A man of poetic sensibilities
scribbling on the sands of time
Giving shapes to my thoughts
though I lack rhythm and rhyme. - Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar
Whatever Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar writes here (in his poem “I Am”) is quite true to him. Truly, for a poet there is no need to write in a particular form because sometimes restriction of a particular verse interrupts the natural flow and flowing beauty of real creation; his poetry is his original vent which is free from any type of restrictions of rhythm or rhyme. He is an internationally acclaimed poet (trilingual poet, composes poem in Hindi, English and Maithili languages) scholar, lyricist ecologist, truth-seeker, clairvoyant, critic, and book reviewer. He has great craving for writing right since his early age; he used to write on the vital and current issues in various newspapers.
His poetic career started with the publication of his first poem- “If Wishes Were Horses” in Indian Nation (a newspaper) way back in 90’s. Now he is frequently published in “various national and international magazines both printed and online” (Jha’s timeline). One of his poems on Nelson Mandela “Gandhi of South” has been included in the academics syllabus prescribed for the school students of Philippines. He is also a contributor to Epitaphs (An Anthology of Epitaphs by the Living Poets Worldwide), The Criterion: An International Journal in English, IJML (International Journal of Multicultural Literature), and The Anvil (Forum of Literature & Academic Research in English) etc. Some of his poems are posted on literary websites like www.voicesnet.com, www.museindia.com, www.poetrysoup.com www.ielforum.org, to name a few ones. Besides, he is also the part of several anthologies like: Purple Hues, Whispering Winds, Just For You My Love, I Am A Woman, The Significant Anthology, Umbilical Cords, A Divine- Madness vol. V, Poetic Prism 2015 etc.
Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is a leading poet of Indian English literature. He is globally admired for his brilliancy and unique portrayal of Indian sensibilities drawn from Indian lifecycle, values and ethos. Indianness or indian sensibility means the prominent traits or qualities that the poet represents in his literary work as an Indian. Indianness is defined as “Indianness”, “life-attitudes” and “modes of perception”. According to Prof. V.K. Gokak Indianness is “a composite awareness in the matter of race, milieu, language and religion”. Paul Vergese holds that “Indianness is nothing but depiction of Indian culture” In fact, Indianness is the sum total of cultural patterns of India, deep rooted in ideas and ideas which form the minds of India. All the poets have been under constant influence and impression of the socio-cultural atmosphere wherein they are born and brought up. The poet under study is no exception to it because he has naturally and socially inherited the wealth of Indian culture and tradition. It is a well-known fact that sometimes a poet’s surroundings inspire him, to a considerable extent, for bringing forth his literary works. Being an Indian and born and brought up in India how can Jha remain untouched from Indian perspectives or indianness? A close reading of his poetry shows that he feels the pulse of India, her people and society very well because he has written a large number of poems depicting Indian condition of life style. In his poetry his readers find a profusion of all kinds of Indian themes or aspects including nature, culture and tradition, patriotism, religion, democracy, Indian leader, different places, livelihood, political situation, folklore, marital affairs, different relationships, natural disaster, terrorist attacks etc., festive times, social irony and satire. The themes taken up and the scenes presented with imagery drawn from the natural world are all Indian and this is how his love for India is strongly validated to export India’s social, moral, cultural, humanistic, familial fragrance across the world.
Major characteristics of Indianness are amply palpable in the poetry of Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar. With a global vision for the sake of humanity he represents Indian ethos through his poems imbued with cosmopolitan approach to life. He is a poet who believes in the humanitarian concept of global harmony, fraternity and world peace. Some of his poems are embodiment of Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam. In his poem “Let’s All” he pines for the utopian society, where “people feel no distanced” and everywhere “loving bonds of togetherness” must flow. His Utopian vision is quite remarkable. This poem brings him close to famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore because the same thing Rabindranath Tagore also echoes in his poem “My Heaven.” The super impact of Indian myths, Vedas and Upanishads is apparently witnessed in his poetry. Depiction of festive seasons and occasions is another aspect of Indianness that finds repeated mention in his poems. Like an Indian he enjoys different festive occasions of India. His poems like “Festival of Colors”, “Vishwakarma Puja”, “Godless Shrine”, “Krishna Conscious”, “Chhatt Puja” and “Immersion” are some remarkable instances in this connection. In his poem “Durga Goddess in Distress” he reiterates Indian notion of Upanishad that Durga is the “Mother of the universe” XXX “The supreme power / behind the creation.”
In India woman is worshiped as a goddess. With immense love and respect for Indian women (mother, daughter, sister, wife) he dedicates some of his poems to them. Jha throws light on both brighter and darker sides of women’s condition in India. In some of his poems such as “Restless I Am For You”, “She”, “Marital Bliss”, “Happy Moments of Togetherness” etc, he highlights not only the emotional and procreative power of woman but also the divine/ spiritual power of love sustained though her. His other poems, “Sobbing Sita”,“Men Are All alike” show woman as a subjugated being, suppressed and perpetrated in male-dominated society where she is treated like an object of desire, to satiate male’s lust. In his poem “Scream of Sonagachi” he throws light on the painful life of prostitutes or whores showing “their naked arms, thick thighs/ long lacerated ignominious scars”. Their whole body is dotted with torturous bites and scars which cannot be hidden by artificial make-up or feminine decoration. Here Jha as a poet is critical of male attitude towards female. He makes a caustic remark on male’s lustful mania that has made her lifelong prey to satisfaction of his lascivious desires. The poem “Oh Delhi!” is reflective of widespread perversion of male community living in big cities or metro. With mythological allusion to the Mahabharata, he bemoans the rape culture being followed by the perverted society. He asks the question-
Why are they sex-maniac, sex-starved, sex-ridden
playing even today in the cruel claws
of Duryodhans and Dusshashans
of modern Mahabharata?
In the olden days they stripped Draupadi,
defiled her chastity, destroyed her modesty
and now enjoying rapes ?
He also suggests a solution to, “cure them with the medication of spirituality, /and make them drink the syrup of ethical values” (Oh Delhi!). His poetry has universal appeal for women’s empowerment because he satirizes male brutal act by calling them “Sex hungry beasts in disguise” (Men Are All Alike).Seeing this brutality he gets saddened and takes shelter in Lord Krishna’s preaching “I console myself/With spiritual lessons of the Geeta” (Like All I Too Stuff My Mind Daily).
India is the land of spirituality which finds wider reflection in his poetry in the form of Love. As a recurring theme, love has a cyclical pattern in Jha’s poetry. It blooms and zooms with its full swim mostly in the form of spiritual and platonic and transcendental way. All shades of love- Sufism, surrealism, mysticism etc. - are articulately depicted by him in his poetry.
Being an Indian he has faith in Indian philosophy which divides an Indian’s life span into four Ashramas. Marital life is one of them, which is desirable for the “… treasuring/ the cultural prosperity / of our country” and “where love and lust are our wellbeing/ a socio-cultural process morally sanctified” (Celebration of Love). In his poem “Happy Moments of Togetherness” he focuses on the blissful realization of spousal life of togetherness (husband and wife), “Of our mutual love and respect/ of fragrance of happy togetherness”. But in his conjugal love is of sublime order based on the unification of two souls:
Love meets and ignites
Two sweet hearts
And unites them
Through and through
The body, mind and soul. (True Love Tests)
He is a staunch believer in the conventional system of Indian marriage and systematised marital life. He knows very well a caring Indian husband’s painful realization of his wife’s pain when she loses her unborn child due to some complications. In his poem “Laparoscopic view of Her Distress” he writes:
Implantation of a hope and happiness
In the eyes moistened by life’s despair
In her heart - battered and embittered,
Wanes down to acute agony of her soul,
For expected advent of her cute replica
Plays illusive in siege of lifelong solitude.
Here his realistic description of Laparoscopic surgery reminds one of Nissim Ezekiels’ real descriptions in the poem “Night of Scorpion” which presents a pathetic condition of a mother, “he even poured a little paraffin upon the bitten toe and put a match to it” (Google). The leitmotif of his poems is maternal love and pang which is superbly portrayed in his other two poems “The Cradle” and “Maternal Ordeal”.
India is the country of villages. Her beauty lies is the pure, simple and serene natural environment of village. In the poem “Cemetery of Rural Amity” the poet laments the loss of rural simplicity and innocence of the people due to dramatic changes affecting village life. Due to the global and scientific impact the pure atmosphere of villages is gone as “now at each and every door/ Parked are new bikes and sparkling cars/ With villagers minds smoke-polluted”. Modern lifestyle has tremendously affected their attitude. His “homecoming hug pinches me (him)” so much that his eyes “rain to wipe off the blood / Dripping down from the core of my (his) soul by finding the “cemetery of amity in the rural corridor”. Written in nostalgic form his poem “Down Memory Lane” throws light on the fugacious nature of village people who leave village’s “ beauty of the lush courtyards” and “natural landscape of serenity” and settle themselves into city for their “livelihood” and lead a peaceless and loveless life without having “blessings, solace, love and wishes” (Down Memory Lane).This poem is reminiscent of the beauty of nature which Wordsworth pines for in his “Tintern Abbey” in which he writes that “These beauteous forms” of nature he “felt in the blood, and felt along the heart/ and passing even into my purer mind/ with tranquil restoration” (Agnihotri 184-85). In “Down Memory Lane” Jha writes;
From my heart and mind
Uncovering my deep love for
The flora and fauna, the native people,
Arousing and reviving in me
A refreshing nostalgia time and again!
Here it seems that Jha is speaking like William Wordsworth.
Manifestation of his reverence and respect for great Indian leaders is yet another beautiful trait of Indianness of his poetry. As a true citizen of India he has paid regardful tribute to them though his poems like “In Memory of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam”,“For Thee, Father of Nation” etc. In his poem he beautifully describes Mahatma Gandhi’s and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s teachings;
Gandhi's love and non-violence
And Shastri's Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan slogan
We hold them in high esteem
As our idols and nationalistic paragon. (“October 2: Birthday of Two Idols”)
Not only ancient Indian leaders are the big part of his poetry but his ideas about India’s present leader can also be seen in his poem, “NaMo: Chant Or Rant”
Into prolonged darkness
Of corruption, dearness, crimes
Can India see a new dawn
His “Indian Demagogues”, “Cries of The Country”, “Freedom is Chained!”, “A Modified Demagogue”, “Two Indias”, “Republic” and “Pseudo-Secular” are some other poems which expose the terrible faces of corrupt leaders, country’s pain, and theme of patriotism and war. On the one hand in his poem “Hounds of Politics” he describes the face of Indian politics:
Politics is today infested
With many beasts of prey,
All its hidden alleys have
Tainted leaders with grey.
On the other hand, he shades tears seeing the pathetic condition of Kashmir and Uri victims in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks. He doesn’t help venting out his anger and ire in the poems like; “Surgical Strikes”, “Bleeding Roses”, “Unfurling Wreath of Wrath” and so on. It shows that his poetry is steeped into the nationalism well exuding Indian sensibility.
Indianness of Jha’s poetry also lies in his commitment to his country and motherland (India and Mithila). He is sincerely and earnestly devoted to bring about some improvement in the deplorable condition of life in India through his poetry. His native place also finds a major place in his poetry. Like a true son of mother Mithila he feels his mother’s pain in his poem “For Mother Mithila”
My life is hijacked by
My own home minister
Who makes me dance
At her beck and call
His “Darbhanga Raj” also expresses his sorrow on the cultural and historical lipography. Waning down of cultural grace of Mithila saddens him -
In her petticoat government…
In the dark dungeon of oblivion
Searching for a befitting resurrection
Of the historical, cultural dignity:
The glorious grandeur of Darbhanga!
India is the country of vividness. Variety in unity, or for that matter, vice versa, is one of the most important features of Indianness because India has its expansion from Vindhya to Meghalaya, from Kaveri to Himalaya or from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. This Indian vividness coupled with the unity of sensibility has superbly been well articulately by Jha in his poetry marked with sour and sweet experiences of life and minute observation of people, their attitude and lifestyles. His poetry is a testimony to the presence of Indian sensibility as he sheds tears in India's sorrow and accompanies her in her happiness. He realises India's pain and happiness at each moment just as a son has realisation of his mother’s pain and happiness. In this way he is a true son of India who serves his mother through his poetry for all trials and tribulations.
Thus, the close analysis of selected poems of Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar exhibiting Indian sensibility reveals that Jha has successfully breathed into his poetry grace, grandeur, light and sweetness of Indian culture both from ancient and modern. He may be rightly called the harbinger and a poet apostle of Indian socio-cultural heritage. His poetry is a fine amalgamation of vivid graphics and colourful panorama of common man, occupations, customs, tradition, joys sorrows, love, desires, smiles, tears, agonies, faith, etc. of Indian sensibility or Indian culture and tradition. In addition to above traits of indianness, labour class, common men, Chai bala, gumti bala, dig walker, hunger, begging, sympathy, love for indian animal, natural description from dawn to dusk etc. also indianise the themes of his poetry. Synthetically and compactly woven, his poetry has ticklish tinge of autobiographical elements. Apt metaphors, allusions, striking imagery, irony and the style, and other poetic devices heighten the poetic effect.
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(This paper got published in Rainbow: Shades of Indian English Literature edited by Samadhan Mane. published by Lambert. 2016)