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Coming Full Circle – Love Poet Khandelwal

The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’

Love and work are cornerstones of our humanness. – Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

You are present
In your absence
And absent
By the conditioning
Of the senses   (Spoilt by Conditioning)

Rajiv Khandelwal is an enthusiastic and competent poet with just four published volumes of poetry: Conch Shells and Cowries, 21st Century Love Poems, A Monument to Pigeons and A Time to Forget. He has come out extremely successful in winning the hearts of his readers as a creator of love poems in myriad hues. He can be justly called the poet of amorous creativity. It is a memorable poetic achievement. He is fascinated by imagination and searches for words with competence:

I searched for you
In every corner
Under the sofa
Amongst the flowers
In the Upanishads
Beneath the kamasutra
On the heaving bed
Couldn’t find  (p.1. Conch Shells and Cowries)

He has a flair of titillating expression but it is not just for titillation.

“I searched and searched
And then
At the end of the rainbow
Amongst the pregnant cows
I found you, dear
Allowing yourself
To be seduced”  (Ibid, p.2)

Searching for words for the description of colored rainbow-like flashes in imagination is surely the beginning of the makings of a poet. For one thing this is humility, devoutly to be wished for instead of saying oysters and pearls a step higher for diamonds in the deeps looking for conch shells and cowries is surely a spring board for imaginative surfing.

Poetic thoughts of intense feeling in a number of ways are recalled here:

They are the days when
The thoughts could burst
Like the butterfly from its
Bright and kaleidoscopically coloured

The days when thoughts
Are like the much sought after
Raindrops falling and soothing
The soil of the self.  (Ibid, p.8)

The speaker of the poem “Today”, obviously a poet today thinks off writing a letter to his lady love in a musical scenario:

The winds are whispering
Sweet nothings into my ear
The claret is on the table
The lute leans against the door  (Ibid, .12)

The poet becomes a musician and musical instruments are there and enthused and pepped up he declares and finally thinks of making a proposal with gusto:

I must
Elevate myself
From the nadir
Of my languorous state
And garner
Enough courage
To ask you tomorrow
Will you be my Eve?  (Ibid, p.13)

The love feelings and imaginative outbursts of poetic imagination offer the spring board (which took nearly for fifteen years to produce in the new millennium) to produce love poems. This fact leads to the realization that love involves a lot of hard work.

In Love is a Lot of Work, the first poem “My First Memory of You” shares the depth of the speaker’s understanding of the human emotion of love as described by the poets of the past right from Keats and Donne up to Walter Savage. The Poet’s picture of memory is of the love sublime of Beatrice and Dante which is Divine Comedy. Sublimity is the enduring quality of great love and love is a lot of work. The wonder of the lady love’s silence is thought provoking making the lover look deep within himself.

It is irrelevant
That devouring
Medically prohibited
Chocolate pastry
Gave me intense pleasure. (p.2 Love is a Lot of Work)

Sublime love is in the mind beyond the flesh, skin and the body, it is in thinking

What is of dying importance
Is why
She did not communicate
Today  (Ibid)

It is beyond today, beyond time – hence is a lot of ‘work’. The basis of true, sublime and divine love is Dante’s love for Beatrice Portinari, it is the greatest of unrequited – distant love, the basic details are awe inspiring. Dante was betrothed at 12 and married later at 22. Beatrice married a year later and dies at the age of 24. Devastated, Dante remained devoted to Beatrice for the rest of his life, Dante wrote a poem La Vita Nuora – the new life. This is not carnal, not youthful love, but divine and everlasting. When Dante was 18 in 1283 Beatrice spoke to him once as they saw each other while passing in the street. Her greeting filled him with ecstasy which inspired him to write the greatest love poem, the Italian “La Vita Nuora”. The first poem “My First Memory of You” with this backdrop in the poet’s mind set his theme perspective. Sublime love is not always the subject of Khandelwal’s poems. His “Recession Hits Love” is a case in point. Some loves are jinxed like the one here:

Dwindling contact
Three months waiting
And when the wait
Gets almost pickled in formaldehyde
I finally get to hear from her

She says: Can no more
Log onto Skype or E-mail
As she is doing seven people’s jobs all by herself
Most of the staff got fired
But she’s elated
Got a salary rise with
Home loan approval

Recession hit
For the finish   (p.3 Recession Hit Love)

“Love poet Khandelwal (b.1957) waits like a bird watcher staying far away unobtrusively observing the flutter and the flight of the bird “– the editor of this collection Bhupinder Parihar writes. “Work is the cardinal feature of love as an act of seeing, recalling and anticipating, so the words become welcome visitors and the language of poetry ’an act of the mind”. It would be just to call it an act of benediction too.

The dreams of the lover in the poem “A Dream Away” are slightly different and so more meaningful. It is not simply a dream job, dream car or owning a dream corporate company.

While you are always away
I hope it’s your mail
So that
We can again feel together
Grieve together
Hope together  (Ibid, p.4)

The oneness of the feeling, grieving and hoping together is all about love – especially in the present scenario of life. Learning strategies differ from business to business and effort to effort. The strategies to scale the peaks of sublimity are simple – even in the present new millennium for this poet:

The thirst for lady love never changes in the poem “Nothing has changed”

When I hear
A subtle knock
Echo of fading footsteps
Sounds of laughter
I hope it’s you  (p.6 Ibid)

Holding hands in the dark in the theatre is a love-image which makes the lovers mind feasting in the music of love remembering the saying ‘if music be the food of love, play on’. In several places at different points of time Dante’s thoughts/feelings/ecstatic moments come in.

Khandelwal’s hero. When the well of want in him overflows as shown in his poem “You Came” stereotyped love, the lust package is not really lovable for it is no love in the real sense. The speaker says that he wouldn’t say “I love you”, “I like you” or “I have you” – the love is in his heart – mind - soul (manas) is the absolute sublime which can say briefly:

Let me look back
Without malice
Without mischief  (Ibid, p.8)

The images of the cannon and the gun can lead only to pain which has no relevance for the soul felt amour. Finding an old photograph ought to have been a simple affair but it reminds the speaker of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and he asks:

“Must I die a hundred deaths
And you launch a thousand ships?”

The impassioned lover remembers his lady love taking her pet canine running amok to the canine doctor, if not to the four-lettered bliss called love in the poem “You Do Nothing”

The poet has abstract painting in his mind:

Well, you did what you have to
But doesn’t it ever bother you
When my heart goes wild
You do nothing. (ibid, p.11)

There is the image of motorbike swishing fast and disappearing from the view in his thinking of his lady love. Here’s the lover’s heart throb:

And in that split second
The sweet-smelling sweet-scented smell
The enigmatic amororous smile
The braided, bound wavy tresses
Precipitated the mawkish heart
To beat out of rhythm  (p.15, The Receding Strand)

In poem after poem – “Girl Swooshes By”, “Motorbike Moves Away”, “Something About That Girl” “Fusion”, “Charges Of Solicitation” ,”Girl On The Motorbike”, “Your Look Alike Speeds By” the lady love appears in a flash, fleshy, flashy, fantasy rising love seen in all these poems:

The bandhej sari
Jingling glass bangles
The huge red bindi

Fleeting fragments –

Intoxicated thoughts
Desires unlimited
Extract bottles

Sells it back
In a fadt forward mode

As the motorbike moves away”   (p.17 Motorbike Moves Away)

There is the libido on an overdrive:

For insatiable desired
With oozing Ajanta Breasts
And a tummy
In urgent need of a tuck in
Opens itself
To charges of solicitation

When your look-alike on the motorbike
Speeds away  (p20, Charges of Solicitation)

The lover thinks only of his heart-throb when he sees a girl on the motorbike:

Your look-alike on the motorbike
Speeds away
Smiling in a strange way   (p.23Your Look-alike Speeds By)

These are only various aspects of feelings in the 21st century love poems. Delicious, sensitively sensuous sweet love, not carnal love or just worldly – this is love with a difference in the scenario of corporate business and fast flashing lily ponds are there in some more poems:.

The lily pond
That day

You embraced me
With your eyes   (p.74 That Day)

Sensuous sensibility always fascinates:

The cooing
Of mating birds
Gives free rein
To tender cravings   (p.75) Not that Pond)

There are a number of remembrances and sweet recollections of sensuality and passion in this poem:

It’s the one place
Where nature
And I
In harmony
The lily knows

It was my first kiss
And the place
Where I lost myself
Forever   (p.79 Lily Pond And Your Call)

Sweet words, dialogues, monologues and feelings are all amour centered, remembered, thirsted for and experienced. There is love in departmental stores, super markets and in the corporate business meetings. Language and the vocabulary wise the poems are not always easy for the new reader. But, for the experienced ones and imaginative enthusiasts the poems are manna; the poet is influenced by Kamasutra too – not simply with Marcel Proust or Dr. Faustus. Proust tells us of the power and efficacy of the olfactory sense.

There is the element of nativism, the main and the most important specialty in Indian English Poetry as in the concluding poem in this collection – “Malhar”. Imaginative sensitivity goes back and forth and around all, Indian, Western, ancient, modern, plebian and Fabian. This needs to be here by way of a conclusion:

Large grey Clouds
Appearing dark
Over the venue
Local priests wed frogs
In mystical weddings
….. …. …….
Like them
I pray
Come back
And stay   (p.108 Malhar)

A hundred poems in 108 pages (the number has a significance in religion) could have been a boulder instead of a string of pearls. But the poet is an autocrat in all languages, especially in Bharat: kavayoh nirankushah). The complexity is manifold: science, technology, philosophy, corporate business, lust, lechery, dream, fantasy and abstract reality all are brought in. The poet deserves a pat on the back.

Maturation and ultimate crystallization are seen in the collection ‘A Monument to Pigeons’. Rajiv Khandelval has already carved a niche for himself in the Parthenon of imaginative, realistic, poetic achievement. Angst, anguish, and disgust with the prevalent heinous degradation pain the thoughtful penman. At times, he throws up with contempt and utter helplessness. For greatness, this is the time to give the go by to rectitude and value addition. The quality of the poet’s imagination is stripping off pretensions. The poems reveal intense thoughtfulness and not always veiled moralization.

Interspersed in the forward progress there are poems on poetry, sexuality, on greed of leaders and goons in this gigantic monument for the pigeons tender, harmless and pleasing all the time. Surely emotive poetry is small and for that reason beautiful.

While going through the poems, sensitive readers may think sometimes that marriage and dowry, marital and sex relations need a different spacing in writing. But then a poet does not plot a graph for his feelings to be expressed in a particular order. The reader surely can go back and forth to see the various levels of thinking while going through the poems time and again. A poet who never desists in talking about his concept of poetry is not born.

“Moments of inspiration
Tip-toe through
Like opportunities lost

Its only when
Words curate the soul
With meticulous perfection
Whimsical poetry
With all its lyrical strains
Throngs around
Wrestling to find a resting place”   (Page 13)

Rajiv Khandelwal started his poetic saga with the sketching of the anatomy of love. Conch shells and cowries was his first collection which came out in 1998. Love is not just titillation and he wrote 20 years ago the poem, ‘Word’

“I searched for you
In every corner
Under the sofa
Amongst the flowers
In the Upanishads
Beneath the kamasutra
On the heaving bed
Couldn’t find”

“I searched and searched
And then
At the end of the rainbow
Amongst the pregnant cows
I found you, dear
Allowing yourself
To be seduced” (page 1, Conch Shells and Cowries)

Rajiv has been called a bird watcher staying far away observing unobtrusively the flutter and the flight of the bird. After this collection in the same year, came A Monument to Pigeons. Building a gigantic monument is an attempt of this wordsmith. The monumental poem is exciting and empirical. A poet alone can think and erect a monument to pigeons.

The poems in this volume are on many things: on poetry, on sexuality, on contemporary man’s greed and the lust of leaders and goons of all types and pigeons with deep thinking are among them.

In the poem ‘Writing poetry the traditional way’,

Catch electric moments
In language of symbols
Without corrosion of meaning
Through choreography of words
Which explore and reveal
States of emotions
In looks anew

If words
Smoke the environment

Maybe then
You catch
A poem that shimmers   (page 22)

Writing poems is a matter of the poet’s mood and the poets moods change and go on changing in every case. In an adult view, the poet thinks of a poem and writes it down. Poetic imagination wanders constantly all the way and there is a poem on ‘Writing poetry- Women’s way’

Penning emotions
As skillful
As the campaign
For involving Indian husbands
In child care or domestic chores

The narrative arrangement

As difficult
As giving
The never-had-a-baby look
After three female issues

Writing poetry
As easy
As natural
As giving birth by a thirteen-year-old  (page 63)

The poet advises painters as to how poetry should be written starting with the don’ts in the poem ‘Writing poetry-The Painter’s Way’

Do not splash emotions
Like spin art
Spatter art paintings

If your palette
Feeling and thought in rich hues
Layered with hidden promises
Of what they can reveal

Skin the word layers
Slice the visual overloads
Into a new experience

Only then
The poetic canvas comes to life  (page. 90)

There is another way of writing poetry, which this poet names the sit-still way. The ideas are laudable and following the guidelines make the penning of any poet fascinating.

If reality ruptures
And appropriate words
Let you
File them
Sand them
Polish them
Till they glow
Maybe then
You might have
A poem dangling before you  (page 104)

There is a poem with a deliberately misleading title, ‘A New Dawn’. This is about the aftermath of a disastrous cyclone where everything was washed away and only a young woman sitting on the heap of debris with nothing to wear and the last line tells us what she has done.

Enveloped in arid odor of funeral
She sits atop the debris heap
As if in trance
Inhaling security
Emanating from her mother’s saree
Draped around her legs  (page 10)

Thought processes and skillful use of expressive devices decide the selection of words in the poem. Words deserve choreographic skill and these make the emotions brought out and make them fresh and scintillating. Khandelwal’s view of writing traditional poetry appeals to the readers and strengthens practicing poets.

Dowry in marriages and mismatching among other things, lead to extraordinary problems. The mechanics of happy living in old days intended a monetary gift to the grooms. Khandelwal’s favorite topic/subject is man woman relationship.

The ad libitum
Symphony went on
As long as poetry
In golden dowry notes

The thunderous applause
Was awarded
In currency of her own tears

One night of terror
A never ending night. (page.43)

The poem ‘Flight of the Poem’ throws light on the way a poet should think to make the poem gather wings to fly.

Words adolescent
Wrench a navel-gazing grip
With intensity

A new captive
An old addiction
Gathers wing   (page 112)

The must-read, the long and never really ending poem in twelve parts, is the last one ‘Changing Definitions (A Time to Cry)’. It is noticeable that the very first poem in this collection is ‘A Time to Cry’. It is Khandelwal’s latest collection, the second one this year. The poet wrote in his ‘Author’s Reflections’ that this, his fourth collection, was totally read by his mentor, a retired professor from the US, Dr.Som Ranchan before his demise in 2014. All Rajiv’s collections are about his major pre-occupation with love in its manifold hues. His feelings are always those looking deep and going on probing into passions, sentiments and analyzing psyches of women. Every one of the sixty-seven poems has something new for the reader to chew, absorb as the titles helped the poet to express with precision. The collection begins thus:

… … …
You are my princess
From the ‘Palace of Perfection’
Did I ever mention
In your freshness
I see beauty in ordinary things
That there have been innumerable times,
When a decision
Was waiting to be made. (A Time to Forget p.1)

Sandwiched between feelings and musings are facts presented without disgust or anguish with factuality. The indentation is suggestive of feeling and the line spacing is the utilization of a technique. Look at this:

The surge
Wave after wave
Of believable fiction
Like Indian politicians
Dishing out caste separation speeches
What right has
The puerile puddle
To reflect your countenance

The pain in varieties is presented in another poem:

Sages confirm pain is in the mind
So are you
Aristotle said: pain is passion of soul
So are you
To love is to experience pain’
That God sometimes multiplies pain
So do you. (Sages Confirm, p. 6)

There is a brilliant exposition and a new expression of ‘desire’ and ‘love’ in this poem:

As I take my morning walk
Desire you were here for some talk
A moment away from you
And meaning of life misperceives
Stands poised like birds in flight
Separation pain settles like dead leaves
As I take my morning walk
All the while,
Wish and hope
You are free today for talk (Tonic, p.7)

There is a transcendental feeling of yearning in this poem:

To day
I feel I am like Radha
Who pursued Krishna
Destined not to be hers
When will you learn to conquer obstacles
As do our Indian politicians
Who though
Scam scathed
Murder maligned
Behind jails on various penal codes
Yet do what they have to do
To add to their ill-gotten coffers (Comfort Zone, p.8)

Notice how the poet comes to his never-failing ubiquitous politicians which tickles our earthly sensitivity. The poet’s yearning, the heart-throb dai in and day out and ever present – even on washing Sunday is here:

The wash-day
Plunge them
Scrub them
In fermenting juice
Drip dry
Old dreams
Then fold them
Fr scouring
Next Sunday. (Washing on Sunday, p.9)

There are dream sequences too.
Her perfect eyes
With an as-if-we-have-met-before expression
As a chemical reaction
Mesmerizedwith a will-get-through-to-u-baby assertion

I had a difficult time
With the hormones
When I met her
In my dreams.  (I Met Her, p.10)

The sweetheart’s absence is thought devastating:

It opened doors
To all those prospective places
We planned to visit together
Much before the days
The dinner tables
Got used to the empty plate
Sitting beside
The cold supper  (Absence, p.12)

Note that is supper – not lunch- since the mind is earthy with thoughts of expense vouchers next to passport and the missed portrait which lies lazily in the desk drawer.
It is not absence that sets derailing: it could be another thing too:

Parched lips
Reconciliatory desire
Aches for oasis
…. …… …
Let them quest for masseurs
Let them with mutilated voices cry for caresses
Not for me
To scale mount ego
Made monumental
By the trifling domestic squabble.  (Itch, p.13)

There is much to think of in this poem as in many others

Discreetly dominant dripping emphasized curves
In slingshot
Red-hot flamed
For fights of imagination
…. … …… …
As she sits nonchalantly
On the hard bench
Rumbling about Madonna’s
Coffee table book “Sex”
Her studio album “Erotica”
In sensuous trilling voice
That her curves
Take the breath away (Curves are Back, p.24)

The choice of words makes the reader of this book think of things like ego, libido, thirst, yearning, itch, stress, passion – all things felt, imagined or dreamt of. This is the way the mind goes - neither with bangs nor with whimpers but with an idea of this moment - A TIME TO FORGET.

Works cited

1.Khandelwal Rajiv, Conch shells and Cowries, The Indian Publishers Distributors, Delhi, 1998
2. Khandelwal Rajiv, 21st Century Love Poems – Love is a Lot of Work, 2013
3. A Monument to Pigeons, Global Fraternity of Poets, Gurgaon, 2017
A Time to Forget, Poetry Society of India, 2017


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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Views: 3367      Comments: 1

Comment I like the poems..... certainly its of todays age. :)

15-Nov-2018 02:21 AM

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