Book Reviews

A Door Somewhere?

- A Kaleidoscopic View of Life and Beyond

A Door Somewhere?” is a beautiful collection of engrossing poems by Jaydeep Sarangi, a bilingual writer, academic, editor and translator with several seminal books to his credit. In recent times, he has caused ripples in the field of dalit discourse thanks to his great literary efforts towards mainstreaming the marginalized. In the present collection, he deals with the themes of life, death, joy, sorrow, desire, beauty, spirituality, fear, hope, social realism, socio-political upheavals, public wrath and collective faith, with a slight touch of metaphysics. In the insightful Foreword, Dr. Usha Bande has rightly mentioned that ‘his poems demonstrate his propensity for social and political commitment; and his verses reflect and refract the existing poignant scenario. His gaze travels to all aspects of existence-- life, death, joy, fear, hope and faith and make compelling analysis of the life’.

The anthology begins with a “Prayer” that expresses his love and respect for mother. He enumerates divine qualities dormant in her feminine sheath; a mother always stands in stead for her children, come what may. Simplicity of expression and innocence of the poet underlying each word make this sweet and simple poem distinct in many ways. He candidly declares:

My temple has one deity—
My mother

The above simple words, sans any ornamentation, remind us of a popular and iconic dialogue of Shashi Kapoor- ‘Mere Paas Maa Hai.

A mother is said to be the physical replica of Divine Mother because of the embodiment in her affectionate heart, of divine and subtle qualities and virtues. The poet never forgets to pay his heartfelt offering of reverential words in honor of Mother Goddess. In this context, the poem “The Dark Mother” deserves to be quoted to show the redemptive power of Mother’s love-

All colours disappear in black
Transparent like Nature’s principles.
Kali has a garland of fifty human heads
All are bloody
Vices beheaded by Mother’s love.

Likewise in the poem “Hill Queen” he portrays himself as a ‘refugee’ whose body is chained but mind is as free as a bird.  The spiritual connotation provides a deeper meaning. “Home away from home” and “Body chained” highlight the poet’s longing to be mingled with the ultimate reality. He seeks support of feminine force of mother. Retreat to “Home” supported by feminine power of Mother is the crux of the following words-

I’m searching for a mother
And the womb
To cradle my homelessness
In her home

Some poems are reflective of Jaydeep Sarangi’s poetic perception and his ideological and literary stand towards creativity with an objective mandate to lead and guide his readers. His ‘Baby Growing in a Poet”, in this regard, needs to be interpreted symbolically as the poem is a multi-layered take on life, death, love and poetry. With a proper amalgam of these universal pursuits he attempts to justify the symbolical meaning of the poem. There is a parallelism between death and poetry-

Death has different meanings for us
at different stages of life
So does poetry.

Carrying the essence of the poem he peels off layer after layer, symbolically demonstrating the growth of his poetic sensibility and inner consciousness. In a way, the ‘door’ is also being opened. Comparison and contrast and, of course, imagery are technically brilliant in communicating the poet’s thoughts and ideas—

Its images are collage
Of thoughtful ideas wedded into a door.
Symbols are its bricks and stones
Of a home of thoughts,
Where nerves make a man grow
Like a poem
Beginning, middle and end.

Towards the end of the poem, we come to know of the function of poetry in accordance with the poet. Hinting at its objective, he writes—

Poetry is close to heart
It moves hearts,
Extends things further
Where colourful mosaics
Drag sensations from bricks to metals.

Unlike other poets, Sarangi never turns his face away from trivialities of life; rather he attaches more importance to small things.  He knows it well that everything good comes in small quantity. What matters in life, as the poet opines, is how we enjoy them in totality. ‘Far away from the city’s rust/ Life rides on words’. Small things must be measured and treasured as part of boundless happiness. The poet has deliberately used ‘door’ as a metaphor to give an outlet of his poetic thoughts- from mundane to metaphysical. It has a symbolical meaning. He cannot restrain himself from taking recourse to ‘door’, ‘window’ and ‘wall’. He reveals his motif in the poem “A Door”

A Door is always a door
A fine line
Between loving hearts
Who speak
In rhythmic words and idioms

His thoughts walk out through the door of ‘papers and letter’ and reach up to the readers in form of poetry. He calls a poet ‘a translator, who translates external and internal realities and offers something new- nuggets of golden thoughts- to the reading world. He remarks—

Through the door
Whispers in time
To another door somewhere.

In his next poem “Mysteries of the Door” he attempts to demystify the existential mysteries with his metaphysical perception. Mysteries of life and death appear inscrutable only in a state of ignorance. ‘Dark nights and its doors/ Are waiting to be unlocked’. He regards knowledge an important key to unlock this complexity. He suggests—

The greatest fears of life are often connected to the unknown
Knowledge cuts short the mysteries,
The stories of the unknown.

The poem in question is stylistically remarkable for the brilliant use of oxymoronic expressions such as

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep,
To gain what he cannot lose.

Another example of the oxymoron is

A fool is always wise on a different plane.

The titular poem “A Door Somewhere?” explores the search for the root. It is powerful in so many ways. Historical sense of the poet is well reflected with a sympathetic attitude to people of the world. Further, it not only justifies the title of the book but also highlights the symbolical relevance of the door- ‘Books are doors to the read the world’, ‘All bilateral talks are doors to friendship’. With a perspective on understanding of history, a record of ‘a relentless struggles’, the poet extols this connecting link between ‘self’ and ‘the world’—

It’s a door between the self and the world,
Despair dances in Hope.

Yet another poem “The Sun Temple” is animated with historical sense of the poet who feels unnerved at the sight of ‘relics of the past’.  He looks for the door for the indifferent people so that they can feel proud of the cultural and architectural glory of their country—

Flows through the door of history.
Each rock is a marvel
Curved into slice of life,
An interface where
Past talks through archaeological wonders.

The poet now moves from the 'door ‘step of his poetic vision to perceive the world beyond, beyond the restricting 'window' and 'wall'. His “Beyond the Walls” finds a parallelism with Robert Frost’s celebrated poem “Mending Walls” but with a different dimension. The beginning lines of the poem seem to have Shelleyan influence. The poet creates a soul-stirring image of ‘eggs of eternity’ and expresses human angst and grief, frustration and despondency. Like Shelley he cries out—

I bleed as I was not born a stone.
A perfect stone.

In the later part of the poem, Frostian in tone and intent, he compares walls with ‘doors to things’ leading to beyond the world. He is bewildered at the people who

… invent walls
In-between soft zones
Where love kisses souls.
I step in to a lighted halo.
Where walls are doors into things.

His next poem “Window of the World” is an embodiment of his Utopian vision and ideology of a perfect’ just society’ where there is no ‘oppression to the powerless’. He wishes to re-establish such a beautiful, comforting and peaceful world of global harmony where the struggles of the people will not go in vain. He doesn’t want to let the ‘wheel of justice’ get stuck up in any quagmire of vices. With this thought the poet appears optimistic-

The sky changes.
The neem tree in front of the doorway
Counts sorrows of each leave falling
Silently, history in black and white.

His poetry is marked with the note of spirituality and deep yearning to decode the mystical aspect of the world and self. With the maturity of age and experience spiritual consciousness of a person evolves. The poet seeks a guru to escort and guide him in this spiritual journey. The poem “A Mirror” reflects the poet’s aging experience and profound soul-searching quest-

Is a shop
In the art of reasoning.
I’m seeking for a guru
Beside the mysterious Narmada.

The poet’s philosophical view of life is expressed in the poem “My Material”. He doesn’t seem to negate the material life because for him ‘Each pearl is material life/ In the kingdom of knowledge.’ He believes ’gross things bloom like flowers, / Holy in thought/Pure in form.’ He wishes to ‘live for an ideal’, flow ‘like the river forever’. His realization in tune with Vedantic thought of divinity is perceptible in the following lines-

Karma is the celebration of freedom in mind
Already in man.
I flow
Through the wings of Time
Daily practices.
Never considering them as divine.

“Dawn at Pondicherry” is a reflective poem that describes ‘Sweet birds twitter for/ One Being and Consciousness.’ The poem symbolically underlines the ultimate destination of man-- universal truth, eternal harmony and spiritual symphony-

All beings are united
Under one canopy
Man and nature.
An urge
drives them towards the Truth.

The above poem is a reminiscent of Jayant Mahapatra’s “Dawn at Puri”. “Counting Beads” is another soul-searching poem. He writes—

Each death has a story.
Each story has a reader.
You and I are in the story.

“Playing with Shadows” presents wonderful and realistic perspective on human life, hope and despair. Each and every moment leaves behind their significance that we feel at every step as ‘vanishing moments always stay in our heart’. The poet says:

Life’s acts are shadows of the past
Shadows are residue
Of light and lighted trajectory.
The optimist you.

Tributary poems like “Caged Bird”, “For Neruda” and “When She is gone with the Wind” also deserve our attention. “Caged Bird” is a heart-touching and stirring poem dedicated to Manoranjan Byapari, a rickshaw puller who transformed himself into a prolific writer of Bangla novels, stories and autobiography. Here, Bengali sensibility and consciousness of the poet is an exemplary instance. His love for Bangla literature and writers finds an excellent articulation. He attempts to bring it to the forefront of global literary fraternity, by glorifying his own culture and literature. Most importantly, his sympathetic approach to the marginalized people is well reflected. He realistically depicts socio-economic disparity gripping every corner of the country. Also, he makes caustic remarks at many places and tries to open the eyes of the caste-ridden society-

Long struggles
Demystified Byapari of false honours
Of the caste-ridden society
He discovers beauty in working class,
Cooperation among have-nots,
Humanism in rebels,
Simplicity of outcastes.

In some of his sensitive poems, Sarangi's sympathetic attitude towards the poor, the untouchables, the downtrodden is perceptible. The depiction, through his poetic rendering, of sad plight of such marginalized and neglected people is heart- touching and highlights the social realism of our society. His poem “New Year Gift” expresses his angst and anguish:

I see a flesh of rust-red, crawling somewhere.
I notice the steady rise and fall
of your bare brave chest.
I hold myself back, only to reason—
each passing moment where an untouchable dies
In front of an elite.,
On the banks of the Ganges
Pale skinned, the smell of death
Eyes vacant and dull.

In this way, a careful scrutiny of “A Door Somewhere?” reveals that Jaydeep Sarangi is essentially a poet of humanity with a boundless sympathy for the poor and the marginalized; a man of society with social commitments, equally engaged in philosophical and metaphysical musings. His poetry presents a kaleidoscopic view of his ‘conception of and reaction to historical and imaginary circumstances. ‘In his poet he has given a free play to his varied moods and feelings- from desire, beauty, truth, mundane acts to spirituality. His style is simple but very effective in properly conveying his leitmotif facilitated by skilful use of metaphors and symbols and emotive imagery.


More by :  Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar

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