Book Reviews

Return of an Imagist in Contemporary Context

D. C. Chambial, the most influential voice in Indian English Poetry is authentic, original and powerful. He appeared in 1983 with a collection of poems – Broken Images. He has till now published nine collections of poetry – Broken Images, The Cargoes of the Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems (1984), Perceptions (1986), Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads (1996), Before the Petals Unfold (2002) and This Promising Age & Other Poems (2004). He is still busy in the creative activity and likely to publish more anthologies in the near future. He also edits “Poetcrit” a literary magazine of repute.

Hour of Antipathy (of D C Chambial) signals a powerful return of a poet of images and philosophic thoughts after a gap of two years, and it offers moments of stimulating pleasure and fulfillment. Chambial’s poetry has a subtle surge and warmth and its pithiness and nimbleness in flow of images with rainbow like haziness and beauty amidst silent grey clouds stuns and mystifies. Love of man and humanity is a subject very dear to the heart of the poet. Whenever, he feels upset with the wayward conduct of the world of men, he wishes to forget identity in the lap of nature. He loves its swift breeze, its icy chillness, snow-clad mountains and tall deodar and pine trees. Or just imagine when he asks his mouse to keep quiet, he takes out a pen, scribbles a few lines, twists his lips, smoothens wrinkles of a seemingly matured face and then ushers out, climbs down and goes to the little garden and talks to different plants. If nothing else happens, he shuffles pages of many books nonchalantly and sits quietly to start anew.

Life is positive if man lives with hopes

It gives a strong kick to understand the beauty of Chambial’s latest tiny verses. He is not a poet of long lyrics. He does not believe in legendary romances or romance with nature like Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley but he loves to create images, and then, interprets life. He appears to infuse a sense of serenity when one imagines a little hut like temple with a red piece of cloth tied to a bamboo on the hilltop. One rejoices in the beauty of nature and feelings of divinity when it ‘waved sanctity /to those who came in obeisance /seeking blessings’ (Temple 9).

In a vaguely different refrain, the poet celebrates the beauty, charm and magic of nature in rhythmical flowing tuneful lines in ‘The Sun…’ 45 and observes -

Soft breeze pregnant with heavenly fragrance,
The yellow fields spread to horizon for…
Summer comes tickling with its heat and drought,
Winter sits deep on senses; chill and snow
Spring many a hope in heart with spring’s glow
(Ibid. 45-46)

If nature is harsh and unsympathetic, it also proves beneficial to man and humankind, for it has lessons to teach. If nature is blissful, forgiving, generous and benevolent, compassionate and life giving, again it conveys a message of goodwill and tolerance, humanism and harmony to man, which he ought to imitate and learn.

Without wanting, a seeker gets divine blessings and here, the poet is quite positive and optimistic. Undeclared faith beautifies life. An allegory startles as he tells the tale of a mad man, who shouted, ran hurriedly, entered the little hut like temple, and after bowing before the statue, sat quietly and after moments in deep silence, emerged as a real human being. Ironically, he tells that man engaged in routine affairs rarely behaves like a human being. A touch of the deity purifies a man. Alas! Nothing happens now. Images of hilltop and a man running to find solace, speak of the eternal cravings for peace and harmony and thereafter, a healing touch, and even if no god or deity exists, only nature vibrates with a curative tune.

Again, nature’s fury presents a grand sight. Rising smoke astonished people watching intently the splendorous beauty of nature. Heavy rains turned into a huge bang. An earthquake caused another stunning manifestation, and a breathtaking canyon took birth and soon young boys began tending herds with awe and amazement. Only nature could do it. Man is so helpless before the marvelous charisma nature performs.

He is a master artisan of word paintings also. In hill areas, the schools close during rainy season and the boys as usual take cattle to the nearby easy, risky and precipitous grasslands and at times, of very easy gradient, cut the grass, collect wood also and do other domestic work. After doing little good things, they play, play, and at times, during the daring games, create a situation of fear and uncertainty. ‘An Escapade,’ is a painting in words where the spirit of youthfulness and vivacity, careless courage and scary guts determine the movement of young minds. In ‘Wingless’ and ‘Beauties of this World’, the poet again takes us to the charm and magic of nature and tells -

Sit, meditate upon
this LILA in awful wonder
as ‘Sweet songs
stir the chords
of heart and mind.

Poet loves to enjoy a few moments in the garden. ‘Soft’ is meaningful. If the soil is soft, plants grow and roots go deep, a natural phenomenon it is. In fact, soft voice and words make a deep impression, and speak of a virtuous and ideal character -

Soft is what one need:
Soft sentiments, soft moments,
Soft touches and, of course,
Soft relations
To avoid hurts and bruises
For copious growth
Of stout relations and roots.
(Radishes and Turnips 15)

A wholesome outlook it is towards life and its complexities. Life is simple why make it complicated the poet says after immense experimenting with impassive and astounding images. The lyric is soft and plain in thought and yet, if one goes deep, it conveys eternal thought of optimism. In nature, he enjoys glimpses of eternity: ‘Full of fun/I longed/For shower…Sun and shower /In chase since /Eternity.’ (Chase 17) and the natural laws only infuse thoughts of hope and joys.

Fury and disturbance in the life of man

Man is often a harbinger of disturbance and panic within and without. Something strange happens and the acts of man cause fears in birds even. ‘Where is gone the Song’ 14 is a sad lyric as nature faces the onslaught of modern culture of innate yearning to take possession of everything. The song of nature echoing the valleys and hills, and the music of flowing streams, no longer appear to soothe. Poet feels loss of sanctity and godly smile of cowherds and shepherds. Feelings of love and warmth appear frozen, and nature is hurt. Such a mental state indicates impending dreariness in life as hopes of warmth evaporate like ‘Water in tea-pan.’ It also hints at the failure of will power to fight out against odds.

Everything looks indistinct. In a situation of absolute fright, people enjoy even an ostensibly small victory that disappears as tricksters and swindlers drive away the fruit of truth and honesty so that survival of evil forces continues as they unmindfully sprint about selfishly in a web of bewilderment and ambiguity (Panic 19). In a slightly different vein, he speaks of vague fears while treading quite familiar paths and roads, nevertheless feelings of presence of a hidden enemy and betrayal haunt as sounds stir worries. Man inflicts persistent wounds, and injures nature to satisfy greedy instinct, and the picture looks more shocking and threatening to humanity, when he observes -

She – a desert
without hope,
waterless, grey,
scorched, ashen,
hanging by the evening sun
on the mountain top
looking into the wizened sky
counting the lost stars.
(Butterflies in wizened Skies 26)

If man fails to correct erroneous ways of life, perhaps he would encounter deserts, waterless future and sky disfigured and so, shall be deprived of the natural blessings, and when he goes through ‘Shades of Solitude,’ it offers an entirely different experience of hope silent and solemn, even if distressing air creates mangled feel of emotions.

Contemporary anxieties remain multifaceted

At times, man sits alone and thinks of flaws and imperfections of past, and regrets. It is quite natural, for guilt of sins committed surfaces. If he rationalizes, sins overweight efforts. Even if a man apologizes for the negative drifts, it is again a basis for a ‘stinking sod /for the surviving soul’ and in the next instant, he tersely says –

Sometimes, somehow even angels
mislay their sanity
to enter the devils’ dungeon.
(Remorse 33)

If nature provides inner joy and blessings and at times, punishes man for violation of balance, it is man, who makes efforts to bring agony and uproar in life, for he works against the quality standards of a correct life because he hardly listens to inner voice. He spurns truth and wants to adopt ways of a coarse and uncivilized world. Life remains a struggle between good and bad, beautiful and ugliness, love and hatred -

The struggle between honest and clever,
Who throw all human ethics to the winds
In a wild chasse of money and matter
And break morality’s rind that Man binds.
(So goes the World 34)

Man is deeply conscious of the prevalent corruption, greed, dishonesty, political iniquity, hatred and dissipation, inequality and economic exploitation and fall in ethical values in life. Living among the corrupt, the violent and the hidden terrorists among the sophisticated without resentment and resistance, makes life difficult the poet opines. An honest man suffers as a crooked elite kills morals, honesty and simplicity in living. ‘We are Living’ 43, is a scathing denunciation of double standards a contemporary man follows and so, he terrorizes and violently crucifies honest life, and ethically strong individuals.

We’re living in a land
that abounds in
wolves, hyenas, and jackals…
when morals, ethics and virtues…
love and compassion banished,
jealousy and hatred rule the roost.

The poet speaks of inopportune and perfidious time and place, and therefore, he is clear, tells bluntly the truth of times, and does not resort to mild and innocuous images.

where breed crookedness, felony
evasiveness …
the elected to watch and protect…
go on felling the
forest fine
to satiate insatiable desire to stockpile
the wealth and things common to all.
(Ibid. 43)

When a man talks of wrongdoings and felonious acts of times, he is brutally right, and laments loss of truth and righteousness in contemporary life. He condemns rulers and bureaucrats for the unethical and dangerous conspiracy they hatch to hoodwink the people despite lessons of honesty and morality they offer on high podiums, and in the temples of gods. Satirically but painfully, he observes –

If hopes were horses, everyone would ride.
What queer times!
Masters have to beg for bread!
Yet they say: hail democracy!
(Masters …Beggars 50)

In this way, the powerful and affluent in a democracy live flourishingly as the poor and vulnerable sections suffocate while enriching the rulers and the powerful.

Though the poet is aware of corruption, immorality and violence prevalent in the society yet he tries to stand apart. In “My Country is Great’, he is pensively ironical but still eulogistic. He feels intensely agitated when sleaze, greed, loot and corruption in private and public life bring miseries to people, and dishonour to the country. He thinks of the poor, the deprived and the unguarded and feels for them. He looks at rulers, the rich and the powerful with anger and twisted lips with wrinkles on forehead, and stands like a helpless onlooker.

He cannot do anything, for whistleblowers face elimination. He is conscious of frauds and scandals that besmear the faces of those in power. They eat everything from sand, coal, fodder, coffins to guns and choppers. He loves his country. He knows India is great, and the virtues of modesty, integrity, honesty guide people without distinction of caste or creed. He also understands the gap between the rich and the poor, and knows the questionable conduct of the rich. He regrets and heaves a deep sigh.

He bemoans and observes –

With coal their faces all black to pate,
Rolling in the mire of fraud, who guess?
My country is indisputably great!
The wealth, they keep away from the State
To show the sheep, nothing do they possess.
(My Country is Great! 61)

Untruths, lies, and unconstructive qualities never make a good world, and so a strain of penitence visits man too often. Elsewhere, he succinctly observes ‘Man prefer matter; Platonic love spurn. /Changed values; human behaviour distorted /…Man rebelled, strayed away for doing damage.’

Thus, he sums up destructive attitude of a modern man. A contemporary man makes social life disturbing, tries to locate regions of warmth and amenability, and fails miserably. The poet reveals hypocritical attitude of man in ‘This Lascivious World.’

When the poet exhibits anxiety about the man’s fate in present-day scenario, he touches not only the material proclivities of an unscrupulous man but also demonstrates man’s deterioration in general conduct and reprehensible fall in ethical quality of life and thus, makes irreparable dents in life of meaning and purpose. He exploits man, nature and unsympathetically misuses natural resources. Mammon worship is the theme of life one infers as poet leads us through a flow of easy images.

Man has meddles not with morals only,
Dug deep into the bowls of Earth as well;
Has made vulnerable Earth, life, a hell,
In his blind quest for Mammon selfishly.
(Man for Mammon 37)

Love for money proves an obstacle in the way of growth of man he tells in ‘Man for Man’ 47, and if craze of materialism does not stop, he would face disasters: ‘Life’s is not money. /Money sustains life. /life for karma. /May man become /Man for man …’ A little patient and compassionate, the poet gently tells man in love with earthly gains to do karma honestly.

Perhaps, he is worried about the deliverance of man if he continues to roll in the quagmire of sickening wealth and power and therefore, theory of karma of Gita comes alive in his mind. Theory of karma teaches genuine efforts, honesty and peace within. However, the poet is aware of the rash and reckless life where none waits for the right moment, and each one wishes to excel as he nurses many thoughts within. Hurry in life does not lead him anywhere. He wants peace but worries of a good life disturb, and so jumps beyond capabilities, and stress fills life and consequently, protest and allurements do not come soon in a state of irresolution. He lives in illusions, and hopes prove meaningless. Like a fruit-giving tree, a man must endure beatings of time, and in a disciplined way, take care of time and therefore, ‘one has to care with love / to transcend tensions to peace.’

Hence, attainment of goal appears possible.

Life and philosophy

He looks at life he enjoyed in the salubrious and blissful beauty of nature and rural surroundings. Serenity and intensity of divinity gave nectar like taste of contentment and delight abundant. He still boasts of life of values and ethics, and sits cozily witnessing the pleasure of city life without a touch of its anxieties. Now, everything looks like a fantasy, a dream of life past bereft of hope of revival. It is difficult to link thoughts to better life. What remains of a philosophy of man when he finds -

The rainbow is lost
in the cacophony
of debates futile;
man has grown fangs to bite man;
love is lost in the human heart,
sits like a vulture on the carcass
digging tones of his own demise.
(There was a Man 59)

A thought of disillusionment overwhelms when not very contented and expectant today, presents a dismal picture of future ahead.

If one side of the hill appears dried out and barren, memories continue to go back and tell tales of charm and magic, for tales bubble within young hearts longing for the divine and so try to reach the pinnacle of glory. Curiosity forces an inquisitor to go beyond the reach of eyes. Man’s intrusiveness visualizes the unforeseen. Whatever he heard and experienced in the past merges into ‘one integrated whole.’ All animate and inanimate beings move towards the destination ‘A Harmonious whole’ that is not culpable and innocent, for when a man goes beyond, he is one with the eternal and forgets feelings of ‘all the warmth and all the chill.’ At this moment, ‘self’ realizes the ultimate reality of life, the eternal merger with the infinite ‘Soul’ and here –

Deathless is the light
That shines beyond the end
Where all the tides
Of all the oceans rest and cease
Irrespective of punimas and amavasyas.
(Beyond the Yonder Hill 42)

It appears that the poet is disgusted and disillusioned at the massive and thoughtless destruction man causes to nature and so, wants to escape inherent torture. Therefore, an intense desire to merge with infinite pacifies. In ‘Live with Winning Thunder’ 51, the poet talks of affectionate parents, who take care, rear up and make childhood and adolescence lively and meaningful and make it a point that children grow healthy in life with an objective and a definite aim. He strikes an encouraging and inspiring note when he says –

God’s been so kind to grant this far last.
Let’s save with sense we’ve got what
True, ‘Life is a nine day’s wonder’,
Live it, live with winning thunder.
An optimistic attitude towards life brings meaning in man’s life.

If a thought of perseverance and endurance remains alive in a man, life gets meaning. One need not think much but should think of a myna. After satisfying its hunger, it perches on a dry tap and waits for a drop of water. It tries many a time and when satisfied, flies away silently. It does not complain, laments not, and no cribbing ever disturbs but sincere efforts continue to guide the bird. It conveys a great lesson to man, and the poet also appears to tell philosophically the secret of a happy and contended life. After the bird satisfies its thirst, it –

…flies away, unlike human beings:
greedily helpless, helplessly greedy
by their nature; care little for those
who fail to get a day’s square meal.
will man ever learn to live
like these creatures of nature
who do not boast of Man’s slyness?
(Will Man ever learn to live…66)

Contentment and lack of hunger for more teach lessons of life and encourage man to think in right perspective. Selfishness and ulterior motives do not permit man to live a life of grace and honesty. ‘True Happiness,’ 64, 65, ‘We Frolic & Frisk with the Waves,’ 67 and ‘Tsunami Memorial, Andamans’ 68, 69 are beautiful lyrics that sing hymns in glory of the island, nature and man. He philosophically remarks that life is a mine of tranquility, pleasure and enjoyment on Earth, only if a man has time ‘to look around and care.’ Dancing, frisking and frolicking of waves around convey an eternal message that hard work gives inner and outer pleasure. On the other hand, he laments over the immense tragedy Tsunami brought. Standing before the memorial, he thinks agonizingly of the destruction and huge natural disaster, it brought to man. When calamity and death visit and disturb man, he looks up for help, and offers prayers. To this extent, the poet thinks on existential self and reality.

External reality appears chaotic, disturbing and unsystematically arcane and he tries to elucidate with images but cannot justify adequately. An inner struggle continues and in intensity of creative upsurge, he feels free and sincerely gives expression to experiences with the help of images again. One observes consistent efforts where the poet tries to find a fusion between the subjective and objective and as a formalist, wishes to go beyond the normal range and import of words and images, he uses and at this stage, he beautifies the text and the art of poetry.


More by :  P C K Prem

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 3424      Comments: 2

Comment Nicely done. Thanks.

DC Chambial
06-Mar-2015 22:02 PM

Comment Excellent review, very enjoyable.

Rob Harle
02-Mar-2015 16:47 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.