Solitude and other poems by Rajender Krishan
A collection of 60 poems - each illustrated
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Rajender Krishan (1951 born) got initial education in Bal Bharati and Air Force School until eighth standard and after matriculation from PU, Chandigarh, completed graduation from Delhi University while he had by self-choice began earning livelihood at the tender age of sixteen. A professional in Marketing since 1968, he entered into a happy inter-religious marriage (1975) and is now, settled in New York, USA with wife Meera Chowdhry and two children – Anmol and Chandrika. Before migrating to USA in 1989, he worked in poultry farming, advertising, and eventually entered sales and marketing.
In USA since 1989, he is connected with work concerning antique reproductions and consultancy in Real Estate. Adorned and blessed with the loving titles of dada and nana, he believes in the freedom of expression and is an admirer of Kabir, a great mystic poet. Poetry is a passion with him. He also writes in Hindi. Photography and visual art are his hobbies while as a keen observer of man and society he loves to deliberate on the destiny of man and its predicament. He enjoys sharing his thoughts with hundreds of creative writers through his website Boloji.com while inspiring young writers. He says modestly:
‘Life is a great teacher. The joy is in living. Life itself is an expression. It is the only constant that’s forever changing. Yet in the eternal change is hidden the “agocharik” principle. This therefore makes life itself creative and throws challenges for one to seek, discover, discriminate and live.
Thus to say, “I write creative” will be blasphemous.’
agocharik = unmoving
These words constitute the philosophy of Rajender who does not confuse anyone and loves to live a straight life as one gathers from his writings on numerous subjects. He owes his wonderful life to grandmother and parents whose blessings inspire him to do better; and Meera - his wife - who tolerates, yet simultaneously nurses, his junoon by being a perpetual motivator; while he follows the principles of freedom that define self-choice.
‘Solitude and other poems’ by Rajender Krishan is a collection of more than fifty poems. The poet is a keen observer of men and surroundings and whatever he witnesses and experiences, becomes the subject of his poetic treatment. He is incisively soft, direct, pithy and sympathetic to men and material that attract his poetic mind.
In some memorable lyrics, the poet evinces interest in mysticism and philosophy. He tries to look at life beyond worldly limits. He wishes to comprehend the mysterious play of the invisible power that shapes and determines human life and destiny. He touches difficult subjects but does not baffle. He is straight and clear in words and thoughts, and this makes him unpretentious and straightforward.
The poet in Rajender is mystic and talks about the indestructible inner self –soul/ Atma. Mesmerized by the outer flourishes, a man fails to discern the real self. However, as he begins searching the truth, he realizes that ‘the ethereal /apparently caged / behind the skin’ is eternally free and the worldly traps cannot cause impairment, for it is beyond external corrosion.
one grasps a tangible nothing
realizes an intangible something
(Core of the Onion, 2)
A thought of oneness with the world grants freedom when one abandons encaged existence. This thought re-emerges in Tat Tvam Asi where the poet tells softly:
the dichotomy of life
Tat Tvam Asi.
(Tat Tvam Asi, 40)
The great truth is contained in the mahavakya (key sentence) thou are that –Tat Tvam Asi, and this is the experienced self, the conscious self that is the Brahman if one does not fall a victim to any duality. A man should know here that power infusing light and brilliance to Sun is the one that fills the soul – the Atma. A search to look beyond begins when a man is oblivious of the present, past or future, and there is little care for laws.
An understated treatment surprises the reader in another beautiful lyric, ‘Blessed is the Emptiness’. The poet when alone and unfilled, finds highly enriching moments and here, he begins to contemplate on life’s objectives.
...the aspiration to walk again
the dreaded path of emptiness
that leads to self-discovery
lingers on to define
the purpose of Life.
(Blessed is the Emptiness, 38)
Emptiness and void inspire man to a life of activity and purpose. It is rediscovery of self, the inner man. A contemporary man is engaged in awesome repetitiveness and the race to excel tortures him because he cannot find time to relax and rarely attempts to fill the huge void within or if he wants, indecisiveness stays. Thus, in negation, he increases the intensity of empty space.
Whatever a man experiences in life is the consequence of what he thinks and how he acts. The inner self is like a mirror that gives a true image of the man sitting inside. A mirror reflects the true interior and exterior of an individual –it reveals the inner taint more vividly than the outer contours. A man should see reality and refuse to bear mask. Mirror is the revelation. A life of hypocrisy and pretense is self-deceiving, one gets the message in this little verse ‘Mirror’. The poet says in beautiful words:
I may deceive myself
with a motley
of pretenses and beliefs
wearing different hats
donning varied masks,
but cannot conceal
the mirror's revelation
It is so relevant to recall words of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda when he observes briefly:
‘As a mirror reflects all things held before it, so when your feelings and mind mirror remain perfectly calm, you will be able to see reflected in it the true quality of others. If you are busy doing good to all, remaining calm, the true character of whoever comes to you will be revealed to you.’
Mirror is merely a metaphor to remind man that if he penetrates deep within, he can understand what life is and what he is to do as a man of the world. Only a real self infuses meaning and purpose to life, and masked life only breeds sufferings untold one may conclude. The strain of philosophy and mysticism chases him while he thinks of objects of nature in rage and ferocity.
When the poet watches the nature in fury in a contemplative bearing, he thinks of the world, its origin and the ultimate end. The poet speaks of the principle of creation and devastation while describing the fearsomeness of deadly inundation. In ‘Deluge’ an experience of annihilation and creation of cosmic plan is unfolded through the symbols of a river, wind and storm when these are in frightening flood, terrifying speed and noisy and destructive temper respectively, and the poet indirectly reminds us of the great sage Markandeya who witnessed the amazing spectacle of devastation, and then the glimpses of creation.
Solitude in life fleets away in a moment. It is illusive and intangible. Thoughts invade and carry man to lands of various experiences and one silently witnesses the phenomenon without definite results as pristine amusement stays on. One cannot measure the force of grandeur of this spectacle. In ‘solitude’, one is away from the disquieting nature of existence and there he finds that:
Untiring is the phenomenon
yet unruffled remains the witness
to this incredible marvel
of pristine amusement
If one thinks calmly, one is filled with extreme sense of joy and fulfillment when one enjoys in the bliss of solitude miles away from the disturbing nature of worldly affairs. Here, in solitary moments, the real life force is revitalized without a hint, for it exercises imperceptible influence on life and living. This invisible power provides the inner energy to all and makes individuals live life. It is in plenty with no restrictions. The life force is free and beyond the worldly bondages, bondages that lead to narrow intellects adhering to dogmatic laws, driving a man to awesome anarchic living where even identity is challenged or remains under threat. The poet says:
anarchy and turmoil
that caged bird
the bondage of life
When the poet refers to dogmatic set of laws, rituals, narrow boundaries, sectarian borderlines and disorganized conditions of life, he probably tells that these do not benefit humanity. Here, words of the great modern philosopher Bertrand Russell are appropriate when he observes that
‘dogmatism is an enemy to peace, and an insuperable barrier to democracy. In the present age, at least as much as in former times, it is the greatest of the mental obstacles to human happiness.’(Unpopular Essays 31-32)
He talks of the man made life conditions that are unhealthy, disgusting and inimical to peace whereas nature is caring and teaches man the spirit of sacrifice whereas man wreathes in bondages and thus, lives a dull life forever. The poet observes aptly:
my mundane “I”
that I know my Self
…and thus, a man lives under false notions of continuity where freedom is difficult. In routine affairs, he claims to know the reality but does not understand what reality is.
One lives without ever thinking of its stoppage or break. It is total freedom – mukti or salvation, beyond bondages. Nonetheless, a man lives within the limits of rules and self-dictated terms of life. What a tragedy and contradiction! Here, aforementioned words of Russell appear so relevant. A man cannot live, as he wants if he fails to grasp the message of nature.
A similar thought runs in the verse, ‘Lines’ where a man tries to connect a man to a world beyond death. Indirectly, it is a wish to get deliverance from the whirlpool of life where joys are transitory, sufferings continue to mount, and man wants freedom. Man has been bestowed with the wisdom to make a right choice, for he must know:
The lines of providence
registered on my forehead
neatly concealing Prarabdha
the store house of desires
- Iccha, Aniccha, Parichha -
The man despite chaotic living conditions has a choice to make life better. The poet also hints at the purity of karmas, which can grant freedom to the man from the sufferings of life when he says:
on a chosen path
the lines on the soles
keep treading and digging
the labyrinth of life
- Maya -
in quest of Nirvana.
Poet’s mystic approach to life is obvious in the above lyrics, which speak of a great philosophic truth. A man understands at times, but still ignores the eternal truth. Purity of karmas requires adherence to the principles of righteousness and truth.
In ‘Realization’ (14) again, the thought of deluge appears to remind man of the eternal truth of creation and destruction, of birth and death. Anarchic life after the great creation, preservation and the ultimate dissolution is the great divine plan of the Supreme Lord, a man should understand, the poet appears to emphasize. If true realization dawns, the doors to salvation open with merger of an individual soul with the great Lord. He says,
the eternal Self
Hari Om Tat Sat
The poet evokes the great Vedic mantra Hari Om Tat Sat – that is truth. The truth is that the creator and the creation are not different. The visible (seen) and the invisible (unseen) are one. Until now, an effort has been made to comprehend the philosophic and mystical mind of the poet, who has been trying to understand the natural phenomenon and the role of nature in the life of man. He emphasizes the significance of man’s karma. He evidently warns that bondages do not lead to salvation. Understanding of the self is to know the divine plan. If a man understands the inner man and follows its dictates religiously, many of the problems will finish and man would live in peace. It is living in the silence of one’s area of existence that man gets total harmony and establishes bonds with the world outside.
Experience of Life makes a rough sketch of a man’s life and when he interacts with the world, he undergoes multidimensional experiences and tries to give form and credence to varied relationships he establishes with the world outside including men and nature. These relationships mould, direct and teach man the art of living. A man must understand that life is here and now and if he goes beyond, it raises metaphysical questions.
While the poet is aware of the philosophic dimensions of life where transience stares blankly at the face of man who, most of the time, appears to forget the eternal truth of life and death, and continues to live as if there were no termination of activities or death, yet at certain moments, he returns to the worldly life. Sticking to past does not lead anywhere but it distracts and hampers the growth. The real life is in ‘Here and Now’ and if one learns to live in the present and tries to beautify it, he can contribute to a constructive outlook. Desires activate past, present, future, and haunt the areas known or unknown with bewildering characteristics and thus, foreign influence distorts a clear vision whether it is past or future.
The poet aptly says:
If only the elapsed be erased
and the unborn not allowed to influence
the mysterious “Now” then reveals its blazing presence
and burns ignorance in its inferno.
(Here and Now, 36)
It is a practical approach to life without any philosophic tinge and if a man lives in present, he can make life happy and meaningful, bereft of dilemmas. At another level, in ‘Speech’ (8), he asks the man indirectly to understand the celestial design and make apt use of the inherent energies so that the vital life force can be preserved. Nothing in the scheme of nature goes waste is the ancient wisdom and it has meaning, which a man does not understand, the poet wishes to convey.
take a deep breath
whatever the emotion
build the right composure
So proclaim the Masters
When will I embrace
the wisdom of this science?
If a man discerns the flow of life’s energies, tries to pursue the principles of life, he shall learn to live in harmony, for at that moment, he would understand the wisdom of this phenomenon. Mystery of life and its varied hues with joys and sufferings make the journey of life enigmatic and here, a man confronts many decisive moments but if a man listens to the inner voice, and makes a right choice, he will reach destination. The poet rightly tells in ‘Crossroads’:
…awaken and arise
make no compromise
Cognize and discriminate
before it becomes too late
Listen to your inner voice
and make the right choice
…your chosen path
will be the preamble
to your final destination.
Here, experiences and relationships constitute gist of life and if it is lived passionately with reasons, it has meaning.
The poet is conscious of life’s complexities and this he conveys unambiguously in ‘Words’. Life of dignity and right attitude without feelings of greed or aggrandizement will give meaning to life and this is possible, the poet feels if a man follows the teachings of great virtuous souls like Kabira and Christ and the elderly wise people. All great souls advise to discard thoughts of begging, cheating, hating and worrying. When one lives a life of cleanliness and truth without fear and harboring feelings of ‘unfulfilled appetite’ it is possible.
It is better to “Conform, Talk Not” of the ideals and principles, he says briefly.
There is no end to the variety of experiences with philosophic thoughts and the poet appears to enjoy each moment of life. Though a religious-minded person, yet never for a single moment, he appears to move away from the realities of earthly life and there lies the bottom-line of his philosophy. Even beyond joys and sufferings, a state of mind comes when to fathom the immeasurable depths of mind gives blissful delight, and creates awareness, a spirit of reconciliation and resurgence of faith. With the power of ‘self-preserving silent prayer’, a man can go beyond confusion of ‘this or that’ as quietness of the imploring words soothes, and
the womb of eternal awareness
and that Timeless moment
gives birth to reconciliation
a resurgence of faith
…that ultimately proves inspiring and fills life with revitalizing vigor and confidence, he tells in ‘Sigh’ (22). Faith and confidence are essential in life, for these make living meaningful. For, ‘it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal light’ so said St Francis of Assisi. Prayer is a self-strengthening devise that works without a sound and it teaches to give and pardon finally opening the door to light – an eternal prayer.
Existence and identity of a man depends upon his comprehension of the social realities. Social system encompasses life in totality that controls a man socially, economically, physically, mentally and politically and then directs his thoughts and social aspirations towards a collectively pre-determined objective. His freedom is challenged and if he wants to live with a free will, he faces near extinction. Here, social awareness can mitigate man’s sufferings immensely thereby determining his destiny in contemporary scenario. Around these thoughts, the poet builds up arguments in his lyrics that highlight social issues a man faces, and the sufferings ensuing out of these problems.
The poet is worried about the destiny of man and the questions of life, death, rebirth, creation and annihilation disturb him. Equally distressing is the fact that man on earth struggles hard to extricate himself from the whirlpool of transitory joys and yet he fails. A man fails to make a clear choice, the poet in Krishan says repeatedly. The reasons are not far off to seek.
Man suffers from ‘great insecurity, permanent crisis and the absence of any kind of status quo’ so says M. Sturmer, as quoted by Eric Hobsbawm who is straight and blunt when he says,
‘We do not know where we are going. We only know that history has brought us to this point…if humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or the present. If we try to build the third millennium on that basis, we shall fail. And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness.” (Age of Extremes 585)
Creative artists understand but are still indecisive in what they write. Historical perspective structures feelings and ideas one is inclined to affirm and in this subtle process is involved a sort of restructuring with a few distortions while deconstruction continues.
The poet in Rajender Krishan is conscious of the social predicament, a man confronts along with joys few and sufferings aplenty. A man feels he is inseparable from ‘Hunger’ (10) while he lives or exists on earth. Embedded in the eternal plan, hunger is born of desires unlimited. The poet speaks of material hunger and greed without caring for the hunger of the inner man who remains dissatisfied. When the soul within the master body or the sovereign leaves the body, hunger ends –the desires of the material world prove meaningless. The poet is terse:
with the sensory cessation
leaves the corpse
moves into a new abode
The cycle begins anew
the commander of all desires
Hunger is the cause of all the human activities, joys and sufferings and remains insatiable, for the mortal frame does not recognize satisfaction. Further, it refuses to accept truth of hunger and this singular aspect of life leads to sufferings where love, hatred, jealousy, conflicts and violence govern. Perhaps, the poet is disturbed at the multifaceted hunger a man nurses, for it is the origin of unethical life and living. In other words, he tells of a virtuous and principled life, provided a man eschews thought of material hunger so that socially he becomes a complete man.
Social anxieties and worldly worries continue to chase the sensitive mind of the poet in ‘Physics & Social Chemistry.’ He observes pithily:
is being brokered
into bonded slavery
(Physics & Social Chemistry, 94)
This verse raises issues relevant to current lifestyles and consciousness. Mother earth is immaculate in its movement, and so she moves in a fixed pattern. Science with reference to social chemistry makes an interesting reading. If one understands the mysterious plan of changing cycles of seasons, darkness and light, creation and consequent annihilation, one can regulate life meaningfully. Man witnesses changes the moment, he takes birth. He cannot change the flow of life despite efforts and if he does, it speaks of little knowledge. Man must comprehend his limitations and powers and with a reasonable approach to life, learn to live without any distinction based on narrow considerations.
At one stage, he remarks:
Yet not recognizing
the phenomenal truth
in our lost wisdom
…and therefore, a man continues
waging futile wars
with absurd identities.
(Physics & Social Chemistry, 93)
Here, the poet appears to make a philosophic statement on life and living of a modern man, failing to have grip over feelings and thoughts and loves illusions in a prevalent disgusting and appalling social system.
Russell is still relevant what he said long back,
‘The modern-minded man, although he believes profoundly in the wisdom of his period, must be presumed to be very modest about his personal powers. His highest hope is to think first what is about to be thought, to say what is about to be said and to feel what is about to be felt; he has no wish to think better thoughts than his neighbors…’ (In Unpopular Essays 66)
and this attitude leads to unfortunate plight, a modern man faces. Only correct comprehension can lead to a path of light and purpose the poet appears to say.
A man believes in spurious exhibition of well-intentioned acts. However, when none is a witness, he prefers to stay away and remains unsympathetic towards those who need help. Contemporary man is awfully engaged in self-promotional acts and so has little time for humanitarian work. Apparently, he is callous and cold. In sophisticated metaphors, the poet in ‘A Monkey's Fall’ exposes inhuman demeanor and treatment, a dependent human being faces at the hands of those who profess to care.
not by the fall,
but by the gaucherie
of the reckless doyens
(A Monkey’s Fall, 104)
Reading in between the lines shocks a noble heart one observes. Not only the fearsome rich and the clumsy powerful exploit but also political management and maneuvering of the wealthy and the rulers damage the system in totality without worrying about the plight of the helpless and consequently, destroy the warmth in relations. As ‘Politics’ enters human relations it hurts warmth and creates an environment of distrust and lies. Politics of relations and lies sows seeds of dishonesty. A modern man is manipulating relations towards his advantage and profit and that breeds hatred, loss of confidence and faith. In very simple words and innocuous example, the poet unfolds a fatal pretense.
You just sowed
the seeds of dishonesty
in your grand-daughter
with this example!”
Concealing my shame,
I replied slyly:
“Oh, come on -
this was just politics
A ruthless exposure of real politick operating in personal relationships extend to social areas including all wings of life and therefore, it distorts everything. Relationships suffer in an appalling, reckless and rash contemporary set up where earning and amassing is the main credo. Even close relations whose job to rear up the offspring, bother little to fulfill this obligation. This current theme puzzles the poet who in ‘Irony’ launches a biting assault on this mentality of parents. If the children get security, guidance and care of parents, they succeed in life, otherwise they are likely to confront difficulties and failures. Parents symbolically stand for the elders whose job is to guide and teach youngsters the art of life. If it does not happen, the young men fall victims to:
…coercive and manipulative societies
divided by isms, castes
and sectarian dogmas
ruled by the selfish
in a state of governance
that stands wrinkled and defiled
by the mafia
of merciless politicians –
Such lopsided thoughts guiding men, who decide fate, destiny of man and the prevalent system, must be corrected and made politics-free, for future needs protection. The poet is probably worried and pained at the casual rather lackadaisical attitude of parents towards the growing broods. There might be a few exceptions but the fact remains to warn man and society of the dismal future. The elders must understand their responsibility towards the young people and offer them quality life. The poet is genuinely worried about the future generation and when he looks at the country where he lives, he feels upset, for the American society has little hopes to offer to future children.
A glimpse of American society in ‘Death in Kindergarten’ shocks us where apathy of parents brings mental disorder in the brood:
The maniac’s psyche
nurtured on hatred
that breeds violence
arising reflexively out of
divorced parental apathy,
the social fabric,
the American Gun Culture
that’s gone out of control?
(Death in Kindergarten, 112)
This deplorable and perilous trend in pattern of living is entering Indian society the poet hints at and thus, cautions against the deadly onslaught. The living patterns and thoughts of western culture are not all bad but the ethos ought to be accepted with caution and care.
Contemporary lifestyle and its inherent sickness appears distressing to the poet. Rajender, the poet touches various subjects that haunt a thoughtful modern man facing problems of life where he wishes to exist as a normal human being with limited needs and appropriate security. This does not happen. Here, questions of safety and security of women arise. Exploitation of women is a provocative question, the society faces. The society assures protection to the weaker sections and the women but still women, in most of the cases, suffer mutilation of soul and body. A man is an animal when he confronts a woman, feeling alone and dependent. ‘Wolves’ tersely highlights the ghastly, violent and inhuman impulses of wolves among the men who do not respect womanhood but rejoice in violating the sanctity of women irrespective of relation or age. It is a sad commentary on the disintegrating social and political system where rule of law and observance of the principles of right conduct, are not respected.
At the nadir of heinous impulses,
the precept of culpability
in a deteriorating social order
The rapists indulge in extremely violent sexual assaults on women hurting minds and hearts grievously. Everyone talks eloquently and adoringly about women but cares little for moral values. In another verse ‘Nirbhaya: The Prologue of Change’, the poet is deeply upset by an incident of rape, torture and violence perpetrated upon a woman who was quite unaware of the fate she was going to meet even when she accompanied her friend. She resisted sexual assaults with full force while her friend also tried to protect her but they failed. This incident shocked the hearts of people when it made headlines. People all over India, with one voice, demanded stern action against the rapists. In truth, India woke up to the occasion and compelled the authorities to frame laws that could discourage anti-social elements from committing crimes against women. The poet presumes that this single incident is an indicator of a great change. He observes in Nirbhaya:
She has died
to become alive
in the hearts of the youthful might
revitalized and fortified
as the prologue of change!
A terribly insightful protest lyric that speaks about the tyranny against women, and tellingly highlights that the system is still impotent. Thus, one observes that the poet is quite conscious of the surroundings in which he lives.
He is aware of the plight of people whether rich or poor. Exploitation, cruelty, violence, and greed for material wellbeing causing damage to the system appear disturbing. He is disillusioned at the sufferings of women who continue to suffer and face onslaughts on bodies and souls, and the system looks on without much reprieve. Here, relationships suffer because warmth is absent. Questions of life and death perturb him and he falls into metaphysical ponderings but reaches nowhere but he feels he is somewhere and that satisfies him. He talks of merger of self with the inner self –the image of the Supreme Lord. He seeks liberation and harmony in silence and solitude, and discovers meaning of life. He is sincere and frank, and his anxieties about existence appear reasonable. This genuine expression of contemporary worries is poet’s great strength. In an unobtrusive way, he establishes a mute relationship with every lover of verses and that speaks of his elegiac power.
Continued ....to “Underlining Social Anxieties: Poetry of Rajender Krishan”
Illustration (c) Simi Nallaseth
Hobsbawm, Eric. Age of Extremes, London: Abacus, 2002
Rajender Krishan. Solitude and other poems, ISBN 978-81-8253-414-8,
2013, Cyberwit.net, Allahabad - 211011, India
Russell, Bertrand. Unpopular Essays, London: Unwin Books, 1968