Book Reviews

Bibhu Padhi's Migratory Days

Bibhu Padhi’s Migratory Days brings out the poet’s nostalgic, historical, political and economic dimensions to  the public space. The poet seeks to act as a voice of conscience against the gross vulgarisation of morbid social issues. Poems in the volume are antidote to the de-sensitisation of a traditional man’s predicaments who is deeply rooted in his cultural nuances. A travel dairy in verse, Bibhu Padhi’s book contains three sections: Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Calcutta. Padhi is a visionary poet who journeys down the memory lane and digs out his subject for poetry from the fossils of past. For him, every poem is a journey somewhere:

“How difficult it is to leave
The place, once it is fixed to
Your name, your words, your face (.)”
        - from ‘Prologue: Departure, Arrival’
Human life is a happy journey where we meet up with people from different shores.A close bond develops gradually. The poet is eagerly waiting for a probable meeting with someone:

Even then I will be
There with you
For seven long days. 
         - from ‘Prologue: Departure, Arrival’
Waiting is a kind of suspended animation. It is the currency of life. We wait for the rains before we can plough; the poet universalises the state of waiting:

I inquire. I wait. Everyone is
Waiting. Each for the others. 
         - from ‘
Prologue: Departure, Arrival’

The poet waits with his thirsty soul and a humble heart for life, love and truth.
Simple images grasp deep meaning in Padhi’s lines.His lines capture evanescent moments of human experience that enrich each single journey:

“They stand up and shake hands,
And then two hands
Extending a friendship (.)”
         - from ‘
The Fifth Day’

Waiting makes man introspective. Engrossed in thought, the poet  looks before and after and penetrates the hard facts of reality by forgetting the present:

“For once, let us forget time (.)” 

In a spell of nostalgia, the poet separates loneliness from mad crowd silently. Memorable holiday experiences huddle together in his memory. Even when Padhi signs of pain, it is purely personal pain and doesn’t reflect the collective frustration:

“A small thing is
Remembered , and stored
In the heart’s dark (.)” -
          - from ‘Departure

Human life is whirlpool of activities. The voids open up fast and furious. Whatever may happen, there is a strange leap to hold back to normalcy. A poet is a meditative man who senses even small changes around him.For him, withdrawal and renewing is a constant process:

“An act of withdrawal, renewing
Itself each day the same way
As on the previous day.”
           - from ‘The News and the Journey’
A calm and quiet man with a broad smile on his face he takes life as it is. As a poet he is a close observer of every-thing around him. Padhi nicely amalgamates reality, memory and dream in the above poem. Rain acts as a medium.  It activates Padhi’s poetic emotion. Calcutta is an old city which stands through its history, legend and mythology. Dakhineswar is one of the spiritual hubs of North Calcutta.The poet describes how the temple at Dakhineswar influenced him with ‘the wheels rocking music and emotion.’  For Padhi, every-thing that is sweet and beautiful is memorable no doubt, everything metaphysical that is felt deep in the heart is also memorable:
“I sat with someone who kept talking
about Goddess of Dakhineswar
While my children and wife rocked (.)” 
            - from Calcutta : The Journey
The reader ultimately has the impression that Padhi lives a realistic world. It is not imaginary. Padhi lives a creative life which is a site of enthusiasm, jest for life and spirit. How ostrich-like the poet is! However hostile his world may be, he cannot live elsewhere. He will bury his head in the very act of writing. Padhi silently spins his web like the garden spider, and everything in it finds its circular way out:
“How soon one comes to
The end of things,
The conclusions!”
           - from ‘Departure
What does one expect to get from the “tired eyes?” Poet Padhi has a simple answer, “a sea of forgetfulness/once more. And for this ,/Let there be no regrets.” The passions which concern self-preservation, turn mostly on  anxiety and pain. The ideas of pain, sickness, drabness and death, fill the mind with strong emotions of horror, whereas on the contrary, life and health, though they put us in a capacity of being affected by pleasure, make no such impression by the temporary enjoyment. Padhi’s poetic lines whisker from one joyous state to other.He celebrates small things happening around him everyday, ‘humbled by time’s magic hands.’ The theme of death in some of his poems in the volume is a delicate one to approach; these poems meditates upon nature, the monsoon rains, the rainy seasons, the temples or street happenings, the crispness of the air and the clarity these poems bring, refresh the poet’s sensitive mind:
“The choice was difficult.
The dead and the living.
I begged her to leave(.).”
“How far are the living
From the dead?” 
            - from ‘The Gaunt Figure Lying on the Footpath in front of Utkal Bhavan’
The poet is fascinated by ‘summer rain’ which is the harbinger of hope in a flat and uninteresting life. Deeply moved by the  arrival of rain, the poet sings out with limitless joy:
“And, as I write this line,
The first drops of summer rain
Fall, drip-dropping with a sound(.)”
            - from ‘
Easter,Trivandrum:Two-Thousand Kilometers Away from Home’

The poet  shows his relation with Orissa faith, hope, dreams, and memories:
“Bhubaneswar, where
Konarak Express shall be
Waiting. It’s raining here. 
            - from ‘Prologue: Departure, Arrival’
Mysticism is the art and science of living perfectively and it is the self knowledge that subsumes knowledge of the world. In his poetry myth, legend, and history have been associated to expose our guilt of forgetting the past glory. From master to silent slave, solitude to alienation his poetic identity transmutes the casket of his poems. Life doesn’t give us a day off. Movement between sublime portrayals of decay (and death)  and the beauty of life’s unending flow of continuance, places Bibhu Padhi into company with John Keats’ concept of the “negative dialectic.” Padhi reminds us how  literature is a special mode of knowing the world and perhaps, it can give us an adequate apprehension of concrete experience through wide ranges of images.

Migratory Days by Bibhu Padhi, Gnosis : New Delhi 2011 Pp 78 , Rs. 125/, ISBN 978-93-81030-12-7


More by :  Prof. Jaydeep Sarangi

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