Literary Shelf

The Dark Daughter

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I
– Robert Browning in My Last Duchess

You do not do, you do not do   
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
– Sylvia Plath in Daddy

Is anything beyond me that I cannot catch up?
Tell me your names, dark daughters
Hold me to your spaces
In your dance is my elusive birth, my sleep
that swallows the green hills of the land
and the crows that quicken the sunlight in the veins,
and the stone that watches my sadness fly in and out
of my deaths, a spiritless soul of memory.
– Jayanta Mahapatra in Relationship

In the image of the dark daughter, we see Sylvia Plath’s Daddy, Jayanta Mahapatra’s Relationship, Nissim Ezekiel’s Philosophy, Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra, William Shakespeare’s Dark Lady and so on. Thomas Hardy’s secretary is too young to be chosen as better half to be called his partner too conjures upon the mind’s plane. Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, how can it be that the smiles will claim her life? The temples of Khajuraho and Konark and Meenakshi, Madurai, how to read the mind of the sculptors and architects and temple-builders and their motifs? How are the stories of dharma-artha-kama-moksha? The dark daughter is an image of Kali, Kali Shyama Kali, Shamshana Kali and from here Shyama Sangeet; Kali the Kali of sadhna. We can see twelve-feet Kali standing before us so huge and gigantic the clay idol, terribly dark and horrifying, just like the night, the night of sadhna. The image of Kali is dark and so is of the dark creation shrouded in mystery. Nazrul’s Shyama Sangeet and the impact of the second wife, we want to stitch the story for a cultural synthesis.  Ravinshankar’s Annapurna Devi, we remember it through her sacrifice which she made abandoning the sitar which fell silent after her marriage with him and the tensions burgeoning for a split.

In the image of the dark daughter see we Nagesgwara Shiva, Nagamani, Kalbhairava, Kalpurusha, Mahakal-kaleshwar Shiva, Lingam, Black Shiva-lingam, Shiva as Bhairava going with the dark black dog. Harindranath Chattopadhyaya’s Noon, Mystic Noon can be the point of deliberation. Yogini Devi, how to view them as the attributes? But we feel disheartened when confronted with the image of the devadasi. With the gods and goddesses to keep company, how can she like a yogini?

But the Sati system we abhor it. The atrocities meted out to the girl babies as for poverty, hunger, scarcity of food and resources, illiteracy and superstition in the form of human sacrifices and the gifting of the baby to the Mother Ganga we deplore it as Leyden and Derozio talk of in their poems. Jayanta Mahapatra’s poem on Bhagabati telling of Her beautiful eyes and the priest sitting sad and tearful as for the puja being over and Bhagabati going. Mahapatra’s poems as such Dawn at Puri, Hunger, Her Hand and so on tell of piety and reality standing at a variance with each other and the writ of unknown destiny none knows it, the crisscrosses of her fate-lines. What does her palmistry say it? D.H. Lawrence’s The Ship of Death, Shadows and other last poems open new vistas and avenues of thought and idea leading to the dark journey of oblivion.

But residues of meaning still remain,
As darkest myths meander through the pain
Towards a final formula of light.
I, too, reject this clarity of sight.
What cannot be explained, do not explain.
– Nissim Ezekiel in Philosophy

There is nothing dark or black, we see Krishna asking Yasoda, why is Radha fair and he black. A blue idol found from the excavations of the Parmar dynasty area can be cited as an example. An idol of Avalokiteshwara Buddha found from the Nalanda Mahavihara can be also presented before. Kamrupa-Kamakhya Kali reminding us as the Menstruating Goddess, how to see it Bhagabati, Shiva madly walking over the Neelachala domains with the body of Sati, how to relate to the fall of the limbs and turning of them into sacred spots? We do not know why is Radha fair, why is she somewhat dark after being hued in Krishna-colour?

Rabindranath Tagore’s Chandalika too opines us in the waiting of Chandalika for Ananda to come and drink water from her hands and her mother trying to appease her by distracting her mind. Adi Shankaracharya, how did he turn into a saint? How did he get the permission from her mother in to be a saint, allowing him to be a renouncer? How did he cremate when none came to his help, how did he go attending to her last call? How did he envision Daridranarayan in the form of a kangal rupa, Shankara standing before as a kangal boy and he having a tryst with the Divine unawares?

The dark daughter can be seen it through the pictures of Bhart ki garib bitia, India’s poor daughter living in huts leaking badly during the rains, sleeping on a date mat placed on the floor, unable to get food, working as a goat girl and living on stale food, going half-fed, half-clothed. The poor girl who turned a widow at an earlier stage of life can be the picture of it. India’s widow Nirala, Mahadevi Varma, have painted it. Mira’s pains and pines the world knew it not, the family felt it what it battered her.

The pain and pine of cursed Yaksha for Yakshini in Kalidasa’s Meghdutam can be referred to in this context. We talk of Vrindavan, the golden Vrindavan, but where is it? Is it in the manna or outside? Where can the image be seen? Have you sometimes thought about the old men living in Vrindavan? Something may draw them to, but reality is far different.

The dark daughter is a myth, a motif, a symbol, an idea, an image, a reflection, a thought and a dream. It is a vision and a brooding. How did we come to grapple with such an imagery? How could we dream about? How did the idea conjure upon? The dark daughter may be about Vishnu and Vishnulila, the lore of Vrindavan, the black idol of Radha and Krishna, Nilkanta Mahadeva, Nilmadhava and so on. The story does not end it here, as it is mythological, historiographical, mystical, spiritual, cosmological, theological, archival and metaphysical at the same time we read it. It is artistic and symbolic too. The love and art and artifacts can be seen in the enumeration and delineation of their characters and personae. The olden statues deep dark relating to the days of hoary past, carved and chiseled out of ‘bela’ tree logs, of Manasa and Shitala seated before, their image may be in it, in the picture and imagery of the dark daughter. The myths of light and darkness, how to unravel them? What  cannot be explained, explain you not. This is what Nissim Ezekiel writes about in his poems. Our relationship with the dark daughter we may not cut it. What is dark will remain it unto the last. Our creation is Blakian and Hopkinsian, as they say it about the duality and contrasts of thinking in Pied beauty and God’s Grandeur and Blake in Songs of Innocence and Ignorance. The image of the Shakespearean dark lady whose names divulges he not here in this poem.

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. 
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse 
– William Blake in London

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child: 
But I am black as if bereav'd of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree 
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say. 
– William Blake in The Little Black Boy

Poetry is about the pains of life, the relationship story. Indian poverty, hunger, who has striven to know it? Poverty reeking with the fall of the tear drops, have you seen it? Go and mark and say to me. How do people go unfed? How are they half-clothed? There is nothing to cover up. There was a time when they were unable to get meals two times and the lamp burnt not in the huts and the mud houses. Agrarian, pastoral, rural India’s pains, you know it not. Drought, famine, scanty rains, heat and humidity, all these you are aware of them not. How has the purdah pratha wreaked havoc? How has it transgressed the women to the background? How has medievalism? How dark were the medieval times when light seemed to have extinguished?

In the darkened room
a woman
cannot find her reflection in the mirror
waiting as usual
at the edge of sleep
In her hands she holds
the oil lamp
whose drunken yellow flames
know where her lonely body hides
– Jayanta Mahapatra in A Missing Person

A rural woman under the shades and shadows has been pictured, an Indian rural woman without a name, searching for identity, suffering from the quest for identity, feeling the crisis and maligned by it so much. Holding a hand in her hand, drowsily she waits for the coming of her lord.

In the darkness lived and passed they their days, in abject poverty and mismanagement. Social ills and evils raked us badly and we reeled under superstition, black magic, hocus-pocus and exorcism. How were our widows treated? How did the patriarchs and village elders misuse them overriding their human and property rights? How did the moral police dispense justice to the weak and the discarded ones? How were the invasions of India? How did they maraud the areas when they attacked, looted and plundered? How did they come and go away with the booty? How were the women treated?

Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hunger tells of the helplessness of life, tragedy of living under Charles Dickensian hard times which we may be fraught with, the struggle and suffering, hardship and trouble that we have to bear with. A poor daughter, how does she get involved in flesh trade and woman trafficking? How do situations draw her to? How are our sea beaches and our sense of tours and travels?

Can a father sell her daughter? Yes, it may be,  and we hear it about sometimes. In order to thwart dire poverty, one may fall victim to inner vendetta. Life is very difficult to talk about. What will it happen none can say it. Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge too says it about being given to unnecessary obsessive drunkenness and the selling of the wife in inebriation and the consequent fall from a height as for his wrongdoing and the leakage of the suppressed news.
It was hard to believe the flesh was heavy on my back.

The fisherman said: Will you have her, carelessly,
trailing his nets and his nerves, as though his words
sanctified the purpose with which he faced himself.
I saw his white bone thrash his eyes.
– Jayanta Mahapatra in Hunger

Without seeking blessings from the Shiva-linga, the mountains lurking around and the shadows hanging onto into the deeps or the shallows within lying as valleys, how to start the story of Relationship which but Mahapatra does it in. The things which he refers to relate to the Lingam-Yoni motif, the Shiva-Sati story yet to deepen it elsewhere where the mythical sense is so strong, but here a thin trickle of mysticism as it endows with Western works.

Once again one must sit back and bury the face
in this earth of the forbidding myth,
the phallus of the enormous stone,
when the lengthened shadow of a restless vulture
caresses the strong and silent deodars in the valley,
and when the time of the butterfly
moves inside the fierce body of the forest bear,
and feel the tensed muscle of rock
yield to the virtuous water of the hidden springs of the Mahanadi,
the mystery of secret rights that make up destiny;
– Jayanta Mahapatra in Relationship

The classical rock-built temples, their terraces and corridors leading to  ornate designs and carvings are no doubt grand architectural splendors, but devadasis misled by soothsaying and oracle, false illusions and hallucinations dreamt by florists, middlemen, door-keepers, night-watchmen, pundits and astrologers can never coax them to be temple-dwellers. How can they keep company with gods and goddesses?

The terracotta temples, small-small built from lime clay and small-baked bricks and with the figurines carved over atop on the sides speaking eye-to-eye may also prompt one in the writing of the dark daughter-related, appearing to be divine and mortal as well, mythical and mystical.   The love of sculptures and figurines and art and artifacts can also felt while taking it in a mythical context.

Gender bias, patriarchal hegemony, domestic violence and social taboos have shattered the womanly image in the same way just as we see the distorted, devastated images of disturbed life through the broken pieces of the mirror.

The love of Kali is in the dark daughter and her image. Whose color is it in her? Light and darkness are the sides of creation. Can a dark daughter with excellent face-cutting not look beautiful? Dark is beautiful is the cliché, the epithet and let us see in this manner too. The love for the dark daughter can be felt through Shyama Sangeeta. Why is Kali? None has known it. None has striven to know.

The dark daughter, we search the crux and reference in the body of Dalit literature and Black literature. Though nothing to do with Dalit or un-Dalit, Black or White, this is just to say that the essence is same, but the way of seeing is different. The extract of it all is humanism, the human sympathy that we all need or seem to be attentive to that. A poor Dalit girl, we are all sympathetic to her. But excess of everything is bad. Everything has a negative and a positive of its own. Does Charles Lamb not mention anything about the chimneysweepers? Were there not Victorian ghettos binding the women?

The dark image we can explain it going deep into Krishna consciousness, dealing with Shyam and Ghanashyam images, bringing into sight the dark and blue pictures of Vishnu, Krishna and so on. The churning of the ocean, the finding of the secret wealth of gems and jewels, taking away of the things with Lakshmi, Shiva taking to poison and rounding around snakes and so on tell a different story to be told mythically, taking to a pedestal of thought and idea. While taking to the dark, the story of the Kaliyadaman and the upholding of the Govardhana Parvat flash upon the mind’s plane as for a delving.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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