Book Reviews

Jaydeep Sarangi: ‘Silent Days’

Jaydeep Sarangi
Silent Days 
Collection of Poetry
Allahabad: 2013
ISBN: 978-81-8253-396-7
Pp 68 | Rs 200 | US $ 15

My sword and my soul...

My language is a free flow of the soul
When my heart is lit up
With bustles of anxiety...
I write in a language that you can understand,
My community and dear ones can relate with.
It's a cultural language for global readers.
English is my sword, my refuge
When Bengali is the language of my soul
~ (Bilingual Bard)

With the poetic method, raison d’être and testament spelt out so by Jaydeep Sarangi, the reader's foray into this poetry and “home of thoughts” (p 13) facilitates him to place and appreciate the various facets of the locales, icons and symbols presented with a nostalgia that is a mix of wistfulness and hopefulness.

Though settled for good in the behemoth metropolis of Kolkata for a long time, the poet’s “longing for the red soil” in his native village of Jhargram in the Dulong valley of West Medinipur district is irresistible so much so he is drawn there on and off to relive the frolicking “hunting-freak tribal children” (The Red Soil Allure).

In the spirit of Sir Walter Scott's song “Breathes there the man with soul so dead/ Who never to himself hath said, / This is my own, my native land!” – Jaydeep Sarangi has a frequent and intense tryst with the colour and fragrance, sound and light, soul and ethos of his native terrain and its people. So he sings—

My soul is ever restless
To reach out to my dear ones.
It longs to embrace small but scenic rivers
Flowing gently
In remote native links of this incredible country
~ (Small Rivers of the Mind)

It's heartening that the poet sees himself as a part of the whole in a harmonious spirit. However one can’t help noticing in the works of some others a striking intellectual paradox that is quick to sing paeans to distinct ethnic identities and micro-nationalism but revels in deriding macro-nationalism as jingoism.

“Punctuated within my native own” (Growing Old with Time) and “my native and loving own” (Silent Days), the poet identifies himself with the tribals of his native Dulong valley—

People call you “aborigines”
We call you the saviours of history
I build up my hut near your train line!
~ (In a Home Away From Home)

The very thoughts about the tribal life and culture and the lungful of the sylvan breeze he takes in energize the poet and reinforce his nostalgic fascination for the tribal traditions and way of life.

The small river
Flowing near the tribal village is your energy;
It twitters your oral history,
Unfurls memory from the windy past.
Rains remind me your folk dance, tuned in wild fabrics
I breathe my full heart.
~ (I’m on Your Side)

Jaydeep’s love of the marginalized is a constant refrain in his poems—

Torch of expression blazes bright
In every Dalit's wordy pool
~ (The Torch)

Here he celebrates their new-found expression from their self-awakening after centuries of stifling.

The pull of ‘history’ is compelling on the mind of the poet, and its constantly renewed consciousness renders the present more entrenched and meaningful for him.

The sap of history of the land is a long pedigree...
Where I sit and whisper in history forgotten
Like long barren trees in late autumn
Calm as history books
Where dry hard facts are written in black ink
~ (My Family Tree)

His invocation of history fills across his poems (I’m on Your Side/ We are Connected! / In a Home Away From Home/ Homeless in My Land/ Small Rivers of the Mind/ The Torch/ Cricket Australia). And it goes on—

A poetess is hanged for her words of protest
Against the history of discrimination of caste and creed
~ (Bilingual Bard)

It will be disconcerting to note that even after 66 years of Independence powered by an egalitarian Constitution and regularly renewed affirmative action that seems to be interminable, we still hear aggressively discordant notes thanks to a socio-political milieu that has not yet wholesomely readjusted itself what with the vested interests across the board obviously bent on re-stratifying the same maligned caste system but under a new and convenient garb – often resulting even in sustained reverse discrimination and virulent condemnation of a major national culture in the name of ‘Brahminical order,’ ever refusing to give any credit it to it. Thus our centrifugal and recrudescent proclivities continue to be rampant with no objective and holistic lesson learned from our earlier societal imbalances plus centuries of alien enslavement. This is my nagging personal angst though at the risk of sounding politically incorrect. At the same time, the poet doesn’t shut out the other facets of life and he certainly expresses himself and makes his observations on some of them. The busy Kolkata metro life with its “crowded bus” compulsions and “Tollygunj auto line” results in a situation where—

Promises hide their faces
Amidst crowds of everyday duties
~ (Missed Calls)

In today’s fast-paced globalized world, man has become as mobile as a mobile phone. Like a rolling stone that gathers no moss, the man who is obliged to be on the move for ever – like Jaydeep himself whose family from Orissa had settled in the Dulong valley about 345 years ago - uprooting himself and transplanting him elsewhere, is apt to feel with him like an eternal refugee—

I was born as a home-bound
Carried on
Became a home-bound refugee in all stations
Like a flying fish
Between home and away
~ (Refugee)

Whether such a refugee takes it as a curse or blessing depends on one's force of character, and the poet says—

To pen my unfinished poem
About all those marooned faces
After a decade of absence
~ (Ibid)

The poet has his share of angst for the position of the fair sex in our country which is still delicate and precarious for umpteen reasons. Says he—


Blue wings of my imagination
Run wild among my ruined terrace
Of sad history of women in our country
~ (A Rose is a Rose)

The poet who has a poem for his little playful daughter (For Titas) is conscious that she is a part of the same fair and vulnerable sex. So he is apprehensive—

I am a man too
I too have a darling daughter
And I fear, the world where she is a flower
~ (A Rose is a Rose)

Jaydeep records his tribute and homage to a couple of persons whom he admires. He would like to join the “brave battle” waged by Arjun Dangle, the Dalit writer and activist from Maharashtra, for which “My silent pen becomes my sword” (Homeless in My Land). Likewise, haunted by the “Tiger and Other Poems” written by Niranjan Mohanty (who prematurely died in 2008 when he was just 55 years old) Jaydeep goes into an elegiac mode—

I register my random thoughts
In my urn of tears
~ (Friendship)

The poet goes into raptures once he is alfresco under the cerulean ceiling—

If, with humble joys
I adorn this simple life
Will it make you fume?
If, gazing at the sky
I spend my lazy day
Will you ignore me?
~ (Humble Joys)

Jaydeep Sarangi's pantheon of icons includes rivers/rivulets like Ganges, Beas and Dulong, and divinities like Shiva, Parvati, Kanaka Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati; whereas his thematic diversity comprises the game of the willow for “Cricket connects continents” (Cricket Australia) and (Out Swinger); the art and purpose of writing, mysteries of life, and even the graying phase of human life.
In ‘The Act of Writing’ he interprets writing—

To write
Is to engage with conversation
Promotes readers to reflect beyond
The self

In the ‘Mystery of Life’ see how pregnant his observation is —

A clock ticks somewhere
In the blanket of silence

While speaking of himself as “growing sweetly old,” see how he seals the process with a cute metaphor—

There is always a process to be old
To hold the handle of the chair tight
~ (My Other)

The poems in Silent Days have their sprinkling of gentle, subtle and evocative imagery. Here is an example—

The holy palace gleams like a gem
And I go with hands folded
Mind as focused as an arrow,
My faith enlivens metals and bricks
~ (Going to a Holy Place)

A few poems stand out where they begin or end with a fragmented statement in the nature of an epiphanic flash of observation, message or inference from a self-sensitized and aesthetic mind, where it looks as if seemingly unrelated things are conjoined with a connective that is apparently obscure.

The concluding line “Fireworks everywhere” (Our journey) and “My silent pen becomes my sword” (Homeless in My Mind) stand out from the rest of the poem, with a sort of aposiopetic effect. Similarly, consider the following lines in the poem (Why This Neglect?), where the opening line causes a similar effect.

She counts darkness
Some claim, “We are not Dalits”
“We are Socialists”
None has read
Their tales of pain

The above lines are also probably indicative of a welcome intellectual heterogeneity in a people increasingly exposed to the academic portals. There are quite a few apothegmatic lines that testify to the artistic touch of the poet's pen—

Life tracks are parallel
~ (For Titas)
Fancies and arguments die hard
On a placid rock
~ (Flow of the Soul)

On the whole, the slim volume of Silent Days with its 50 poems by the ‘Bard on the Banks of Dulong’ offers a pleasant and tranquil reading, even as being socially thought-provoking. Now let's end on a positive note with an apt quote—

The dove of peace will flutter
From jungles to hilly heights
~ (The Baul Call)

(Originally published in the Muse India ejournal, Sep-Oct 2013)


More by :  U Atreya Sarma

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