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Nov 28, 2016

A.P.J.Abdul Kalam: The Man & His Vision

A.P.J.Abdul Kalam: The Man & His Vision
Bijay Kant Dubey

The Vision
I climbed and climbed
Where is the peak, my Lord?
I ploughed and ploughed,
Where is the knowledge treasure, my Lord?
I sailed and sailed,
Where is the island of peace, my Lord?
Almighty, bless my nation
With vision and sweat resulting into happiness
                                                         A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

In the hierarchy and lineage of Rajendra Prasad, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, Verahagiri Venkata Giri, Mohammad Hidayatullah, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, Basappa Danappa Jatti, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Giani Zail Singh, Ramaswamy Venkataraman, Shankar Dayal Sharma,  Kocheril Raman Narayan, the name of A.P.J.Abdul Kalam is definitely one to be reckoned with, not for his presidentship, but as a man with a mission and vision refreshening the memories of Kabir, Rashkhan, Jayasi, Amir Khusru and Dara Shikoh, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Gandhi and Humayun Kabir while on the other the contribution and legacy of the scientists like Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, Brahma Prakash and so on. The 11th to adorn the chair, Kalam was not exactly the politician that we needed, thought about, but a scientist from his personality and stature, the missile man of India giving a boost up to Aryabhata, Agni, Prithvi, Rohini and so on. Though not slated to be the president from his heart, never burning with the ardent wish to join politics as the leaders nourish and nurture it to take the credit, his name cropped up suddenly, did the rounds and was chosen unanimously for the topmost job with the consent of those who proposed and those who gave a wider nod to it thinking about the pros and cons, never in resistance.  In his protégé we see not the politicians, but the scientists and engineers and other technicians who have really worked for the betterment of society and the welfare of the country rather than delivering speeches. Modern India is not the creation of the politicians and leaders who had nothing to do with the tools of technological advancement and scientific research and discovery, but of explorers, discoverers, mariners, seamen, cartographers, mappers. India is modern not for its history and politics, but for them who have made, linked with bridging the gaps, demolishing the hurdles and hindrances, discovering, exploring, researching silently. To take his name is to take the names of the navratnas, nine gems adorning the Gupta period, Amarsimha, Dhanvantri, Harisena, Kalidasa, Khapanaka, Sanku, Varahamihira, Vararuchi and Vetalbhatta; to take his name is to take the name of the great mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who too was from Tamil Nadu; to see the forgotten khagolshastris of India. His mission was one of Aryabhata’s to materialize into reality, that of Brahmagupta and Varahamihira’s. Always a people’s president, he worked and talked in his own way, instilling hope into the young minds, souls and hearts. Science and engineering was in his mind and thinking, technology his brain. Single in his life, he lived and worked for science and its furtherance and wrote like Bertrand Russell and Stephen Hawking, J.B.S.Haldane and Sir James Jeans. The wit and intellect of Aldous Huxley was in him in addition to emotion and feeling which he discharged in his poetical anecdotes and expressions. To ignite the minds, dormant spirits and to fill with hope; to inspire to search and to add to was the job of the scientist. He executed the works practically, taking a mileage over politicians what C.V.Raman, Jagdish Chandra Bose, P.C.Roy, Meghnad Saha and others would have envisaged. A few of the poems which they have come from the pen of Abdul Kalam remind us of the poetical attempts of Abraham Lincoln. The test firing of the missiles, delving into the space and opening the avenues of the study of light and cosmology and its dimension had been the joys of his and he used to dwell upon. In office from 25 July 2002 – 25 July 2007, he led a very simple life turning himself as the People’s President dwelling in the People’s House.

My dear Soldiers
Oh! Defenders of borders
You are great sons of my land
When we are all asleep
You still hold on to your deed
Windy season or snowy days
Or scorching sun's sweltering rays
You are there guarding all the time awake
Treading the lonely expanses as yogis
Climbing the heights or striding the valleys
Defending the deserts or guarding the marshes
Surveillance in seas and by securing the air
Prime of your youth given to the nation!!
Wind chimes of my land vibrate your feat
We pray for you brave men!! 
May the Lord bless you all!!
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Born on 15 October 1931 to Jainulabudeen and Ashiamma and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, A.P.J.Abdul Kalam did his schooling from, studied physics and aerospace engineering and worked in various capacities before acting as President of India. Had been in Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Indian Research Organization (ISRO). A scientist, especially an aeronautic one, he excelled in missile technology and sending of spaceships. Civilian space projects and programmes and military missile development had been the arena of his study and research and he worked in the development of ballistic missiles and launch vehicle technology. Even during the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been in power, Kalam was invited by Raja Ramanna to see Smiling Buddha.

A listing of the books written by him tells it the story itself, what it had been his vision and mission, the dream with which he wanted to transform the nation:

Developments in Fluid Mechanics and Space Technology by A P J Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha; Indian Academy of Sciences, 1988,  India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium by A P J Abdul Kalam, Y.S.Rajan; New York, 1998, Wings of Fire: An Autobiography by A P J Abdul Kalam, Arun Tiwari; Universities Press, 1999, Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India by A P J Abdul Kalam; Viking, 2002,  The Luminous Sparks by A P J Abdul Kalam; Punya Publishing Pvt Ltd., 2004, Mission India by A P J Abdul Kalam, Paintings by Manav Gupta; Penguin Books, 2005, Inspiring Thoughts by A P J Abdul Kalam; Rajpal & Sons, 2007, Indomitable Spirit by A P J Abdul Kalam; Rajpal and Sons Publishing,2012, Envisioning an Empowered Nation by A P J Abdul Kalam with A Sivathanu Pillai; Tata McGraw-Hill, New Delhi, You Are Born To Blossom: Take My Journey Beyond by A P J Abdul Kalam and Arun Tiwari; Ocean Books, 2011, Turning Points: A journey through challenges by A P J Abdul Kalam; Harper Collins India, 2012, My Journey:  Transforming Dreams into Actions by A P J Abdul Kalam; August 2013 by the Rupa Publication, A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020 by A P J Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj; July 2014 by Harper Collins, Forge your Future: Candid, Forthright, Inspiring by A P J Abdul Kalam; by Rajpal and Sons, 29 October 2014, Reignited: Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh; by Penguin India, 14 May, Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji by A P J Abdul Kalam with Arun Tiwari; HarperCollins Publishers, June 2015, Advantage India: From Challenge to Opportunity by A P J Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh; HarperCollins Publishers,15 Oct 2015

In his Preface to Envisioning an Empowered Nation, he writes:

“During the last four years, I have visited almost all parts of India and interacted with people from all walks of life- students, youths, farmers, scientists, engineers, technicians, doctors, medical staff, educationists, industrialists, armed forces personnel, spiritual leaders, political leaders, administrators, economists, artists, sports persons, physically and mentally challenged and the rural populace. What have I learnt from these interactions across the different cross-sections of Indian population?

School children and youth also interacted with me through my website. They gave many suggestions on making India a developed nation and their role in achieving this mission. I would like to highlight a few of the suggestions, among the many, which I received from children and youth.”

Let us take a quote from which really teaches a lot, broadening the horizon of mental state, asking to think and create and to add to:

“Learning gives creativity
Creativity leads to thinking
Thinking provides knowledge
Knowledge makes you great.”

The other quotes too can be cited as the kernels of thought and idea:

“The President's post should not be politicised. Once a president is elected, he is above politics.

 India has to be transformed into a developed nation, a prosperous nation and a healthy nation, with a value system.

Poetry comes from the highest happiness or the deepest sorrow.
A teacher should have a creative mind.

You have to dream before your dreams can come true.

To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.

Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.

Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended.

To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal.”

The Manipuri-hut was installed during his tenure and he used to sit there in the mornings and the evenings and two of his books were written on its sofas which many fondly called it Kalam’s “thinking hut”.

Though he is no more, we still remember him, this Tamil President, so simple and humble, so righteous and noble, really turning the President’s House into the People’s House. The man is not here, but his thinking hut, rudraveena, love of books and talks with flowers still conjure up the images, pictures of this 
former president of India.

When they talked of giving a second term to him on the corridors of power and politics and it started doing the rounds detrimentally, Kalam said, “Enough is enough”, opting out of race to seek it again. His tenure ended on 24 July 2007.

Kalam told medipersons, “In five years’ time in Rashtrapati Bhavan, we have all worked for transforming it into a people’s bhavan. Rashtrapati Bhavan has become a people’s  bhavan today. I believe it should be an example for the nation. It should not get degenerated. That is why I said enough is enough.”
(The Telegraph, Calcutta, Sunday, 24 June, 2007, p.6)

“It is not a political process when we elect a President. I do not want to become party to a political process. I did not want to damage the name of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has become a people’s bhavan during my tenure.” (Ibid, p.6)

Nov 20, 2016

THOU hast made me endless: Tagore

"THOU hast made me endless" by Tagore  
Bijay Kant Dubey

Theme of Thou Hast Made Me Endless

THOU hast made me endless, such is 
thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou 
emptiest again and again, and fillest it 
ever with fresh life. 

This little flute of a reed thou hast 
carried over hills and dales, and hast 
breathed through it melodies eternally 

At the immortal touch of thy hands 
my little heart loses its limits in joy 
and gives birth to utterance ineffable. 

Thy infinite gifts come to me only 
on these very small hands of mine. 
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and 
still there is room to fill. 

Thou has made me endless is the first poem in the series of poems entitled Gitanjali which fetched Rabindranth Tagore the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1913, but written in 1910 sets the lyric continuing unto the last with its rhyme and rhythm, song note and word-flow, lyricism and musical tuning.  

A small poem it is in the form of submission and prayer, thanksgiving and acknowledgement of the same. God’s gift of life has been acknowledged with thanks and oblation. Though utterly new for the West and the Occident, it is one drawn from Indian culture and philosophy, thought and tradition, spirituality and ethics, religion and metaphysics. Adi Shankararacharya’s thoughts can be traced as the kernels of the idea. The devotion with which Tagore recalls God is the one of the Vaishnava tradition and the Bhakti marga shown in the Gita. As interpreted in the Gita, discarding the older clothes and leaves as wear we and trees the newer ones so is the case with this body of ours before entering into new.

The poet puts it that this life is His, the Giver and Taker of it all and nothing happens it without the wish of Whose for which we should be thankful to Him. It is You who has made it all, who has given life. As the origin of the universe and life is beyond expiation and we can never know the truths so are the mysteries of life. God has made us endless and such is His pleasure. Again and again we shall take lives and meet lour ends. There is no way out. Everything is but into the hands of the Lord-god the Maker of all. The vessel He fills and empties as well from time to time. 

The little flute of reed He carries over the hills and the dales to sing, to tune it beautifully, submerging it all with the mellifluous music of love and song and the melody of life played.

At the touch of his hands, the joy of his knows no bounds. What can be more elated than to hold the hand of the Divine? The gifts of God come to in their own from time to time, age to age. God keeps giving and man at the receiving end of the bounties.

When Tagore talks of intimate Divine and His fluting, the picture of Krishna dances before the eyes though he prays to a secular God.

Though he uses and applies in Indian imagery and thought-content to base on, the poem is a remarkable specimen of devotion. The high note of lyricism dots and punctuates the poem. As a lyric, he is sentimental and emotional to express the things.

As usually untitled, form one in the series of lyrics embedded, Thou hast made me endless is a superb lyric exquisitely beautiful for its thought and imagery. The poem is one flower embedded in the garland of flowers offered to the Deity.

The song-like content of the lyric is admirable and is rich in imagery. It is devotion which adds beauty to the poem; it is thought and content which strengthen it. The language which the poet uses in is but the Biblical language and he has after reading the Bible. Had it not been, Tagore would not have excelled. Household philosophies of the folks have also given the beauty of thought and idea to the poem. The influences of Kabir, Jayadeva, Shankaracharya and other others hang heavy upon him. 

Nov 14, 2016

Poverty Poems-2: Ezekiel

Poverty Poems—2 by Nissim Ezekiel
Bijay Kant Dubey

Poverty Poems—2 forms a part of the series of poems written for depicting the heat and dust, poverty and misery, illiteracy and backwardness, underdevelopment and regressing into the background. Let us see how he takes up the things, a passer-by himself, a platform-passing fellow, gathering the images of India and going not like the visitors and guests from Europe and other continents, but from an India, an alien insider other than a Hindu boy viewing India, taking into his Confience. The title is quite clear, Poverty Poems, means poverty plus poems, poverty discussed and taken up. What will he tell, the things are clear, all about our poverty, misery, woe and plight. A passing memory it strikes us as because we made grand rock-built temples of artistic excellence and splendor, but we could not for ourselves, just for our sacrosanct faith and housing gods and goddesses, not for us, not even the masons and artistes for themselves. In India we attach so  much so to piety, purity, chastity, virtue, myth and mythicism, faith and belief, oracle and soothsaying, but not to work is worship, service to man is service to God and this is but Western and here we have erred, erred not, blundered and this is what the Western people point out. The water of the Ganges is pure beyond doubt, but why to take to blindly all the times without explaining it properly?  Can it cure fever and other diseases if we are stricken really? The priests and pundits carried over our classicism, but exploited too as for fatalism, faith and doubt, inaction, astrology, palmistry and so on regressing India. The poem has born out of such a mentality picking up what we have abandoned and discarded as poor and destitute. It contradicts Indian piety and purity, chastity and religiosity. Karma means not karma for gods and goddesses, but for the poor and the downtrodden too. If we turn away from seeing the ugly and nasty as for satyam shivam sundaram, it cannot be so. Everything good and auspicious cannot be beautiful. Written along the Western line, the poem is a contradiction of Indian mind and mentality. On seeing the lepers, poor children and women lying as destitute on the platform or the station or near the temple gate, we ask ourselves if we are really pure from our within. Where is God? Where faith? How pure is it? Is the temple not in one’s heart? Should we do something for thing? What we ought to have for them? Who to remind it of here in India, about our duties and obligations to do and execute?

In search of faith where have we come to, in search of piety and purity? Where have we in search of abuj mana and niscchal hridaya, simple, non-understanding inner mind and guileless heart? Where have we come to in search of nirmala hridaya, clean heart?  But can we wash all our sins clean? Searching God, where did we not go, to Mansarovar, Kailash and the Himalayan ranges, but did we? Maybe it we applauded the scenic beauty holding us in admiration.

What did we not do in the name of religion and ethics? We exploited the poor and the downtrodden as menials, untouchables. We subjected the child widows to misery and woe. The Sati system wreaked havoc. The child marriages claimed many a precious life. The dark daughters suffered and bore the brunt of bruise. We grew fatalists and the inactive.

Hair stands on when we read the poem, Poverty Poems—2, all our thoughts and ideas freeze it the moment we the readers see the lepers as a passing scene, we hearing the song and going out of the platform with the leper music vibrating into our ears and the impact so profound and jolting that we standing dumb-stricken as for what to do, what not, where to go, which way to follow to. Let us think of those who serve them, let us feel of their priceless service.

While passing through the railway station, the poet lifted his eyes to find the lepers lying underneath a poster-ridden wall what Jayanta shows it as nameless faces scrambling at a place in Dawn at Puri. Silent as a beggar, he did not beg for, but instead of that, the author offered a coin and he took it without a glance cast over him nor did he even made the slightest gesture in acknowledgement. Perhaps he was deaf and dumb.

Deaf and dumb he too was, viewing the leper imagery and hearing the leper music. There was another on the platform singing with zest the song of God and it would be perhaps the song of Rama just like a happy saint which he was perhaps. The poet walked along leper-music holding his mind.

We generally come across such a scene at the market-place or into the streets of ours or at the temple-gates, but we try to avert and avoid our gaze from seeing them. But here Nissim is quick to pick it up to present on a wider level which the Westerners have already drawn attention towards.

Let us think, in search of sundaram, where have we come to? What is sundaram? Sundaram is not sundaram always, to turn the ugly into the beautiful. Only the search for the nocturnal mystery divine cannot be all. To adhere to unseen karma and bhoga too is not good. Unhealthy and blind thinking and adherence to them cannot take us far. Astrology and palmistry sometimes make us inactive and the astrologers and palmists turn into the thugs of some sort.

Poverty Poems—2 gives ideas, adds to our imagery, thought and reflection. Leper scenes are heart-rending and we feel dumb-stricken as and when we view, see them. The music too ruffles it all when passes through the ear drums or we come to view them singing. The picture is horrible; the imagery terrible. Nissim transforms the poem into a tragedy of life. How the images of God, the creations beyond the hand of man which a few have come to ruminate and reminisce?

In this context, the service of the Australian Christian missionary Graham Stuart Staines who used to serve leper patients was burnt to death with his sons Philip and Timothy at Odisha’s Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in 1999 come to the sight. Such a thing must be avoided and should not be let it happen again.

Nov 7, 2016

The Ghagra In Spate: Keki N.Daruwalla

The Ghagra In Spate By Keki N.Daruwalla
Bijay Kant Dubey

The Ghagra In Spate is one of the most representative poems of Daruwalla reminding us of those rivers of India which really wreak havoc during the rainy times or when the excessive water is discharged from the dams unable to contain in. Such a topic is really not the prerogative of all as those interested in geography can only tell it. But he felt those things when posted as a police officer of a highest rank and these form the impressions of those times. When the poet refers to the Ghagra, a desire crops within to know the path, course of it through which it flows down. Where does it originate from and where does fall into? Is it naturally prone to flooding or the dam is the cause of the overflow and discharge of water? When it rains heavily for days, the water bodies and reservoirs fail to contain, it spills and adds to human woes and misery. Whatever be that, the flood situation forms the crux of the matter and the poet views it through the lens of the twilight and the dark night. It is no doubt beautiful to see the river in spate, but they can only feel the pains who really go through the upheavals and repercussions when the water level rises above the danger level, the situation worsens beyond control. At that time Daruwalla too cannot come to rescue, but only the Vedic gods, Varuna and Indra if they too can hear human prayers. Flood waters keep swirling and devouring causing damage to standing crops, live stock and human life. Poetry too cannot help in any way. First, life then comes it poetry whatever says it Daruwalla. Gautam Buddha once cautioned against fire and water and these two can never be believed. The areas under water and the people running for cover can only tell it the harrowing experiences of life, not Keki N.Daruwalla though he views it poetically. 

Every year the Ghagra changes its course turning over and over to float and flow by not naturally, but abnormally, swirling and devouring the areas, placing them under water, a vast stretch of land and live stock and this is the scene of the poem under our perusal and discussion. In the afternoon she is a grey smudge exploring a grey canvas. When dusk reaches her through an overhang of cloud she is overstewed coffee. At night she is a red weal across the spine of the land is a picture, an image, a metaphor. Driving at dusk one wouldn't know what she is really. There is a flood ‘on ' sets the ball rolling, the landscape is so superbly equipoised, rice-shoots pricking through a stretch of water and light spiked shadows, inverted trees, kingfishers, gulls. As twilight thins the road is a black stretch running between the stars blackening it all. This is how he takes to the scenery, painting as per his word and imagery. Slowly and suddenly the waters inundate a vast tract of land.

And suddenly at night the north comes to the village riding on river-back with the river changing flows, water spilling, heading to, gushing forth, steaming and streaming. Twenty minutes of a nightmare spin and fear turns phantasmal as half a street goes churning in the river-belly acts as a catalyst and it culminates into. If only voices could light lamps! If only limbs could turn to rafted bamboo! And through the village the Ghaghra steers her course taking on and flowing; thatch and dung-cakes turn to river-scum, a buffalo floats over to the rooftop where the men are stranded. Three days of hunger, and her udders turn red-rimmed and swollen with milk-extortion place us in a different situation of life. The scene is but a spectacle for children mustering spirit enough in them to cheer the rescue boats; the men are still-life subjects oozing wet looks. They don't rave or curse for they know the river's slang, her argot. No one sends up prayers to a wasted sky, for prayers are parabolic they will come down with a flop anyway. If the situation be as such, whom to pray to? Prayers will perhaps fall flat. Children act as the cheerleaders deriving pleasure out of as always and cheering the rescue teams. Instead there's a slush-stampede outside the booth where they are doling out salt and grain. Ten miles to her flank peasants go fishing in rice fields and women in chauffeur-driven cars go looking for driftwood. The relief camps have something other to tell about, the people lined, taking and jostling with, some getting and some not. How to reach the places out of reach? Only the rough and tough, those who know swimming and the daredevils who like adventures can come to rescue at that time of flooding and heavy rains.

But it is when she recedes that the Ghaghra turns bitchy sucking with animal-heat, cross-eddies diving like frogmen and sawing away the waterfront in a paranoid frenzy tells of the aftermath of ravages and furies. She flees from the scene of her own havoc thrashing with pain to be compensated and ruminated over. Behind her the land sinks, houses sag on to their knees in a farewell obeisance is the aftermath of it figures the land mass undergone changes in shapes and figures. And miles to the flank, the paddy fields will hoard the fish till the mud enters into a conspiracy with the sun and strangles them. Silvery fish can be seen making a way into the mud and slush of the paddy fields and the people after fishing.

Keki N.Daruwalla is very irregular in his stanza pattern as because here and there he breaks and starts up though the continuity remains intact. Barabanki would have been the epicentre of this writing. The poem is a report on the do’s and dont’s of the flood time; a photography of the area inundated. On marking the water level rising and rains continuing for so long, what one should, it is very difficult to say, as misfortune never comes alone. Even the options remain for to move to a safer place, may like to stay at unmindful of what it to befall. The villages under water, people on rooftops or on rafts made from banana planks or bamboos take to as for saving themselves paint the flood scene in a picturesque manner, but the woes of the people indescribable. Daruwalla has just said about the bufflaoes, but not about the goats, sheep, ducks and cows.

Daruwalla as a poet taxes rather than giving joys and his poetry is weighty, laden and somber. To read him is to be burdened. All the time death, disease, loss, casualty, tragedy, pain, curfew and riot cannot appease us as we need pleasure.  But he is a different fellow as for different treasons, the first being a Parsi, the second a policeman and the third a tragedian. His mythic ice is difficult to be cut. The identity crisis too puts the poetic self in an askance which he seems to be grappling with.

The poem is like a report on the flood scene, an essay or a paragraph. The matter though one of hydrology or hydrography brings in many a thing within the range of our delving. There are many rivers which keep ruffling, as such the Ganges, the Sone, the Gandak, the Damodar, the Teesta, the Brahmaputra and so on and if we can compare the things, it will be remarkable.  

Nov 1, 2016

Pestilence: Daruwalla

Pestilence by Keki N.Daruwalla
Bijay Kant Dubey

Pestilence by Keki N.Daruwalla is one like Curfew in a Riot-torn City and The Epileptic taken from the same collection of poems entitled Under Orion which he wrote long back in 1970 to see its appearance from Writers Workshop, Calcutta as the first poetic venture of the writer and with whom he made his   entry into the realms of Indian English poesy. Morning shows the day is the truth that holds true and it applies to Daruwalla, as goes the adage again, style is the man. The same Daruwalla we can still sense it now as he has not changed over the years. Death, disease and violence are the properties of his verse and he cannot without these. Here it is not curfew that he deals with, but pestilence, as the title is quite clear in revealing the same. The word pestilence means a deadly, fatal and infectious disease. It may be that the patient is afflicted with cholera, plague, small pox, diarrhea or tuberculosis. The defunct cholera and tuberculosis wards of the British period refreshen the memory with the imagery of the patients when there were not so many connect ways, bridges or the means of conveyance and transportation. The Indian countryside had been secluded and isolated enough, languishing in medievalism, superstition, poverty and illiteracy even after the attainment of freedom. The poet pictures such a scene fraught with hardship, bad luck and misery. The imagery of the poem is one of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to some extent depicting the old woman on the cart trying to save the patient, steering it across. 

Daruwalla as a poet is a hard-hearted writer just like Ted Hughes and Robert Browning wherein the British period two-barrelled gun speaks the language of poetry used for a kill or to defend against the dreaded robbers of India, the Thakores, notorious Singhs. As a poet, he is verbose, bombastic and cathartic and purgatory. Poetry not born out of emotion and feeling, but out of brain-work and laborious attempts is the thing of deliberation. He writes not for pleasure and aesthetic sense. His is a language of violence, vengeance, wrath and ager rather than sympathy and its stroking. Riots, curfews, communal flares and frenzies are the stuffs of his poesy. Genealogically from Iran or Persia, one cutting the mythic ice of some different culture and clime, that too from the land of Zarathustra, he tells the Hindustani tales, originating from Lahore and Ludhiana to clutch Gujarat and the Terai region along in his stride to reach Delhi finally just like as Kipling told about Kim and Jim Corbett about the hunters. Such a pidgin-Indian stuff is in Rudyard Kipling’s poetry, but that laugh is not in Daruwalla, Indian gwala mixing milk in water and that too not the tap water, but the pond water as for to double the quantity.  British India’s gossips we can hear in Daruwalla’s poetry after passing some time in the bungalows of that sort where the sahib, bibi and gulam played the cards just like Munshi Prem Chand’s Satranj Ke Khiladi not with the nawabs and his courtier friends, but with White sahib and his gulams-cum-care-takers.

They are not the palanquin-bearers who carry the load of the newly wed small bride and the groom, the hurly-burly Kahars going with the palanquin, but are the same taking a patient to the town hospital who is infected with some fatal disease. A girl in sixteen shringaras, dress-ups or make-ups not, but a frail and frozen body is being carried. The sickling, weakling lying weak and pale is lifted on a sling cot to be taken away to by the same men as and when situations call for and herein lie the differences in observation and marking. Such a thing used to do the rounds in the Indian countryside.

Crossing the fields and fallows, highlands and lowlands, rivers and hilly ways, if the palanquin is not available, they take the patients away to the distant health centre as for treatment though the music may be here different as and when we contrast with those of the small girls as village brides leaving their families and houses in tears and going to their in-laws’ house and the groom party retreating with the band, the twilight falling over on the ways trodden and untrodden. Catching the same rhythm and spirit, the poet here paints the scene in a different mood of tuning and tenor. The poem pictures the image of the palkhis taking the royal or noble ladies to their places of f destinations. But here the matter is not one of travel or conveyance or festive mood or one of parting or departure from. The patient is transported to a near-by or far-off hospital. With the palkhis, box-like wooden framework and structure at the middle, there picture the images of the Kahar caste people, blackly and robust bearing the bamboo poles on the shoulders and taking the passengers away to their destination.

India the land of loot and plunder, devastation and turmoil, foreign invasion and raids, in the wake of superstition, medievalism and backwardness, we have not forgotten, seconded by witch-hunting, hocus-pocus and incantation. The Sati system, child marriage, widow repression, dowry death and human sacrifice still make the hair stand on. Sprinkling Ganga jal, how can we cleanse it all? Can the hearts be cleaned, purified? Can the diseases be cured?

A reading of the poem makes us remember of the malaria wards. The local people used to attribute the cause to some evil effect haunting during the eve-time. During the rainy days, that too in the months of Shravana-Bhadra, many used to fall ill after taking the ripe palms and others in the shortage of cereals. The tales of exotic and impregnable India are many. Only the Aryan or Muslim version of history cannot tell it all. The British-period eye hospitals with the European doctors, White memsahebs and sahebs evoke the imagery otherwise.   

The white marbled hospital, UNICEF jeeps, nurses clad in whites and the doctors present a contrast to the scenery with the bony, dehydrated and pale patients on string cots slinging and the blackly carriers carrying, bearing the load with. The White man’s burden was it really whether we accept it or not. Let them say what they want to, Gandhi, Nehru or Prasad. What is not British, say you. There had been the periods and ages of epidemics and pestilences. Typhoid, malaria, cholera, diarrhea, small pox, we have not forgotten those days of disease. Child marriage and pregnancy deaths have maligned and marauded ourselves for quite a long time.

Let us pick up a stanza to discuss the theme of the poem:

the hospital floors are marble white
black bodies dirty them
nurses in white habits
unicef jeeps with white bonnets 
doctors with white faces receive them 
‘who says they have cholera?
they are down with diarrhoea
who says it is cholera?
it is gastro-enteritis’
(Keki N.Dafruwalla, Under Orion, Rupa Co., 2000, New Delhi, p.16-7)

The stanza pattern of Daruwalla is very irregular and he is very casual in handling with. Some lines are placed zigzag and some slanting. Pestilence actually is a poem of the now-a-days lying defunct cholera ward, malaria ward which once used to vibe with.

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