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Poetic World Of Chambial
by P C K Prem Bookmark and Share
 

Chambial D C (of Maranda, Palampur, Himachal) is one of the most powerful voices in English Poetry in India. He is authentic, original and powerful. He appeared in 1983 with a collection of poems – Broken Images. He has till now published seven collections of poetry – Broken Images, The Cargoes of the Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems (1984), Perceptions (1986), Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads (1996), Before the Petals Unfold (2002) and This Promising Age & Other Poems (2004). He is still busy in the creative activity and one expects more poetic anthologies would appear in the near future. He also edits, “Poetcrit”, a literary magazine of repute.

One of the most outstanding features of Chambial’s poetry is an intellectual probing into life’s dilemmas in the contemporary scenario. The poet is disturbed since his multifaceted personality interferes too often; and a coherent view of life is possible only when one goes into the psyche and intellect of the poet. It is imperceptible but it stirs. He authentically speaks about the modern anguish, of pains arising out of chaotic living conditions, of scrambled thought processes while a man fails to locate a correct existential position amidst surging despair and overshadowing frustrations. Chambial’s intellectual intensity befuddles a gentle heart. On being asked to elucidate his poetic art and the essence of poetry, Chambial said in gentle words:

A good Poem’ has different connotations for different people. For some, a good poem means ‘a poem’ that tells something in familiar words with rhythm and rhyme. For me, ‘a good poem’ is one that uses imagery with economy of expression and compels one to think and refracts its meaning(s) like light reflected from a diamond.

Chambial simply makes interesting observations when he says further:

Poetry, for me, is what stirs one’s mind and sets it into action/contemplation about the object/idea that has given a sudden jolt to the otherwise ordinary mind on an ordinary moment of time…. poems have come up from the deeps of my heart. …some idea, word, or thought strikes mind and it sets into action in association with heart and poems are born spontaneously. There have been moments when I tried to write without any emotional leaven, the result has been futile. On the contrary, when supported by emotional back up, I have composed even 3-4 poems within very short span of time. The image/picture appears on the canvas of mind, hand moves on paper and the result is a poem or poems.” A little later, he tells that symbols have a definite role to play in the poetry, “However, readers and critics both have so far missed the element of symbolism in my poetry. The very first poem, ‘Stones’, in Broken images is symbolic. A host of my poems are written with inherent symbolic import. I wish this area is also explored.

To understand the poet, it is necessary to know the intellect of the people. The post-independence period witnessed many changes at various levels in the system in totality, and the minds and hearts of the people throbbed with the possibilities of charting out a bright future. Without colonial hangover, he depicts life as it is, with its Indianness.

There is an intensity of experience, which gets unique expression in wonderful images.

Life –an urge to go
to deeper recesses
but annulling force
of buoyancy doesn’t relax
until volcano erupts.
(“Volcano,” Broken Images in Collected Poems 27)

Realities of life shock, and an apathetic attitude brings carnage and violence. ‘Stones, apartheid, spades and sickles’, are words loaded with terrific images, which create fears in the minds of peace loving people. The images created with words like ‘falcons, skeletal sky, colliding thoughts, blank canvas and myriad’ in “In a Trance”, shock and bewilder, signaling a callousness and brutality in experience. A merger of emotions and thoughts, cries for meanings amidst struggles, ending like a collapse of “a rootless tree / in the storm.” Intellectual wailings make existence disturbing where modern life seems rootless, and lacks synchronization. He is distressed at nature’s anguish as hills tremble and sky weeps where smoke appears like a sea of desolation. The poet’s hints of frequent blood-thirty wars, communal riots, bomb blasts and fanatic religious battles in various parts of the world are timely; and warn men of the ominous extinction. To find identity is an enigma, defying reason and scrutiny.

Highly philosophical lines below astonish with brevity and candor. Earlier the poet was disillusioned but this verse exhibits tremendous faith as the poet’s optimism gushes out.

Life is music
attuned by
maestro divine.
Pleasant to those
who pick
and dance with the song.
Jargon to those
who fail to find rapport
On the steps of melody and heart.’
(“Life,” Broken Images in Collected Poems 33)

He lives in poetic aura and radiance and rarely opens up. Possibly sufferings in contemporary life, disturb him. The Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts and Other Poems appeared in 1984, heralding a return to theme of disillusionment. Hopeful cynicism and illusive world drives him away to abstruse imaginings.

The sun’s gone
the moon wails
meteors play funny tricks.
Tomorrow will be a cloudy
morning. Wolves are out
To devour earth and sky.
(“Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts,” The Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems in Collected Poems 42)

One witnesses a wonderful scene as images startle with an unbelievable intensity:

I sink my feet in the cold water
on a bed of sand and stones
dreamed about past when
bacteria struggled in snow.
… … …
A boat dances on waves
river sobs, clouds bleed
Hills turn blue.
(“Bleeding Clouds,” The Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems in Collected Poems 44-45)

An incessant struggle in the mind continues as mad engagement in daily- run shadows life with emptiness and an escape from this ‘bee-spider’ run-about never terminates.

***

The poet’s forte is to create images, paintings and pictures out of life, nature and out of nothing. Objects, which usually escape a man’s attention, draw poet’s vigilant eyes. The world of nature is an inexhaustible cache from where he draws out pearls of wisdom and weaves dreams while giving it a rational interpretation. Objects dead or alive, plants, animals, birds, water, earth, stars, sky and ocean, are instruments to carry emotions, thoughts and philosophy. As symbols of man’s internal strife, these are significant and the camouflaged quality of life is demonstrated. Hypocrisy, violence, mendacity and fears repulse the poet to the inner world. A man is discontented despite varied comforting gadgets and these enhance the intensity of agony.

Mental and physical sufferings pile-up as meaningless wars fought around the world burden inborn sensitivity, and that man seeks life and existence in incessant violence. “A Cry for Peace”, carries the burden silently and the “Masks”, exposes deception and vanity, as a man makes strenuous efforts to find causes and reasons of a not very happy destiny.

One after another
mile-stones are left behind
With a hope
of reaching some destination
(“To My Friends,” The Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems in Collected Poems 46)

Here, a ray of hope, a stream of flowing life and a wish to fill the world with “satyam, shivam, sundram” is observed. A melancholic shadow overtakes while one reads gentle lines of “To Mother”. A child’s psychology finds expression with the eternal question: ‘Who I am?’ “A Prayer”, makes a startling departure where the will to live encourages the poet to discern the true meaning of beauty, truth and God in life. Soon the poet settles down contentedly as words form images impregnated with meaningful reflections.

The poor pigeons
stare at the horizon
in the hope of a new sun
will it dawn?
(“The Burning Tree,” The Cargoes of Bleeding Hearts & Other Poems 62)

His philosophic tensions almost disappear as the years roll on. Perceptions (1986), makes a radical shift in the poet’s mind and heart. Now, he is relaxed and meditates in cheery countenance. For him, life is an opportunity to create and disseminate joy around. In “The Ripe Time”, the theme is forceful with an eye for the future. Concentration and single-minded devotion leads man to achieve the target. He tries to establish that poetry is not merely an emotional outburst but has a definite purpose.

I have a few acres of land
with the coming of rains,
Thundering of clouds
I get ready to sow the seeds.
… … ….
I have belle blithe and debonair;
she sings, snorts, laughs
Weeps and fumbles.
Is it time? Is it time to sow the seeds?
… … …
I think it is time to sow the seeds.
(“The Ripe Time,” Collected Poems 67)

If the poet hints at the famous verse of Gita, it is focused. Desire, if inspires action for reward, is futile. Karma, if selfless, makes life meaningful. The poet is worried about humanity. His symbols and images obscure clarity at times, but the poet refuses to work on a predetermined pattern as he writes naturally and spontaneously. If “To her Luscious Lake”, is a sizzling and sensuous love verse with a sprinkling of fresh thoughts, love for humanity worries in “Let Us March”, where he is blunt and philosophic. Humanity and humanism do not recognize any religion or dogma or doctrine but repose faith in man and life:

Let us march, today, hand in hand
concatenating souls like beads
into the thread of the greatest ROSARY
the ever cherished HUMANISM.
… … ….
…march into that land and time
where colour and creed do not impede;
impede not the free flow of fellow feeling…
(“Let Us March,” Collected Poems 68-69)

In a subtle intellectual touch, in “Summer to South”, Collected Poems 100, sovereignty of God is established. The poet’s sense of discrimination is revealed here.

***

Even when not writing, the poet’s meditative and emotional, analytical and philosophical faculties were not lethargic. As the years roll on, he crystallizes and straightens a few ambiguities. Earlier love for images and metaphors made it difficult to go deep into the mind. But with uplifting, mild filtering and sieving, there is precision and transparency. Contemporary realities are dealt with an empathetic feeling as symbols and similes flow with a refreshing liquidity in Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads (1996). In an age of insecurity and stark faithlessness, the question of survival reigns supreme and so it is the mind that “one hand severs the other”, and feelings of “love and compassion”, mean nothing. “Sinking Crossroads” talks of vacuity; and chill in fragile relations though elsewhere in “Flaming Candle”, in fine images, the transient nature of life worries the poet. Bit by bit, life lingers on and finally goes deep down the abyss of oblivion and the mystery remains:

Drop by drop I melt
like a flaming candle
into the unfathomed deeps.
(“Flaming Candle” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads in Collected Poems 105)

In life, darkness and suffering may dampen spirits but it has an end. “Night can’t be Long”, celebrates optimistic view of life.

Night can’t be long
Dawn peeps from the eastern hill
Swan peace to knock the sill.
(“Night can’t be Long,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads in Collected Poems 106)

Materialistic living is the theme of modern life. Once, he told casually that he has a soft heart, “for the suffering humanity. Whenever I encounter any suffering person, the spectacle hurts me as; this you must have observed while going through my poems. I empathize with them and try to delineate their suffering with a view that our leaders and other who matter in this respect may have a similar feel for them and thinks about transforming their lot.”

The demon of corruption is the god today. It shocks when one learns “for they also love who rape and kill”.

Ultra-modern mentors
set examples to toll the knell
At the altar of Mammon
care a fig for men and morals;
Indebted to these caring captains’
Brain-babies: hawalas & scams.
(“Confessions,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads in Collected Poems 108)

In “Without the Qualms of Conscience”, the poet talks of cunningness, violence and loot of a modern man bereft of morals where horse-trading is a trait of politics. A graphic picture provokes to think agonizingly.

We feel safe
with whisky in pegs
legs in plates and become
Blind to everything else
even our nudity.
(“Without the Qualms of Conscience,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads in Collected Poems 110)

Rhythm is the causality and if a man aspires otherwise, it is “Longing in Void”, and he observes only “Vultures in Sky”, without hope of tranquility. In a heartless world, a sensitive thinker like the poet is the “causality”, and “I feel cut asunder / from the world / like a shuttle lost in space” (“The Causality” 121). If a man sticks to morals and virtues, he is a non-entity:

It is self –a metaphysical inquiry that is important for a modern man. Though not lyrical like the metaphysical poets -Cowley and Herbert, Chambial exhibits a fine mix-up of intellectual inquiry and passion. Like these poets, he draws images from nature in a startling rapidity. Nature is eternal and nothing can hurt it, is the message of “Singing Blossoms” (125). The blossoms symbolize beauty, harmony and meaning:

Sing about the innocent
Tears shed in gang rapes, bomb-blasts
Sing about the epileptic morals
in moments of white fancy.

Again:

He’s left for from where
none ever returns
to tell about the voyage

These words succinctly sum up life’s dilemma and complexities where everybody pursues meaning but comes out empty handed in the search of the face / lost in void in / the valley of maya.”(“In the Memory of a Dead Friend,” 127) The poet’s pangs and pains arising out of the modern life are evident in Before the Petals Unfold (2002). The lyrics embarrass and disturb but the themes of fragmented, vicious and unethical life provoke to think deeply.

***

 

In Hopkins’ poetry, one finds immensity of love for nature and genuine imparting of significance. Hopkin’s images are distinctive having an integral quality. For Chambial, natural objects have deep meaning and each segment of nature gives material for intense images with multi-dimensional meaning. In verse “Life-An Enigma”, life is equated with a map on a palm where life’s movements can be visualized. ‘Heat’, stands for life and ‘coldness’, for death.

…crawling fingers crave
to feel the peaks of moon
in this frost with a hope to flow
from stasis to flux
from coldness to heat.
(“Life and Death,” Before the Petals Unfold in Collected Poems142)

The symbols of ‘heat’ and ‘icy chill’ stir the poet again as he thinks ‘of mangled relations’:

A man is occupied with routine thoughtless pursuits and has turned insensitive. Angst and uncertainties continue to depress the poet. Harsh realities resurface in another lyric “Life”. Life to the poet is “an endless tale of / vales, dales and hills / from the black holes of eternity, and individual is: mere cog / in the wheel of time / no will.” The poet is conscious of the fears assuming different shapes challenging the intellect. The philosophic attitude lessens agonies of life. If one looks into the embryonic meaning of “Yesterday is not Today”, it is evident that a man not for a moment is cut off from the past. A man’s life is embedded in the past:

Every new moment
springs from the womb
of the moment gone by
Fertilized in mind
bears young one of its kind.
(“Yesterday is not Today,” Before the Petals Unfold in Collected Poems 158)

If the intentions are clearly understood, “The Nudging Present”, gives a new tilt to the meaning:

the past far behind
the future far ahead
the present nudges from…the wound bleeds
the hoary /past full of dead dreams.
(“The Nudging Present,” Before the Petals Unfold in Collected Poems 146)

The past and the present become inseparable, and stealthily tell of past and predict future. The poet is fine-tuned to sensations stimulated by nature. “A Sluggish January Evening”, is mildly cozy and is a motivating experience:

sun slowly sinks down
shadows rise to the sky
A toddler tittle-tattles at the whining dog
Labourers look at watches
at their cozy hearths.
(“A Sluggish January Evening,” Before the Petals Unfold in Collected Poems 167)

The fire tragedies occurred a decade ago at Dabwali, Baripada and Mina in Mecca, disturb. Here, he is serious about the turns fate takes.

The poet dwells on contemporary age, its predicament, failure and glory in This Promising Age and Other Poems (2004). If it is at the pinnacle of brilliance, it has also touched nadir of disgrace. A man’s life and philosophy move between two pendulums and in-between he builds a world of truth and facts, fancies and dreams. The heart feels, eyes observe and intellect analytically interprets life and society. “This Promising Age”, is a realistic poem in fragmented rhythms. Like the age itself, words disregard a pattern. But the narration is obvious, and the images stridently frighten. It is a life of inner contradictions and outer variations. Life is mechanical and just looks as if it were designed years back. This ‘antagonistic society’ is ‘acute’ with heartless ‘attitude’. The misfortune is that “in this robot culture / where soul defies / the principle of metempsychosis / and enter into / wires, screws, transistors…/ to help, interpret and amuse?” (“This Promising Age”) in a chilling series seems ghastly. Finer sensibilities feel the vacuum, sterility and aridness:

Compassion, pity, sympathy
face retreat
in the face of hypocrisy and cynicism.
… … …
Nature has been cruel
to the honest individual…
Ordinary time flows into
Bhrigu time.
Unknowingly know centuries
yet feel not so
(“This Promising Age,” This Promising Age and Other Poems 6-7)

This age structures and reshapes man’s life and activities. A man moves around, below the surface and above into the deep sky; and feels and yet is unfeeling and this is a man’s intellectual anguish. When nature is enraged, it destroys and spells peril. Wreckages and remnants are its indelible marks on the earth and here, a man learns to reconstruct life. A little verse “With a Whimper” makes a grave situation, witty. Morning rituals of brushing teeth and shaving assume a ludicrous character.

I look like a fool
on the face of the mirror
for an easy answer
with a whimper.
(“With a Whimper,” This Promising Age and Other Poems 11)

The poet looks at transient life with a philosophical eye and through images created out of the objects of nature, interprets it. In “Sand-Smell Spreads”, a unique fragrance emanates, as if, from the vast desert of Rajasthan. His control over the images is fantastic while tributes are paid to women in Rajasthan for the sturdiness and vigor and the verse prompts invigorating thoughts:

Sink into, emerge from the vast wilderness
Ploughing the sands
Mirage metamorphoses into reality.
Pagodas of water
Poised on steady heads;
The fiery sun feels defeated.
(“Sand-Smell Spreads,” This Promising Age and Other Poems 24)

***

The poet is quite conscious of the sufferings a man undergoes in life. The structure of society now is not at all conducive to a peaceful life. If at the intellection level, he makes efforts to interpret life, he is also not ignorant of the worldly problems. The poet is not only worried about the predicament of contemporary life but the challenges it poses to existence. Contemporary man is unhappy. Like Yeats, out of the mundane and materialistic life, he wishes to extract the spiritual element in life. When Chambial talks of eternal soul, there is an intense struggle. It is ‘self’ of a man, a product of social milieu and the ‘anti-self’ pitted against the ‘self’ in an inner battle. The poet wishes to redeem the spirit, the eternal force. His growth of poetic thought and sensibility with contemporary consciousness is marvelous and it reveals disordered conditions of life and living.

It is imperceptible but it creates stir in the veins when a man through work and involvement in mundane functions contributes to the joys of humankind. A man is an integral part of humanity and its happiness. In the process, he minimizes the impact of sufferings in life. A sublime flow of emotions and feelings saturated with love and affection infuses freshness and vitality in day-to-day life. He realistically raises issues of present-day distress, of pains arising out of frenzied living conditions, of surging despondency and unbearable frustrations confronting man. Chambial’s poetry is thought provoking. In the existing conditions, it excites a man to think seriously about the situations in which he lives. I have been a witness to the growth of Chambial’s poetic thought right from the beginning. There is a fixed pattern, and again it disturbs an explicit definition. His poetry opens new vistas and horizons of lyrical brilliance and there the poet unhesitatingly registers an awe-inspiring presence. His lyrics thrill and appease and these at times, rouse and exasperate. He is a master of short lyrics and there one has to peep deep into the meaning of images. He is a meticulous poet who experiments and touches on every subject but it is not always that he excels. Masters of short lyrics or haiku are easy to understand, it may appear or perhaps it is amusing to read little poems, for, these do not take much time. It is worthwhile to discern that Chambial’s poetry is imbued with a genuine historical and cultural perspective. He has a style and linguistic mastery, and treatment of subjects get a convincing thrust.

Chambial is a poet of free India with a rich stream of Indian-ness. I find a unique characteristic in his thought content as it takes the reader fervently away from the colonial burden. When one looks into his thematic content, one finds depths of rare understanding in surveying the mindset of Indians. The poet considers urban life just mechanical and unemotional. A man is moving like a robot and responds to life’s complexities in a set pattern of predetermined norms, which are ingrained like a capsule within. Life is interpreted in terms of little nails, screws and wires and here it ends with plenty of ‘hypocrisy and cynicism’.

…Estranged soul entangles itself
in the criss-cross of vibrations.
Entirely new features prop up the land
nourished by
synthetic cultures and ideals.
Plethora demoniac
descends down on the earth
like a beam
to impregnate
the abortive eye;
compassion, pity, sympathy
face retreat
in the face of hypocrisy and cynicism.
(“This Promising Age,” This Promising Age & Other Poems in Collected Poems 6)

An insipid and dreary life moves like a machine in the towns, nourishing a synthetic culture, and offers plenty of hints where for a few moments of respite, a man discovers chunks of joys and delight in a radically lackluster life. Startlingly, the poet takes life as it comes but warns a man by throwing allusions.

He talks of “The Merciful”, who gave birth to man. It was, may be, to escape from the ‘sadness and loneliness’ and meditate deeply in hours of ‘melancholy’ that He –the Merciful -resolved ‘to carry out the exploit’ to its logical end.

From His melancholy, He gained respite
Took His tools…
… …
Life budded forth from Eternal Joy.
How can a father be displeased with his ploy?
(“The Merciful,” Before the Petals Unfold 19)

The poet talks of a woman, who in grueling living conditions takes care of her child. To her, the child appears in the image of God. Like a nurse worried about the patient, she saves her child from hunger. Here ‘patient’ and ‘baby’ must be understood property in a wider context. It is not only to humanity but to God also that the poet travels by talking of patients and babies.

She serves unto Him
and unto Humanity.
Now and then
the baby cries hunger;
wipes her sweat from her face
and sits down on a stone
to suckle her child – manna
kisses on the forehead
to frighten the fatigue away.
(“The Lapicide,” Perceptions 74)

He is disciplined in the use of words, and scrupulous in depicting ugliness of politics. If he recalls sacred names of secular outlook, pragmatic politics, love, peace and harmony, it is because, he wishes that the modern politicians learn lessons.

…They preached their philosophies
To make a heaven of this earth.
To redeem man of his misery,
To blaze the torch to show the path….
Now the perfidious politicians
See it their sacred duty to suck
Like vampires every drop of its blood.
(“The Lost Man,” Gyrating Hawks & Sinking Roads 49)

The poet is sad and depressed at the degeneration in politics and condemns the selfish approach of netas in a democratic set up. He talks of new ‘lords’, who follow ‘ultra philosophy’ and are lost in corrupt practices without caring for means of which Mahatma Gandhi was a great proponent. When the poet speaks about the means and the “fruit”, he hints at the great leaders of the nascent years of Indian democratic socialism and reminds that, “Once this land of the Gita / was hailed as the holiest land, / people around the world revered it;” now in the hands of deceitful and wily politicians. It has turned ugly where material and ethical happiness is looted or buried alive he affirms. The poet talks of politics in historical perspective and is candidly worried about the fall in moral values.

***

He speaks of ethics scathingly; he is distressed. He appears disturbed at the deterioration of principles where the system has collapsed as violence and arson spread. The poet is quite agitated and compares men with “Vultures and crows”, when it is revealed that they have lost the quintessence of life for which the “The Merciful”, created and sent men to the world:

Vultures and crows
Simulate swans:
Peck at carcass
At the cross.
… …
Now touches the nadir
Of human values, never
In human history
Stooped so low;
Supine.
(“Vultures and Crows,” Before the Petals Unfold 53)

If oblique references to religious books or places surface, these have a purpose quite pertinent and these do commune with a sensitive heart and mind. It ultimately ennobles the inner self. The poet is no doubt, worried about the destiny of man; and talks of principles and ethics. Despite noticing crevices in morality, he exhibits an optimistic consistency. He holds firm convictions with a little variation, which persuade one to interpret life in various shades. In a significant verse faintly reminiscent of Eliot”s “Prufrock”, he talks of life here and beyond:

Let us, you and I,
saunter beyond
the murky lanes and by-lanes,
… …
In winter.
Man builds bridges
to solemnize
the marriage.
Here and the Great Beyond
the two hills
separated by eighty-four lakh yonis.
(“A Wish,” Gyrating Hawks & Sinking Roads in Collected Poems 135)

The poet speaks of life’s miseries and obstacles and then the thoughts of harmonizing irritations of living crop up. He goes beyond and talks of Hindu’s belief in eighty-four births and deaths, before a being takes birth. It may be difficult to see life in such incomprehensive theory, which has basis in belief only, but definitely for the poet, it constitutes a solid assurance. The above lyric speaks of a dichotomy where it learns to live with sufferings and hardships whereas in another verse, “Life”, the poet talks of rhythm and harmony:

Life is music
attuned by
maestro divine.
Pleasant to those
who pick
and dance with the song
Jargon to those
who fail to find rapport
on the steps of melody and heart.
(“Life,” Broken Images in Collected Poems 33)

Shiv K. Kumar’s words are worth-quoting, when he says:

…he does not limit his vision to mere descriptions of nature, but also charges his verse with a refreshing moral fervour. He is anguished by the corruption that has seeped into our lives. However, he does not articulate this disillusionment through abstraction but only through images, metaphors and similes which are truly striking.” (“Foreword”, The Promising Age & Other Poems 3)

While showing true anxiety for the issues highlighted, the poet is conscious of the obligations to the society. Not for a moment, he ignores man – the subject matter of philosophy of life. A solidity of faith in Indian consciousness is the hallmark of his poetic strength. It is a truly illustrious clarity, genuineness and simplicity of poetic art. Uniquely different in attitude to women, he elicits genuine praise. Ethics and value-system guide his poetic journey. The poet has an innate aptitude to stun with the sparkles of images and celebrates the view that the victory of man is the ultimate reality of existence. Time has not come to say a final word about his poetic art but it is believed, he will not relent and will continue to enrich poetic realm with innovative technique, craft and energy of thoughts.

***

 

It is interesting to delve deep into the genuine anxieties, the poet exhibits while trying to find a definite location of man in the society. A man’s sufferings and miseries arising out of the present rot and sickness, not only bring disheartening moments but these also affect social consciousness. The sufferings, mostly find origin in poverty, exploitation, hunger, violence and general deprivation. The poor and the downtrodden live in absolute misery and hard work with no hope to see brightness.

One hand severs the other
tears of joy turn
into tears of sorrow
with a single burst of bullets
and compel to think
about man’s sagacity
about Chandersekhar limit to this ball
into black holes.
(“Sinking Crossroads,”6 Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 6)

The existence of violence does not allow man to live in peace, the poet feels. The specter of brutality haunts peace and makes it awfully difficult to live meaningfully while it drains away goodness and virtues. Love and empathy no longer enrich life but anarchic conditions crush them. In this background, the poet visualizes miseries and sufferings for the men, who work hard and yet live in deprivation and poverty while the ghost of exploitation continues to chase.

Stark realities of life shock whereas an insensitive and apathetic attitude of man brings out bloodshed and violence; and hardened men do not mind killing others. Stones, apartheid, spades and sickles, are words, which create fear in the minds of peace loving people. The images words create, speak of the world in which we live and still hope to survive. For the working people, he has soft corner and in more than a dozen poems, he freely ventilates gentle feelings. Social issues, invariably affecting life are vividly described, which extend to find malaise in the political set-up. He tries to make out a case that those widespread deplorable conditions of the poor and the dalits are, in reality, the result of a corrupt system.

Corruption in politics is just a staple diet of social plazas polluting a man’s routine activities from a toiling man in the fields to the choking laborer in the factory, to workers with masked faces working with shovels in deserts, to men digging earth and carrying stones. The solution to this ailment is –

This land needs select surgeons
to operate upon the sore
Leave the body crane-white…
Night can’t be long
Dawn peeps from the eastern hill
Swan peace to knock the sill.
(Night can’t be Long,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 9)

If one understands the meanings of words like surgeons, sore, crane white and swan, one can make out that these speak of the hopes, toiling man nurtures. The use of word ‘Jains,’ is an oblique reference to the prevailing corruption disturbing the lives of the poor and honest men. Not only the poet is sensitive to the destiny of underprivileged segments of the society, his social anxieties do awaken us to hard truth.

He is a poet of images and mostly the field of his poetic sojourn is philosophic. Even if he talks of sufferings of humanity, he is detached and calm. But in the “The Lost Man”, the tone is sharp and satirical and in a few words, he surveys the plight of the poor man –a mere victim in the hands of the mighty who preach ideals and ethics. “The Man is Lost”, and it is a shrill cry with equally loud protestations of a wounded heart. It is a tale of vulnerable spectator where the genuine man in ‘man’ is not only suffocating but waiting for an eventual death as he is reeling under a gruesome weight of ghosts of corruption, unparallel scams, scandals and reprehensible display of unethical values by those governing and guiding the society and the country. The poet knows that it is ultimately the masses - the poor and poverty stricken, the hungry and the thirsty, the houseless and the landless living under constant threat to frail survival, who suffer. This threat originates from the rich and powerful - a contemptuous observation.

The teachings of Rama, Krishna and Buddha surface. Universality, secular outlook and catholicity of these great souls brought peace and harmony on earth. Non-violence and truth governed the land and the people while fighting against the socio-political evils, worked ‘to make a heaven of this earth’ and ‘redeem man of his misery’. But the poet regrets when he talks of ‘new kind of lords now tread this land’ –

They also teach an ultra-philosophy
Of corruption, scams and hawalas
They mind not action but fruit:
no fruit is forbidden for them
No action for them low or base.
(“The Lost Man”, from Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 49)

A mordantly penetrating and horrific poetic unfolding of contemporary social fabric it is where the rich and the resourceful, the teachers and the intellectuals, and the arbiters in politics play a spurious goodwill sport. They make the society corrupt, reduce the poor to susceptible and wretched plight, whereas a democratic set up, envisioning a land of peace and prosperity to all, has not materialized yet. The elected people in India have flourished with corrupt practices and have eaten up the vitals of economic growth. The poor are living a wretched life in absolute drudgery and exploitation.

An appalling attitude of politicians is the root cause of unrelenting anguish and the bug of vampirism needs complete eradication. It is regrettable and disgusting that people in authority mint money, grab land, kill morals, butcher the value-system and culture; and still speak nauseatingly against such perpetual evils. A living in contradiction is the fountainhead of evils making lives of the poor, miserable on earth, he feels. In spite of growth and progress, the poor do not get enough food but face exploitation, famine and drought and ‘sob in cells sullen.’ ‘To live and murder, to loot and ravage money and morals; ethics, virtues silently…’ is an entertaining source to the mighty men.

Lit the fire at the altar to goddess Dowry
With flesh-n-blood of newly wedded wives
Man is lost! Devils thrive like wasps on hives.
(“The Lost Man,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 49)

It is a sarcastic commentary on the social life where greed determines the fate of women. Indians live life where it has become a huge problem to lead a pure life despite a colossal assemblage of saints and sadhus mostly enjoying patronage of the elected rulers. Corruption not only erodes social body, it also eats up the vitality of values - a revelation where morals and ethics are pushed into the abysmal depths of oblivion without redemption. Indians are now ‘the true heirs of Satan’, he feels. ‘Fall of Indian’ – not Man, begins with the ‘disobedience’ of Gita, Rama, Krishna and Buddha, the poet suggests.

We are the denizens
of such an age which breeds
corruption like flies
… …
the vice and corruption
to guillotine, feed
them instead
The virtue crouches in a corner
for sheer fear of
Being butchered
the foxes rule the roost. Beauty, truth and
Goodness face the law.
Ugliness, falsehood
wicked enjoy treat.
(“The Tempest," Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 15)

Flies, foxes, law, cradle and tempest are pregnant with meanings and function as symbols of terrific vices spreading around. Corruption and sleaze ail Indians. Men and admirers of beauty, truth and integrity are not wanted, for, here ethics and morality suffer and evil is eulogized. The rulers are vicious and like foxes in the masks of men exhort others to live a life of grace, honesty, morality and ethics. Sins recoil and the land faces devastation where vices flourish and so the poet tells, “the sun has set, the light is gone / We follow the fate of / Sodom and Gomorah.’’ Near home, one is reminded of Sri Lanka, a country of yore that faced a near end.

In a remorseful vein, the poet observes again –

Care a fig for men and morals;
Indebted to these caring captains
For their brain-babies: Hawalas & scams.
(“Confessions,” Gyrating Hawks and Sinking Roads 12)

“Confessions”, though not very original in thought yet it reveals naked hypocrisy. Absolute selfishness and egoism guide a man whether in childhood or youth. Materialistic living is the theme of modern life. Demon of corruption is the god today. It shocks when the poet repulsively avers ‘for they also love who rape and kill’. A degenerated man is the reason of grave anxiety for the poet. “Death on Road”, is a pathetic picture of a man who dies in an accident whereas “Without the Qualms of Conscience”, is about cunningness, violence and loot of a modern man. Here, horse-trading is a trait in politics. It is a life of arson, rapes, violence and sexual orgies.

We feel safe
with whisky in pegs
legs in plates and become
Blind to everything else
even our nudity.
(Collected Poems 110)

The spleen and vermin of corrupt and unethical life continue to haunt the poet. He talks of India perhaps and the men, of the world. Nothing is left untouched. “The Tempest”, “Rubble of Thick Night”, and “Birth of a Schizophrenic”, with images of modern life, distress and confound - an unfeeling attitude benumbs.

*** **

Another picture emerges as the poet obliquely points out at the mental and physical sufferings; and meaningless wars fought around the world. Today, a man seeks life and existence in incessant violence and ever alive fear of death, is a disturbing thought. “A Cry for Peace”, carries the burden silently and the ‘‘Masks’’, exposes deception and arrogance of a modern man. Even mythical characters enhance the impact of modern sufferings and ordeals.

A baby on the pebbles
and a passer-by
hear the continuous sound
Of the hammer on the stones;
the sun at vernal height.
(“The Lapicide,” Collected Poems 74)

The poet is sensitive to the sufferings and perspiring life of toiling poor men. “The Lapicide”, reminds of the great Hindi poet, Nirala. A dismal and hard life of a woman on the roadside who breaks stones while looking after and feeding her baby, is a memorable scene. In work, it is worship and God observes all. Physical sufferings and harsh realities occupy the poet and he is pained at the perennial hardships a man undergoes.

Life:
an endless tale of
vales, dales and hills
from the black holes
of eternity
a dance set up to tune
of Master Divine.
Man reels and reels
Until the musician decides
To terminate.
(“Life,” Before the Petals Unfold 30)

The poet can’t resist the temptation to link physical sufferings of a modern man to something that is lacking within and here he is reminded of a force, invisible and yet powerful having deep and everlasting influence on the life of a man. While in “The Storm”, he harps on the sufferings, a kind of deluge, “On the Bank of Sarayu”, and “Awaiting Moments”, inspire the poet to get back to meaning and truth in life.

On the bank, I stand
and ruminate
by the dhooni of a yogi.
Rising smoke whispers in my ear
Not to bother brains –
to stitch the parts lost in yugas.
(Collected Poems 63)

Continuing sufferings, rejections, disenchantments and failures if impart meaning to life, there is also a sudden foray into mild but strong feelings strengthening a quality life. One feels quite down the dumps on reading certain poems but immense patience will prove rewarding. The poet is not oblivious of the man’s current disquieting trends where many sufferings and moments of desolation a man confronts in life. Disturbing nature and humanity punishes man. These are genuine contemporary anxieties having deep influence on the psyche of a man ultimately leading to upsetting the social spectrum, which requires instant reprisal or else man faces perdition.

“The Gujarat Quake”, recalls what man’s actions accomplished knowingly or otherwise while creating widening gaps in what he says and what he does in reality. Nature is secular and gives equal treatment to every being on earth –

like the pack of cards
burying the young and the old
the fair and the ugly
the rich and the poor
a lesson in secularism
to men who cry hoarse
about their fake faith
enshrined in their selfish hearts!
(“The Gujarat Quake,” Before the Petals Unfold 74)

The poet is anguished at the dreadful heartrending incidents that took place in Yugoslavia and India (“Upon the Snowy Heights” – Kargil). A spirit of patriotism thrills us at the valiant fight Indian soldiers put up and finally defeated the enemy. It remembers movingly, but with pride the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers –

Upon the craggy pikes of snowy height
You fought so well and showed the world your might:
(Collected Poems 160)

The poet also paints a horrifying word picture in “Death by Fire” (12), and ‘‘Yugoslavia’’ (41). One prominent feature of these three lyrics is quite perceptible. A man is responsible for his actions, which he does outside the usual areas of a logical reach with iniquitous objective. Sufferings visit a man vigorously, the moment he violates physical and conceptualized borders of earthly realities. The poetry of Chambial, if it is mostly philosophic, it also depicts agonizing realities of life. Contemporary sufferings at the physical level are consequences of widespread hunger and thirst for more. It is a deliberate endeavour to appropriate rights of others at the material level, which in retaliation leads to misery and deprivation.

***

Poets’ hinting at frequent blood-thirsty wars, communal riots, bomb blasts and fanatic religious battles continuing in some parts of the world; and a man killing man, are timely and warn all of an imminent annihilation. The poet’s dread is alive as he lives with limitations and restrictions. All that is materialistic puts obstacles in the way of freedom. It is an unknown entry of words and ideas and here, a man thinks he is adorning himself with glory but it does not happen. It is living life in a multipart mirage and possibly the poet wants man to live in harmony with others, only then he can live happily. Contemporary poets are conscious of the sufferings of a modern man, which are the outcome of immense materialistic considerations. Too much occupation with routine life is turning a man into a mere machine and thus bringing chaotic approach to life. It is also a search for an identity in disordered life styles where money determines quality. In the West, industrialization brought about devastating changes in the outlook of life, which not only affected the social and economic life but it also influenced psychology, philosophy and political thought encouraging assertion of individual identity. It resulted in boredom, vacuum and loneliness because of lack of faith and objectives.

If, in English poets in India one discerns vacuum and boredom in poetry it is not because of materialistic reasons. I find its origin can be traced back to colonial rule. During the period, many religions affected people’s life and thoughts; and unfortunately, there was erosion of ancient Vedic values and culture. Therefore, it was an awesome struggle to strengthen roots in Indian culture and heritage and affirm its existence, which was under severe attack. Chambial is conscious of the modern social worries ailing the society while writing vividly of the sufferings and hardships of life. He is not a Marxist but definitely sympathies are reserved for the poor workers and farmers. He also hints at a value-system that could ameliorate the deplorable conditions of the poor.

His observations on social relations are genuine and here, one is reminded of W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Edmund Wilson, who were also vehemently concerned with the social angularities and depressing living conditions of the poor workers and labourers in the society. In fact, English poets in India while displaying social consciousness in abundance do not forget even for a second, the moral issues involved. The poets want a better life and future for the poor segments of society. Whenever they raise issues of people specifically the poor, they are very much Indians. The poets’ emotions, sentiments, thoughts and linguistic temperament point out pure Indian sensibility and consciousness. Chambial is not different - his idiom, nuances, similes, metaphors and myths demonstrate total Indianness. When one goes through the poetry of Chambial, one finds that he does not talk of vacuum and boredom but speaks eloquently of social evils, corruption, and obsession for money. It speaks of fall in quality of life; and degeneration in ethics while making it transparent that ignoring Indian culture and ethos are mainly responsible for these distortions.

Chambial often escorts one, to an impenetrable and cryptic land of frequent changes in sequences, mindscapes where strange inner areas of vibrations filling the physical and psychic world where one is scarcely aware of the internal developing growth. A sensitive heart feels and contemplates deeply when one goes deep into the poetry of Chambial. His poetry is difficult to understand, as there are abrupt shifts in images. It happens often and if this unintentional technique of his poetry is fully comprehended, one enjoys his verses. The poet’s search for perfect images to interpret life is still unfinished and so to understand him, one must try to know the energy and horizons of poet’s creative activity and his own limitations. The moment truth opens up understanding is a reality. In the case of Chambial, energy with creative urge is essential to understand his poetic perspective.

The social mindscape of Chambial is an inimitable blend of empathy and anguish one finds in Harvansh Rai Bachhan with a soft but sharp social tilt whereas intellectuality of Ageya, Suryakanth Tripathi and Shamsher Bahadur (Hindi creative writers) having enormous impact on Indian social life impresses. Intensely experiential social awareness of Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh and Raghuvir Sahay - well-known Hindi poets and authors of India, provoke.

He is deeply worried about the contemporary sufferings, injustice and sense of discrimination prevailing in the society. Like Shiv K Kumar, K N Daruwala, I K Sharma, O P Bhatnagar, I H Rizvi, and PCK Prem, he understands the ambiguities and complexities of miseries around, and possibly it is agonizing for the poet but still hope for a better future sustains. An adroit use of simple words with subtle hints of a possible salvation in the labyrinth of sufferings makes him a poet of hope and optimism; and he demonstrates this expertise adequately. To ‘a man’ and living, where rhythm in life is just a dream, the optimist in the poet amidst unmitigated intrusion of sufferings and pains, prays for a happy and hopeful future for man. This is precisely his strength. He appears to simplify images, which he draws from nature and if he does, yes, his poetry will have new dimensions of beauty and meaning.

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April 27,2013
More by : P C K Prem
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Comments on this Poem Article

Comment Dear Sir,
What it is very sad about Indian English poetry is this that it may lapse into a study of the poetry of the literary journal editors, reviewer-poets and subscriber-critics. Instead of being neutral, impartial and unprejudiced, even some university heads and readers too stoop to conquer the journal-editing poets' poetry as for promotion into professorship. Each and every journal has a group and friendship level of own. Even the articles on the newest arrrivals too can be seen appearing in their journals. It is definitely good to promote all, but to leave the older ones too not good side by side. One editor generally reciprocates and compliments one another as for selfish ends. I do not know how far I am correct in my statement and this you have to judge it in the right perspective.
People have not taken Romen Basu who is without doubt one of the signatures of today but even now he is not much attended.
Another thing which pains me is this that people interviewing Jayanta Mahapatra like to photographed with him which but repudiates morality. Those who get a chance turn into famous and those who do not die as unknown citizens. If we compare the Indian English critics with those scholars and cultural critics known for their pedantry and scholasticism, they can even fail the established critics and poets of ours, but they kept themselves holding a low profile. Today's c.vs. are inclusive of many trifles and trivia which only the conceited people know it.
Sorry if inconvenience be any on my part.
Bijay Kant Dubey

Bijay Kant Dubey
09/05/2013 00:00 AM

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