C. L. Khatri is an authentic poetic voice in Indian English Poetry. An academician he is and at present, he also edits Cyber Literature, a journal dedicated to poetry and criticism. He is a very fine poet, a critic and a scholar of repute. Kargil 2000, Ripples in the Lake 2006, Two Minutes Silence 2014 and For You To Decide 2016 are his important poetry collections. Goolar Ka Phool 2011 is another collection of Hindi lyrics. As a perceptive and sharp critic, he has brought out more than twenty books on criticism, all very well received. ‘For You To Decide’ an Authorspress Publication Delhi, 2016, the latest poetic offering of Khatri is a journey from the inner to the outer world with philosophic undertones but the origin is the emotional experience in hours of deep reflection. Poet’s penchant for personalizing embedded characteristics of human nature is obvious in many lyrics. A man’s life on earth wears many masks and rarely comes out with the real face and thus, living at two levels makes life fake. Man lives a perturbed life. He is obvious, ‘Now, no layers of mask /can hid you from me /Everything looks transparent from this land.’ 14. The affirmation is not personal but ingeniously, he universalizes an experience.
Contemporary life is convenient if a man conceals the real facts and actuality or else elimination haunts. If a man acts as a candle, a flicker of light perhaps, he can brighten up the humankind. In the conglomeration of men and experiences, thoughts assail and to become resolute in attitude often throws challenges, and therefore, to arrive at a right choice and judgment is the predicament man confronts. Various options confuse. ‘Love’ is a beautiful lyric for the use of metaphors and the hidden meaning. A simple scene inspires a poet to go beyond and enquire about the truth of life. A tree symbolically speaks of love, surrender, sacrifice and sufferings of a saint, who devotes life to the service of humanity.
In it lies my fulfillment’
Now there is no stump, no new tree;
But the peasant turns to it every day. 25
He gives a voice to the man, who struggles in life but reaches nowhere because he does not enjoy effective links. He is ignorant of any godfather or god but has a faith in the invisible. Contemporary life not only puts up impediments for the right man to succeed in life but also challenges the center of ethical values he holds. Dependence smothers a man’s inventiveness he appears to say ‘I have God’. A thought to depend upon an invisible force, puts a finger on the existential dilemma a man confronts but as it happens, a common person drives on life but is rarely aware of the motif that guides and thus, he touches subtle aspects of life with remarkable sensitivity.
He has a passion to go back and back, and unveils some consequential and disastrous aspects of history. A desire for freedom and liberty keeps the spirit of man responsive and combating. Invoking the spirit Luther, Gandhi and Mandela is a wish of man to stay free but is it possible? The question is not dead. A man often celebrates the feats of a man and also recalls acts of violence but fails to register on the mind the silent work of those, who stay in the background and sing songs of glory of man and the soul. “We Cherish What We Inherit’ if talks of violence, it also hints at the creative process that grants eternity to man’s soul.
What about the dreams of the dreamers
Fossilized in their private cupboards?
Or what is buried in the backyard
Of temples, mosques and churches?
We cherish what we inherit. 35
Journey between what we had and what remains today occupies man’s intellect and dreams, and he lives at many levels at the same time but past is something he cannot abandon, for it carries not only history but also its fall out, which the generations in future are to pick up, ignore, alter and modernize. The unbreakable linkage is apparent again in ‘Your Dreams Live Afresh’, ‘Dreams and hopes form an unbroken chain /mysteriously connecting generations/from Adam to your grandson.’ 71 If he talks of past and its history, myths and legends, he demonstrates impatience that the past is also relevant and integral to human life despite aberrations that carry the man to animosity, religious bigotry, communal frenzy and bitter lethal clashes. Perhaps, a man could carry the message of welfare and goodwill if he does not forget the ultimate reality.
God has no religion.
Make a Gurugranth of holy words
Flowed from the flaming tongues.
At another place play the wedding songs
Sung by Muslims and Hindus together
And show mirror to the clamouring crowd. 53
Genuine worries for a convenient life disturb. Life contains a bundle of movements, thoughts, feelings, and a definite way of living an everyday rewarding life with a bit of repetitiveness. Attempts to channelize life in a particular system or a desire to look beyond at the extraordinary also form the basis of continuous struggle and if the poet raises the issues with a certain amount of deep reflection and possible lightheartedness, it indicates hope for humankind. Notwithstanding philosophic undertones, life at the worldly level requires concrete propositions to keep the flame of life burning.
The anxieties of man to perpetual continuity in living are causes of existent movement. Khatri lives with the perception of current anxieties and creates an allusion of identification in the mind and one feels perplexed, for he extends worries to touch man in totality but never hits directly. He takes up life at the personal level and tries to connect it to the world outside. ‘Waiting for a Vishnu’ 52 is ironical and speaks of the ambitious man, who wishes to break the barriers of humanity. He keeps the flare of hope in the future of man alive and very strong notwithstanding the black areas of cynicism chasing man.
Poets are inveterate optimists and cherish values whatever may be the reason. Belief in the ultimate good of man keeps poetry alive many feel. One feels inclined to agree that poetry brightens up the spirits as prayers continue to strengthen belief in humankind. As an art it resurrects the man and acts as a weapon that can defeat any enemy, ‘When history celebrate swords/ philosophy fishes in abstract waters /Muse sings the dreams of the deprived /rears and smiles of unsung heroes.’47 It is a genuine endeavour of the poet to inspire and encourage man to build up life and reject negative thoughts.
He is a poet of short carefully crafted lyrics. The distinctive rhythm in verses captivates. He avoids involved idiom, conveys the meaning through innovative metaphors, maintains sublime aesthetic quality and at times, loves to ventilate ethical view on life. The innate quality of Indian consciousness charms, and the poet, not for a moment, forgets that the soil has the strength to hold the man to the essence of life where he is, and that makes it unique and tries to elevate man without much moralizing. It is a tendency of poets to appear ethically acceptable but noticeable disposition many a time overwhelms the real impact and the dilution of message weakens the poetic impact. That way, an effort to eliminate such possibilities beautifies poetry.