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Sep 26, 2016

Her Hand: Mahapatra

Her Hand - Poem by Jayanta Mahapatra
Bijay Kant Dubey

Even a few of the poets have said, what Jayanta Mahapatra has in this small poem of ready reference and delving, really a great poem to contain in present-day child abuse, moral depravity and sexual exploitation. Just out of filial love and expression, he says many a thing apart from the wish of holding the hand of the small girl. How to hold it, as guilt hangs heavy over, as the body lies it abused? The streetlights too seem to be conspiring against the gruesome acts. Is this the picture of India where female feticide is done? Is this the India where the daughter is considered to be a curse, a debt? Is this the India where the rape cases are increasing?

Her Hand is no doubt a representative poem of Jayanta wherein the poet taxes with his gruesome observation of the small daughter-like girl. The title is charming indeed, but the heart of the matter pathetic and painful. Even the palmist will be afraid to see her hand, what to say of the poet? Her fate-line devastating, how to re-orient and re-structure it, my God? Her suffering and agony, how to describe it? Is India not good for daughters?

The little girl's hand is made of darkness
How will I hold it?

The streetlamps hang like decapitated heads
Blood opens that terrible door between us

The wide mouth of the country is clamped in pain
while its body writhes on its bed of nails

This little girl has just her raped body
for me to reach her

The weight of my guilt is unable
to overcome my resistance to hug her

The little girl’s hand is made of darkness, how to hold her? The first line strikes us differently to think why to feel it otherwise after holding the hand of the little girl? Why can it be not out of filial love? The streetlamps appear to be decapitated heads; the second stanza adds to the misery and pity of the theme and aggravates it. We shudder at imagining the thing; the heart of the matter. What is it that forms the crux of his subject-matter? Perhaps rape, violence, female feticide, abortion, moral depravity, sexual abuse, etc. form the crux of the matter which he means to reveal to as we often avert the gaze from hardcore realities.

The theme has not ended with the description of the decapitated heads. Apart from decapitation, blood oozes out and opens the door to view the landscape and we appalled to see it. The wide mouth of the whole country is clamped in pain and the body held aloft on the bed of nails adding to human pathos and pity, misery and woe.

This girl too has just been raped and her bruised body, how to view it? How to approach her? The weight of the guilt is unable to contain in his conscience and he too wavers in hugging the victim. How to overcome resistance to hug her?

To read the poem is to be taxed and burdensome; is to bear the load and brunt of. To read it is to feel it, is this the India where the small daughters are not reared properly, is this the India where domestic violence is taking a toll upon womankind?

We do not know where have we come to, where are we going? When will domestic violence stop? When will child abuse come to a stop? How to give moral support to an abused girl?  

The poem is psychological as well as sociological fraught with trauma and tension it releases. Who is at fault? Our conscience itself is guilty. What works, functions it when, who can but say it whether the dark consciousness or the sub-consciousness? Human psyche is indeed a complex thing what it undergoes within, who can but? Ours is a guilty mind always suspicious.

What did we promise while making a tryst with India’s independence? What have we done for the women, widows and children? Have we been able to banish poverty, hunger, underdevelopment, illiteracy and superstition? 

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