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Flowering, Maturity and Crystallization of the Poet from Tirupathi


Poet Vasudeva Reddy (b.1943) published seven collections of his poems. All the seven need a quick look to trace the poet’s achievement of poetic imagination. Students of English literature are enthused by what they studied in their undergraduate courses and what they read later. Milton’s Paradise Lost, Gray’s Elegy, the poems of veteran romanticists, Tennyson and Eliot and the memories of their poems lay down a sort of foundation for their creative poetic imagination. Indian English poets are basically lovers of English poetry. When Grief Rains was published in 1982. Vasudeva Reddy dedicated his first collection to his father who, he tells us, taught him English and instilled in him the love of poetry. The very first collection won encomiums from critics both in our country and abroad.

The first is a collection of poems where melancholy, cerebration and sadness reign and there is not much happiness or joy in his imaginative expression. The title poem When grief Rains conveys a feeling of intense feeling of sorrow.

When gales of sorrow
Wreck my spirit,
Misery storms my being
And grief rains incessantly
I wish to drench myself,
Depart from these ills
and enter the pores of the earth
… … …

Gales, storms, rain give rise to desire too though not strong. Practicality and instinctive self-protection make him think of equipping himself with a mackintosh. Earlier he wrote on Futility too.

The Nothingness around me gapes and gasps
It hardly breathes – a baneful breeze.

The imagery is bright and evocative even in the shortest of his poems, The East:

Look at the east
still it is dark
and invisible hand
has lit the vaulted pyre;
from the gray ashes of yesterday
Rise the rays of sun light

The present taking birth from the past, today from the gray ashes of yesterday and the radiance of the invisible hand make the readers thoughtful and take them to heightened sensibility. For a first volume, there is so much of fine sensibility about the nature of human life. In the Spark of Being there is a mystic, philosophical attitude and fine expression:

Between seed and plant shimmering light
That shoves the eternal night into infinity
and showers the serene drops of tranquility
… …. …
The crux that baffled the brain of Sophocles
the tiny seed – the embryo

Moralization and wordplay attract the poet’s attention in the early stages of his creative and imaginative expression. See in the poem Patience:

Have patience
That is your armour.
… …. …
Be patient or become a patient:
Make an ashram or an asylum
The prescription has been patented.

The worry about decadence which is becoming the bane of modern civilization is usually the poet’s mental conclusion:

Civilization has grown
with the speed of a snail;
the day is not far off
when the monstrous python
of greed, deceit and lust
would devour society

The poem Potent Drop reminds us of Tennyson, the lotophagi and indolent enjoyment. The ‘I’ of the poet asks himself:

Why should I waste
my short span of life
by thinking of those
that laugh at my sorrows
and wish to toll my knell?

Cultural decadence is a matter of concern and pain for the poet to be deeply thoughtful right from the beginning of his poetic activity. Loss of faith, utter neglect of tradition and lack of trust in heaven and God are the central themes of many of his poems. A Pinch of Faith speaks of those who buy dead bodies with fake notes:

The raucous rays of their eyes,
burn the culture of the ages
illumine the livid light of the pyre
the departed sneeze, sniffing a pinch of faith.

It is only philosophy that one takes recourse to. We are told by many poets that paths of glory lead but to the grave. In Transience, Vasudeva Reddy says the same in a pensive vein.

Beauty and beggary merge in clay
Great deeds are writ on water,
All glories led only to dust.

Similar is the conclusion of the poem The Mortal Frame:

Life as a gruesome game full of stink and stench
With neither sunshine nor raindrops to guide to the shore.

Death is the theme in the poems toward the end of this collection. Quiet in the grave tells us:

Vulgar death dances a murky round
A funambulist on a knotty thread;

Somnambulist is wordily transformed as funambulist, fun-walker. In Memoriam starts with a statement and goes on:

My boy took a clean slate and
wrote alphabets from A to Z
… …. …
Our lives, when we depart
are letters swept off the slate
Death is the only reality
dust is the only eternity.

The poem I See No Other Way concludes:

The exit of the grasping breath alone
shall release me from the lingering pain.

Ashes describes the way life comes to an end – not with a bang or a whimper, but in agony and ashes:

Souls fly in agony
On burning wings
Into the realm of ashes.

The second collection, The Broken Rhythms, (1987) shows a significant development. The poet moves forward with musical cadences in expression. The lilts, the chimes, the twangs and thumps become impressive. The irregular rhythms in life and living particularly the life in our motherland lead to deep pain in his understanding of those. Thousand Pillars is a description of the 12th century Kaktiya temple destroyed in the 14th century historical capital of the rulers in Orugallu. The temple remains even now and 70km away there is the Ramappa Temple. The mindless Devastation of the great structures by enemies is touchingly described:

The cry in mute agony
… …. …
The speck of every tiny wreck
is an indelible blot on humanity
the negation of any noble creed;
While divinity throbs the stone
The ruins preach the selfsame gospel.

Poetry which does not preach anything directly or suggestively would not last long. Fortune- Teller with his parrot under a shady tree in the rural areas is a picture of reality, now not seen extensively.

To touch the tip of Fortune’s toe
even in dream is a bliss in woe;
…. ….. …
The fortune teller
doubtful of his morrow’s fortunes
counts his easy earning on the canvas

His earnings are not much or easy. That way of living requires skillful mind-reading and scintillatingly expressive expression and even breath-taking make-up of the person who takes that. The two poems The Train and Travel by Bus are thoroughly native, thanks to the still developing condition of our country.

Men may come and men may go,
grey heads die and babes tumble
but the train translates on parallel rails
as time sprints forever on invisible tracks.

Travel by Bus is a progress too.

With hearts in our palms
we sat like frightened cats
Sound and fury, break and creak
A huge bang and senses in disarray.

The Village is a realistic picture and it is the place of existence for the poorest of the poor, lepers, beggars and the like besides of course the farmers.

A semblance of a seeming hand
mutilated by some higher power
stretches a plate in grateful bow
Some pity his gnawing fate,
a few spit at his odious sight;

The heartrending realism in the farmers’ pensiveness is here in The Pensive Farmer for whom the yield is never certain.

All the village is quiet as the graveyard
veil of darkness concealing its flaccid face

The politicking panchayat leaders rarely come to the succor of even the poorest of the poor without a price.

Caesar’s conspirators pale feebly here
Like an oil lamp before the eclipsed sun
panchayat is a crafty cobweb
Pregnant with potent potion.

The Swamiji is a scathing satire on the growing category of god-men. In decadent times faith would be surely in the hearts of the affluent but it is only outward and not either heart-felt or deep. Here is the portrait of the right worshipful:

For he ate only apples, cashew nuts and dried grapes
Drank pure milk and juice brought by fair-sex
His holiness, left leaving his fragrance behind.

Child is a short but very fine poem. For the avid learner a playing child would be a teacher.

It grabbed
a pinch of dust
between the fingers
looked stealthily
before and behind
put it in the tiny mouth
A few quick steps
all is earth and dust.

In our motherland rural life goes on in different rhythms, broken, tumultuous, sometimes stolid and sometimes somber, sedate or squalid. Faith wavers – virtue is considered weakness. The poem Existence is a prayer:

Oh Lord! Give me strength
To face it (life) with grit and to know
Journeys end and its meaning.

Poverty is alarmingly painful as seen in the callous heartlessness of the youth and the rich. The poet calls the pilgrimage to Sabari Malai a matter of Quaint Faith. Huge crowds trek the long distance through the wilds to go up the hill.

They walked danced and chanted
The great name, the Healer;
… … … …
Lean shoulders relieved of kavadi
heaved at the vicissitudes of fortune
and yearned for the tantalizing grace.

The metallic smell of ‘Om Maruga’ only distracts the speaker of the poem from his nap.
The Beggar’s Bowl speaks of the woman on the balcony and the wealthy man as a contrast. The rich man throws something:

Threw a piece into the cracked bow;
a bitch came in time and devoured it
The dusty bowl smiled on the moving monster.

The poet’s sadness grows, deepens and almost strangles him in the poem My Soul’s Plea:

I am the eclipsed sun
and the moth near the lamp.

The New Year Day is no day of celebration or feeling of joy:

I have crossed many milestones
that make my bare feet bleed
This game of aimless journey goes on
Till it is arrested by the tombstone.

There is an overwhelming sadness owing to the feeling of agony for the decadence in values in the glory of modernity. The Sacred Soil lost its sacredness:

In this ancient land
of glorious cultures
omnivorous vultures
reign supreme

The title Broken Rhythms is apposite for even the last poem is one of grief:

All human pomp and ambition
merge at last in dust and ashes.

The third collection Fleeting Bubbles (1984) has no joy or happiness. Lacrimae rerum, tears in the nature things, makes the poet (and us thoughtful) along with the wails from his poetic imagination. The titles of the poems in the collection are indicative of the poet’s feelings and imagination: The Hospital, Flux of Life, The Cry, The Wreck, In Exile are examples to cite a few. The Indian Bride is a plaint against injustice:

Having bought the groom in auction
as cattle dealers buy their lusty bulls
she is content to be his slave
ready to play to his whimsical tunes
and pay heavily for the dear prize.

In Flux of Life there is no joy or satisfaction:

When time rings the final bell
unawares we make our exit
from the stage with a sigh.

An Old Woman is about a helpless destitute:

A statue to tolerance fed on ignominy
A haunted figure with a soul wrung in agony.

The Snake-charmeris no more charming:

For all the risk he courted
he got a handful of rice.

In Exile how can there be anything bright or happy?

As integrity becomes crippled
Hypocrisy climbs atop the ladder
and reigns supreme in seer’s garb
mocking at honest in exile.

Memories is a poem worth ever remembering

Without yesterday without tomorrow
today has no life nor meaning.

Blessings of Jasmine are a divine blessing:

The newly wedded couple
have their lovely whispers
beneath the jasmine bower
that scatters flowers on the pair.

God only can help us escape from the stink of human life and existence, its ugliness, vicissitudes and darkness. The poem The Supreme Being is a revelation of joy after grief- stricken heart:

In the blooming petal of the flower
I behold the smile of the Almighty
In the full blossom of the spring
I see the fullness of the Creator.

Melting Melodies (1984) is the fourth collection. The poet’s imaginative fervor has increased and the flowering is now reaching fruition. The poem on Kalyani Dam is about the great structure. The waters flowing are spoken of symbolically as a woman with child at the end.

Like a pregnant woman
with terrible beauty
the wearied waters glide.

Dharmasala is suggestively a paean to the sage there, the right worshipful Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh. The destination of the devout is the mountainous region for contemplation and tapas near the holy places, nearer to the peaks of the Himalayas. The Tibetan Monk’s abode is our Dharmasala.

A tranquil place for lofty thoughts
An unearthly spot on the heights of earth
A ‘thapovan’ for sages to meditate
The snowy peaks makes the soul sublime

The poet has reverence for historical monuments of the ancient rulers like the Kakatiyas of Orugallu, now called Warangal. The Fort is a poem about Chandragiri near the poet’s place Tirupathi where the hoary Vijayanagar kings lived after shifting from Hampi.

Amid the vast expanse of desolate ruin
fallen crowns and vanished scepters
stands crestfallen the majestic Raj Mahal
…. …. …. …
Every piece of ruin, a marvel of art in stone,
caves a mute message, echoes a faded epic,
each tiny speck an iridescent luminous spark.

The Taj is a poem about our country’s present pride, Taj Mahal, a joy for ever for any lover of majestic love. The poet feels that the sight fills the mind and soul with serene love:

Fabulous memory of a pensive tale
a marvel of chiseled elegy in marble
whose every stone echoes the epic of love

While the poet’s imagination soars high, his mind still cannot mitigate sorrow and penury of the downtrodden. The woman who suffers makes the poet’s heart throb with compassion and pity. The Toiling Woman breaks rocks but not the hearts of the rich:

She lifts stones and bricks
with eyes full of wicks,
builds for others mansions and forts
to roll in foaming comforts;
All her sweat insures her hut
while her toil enthrones the lust.

The Tiller is also a hard working peasant:

Braving the meridian heat
of the mid-summer
… …. …
Your cankered heart
breeds dry and hot
that bridge the soil and the sky

Sinful, indolent and rapacious politicians are disgusting to all and more poignantly to the poet who talks of their elephantiasis and capacious stomachs. Our Leader is illustrative of his dislike:

while his henchmen sever many a head
he wins by spreading the pall of dread
and slices of momentary bread.

Penury is everywhere and in this collection of poems too. A beggar-like person is spoken of in the poem The Bird Hunter who hunts only to keep his body and soul together on the infernal altar of greed body and soul intact:

He kills only to save his skin
while his superiors and leaders
relish slaughtering values

Devilish doctors and wrong-headed academics are also described in this section:

The doctor with a homely purse
washes his unclean hands
a tear from the resurrected Christ
nailed to a cracking wall
washes the bleeding wound.

Red Triangle is about surgeries called tubectomies in women. Then there is a plangent threnody on University Wits, professors:

His eyes winked through the spectacles
but feigned to go through lines –
live electric wires to such lives
At last his languid lips lisped
and the Delphic oracle came:
‘I am too busy, I can’t spare
five minutes till two summers.

An Interview tells another tale of dismay, a sad and painful incident:

The campus flowed with the stream of his breed
who could propagate the cream of his creed;
as gales of regalia kissed his frame
the sons of Shadwell reigned supreme

This satire is as scathing as Alexander Pope’s in his Dunciad where Shadwell is pooh-poohed plentifully. There is still another in The Fair Sex Centre again on headless heads in the academia. This time the gnash is on the unfair fair-sex.

Homely heads at the fair-sex centre
harped on merit till the end of winter
but in summer struck it with stick
and in triumphant joy applied lip-stick

Mercifully by God’s grace there is an exception in the Omniscient Teacher:

A transformation
metamorphosis great
gifts of magic all
a burning candle
glowing halo
my great Teacher there
a sight divinely omniscient.

An aphoristic phase comes in here in the poem That Thing Money:

Even a corpse needs coins
to enter quiet dusty grave
and escape the steely puncturing beaks

A Bubble contains another

Life is a bubble, a bauble

The last poem The Sacred Hills is a prayer:

Fill our hearts with selfless love
sow in our lives seeds of light.

Pensive Memories (2005) is the fifth collection. This carries the Foreword by Nissim Ezekiel who is a renowned poet who died in 2004 of Alzheimer’s incurable disease after long years of suffering. He was impressed by Vasudeva Reddy’s simplicity and the undeniable truth of his statements in his poems. In this volume and the later ones the passion for high-sounding words is given up and the earlier tinges of wordiness is contained with power, skill and wisdom. Can I Sing has these telling lines:

Can I die
A quiet and easeful death
Wth a mind (now) full of cares
And body full of sores and snares

This mood is surely a passing one since there are two joyous poems a little later: The joyous poem The Bridal Bosom:

Free from care I wish to leap and hop
and float on the foamy crest
and rise as a ray in the dawning east

While this is the speaker’s song, the bride’s wish is described thus:

The sweet music of her bridal bangles
wafts her on the breezy waves of bliss
where her serene soul sings to the rainbow
which she wishes to bend in ecstasy.

There is another joyous poem Sailing Saree where the reader comes across mellifluous lines:

As she glides with ease
aided by wafting breeze
the sailing end of her saree
spreads the voluptuous snare
and turns the shallow minds lazy

The dullness of mind creates ideas of death and the elegiac mood comes. A Lone Bird is the precursor:

He was older by ten summers
… … …
Alas, he stood alone, a lone bird
waiting for his destined chance
to meet his other half afar
like the famed
That waits for a drop of rain.

In the poem Pseudo Spark the lover’s passion is described as the thing leading to sadness and sorrow:

Their eyes flash at the other’s sigh
That shows the pseudo-spark
of lightning in a dark canvas.

After this in the poem, This is the City, there is penury and its consequent pain:

Povert dances a weird round
in tune with the club’s tipsy steps around
… …. …
The dim light from the AC rooms
winks at the ghost by a kerosene lamp
near the tearful eyes of the poor housewife.

Wisdom of the highest order makes man think of maya. In the philosophical poem Maya, this what the poet says:

All the world is a huge illusion
This life is an alluring snare, a
Birth and Death two sides of the same coin,
… …. …
Joy and sorrow lose their odd identity
And merge in vast colours of vacuum
All pomp and pride of earthly
Maya fade into dust
The divine
Maya mocks at the signatures on water.

Grief is writ long and hard in the poem Waiting even before the long elegiac poem on the death of his wife:

My bruised soul waits for its chance
to be free from woes and snares
to leave this sphere and fly with wings
to meet my angel waiting there

The same mood is felt in the poem From Graces to Ashes:

The longing heart that wove in zeal
a thousand dainty rosy dreams
is forever still and chill
with all her chiseled graces
reduced to dusty mute ashes

All this grief is further intensified in the poet’s manas, heart-mind, in the one hundred and thirty lined elegiac poem To My Other Half:

O Moon , don’t look at me with pity
Peep not at the earth deprived of my love
Her two eyes are two lunar spheres
Whose light is marred by cruel Fate
that plays a gory game with puny mortals
and leaves me in endless darkness
Legion luminous lunar luminaries
can never equal the light of my life
The light of my eyes and house is put out
Changing my life into a cursed night.

The poem Pensive Memories concludes with the illumined realization:

Life is a strange accident or a destined meet
A facelesss eerie event or a wondrous feat
That richly relishes pensive memories
And pines in sabled smiles for what is not

Gliding Ripples (2007) is the sixth collection which shows crystallization after maturity. A kind of serenity and insight into human condition has made the poet sadder and wiser making him takes things in his stride. Erase the Borders is the feeling of fruition in the capacity to think deep and high:

Let us not race for winning runs
In one voice wipe out killing guns
Emotions rise high in cricket match
but let not pawn or a wicket fall.

The poet being a bibliophile, his birth, upbringing, education and profession all related to academia, his thinking is one of a philosopher. A poet’s personality determines the width and intensity of his thinking and imagination. The Mortuary of Books is an expression of his grief about our present neglect of books, the treasures of wisdom.

Someday their hungry spirits
in utter despair my rise and revolt
with fallen and stolen pages and sabres
to kill and purge the lazy brains
of ignorant wits and feigning scholars.

In the poem Idols for the Idle there is expression of an ideal and a wish.

Can we see the fading ideal vision
not the tampered vision of Twenty-Twenty
of market values breaking back bone
but the vision of lasting human values
the noble vision of shining moral values

Our Leader is a snap shot of the worthy person who leads and inspires:

A lone man to lead he stood
en route all hurdles he withstood
like a big banyan in storm
or a captain with vision in form

The most recent collection, Echoes, is the latest published in 2012. It has a poem Revolutionary Writers criticizing pretentious writers and balladeers.

With the press he makes a hue and a cry
at the death of a long wanted terrorist
a record killer, a pseudo communist
with a huge reward on his head

Ashram is a poem against pseudo god-men, again.

Saffron robe is his shining mask
to realize his cherished tainted taste;
…. …. .
His ashram , a palace indeed, invites riches;
discards the poor and distributes ashes
in the name if implicit faith in God.

The poet is always grieved about acts of vandalism. A Broken Statue is a sigh of sadness:

Visitors from far and near to the fort
see the ruined temple and the statue
…. …. …
granite beauty smiles with eternal call
while dark cavemen found pure joy in art
frantic hands break the art and its heart.

After Sixties is about the only cure a man thinks of:

After sixties life gets complicated
…. …. ….
the cure for these fatal cancers
does not lie in barbiturate prescription
an over dose gives eternal rest.

Now a septuagenarian, the poet has come a long way from flowering, fruition and maturity to enviable crystallization. The highest reward for any poet is to attentively read his poetry, to understand his imagination and the beauty of its rendition.

More by : Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.
Views: 2307      Comments: 2

Comments on this Poem Article

Comment Nice Poem Article

Test from Ekant Team

Tushar Bhardwaj
15-Sep-2018 04:20 AM

Comment dear sir, namaste.I am pursuing phd in cuddapah.The title of my thesis is SOCIAL CRITICISM PRESENTED IN THE POETRY OF T.V.REDDY AND P.RAJA.I am thoroughly gone through your artticle on dr reddy's poetry. Really it presents the truthful manifstation of reddy's poetics. you realistically analysided and presented the uniqueness of dr reddy's poetics.Previously I read afew articles written by eminent literary figures on dr reddyy's poetics when I make a contrast with those critical papers,what I feel your artice is remarkabe,and matchless and jewelled with rich vocabulary.Among the seven works the five poetic collections are in every detail critically analysed,the last two GLIDING RIPPLES AND ECHOES needs much more critical commentry. Thank you------------R.V.RAMANA

21-Mar-2013 00:00 AM


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