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|Thorn in the Flesh of Man-Woman Relationship, Sex And Love|
|by Prof. R. K. Bhushan|
The treatment of love and sex in the poetry of all languages, art, painting and sculpture has always been a charming fascination. So has been the sweet temptation and irresistible desire to read and enjoy the same to beyond the last dregs. The treatment and studies of the subject have always faced a challenging crisis - social, moral, psychological, legal and even biological. However, with the radical growth of consciousness, there has been an astonishing change in our attitude to sex and love as poets, critics, artists and the common mass of mankind today, though we still adore and idolize the same with indecency, vulgarity, obscenity and even pornography. This aspect of our daily existence and life has never lost its sheen, luster and even glow, in determining, sustaining, sublimating and destroying the very quintessence of man-woman relationship. The wealth of the history of the subject is not only profoundly rich and abundant but also ever-fresh and ever-stimulating like the dense forest with all its vegetation, eternal inexhaustible springs gushing forward into brooks, streams and rivers surviving with the ferocious and the submissive inhabitants. It would be an unpardonable injustice if I mention some stalwarts and unmention many, many sages, saints, prophets, poets and artists of the genre. However, the literary obligations indispensably require some citations.
We may continue from the treasures of D. H. Lawrence to listen to the shriek/s of Shukla’s parrot but the limitations demand a reluctant stop and be happy with the approach, application and attitude that emerge out of these precious gems. This acquaints us intimately with sex and love in their sacredness and sanctity, sinfulness, voluptuousness and vulgarity, necessity, need, comfort, consolation, relief, escape etc - physically, mentally, psychologically, intellectually, morally, socially; again etc.
Obviously, love and sex are eternally present thorn in our flesh; its discussion is thornier than the topic; it is thorniest when treated as a taboo and we feel shy or suppressed to talk or speak about it; it is shameful and degrading and debasing when we come out with pretensions about it. Dr. R. C. Shukla’s The Parrot Shrieks (3 Vols.) is at its best in taking the thorn out and when it is being taken out, it causes pain but when out, it is a heaven of relief when the shriek softens but doesn’t end. I don’t think any other Indian English Poet has done so with such candidness, chivalry, directness and dare and while reading these volumes, we feel the personalized experiences of the poet universalized. Thanx to the glory of the Muses! Also it astounded me to think, with due apology to Dr. Shukla, if he has done anything else than to be licentious with Lauras, Biches, Fornarinas, Juliets, Rosalinds, Violas, Cleopatras, Doyles, Harriets, Fannys, Maud Gonnes, Dianas etc.
Today sex is in the mind and love is nowhere, not even in sermons and obsequious reverence. To be more plain, or for that matter, blunt, all love is in sex from where flows all goodness, nicety, decency, charity, virtue, nobility; and without it, the indispensably essential basis of the working of our life, smooth and harmonious man-woman relationship, remains disturbed, perverse, strained and stagnant. In his prefatory note to the first volume of The Parrot Shrieks, Dr. R. C. Shukla says with forthright honesty of purpose:
In these lines, around me and my own observation need some particular attention. Then in his Preface to the third volume, Dr. Shukla says:
This amplifies Dr. Shukla’s approach and attitude to love and sex in this matter though he considers love the light of hope dimmed and extinguished by disbelief bringing despair. He further states that in love - “loyalty is a capricious liability conditioned by so many upheavals.”
The poet says-
In How Long could this Relationship Last? In the same volume, Dr. Shukla says:
The images of a cottage and a castle for a woman are new and imbued with rich fantastic meaning; a pilgrimage and a thoroughfare; we feel the refreshing charm of the cottage and the dull depressing monotony of the castle. (A Castle Just Thrills with its Façade p 27). Dr. R. C. Shukla presents the strain and stress and smoothness of this strain and symphony in an interesting manner. This is the working of love and sex in man-woman relationship before marriage, in marriage, beyond marriage in extra-marital charms with a different tune and each poem portrays a new object of desire in a new situation. So each poem has an aura of freshness as love and sex are ever-fresh, even it works as a taboo, and it remains an object of incessant charm and desire. The poet conceals nothing and reveals all with the boldness and dare of a saint of love who never finds it stale or stinking, disgusting or despairing, defiling or degrading but rather indispensable to everyday happiness and cheer and peace, whatever be the mood therein.
He also claims that sexual cohabitation is not even physical. When it is season, clouds may not rain and simply thunder and roam like pilgrims in the sky; the peacocks also dance looking towards the sky; two grown up leaves touching and bending amorously over each other; the pigeons playing with their beaks and the two penguins bathing and then dancing and chirping. So, says Shukla:
Dr. Shukla should have used Invocation here, not prologue. He thinks of woman as a fertile field and lauds her functional signification in filling her man’s life with bliss and blessing- as caretaker of life yielding hope and consoling her broken and fallen man and endures sustenance while feeding him with the fragrances of her flesh and quintessential honey. (Woman is a field fertile, p24). We are reminded of great British poets like Elizabethan Song writers, Spenser, Donne, Shelley, Keats, Browning and the Pre-Raphaelites who create unending delight in their sensuousness. Love poets are lovers too; successful, failed or defeated, doesn’t matter. The poet also thinks of love as an illusion blinking from heaven, a man’s obsession for his woman and the poor man loses his sense of judgment and is trapped. Man-woman relationship is unusual as that of glass and stone. Shukla doles out message of lasting wisdom to lovers for their success and fuller realization saying that it is man’s manliness she desires and longs to be won and defeated and yearns to reveal her secret fragrances and fruits and honey-pot to her manly man. She doesn’t like to and cannot wait and:
This is a poem of deep and subtle psychological insight into the sexual surrender of woman. The poet maintains and sustains the dramatic beauty of sensuality in not suggestive but provocative manner.
So infidelity is new morality, a virtue to be valued, and loyalty in love is a liability, according to Dr. Shukla. Here is Hamlet’s echo -
It may be difficult to say whether woman is frail or she is the frailty of man or man is frail for her.
Rosalind says in Shakespeare’s philosophical romance and the brightest comic bliss As You Like It that both men and women are uncertain, of course in love and loyalty but not in sex. Her observation there sums up this persistent consistency:
The song of Balthasar in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing comes as a great solace to women who always distrust men for their loyalty and faithfulness (perhaps to conceal their own infidelity). He sings:
The vision of romantic love as viewed by Dr. Shukla is also loaded with diversity but he has best presented it as an illusion in which no wise man or woman will indulge. In the poem Romantic love is not different from an illusion, the poet regards it as deceptive relationship; adulterous love is merely a passion, it is dreamy; it is born of imbalanced thinking. Such a relationship painted with the façade of love is empty, bogus; it is like the majestic fort of the king, mutilated and dilapidated, crumbled and deserted inhabited only by the ghosts. The promises made therein are a willful and blatant transgression of the “boundaries of prudence”, hence tormenting and ruinous. Even the great holy scriptures forbid such a venture;
It is senseless love, restless love, rootless love, fatuous love, idiotic love, imbecile love. This is the message of sagacity given with a stern warning to avoid such love and follow the saner course only and be happy! That is why The desire to come to your dwelling is dead (p87). It is not possible to love without a true spirit:
Obviously, love enjoys social and moral, and hence, legal and religious sanction. Without it, it is vulgar and profane. Here the poet emphasizes the value of self-restraint and purity. He says:
Dr. R. C. Shukla expects a woman also to be stable, virtuous, truthful, fair, honest, modest, innocent, soft in speech, tender in dealings so that love is not debased and sex doesn’t become obscene, vulgar and profane. In many of the poems, he has reflected on this aspect of man-woman relationship as it is not a one-way affair or traffic. In fact, it is a woman whose suggestions, provocations, innuendoes, ogles, slanting and secret looks, advances etc which elicit initially a fearful response which turns out to be a bold affair later. In his Foreword to the second Volume of The Parrot Shrieks, Dr. R. C. Shukla writes:
The poet says:
The poet tells us about an obstinate revengeful woman in a poem with the same title and warns:
“Who can surpass woman?” is another assertion of the poet in this regard and he substantiates his point with the example of how Vikramaditya’s voluptuous brother, King Bharthari, was duped by Anangsena until Rooplekha enlightened the indulgent man-“And Anangsena proved to be shoddy before a strumpet.” So:
Dr. Shukla sketches a starved woman in naked images:
The poet essentializes the beauty of man-woman relationship when he thinks that modesty in a woman and credibility in a man; that is the true beauty of a woman and that is the real strength of a man like the fragrance of flowers. He questions:
R. C. Shukla has not only explained and explored the existing levels and directions of man-woman relationship but has made spontaneous and strenuous effort, in all honesty and earnestness, to dig out the unexplored and unknown layers and depths. No other poet in Indian English Poetry, not even Ramanujan, Kamla Das or Imtiaz Dharker or Dr. Rita Malhotra, and very few in British and American Poetry have done so much with such candour, and even nakedness. In Commerce, Shukla boldly exposes the hypocrisy of the people who protect under the umbrella of trade their impure adulterated emotions; he knows that not only men but women also are actively engaged in trading sex, we call flesh trade, and it is flourishing under different banners at different levels. This is Women’s Lib Movement! It was perhaps Henry James who observed that women are the greatest tyrants over women. People with seeing eyes and feeling hearts also see this going on unabashedly though they may not have the voice to protest to rectify the inhuman wrongs being perpetrated. Commerce is a poem of great insight into the movement of man-woman relationship on the tracks leading in different directions for the benefit of one for the other unmindful of the social and moral cost/s it entails. Perhaps this is the most cost-effective as it creates smooth and soothing harvest of relationships and life goes on!
Sensual delight in sexual charm and fascination often leads to sexual desire and its initial continuity with frequency quintessentializes man-woman relationship in the evolutionary process of life the certainty of which is felt in its eternity. However, man’s areas of interests are wide and diverse and he is born or lives/loves to work in consonance and harmony with this diversity. This distribution of man’s daily load saddens a woman and she reconciles with her escape into arms and embraces of others which is by way of adage described as her infidelity. If man can’t stick or confine, why should a woman? Dr. Shukla’s vision of man mayhave a deeper touch of sanctity, nobility and transcendental quest for the unknown but betraying a woman’s trust/ love, her primary need to be wanted, desired and loved, for this quest must not result in unhealthy practices in the working of this relation with enduring grace and dignity. The poet says:
The dilemma of the poet is well-expressed in “I coerce myself”, “Those who love are guilty of a sin”, “Something within me warns”, “But you pestered my peace”, “But this again was an illusion”, “If my soul craves for you” as the thorn in the flesh is running through veins and the uneasy mind seeks release and relief. His yearning and languishing can be fully discerned in his craving:
Sometimes the irony is that when a man loves a woman for something unexplainable, she feels puffed up and begins to jeer at love; the poets feels that constancy in relationship is an embellishment. So the poet says:
Finally, we can say that Dr. Shukla has attempted to define the indefinable, love and its nature; the more he has scratches the skin and the head and the heart, the more rashes have appeared effacing and defacing the fair fair, the sublime sublime; the Light of lights, the glow Divine, wrought with human mind - so becoming a thorn in the flesh becoming before and leaving behind “A burning forehead and a parching tongue” (Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn). In the Foreword to the Second Volume of The Parrot Shrieks, the poet observes:
Rudyard Kipling says in his poem - The Female of the Species is More Deadly than the Male - and intellectualizes the issue. Innumerable, gods and goddesses, saints and sages, dukes and duchesses, kings and queens, princes and princesses in all mythologies, literatures, history, folk literatures, Kissa Kavya etc have been stung or bitten by Lord Love throughout. What wonder if the ordinary mortals in the daily coarse course fall a prey irresistibly to this Lord of Thorns and fall because they do not know how to rise. Shukla has abundantly elaborated these ordinary mortals. He is delighted and spreads infectious gusto and rumbustious ecstasy for the thorn in the flesh to harmonize and soothe man-woman relationship and liberate it from the disturbing, debasing, perplexing and nauseating irritants but not those that sweeten this relationship. There is no self-condemnatory mood and self-torturing guilt anywhere in all moods and moments, passions, panting puffs though the parrot keeps shrieking:
The world would not have been as we see it, had there been no thorn and the world will go with this thorn! The poet’s philosophy of love is best expressed in excellent lyrical beauty in Love is not a lamb wherein he sings of the transcending virtue of love not a lamb, not a tiger, not a snake, not a cat but it is indefinable, illusive, abstract, trustworthy and so real:
I shall conclude with a story of a man-woman race narrated by Master Aristophanes during the usual lively, enlightening, philosophical, metaphysical and moral discussion on love at a routine gathering of the Greek Masters. In his regaling wit, the comedy master said that God had created man-woman race in this world of ours. This race was so powerful that they decided to launch a spirited aggression on gods to recapture heaven. Gods smelt a rat and learnt about the invasion. The poor gods were so scared that they separated the man-woman race to save heavens as their habitat. Since then, men and women have been yearning and languishing to be united!
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