K.V. Raghupathi: ‘On and Beyond the Surface’
Poetry of K. V. Raghupathi transports one to another world of joy, delight, reflection and implicated experiences where one requires not only intensity of feelings but it is also a gratifying meandering into multiple layers of psyche and cerebral involvedness. On and Beyond the Surface, Gnosis – an Imprint of Authorspress Publication, New Delhi 2018, makes time rewarding while one goes through the verses.
A widely published poet and author (a renowned teacher of Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur), he is a keen student of Indian Ancient Literature and if one looks deeply into what he writes, it is a spiritual journey to Indian Consciousness and that makes Raghupathi’s writings a bit different. An avid scholar, he evinces interest in Karnatic Music and Yoga. He began writing in 1985 and since then, he has authored and published ten books in English verse, two novels, and two books on short fiction, and edited seven critical books and four on Yoga.
Endevavour to interpret life in soft and yet very intricate metaphors drawn mostly from nature and man’s emotional region that stay almost inert and unfathomed make reading and enjoying KV’s lyrics fulfilling but still one cannot pin down areas these stir and rejuvenate. To give identity to even little insects, birds, animals, objects of nature and design new districts of experiences in the process is unique in this poetry.
I know what it wants
It wants my reciprocal love in words
It won’t leave me until I take a pen
and stab it with my strong feeling
and then the blood oozes in words and then clot
and the poem is born! (It Sneaks into my Bed Room)
Thoughts on life, nature and beauty and existence disturb a sensitive mind. He appears to stand away from the snares of the world as knowledge, wisdom and burdening ideas of life crush spirit and soul, he often realizes and so runs away and carves out ‘the self’ with definite identity and here he fails and so jumps from the whirlpool of emotional anarchy to find harmony elsewhere. ‘Father, I Never Asked You Anything More’, a long autobiographical lyric shatters mundane concepts of living that restrict movement of life particularly of middle class even while many try to locate semblance in life’s philosophy in what he says.
Conventional mindset does not open gates to real wisdom the soul craves for and so thirst and hunger unspecified continue to torture man throughout life whether rich or poor, small or great, lower in hierarchy or a man who reaches supreme status. Poet’s dilemma distresses him within and without and so an infinite search continues to find real wisdom, beauty and ‘the self’ and so indirectly wishes to establish relationship with eternity, an objective of life to which many continue the journey. They fully understand that the unknown voyage will remain shrouded in ambiguity and indefiniteness. Nevertheless, ordinary life restricts and stifles freedom. It causes inner violence and one learns the language of hostility and hit-back.
One may not agree to the concept of freedom societal principles dictate and thought as ideal but to live in defiance either, never offers the right soil to grow, one affirms in modern idiom. Existing life pattern limits liberty and free thoughts. Intellectual flights perhaps violate purported perfection because caste, creed, religion or region or race only know to divide humanity in little compartments of hatred and animosity undermining spirit of brotherhood, peace and harmony since birth, for each has its temples of worship, a precursor to implant scheme of loathing in consciousness. These are nothing but impulsive and capricious centers of isolating, humiliating and suffocating men.
Man is slave to past as memories of horror distress whether in nature or elsewhere, men perpetrate distress, pull out of it at times or create an aura of amiability one witnesses. However, ‘intrinsic calmness, fraternity and happiness’ give true feeling of joy and therefore, ‘On My First Visit to Bhubaneswar’ creates lifelong impression on him but it is not treasured as part of history (History Sits on our Heads).
…sits on our heads
Bleeding from its umbilical cord,
It crawls in a room with no windows,
Mornings it searches for a door,
Afternoons it looks for a hole,
At nights it longs for light
However, an intensity of anguish interprets it, as existence needs recognition out of uncertain conditions. Knowledge gained in childhood is usually traditional as the society determines where man is a recruit, who lives a regimented life as he speaks in an autographical lyric earlier and realizes that so many truths of life hang about as unfamiliar. Death of Nehru appears shocking but he does not know what deep darkness of grief is on a death and even after an age.
I have grown and learnt philosophies
But I have never known what it is
Therefore, the poet -
turned to the university library with Ulysses’ desire
that stood like a monument amidst trees.
Is it a waste, a question arises, for everyone praises the massive assortment of books positioned on shelves? It creates a strange feeling as if visiting a museum. Therefore, a life of futility and vanity in meaning moves on for the poet, who stands disconnected and alone at a distance as if from the knowledge worlds wishes to give or has already imparted wisdom that knows nothing of eternity.
Simple and soft flow of emotionally surcharged words cast a magic spell when in The Seven Hill and Me 38’ he says, “I climbed these Hills chanting the Eternity/with no companion. Somewhere else, a deep relationship takes birth as if.
The Hill as I perceive intensely
hold in their marrow human sorrow, mute witness
the scars of human blood over thousand years.
You are here
The Hills spoke in feeble voice
Where time and space are woven together.
Poet inadvertently walks into the lap of nature and speaks to its various images –living, fluttering, flapping, howling, bulging, flowing, roaring or twittering. He finds inner joy at this time and the communication lingers on uninterrupted for long ignorant of the world and its wisdom. He realizes nature gives feel of eternity and holds strongly man’s soul with warmth and knowledge that drives man to the soul, an experience eternal and so he gets the voice, which is calm, harmonious and loving. What he felt in nature during childhood in innocence is everlasting, for later attainment of knowledge stifles the spirit and soul. At some place in ‘A Lonely Story 42’ he candidly but scathingly speaks of the world.
With so many hearts filled with no sincerity for sorrow and grief
Surely no one will lead me back to the light.
No single man lends me a hand
in the sweetest creation of the world, I must
have lost my way as the sun doesn’t shine in my eyes…
Nature is beauty and wisdom for man if he understands the poet often avers. He will find that nature embodies eternity and flows on with changes and yet stays changeless, sheds the old and faded and yet recuperates what it lost. Therefore, he learns an eternal lesson that like an object of nature, a man ought to learn to ‘die in every moment.’
In many verses, the poet talks of the world he lives, and feels the pain. Knowledge and wisdom he learns from the world is inadequate rather inappropriate, for a man knows nothing about man –the soul, and therefore, aspirations to reach eternity remain unfulfilled and naturally, cause absolute breakdown in spite of the materialistic attainments and status in society, which are mere transitory embellishments sans meaning and therefore, such superfluities take a man nowhere.
Journey to ‘Beyond the Surface’ raises questions of existence and life but fails to find logical answers even as forages into history prove futile. Knowledge makes no impact and appears destructive to him for it does not give satisfactory solutions to the existential stirs, which continue to disturb and so a sheer emptiness and vainness haunt.
Yearning for knowledge and wisdom seems good but somewhere uncertainty distresses (Longing 56) as he wishes to go back to days of innocence and at this stage, he tries to strike a comforting relationship with man, who visits lanes of past and finds days of purity satisfying.
I tread the path of wonder
and explore marvel and splendor
by losing myself in the fluidity of clouds
as the moon glows yellow like Sudarshana chakra.
I am once more the babe filled with unsullied joy and
Even incongruities in nature and life hide blessings unknown, for these continue to tread the path undaunted about what changes such absurdities encounter. It is a lesson to men in search of meaning of life hereafter –‘beyond the identified.’
You appear and disappear
What remains therefore is a big void
Then what are you in essence? (Nothing before and nothing after)
Therefore, he avers –
I am alone, the yellow light softens my eyes
I am setting out on a journey to seek the Unknown
as orange sun is dropping its eyes behind violet clouds.
To reach solutions to meaning of life and existence, he travels fast and organizes various crutches nature offers, which a man imagines as invisible but apparently, the nature’s support appears powerful for the man in poet. Consequently, he extracts figurative assistance, for he loves to construct hypothetical images in soft easy words to arrive at the real meaning life offers beyond the recognized regions even between conceptual imagery and definite elusiveness.
I have gained the other touch –
the touch of Eternity, the kiss of Silence
sweeter than a blob of honey
for which man never craves and secures. (I have Gained the other Touch)
Such multiple battering of feelings, thoughts, incessant search for fresh metaphors and stubbornness to find existential meaning drive to early days and so he issues a cautionary note.
Beware, my child
When you grow full like me
all will be gone forever. (I Envy You)
Does he hint at the perceived objective, questions stare?
Search is constant but definite and equally uncertain and so a sphinx-like situation irks, and the next moment, he tries to hit upon and so scrambles for the quintessence of life among many possibilities.
This number does not exist
but exists, it exists
It is zero, it is pujyam, poornam, shunyam
Without it all life is meaningless
All life is zero, yet all zero is life. (This number does not exist)
Loneliness suits. Crowd drives out wisdom and knowledge after a limit because these become burden and take men away from innocence and purity. Beauty and wisdom of nature appeal where he feels comfortable because noise of silence attracts and if one can discern and experience feelings of utter silence in noise, choice of cultural life remains intact, he suggests faintly.
Compassion and understanding language of trees, silent woods, breeze, leaves, music of wind, vortex of stillness, beauty and sagacity of blossom and sheen of a spark give inner joy. To live in dreamy sequence and count interconnection of images provide unique internal delight of eternal wisdom. To know relations with images visible and framed in words on the screen of breeze, wind and utter silence is an experience. Here, he makes efforts to know the correlation and unknown bond.
I went up the hill in chill
Wetted rocks, wood smoke, twisted leaves
I looked around, the sun is looking through the veil
Evening birds, mendicant and raucous
I wished, I were one and I asked the hunting eagles
what am I to all these? (What am I to all these?)
Identity crises appear but he is unyielding and so the voyage into the world indistinct goes on, for it is search of eternity indeterminate. Truth is harsh and eternal, man knows. However, he is steadfast, sticks to the transient, suffers, and spoils everything he touches but refuses to learn from nature –wind, cloud, trees, woods, sun, moon etc. and so lands up in apparent misery and lack of genuine awareness because of mental aberrations.
O Mast of the garden
O my sun, moon, rain and dew
protect thy wisdom and beauty from human corruption. (The Graden)
Earlier, he speaks of hope and brightness but next time, he thinks it is just a delusory state of mind, for here you disconnect ‘the self’ from Karma. Nature and its numerous living things continue karmas without attachment or hope of fruit he understands whereas men acts are with the intent to get reward. Knowledge is futile but the wisdom he gains from nature – a primeval understanding is eternal, for there he attains realization.
I haven’t bribed wisdom with my corrupt knowledge to teach me wisdom
O God I thank you for leading me to my primordial home’ days of innocence.
‘On and Beyond the Surface’ takes to regions of mysterious, obscure and intense reflections and deliberations where one learns to think of the other side of life and existence, which is beyond the material world. Inner world is a refuge of true wisdom that owes its origin to the world of nature – god’s creation. Nature cares, comforts, and requires nothing. Man corrupts ‘the self’, the soul and the system despite assertions to the contrary.
The stream of thoughts continues to tease, provoke and rouse in Dispersed Symphonies-a collection of varied oddments of psyche wielding tremendous insight and prowess. He thinks of life and existence but here the style, the words, the language, the tone and rhythm of lines and the flow of feelings and thoughts is lyrical and enriching where images in bits and pieces of experiences and impressions speak eloquently of philosophy – the inner wisdom of man. This wisdom alone offers joy and detached delight of life’s essence and existence sans stress.