Book Reviews

Aju Mukhopadhyay's Vast Akash: A Critical Study

“Vast Akash”, an anthology of Poetry in English by the famous poet Aju Mukhopadhyay, is just out. I am glad that it reached me immediately and I consider myself lucky to have an opportunity to read it first and enjoy it. As is evident from his other works of similar genre, his poetry takes us to a highly sensitive universe, where philosophic reasoning and otherworldliness hold their sway. A dialogue with someone is devised by the poet to satisfy his own inquisitive self. Properly worded enquiry makes his work subtle and of considerable depth. What flows out of his pen, becomes something new, agreeable, and enjoyable – worthy to be explored further.

Speaking at the very outset, and almost esoterically, “Vast Akash” is the most honest rendering of contemporary life -life of a common man, with his philosophy of life living in its immediate neighbourhood of superb imagination about an ideal life and most friendly people around together with day-to-day activities amidst risks and dilemmas of uncertainty, poverty, drudgery and also of wistfulness.

The poet, wearing the face of an ordinary denizen of the country, no doubt starts his career quite hopefully. He falls prey to the feudal forces (saying euphemistically) and dishonest elements. Light seems to have gone out of him. He takes no pleasure in ordinary celebrations. On the way his faith in good things of life has disappeared, and ironically it has been replaced by the active madness for earning money by hook or by crook. His ambitions lead him to meanness. In fact, he philosophises that nature is the same as before, but man’s outlook has obviously undergone a change. The bazaar has brutalized him. Everything in him has gone awry. All this has affected the literature too. In his poetry, all this, is stocked cheek by jowl.

Despite the fact that the poet lives in India, he is quite concerned about his neighbourhood. He describes quite lively the aftermath of the earthquake in some parts of Nepal. Next to this poem, there is an exquisite poem which describes the poet’s feelings in a short space. It is placed in the wake of the previous poem on Nepal to say that hope never gives way even up to the last. The phenomenon of “Leaving a long road behind/And a small path ahead” (Hope Never Gives Way. 13) is ever encouraging and inspiring. Anything at any moment may shrink and accommodate and comfort the suffering ones.

Perhaps, The Storytellers (14) are songsters of dirge that resulted from the fall of night. The poet is a visionary here, acting as a powerful medium in the ‘untold story’. It justifies the title of the poem, mysteriously through the imperceptibility and ironically emerging out without any sound. It appears that it is nature, in one form or other impacting the philosophic vision of the poet. Impossible? (15), the poem may not directly point out the concern about nature but “A grasshopper shark-teeth were in a park eating leisurely/A gorilla giant/Tasting sweet/ Observing it a greedy gnat/ Gobbled them up together/ Both at a gulp. (15)

In his thought process time is achromatic, which in due course of time slowly squeezes the being out of breath. He also realises that time is not favourable to all. It is achromatic. Other forces act upon it to create something or annihilate everything in the long run. And great truth dawns upon him that time is a witness to everything happening around. And again, like an inconclusive thinker he ends up that “Time flows and flows not / It is and is not” (Time Achromatic 16) and leaves the reader guessing as to what that is ‘something else’ that decides.

Amid several disturbing thoughts, the poet thinks of ‘peace’. Real peace depends on man’s inner and outer circumstances. If the inside is shattered, there is no peace worth the name. A peaceful person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This is an ideal definition of a peaceful person, at least in an age in which the disturbing voices are making people restless and mentally disturbed.

There are poems, one after the other, that indicate the keen observation of the poet, and his capability of turning it into beautiful poetry.  Philosophy and ordinary scenes of nature and actions and behaviour of human beings around ultimately force him to utter such philosophic lines: “Everything is in a state of flux . . . /Closing eyes with a cat resting/ Viewing fishes swimming /Or watching the birds flying…” (Tension and Relaxation 21)

Amidst tension and relaxation and serious thoughts about death and survival of species, the poet relaxes for a while thinking of love, woman, beauty, erotic feelings, attractions; summing up his thoughts in one very important observation –“Love-making has been without rhythm and rhyme” (Love 23). He admits that his love is somewhere on earth, not in paradise.

The poet chooses examples for similes and metaphors from the daily life and activities around him to explain the paradoxes or realities of life of human beings. His lines remind us: “In search of the essence of the thing/ Let us dip our antennae/ Into the nectar of our being/ Like the self-absorbed butterfly” (Self-absorbed Butterfly 24). Such examples are found abundantly in several other poems too. In “Sky and Earth” (26) the poet says – “Earth is round so the sun, moon / Sky is full of celestial globes”, and they live in harmony with one another, following the ideal of non-involvement. But the human beings do the opposite. They have different religions and tend to fall apart. Man is bound by many a human limitation.

Seasons like the Spring fill the hearts of human beings with greenness, colour, smell, sound and warmth, but human beings are ignorant that all this is short lived. Another beautiful poem is “Welcome, Welcome!” (28) full of exquisite images like copious rains, copper colour sun, water glistening on the leaves, fresh smell rising from the soil. Similar is “Glorious Kanchanjungha” (29-31)-elusive peak playing hide and seek, and light of dawn greeting the visitors. Amidst the beautiful descriptions of nature, we find an odd, but an essential poem like “A Modern politician” (34-35)- “while grabbing power raising his finger high.” “Glorious Durga Puja Days” (36) and “Faithfulness” (37-38) have consciously been placed immediately after it presenting a contrast. Precariously placed around here is a prosaic poem- “Preconditions to Achieve World Peace.” (42). “Plastic Monster” (45-46) created by man is threatening him only. Some of the poems rue the fact that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, like a legend met with his tragic end by modern Indians. (A Legend met with his Tragic Fate 49-50) Ironically, they commit this sin whereas their innocent children are the largest victims in the modern world. They are anaemic, hungry, poor, vulnerable to various diseases. Similarly, the blacks of Africa are being maltreated in various countries. He warns that it is time for them to assert themselves. Side by side are beautiful description of natural scenes. But man is essentially a hunter, and subdues the weaker animals, even insects. In this array of miscellaneous poems, we find the glowing verses like Japanese haiku like “sky silent infinite, Quiet, immobile peace” (Poems Lantern 73) However, the human existence in the modern world is precarious.  But amidst this emerge the women to be leaders in modern nations.

I shall miss the beauty and charm of autumn if I do not mention the poem “Autumn in India” (80). We find the beautiful description when “Sefali or night jasmine” emits fragrance of the autumn. Important part of the anthology is “Birth and Spread of Covid 19” (86). He says- “It is the modern bio- warfare, a bioterror/ Cold and vicious, peaceful; hiding its face in a corner.” It is followed by another poem – “Humans on Edge Animals Fail to Gauge” (88). The situation is better explained in, “As if a civilisation is shifting its base /Away from the pristine source /Away from all earthly resource / To help a few to amass all wealth in their hands . . . .

Halting the natural progress / Through Natural process. / It necessitates removal of all those

Responsible for this state /A pack of in-humans at their best” (Life on Line 106)  

Along with all this he does not miss remembering Subhas Chander Bose and Aurobindo Ghose…. Thus, it is a mixture of enthusiasm about Nature in its various forms, with the nature of man to turn it to his benefit and derive utmost pleasure from it. The poet is essentially a serious observer of both human beings and nature looking at them together striking a balance between them, thus producing a magnificent cocktail of poetic texture.

‘Vast Akash’ is indeed a crucible for creating life-giving and fascinating nectar like beverage suiting the lovers of poetry. The present anthology that is, “Vast Akash” is certainly a further milestone in Aju Mukhopadhyay’s poetic journey.

Work Cited

Vast Akash. Kolkata: Penprints 2022


More by :  Dr. Kailash Ahluwalia

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 174      Comments: 0

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.