Book Reviews

Sagar Mal Gupta: Songs of India and the World

The Songs of India and the World, by Sagar Mal Gupta,
Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly, 2019.
78 pages. Price: Rs.180/-

The blurb makes us know the poet’s education and achievements as an ELT expert. Educated at Edinburgh University (UK). He explains the title: “The word song literally means a composition that is sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. But here the word has been used in a general sense that is a creation that has the rhythm of feelings, emotions and sentiments, the rhythm of ideas, thoughts and unique experiences, the rhythm of meaning and the rhythm of figures of speech and new and startling expressions.”

Now aged four score and upwards, as a reviewer I began to look up ‘laughter’. I remembered my English Professor who suggested that I read English Idioms by James Main Dixon. What I wanted to know about is laughter. Once I remembered - -one who laughs, lasts. There is more to than one thinks, or remembers. Sagar Lal Gupta is nearly eight years senior to me, nearing ninety. His book The Songs… and the world made me think deeply about songs and more about laughter. Fun and frolic keep minds smiling, laughing and cajoling.

The first poem ‘India’s Identity…’ starting about Columbus. I quote

The American found it difficult
to cross the road even at the zebra crossing.
He saw a cavalcade of cars scurrying across through
Ignoring the pedestrians crossing the road
then all of a sudden appears
young motor-cyclists spinning their (sic)
vehicles and cutting their way
through an inch of space
In between the cars and a series of trucks.
In between comes a tractor trundling along.
A donkey cart was not afraid of scuttling
Its way through the procession but the height of excitement
When a marriage party arrives on the scene
With a bridegroom riding a horse
Being led by a colonnade of dancers. (p. 9)

Now, my friends read and enjoy the fun and frolic. I promise, I don’t bother you long.

The poem does not end here. I leave the poem here for the reader to get further fulfilment.

Wall of Tears begins with the tears of the girl’s parental house. See the ending and take your hanky out wipe your tears and ends:

They heard water falling from the roof drains
then there was another drain
that spewed water incessantly
… like Honokohau Falls
Forming a wall of tears. (p11)

The poet helps the reader with a note at the end about Hawaii.

Now, there is the camel festival of Bikaner. The camel festival is in Rajasthan from 11th to 13th Jan.

The place is famous for namkeens, and rasagulla (p14)

Then, there is a poem about a kite festival. We are told about the pigeon being stalked by disaster – with sharp hundred poisonous fangs, its wings being severed.

Our poet flies abroad, to Brazil now. The reader is told about the Ibis Egyptian god of birds and the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Then there is a poem about a knife day. Japanese have many kinds of knives!!! (p,22)

All our readers would be surprised to know about dine-dashers. Reader would enjoy reading of slinks.

Here are parts of a poem – space is important –

The politicians have a strong
Hunger for unopposed power.
If father becomes a minister
Son cannot be far behind.
A minister’s wife, son, daughter
all are participants in power.
The unavoidable hung
equal fellow participants.
The commoners, the rich and the politicians
Equal fellow participants. (p26)

The poem- called a prose poem - on poverty festival is funny. But more laughable is the statement about politicians.

During election season, politicians
Outsmart each other in making promises
…. ….. ….. …
In India, a political leader
Is worshipped like God. (p.29)

There is a poem on slum children:

We are not ashamed
to say that we are
children of slums.
We were born amidst garbage
We keep growing up in dirt
Garbage nurtured us
embraced us and
gave us utmost affection and love…. (p35)

There is a poem on the will God.

Lifeless, blood less
merely skeleton of bones
but full of spirit.
His living is useful to them
and the rest of the world.
His desire or others’ desire
matters not.
His living or dying
depends on the will of God. (p39)

Humour is the poet’s mint house. There is a poem A Cockroach in a State of Trance.

For days together
I saw a cockroach
in the corner of the bath room
just above the water closet
stationary, immobile, motionless
as if in a state of trance
signalling that a state of trance
is not the privilege of homo sapiens. (p.40)

Humour is manifold just as laughter is multi-faceted. The Rat’s Tale is such.

I am a furry animal of the soil
With a pointed nose and a long tail.
The earth is my dear mother
I prefer to live in the burrows
dug out by own hard toil.
I never read anything honest and truthful.

We are told in a note that the poet is grateful to the Odia poet Sachi Rot (sic) Roy. The poet also remembered Shelley’s Wasteland.

On Friendship Day described how people celebrate friendship days.

… ….. ….. …. …
They have gifted me generously
beauty, love fruitful ideas (this is sweet)
… ….. ……. …. …. …
rich experiences without out
expecting anything in return.
Can there be any better friends? (p47)

You are intelligent enough to understand the irony of the clever poet.

There is a children’s poem titled Who is Superior. The end is Water deserves to be worshipped. (48)

A Tree’s Agony is funny. See the first line I aspired to be as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Read what happened to the feet of the kid run over by a motorist. The last lines are But the motorist slunk away without any regrets. (p. 48

Mutuvan People of Kerala has these lines too:

They cross mountains
and fish in the river
gather honey in the face of
attack by wild animals.
If they can’t lay their hands on eatables
they collect grass and leaves
Bake them and eat them.
For them every day is a day of celebration
crossing the leech-infested marshy lands.
They gather in one place
sing, dance and gambol
till they drop exhausted
in slumber’s arms
to wake up the next day
amidst boisterous laughter and jolly mood. (p.51)

The most loveable, affectionate poems of Gupta’s is F-A-T-H-E-R. WE must all adore it.

“Father” means unflinching faith in God is the
“A” is unbounded affection for mankind
“T” is the pursuit of truth
“H” is the heart full of compassion
“R” is a reservoir of energy
If you put all these letters together
They make “Father” human life’s creator and benefactor
Always venerable, adorable and lovable. (p.55.)

This is the most serious, lovable poem from Guptaji’s mind and heart

A Ubiquitous Mobile phone is truth, actuality and need.
It is not a gadget
but trusted friend
share all secrets, all information
it is a music teacher, a teacher of languages
….. …… …. ……. ….. ….
The only difference lies in that
While God is perfect and free from evils
A mobile phone is mixed blessing
It is not without its share of evils
That pester, harm the user
And society at large, (p.58)

Increasing Insensitivity is about three young men who hit a truck and one died instantly. The following is a thought-provoking question. I copy it full for your understanding and positive action.

Do we have Narcissist attitude towards life?
…. … …… …… ….. ….
Nobody knows the real cause of this insensitivity, it seems.
The feelings of love, compassion
Sympathy might help
In sharpening our deadened sensitivity. (p.59)

The poet goes to discuss violence and all sensible readers must read and think about the judgements.

The judge said that country
Is in the grip of serious violence.
The murders and rapes are on the increase.
….. …… ….. …. …..
Can’t we create jobs for the unemployed?
Can’t we ban the use of pornography on the net?
We shall expectantly wait for that day. (p.60)

For some reason Haikus are widely written and lovingly practised. Our friend ends his book with a Haiku.

Promises galore
Performances not in sight
Must be a politician 


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

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