Quiet inner inquisitiveness and consequent illumination guides a man to the objective of life as one goes through the striking lyrics of Anil K Sharma in The Pilgrimage (The Poetry Society of India Publication, Gurugram 2017). He is the Founder Editor of Contemporary Vibes, a widely read meaningful quarterly journal and also a well–known poet, critic and author of several books.
A man often does not aspire for the unattainable but definitely wishes to find space where he can live life reasonably, honestly and objectively. Life, if called a pilgrimage looks ironic in quality and temper if viewed from contemporary point of view where hurried movements determine the scope of life’s journey. Realistic approach to life teaches the real art of living to a man provided he is ready to face it with equanimity. If one tries to derive esoteric or at times, bizarre meanings and interpretations of desires of a man in any status of life, it is preposterous. Here, one finds ‘emotions’ trying to lift up the soul while ‘reason’ works as the anvil where poetic art gets significance.
Apparently, that the poet is thoughtful, humane and compassionate to man and society in which he lives, is obvious from the poetry he writes. He is neither didactic nor academic but penetrates the mind of a man in contemporary milieu and defines life and embryonic aspirations in simple lexis with a few obvious or subtle references to past or present, which at times, appear oblique or indistinct. He appears a deeply religious man and therefore, whatever, he writes invokes history –contemporary and ancient, religion (Puranic, biblical and Quranic), heritage and cultural roots at times, to establish an implicit affiliation with the people and land. In such delineation, a man ought to take note that he is likely to fall a victim to certain predictable faults in the art of poetry notwithstanding noticeable efforts.
A frustrating enigma distresses a modern man, for he visits past to find solution and ferrets out possible ideal resolution. Age past appears pleasant and ideal but it is not, is the truth. Present is not so good, a man thinks. Therefore, not everything is bright as a man thinks it to be, and when he rummages through history past and present, he finds it agonizing, terror–stricken and regimented, even as the guided entourage drives to anarchy (The Pilgrimage 3), and therefore, life among the identified human ties appears meaningful. A sense of escapism pervades but then, the prayer for everyone’s happiness revitalizes hope of an objective life and this optimistic outlook is good for a healthy life, the poet in Anil K seems to affirm.
Love for humankind and the country determine philosophy of life. He goes back to history and celebrates what is good. However, present paints a bleak scenario when he reflects and thinks of the light of virtues and sacrifices, now buried somewhere. If he speaks of the glory and grandeur of India and revisits its hoary ages, he nostalgically idolizes Ganga that originates from holy glacier and now, this sacred river is a figure of bemoans and regrets. Man imprisons and pollutes it despite the belief that it flows down to consecrate the ashes of the dead so that salvation is possible. It reminds human beings of the mighty efforts of King Bhagiratha, a son of Dilip in the seventh generation of the dynasty, who undergoes penance, pleases lord Shiva, implores before Ganga so that she infuses life to the dead sons of King Sagara. Expiation is discipline, purity and honesty of purpose in modern context, which a man often ignores. The present fate of the holy river causes genuine worries. Indiscriminate spilling of dirt and filth a hazard to human health does not stop man even while the river suffocates (Gangotri to Gangasagar – 7)
She cries foul with emitting smells being barren,
Hails her venerates not to deforest her tresses!
She snakes amidst huge human garbage,
hails her sacrosanct sojourns to have living face.
He possibly does not speak of pollution of water only…but also stretches the thought to life and its various wings –feelings, sensibilities and existential disquiet where a man lives, but lives to asphyxiate without recourse to effective curative measures. Contemporary anxieties disturb a sensitive poet as he deliberates on the all–encompassing ‘Stomach Fire’ 8–9, a cause of physical, intellectual and spiritual impatience. It also gives an impetus to a man to work and satisfy innate ancient desire to hold on to whatever is transient and short–lived, for it strengthens, enriches and equips him well materially. The fire is symbolic of insatiable thirst of the created beings whether animate or inanimate, ‘I water the stomach–fire day and night /I stir and sweat hard to fire –fight the life!’ because ‘To satiate, gratify and enjoy the eternal –essence! /To quench the cry of hunger inhibit universal.’ Ultimately, the fire, the hunger for more proves lethal and devastating and is the source of human sufferings.
If one witnesses global disturbance and unrest, sense of terrific aggrandizement and efforts to humiliate or downsize fellow–beings, one cannot overlook the role of an invisible enemy ‘ego’ that refuses to honour existence of others gracefully. ‘My Big Fat Ego’ 10–11 is a warning to sane minds, to calm down irrational earthly desires or else the dreadful end of humankind is imminent as ego denies the right ‘to alleviate the miseries of mankind.’ If he is ironic and sharp–tongued here, in ‘Your Luminosity’ he scares a weak hearted man with the harsh truths he unveils as he underscores the prevalence of poverty, rapes and brutal acts of man. In obvious refinement, benevolence and compassion that often emit light, frequently prove simulated because at this stage, many a time, pretense and falsehood guide man, and the fall–out is aversion to light and grace. What a sardonic portrayal of men, who sermonize but do not perform.
Consciousness of social realities forms the backdrop of many lyrics. A solemn wish and a prayer for the betterment of humankind appear good and comforting and therefore, the cause of equality, liberty and fraternity the sacred concepts of an ideal life enthuse to make life rewarding. However, the ethical propensities often slip away as if eels and therefore, he wants (The Milestones), ‘to sojourn from /Man to be human–humane/ Mankind to breed kind–man!’19. Social worries force to make incisive observations (The Crystallized Tears) that connect man to history and contemporary psyche of man unaffected and thus, he orients and restrains sentiments to go astray. Here, memorials to the rich survive while the toiling hands are buried deep and face oblivion.
The swelled coffers are
Mounted bosom of the earth,
The knifed deep breaches are
Gulfed–gorges of depravity;
Nature has cradled the civilization
With unequal rocks of rearing,
The cronies have crystallized
The tears of poverty into marbles. – 21
Man talks of socialism, simplicity and democratic living and these lofty principles lionize him but within he remains an edifice of falsehood and duplicity and a captive of security–mindset, for he feels apprehensive when he grows tall and very tall. A culture of big people it is and a suggestion to the susceptible segments to revere and bow before ‘the security fort’ a VVIP’ builds, for he is ‘A Savior –A protectorate of Humanity’– a huge sarcastic testimonial it is.
Social themes dominate lyrics with an idealistic touch and a sense of humanitarianism. He aptly says (Who Fathered the Poverty Line?), ‘It is not the solo line of poverty, /It is gulf of immensity –scarcity. /it is named after the poor; /but never built by the destitute’ – 14. Further, he evokes the thought and also observes, ‘To demonstrate is right in democracy/Not always to demand a loaf of bread:/Not always to feed empty bellies:/Not always to seek comparative–comforts.’
He is true, devastating and unforgiving when he writes and the quality adds strength to the thought lyrics enshrine. If he reveals truth of mind and heart of the rich, the wise and the powerful intellectuals, he equally strips off the veneer of sham and charade, and makes a hypocrite stand naked. Yet, none regrets and that is the culture of the well–to–do, he points out without revealing intents of the civilized.
On earth, everything changes, nothing is stagnant but nature of man scarcely gets rid of the negativity and disgusting temperament and so, steadfastness suffers and wisdom of the ages never teaches man to accept the eternal principle of ephemeral character of whatever exists. He resolves to live life of truth now and forgets it as actualities stare and engulf earnestness. In current living, ‘ethics and aesthetics’ – 32 disintegrate and perish, for constituents of manufactured sophistication, stateliness and forthrightness function as the sustaining forces of virtues non–existent. A casual scrutiny of the system, regimented moral values, institutionalized guidelines, governance, laws, rules and regulation, codes of perfect human conduct leads to dispiriting and ominous culmination under the poet’s razor–sharp analysis. That is life of reality struggling to survive perhaps, the poet appears to anticipate.
A penetrative inquiry into the current psyche of man and the tribulations through which he passes through continues and the poet attempts to locate possible sources of inspiration, truth and light. The eternal wish, rather prayer of man (?) to live a good and clean life is clear in lines (Asto ma Sadgamya… – 51), ‘Let there be stormy wash for the /Embedded sticky dirty ‘isms’ /Let there be command within /To move from falsity to realism.’ It hints at mystical undertones and illusory perspectives a man nurses at times, but still, it is a make–believe area of joy and dilemma.
However, it carries notes of good quality life a man wants to lead amidst unrelenting pressures of difficult times, for every age carries forward the legacy of past – good or bad. The stream of thought subtly drives one to mystic areas where impact of invisible forces intrudes and intervenes in what man does and to the poet it seems powerful destiny exists to, ‘To command the creation, /Pro–creator has individuality /To comprehend the /Fault–lines of its destination!’ which is again an unexplained theory (Navgrah Chant Within – 53). At this stage, a man ought to get up and find what precisely he wants the poet suggests and fortifies the thought later (The Moving Mystic Mount 56). Deep reflection impresses upon the necessity to interpret and define what really lays buried beneath the meditative silence, because man’s intellectual range has its limits and spiritual quests move on to touch borders of infinite horizons.
Thoughts of hatred, violence and frenzy besiege man in every age. Ancient times are not an exception but genuine efforts to find a conceivable therapy continue forever irrespective of victories over ‘the self’ or not. It is struggle of Sage Valmiki – 63, which ultimately, changes the course of life when futility of perceived destination of life is apparent. Deep deliberation over worldly attainment and accolades whether righteous or sinful, and the consequent realization of ineffectuality of accomplishments leads to contrition and penitence, and that demonstrates the power of man within and it eventually, opens the doors to understand what life is – is it the worldly righteousness or the professed divinity beyond? The question torments. Here, the journey continues between the earthly realities and the mystic experiences defined or undefined. It is a perpetual running to attain the paranormal grandeur and satisfaction and to reach ‘perfection’ even as the thought of ‘imperfection’ haunts.
However, the soul of man is pure, does not recognize any distinction of caste, creed, class or colour, and if a man cares for man genuinely, he fulfills the divine purpose of creation –that the man is an image of god, to which the poet makes a subtle reference. If man sympathizes with everybody, thinks of the wellbeing of the vulnerable and suffering, the wicked and sadistic, the disregarded segments yearning for care, he not only purifies ‘the self’ but also elevates everyone whoever he comes across because it is in the recognition of Oneness that obliterates man–made distinctions.
Maxims come flowing from the gangotri!
Hundred of Ramayanas mushroomed,
To boast of their tribute to the originality,
By making a point diverse, adverse, reverse,
Converse, perverse, still to the Epical preserve!
Holy water may change colour, scent, its smack,
Holistic remain its ruins even to hack it to crack!
He eloquently speaks of the eternally inspiring thoughts of great men, the philosophers and the visionaries among men, who want to create a world of true human beings. Spirit of purity, truth and virtues are eternal despite changes in time and space, definition and exposition, comprehension and dissemination, the poet believes and therefore, if he values man, it is love and compassion for humankind he demonstrates, for religions speak of man irrespective of what man says. Saint Kabir’s thoughts and solemn decrees on human conduct, is a message to humanity. – 67
…As rivers flow from the glaciers
Traversing treading and traveling,
So adverts a man on to his pilgrimage,
Sojourning setting milestones on the way,
To reach the destine post of his fate,
Sahej, Sahej –slowly steadily in the life span!
Poet’s inveterate faith in the glory and splendeur of India is magically terrific and he does not hide what he feels of ‘India That is Bharat’ – 5 and thus, echoes the sentiments many cherish. ‘Swami Vivekananda’s Arise and Awake…Call!’ – 72, ‘Let all persons wending their way /To the same goal, /Unite irrespective of their loyalties /To the respective religious fervour, /Zeal and veneration short of bigotry, /To usher in a world of peace,/Bereft of persecutions!’ in truth, speaks of the great minds, who never differ in what they tell humankind. Man remembers great men reverently, who fight for the dignity of man, and work hard to so that the soul and spirit of man stay breathing, compassionate and affectionate, recalls words of wisdom, and acknowledges adherence to ethical principles they spread, but somewhere lapses create fissures in conduct, for now, a man believes more in rhetoric then in essence.
He passionately goes back to the father of the nation – 73, a votary of truth and non–violence, to Hedgewar, who re–conceptualized the thought of Hindu Rashtra – 79. He tells of the indomitable spirit of Netaji – 86. Baba Saheb Ambedkar is the ‘Mankind mentor,’ the Suvarna–tormentor.’ – 83 Then, he gives poetic portrayal of Vishnu Sharma – 92 and Kalidas – 94 whose contribution to life and literature symbolizes the spirit of immortality in artistic pursuits. He celebrates the intellect and mind of Modi – 90, in soft, retrained and elegant words, and admires the spirit of Indianness, the great man upholds.
…As enlightened Modi incarnating,
To cover whole of India in whirlwind,
To uphold Subhash’s secular Jai Hind,
To actualize Mahatma’s dream of Swaraj,
To cement Sardar Patel’s unified India
To landmark cultural Akhand –Bharat,
To bring back exiled Autobindo’s Supra –light...
A legacy of colonial clones of Macaulay
To be indigenized and Indianized as Modified’
To go back to past, and resurrect it, imbibe and spread the values and quality of life, for which our great men lived is the most sacred tribute one can pay.
The lyrics hold mirror to a possible ideal world the poet wishes to create where humankind can live in peace and harmony. It is about religion of love, amity, compassion, unity, universal goodwill a man ought to value, and with this intent, he recapitulates the contribution of saintly men of understanding and humanism, who want to make this a world a better place to live (for none can have a dreamland).
Lucid idiom, pleasant rhythm, phrase, and nuance in expression attract, impress, and speak of ‘the good and the noble’, ‘the beauty and truth’ even as restrained moral bearing and quality keeps one alive to the optimistic and bright side of life and existence, and that is the power of the lyrics.