What the others have left he seems to be describing, taking up for an evaluation, a re-evaluation as for what did we promise at the time of the attainment of freedom and what we got, how have we stood up to the promises made and pledged? Now the time for realization has come, the time for re-assessment. The tales of freedom, who to tell? The situation is just like the radio talk of George Bernard Shaw broadcast over the BBC, London in which the dramatist seeks to know what it is freedom, who a freeman and what are the types of freedom. Are we free really? free Who can be free? So is the case herein. To see it in other words, it is but Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It is not the talk of Jayanta Mahapatra, but of every conscious human being, what have we for the widows, daughters and poor people? What have for the hopeless and the helpless? What have we for the desperate and the devastated? The answer which but every conscious being will say, we have done nothing for them. We have done nothing for those who expect it from. We do not think the women are in a better state even now. Many live below the poverty line. Still now many go half-fed, half-clothed. Many do not have the cots to sleep on. The small hutments, mud houses, they leak it badly during the rainy days, so shivering with cold during the wintry days and so full of humidity during the summertime.
The poet starting the poem in the likewise manner says it that he feels it at times his country’s body floats it into the river. He just imagines about to suppose that if sinks down or keeps floating the river, what will it happen? Just like a boat it will keep floating. The things will remain half-submerged, hidden from wide view as it happens during the rainy days with the flood warning when the villages go under water and the people run for rescue centres if any in the suburbs.
Left alone, he grows into a half-disembodied bamboo whose lower part is sunk into the bank. In this context we may hear the Tennysonian lines as said in The Brook,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.
From the river-bank the poet notices it all, the river and the people, the boats and the boatmen floating on the waters.
Here old widows and dying men cherish for to be free from. But the body does not freed so easily. Only prayers cannot give them all. What will a life of inaction give to? Does God hear the prayers of the inactive? God is in action. Blind faith cannot lead us far. Blind faith cannot give us food. God helps those who help themselves, is the thing of reckoning.
Children too talk of freedom nurturing and nourishing the dreams of it in an ideal way, thinking highly of it, upholding noble ideas. But they know it not what it is freedom. What the meaning of freedom? Freedom is just an imagination, a thought and an idea. Can you say, what do you understand by it? What do I? Are you free? Am I free? Do you not encroach or infringe upon someone’s rights? Practically we are not free. Theoretically and idealistically we are free. Freedom is that which one feels it after reading ‘Where the mind is without fear’. Khushwant Singh’s columns too speak of freedom and liberty even though he does mazak with us, comic, caricature and joke.
At times, as I watch,
it seems as though my country's body
floats down somewhere on the river.
Left alone, I grow into
a half-disembodied bamboo,
its lower part sunk
into itself on the bank.
Here, old widows and dying men
cherish their freedom,
bowing time after time in obstinate prayers.
While children scream
with this desire for freedom
to transform the world
without even laying hands on it.
In my blindness, at times I fear
I'd wander back to either of them.
In order for me not to lose face,
it is necessary for me to be alone.
Not to meet the woman and her child
in that remote village in the hills
who never had even a little rice
for their one daily meal these fifty years.
And not to see the uncaught, bloodied light
of sunsets cling to the tall white columns
of Parliament House.
In the new temple man has built nearby,
the priest is the one who knows freedom,
while God hides in the dark like an alien.
And each day I keep looking for the light
shadows find excuses to keep.
Trying to find the only freedom I know,
the freedom of the body when it's alone.
The freedom of the silent shale, the moonless coal,
the beds of streams of the sleeping god.
I keep the ashes away,
try not to wear them on my forehead.
On the one hand the pontifical and hypocritical ones talk of being over religious, but while on the other the people lie underdeveloped, hungry and distraught, so devastated in their life. The hamlets tell of their poverty, illiteracy, underdevelopment, living below the poverty line under miserable conditions. What does freedom mean to them?
But the sunsets glowing around the white pillars of Parliament House tell it otherwise taking to different panorama of life. Who are sitting therein? Who not? How the stories of it? The stories of people and the lands? How the story of the house? Who made it and when? And who leased it? Is it of the architects and masons? Or, of time? Is it of lawmakers or of people and their representatives? Who represents whom? How direct narration, indirect narration? Their voices sometimes echo and re-echo it in the house, but the people fail to hear it. The voices of agony, anguish, distress, bruise, distress, trouble, tribulation, struggle, suffering, pity, pathos and loss, a few can hear and overhear it.
In the new temple built near it, the priest knows what freedom is, but God seems to be hiding as an alien. How peculiar is the concept? How the oblique approach of the poet? What is religion? Where is God? Which is what and what is whose? Is God Daridranarayana or in kangal-bhojana? This too is a point of deliberation which but Adi Shankaracharya felt it once as Shiva showed him in the form of.
Each day he thinks of being light, hopes to be enlightened with, but darkness seems to be enveloping in. Darkness leaves him not alone and with the excuses it seems to be escaping each and every time.
An idea, a thought has both negative and positive aspects. The Gita too says it, ‘Annad bhavanti bhutani’, ‘The world is created from food or the things from food’, translate you as thus.
Do you want to see the land with the eyes of the unfed and the uncovered people? Try to know from them who have not been fed well. The eyes will tell a saga of life. The hungry stomach and the thirsty lips will tell the story of life as felt and experienced, trouble and tribulation faced and borne.
It is a different poem so indifferent in thought and idea, image and reflection. To quote in the words of William Wordsworth, we have grown too much worldly as the world is too much with us. But apart from all this, nothing can cut the base of existentialism, nothingness and nihilism. What are our institutions for? What is our purpose? What do we want? Do the humans not err? Are we sincere? What is the thing that is not intentional? Every work that we do is but self-tending.
Have we not heard, ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’?
The only freedom he has known it in life is but the freedom of the body. Putting the anti-thesis the poet says in the manner of G.B. Shaw, but Donne too says it but in a metaphysical way in Death, Be Not Proud.
To be religious is not to be blind to logic and reason. To be metaphysical is not to too much superstitious, mythical and mystical, unnecessarily supernatural. Along with karma, dharma too is important. To be a karmayogin too is a thing to be reckoned with. Only to talk about the sleeping gods is not good at all. Smearing the forehead with the ash, he does not want to look over religious and mystical. Rather than being hypocritical and pontifical, he wants to go in his own way.
To talk to, revert to freedom and its tale is to be back to the children, widows and poor people and to hear from them the tales of their hard life. So, rather than losing one’s face one needs to be silent. Why to say them all? Why to critique in a discerning way if the people like it not to hear the candid stories of freedom, liberty and independence?
Who is a legislator, who a lawmaker? What was he? What had he been when he was not? We do not want to discuss these. Who knows rule and regulation in what way we cannot say it. Something one learns from the chair. After all we are human beings full of errors and omissions, failures and foibles. Are we for law? If we are asked to say keeping the hands on the Gita, can we?
Law and justice? Are these the voice of the heart? Is law not a document? Say, who is for justice? Is justice not compassion? Who is a judge? Is he not a man? Who is whose? Who a criminal? Why is he a criminal? Is he a man or not? We do not understand. How the Jurisprudence of God we do not know it, it is beyond the comprehension of human mind!
Is the court for litigation or reconciliation? Or should, there be some acquittals? The lapses of law, how to compromise with? Something needs to be borrowed from dhamma.
I too thought it similarly while celebrating the fifty years of India with some thinking which I kept ruminating. What have we for the widows, women and children? For the poor daughters of India? What did we for the old men? For the addicts? Did we ever think of making rehabilitation centres? Did we ever about the making of the old man houses? Could we eradicate poverty? Could we do away with hunger?
Such a thing it is in political science and its theories and the consequences of historical movements. Democracy, equality and fraternity, good is the message of the French revolution, but what did we do to the king’s family, the Bolshevik revolution, the Russian revolution, we appreciate it for socialism, uniting the labourers of the world, admiring the dignity of labour, but what did we do the Czar family? Democracy turned into a chaos and socialism in proletariat dictatorship.
The jurisprudence of law is something different, is but the metaphysical side of it. Situations, circumstances and times keep changing. Everything does not remain the same. The chariot of time keeps it rotating. What we see it today will not be tomorrow. What it seems to be is nothing and nothing is what it seems to be. The charkha of fate too keeps spinning. What one will become none can predict it. Not even the astrologers and palmists. Do they know their fate? The history of land, the history of time, the history of man, we know it not. The history of the house the house-builders know it well, but we take it not their version, we just enter into, take the version of the kings and their people, we mean the courtiers. Such an anti-thesis it is in George Bernard Shaw even though he may be a propagandist, a monotonous talker. Such an aspect it is in George Orwell’s Gandhi and elephant shooting essays. Such a thing it is in John Galsworthy. Read them and say you. The British historians of constitutional history will enlighten upon the topic in hand.
But there is something to learn from R.K. Narayan’s An Astrologer’s Day, Oscar Wilde’s The Model Millionaire, O. Henry’s The Last Leaf, Leo Tolstoy’s Three Questions, A.L. Tennyson’s Ulysses, Samuel Brecht’s Life of Galileo, K.A Abbas’ The Refugee, Lady Gregory’s Rising of The Moon and so on.
Freedom is not of human rights activists or freedom fighters. Freedom is not in charters. Freedom is in the sense of being free; freedom is in the understanding of mass and matter. How to take liberty with the idea is the main?
Nissim Ezekiel’s The Patriot and Night of the Scorpion too teach about the clarity of thought and idea.
It is better to be alone and to confide in reckoning. The flight of imagination has always lured us and has a charm of its own. To confute and contradict is not at all good all the times. But the thoughts keep swaying and images swapping positions and places. Allen Ginsberg too lessons it otherwise as for what the digressed and lost generations have given in as for spiritual thirst and search for knowledge abandoning material pleasure.
Freedom is not what you think, what I think. Freedom is an experimentation with liberty and while experimenting with, if one fails, the other may make a way for.
It will right to conclude the poem with Rousseau’s line:
“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.”