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Exploring the Poems of Rajender Krishan
|by Duni Chand Chambial|
Rajender Krishan (b. 1951, aka Raj Chowdhry), a renowned Indian diaspora poet living in New York (USA) since 1989 and Founder Editor of the world-famous website Boloji.com, started in 1999, an open platform, is showcasing the work of amateur and professional writers from all over the world. He matriculated from Punjab University and graduated from Delhi University. He believes in the freedom of expression and is an ardent admirer of Kabir, the secular saint poet. He owes his wonderful life to his grandmother and parents whose blessings have gifted him with a penchant for poetry, photography and the fine arts.
This poem, ‘Solitude’ (pp. 3-4), is from the first collection, Solitude and other poems.
The poetic consciousness moves further from personal attempts to locate solitude to intelligence, which, according to the protagonist, is imperfect, yet ceaselessly drives his predetermined mind to spatial infinitude. He is not content with the finitude of his astuteness, which is ever busy in boosting his “finite mind” to widen its domain in space. This idea is plainly put in the following four lines:
Now, there is the third stanza: largest in size having twelve lines. It informs the reader that his “finite mind” jumps from one thought to the other. These thoughts appear in pairs of powerful and sad, wavering and firm, contemplating and baffled, unruffled and twitchy, pleasant and unpleasant, and zealous and angry within the known and unknown precincts of thoughts surging in the persona’s mind. These do not remain discrete but blend together like a chemical compound evolving into a new thought. The poet has put this idea of different ideas appearing in mind as if boiling in a vessel/receptacle (T. S Eliot has described ideas mixing in a receptacle in his essay, ‘Tradition and Individual Talent’) in the “eternal circle” – a process that is incessant. The stanza is given below:
The poet calls this experience that goes on within the psyche or mind of the creative artist/poet as ever fresh but flustered or agitated. One, who experiences it, becomes the observer to this imaginative act within the mind. This act is indeed wonderful and mindboggling. Nonetheless, it provides unparallel delight to the subject experiencing it. See, how the poet aptly puts it in the fourth stanza:
While going through the poem, the reader, if s/he is able to rise and capture the poet’s imaginative height in its white heat of imagination, also experiences the same joy.
The spirit of freedom, he has experienced in the sweet company of “your perpetual presence”, cannot be allowed to be ended as such. The second person possessive pronoun, “your”, that behaves, here, as an adjective modifying the noun “presence”, seems a bit ambiguous exerting pressure on the reader. The word, “your”, signifies two things and, here, too, it remains ambiguous: one, with small “y”, suggests ephemeral love; two, when the reader takes cognizance of the fact that these are “inspired by the ancient wisdom of Hindu Philosophy”, then, mysticism seems to be the core idea behind this word suggesting Almighty God – the one behind all creations, abstract and concrete.
As its subtitle says, it is very simple. However, for our study we can further sub-divide it into four parts: in the first part (ll. 1-2), Amma would tell the protagonist to love himself and in doing so he must be true to himself. In the second (ll. 3-6), she would tell him not to respond immediately to any situation/query/suggestion. Instead, he should wait for some time expecting any other development in this period. If there is no further change or development, then he should think over it with cool mind. He should respond only after having examined the pros and cons of the situation. In the third part (l. 7), the suggestion is to follow “the right path”. And when the protagonist has followed and acted according to the first three gospels, the result would be to his satisfaction, as is clear in the fourth part (ll. 8-10), and that would lead to his happiness and success. In other words it can be said to be the enunciation of Amma’s gospel. The main points of the gospel can also be shortlisted as
On hearing these points of the gospel from Amma, the protagonist would show his interest and inquisitiveness by way of his gestures or words to know something more in simpler way.
of this Section, Amma warns him of treachery. It is always damaging to one’s life. Deceit divides one’s self into two; one contests against the other in the game of life while facing the vicissitudes of life as shown here as “vagaries and variables”. Therefore, deceit should be avoided in life. It implies that one must be true to oneself.
In the fourth part, she illuminates him that deceitfulness in the following lines:
When one’s emotions overpower, one becomes slave to them: therefore, one should not fall prey to one’s desires. This act that makes one slave to emotions and victim of desires deceives one in one’s life. One, instead of becoming “a victim of desires” should try to be master of oneself – one’s reasoning mind.
In the last line of this stanza, “What is the way then? I would ask” (l. 40), the protagonist asks Amma ji to know the way to avoid “sham and deviousness”; so that he does not become “gadget of ego”.
In response to his query, Amma would respond by repeating her gospel
This repetition of the gospel emphasizes the gospel. That it is through one’s truthfulness and cool mind one can avoid falling prey to ego that demeans one even in one’s own eyes. This gospel advocates for uprightness in one’s character.
The second stanza tells that the trying conditions of life – “harsh transitions” – that she underwent while migrating and settling here in did not deter her – “could not shake her verve for life”. Her faith in her family and life was dynamic. She came here along with her entire family – “led her entire clan” – without any complaint. She did not lose heart but fought with the new circumstances at new place strongly to stand at her feet once again as sturdily as she was at earlier place, that she had to leave due to partition. She followed her earlier vocation without showing any vacillation in her character – “by simply being and doing” – whatever the new circumstances and life demanded of her – “whatever was required of her to be done”. She neither neglected her duty, nor her responsibility towards her family. It is manifest from the following lines:
The third stanza,
evinces Amma as an ordinary human being knowing well her shortcomings – “knew her limitations”. She wasn’t above other human beings. When she did no know any solution or answer to any family problem, she readily accepted it – “I don’t know”. But she had firm faith in one in whom she firmly believed. She would place her hand on her chest and would assert boldly:
She ever maintained that her saviour was always with her and He knows all solutions and answers to her/family problems, therefore, she had no doubt about it. This stanza shows Amma as a staunch believer in her dharma and her Guru or God. She knew well, if she was ever in any problem, her saviour would come to her help.
she appears as a religious lady. She would daily light the diya, an earthen lamp, before the Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) in her courtyard while performing her Aarti – prayer. In her prayer, she offered her gratefulness and sought after moral and, perhaps, bodily strength, never to be weak before any act that needed her courage in her family matters, from the source of her faith. The poet tells the readers:
Perhaps, by doing so, she wanted to give us a feel and make it permanent in our mind and character that there is some ruling deity, what we call God, the sole Principle of our life. Here, the poet has used “P” to spell principle which suggests the principle of self-reliant life. That principle helped her as long as she lived. Now it stands embedded in the life and psyche of her family members including the persona of the poem. This principle has made their life sanctified and happy even when she is no more. But, whenever, he remembers her at the present hard times of pandemic. The poet puts the idea beautifully in the following lines:
The last two lines hint at Amma’s “therapeutic response” to the poet when he invoked her wondering “how she would have had handled the uncertainty and tragedy caused by the pandemic Corona” (back cover) in the present pandemic. The other poems of the book need a thorough study to bring out the essence of Amma’s character and what she has bequeathed to her family.
The poem, ‘Wanderer’ (p. 91), has twenty lines in five stanzas having four lines each making the stanzas regular. It opens in an ordinary manner alluding to uncertain times. There may be so many reasons about this uncertainty. There is pandemic in the air that has taken a heavy toll of life around the world. No remedy is visible at present. All countries, rich or poor, great or small, developed or underdeveloped, are equally affected. At the top of it, lockdown has been clamped on free movement of people. People are dying without there nears and dears. At times they were being buried, hundreds together, in big pits. In cremation grounds, numbers are allotted for the respective turn. There is neither proper burial, nor cremation. There is so much panic about the disease that even close family members are not allowed to go near their family members. Even medical staff is scared and over-pressed for duty. This has made times not only uncertain but also difficult. There is no surety of life. No medicines, no injections and no vaccines are in sight and that has made life unpredictable. Amid such a chaos in life, human desires are aplenty: whosoever, gets a chance wants to mint money out of this situation; lovers want to love. Cravings have no end. All desires seek their accomplishment. The protagonist tells:
The persona, in the second stanza, asks for a day’s time to try his level best “to empty / the trunk of cravings”. These words suggest as if the cravings or desires are material things put in a tin box, bag or sack and it is so heavy that the speaker finds it very hard and heavy to pour out. Can desires be concrete like other objects? Desires are abstract: these may be about concrete things or abstract passions or emotions. The speaker is silent about their nature. He seeks permission of the person to whom he seems talking or the reader. So, he begs:
The third stanza, leaving aside uncertain times, unpredictable life, and desires talks about a journey. This is not oft repeated journey, but new one. He is very clear about it that it must commence purely and untarnished. He seems aware of the fact that cravings will, for sure, tarnish the journey, which the speaker wants to keep immaculate. There is no language to help the traveller on his journey. The last line of this stanza tells clearly that the protagonist has undertaken or is undertaking this journey “to explore the unknown”. The two words, “explore” and “unknown” throw light on the objective of the speaker. The destination of journey is not known. So, the traveller has to explore himself the ways and means to discover and investigate about this destination. The following lines make it clear:
In the fourth stanza,
the persona of the poem tells that he is not the sole traveller. There will also be others, who are also moving toward the same destination and belong to the same cosmos. Here, cosmos implies this world, though used in wider sense connoting universality of the thought. Though the speaker imagines larger number of travellers, yet is not deterred by their presence. This thought does not haunt the speaker and he stays undaunted and confident expressing no surprise that who he comes across on his way.
Once one has gone through the entire poem, the idea becomes crystal clear. This wanderer is moving on his journey all alone in search of “the unknown” of the third stanza. This unknown is none else than the Supreme one, who has been at the centre of the quest of the mystics right from the beginning of humanity. In his quest, one has to move by oneself. Therefore, this poem is a mystic’s untiring quest to search the identity of “the unknown”, who has ever since the dawn of humanity and spirituality eluded the seekers. But he wants to remain sincere in his exploration of this “unknown” or the source of mystic mind.
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