Continued from “Thematic Exploration: Poetic Mind of Rajender Krishan”
Solitude and other poems by Rajender Krishan
A collection of 60 poems - each illustrated
Now available on Amazon | Cyberwit
Rajender Krishan writes on his profile page:
“I wander a lot. Do you? If you do, then follow me and sometimes let me also follow you. Following each other, we shall discover the Guru, the Disciple and be not surprised if the identities switch due to circumstances. For such is the wonder of life”, and the words speak of his down-to-earth philosophy.
He owes his wonderful life to grandmother and parents whose blessings inspire him to do better while he follows the principles of freedom that define self-choice.
‘Solitude and other poems’ is an anthology of more than fifty verses by Rajender Krishan, a poet based in New York. A keen observer of men and surroundings, he witnesses each man and incident whether vital or just of a trivial consequence. Whatever he experiences becomes the focus of poetry, which is not forced. It is a natural expression of feelings and thoughts of a moment. He is incisively soft, direct, pithy and sympathetic to men and material that attract his poetic mind.
The poet’s concern with social realities is pragmatic, and he exhibits deep interest in metaphysical realities of life with a philosophy that shows concern for man and society. He tries to look at life beyond worldly limits. He wishes to comprehend the mysterious play of the invisible power that shapes and determines human life. He apparently goes beyond the domain of daily life and becomes mildly terse and thoughtful in approach but still he communicates with an ordinary man and becomes integral to a social perception.
To read his poetry is an elevating experience.
It is poetry of social anxiety where he tries to find solutions. Rajender Krishan, the poet is deeply conscious of the contemporary predicament of man who has little to gain, but there is a possibility of tremendous loss causing mental stress if proper restraint on worldly hunger and greed is not exercised. Contemporary life baffles and pushes a man into an arena of bewilderment where he fails to see reality and confronts challenges to his identity. Not only psychologically but physically and materially, a man is dissatisfied and disenchanted and therefore, a continuous assault of sufferings unmitigated agitates. These are the major concerns of Rajender, the poet, who is in search of harmonious living for everyone irrespective of any distinction of caste, color, creed or region.
Individual anxieties emerge out of chaotic situations in life. When a man finds no peace, his worries increase and restlessness overwhelm him. He tries to understand the complexities of life. He speaks and philosophizes but reaches nowhere. It is here that one is led to the poetic world of Rajender Krishan who penetrates into the psyche of modern man. While he speaks about life, its experience, philosophy, man and society, it is expression of not only social worries, but also a reflection of anxiety of an individual wanting to carve out separate identity. When individual’s worries merge with social life, these underscore genuine uncertainties of a man in contemporary setup from where escape is impossible.
He is humble and refuses to be demonstrative. When asked about his poetry and poetic art, he says in mild words, ‘I do not write. I do not sit down to write or force myself to write. It just happens perhaps when something touches me deeply.’ He, without efforts, adheres to what he feels about writing. However, one discerns certain deviations where he irritates but these are inescapable poetic flights to another world of thoughts and feelings.
The thought of ‘Freedom’ disconcerts the poet. He realizes that living on earth is oppressive and burdensome from which a man needs liberty. However, this does not materialize and still search continues to become something that is noticed around. He refuses to admit of identity already granted and that is the great dilemma. It is because a man is lost in passions, instinctive obsessions and greed of living as material enticements act as masks overshadowing a true man. An author is inclined towards estimates, which influence him from outside including the impacts of history and social beliefs. He indulges in ‘personal estimate’ that makes him forget the ‘real estimate’ and this does not give genuine pleasure. Ultimately, a creative artist must employ ‘real estimate’, ‘if we are to make poetry to yield us its full benefits’, the great critic Mathew Arnold says. Perhaps, he hints at the personal preferences and prejudices without looking into the real face of words and meaning. When this situation is circumvented only then, poetry is capable of ‘delighting’.
One tries to become something, he is not in reality. Thus, a counterfeit living makes life miserable:
and in this gruesome search
of aimless wanderings
I am trapped in non-acceptance
in trying to become
what I am not
Individual nervousness extending to social areas, prove purifying as more men begin searching solutions to agonies of life. The question of identity continues to haunt the poet in another lyric ‘What I am?’ Life of a man on earth raises questions of purposeful existence. Is it intimate relationship ensuring no relief during nervous tension or difficulty? Proximity, remoteness and distance in human relations agitate but a man still struggles alone despite a crowd of relations. So many names and relations, close and distant exist and yet one lives alone, a great but tragic paradox.
Even bondages do not provide succor and this is a painful situation. Man is tortured with many inquiries. The eternal questions like ‘What really I am?’ and ‘is there really an “I am”, disturb and provoke without respite, possibly the poet says in subtle words. It is not only a metaphysical question but it also relates to earthly existence. However, a man is more attached to worldly things and therefore, he is worried about life of ‘here and now’.
The earlier thought still chases the poet with the same questions of identity and existence when he observes:
A naked Self
clothed by masks
of thoughts, relationships
the dual of opposites!
What really I am?
(What I Am, 25)
The body is witness to everything that goes around and in fact, it is ‘in/principle/ a part of/ my total being’ and yet engaged in ceaseless worldly affairs in search of identity so he avers in ‘Dominance’ (43). Profound anguish in ‘Light and Dark’ pesters him again where he realizes that the darkness and light are phases of life. The meaning of light becomes obvious when it drives away darkness. Joys, victories in life and honor are valued and loved when a man undergoes sufferings, failures and disgrace in life. At that moment,
when arrogant ego
(Light and Dark, 45)
If one wants to live contentedly one has to cut off from the past, the poet says. He gives vent to another anxiety. Only a sense of discrimination and intolerance can severe links with ghostly past, for past blocks the path to liberation and it is a symbol of bondage and only cutting one’s cords from past can lead to liberation. Here, T. S. Eliot’s words are pertinent who says ‘…the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.’ He writes further, ‘Someone said –The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did. Precisely, and they are that which we know.’ (Selected Prose 25) That would make the point clear that to make a complete break with whatever has happened appears a ticklish feat to accomplish. With a slight variation, this thought appears in ‘Renaissance’ when the poet says:
Liberation from yesterday
should become the path
to the doorstep of Salvation
This journey must start now.
The words strike a hopeful note. ‘Buddha’ (49) is a refreshing lyric and it evokes the message of love, compassion, unity, goodwill and peace that Gautama gave to the world – a secular and universal thought of harmony and non-violence. A great and eternal message of Hinduism it is to the world found nowhere else.
It is a tribute by the poet to the symbol of humanism inspiring feelings and thoughts of empathy, love and self-effacement. The Enlightened One, he – the great Gautama carried the legacy and heritage of a great philosophy of serenity and synchronization. Now, the uplifting thoughts lie buried as men of today, as if they were Talibans, try to kill the Soul of purity. Buddha still survives despite inhuman brutal acts. Worries of survival of eternal values create impatience in the heart and intellect of a sensitive poet but hopes never die.
The poet is conscious of common human failings and tries to highlight those weaknesses and somewhere within, he wishes man to bury those evils forever. An individual gets inner ‘Illumination’ (55) when like the ‘The Festival of Lights’ Diwali, he dispels internal darkness by killing the forces of anger, greed, carnal desires, and passions that live within and symbolize satanic forces. One must conquer iniquitous forces and only then, one is fit to celebrate holy festivals like Diwali. If a man sincerely makes efforts to get rid of impious thoughts, he must create an environment of ‘silence’ that would ultimately prove an effective instrument in liberating him from the earthly bondages and lead him to the path of moksha. ‘Silence’ (57) within and outside provides decisive moments a man should know. Silence is meditating on self to know the real man within, if only a man has an eye to see what is not present.
A man makes life enjoyable and impregnates it with meaning and substance only when he participates in various acts of society and evinces interest in worldly beliefs, faiths and traditions. A man is respected and honored only when he learns to live with others without hassles of ego or false notions of self-esteem. These thoughts lead him to discharge certain social obligations. Each act a man performs has roots in the way of life of society. That is the topical concern of the poet when he talks of certain acts a Hindu performs in tune with the wishes of the society. Hindus depend upon trees, for many rituals, and festivals cannot be solemnized without the burning of wood. On the other hand, it becomes moral responsibility of Hindus to plant more trees, for in this sacred act, he worships nature. These thoughts, probably stir the mind of the poet when he takes up to the issue in ‘A Hindu Obligation.’
Trees play a significant role in the life of man and particularly, for Hindus trees form an inseparable constituent of life and living. Right from birth to death, trees offer inescapable prop to Hindus. The death of a tree, the tree worship – puja –prayer, and havan – sacrificial offering in the fire, relate to a symbolic story. Lohri symbolizes the death of a tree, festivals invite burning of wood and this continues in life amidst Vedic mantras. In wisdom, thoughts of preservations, pollution and environment arise but the burning continues. What a Hindu does? He burns a tree on different occasions like birth or death or various religious ceremonies or otherwise to propitiate deities or gods so that he lives here a happy bodily existence or stays alive beyond the body. The concept of green world surfaces and there, the poet talks of ‘A Hindu Obligation’ where planting and growing more trees’ should be a creed, for this is essential for the survival of humankind. He says in plain words:
while Yama still is afar
and I am living with a few breaths more
so that I can plant One Sapling …
And become the image of Nirvana.
(A Hindu Obligation, 31)
If a man is involved in plantation and preserving natural environ, he is doing karma worth emulating, for these grant him inner satisfaction, a feeling that gives glimpses of deliverance. Undoubtedly, such an act appears quite normal and earthly yet deep down it shows that a man is an integral part of nature and its offspring.
In many verses, the poet is worried about the destiny of man, for he finds man engaged in materialistic acts that do not give him solace and moments of tranquility. Man is restive and the thoughts of love, freedom and deliverance continue to haunt. Genuinely, the poet with a kind heart wishes a happy future for man and society. Here, thoughts of deliverance crop up. Deeply entrenched in mundane affairs, a man needs Nirvana – freedom from worldly anxieties leading to salvation or moksha.
An experience of physical and divine love merges to open floodgates of passions and excitements where everything calms down after the merger - a union in moments of silence. The poet speaks evocatively of the joy of fulfillment in moments of silence.
Fulfillment expressed itself
and only listening to the rhythm of
calming heart beats
Again, he says well about the experience of total joys he had with his beloved as he is:
‘wrapped up naked
under a single sheet
I with my beloved
ecstatic and complete
fell into an unruffled sleep.
In ‘Journey’, the poet revels in going back to his origin. Going back to the roots stirs love and passions, and reminds of a beloved shy and graceful. These are nostalgic moments of love, sacrifice and self-negation. One is simply amazed at the images and sensuous feelings the words arouse when he says:
resulting in a fusion…
that I believe
will carry me
that will envelop me
and I will become alive again.
Here, the music of the words enthralls and carries a sensitive reader to moments of pleasure and joys lived long ago. An experience lived it is and that is the strength of the poet. Vivid delineation of the beloved waiting for loving moments fills the poet with ecstasy and supreme joy. Here, he is very near to those moments of fulfillment, which if pursued, can carry a man to final destination of human life called deliverance the poet believes.
The sentiments of ecstatic love continue to govern the psyche of the poet in Naiveté. Nevertheless, this love has ennobling influence on the mind and heart, and works as a catharsis. The poet observes:
These inviting expressions
as the only universal language
to share my poesy
in tranquil unison
I knock your door
One observes feelings of innocent love of a sensitive mind and heart in twinkling eyes, hidden passion, quivering lips, tacit gestures that encourage a poet to:
to share my poesy
in tranquil unison
I knock your door
A sublime and purifying flow of love sentiments reveals the intensity of a loving heart when it says:
love is best expressed in silence
it becomes potent
that are unheard
and again, he says in a moment of ecstasy:
When the gentle breeze
from the free flowing winds
embraces your bare skin
don't you feel the caresses
(Silent Love, 71)
Love as a thought and feeling is sacred giving taste and touch of warmth and joy unspeakable.
After reading love poems of Rajender Krishan, a tenderhearted poet with a religious mind and heart, one begins to believe that love as a pious sentiment purifies a man and teaches him the art of living. When a man transcends barriers of physical joy beyond the borders of known horizons of existence whether physical or otherwise, one realizes the truth of life and here, he feels very near the Supreme lord, the poet appears to say though he remains noncommittal. When one experiences a feeling of absolute love, it is dissolving of the self, and enjoying the bliss of total vacuum – a merger with the Supreme. In moments of supreme bliss, a man experiences unity with the great lord when the poet says:
the subjective “I”; and
the objective “You”
And gets defined as
the cosmic edge
When nature celebrates union divine, it transports a man to another world of supreme delight.
in the ecstasy
of becoming one
with the might
of the infinite ocean,
If the poet emphasizes love and passion in a few poems, he reasserts the belief that love in the life of a man is a divine gift and alliance with a woman, if wholesome, virtuous, and transcendent and consecrated can provide fulfillment. Thoughts of reverence and respect for women are essential for a happy and prosperous life, which contributes to the wellbeing of society in the end one is tempted to argue. In ‘Reflections’ the poet re-emphasizes that deep understanding of the intricacies of marital relations. The experiences so gathered endow sanctity and intransience amidst trials, tribulations and joys transitory. If there are moments of loneliness and agony, genuine love and affection fills the gap. The poet is so pertinent and this is further affirmed by the response of Meera, his wife, when she observes:
of the gaps I miss.
Sentiments of love with a slight variation in situation and conditioning of life appear in ‘Who is Valentine?’, (79) and again in ‘Love in the Air’ (81). The poet’s emphatic and virtuous outlook on love and passion is chaste carrying elements of faith, purity and compassion in plenty and these finally inspire man to live in the warmth and purity of love, a passport to bliss and happy living. When one reads the lyrics of Shiv K Kumar and Daruwalla on love and women, feelings and thoughts of raw passions invade and they take a no-nonsense view of relations with women. It is worldly and realistic with barely any philosophy or mysticism attached to love and passion. This author/critic also depicts love and passion with some primitiveness that touches the ground realities but he does not give hints of mystic approach to love. On the other hand, R K Singh and P Raja are sensuous and passionate when writing about women. It is quite pertinent to say that an aesthetic sense permeates the poetry of some poets while they write about physical beauty of women. Sensuality and terrific passions continue to pervade little verses while in ecstatic moments of passions they fly high to some unknown divine land and this characteristic of poetry takes us back to Pre-Raphaelites. In Rajender Krishan’s love poems enough hints of sensuousness are thrown but suddenly the poet withdraws and falls into deep thought and begins searching meanings beyond earthly passions. This attitude of withdrawal is quite apparent in the love poems of Syed Ameeruddin. This withdrawal raises questions about the poets’ objective.
In depth of love, one finds joys in quiet smiles as even blushes stimulate thoughts, and words instill passions. In togetherness, there is unique communion, ecstasy and love.
is a mirror in which experience
communion, ecstasy and Love
with you I am not myself’
… That is an unsaid blessing of a true ‘Relationship’. A similar strain of love and loving relationship continues in ‘Immersion’, where the poet speaks of union between the lovers who feel the thrills and excitement of a ‘sensuous moment,’ a moment of fulfillment indescribable reaches and there, it is dissolution of self into self without feelings of duality as he observes in these lines:
on throbbing lips
the orgasmic moans
To create is a divine task of the great Lord, and to destroy and recreate with the benign hand of preservation too is the task of the Supreme Lord. Here, on earth, this noble and inimitable task is given to a woman who should not be disturbed when she creates another life in her womb. A birth opens new windows of life’s experience where a self, feels unique realization of supreme liberation when a life begins and if a prayer for the wellbeing of mother and her child is offered, it is a tribute to the creator where relations are valued. It unveils a humanitarian attitude of man towards a mother giving birth to a child – an amazing phenomenon of creation. However, the words appear sexually succulent and stir minds as vivid descriptiveness excites and thrills, and it transports to a world of loving warmth in the embrace of a woman before having experience of the divine – an uncertain land of bliss. On the other hand, ‘On Being a Mother’ (87) fulfills a woman and not only that, it infuses sacredness in an act of creation where bonds strengthen and inspire others to respect and take care of the amazing design, a creation forming relation with innocent smiles and giggles.
In the tedious and uninteresting activities of life where a man finds a queer but certain mix-up of sufferings and joys, while questions of livelihood and comforts continue to puzzle and disturb issues of principles and morality arise and cudgel him to live a decent life if possible so that peace and harmony persist around.
The poet appears overpoweringly miserable and wretched as he witnesses the fall of man created in the image of god, who has lost touch with the sanctity of earthly life, for he is indulgent and pleasure-loving and ignores finer and beautifying aspects of life. In ‘The Changing Face of Man’, he observes:
The chosen one
said to be created in His own image
riveted by narcissistic temptations
of lust and greed
stands inexorably beguiled
by brutal forces …
... desecrating the Garden of Eden!
(The Changing Face of Man, 95)
When the poet speaks of other created beings, he emphasizes the significance of clean and harmonious living as compared with the callous, unsympathetic and highly self-centered man, thought as a higher being. Here, irony intensifies the pain inherent, for a modern man has lost social awareness, compassion and love and is totally immersed in ephemeral pleasures of life, whereas in ‘Struggling Workers’, the poet looks at the hardworking and stressed workers who toil hard, but still miseries continue to torture them who build social structure. For earning livelihood, they move from one place to another but fail to live a comfortable life until they are a total wreck. They worry about homes and children and thus, no time to sit and relax one woefully learns. That these people have to earn and live in a chaotic social order is the tragedy.
to the framework
that’s fast disintegrating
a derelict skeleton
of crumbling economy
and chaotic social order
(Struggling Workers, 97)
Despite claims of growth and progress in the world, the fate of workers has not improved - workers who make lives of wealthy people and rulers comfortable. The rich and the powerful only pay lip sympathy while exploiting vulnerable segments of society engaged in earning livelihood, which is a huge problem for a man who has to sell his labor, the poet obviously thinks. The verse is a strident indictment of hypocritical and exploitation-oriented nature of the rich and the powerful refusing to live clean life. Here, the poet’s apprehensions bring to mind the social thoughts of Marx, Ruskin and Gandhi who were much distressed at the maltreatment and sufferings of working class.
When the poet deliberates on the character of governance, the whole system comes under cautious but ruthless surveillance and scrutiny. He feels that the present system is dead, and those assigned with the duties of protecting the system, enjoy the fall of ethical values and delight in a life of immorality. These unfeeling and frightening truths are revealed in ‘Mortification’. He is unequivocal in stressing that politicians are corrupt and lecherous, scam-lovers and violently greedy. One stands as a helpless witness to:
the degradation of morality
decadence of ethics
so much for the contagious influence of fear
the Constitution gets misrepresented
for fraudulent gains
The words, ‘And “We, the People…” strengthen the import and irony inherent in the verse when the poet stirs up the collective conscience of people. Absolute vulnerability of weaker sections of society endures a dishonest system while eulogizing devils among the rulers and the powerful. One is inclined to agree with what the poet conveys with an anguished heart. A tragic truth survives even in a democratic set up when one observes dictators around putting up masks of democrats. This degeneration of system and moral principles is an inveterate reality of modern life with negligible exceptions.
A notable concern of the poet relates to those men who have to leave homeland in search of better avenues and in due course of time, their interest in the job elsewhere discourages them to return for economic reasons along with love for better life of comforts and luxuries. They harbor feelings of love for the country but there ends the tale. In ‘Migratory Birds’, the anguish of deserting one's land and home is evident while non-fulfillment of desires, ambitions, lack of opportunities chase a man. A man in search of enriching livelihood wishes to expand, move and assert.
He reluctantly abandons homeland because political manipulations drive the brains out of the mother country. The analogy of birds flying away with the change in season to far off places, and then the return to old nests as the season change is a befitting instance the poet offers. While, the birds return, ‘renouncing everything / back to their “home” / when the right moment comes’, a man cannot think of return to roots. If he does, it is with a painful heart, for he is so much involved in the material world. After finding out a reasonable livelihood even when cut off from the land, he feels:
…in the newfound peace
and changed circumstance
the discontented sense of fulfillment
keeps searching for the oasis...
(Migratory Birds, 119)
Life in modern set up has become distressed and excruciating but then, in search of better opportunities, a man has to move out and connect himself with the wider plan of good quality living that gives him glimpses of global delight and meaning, with restraint apparent.
Notwithstanding setbacks and discomforts of going away from one’s country, thoughts of hope of coming back persevere. On the other hand, ingrained optimism inspires to live meaningfully even when there is chaos, hatred, violence, and that makes life wonderful and worth living, the poet believes. He is right here and therefore, everyone would side with the sensitive poet, for hopes keep the flames of life burning. He affirms in ‘Opportune’:
Reaffirming and living our pledge
To love and protect all, far and near
Treating everyone with reciprocal dignity
Will erase ugly blots of the yester year
(Opportune 2013, 121)
With the spirit of hope, if one nurses feelings and thoughts of oneness, love and reciprocity, one would forget unpleasant memories of past that keep disturbing. In ‘Kill the Devil,’ he is remorseful about the existing system and social fabric. Drastic changes are needed if man is to live happily. All negative thoughts must be buried and finished so that man lives happily hereafter. The poet says:
Mindset change is the need of the hour
building love and respectful character
giving space and value to each life
that kills the devil of hate malice
(Kill the Devil, 123)
If social order is sickeningly assailed by hatred, injustice and…man has to kill the devil of hatred. Love, compassion and humanitarian attitude can work wonders, if a man genuinely makes efforts to inculcate such virtues. Poetry as an art has a role to play. It connects a reader to the realities of life where imagination and dreams work together to make it interesting but at the same time, it looks into the truth of life with an earnestness that grants it light. The poets now, are seriously worried about the speed of life and the incapacity of the system to keep pace with the momentum of time. When the poet deliberates upon the realities and the issues a man confronts in life, he is tempted to write with a personal touch and there, he is worn-out and lost. If it is not, there is truth and beauty in a poetic creation that gives enjoyment.
The poet is effortless, direct and authentic in the use of words. When thoughts of momentous and serious social issues arise, he is a little long-winded in the choice of words but that is a flaw with most of the modern poets worried about the total life of man. However, freshness of descriptive imagery and metaphors fascinates but he discards obscure and ingeniously intelligible sophistication of urban poetry of India until 1980. He evokes rhythmic flow of language at times, but love for realism in a couple of verses creates avoidable cacophonous notes. He is superb when he without notice meanders into land other than the earth. When he writes about experiences of the self – vast personal areas of the material and the extraterrestrial, he amazes, for his words create music within. In certain verses, he is diasporic and writes passionately about homeland. Consciously or instinctively, he exhibits love for customs, language and literature, traditions and religion, and any incident or event that injures the secular and universal spirit of India hurts him while existential questions disturb. Secular and charitable thoughts dominate his poetry and that makes it singular.
Illustration by Simi Nallaseth
Arnold, Mathew, Essays in Criticism, S. R. Littlewood (Editor), Macmillan, London
Eliot, T.S. Selected Prose. Penguin Books 1958
Rajender Krishan. Solitude and other poems, ISBN 978-81-8253-414-8,
2013, Cyberwit.net, Allahabad - 211011, India
Scott James, R.A. The Making of Literature, Mercury Books, 1963