A Stylistic Interpretation of RK Singh’s Poem
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- Dr.G.D.Barche, Dhule
Needless it is to talk of the heat and height RK Singh has acquired in the realm of poetry. Generally he is stamped to be a tough poet. He is also labelled to be a sex proned poet. To me he is like Dronacharya constructing the Poetic Chakravuha and naturally it needs an Arjun to deconstruct it and come out safely with the booty. One such chakravuha is his poem ‘Sexless Solitude’. And now let us see how I break it, enter it, and come out of it.
I don’t seek the stone bowl
Buddha used while here :
She dwells on moon beams
I can see her smiling
With wind-chiselled breast
In sexless solitude
Her light is not priced
but gifted to enlighten
Obviously the poem has a protagonist. He is a seeker in search of “what type of life should be chosen?” He sees two ways of life before him, viz., the life of detachment (Vairagya, Sanyas) as lived by Buddha with his begging bowl : the other is the life of domesticity with woman as nucleus with her inborn gift of glow and gravitation that stem from her lips, breast, etc. And the seeker opts for the latter. Apparently that is all. But then is that really all? No. So let us enter the poem and explore the facts.
On the face of it the shape of the poem is very plain and simple. It has three triplets with three lines each evenly arranged. As for sentences, the first triplet has ‘two sentences and second and third have one each. But the moment we enter the poem, it is noticed that the poem has 14 sentences as under :
triplet 1 : I don’t seek the stone bowl. Buddha used the stone bowl. Buddha lived here. I seek the reju-vinating sex. People choose sex. People live here. She dwells on moon beams. 3+3+1 (7).
triplet 2 : I can see her smiling in sexless solitude. She is smiling. She has wind-chiselled breast. She is in sexless solitude. (4).
triplet 3 : Her light is not priced. Her light is gifted. Her light enlightens silver linings. (3).
Now when we think of the allocation of these lines and sentences, then it becomes obvious that in the first triplet first three sentences of two lines are allocated to Buddha and his way of life, i.e., the life of austerity, detachment (Vairagya), and remaining three underground sentences and one line and the next two complete triplets are reserved for the protagonist and his way of opted life, i.e., the domestic life, the life of involvement with woman at its centre. Evidently domestic life with woman as its nucleus becomes the main focus. And the beauty of this latter part lies in the poet’s vision and skill of unfolding the nature and scope of this woman centred domestic life.
A close and careful reading makes one see the fact that the third line of the first triplet, viz. “she dwells on moon beams” gets foregrounded as it doesn’t go well with the first two lines. Why does the poet do so? Let us look into this deviation device. The protagonist has firmly refused to go in for the life of detachment and sanyas. Naturally the other choice is the domestic way of life which cannot be thought of without “woman”. So the camera moves to ‘woman’. Now a woman can be thought of as interested in dreams, whims, creams, etc, a mundane physical sensuous life, or in ‘moon’, beams and hymns, etc., a higher life of imagination and emotion. And obviously the protagonist opts for the latter. This foregrounded line can be made more clear as follows :
She dwells on
To the protagonist the mundane domestic life is confined to food, sleep, fear and sex, the way it is lived by animals. To him there are higher planes of life. So in the second triplet he talks more about the woman and even about himself. Here the third line contains the phrase “In Sexless Solitude” which is deviant and needs interpretation. The adjective ‘sexless’ takes human and physical noun after it, for instance,
Sexless man/woman but in the poem it is used as:
Now the fact is that ‘Solitude’ does not simply mean ‘loneliness’. Here it refers to a state which is fully devoid of excitement, agitation, disturbance. Now such a state cannot be experienced by man as man or woman as woman. The desired tranquil state can be experienced by one who transcends sex. The word ‘sexless’ means beyond sex which is the attribute of angels. And therefore the phrase “sexless solitude” would mean ‘angelic/divine solitude’. In Sanskrit it is termed as “Samadhi” --a state free from dualities and sensual operations. The nature of this ‘solitude’ can be better understood from the following lines of Wordsworth in his poem “Daffodils”:
For oft when on my coach I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude.
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
That is, solitude is that blissful state in which one is restored to the third eye, the right vision, the divinity.
Further the phrase ‘In Sexless Solitude’ has ambiguity regarding its placement. It gets joined to both-the protagonist and the woman as follows :
I can see her smiling … in sexless solitude.
She is smiling with wind chiselled breast in sexless solitude.
The two parallel streams present in the first triplet, are also present in the second. Here the first foregrounded feature is the use of the modal ‘can’. The structure “I can see’ connotes two things, ‘I see’ and ‘I can see’. That is, the way one sees in the mundane life and the way one can see in unique moments. For example, when Arjun wished to see the ‘Brahmadiya Form’ of lord Krishna, then Shri Krishna told him that he won’t see that Form with those physical eyes and that he needs divine vision (Divya Drashti) to see that Form :
na tu maam shakyase drashtum a neineva swachakshusha
divyam dadaami te chakshuh pashya mei yogamaiswaram (11/8)
Similarly, here ‘similing’ doesn’t mean only a physical act but the divine one denoted by ‘moon beams’ and ‘light’. The ‘smiling’ or ‘shining’ or ‘brightness’ (anand) gets manifested through lips, eyes, breast and skin. And this brightness/anand can be seen as sensuous and also as divine. And it is the physical eyes that see sensuality and the unique vision that sees divinity. And here we see that the protagonist and the woman both have both the gifts. The woman has the potentiality to experience and manifest the divine glow and the protagonist to see it.
Deviation is also noticed in the use of ‘Wind chiseled breast in the second triplet as under :
Generally ‘wind’ scatters, blows, tears things, but here it has carved out the breast. Then the word chiselled ‘takes [+ human] [ + animate] subject, e.g., sculptor chiselled the picture : but here it is ‘wind’ which is [–human] [– animate].
So now the whole interpretation would be as follows : the breast of the woman is not simply the lump of flesh and blood but the unique creation of great artist like ‘wind’ which in Indian context is known as god (Vayu Deva). Again the breast is not only the centre of sensuous attraction but also the eternal source of feeding and fascination. Again it is noticed that here the word ‘breast’ is used as singular, while it should have been plural ‘breasts’. And in singular form it points to be the part of one’s body where one’s emotions and feelings dwell. Finally, the second triplet can be interpreted to mean that the protagonist has the potentiality to glide into the state of sexless solitude (Samadhi) and see the woman wrapped in divine beauty and light, love and luminescenee. The poet talks more about this light and glow in the third triplet.
Surprisingly enough the third triplet itself stands out foregrounded as the first two triplets begin with the first person pronoun ‘I’, while it begins with the possessive adjective ‘her’ and noun ‘light’. Obviously here the whole focus in on “her light”. what does this ‘light’ mean here ? A very close reading of the poem helps us see the word ‘light’ referring to the glow emanating from her lips (smiling), face (moon beams), breast (wind-chiselled) – in brief from the whole body. The light means vitality (Chaitanya), life. This thought becomes clearer from what Othello says in Shakespeare’s well known tragedy Othello before killing Desdemona :
“Put out the light, and then put out the light.”
It is the light, the chaitanya in the person, place or thing that works miracles. No light, no life, nothing. Therefore the poet has very carefully projected the significance of her light as follows :
her light is not priced
but gifted to enlighten
The poet has used three devices, viz. , the use of enjambment at the end of every line, the use of juxtaposition in the first two lines and non-finite clause in the third line. These devices beautifully reveal the nature and value of ‘her light’.
The first line instead of having a pause at the end moves on to the next line putting up the question: ‘if the light is not priced then how is it? And soon the answer follows ‘but gifted’. This results in juxtaposing ‘Priced’ and ‘gifted’ which are opposite in nature. For instance, the former is concerned with perishable objects like table, chair, cow, horse, etc., while the latter with the eternal like tears, laughter, smile, sadness, etc. Further, ‘Price’ is a man-devised act, while ‘gift’ is that of God, Nature. For instance see the following lines from Shakespeare’s Troilus And Cressida:
She is a pearl
whose price’s launched above a thousand ships
And turned crowned kings to merchants.
Here the focus of ‘Price’ is the ‘body’ of the woman and not that of ‘light’ in her which is beyond price. On the other hand, the qualities like joy, smiles, light, sadness are abstract and spring from within. Let us see the following lines from Tennyson’s poem, ‘Tears Idle Tears’:
‘Tears idle tears, I know not what they mean
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes.
Similarly, in Taittiria Upnishad it is conclusively said :
anando brahmati vyajanat
anandatev khalu imani bhutani joyante
That is, joy, is God i.e. joy is the gift of God and joy is at the root of all creativity. Naturally and obviously the poet is talking of that light and luminescence of the woman that comes from within and can be perceived in her eyes, face, lips, breast, skin, etc., as physical as well as divine.
‘Her light is not priced but gifted’ has one more meaning, viz., in the world there are things available on paying the price, e.g., redness on lips by buying lipstick, smoothness and colour on the face by cosmetics, etc., but the light, the joy, etc. comes from Nature alone; the custom of marriage can bring man-woman together, but the feeling of sex can come from Nature; similarly, the protocol of sanyas can be performed by man, but the real detachment/vairagya could be possible by the grace of Nature/God alone from within.
Again, the second line, instead of taking a pause at the end, glides down to the third line generating the curiosity : “What does her light enlighten’? And this quest is answered in the third line : ‘the silver-linings’ which actually means ‘jijivisha’ – the strong eternal desire to live and continue living. This desire to live ad infinitum is further reinforced by the Infinitive clause : “to enlighten the silver-linings’. In the Biblical context also it is seen that initially when Adam was alone, he was sad. But when Eve was created by God and when Adam saw her he was filled with joy, zest and zeal and spoke out – “Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”. This fact stands verified from Shakespeare’s plays as well. For instance one cannot think of Macbeth without Lady Macbeth. Even on the battle field he surrenders to the destiny only after the sad death of Lady Macbeth :
Out Out brief candles.
Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more :
Thus, the poet has tried his best to unfold two streams of life that have flowed from time immemorial. These two paths are as follows : (i) Buddha way of life, i.e., the life of restraint and discipline (anushasan) which helps one see the divinity within and without and which is accepted by a few select people and this fact is indicated by allocating only two lines for this sort of life; (ii) Domestic (grahastha) life, i.e. the life of worldly pleasure with sex (woman) as its nucleus and which is preferred by the majority of people and this fact is hinted at by allocating seven lines. This two tier pattern of life is pointedly highlighted by : (i) the use of colon (:) at the end of second line in triplet one; (ii) two contractive parallel structures of which one is visible and the other hidden as follows :
I don’t seek stone owl
I seek stylish belle
Buddha used while here
People Choose while here
Further this domestic life equally has two streams, viz., (i) Worldly, life that is confined to sex and sexual joys, (ii) Life that transcends sex and worldly pleasure. This fact gets manifested by two contrastive parallel visible invisible structures :
Invisible / hidden
She dwells on moon beams
She dwells on dreams creams
I can see her smiling
I can see her enticing
With wind chiseled breast
With youth chiseled breast
In sexless solitude
In lustful solitude.
However, the protagonist in the poem, is inclined to choose the life that transcends routine sex though in the domestic world. And this fact can be seen oozing out from the two parallel opposite symbols :
Here ‘stone bowl’ is a very strong symbol referring to Buddha’s mind that had acquired firmness and one pointedness. Obviously ‘bowl’ signifies human skull in which mind dwells and ‘stone’ points to passionlessness, firmness of mind. The phrase ‘sexless solitude’ also refers to the same state of mind which the protagonist acquires in the ‘grahasth’ life. Here ‘solitude doesn’t simply mean ‘loneliness’. It implies aloneness, ‘Zero state’. And ‘zero’ is bowl shaped. The ‘sexless’ doesn’t mean without sex. It means that state which transcends ‘male’ - ‘female’ features. It symbolizes an angelic, divine state very much identical to that which is symbolized by ‘stone bowl’. Thus these two phrases have unique cohesion.
‘Divinity’ in ‘mundanity’ is equally suggested by the lexicals and their cohesion as follows :
It is seen above that ‘stone bowl’ and ‘sexless solitude’ point to the state of divine joy. The similar joy is communicated by the lexical items above. This joy and light emanates from the key organs of the woman, e.g., moon beams (face), smiling (lips), light (eyes), and bewitching breast. The interesting thing is that all these organs are bowl shaped and have been the eternal source of both the sensual and ethereal fascinating and gravitation, illuminating silver linings in man. For instance, when Allauddin saw beautiful Padmini, he became lascivious, but when Vivekanand saw a beautiful woman, he glided into the divine state.
Generally a man as man thinks of woman and a woman as woman thinks of man. This way of thinking makes one biased, partial, etc. For instance, a man finds a woman fascinating in one moment, and the next moment the same woman may become repulsive to him. This is because the sense perception keeps changing from moment to moment for very many reasons. Obviously the protagonist seems aware of this fact of life and so he talks of that what he sees in ‘sexless solitude’. And as it has already been stated that in this state one transcends this duality and sees things beyond sense stratum. In Mandukya Upanishad, ‘aum’, i.e., God, is depicted as follows:
eishah yoni sarvasya
Here ‘yoni’ means sex-male or female and either of this ‘yoni’ is the abode of God in everything and this God alone is instrumental for all creativity. This fact also makes it obvious that the attraction, the gravitation between male and female is not the attractions of the opposites but that of the likes, i.e., divine and divine or sense and sense.
This prolonged discussion can now be summed up thus : Broadly Life offers two ways of living, viz., of detachment – attachment, of withdrawal-involvement, of sanyas-grahasth etc. Very select people go in for the former. Mostly people including the protagonist opt for the latter. In the domestic sex centred life, too, one can have exclusively sense centered life as well as that of transcending the senses. And the protagonist in the poem prefers the latter. Either of the ways is not superior or inferior but with different scales and qualities of experience and consequences hinted at by the parallel structures.
1, Atharv Aptt. Satsang Colony,
R K Singh