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Pramod Kumar Das, Narayan Jena

Pramod K Das & Narayan Jena: The Whispering Grove

Book Review

Anand Mahanand
The Whispering Groves
A collection of poems
Amazon. 2014
Pages 80 | Rs 175

A pantheistic ode to nature and the rural ethos

A poet develops a world of his own and that world influences the texture and tenor of his poetry. Such world is perhaps the metaphorical extension of the world that the poet has once experienced or has been the part of; and that constantly nurtures the poet’s consciousness and imagination. Precisely, the impression of a place remains in the poet’s consciousness and appears as the substance of poetry. In a Wordsworthian vein this world is marked by pristinity and beauty, serenity and remoteness, set in the backdrop of idyllic countryside. The bucolic characteristics are perhaps the necessity for the poet, as ‘the poetic truth.’ Certain changing in the place with technological advancement, urban intervention and rise of money making industries may not be accepted by the poet because they undermine the ravishing beauty of its natural place, age old sanctity of its sylvan tradition and corrupt its eco-cultural practices. It develops a sense of nostalgia in which he longs for the former, which he considers as the ideal, the pure and the naturally given. Thus, wants the world to continue to exist through time, with time and beyond time. In contrast to it the changed world is the materialistic, manipulated and manmade, which the poet is unable to cope with.

The Whispering Groves is a magnificent collection of poems, which reflects Dr Mahanand’s natural credo. Through simplicity of language he showcases his love and reverence for nature and tradition. As a poet having romantic orientation, he has developed sensible approach to nature and tradition. Like a prophet or a visionary he envisages the possible negative consequences of the overgrowing modernization and uneven rural transformation. So he wants the factors responsible for pangs of pain and suffering as the common experience in the urban space, not to enter into the domain of his simple and rustic life. As he says –

Don’t import your hate, arrogance and pride
To my simple, commonality filled life.
Don’t bring scarcity, depravity and the evils of your town.
My village is resourceful with resources abundant.
You want quick progress, quick money and quick death
We want leisure, pleasure and to sustain ourselves.
(Don’t pollute my village)

The poet reasserts his sense of rejection of the urban intrusion by saying not to spread hate, arrogance and pride in the rustic life which in result may affect the pleasure and leisure as the sole objective of rural life. Such rejection comes from his fear that scarcity, depravity and the evils of town may devour rural resources and infect its happiness.

In a certain sense the collection expresses the poet’s sense of idealistic pantheism and eco-spiritualism as well. Here the poet sees the presence of God in nature as well as finds nature as the manifestation of God, whose sacredness expresses itself in every tiny object existing in the world. Here the common folk come and participate in various activities and offer their prayers in the lap of nature, which suggests the people’s deepness of association with nature. The poem ‘Ashwattha’ is a case in point –

“Ashwattha,” you are called
I don’t know the meaning.
But I am so fascinated by your charm
O dear, Peepal tree.
You are really sacred, serene and calm,
Soothing, known for giving and not receiving.
You are the life and knowledge giving tree
With abundant beauty.

Mahanand here applauds the ever widening sacred nature of Ashwattha tree. With having godly nature, the tree tends to offer its serenity to people, without expecting anything in return. It indicates the nonexistence of ‘the technology of exchange’ (a characteristic of the urban life) in the rural world. Again the poet depicts the divine connection of the tree, from the Bhagavad Gita to the holy mother Earth.
You are the life tree of Gita
Your roots are towards the divine
Leaves look down with veneration
To Mother Earth for inspiration.

The sacred tree’s roots go into the path of divine and her leaves with all due respect look to mother earth. In the family of earth, in the lap of nature, in the voice of serenity there is ample wealth of divine spirit where the train for spiritual journey takes off. In nature the poet tries to locate the road of progress to spirituality.

In another poem ‘The Kind and Generous Nature’ the poet highlights the nurturing quality of nature
Such is the touch of Nature
She nurtures life and cares for us like a mother
But we are not always grateful to her.

As our mother takes a very good care of us, similarly nature too cares for us but we the mortals are not grateful to her, he regrets. Again, the idea of agriculture gets manifested in poems like ‘The first Day of Sowing Crops.’ Agriculture is an act of bringing about procreation to the earth; it is perhaps a method to materialize the Upanishadic proclamation that it is necessary to multiply Annam (food) in many folds, by which the fret and suffering of the world can be eliminated inevitably.
I sow the grains and yoke my bullocks
To plough the piece of land round and round.
Before that a lamp I lit
With a prayer to my ancestors and Dhatri Mata
Let the grains be safe and more
Let there be no insect drought or famine
Let there be peace and prosperity.

The poet tries to connect the act of agriculture with a divine act and with the glory of tradition and grace of ancestors. So before he starts his agricultural odyssey he lights a lamp as a symbol of veneration to the ancestors and mother earth with a prayer for future crops to be safe from natural calamities as well as from insects. By using simple diction Mahanand has presented a deep sense of relation between humans and the earth. Yet it develops utmost pathos, as in the modern time people tend to get estranged from their tradition and the source of their life (the earth and nature) in a mad race of materialism or money making. Agriculture, which brings human being closer to earth and which includes physical, emotional and intellectual involvement with nature, which is a conventional act of producing food, is regarded as a regressive practice. It is a sorry state for the poet.

We need to see the sense of performing rituals rooted in our tradition as seen in most of the poems contained in this collection. In ‘The Village Pond in the Morning’ the poet gives the typical village scene of the pond and how people use it for their own purpose –
This is the giver of life The Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati
Nourishes life of man, animals, birds and creatures unseen.

Here, it is clear that Mahanand has given utmost divine status to even the mundane matters of the world. By equating the village pond with the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, the sacred rivers descending from the holy Himalayas, he suggests in a deep ecological vein that everything in this world has equal importance in the scheme of natural order; even the simple and the mundane have potential to arouse enormous sense of sacredness.

In the poem ‘The Descendants of Mahanandi’ the poet highly appreciates the cherishing side of Mahanadi:
You are descendants of the Mahanadi
Born brought up and nourished by her sweet water
Hence Mahanadia, Mahanand and Mahananda you are.

The poet, here, underlines the origination of human race from the elemental forces and resources of nature. So he has a filial devotion for nature and its beauty. Similarly, in the poem ‘The Whispering Grove’ the poet muses –
I wandered looking for greener pastures
But they remain rooted there
As they belong to the soil.
I visit them in winter noons
They shelter me under their branches
Whispering loving words in my ears
Cuddling me in abundant affection.

The poet in search for undulating beauty of nature’s green makes his journey in the winter noons and finds himself under the branches of the tree, which directly communicate with him. Here the communication entails the inspiration of nature’s beauty to the imagination and consciousness of the poet. Poems like ‘My Uncle’s Village,’ ‘The Village Fair,’ ‘Drying the Other Part,’ ‘Gleaning Mohua Flowers,’ ‘The Story of My Village,’ ‘Plucking Kendu Leaves,’ ‘The Village Battlefield’ and many other poems project the day-to-day typical Indian village life to a large extent. In ‘Mother Earth Moulded Me’ we can see how the poet is grateful to mother earth, for she is moulding him and nourishing him to gain worldly wisdom.
Mother earth cared me even before I came to her lap
She nourished me with pure air, water and food as I grew up
She offered her wide breast to play, learn and survive
Mother earth is generous difficult to find such kind.
She taught me to be calm, silent and pious
She inspired to be gentle, kind and harmonious
She taught me many tongues and the worldly wisdom
And the otherworldliness through her power that is immense.

Qualities of gentleness, kindness, calmness, harmony, silence, piety etc oozing out of mother earth’s heart make the poet nurture such qualities in him and spread them with oomph among multitudes of people.

All the sixty poems included in this collection give a wider view of the typical scene of Indian villages by mapping the roads of imagination where both bio-physical nature and human nature are prevalent, and exist side by side. On the whole the poet tries to make a bonding with nature and attempts to show how she helps for his growth and development, how he has learnt many good qualities from her. The cornerstone of this collection offers an alternative discursive knowledge oriented towards nature and tradition. This collection of poems certainly gives an alternative direction to human thought and action which are mechanically confined within the world of the hyper-real and absurdity and certainly makes the readers travel back to tradition and nature which are the primordial forces in reshaping humanity. This collection shows the way, how a human finds his spiritual quest getting quenched in nature. The use of simple diction and style with an elevated theme of nature has ornamented the poems for which the readers will orchestrate themselves to have a pleasing reading of green poetry.



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