes that modern civilization has made such "devouring creatures more dire". About our polity, he remarks, "Among men worse have taken power into their hands," and terms them "veritable tyrannosaurs". They "move, maul, munch and gulp in glee" instead of ruling the country.
'After the Sojourn' (33), the very title of which is symbolic and suggests the state after this worldly existence. The body when placed on pyre the "flames slowly begin furling up" and "mourners turn homeward." The soul, "massless speck" termed as daharaakaasha moves higher and higher, "Organs gone and senses lost", nonetheless "awareness clings". The second half of the poem shows that this speck remains unaffected by "the havoc the pot-bellied wreak / The haggling for chairs, thrones and seats of power" –all worldly politicking. This "spec hovers over a female" and goes "round and round the youth eyeing for the plum"; the poet here seems to suggest some sort of carnality whether of the "Youth" or of the "spec" and everything becomes clear in the last line: "After all, the massless speck (read the soul) was a remnant of the human."
'Fighting Back' (34) is on the theme of giving vent to one's urge. All impulses, whims urges, incitements, provocations are for the irritable men. One who knows how to get one's axe ground, moves straight without caring for any one. Others remain grumbling. Liberty is being misused. Any person is free to do any thing at any place without caring for the modesty of the other and there is none to challenge. And, ad finem, the poet concludes : "If you can't lick them, join them." At present all those who nourish some virtues dither from challenging the rogues of the society.
'Asking for the Moon' (35). The very title of this poem suggests impossibilities and seems and echo of Rabindranath Tagore's poem, 'Where the mind is without fear'. The persona doubts that when the mountains will move the moon might come down. So he won't "ask for the moon". Bu continues to board on the plane of his faith because it "sustains, enlivens and edifies." He next pines for a world which is
Where property is never claimed
And plenty is everywhere
Where man works and woman loves
And children have plenty of play.
The persona finds that money is at the root of all ills of the society. Therefore, he wishes for a "money-less" society. Then his wish takes within its ambit the following:
Where clothing is a taboo
And machines are anathema
Where laws are never made
And are obeyed none the less
Where every man is an angel
And every woman a cherub
Where there is no discrimination because of colour and none asks for help rather is given instinctively; people do not suffer from the want of any thing. They live in perpetual peace and satisfaction. The poet puts this idea in these words:
Where colours show diversity
And never stoop to discrimination
Where help needn't ever be sought
And is given by instinct
Where people would never know want
And all bask in the radiance of the divine.
The word, "divine", is the key word of this poem.
In 'Threadbare' (36), the persona in this poem, falls into a reverie and remembers his past ‘love’. He remembers how the beloved twirled the buttons of his shirt feigning to say, "looking beyond through". He feels his shirt blessed as it has the smell of his beloved which he has kept as a souvenir which he "take(s) out ever now and then" just to recapitulate his "youthful memories tingling fresh". Through this act he tries to measure the depth of heart's deeps. The depth "Between the act and the heart" is differs. Then meditates upon a lecher's pinch which is "more suffered than desired" – it gives only pain and no solace; on the other hand "Love knows only giving" – sacrifice and does not desire anything in return. This thought leads to think about her complete surrender to him and his animal instinct, which resulted in her becoming pregnant. His last words to her "You’d come for childbirth, don’t you?" agonize him endlessly. Amid compunctious thoughts of his past life there the poet’s averment: "Squirming in compunction / I refresh scorching memories for my redemption."
'Three Jeers' (37) is an ironic title which is the antithesis of three cheers. Here the protagonist of the poem speaks of the "Demonocracy" and attributes three jeers for "fabulous promises of those in power"; "for the money-spinning ruses of the haves" in addition to "One from those, seething below the poverty line!" The poem, though very short, the shortest of the collection, is most pungent in sarcasm overloaded with disgust for the malaise.
'Gleeful' (38) advocates, in religious metaphor, the prevalence of web-sites. The persona observes: "Deities and Powers in unison said: / LET THERE BE WEB-SITES!" It is a "free gift for all!" 'Fleeting' (39) is also a satire on the fleeting things, even human beings, who do not stop to enjoy Nature. The persona observes: "Cool morning strolls / Heighten sensibility / Help look into the nature of things afresh" to enrich.
'Blunted' (40) narrates in reminiscence of a lady who discouraged what was native in culture and tried to ape the western manners showing chagrin for manners of childhood. She took pride in expressing herself "progressive / Verily a Revolutionary" and a strong revulsion for "a whole culture."
'Hurry up, Please, It's Time' (41) has the ring of an Eliot line. However the protagonist of the poem talks about certain things he aspires for but is never able to cherish. Despair doesn't lead one anywhere. One should turn towards God for "Joyous, unimpassioned, serene" life. In one's hour of absolute dejection what comes to one's help is only one's faith in Him. In other words the poem suggests that old age is the time when one should turn one's gaze from gaudy mundane meretricious things to the One that is ever shining, ever soothing and ever comforting when all other will remain behind.
'King-size' (42) begins with a quote: "Action is dangerous" and cites two examples one of throwing a pebble in the placid water of a pond and then "try to stop the ripples" rising in the pond. Second , "Sit in the shade of a tree / Stare at the stars in the sky" then says, "But don't. don't do anything. / Live life King-size." The first halves of these examples seem easy but not the second one. The protagonist says, "Easy is difficult / Difficult is easy / That's all you need to know". Then again he cites the examples of performing pooja every morning what one can't remain without doing anything which seems easy but is quite difficult. Neither one can go naked "Like a contented ascetic, an avadhoota"; it seems difficult becomes easy for "the aspirant, the real sadhaka." Then the protagonist wishes if leaders would ever stop thinking of doing 'good'. This good is only for themselves and none else. 'Sotto voce' (43) is an Italian phrase which means - under the voice – in an undertone, so as not to be heard. The poem enunciates that one in a seat of responsibility "cannot have a will of one's own" – is not free in one's choice; there are other factors which manipulate his decision/choice, yet are incapable to "determine the goal". Both, "destinations" and "goals are wide-ranging. Human aspirations lie very often beyond achievements". Political leaders' achievements are meant only for ‘propaganda’". "Their secret aspirations are power or pelf", perhaps both.. But, the masses look up in hope of some prophet/saviour/redeemer "sheepishly".
'What I Believe' (44) holds on to the faith that natural death, martyrdom and assassination are better than being killed, executed or blasted. In the mode of death one can't be a chooser; it is decided "from far above or below". The whole process is termed as leela beyond the power of "the instrument" – the person concerned – instead with "the wielder", who controls the universe, but "not always believed" that it is He who actually does it. The speaker of the poem wants to know from the "you" of the poem, perhaps the reader, whether he knows this fact; however, the protagonist avers that he is ignorant about this truth.
'Where word failed' (45) opens with the Latin aphorism "Amor vincit omnia" – love conquers all. Then describes the couples in love enjoy bliss – "heavenward … heavenly" which echoes Oshoian philosophy manifested in Sambhog se samaadhi tak – from sex to salvation. In the second stanza, the poet takes recourse to remind "Savitri's" triumph rooted "in humility" and "Anasooya's" victory in her perception who transformed "our TRINITY into supple infants" for they had demanded of her to feed them in absolute nakedness. Both, these legendary heroines seek the weal of their husbands. They redeemed their husbands with "Just Faith, Loyalty, and Obedience to the Holy Law". Those who follow "the Holy Law" can even take up cudgels against "the wielder" of the previous poem.
'Bedside' (46) describes the person's visit to a patient in a hospital, who very weak and alone in the room lets the visitor in and gropes for the bedside "pendant switch" and "to find the bell press". The patient's health becomes manifest in these words: "lean legs sticking out of the sheet; the belly was high/ The foot … swollen …." He uttered, "Ram! Ah, Ram! You!" as if he never expected the visitor but his presence was real. He tells the visitor that he was certain about his coming to see him in the hospital. He further told him that he could not forget his presence when he "wanted the slut to pay" him "then and there" and avers that "those few moments ruined" him. He further interjects that his wedded woman died "the very next day. God was merciful!" Thereafter, he himself uttered, "Oh! Ram, Ram, Ram!" and wished that he should be forgiven. At the very next moment, his "eyes were staring at the ceiling." He was dead.
The very title, 'A Bit of Kargil' (47) recalls the Kargil battle that Indian soldiers against Pakistani infiltrators; however, it is about the December Delhi chill. All morning walkers, to evade morning chill, still stay covered in their beds: "The colony lies huddled / Under their quilts, rugs and assorted pullovers". The speaker seems to return and finds the "wide gates" full of weird anxiety for him. He contemplates: "Open, they are dreadful / Closed – more frightful / No knowing what may happen inside." The lat line reminds, besides desolation, the murders committed in Delhi posh areas of old people by their own servants. At this chilly morning hour, the speaker eyes a lonely watchman cuddling a cur in order to elude his lonesomeness, which is no less than hell. This desolation and seclusion brings to the mind of the speaker that "Kargil could be in the mind too."
In 'It never dies' (48), the poet is out to tell the readers that regeneration, be it in vegetation, is an endless process. It never stops. "Trees are known by the fruit" and their capable pedigree and every so often even by their leaves. "The hasty harsh wind" shreds the leaves of these trees. It does not kill the tree. In its place new bud comes up which grows into a full "lush green" leaf which in turn is "a feast to the eyes". The plant is none other than the plantain tree. A new leaf comes with new hope and new consolation, promise and assurance of life. It beautifully teaches the lesson that "Hope never dies."
'Doodling Nudes' (49) is about adolescent curiosity when one develops interest in sex and wants to know about the fair sex. The poem begins by referring to girls that they don't "doodle nudes" because they are ‘taught’ things very early, "before menarche". This is not so with boys; they are never taught. However, it becomes "an adult male pastime – practiced in private". "Curiosity is no offence". What one wants to know must know. Nonetheless, the adult must know that "Imagination can't be reined in" – it is free. At the same time, the adult should try to refrain from catching "fresh moustache unawares". –The best thing, at this time, is to understand the "growing fellow". If the elders feel "titillated" – it is different.
The penultimate poem, 'Dream, wouldn't you!' (50), of the anthology, is about dreams and the speaker of the poem holds that they do come true. If it were not so, who would like to dream? These are of a varied kind. To introduce the element of humor the central character thinks that dreams may be due to 'Indiscreet eating" or "by others' indiscretions". The poet tells: "If you have a dream, roll up your sleeves", suggesting the subtle meaning, to realize that dream. He further adds: "Dreams and deserts should go together". The leading character welcomes dreams; without dreams there would be no progress, no evolution.
'Anguished' (51), the last poem begins with an epigraph from Goldsmith’s THE DESERTED VILLAGE which coveys that a land fares badly when it falls prey to ills of society.– "When stars appear at midday" – "mothers are left destitute" people suffer. There is reference to the migration of the youth from their motherland without any regard for it. The poet aptly put it thus: "Times were / Man would keep a fistful of soil, / When it was inevitable to stay away afar", as a token of his love for his motherland. It is not so now: "the youth now looks skyward". Motherland feels muffled: "Ma is stifled". The poet asks: "Can the firmament hold, / When Ma terra firma, left fallow, shrinks?" This observation seems particular to our youth who left their own land for mere dollars.
These poems exhibit poet's adroitness in the handling of his themes with clinical precision and mastery of a literary critic. He nowhere falters: the ideas have been skillfully woven into the texture of the poems and leave the readers more informed, more enlightened and a bit more traversed voyager on the planes of imagination with new coinages and fine weaving of native words with the ease and flux of an idyllic ravine on the bank of which one would like to sit in moments of solitary contemplative mood with feet in cool crystal clear water and mind in the clouds. Really full of word paintings, one would like to gaze and gaze every time finding something new to invoke imagination and whet sensibility.
The variety of his themes evidences Rao’s capability to make anything below the sun the subject of his poetry. The poet's experience and erudition is reflected in his literary allusions; examples and images drawn from his surroundings. His work speaks volumes for his Nativist sensibility and fervor manifest. Through his poem he offers counsel to his grandchildren who are heirs to this evolving, not very promising, actuality.
Rao, Dr. V. V. B. Rama. For our grandchildren & Other poems. Gnosis, Authorspress,2011 New Delhi, Price Rs 125/-