I would like to deliberately skip over the linguistics and stylistics of the Japanese Haiku used and practiced by Dr. Shaleen K. Singh in an honest attempt to give a controlled release to the deluge of his formidable emotions, sentiments, and thoughts during the 13-day traditional but solemn and holistic mourning of his beloved and revered father, a dedicated English teacher and a profound scholar, in the present book, Proprietary Pains, presented in sober and graceful fascination by the wonderful poet-artist in the missionary medical practitioner, Dr. Amitabh Mitra.
Nardeo Sharma has also done a hard exercise in his Foreword to this affectionate and glowing homage by a grateful son to express his deep debt of gratitude to the virtuous and venerated father. Nardeo, no doubt, has explained and explored the strength of Shaleen’s Haiku and the critic is fully worthy of our appreciation for his good technical attempt, though the images used at times by Shaleen in the book are inappropriate and make a clean behavioral departure from their natural existence.
The title cover and the back cover showing Shaleen framed at the left-top appear to be peeping from the battlement top like the Mortality watching in reverence the Eternity, is an admirable blend of tradition and its surviving traces in modernity. I’m reminiscent of Gray’s Famous Elegy -
“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
Shaleen knows his gem, his flower; he has inherited its “purest ray serene” and its “sweetness” and is proud of his legacy though the pain of his inability, with his honesty, to repay the debt is unendurable.
Dr. Shaleen’s “Proprietary Pains” is a tearful, reflective and deeply contemplative poetic bouquet offered to the very source spring of his life in humble acknowledgement of all that he is and all that his life is. Shaleen says -
To know you.”
And it is-
Shaleen has very intimately drawn a life-like portrait of his father’s life as a self-sacrificing gentleman suffering and enduring the pains of thanklessness from his near and dear ones and the son watching in helpless silence. He says -
From beginning to end.”
And- “A poem
Written in ink
Of pain and agony.”
Shaleen views this life of sacrifices with sheer empathy when he says -
“ Bestowed pleasure
Bore with pain
Betrayed, bemoaned, besmeared.”
Shaleen has exercised himself to the full, and also to the best, to acquaint the reader with the sterling worth and lasting value deeply rooted in tradition of not only his father, the progenitor, the sustainer, the teacher and the gentlemanly guide, but also of the fathers, then and now. However, today when the father-son relationship is reduced and denigrated merely to a biological identity, which may also vanish as the things are moving fast in directionless directions, Shaleen has forcefully asserted the social and moral sanctity of this relation sounding a warning and conveying a meaningful and optimistic message amidst grave apprehensions. He says -
How painful and packed is this haiku -
More felt and
Much more made me feel.”
Shaleen is unassuming and unpretentious in the expression of his love for his father and the memories of his presence come crowding in the time of mourning and he philosophizes over what his father gave and what he has received. The poet feels that his life is full of blessings- a bounteous fructification of his great dad’s prayers into blooms and blossoms. The remnants of those prayers have become -
On mute lips.”
A blind Homer will continue to sing this saga on his dead father’s flute! The poet is badly bruised and broken and feels himself a forlorn haphazard wreckage -
Ship wrecked midstream
What will happen?”
Here ‘You’ with capital ‘Y’ deserves a special notice as it has a new personal and poetic significance. It is not a reflection of the moment but the poet adores it as such even today.
Proprietary Pains is a moral lesson of spiritual meaning to treat father with selfless love and reverence and be grateful to him, ever and on, for the graces and blessings we enjoy in our life. The flowers fade and fall and vanish into eternity leaving behind their fragrance lingering. Such veneration is the rarest of the rare values we cherish today with rich material chaotic stench around, our sole delight. A little reflection, even non-serious, reveals that our life is messy and stray because we have deliberately chosen to ignore this our supreme debt and duty and we measure the magnitude of those whom we ought treat with respect and dignity at least. We have created modern wonders as a monumental tribute to our creative ventures. However, the ancient wonders inspire greater reverence and veneration for our wonders have also their origination in them. Edmund Blunden too has splendidly acknowledged the debt to the elders in the most touching, poignant and glowing manner-so affectionate, suggestive and philosophical -
“Like the bee that now is blown
Honey-heavy on my hand,
From his toppling tansy-throne
In the green tempestuous land
I’m in clover now, nor know
Who made honey long ago.” ( Last stanza of Forefathers )
Sri Aurobindo’s generalization, more metaphysical and supra-mental, richly metaphorical, defeats the designs of Death in Is This the End? when the sage-poet of epic dimensions says -
“Fallen is the harp; shattered it lies and mute;
Is this unseen player dead?
Because the tree is felled where the bird sang,
Must the song too hush?”
No, no, no and never! The song will never hush even if there is pandemonium. Shaleens will continue to sing as a challenge to the Valhalla of Death and it will ever ring its rhythmic tune in the Museum of Life for the curate to explain to posterity what to idolize and adore in all humanity! This is the post-exit identity in Proprietary Pains assuring a lasting venerable entity!