Mirosh Thomas & Pramod K Das: ‘Sensitivity and Cultural Multiplexity’
VVB Rama Rao
Sensitivity and Cultural Multiplexity in Recent Indian English Poetry
Jaipur: Aadi Publishers. 2015
Pages 230 | Rs 995
Insights into the work of 14 contemporary Indian poets
Dr VVB Rama Rao’s collection of essays Sensitivity and Cultural Multiplexity in Recent Indian English Poetry is a critical perspective on some of the promising poets in contemporary Indian Writing in English. He has selected fourteen poets whose creative imagination and expression reflect on “contemporary sensitivity and cultural multiplexity.” Their writings transcend narrow regionalism and focus on contemporary issues and concerns as well as social ethos and habits which form the essential fabric of Indian socio-cultural aesthetic. The book’s Foreword is by Som Ranchan, and we have the Preface and a detailed Introduction by VVB Rama Rao along with an acknowledgement section and fourteen detailed chapters on the works of each of the poets included in this collection.
Rama Rao begins his analysis with the poems of RK Singh, perhaps the veteran among all the poets included in this collection. Inclusion of Singh, gives Rao an occasion to discuss the creative process in general and establish the general framework of his critical analysis. For Singh, writing a poem helps him “unburden himself and experience an inner balance.” Following a liberal humanist position, Singh declares his faith in “brevity, rhythm and colouring of human passion.” However, unlike liberal humanist, he is dead against didacticism and moral principles.
The next poet, DC Chambial from Himalayan region, brings hills and valleys and all the images associated with them; however, they are not always peaceful images sans the political turmoil and tensions packed neatly underneath. Chambial writes, “The land laughs, / blood congeals, / Flood receded, / My feet on quicksand, / Blazing sun takes dip, / The falcon squeaks on rock” (25). One of the strengths and at the same time a weakness of many of the Indian English writers were their incorporation of myths into their creative work.
However, the third poet, IK Sharma, included in this book strikes a balance with a light touch on myth and folklore. He always stood for, in the words of Rao, “brevity and stark simplicity in the expression of observed and felt reality.” In this spirit, IK Sharma jots down an epigram: “An event becomes experience/ when you are aware of it/” (58).
The fourth poet he brings for analysis is unique in her geographical positioning as well as the blending of religious faiths. It is none other than Usha Akella, a diasporic writer in whose writings, according to Rao, “Kali worship, Tantrism, Hinduism and Sufism all merge into a fabulous illumination culminating in bliss.” In her ecstasy, she writes, “My heart has burst open/ and has God’s name written all over it/ Petal by Petal, pink-hue it lies open to the sun/ Anahata, the heart chakra in divine ecstasy./ Alla Hu./ Alla Hu./ Alla Hu” (73).
In the chapter “Everlasting Wisdom; Two Long Poems of K.V Raghupathi,” Rao analyzes two books Voice of the Valley and Wisdom of the Peepal Tree. In Voice of the Valley Raghupathi drives home the point that in the valley, a wanderer roams about in search of Truth and Wisdom. He writes, “The voice is none/ You have mistaken the Voice/ O, the Voice finds you a pilgrim in quest of Truth” (77). Man’s never ending quest for truth and wisdom is highlighted in this collection of poems. Rao takes into account Wisdom of the Peepal Tree where the peepal tree is considered to be the provider of wisdom. The poet writes, “Here I am, O Tree of Knowledge and Wisdom!/ Guide me, lead me into your abode/ And allow me to drink your wisdom” (86). After analyzing Raghupathi’s poems, Rao is convinced that most of the contemporary Indian English poetry is unique: it reflects nativism, in other words intensity-felt Indianism forms the crux of recent Indian English poetry.
In the next chapter Rao examines a long poem called “Monto” from the collection Among the Shadows by PCK Prem which deals with “an aspect of the persona’s diurnal activities.” Rao makes a thorough analysis of the poem and opines, “The pretentious socialist, the haughty communist, the socialite free sex-lovers presented here are both amusing and thought-provoking… The poet’s sardonic humour at times accentuates the scathing criticism of the politicians and their babus revealing his sensitive understanding and competent expression” (106).
In the chapter “The Poet’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Susheel Kumar Sharma’s Poetry,” Rao analyzes two collections of poetry namely From the Core Within and The Door is Half Open. He remarks, “The important thing in Sharma’s poetry is the free and deliberate use of debabhasa which runs in the blood of the worshipful intellectuals in this country” (112). With the help of brevity, conciseness and intensity of expression Sharma tries to highlight the inner consciousness of man through his poems. Rao puts it succinctly, “He is a pilgrim-poet in his harsh world but hope, devotion, and mediation lead him from a door half open to go further in from experience to a feeling of joy which would eventually lead all the devout of ecstasy” (121).
The sensitive and thought-provoking qualities of the poetry of Asha Viswas are analyzed by Rao in the next chapter titled “Intellectuality and Imagism: Asha Viswas’s Poetry.” Rao mentions, “Asha Viswas’s poetry would be adjudged the most memorable in the recent Indian English Poetry” (134).
In the next chapter, Rao makes an analysis of the poems of T Vasudeva Reddy, who is a poet of maturity with intensity of thinking and high imaginative power. Rao believes that the poet’s upbringing, education and profession enhanced his creative power.
While making an analysis of the poetry of Chandramoni Narayanswamy, Rao writes, “Numero uno, she is very imaginative and very large-hearted, compassionate and merited. Secondly, she is highly educated and worked in the high echelons of both administration and judicature” (157). The innermost feelings often get well expressed in her poems. For instance, the poem “A Face I Saw in Kalahandi” talks about hunger of the poor and down-trodden. She writes, “I mind not the hunger/ I have learnt to love with it/ I would not have felt sorry for myself/ if with empty promises/ you had not raised my hopes/ Only to dash them to the dust” (163). Moreover, as a lover of nature, she draws inspiration from the sources of nature to compose her poems. Rao remarks, “For her everything in nature is lovely and everything of Him and about Him is lovely and everything is a blessing devoutly to be wished….The recurrent themes are very easy to identify: tree, leaf, flower, thorn, champa, bird, crow, sunflower, lotus, seed, pool, to cite few, all nature-related” (166-167).
While studying the poetry of Manas Bakshi, Rao underlines the progressive humanist qualities of bhakti and the social concerns inherent in his poetry. The poet is concerned with environmental issues, for instance, in his poem “Pollution,” he muses, “Soil-air-water/ Pollution beyond measure/ Urbanization engulfing/ The mellow pastures/ Of human relations” (181).
On the contrary, sensuous aspect of poetry is found in the poems of P Raja. While analyzing his poems, Rao gives an example for the sensuousness in Raja’s poems from the poem titled “The Birth of a Poem.” “The Birth of a Poem/ Copulation is an / Incident/ Accident/ Occasion/ With the five senses of a fertile poet. / The orgasm haunts…/ To see the poem trotting the glove/ With the umbilical cord uncut forever” (184). In the words of Rao “Raja’s poems are mischievously humorous, titillating and concupiscent” 196).
Moving on to the next poet of his choice Rajiv Khandelwala, Rao comments, “The poet is an autocrat in all languages, especially in Bharat: kavayoh nirankushaha. The complexity is manifold: science, technology, philosophy, corporate business, lust, treachery, dream, fantasy and abstract reality all are brought in. The poet deserves a pat on the back” (211).
In the final chapter Rao examines the ‘pristine femininity’ of the poetry of Mamta Agarwal and comments on her interest in our native sensitivity, her love for nature, her incorporation of compassion and values in her poetry.
This short critique is not a comparative study but an attempt to introduce some of the promising poets to a wider public. As the title suggests, VVB Rama Rao takes us for a journey through the labyrinth of cultural and sensitive aspects covered in the recent Indian English poetry. In this journey we meet poets who speak of the inner voices of their varied experiences of life, society and culture. This book will be of immense help to anyone who is interested in recent Indian English poetry as well as students who would like to get a general idea of the recent developments in the field of Indian English poetry.