Adil Jussawalla (1940-),
Isn’t He Himself The Missing Person That We Are Searching,
Trying To Locate?
Isn’t He Himself The Missing Person That We Are Searching,
Trying To Locate?
Bijay Kant Dubey
Ph.D.(D.H.Lawrence), M.A. (English, History & Political Science)
Partition's people stitchedShrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.
Surrogate city of banks,
Brokering and bays, refugees' harbour and port,
Gatherer of ends whose brick beginnings work
Loose like a skin, spotting the coast,
Restore us to fire. New refugees,
Wearing blood-red wool in the worst heat,
come from Tibet, scanning the sea from the north,
Dazed, holes in their cracked feet.
Restore us to fire. Still,
Communities tear and re-form; and still, a breeze,
Cooling our garrulous evenings, investigates nothing,
Ruffles no tempers, uncovers no root,
And settles no one adrift of the mainland's histories.
---- Sea Breeze, Bombay by Adil Jussawalla
Adil Jussawalla who wrote verse intermittently swapping in between journalism and creative writing, career and profession, passionately and being disenchanted with too is perhaps, if we are not wrong, the missing man of Indian English poetry, the no-man, the absentee poet appearing before after a thirty-five year break and it does not mean at all that he did not, but forgot to enter into those scribbles, slips, chits and bits of paper jotted down in a haste, making a fair copy of those, arranging them and sending to press, it was journalism and the engagement to it which perhaps disrupted the progress of his poesy, intercepted him during the poetic ebb and tide and interrupted the flow, as he indulged in the column-writing as was Khushwant Singh of syndicated columns, the master of trivia, serving salt, chutney, sauce and pickle; spicing the things so took he to. While in England as a young man, he wrote down, lay his hands on poetry as did Nissim Ezekiel, taking it to be his future home, but Bombay and its memories like the Dover Beach drew him back and he returned back to India as did Matthew Arnold felt for, as had Wordsworth been attached to Tintern Abbey and Westminster Bridge viewing London. Jussawalla wrote verses, surfaced and went missing; again re-surfaced to register his presence in the literary arena to show that he wrote poetry, did appreciate it and still does he admire it; he has not left contributing too, picking from the past, the forgotten diaries and note-books. A poet Eliotesque and Audenesque, he is a poet of the hollow man , modern man depicted as hollow man, shallow and hollow from his within; a poet of broken statements and jazz lyrics of life. The dull monotony of drab life is the rhythm of his verse; the music of his poetry, all that is in the modern world of urban spaces and his poetic pilgrim went on searching unto like the Chaucerian protagonist of Kolatkar’s Jejuri. The sea fever of Masefield and the stranger looking upon the island of Auden lured him and he turned to the seaside like Nissim locating the history of the island, the river having changed the course. A missing person, Adil is like the missing fellow of Jayanta Mahapatra.
One from the Parsi quartet, Katrak, Patel and Daruwalla, he is a poet of the urban space writing about the urban people and the landscapes inclusive of the city squares, centres, parks, restaurants, gyms, shopping malls, multi-complexes; airports, sea beaches, resorts, picnic spots; tours, travels, visits; skyscrapers, stories, lifts and life pulsating in flats; theatres, night parties, art galleries and flower exhibitions, we mean modern life and culture, the music of it oblivious of Indian thought, culture and tradition, religion, spirituality and philosophy, metaphysics, theology and cosmology, life-style, mannerisms and ethics though something of it is readily available in him. Land’s End is the first book which appeared in 1962 from Writers Workshop, Calcutta and the matters of it were mostly written in England and Europe. Missing Person is the second work which saw the light of the day in 1976 from Clearing House, Bombay. The Right Kind of Dog is the third work which appeared in 2013. Trying to Say Goodbye published in 2012 is the book for which Jussawalla wins the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2014.
It is really difficult to pick up the poems of Adil Jussawalla, less published, less brought out and even if were they, remaining out of stock. Once even P.Lal too declined to send though he agreed to mail the xerox copies if paid. Similar is the case with most of the one or two-book writers of Indian English verse which but sheds a very poor light, as the critics, readers, editors and referees had been quite disinterested and it did not find favour with, as the matter was substandard, below the mark and qualitatively poor. Most of the poets and poetesses whom P.Lal introduced and we are reading today were not so as they are now. The British-text read older scholars frowned upon working on Indian English verse, a study in slender volumes and minor voices, unavailable and inaccessible, finally traceless, nowhere to be found again. If we go through the first collected anthology and volume of P.Lal, we shall come to notice it how puerile and childish had it been the experimentation with modern Indian English verse! The publishing houses liked it not to publish the poems by the practicing immature poets and poetesses working as derivative copycats, presenting as the parodies of the famous poems in Indian English. Even in the books, we do not find more than the introduction of the missing man. Frankly speaking, Indian English poetry is a study of poems rather than the books of poesy. A Ph.D. on an Indian English poet is a patch-work of matter collected sporadically and the researcher reads not the books, but the stray poems of the author. Who has tried to come up with what Adil Jussawalla actually means or tries to say in his poetry? What is that he seems to be sharing with or wants to communicate to? There should not be any deviation from the main crux of constructive criticism.
Land’s End is the first book of poems which he published at the age of 22. All the poems of Land’s End have been written in England and Europe the collection ends with white peacocks which he saw in Oxford at Merton Street. Geneva is a poem of the place; A Bomb-site Seen from a Railway Bridge is all about an incident. A Letter for Bombay is another poem to relate to Bombay and his connections with it and from it the kernel of Missing Person starts with. As Jussawalla had sailed for England at seventeen so the things started materializing with that in its trail to the culmination reached in Land’s End. Alienation after alienation deepened it inside, the first that of being a Parsi, the second that of the alienated Indian writers’ nuances and rhythms of life. Things generally change they not if nurtured along habitually or inherited so is the case with him, as goes the adage, The child is father of man, another as, Style is man. The same is with Adil Jussawalla what he started in Land’s End remained with him unto the last. The style remains the same, the way of expression. Only the contents have been added in.
Approaching Santa Cruz Airport, Bombay, Nine Poems On Arrival, etc. are from the second collection Missing Person of the poet. Approaching Santa Cruz Airport, Bombay is an oft-quoted poem from the same as are Dover Beach and Home Thoughts From Abroad of Matthew Arnold and Robert Browning. Nostalgic and homesick not, but quite discerning Adil is here returning home as did they, Nissim and Parthasarathy from London and Leeds. Part I scene from the Missing Person is a soliloquy or a monologue of the modern man at a loss and bewildered, with the selves torn apart and discussing. The crisis in soul takes over and he keeps babbling to himself. There is disintegration in Missing Person which has been written intermittently. Missing Person is full of political statements and politics of poetry lies therein.
Sea Breeze as a poem reminiscent of the Partition people; the whirlwind that took over the sub-continent, uprooting and blowing into pieces that came its way. A tornado was it; an upheaval full of convulsions and repercussions. The loss of lives, in terms of casualties was unimaginable as the people were doomed to die just for the lust for power; the chair to sit, the nation was ignored, selfishness was fed with power-grabbing. Sind was partitioned, Punjab was, Bengal was, Kashmir was as were Germany and Korea, one brother from another and the agonies of the Partitioned people the judges and the peace-brokers could never know them resulting in the flux of the huge refugees. People came to Bombay seeking shelter and refuge and Bombay gave to so did Delhi with the camp areas. This is the history of the island that is Bombay where the Longfellowian brothers go about telling of their distant shipwrecks. Similar was the coming of the Tibetan refugees coming in droves in the attire of their own.
The buzz and bristle continues to keep clamouring for; hectic activity continuing as the things do not come to a close in Bombay. The harbours with the ports and posts and dockyards keep receiving the ships sailed for destinations, going or returning and as thus the city keeps busy with. The sea breeze comes and goes, refreshening it all, but unmindful of what it is happening within. Instead of drawing lessons from, still the communities draw the sword in enmity, vengeance or hatred, but settle not the old scores regressing to the background finally. Mankind, torn and battered, seems to be wailing in hiding. It does not need anything, just a few words of sympathy and affection.
The vast expanse of the sea and the breeze blowing over is Nature cool and calm and refreshening while the troubles brewing in adjustment, relationship, amity and settlement the other side of the picture. The poem though Wordsworhtian reminds us of The Peshawar Express of Krishan Chunder, The Refugee of Khawaza Ahmad Abbas and Train To Pakistan by Khushwant Singh. Sea Breeze as a poem is a fine piece of Partition literature rarely to be found elsewhere.
Trying To Say Goodbye is the work for which Adil Jussawalla gets the Sahitya Akademi award for the year 2014 and it is really a rewarding experience to go through the vision and reflection of his poetry. Written as the third poetic venture in 2012, it is a book to be reckoned with, but the same sort is carried forward in the fourth to follow into its footsteps. Adil Jussawalla is trying to say goodbye to poetry, but poetry has not to him. The title poem Trying To Say Goodbye is about the divorce in the air, but the woman is unable to part ways as for different reasons binding upon is the thing of discussion herein, as the poet reveals it through an interview published in a paper. Her Safe House from Trying to Say Goodbye is a depiction of an aged lady walking down the corridors all alone with the kitchen lying sonless. Eliotesque and Audensesque, he keeps plodding, prodding and ploughing as did Eliot in The Hollow Men and Auden in Look, Stranger. Arnold’s Dover Beach and Masefield’s Sea Fever he cannot forget. The pictures hang over and the images are drawn. A Parsi poet of Bombay his mind can go nowhere except alienation, rootlessness, homelessness, settlement, rehabilitation, diaspora and displacement. A modern poet he has but shallow modernity and sham living to pride over and express. London visits leave him not and he recalls them; the house he has not forgotten though may be corroded with the feeling of alienation and rootlessness which he suffers from. Urdu Lesson and Wahab Sahab are Urdu allegiances which he seems to express it here. Materials as a poem is divided in five and is on objects as they help an artist with clay, cloth, wood, iron and marble. Trying To say Goodbye is not the swan-song of Adil Jussawalla, but the book to widen the horizon and range of his poetry. House, Artist, Clay, View, etc. are very good poems. Somewhere the poet is easily comprehensible, somewhere very terse and complex. People may admire Land’s End, but the music of modernity which he hears them in England is jarring and jazzy enough.
We do not know it why Adil has given the name, The Right Kind of Dog? Is it that the dogged life he admires it not and recommends for a life with pressure and freedom? The book intended for the young readers or the adults has made a name for the writer. To say it rightly it is more about him than them. The book is a work of childhood and adolescence which the poet is recalling and remembering. William Blake and Thomas Hood keep filling his emotions and making for the loss. The Thoughts of an Eight-Year-Old Girl is actually the internal muttering of a girl when she is asked to eat this or that which she does not like to take at all. Blake’s The Little Black Boy and Shakespeare’s description of the schoolboy in Seven Ages of Man can enlighten on the topic in hand. Adil seeks to draw from the innocence and ignorance as discussed by Blake in Songs of innocence and Songs of experience. It is innocence which but purifies and it is experience which but spoils and spills. A Song of Ekalvya is a very beautiful poem indeed where the poet talks about Ekalavya gifting his thumb to the guru Dronacharya as his guru-dakshina. How was the guru and how the disciple? Compare him with the pupil of today; not a direct student, but an indirect one like Kabir of Ramanand lying on the ghats of Benares to be touched by the feet of the teacher and the words which spelt he after stumbling over, Ram-Ram became the guru-mantra for him to attain perfection, reach the greater heights. On My Feet, The Way I Walked Abroad, A Boy in the Forties: Remembering Andrew Thompson, Two from British India, Another Dog, Our Poets And Their Inspirations, Imagination, Materials, Fire Temple, Christmas Card, Song for a Seller of Flutes, One-Armed Man, Shoes, Jugalbandi, History Lesson, Greed, Famine And War, Waiting Room, The Good-for-Nothing, After Zebunissa, My Fold-up Poem, etc. are the poems. On reading his Ekalvya, Chakravyuha and others, we doubt whether Adil himself is not Abhimanyu, Ekalavya or Karna of modern Indian English poetry? The poet sings the dsongs of liberty and freedom in The Right Kind of Dog rather than living a dogged life under the strict obedience and supervision. Greed, Famine and War are like the seven deadly sins or sisters alike. Aurangzeb’s daughter Zebunissa was a poetess which but he himself could not take to in his bigotry and he did imprison her which King Midas too could not have done. The thing included in The Right Kind of Dog is similar to that discussed in Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable and Dalit literature. As he is a Parsi so the Partition literature, Dalit literature and the Diaspora dais soothe the poetic self and the psyche of the poet. His ethos and historicity, he has none around him to share with. The language too he has forgotten. So, what is culturally left with him? Imagination is like a glass of rum to him and he journeying seating on the Ship of Liberty. His Irani heart, Zoroastrian soul, he has to lay them bare, but the situations and scenes are different. There is something he opens, something that he hides, suppresses and seals. Poetry and boulders seem to be doing a jugalbandi as both of these have been kept neglected, but are of use no doubt. The pathos of living can be felt in the poem, One-Armed Man, which we keep marking, averting the gaze. Such a sort of depiction it is there in Daruwalla’s Bombay Prayers. The situations and scenes of life are difficult to be said. If Anand is a novelist of the have-nots, the downtrodden and the underdogs, so is Jussawalla here in this collection of poems. But he has perhaps left Daruwalla’s Draupadi and Karna and Nirala’s Indian widow.
In one poem entitled Turning Seventy, he talks of his body a pile of papers left on a bench to be burnt; his body a metal tube of paste, wires and clips. But the breeze in the garden is refreshing indeed to be forgetful of anything that hangs over. Chakravyuha and Eklavya are excellent poems from the pen of Adil which can outdo many an exponent. Such is the verve and relevance of the pieces. Chakravyuha is long and engaging. Colour Problems in the Family is all about the gossips and talks happening within the periphery and circle of a Parsi family, taking migration and domicile into consideration and its reflection over the skin.
As a poet, he is not so prolific, but is still a great modernist, a modern not, going beyond it and its frontiers, as he knows the politics of the language and does it so often, construing and coming across the parallel lines. The feeling of alienation, rootlessness, homelessness ails him as well as adds to his frustration combined with the angst and bewilderment of the age. The identity crisis, whether we accept or not, he feels it, as his Parsi self often twitches for a disclosure, but the riddles of the Partition cannot be loosened so easily as the lust for power had been predominant over and the leaders quarrelled for the chair, not for the country, tried to find favour with rather than giving solace and consolation to the dislocated and dismantled people. The refuge and shelter in India, loss of the mother tongue, the Partition and displacement, are the things of his brooding. A search for identity and tradition combined with a sense of alienation from his own ethos, history ad tradition marauds the poetic self of the poet and he craves for, yearns for all these but in a different format, a modernistic voice appreciating the jazz and blues of modern life and culture seeking through poetic fragmentation and broken rhythm of modern living. Adil’s story of life is one of the shipwrecks marked in Longellow’s A Psalm of Life as he can relate and allude to with regard to the Indian Jews and the Parsis. Marathi or Gujarati is not his mother tongue, but has been adopted and adapted to. He still craves for the Iranian connections and locations unknown and unrelated to, the passage of history through which they slipped and came to seeking shelter and an escape from.
Adil Jussawalla’s English is conversational and journalistic, the modern man’s speech, the nuances and rhythm of the modern speech and language. A poet of Bombay, he is a Bombayan; Bombay the metropolitan capital, the mega city is the poetic canvas of Adil Jussawalla, who himself is a Parsi. Adil thinks that Bombay is a divided city and he himself a divided man.
Adil Jussawalla as a poet vexes us and baffles rather than regaling us with his poetry as his is a poetry of fragmentation and disintegration, the distraction of the self and the dislocation of the psyche rather than a combination in harmony and that he has written to scatter and see rather than enjoining in a whole and that he turned to poetry to disintegrate than to integrate. A Parsi, he could not find his place, the root of nativity and the place of location so turned to the disporan persona as for an analysis and delving. His roots not the roots of nativity, but of dislocation and rootlessness. His myths not the myths of India, but of Persia, missed and recaptured. Historically and mythically cut off, he tells of an alienated saga in a different version of statement and poetic truths.
The other thing too is this that he is a city-dweller, a man from Bombay so the urban spaces of the cosmopolitan town are bound to influence his track of writing, as the poet as a man is a part of that society which he inhabits it, lives in.
Most of the modern English poets and poetesses whom we read them today are but the modern diseased fellows as they continue to suffer from the feeling of alienation, homelessness and rootlessness and Adil Jussawalla is no exception to that. We mean the displaced people continue to hold the microphone set and voice through. In this age of job and employment, leaving ones’ own places and homes, nativity and tradition, the people continue to move on from place to place also contains in statements. But as far as Adil is concerned, he is but a Parsi, would have come to India after a shipwreck as he says about the Jews.
A missing person is one who has disappeared and whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as his location and fate is not known, this is what the encyclopedia says it, but in the case of Adil Jussawalla he went missing after Land’s End and Missing Person, but resurfaced and returned back to with Trying To say Goodbye and The Right Kind of Dog. Contemporary art and things, objects and situations are the properties of his poetry. The old watch, the old radio, the record player, the gramophone, he has not forgotten them. England hangs heavy over him; the days spent in reading architecture, but side by side the English language twitching him for an expression and he catching the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the language in his poetry. Had poetry been otherwise, he would have converted it into the pieces of art and architecture; had it been, he would have taken us to Persia with his understanding of Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism. His wounded psyche and self, none has come to comprehend it, only the passage of time can feel it on the corridors of history, what it is in his mind, what it is in his heart. The word appears as some sort of aberration in him, is an obsession with him and he seems to be searching it, as the search for the lost mother tongue too continues with it at the same time. The father’s Lahore and the mother’s Gujarat too cast an impact of their own seconded by the tales told by the older members of the family. The earlier works show him as a globe-trotter, a no-man on the travels and tours, but the latter trace him landing and stationing at the airport of Bombay and taking a stroll by the sea beaches of it; thinking about Indian karma and dharma. Westernization and Europeanization not, apart from it, the pull of Indianism and the process of Indianization too can be marked in him and it draws him closer to. Language had been his primary love, now the earth behind him seems to be turning with his tuning to literature.
What it is in Adil Jussawalla, it is very difficult to say it as because he is a complex writer of the modern times, not so easily comprehensible and to be laid bare for meaning. Land's End takes him to England and Europe and he imagines of life and times in a private and personal way as a Westerner thinks and imagines, but Missing Person gives some stronghold to him. Again, just like the title he goes missing. Some forget him as a poet; some remember him as for a historical reference. But he resurfaces again for a landmark and comes upon with his Trying to Say Goodbye to be followed by The Right Kind of Dog. A poet of Bombay, he is a Bombay man and his vision dismal and bleak. The house is a motif, a recurrent image of his poetry and he searches for earnestly. A Parsi poet, he suffers from the search for identity no doubt. But his talks of Karna, Abhimanyu, Eklavya give him a sound foothold of own and he returns back to an optimism of own. This is just to embolden his presence and personality with the things like modernity, minority presence, Dalit literature, diaspora dais and Partition literature as all these things continue to nurture his poetic self. In addition to these, alienation, exile, rootlessness, homelessness and the quest for identity take to his canvas. Nostalgia and homesickness corrode the self. The house is a mirage and the historicity of tradition a myth. There as nothing as that to look to in legacy and heritage.
Approaching Santa Cruz Airport, Bombay is a poem of return journey back home, reverberating with home, home, sweet home, there is no place like home. The plane dashing down, approaching and flying closer make him lashed with the memories and images of the churches, popes and their benedictions. The papal configure and conjure up first as it engaged his images all through the way, what he saw in Europe, passing and flying over, drifting to Bombay. A saga of the tryst with the churches, crosses, domes and lashing over, taking the centre space continues to hang on to. But the earth is not that what we opine in our way even though we have made it populous.
The Indian diplomat sitting with him engages him otherwise. This is all what happens midair while reaching Bombay.
But the things take a sensitive turn when the plane seems to be touching down the earth. The homeland imagery and feeling and sensitivity start palpitating, beating and he getting nostalgic ad homesick, ever remembered of his home and the signs and signals around. The heart strikes like the tolling bell. The experiences of air travel from foreign to back home form the base of the poem.
Loud benedictions of the silver popes,
A cross to themselves, above
A union of homes as live as a disease.
Still, though the earth be stunk and populous,
We’re told it’s not: our Papa’ll put his nose
Down on cleaner ground. Soon to receive
Its due, the circling heart, encircled, sees
The various ways of dying that are home.
‘Dying is all the country’s living for,’
A doctor says. ‘We’ve lost all hope, all pride.’
I peer below. The poor, invisible,
Show me my place; that, in the air,
With the scavenger birds, I ride.
Economists enclosed in History’s
Chinese boxes, citing Chairman Mao,
Know how a people nourished on decay
Disintegrate or crash in civil war.
Contrarily, the Indian diplomat,
Flying with me, is confident the poor
Will stay just as they are.
Pyramids the future with more birth.
Our only desert, space; to leave the green
Burgeoning to black, the human pall.
Couples in their chains around the earth.
I take a second look. We turn,
Grazing the hills and catch a glimpse of sea.
We are now approaching Santa Cruz: all
Arguments are endless now and I
Feel the guts tighten and all my senses shake.
The heart, stirring to trouble in its clenched
Claw, shrivelled inside the casing of a cage
Forever steel and foreign, swoops to take
Freedom for what it is. The slums sweep
Up to our wheels and wings and nothing’s free
But singing while the benedictions pour
Out of a closing sky. And this is home,
Watched by a boy as still as a shut door,
Holding a mass of breadcrumbs like a stone.
---- Approaching Santa Cruz Airport, Bombay
Adil Jussawalla’s is elite poetry, for the intelligentsia, beyond the comprehension of the common readers as he writes about dislocation and displacement, exile and alienation, diaspora and Dalit literature, homelessness and rootlessness, quest for identity and shelter. A search for home ever continues in him which but the fanatical people cannot. How were they driven out of Persia, how were they out of Iran? How had it been the heyday of Zoroastrianism? Has one come to feel it? Now just the Gujarati or Bombayan connections making up for and he is convalescing in that company, holding parleys with. A Parsi poet of some Parsi historicity and reflection, which but cannot be relegated to the background, he is a modern poet of the contemporary times, one of the urban space and of broken rhythms of life; a modernist or a post-modernist from Bombay. His music is the music of modernity, urbanity and city centres, the jazz turning blues and vice versa, the music of the modern hollow men hollow and shallow from within, the people of the urban space gasping for breath and outing. The modern hollow man is the protagonist of his creating and recreating out of this predicament. Just the tidbits dotted by travels and tours intersperse his verses. Sometimes it means it not what he means to communicate as broken rhymes, broken rhythms continue to carry on the music of his verse. Instead of our unwillingness to take up modern Indian English verse, we get accustomed to such a reading as we cannot discern modernity and its music of living.