Musings on “Khil Uthe Palash” by Dr Sarika Mukesh
—Prof. Dr. Neelanjana Pathak.
"A poem is a vision
Which one can make
And unmake it
Till it is lost.
To find it
One must go
To the desert
With the wide eyed wonder
Looking for the shapes:
For a poem is
A framed sand-dune".
[O.P. Bhatnagar Oneric Vision]
If the above lines be true, Sarika Mukesh’s anthology of verse ‘खिल उठे पलाश’ (Khil Uthe Palash) appeals as a veritable treasure trove-a boundless expanse of shifting framed sand dunes-each different in hue, shade, shape and size feast herein. As the poetry lover eagerly turns the leaves of the collection, a kaleidoscopic panoramic vision of life greets, chills, thrills, enamors, astonishes, sadness, gladness and perplexes. Pleasures and pains, saints and sinners, memories and dreams, imagination and reality, expectation and disappointment, poverty and opulence, rural landscapes and urban life styles-a wide range of observations on these are treated with an intensity that forges an immediate rapport with the reader. The poems on shades of love, ironic vision of life, squalor and poverty, recklessness of youth, frozen feelings, genesis of poetry and many others leaves one wondering at “God’s plenty”. Also arguably, the poems tease us out of thought, making us contemplate on the truth in Mathew Arnold’s oft-quoted words, “Poetry is a criticism of life”. In her prefatory note, the poet writes that poetry stems out of the knocking of emotions on the creative mind and encompasses the pulsations of life. I concur.
Following the epical tradition, the anthology opens with a soul stirring prayer to Goddess Saraswati, the Indian muse of learning and fine arts. This is followed by a couple of short poems like ‘मिलन’ (
and ‘ना जाने कब’ (Na Jane Kab). These short verses bring home the idea that
good poetry suggests a great deal more than what it says in explicit terms. Short, straight,
simple, the direct lines travel unimpeded to the heart. ‘कविता तो खुद ही बहती है’ (Kavita To Khud Hi
Bahati Hai) is on the genesis of poetry, reads like Ted Hughes “Thought Fox”;
it lucidly advocate the wordsworthian concept of poetry as a spontaneous
overflow of emotions rather than a premeditated conscious effort, thereby
disagreeing with Nissim Ezekiel’s views on poetry in ‘Poet, Lover Bird Watcher’
(wherein the poet espouses that poetry like bird-hunting or pursuing a woman in
love is an exercise in patience). Milan
The volume comprises of a string of poems drawn from stark realities of everyday living that stare our nation. ‘विसंगति’, ‘तुमने देखा है कभी’ (Visangati, Tumne Dekha Hai Kabhi) are poems that leave the readers reflective and contemplative without intentionally being didactic. There are some definite thought provoking messages to almost every section of society. Poems of socio-cultural reality like ‘युक्ति’ (Yukti) and ‘नियति’ (Niyati) (which brings to the mind the evil of female foeticide), are illustrations of good use of satire as a literary tool. A lightly written poem ‘दिल्ली में सफर करते हुए’ (Dilli Mein Safar Karte Huye) is far more than a mirror of metro train culture. It ends with a rhetorical question on the fine lines that distinguishes an educated elite from an uncouth rustic-who is better? The question tantalizes a sensitive reader. A fine instance of poetry as message in ‘एक हादसा’ (Ek Haadsa)-the narration of an accident due to carelessness that results in limb amputation. Frozen feelings, eroding values, growing competition are beautifully treated in ‘आदमी को ये क्या हो जाता है’ (Aadmi Ko Ye Kya Ho Jata Hai). Though the poem expresses several ideas, it could have been a longer version with some more reflections included. It certainly left me with a longing for a lot more that was left unsaid. A longer satirical poem encapsulating diverse ills of modern life style ‘बनाए रखें अपनी पहचान’ (Banaye Rakhen Apni Pehachan) has flashes of romantic pining for days that are no more, having been replaced by a faster, surer, mechanical life style:
स्मृतियाँ मिट रहीं अब
मिट रहे हैं निशान
(Smiritiyan mit rahi ab
Mit rahe hain nishan)
Closing with a practical counsel-
पैर धरती पर टिकाए रखें
और तब छुएं आसमान
(Pair dharti par tikaye rakhen
Aur tab chhuyen aasman)
In many similar poems there is quest for cultural values and a subtle psychological analysis of the flux of human relationships.
The wide thematic concerns of the poet include a poem on the peace experienced at Shantiniketan, practical concerns on poetry ‘कविता पढ़ने से पहले एक प्रश्न’ (Kavita Padhne Se Pehle Ek Prashn), ‘कल अचानक मिल गया एक कवि’ (Kal Achanak Mil Gaya Ek Kavi), ‘योगदान’ (Yogdaan) (lessons in gratitude) the fines shades of love ‘एक स्मृति’ (Ek Smriti), ‘कभी तो मिलेगा कोई’ (Kabhi To Milega Koyi), waning letters and increasing mails and text messages, moral responsibility ‘दायित्व’ (Daayitv) assuring the reader of the diversity of the poets interests and her being keenly alive to the heterogeneous tastes of a vast audience. She emerges not just as an poet who writes for the elite scholar, but as a poet who can sustain the interest of various cross sections of society. Her dexterity in using simple words changed with poetic fervor further helps in building an immediate rapport with the readers.
The pun in the last line of the poem ‘शब्दों का फेर’ (Shabdon Ka Pher) establishes the idea of the poet possessing Prospero’s magical wand- कमाने (Kamaane) and कम आने (kam aane) is as impressive as मैया मोरी मैं नहीं माखन खायो (Maiya mori mai nahi makhan khayo) versus मैया मोरी मैंने ही माखन खायो (Maiya mori maine hi makhan khayo) in Anup Jalota’s famous bhajan. Another sparkling specimen of skillful use of words is in ‘डेंटिस्ट की दुविधा’ (Dentist Ki Duvidha):
तुम ये दाँत निकालना बंद कर दो
तो मैं तुम्हारा दाँत निकालूँ
(Tum ye daant nikalna band kar do
To mai tumhara daant nikaloon)
As I eagerly turned the leaves, and glided from one thought to another, the idea that recurred to me was that a good poet is certainly blessed with a keen observation and insight that enables him/her to speculate on trifles that almost always skip a lesson fortunate ordinary being. The life of the youth today is remarkably condensed in ‘नई सदी का युवा’ (Nayi Sadi Ka Yuva)-a real eye-opener to many. The sentiments in ‘आधुनिकता का असर’ (Adhunikta Ka Asar) touched me deeply. It is a record of the suppressed woes of so many silent fathers dumb founded by the beady intoxications of pleasure in today youth. It is a remarkable poem that expresses the problem of generation gap between the parents and their children who have habitually descended into the mire of a desultory aped western existence.
The title of the poem on Virginia Woolf immediately catches attention-it is a poetic rendering of the sufferings in the novelist’s life, the angst within which evolved her into one of the finest women writers of the western world. The poem is a happy wedding of the East and the West-an occidental writer being honored in an oriental language. Another poem that impresses is ‘प्रकृति की लीला’ (Prakriti Ki Leela) which studies Nature “red in tooth and claw”-as both Preserver and Destroyer akin to Shelley’s Cloud. The hopeful closure of the title piece ‘खिल उठे पलाश’ (Khil Uthe Palash) brings a fresh gale of hope, echoes of Shalley, “If winter comes can spring be far behind?” This poem sparks a bright ray of hope that can light the way out of a dark tunnel to nay hapless reader, reminiscent of the title of the poet’s earlier collection “एक किरण उजाला” (Ek Kiran Ujala) and “पानी पर लकीरें” (Pani Par Lakeeren). As opposed to this, the poem ‘जरा ठहर अभी ओ अंतिम वसंत’ (Zara Thehar Abhi O Antim Vasant ) is a depressing poem-not just sad, but bordering on self-pity. Also, it is placed at a point where it does not seem to go with the mood of the preceding poems. Thus, it creates a jerk as does Keats’ remembrance of spring in a poem (‘Ode to Autumn’) addressing the bounties of autumn: ‘Where are the songs of spring. Aye where are they?’ in my opinion the poem should not have been placed where it is, though it is a poem expressing the poet’s perspective on this changing world through metaphorical expression that widens the range and lends it a philosophical dimension.
Frost’s conviction that all poetry is metaphor or it is nothing is best represented in ‘हर दिन एक इतिहास’ (Har Din Ek Itihas)–a statement of dates that are born to die churned in the cyclic progression of Time that merges the past into the present to give birth to a future. This idea is expressed through striking images of dates in squares on a calendar page. Yet another mastery use of imagery is in imaging mobile towers as vigilant guards in
at Night-a happy instance of
expressing the abstract through the concrete and sure terms. The poem ‘Delhi
Red Light’ comments interestingly on the peculiarities of life in the capital
metro city. The helplessness of the vendors is contrasted with the supercilious
attitude of the prospective buyers generating in our minds a concern for the
marginalized sections of society. A truly contemporary poem, it considerably
narrows the distance between the poet and her readers. It can be read as a celebration
of the “ordinariness of most events” echoing Pope’s fine sentiments, “What oft
was thought but never so well expressed”. Vellore
Modern living within enclosures called Apartments finds a non-serious approach in a poem by the same name. the poem scrutinizes the lives of city dwellers through the persona of a speaker burdened and bewildered by the pressures of a competitive closed, materialistic and selfish existence which allows little space for human feelings to grow. Some other bitter truths of Kalyuga are catalogued with absolute conversational ease in a long poem with an avesting title-‘मगर भगवान नहीं मिलता’ (Magar Bhagvan Nahi Milta). This is rumination on the swiftly changing ways of the world with lines that ring a familiar bell in every sensitive reader:
शीशे जैसे पारदर्शी यहाँ क्यों मन नहीं होते,
कण-कण में तेरे क्यों यहाँ दर्शन नहीं होते?
(Sheeshe jaise pardarshi yahan kyo man nahi hote
Kan-kan mein tere kyo yaha darshan nahi hote)
Indeed, it is not easy any longer for aspiring poets to achieve wide acceptability, but when themes are diverse and universal in appeal, the interest of poetry lovers can be long sustained, and the fame of poet is thereby assumed. In the last poem, ‘अहा! अंतिम पृष्ठ’ (Aha! Antim Prishth) (Aha! What a title) with a deft stroke, the poet appeals to her readers not to begin the book where it ends, but begin from the beginning-from the seed, to the sapling, to the plant and the tree where smile the beautiful red ‘Palash’-so symbolic of life in all its freshness and vibrant color. A very impressive end to an equally awesome creation. The merits of the anthology can best be summed up in her own words:
क्या तुमने देखी है ऐसी कविता?
(Kya tumne dekhi hai aisi kavita?)
My sincere good wishes to my poet friend who found a place in my heart and even touched a part of my soul by her soulful expression of moving sentiments. These rainbow shades of life’s vicissitudes and the governing emotions can secure a place for Sarika Mukesh as a poet for long years to come. In Shakespeare’s words:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The sand dunes artistically created leaves indelible patterns on the mind and continue to make one contemplate till long after the collection is laid aside. The poet deserves to be congratulated and encouraged to write more and more. In her own words, I conclude:
चलते रहो, चलते रहो!!
Chlte raho, chalte raho!!)