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|A Butterfly Rides The Winds|
|by Prof. R. K. Bhushan|
[The Mind and Art of Dr. Rita Malhotra]
The title must not be misconstrued in any way even by the remote stretch of imagination. My association with Dr. Rita Malhotra, a mathematician-poet, is very recent and I have found her prolific and abundant, very interesting to converse with on a variety of subjects, notwithstanding her shakiness in her ventures and frequently undervaluing herself, perhaps the modesty of the fair sex.
When evaluated fairly, her shakiness also appears to be a significant part of her envious level of proficiency, both as a teacher and a poet. Her creativity in poetry and her zealous participation in national and international poetry conferences, workshops and seminars have earned for Rita many laurels and have also added some feathers in her cap, if she wears it. Her poems have been translated into Spanish, French, Chinese etc. and they adore some reputed poetry anthologies also. Needless to say that Rita’s position among great pre-colonial and post-colonial Indian English poets like Sarojini Naidu, Toru Dutt, Kamla Das, Melanie Silgardo, Mamta Kalia, Eunice De Souza, Imtiaz Dharker, Sujata Bhatt etc. is secure.
Again Borrowed Bliss, simple, spontaneous and symphonic, is the poem of flights of a butterfly riding high on the highs, secure and ecstatic, viewing and reviewing, unscared and assured all the time. Its wings flap “above the ochre slopes”, “over desert hills” ,”over verdant forest pines” and then:
“I race past wayward winds
Thus the butterfly rides and rides into time and space, into dreams and desires, into society and its malaise, unrestrained and as long as she likes. It is from here that the poetry of Rita Malhotra is born, emerges or emanates. There is The sea within (p 65) which tells us about the poetry of interior landscape, interiorized to exteriorize her disturbed fathom. Rita’s concept of poetry is further clear when we read Poem and Poems ( pages 89&90). We learn that life is a disfigured poem with “the space between lines” and “the blanks between words” and these sing of love from where the ashes have been blown; blurred and bruised thoughts reject and abandon the pains of daily existence. However, as Rita tramples upon dry leaves and dead flowers, her emotions, delights, pains, concerns and reason express themselves in the incessant process of poetry. She says:
“ then fresh words appear
Such a wonderful commencement of the process of Rita’s poetic creation reminds us of William Blake’s Introduction to Songs of Innocence when we read Rita’s Poems. Her range of poetry moves from the wealth and beauty of nature to the waste and barbarity of the nuclear age. Rita says-
“I plucked a poem
That is how I thought of assigning this title to the article. This furthers my interest in studying the mind and art of Dr. Rita Malhotra. Her interest in poetic compositions is so ardent that sometimes I wonder how she finds time to fulfill her other personal and professional responsibilities and obligations. Dr. Rita has prodigious energy and enthusiasm to accomplish herself in whatever she chooses to take up. I have noticed that she has a strong urge to create challenging tasks and situations for herself and meets them with equal dignity, grace and success.
“we versify life
“kaleidoscope of dreams afloat,
“the sea within churns
Yes, the poetry and the profession of Rita and also whatever she professes is “the sea within” which keeps on churning ever to whip up soaring, shivering and trembling frenzied foam-lined waves in their crystalline settlements on the vast infinite shores of her poetic activity. It is impressive splendid parade of the numberless small segments of a huge army out to celebrate the triumph of effort over ennui and existence. She says-
“she is victorious
Dr. Rita is invincible in her impressions when she enjoys the delicacies of the lavish feast of life-
“I can feel the earth open wings
Rita assures us that life can be and will be a lavish feast only if it is cradled in Cupid’s arms; the trance is more lavish in such a mood. At the same time, her agony flutters her soul in Orphan (p 68). This is a poem of heart-felt concern, sympathy and worry which reveals the poet’s ever-alive humanity. The girl-child, an orphan-
“a frost-bitten flower”
is ready to plunge into her “turmoiled tomorrows”. It is highly suggestive and evocative. She expresses herself frankly and honestly and without any inhibition. This is a great quality of the artist and Rita boldly shares what she feels is the truth or the everyday reality.
“to be distanced from
Today, corpse’s clothing draped her white uniform the sight of which maddened the helpless mother whose laughter-
“echoes like strings of an instrument gone wild.” -do-
Dr. Rita, in a remarkably controlled emotion, tells that-
“injuries of time continue to be inflicted
The last three words heighten and emphasize the tragedy that occurs day in and day out engulfing the prey in its pain and agony, slur and stigma, torment and haunting all the time to come. What deepens the tragic tension is that such situations are unstopped and unstoppable. Rita’s message is clear and loud and even the clogged ears open to hear its cry and shriek.
“she dies everyday
Rita’s poems are pictures painted still and which become movies in readers’ minds. Sometimes they look to be the picture story tests to the readers as candidates to jolt their unconsciously ignored or hidden or consciously concealed sensibilities. Children are sacrificed at the altar of gods; they suffer such atrocity where in the chaotic clanging of temple bells, we hear the prayer of a girl child. In Earthquake Images, this child –
“is devoured alive
“in tearful frenzy she digs
Rita’s concern for the indignities and inhumanities inflicted on girl children and widows are more conspicuous than her treatment of love, passion and beauty. Her own response is heart-rending and poignant, emotive and rhetorical, compassionate and captivating. She is quite emphatic in her revelations and , while doing so, her abundant use of the wealth of similes and metaphors turns out to be a force to reckon with. Girls are sold in marriage and their plight is rarely realized but Rita exposes the unabashed acts of people who are the shame of society without their realizing it. Rita says-
“virginity huddled in surrender
Her marital happiness lost its glow and fragrance in the stinking and detestable, false and shallow, adoring preparations and the sharply contrasted surroundings wherein we hear her-“hapless screams” and become a living witness to-
“she had just lived her first death.” Sold (p41)
Dr. Rita is ironical and sarcastic to awaken the reader that in a country or society which makes tall declarations and professions regarding its high adorations and honor given to women, this is the most dehumanizing treatment given in reality. This is a daring exposition of the society with a double face and double standards. Dr. Lee Kuei-shien, a Taiwanese Poet says, “Dr. Malhotra is very sensitive in poetic imagination with a certain abstract thinking in combination with deep concern about social reality.”
“woman, born, reborn
Man obviously treats woman only as an instrument of sexual lust and she is rendered hollow inside out. This deterioration of her charm and beauty into a horrifying and deadening lump of flesh with no freshness leaves her a psychological wreck wrecked into a living death. She tries to rejuvenate her lost glamour by external aids and flattering comments of hungry man but fractured forties can’t be shaped into angelic fourteen and she becomes a “sour-bellied whore”, to use Shakespearean expression. I wrote Mangled Wits on a similar theme-
“Man misguides me into doles
Woman is the biographical sketch of a woman, her life of struggle, fierce and ferocious, like a river assuming countless shades and shapes with fickle twists and turns-
“ravages of time ignored,
“exoand into an ocean
This is the psychological and physical, emotional and eternally tender behavior of a woman in goddesses and a goddess in woman. Rita’s feministic concerns and sympathies bear a stamp of authenticity and genuineness. That is what assures her a place beside the eloquent proponents of the cause of respect, freedom and dignity of woman from birth to the end of her life.
Although she has not fixed the responsibility for such a sorry mess on any one or system, yet it is obvious that the paramount position of man and the resultant male-chauvinism are squarely to be blamed. What hurts us more is not the hurts and bruises he inflicts on woman but his delight and his Mephistophilian mock while so doing and after the damage with no sense of remorse. Perhaps that is the reason that we all and the law are the mute spectators to ever-rising graph of such wrongs and crimes in the land of Savitari and Sita, Durga, Lakshami and Saraswati and Kali etc.
“she is a mere cog
And in Brothel Queen, she looks at this atrocity from another angle “angel of darkness”,
“ambushed by illicit desires
In Unwed Mother, Rita portrays another sadder side of a woman’s life whose-
“hurt never lasts
We read more poems on these burning issues pertaining to the actual status of women in our society that adore millions of pages in literature, sociology, law, womanology and feministic studies, may be to enjoy wah wah and to be in the swim, but Rita doesn’t seem to have any such intentions. Her soul-stirring message is conveyed in Child Prostitute (p 16 ), Child Bride (p23), Widow (p 59) etc. are more devastating in this respect. Widow is a painful and poignant poem of the tragic plight of a widow helplessly trapped in the messy and sticky religious corruption where-
“unholiness emanates from
She helplessly endures the feasting “animal eyes” of the vultures around and feeding them with “her sadness-nest”. The poem is full of live images richly wrapped in right and appropriate words invested with meanings that are a soulful delight of poetry. Child prostitution is a social evil, a crime, a slur on the guardian angels of society, an economic necessity that work at delicacy and decency. Child Prostitute is marked by artistic bluntness, naked images, helpless surrender to inhuman and detestable exploitation in utter social and moral degradation. The poem is a protest and also a high-sounding appeal to the slumberous conscience of society that happily allows it. In Child Bride, Rita’s artistry is at work more artistically. The title elaborates the situation in a straightforward manner wherein she tells us about life without love, passion without love, desire without love, marriage without love; all love hinges on- “the pungent smell/ of loveless desire” where “the music of/her kaleidoscopic glass bangles” breaks into the ruin of thousand colored fragments and remnants. Rita deserves to be decorated for espousing and relentlessly taking up the cause of feminism, femininity and womaninity.
“reckless passion on rampage
One is a short , simple lyric of deep passion wherein the poetess feels-
“you are happiness
and in very fine, ornate and reflective metaphors, great signs of her poetic maturity, inspite of the “green minds”, Rita says-
“let dark green minds
What an artistic linguistic twist! A reminder of Frost’s “Stopping By Woods.” Even Peter Thabit Jones, Editor, the Seventh Quarry, Wales, U.K. has observed-“Malhotra’s poems, often compact, display what the American poet Robert Frost referred to as “a careful casualness.”……It is through her poetic voice, honest, delicate, intelligent, individual yet universal that arrests the reader and leaves him or her with something truly profound and lasting.”
These are highly sensual images which hold a powerful appeal to the eye, ear, sight and smell without any oblique reference. Similarly, after storm, there is Tempest in which-
“the mirror co-operates
After this, what happens is a delectable experience when body and soul meet and unite and achieve the trance of heavens-
“night traverses the highway of rapture
Yes, when the stars also grow dim, though in utmost reluctance, the fresh song of dawn sings a lullaby to the lovers rolling in the ultimate bliss. Well done, Rita! Only Keats could create it to the level of consummation! In Kiss, Dr. Rita tells us about the miracle of kiss in completely overwhelming bliss. There is no need for preparation; it is the first kiss is highly inflammable. Of course, the firsts in life have charming memories, even beyond the grave. The short, delicate and violent lyric has a direct and dramatic opening-
“the first kiss sets them ablaze
The next stanza is meant seriously to be enjoyed and experienced otherwise don’t read it! This reminds us of Keats’ “Ode to Psyche and “Eve of St. Agnes”. These emotional stirrings and passionate arousals must throw us into-
“unbridled ripples of ecstasy”
till the flame ebbs in “the ocean of dark damp desire” and “cupid’s eyes fall in deep sleep.” After reading Rita’s protests against crimes against children, women and widows and appeals for social respect, dignity and freedom untroubled and unmarred by advances and overtures, when we read her love songs and lyrics to be sung and relived, we are oblivious of what the hell goes around and these lyrics mesmerize the reader and also disturb to the very essence.
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