“Sanjaya” and “Dhrutrashtra” Reconstructed
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In The Capsule Poems of R. K. Singh
- Dr. G. D. Barche
After going through R.K.Singh’s new collection Sexless Solitude And Other Poems (2009) Gwilym Williams says :
What’s really behind R.K.Singh’s unceasing output of verse? Is a question I have asked myself more than once. Why does he strive so long and hard? Or is it simply anger at the way the world, or India is ?
Now the questions that arise are: Does a poet carry something at the back of his mind, while writing poetry? Does he deliberately strive so long and hard, while writing? Does he Try to give Vent to his hidden anger, hatred, etc., through his poetry? And surely the answer to any of these and similar questions won’t be straight this or that.
As a matter of fact ‘to think this way’ is misreading a poet and his poetry. The fact is that broadly a poet, like all others, lives a two tier life, viz., private & personal & social and scriptural. Now the common people simply live and keep living, but a poet being gifted with more lively sensibility, wider knowledge and esemplastic imagination, he sees and feels more and even reconstructs what he sees and feels. So when a creative artist writes, may be a novel, a drama or a poem, he creates a mini world with very many characters representing different facts of life. Therefore, it is not just to associate protagonist or characters of a poem with the poet. As a matter of fact a genuine creative artist transmutes his personal and private agonies into something impersonal and universal. When we go through the poetry of R.K.Singh, we see this very fact executed.
While going through the capsule poems, i.e. short poems with cognitive content in his recent collection Sexless Solitude And Other Poems, it is noticed that he has tried to project two categories of people in two sets of poems, viz., (i) Sanjaya type people in set-I, i.e., those who remain detached and can see things as they are. Sanjaya is a well known character in the great epic The Mahabharata written by Maharshi Vedvyasa. He was blessed with special vision by Lord Krishna. As a result of that he could see what was what on the Kurukshetra, the battle field, the place of the great Mahabharata war; (ii) Dhrutrashtra type people
in set-II, i.e., those who get attached to the things and fail to see their real nature. Consequently they suffer. Dhrutrashtra, in the epic, suffers and makes people also suffer simply because he fails to see truth as truth. Here the protagonists of two sets of poems can be looked upon as two different persons or the same person with twin facets.
Now first we take up those poems which have Sanjaya type characters : the first poem to be taken up in this context is : “Awareness Matters”. The poem runs as follows :
Each death has a passage
To surprise the dead
No solace the cow’s tail
In the river’s midst
Heaven, far, too far
Here the pointed eye of the protagonists in the poem is quite evident. He sees two types of persons, viz., one dying and the other dead who receives the news of the former’s death. That is, a man dies. The news of this man’s death fills another man, living dead, with surprise. The point is that here everybody is dead in the sense that every moment he is in the fear of death. Therefore, Shakespeare has already said, “Cowards die many a time before their death …”, (Julius Caesar). The very idea of death fills dread & depression in every body. He is surprised and shocked by the deaths like ‘untimely death’, ‘unnatural death’, ‘unkind death’, and so on. But then the protagonist could see, the cause of this dread and surprise to be ‘the ignorance’ or ‘the absence of knowledge’ about death. The Cycle of life and death is eternal as it is said in The Bhagvad Geeta “Jatasya hidhruvo mrityu, druvam janma mritsyacha”, i.e., if birth is there, then death definitely follows it. So according to him instead of surprise and fear, one should develop ‘awareness’, ‘awakening’ regarding the incident of death. He also refers to the orthodox religious faith according to which after death one goes to hell, then there he comes across a river which he has to cross to go to heaven. And for crossing this river cow’s tail can help that person. But then the protagonist pooh-poohs this idea. He is sure about the idea of heaven to be an illusion and hence ‘far, too far’ and that ‘awakening’ alone matters.
In another poem ‘Death’ the protagonist traces out another tendency rampant among people in our country or rather everywhere, viz.,, ‘Without living/life lost in existing’. That is, people do not know ‘how to live life’. They simply continue existing by ‘evading the fact/of living in fear/and manipulations’. Their all endeavours ‘for thoughtless peace‘ are directed ‘to fight off death’. Again instead of ‘living life’ properly, they waste their time and energy in rationalizing their follies and failures and resting faith in ‘re information or resurrection’ of some noble soul to right the wrongs. On the contrary, the truth is that man is the architect of his fate which is rooted in ‘living life’ properly with well planned things and rightly directed actions. The main idea of the poem ‘without living life’ can be explained thus : when our country got freedom, its population was roughly thirty six crores. Then in succeeding years more efforts were made in promoting hospitals and doctors to fight off death, but nothing was done to check the growth of the population. Then the growth of the population was allowed, but the relevant resources and moral values were not taken care of. And now people are resting their hope in the faith of ‘re-incarnation or resurrection’ of someone to face and find out solution for the present explosive situation pertaining to peace and population.
The way T.S. Eliot has projected modern man’s life in a long poem like ‘The Waste Land’, the protagonist of “Is This All?” has done that here in a short space of two triplets. In the first triplet he unveils the life style of modern man which is characterized by three acts, viz., (i) propitiating gods through the cocktail of prayers; (ii) living animal life, i.e. confined to food, sleep, fear and sex; and (iii) boasting and advertising the worldly achievements. And hence he raises the question whether this three tier life is all. Then he very vividly highlights the mind of the modern man in the second triplet. That is, his mind is dominated by negative and narrow thinking, ‘fungus of illusions’ and ‘toad-stools of damned tracts’. The answer to the yes/no question – Is this all? seems to be that such a negative and narrow thought based life is not worth. Perhaps he wants to point to Vivekanand’s message that each soul is potentially divine and the goal of life should be to manifest that divine as against to simply ‘live animal existence’.
The protagonist in the poem “Journey” is equally very minute and mature observer of the usual phenomenon of ‘journey’ very often undertaken by the people. He is of the view that a meaningful journey should have proper direction, definite destination and duly discerned destiny. But then the fact is that most of the people don’t bother about any of these corporate considerations. And that whosoever sets out on journey, they have either flickers or flashes, i.e., ever changing scales of brightness on their faces. And the protagonist firmly states that he doesn’t give any credit to such shifting shades of joys. To him the joy that oozes from proper understanding of the goal is steady and non shifting. He also observes the fact that the journeying people inside the train and distantly drifting hills, houses, trees, etc., outside ‘bear the same indifference’. That is, he sees no life, no sense of sharing, relating or love among the people inside and the natural phenomena outside the train.
Then, a very common but crucial observation is noticed in the poem “Arriving Early”. The scene is of ‘a Waiting Hall’, may be at the Railway station or Cinema theatre. It is full of men and women. The protagonist here observes that men are happily engrossed in chatting and commenting on the topics ranging from love affairs to Shariat (marriage contract) without any fear or care, while women and particularly wives find themselves uneasy and chained as their range in all respects is bound and binding. And hence a man’s wife ‘murmurs about arriving early”, while the hubby of that wife ‘looks for some poetically active faces’ in the waiting hall. This, in a very poignant way, points to the position of women in our society. All taboos and defined tracks are for women and none for men. This inequality and partiality have vitiated men-women relationships and created distance and distaste in social life.
The protagonist’s subtle eye also notices the newly growing tendency of arrogance and unashamedness of the new generation in the “Barbed Wire Fence”. Here he has tried to show how the garage guards make water in the open and even show ‘their dick’ to the maid in the adjoining house. Similarly, boys and girls ‘make love in the bush’ unmindful of the children’s park, on one side, and the residential house, on the other. The protagonist is concerned about this fast growing phenomenon of young boys and girls chatting for hours together and even at times resorting to the forbidden acts least brothering about the time, the place and the public opinion.
The protagonist who is so perceptive like Sanjaya about the world around is blind like Dhrutrshtra with regard to his personal inner world. For instance just see his pain and suffering in the poem “Overload”. Here we see that he doesn’t get normal sleep. So he drinks to have sleep. In that drugged state ‘the electric circuit in the brain’ goes awry and he starts muttering unwanted things in unparliamentary language unmindful of the concerned victims. His mind is so much overloaded with deep discontent that its unloading alone seems the way out. He finds himself helpless regarding this process of loading-unloading that has set in and continued unchecked. Now the point is that the protagonist considers this problem to be chronic and incurable, but the fact is quite the opposite. There are ways out, only one needs the eye and the will which he doesn’t have. For instance, here is a way suggested by Maharshi Vashistha to calm down the mind : “Manah Prashamanopayah Yogah”, i.e., the yogic practices calm down the mind.
Protagonist’s pitiable condition is seen in the poem- “Again And Again”. He cannot relax, meditate or even dream on his so called sacred bed. Further, now he fails to have the unusual ‘naked company’ of his beloved ‘with tingling laugh’ and ‘slurred with passion’. Above all he fails to have successful love making. Now here we easily see his ignorance about the basic facts, e.g., one cannot have the same experience again and again ad infinitum; change is the law of nature, and that one can have meditation, relaxation, happy company of any one and successful sex, only if ‘mind’ is in proper order. Milton has rightly said “The mind is its own place and in itself can make / A heaven of hell and a hell of heaven” (P.L. 254-55). So what is needed is to explore the right way to set the mind right.
We see the protagonist in a slough of despair in “The Dead too Are Restless”. He is of the opinion that his one time ‘misplaced dreams’ have now “turned nightmares’ causing havoc in him. Those ‘nightmares’ have become highly chronic and gone beyond cure. To him even the paths of meditation, gods, yoga or any other’ Psychic mumbo-jumbo’ do not seem to be of any help. They are like beasts, the outcome of years’ nourishment, and can now die only with his own death. But then he doesn’t see peace and panacea even in death as ‘the dead too are restless’. This fact has to be understood in two ways : (i) there are dead bodies that don’t burn easily on the funeral pyre, in the sense that either their tongues came out or certain organs fall apart, etc., while getting burnt. And this fact can be seen as their restlessness; (ii) there are people who leave their houses and retire into the forest as sanyasis. Now such people are as good as dead for the society. And the fact remains that even these so called sanyasis no longer remain at ease within and without. But again the truth is that the protagonist is wrong. He doesn’t have the ‘Vision Proper’. The channels like meditation, prayers, yogic practices, etc., are competent enough to restore any chaotic person to his sole self, to his blissful self provided he practices them under proper care and training.
Intense miserable condition of the protagonist is evident in “I Want To Sleep”. Now the sleep is the Nature’s gift to the human as well as non-human creatures. The sleep comes to anyone in the same way as light enters the house the moment the windows and doors are opened. But here we see the protagonist complaining for not getting sleep. His argument for not getting the sleep is ‘the sick and the sickening’ people around him from whom he has carried ‘germs and allergens’ which keep him ‘tossing and turning’ the whole night. He also believes that right from the time of his birth he has ‘never slept well’. He now wishes to sleep without the help of ‘pills, drinks, magazines or sex’. And the type of sleep, that he wishes to have, should be’ thoughtless prayerless in peace’. This whole account simply shows the protagonist’s blindness to the natural phenomenon of sleep. The sleep snatching factors highlightened by him are groundless. I have seen people sleeping in the hospitals beside the serious patients and even beside the dead. When the body and mind are free from all sort of traffic jams, then the sleep comes to the person the same way as the beloved goes to the lover of her choice. Huxley has rightly said “rolling in the muck is not the way of getting clean”. Instead of lamenting over the loss of the sleep, one should explore and expel the sleep breaking basic factors.
The protagonist is seen in the inferno in the poem “Passion”. He suffers from the worldly worries and anxieties, on the one hand, and from the strong sexual urges, on the other. Then the growing age comes in the way of the sexual gratification. So he turns to the drugs which ‘hardly help reach climax any more’ and his quest for ‘ecstasy’ remains ‘a far cry ‘. During the day he keeps working the whole day without any rest and respite as he says :
I smell hell all day
Suffer shrinking passions
In the hollow of my mind
Here again we see his blindness to the fact that senses can never be gratified. Maharshi Vedvyas has very firmly put it as “na jatu Kaam Kaamanam upbhoge na samyate’, that is, the sensual desires can never be satisfied. Even Bhagvan Buddha has said “trushna doospur hai”, i.e., desires can never be gratified.
The short sightedness or even the blindness of the protagonist is quite visible in the poem “Conclusion”. Here he wishes to “Clean the cobwebs of legends’ because they ‘veil the vision’ and offer moral lessons for the future generation ‘with doubtful glories’ and they, instead of pushing people forward, make them ‘move backward’. Now the fact is that everything of the past or present cannot be held out for ‘forward’ or ‘backward’ movement. The stream of life goes on flowing with its own built-in mechanism. Further he sees the whole country and particularly the mega cities like Delhi and Bombay in the jaws of ‘empty slogans’, cheating and lust. Particularly he is more concerned there about the ceremony of ‘midnight lust’ concluding like ‘a tragic poem’. In brief, the hero of the poem feels hurt to see the present tragic state of things. He wishes to do something, but being weak and confused, he simply gets excited and poetic, like Bahadur Shah Zaffar, the last emperor of our country.
The protagonist is seen devoid of any hope of salvation in “Nirvan-I’.
The word ‘nirvana’ is made of two units : ‘nir-vana’ of which ‘nir’ means without , and ‘Vana’ means burning, i.e. without burning or suffering, Unfortunately he sees no chances of ‘nirvana’ in the present set up of life. Generally ‘lightning’ and ‘rain’ are life givers but to him ‘lightning’ ‘frightens’ and raises no fire, and ‘rain’ doesn’t quench ‘the earth’. He sees no creativity in his daily work and no joy in ‘a kiss’ of the parting partner. Finally, at night he is ‘sulking with a glass’ in the dark and the idea of ‘nirvan’ seems ‘stupid’ to him. Now this can be called a defective, flawed or mono-directional thinking of the person. There is solution, salvation, nirvana, the only needed requirement is the proper training and growth of the mind.
Thus , here over a dozen poems have been discussed concerning two opposite aspects of human mind. The attempt is here made to show as to how the poet has very pointedly projected two visions, viz., that of Sanjay and Dhrutrashtra through very short but well knit poems. Very novel and creative use of language which is the poet’s forte has not been here even touched upon. The present article helps us mark the eagle eye that the poet has regarding sweet-sour aspects of the human behavior, human life as a whole. Before closing this talk, a humble suggestion is that the poet should show a ray of light, a way out, even while projecting the darker or negative aspects of life through the protagonist of his capsule poems. For instance, instead of saying ‘I smell hell all day’, cannot the protagonist say, ‘Hell I smell’, though heaven is not far to seek”?
1, Atharv Aptt. Satsang Colony,
R K Singh