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.