Maranada -176 102,
ISBN; 978 -81 -87656 -07 -4
Review by P C K Prem
C. Chambial, the most prominent voices in Indian English Poetry is genuine, innovative and powerful. With nine powerful collections of poetry, he also edits Poetcrit, a journal devoted to poetry. His latest collection of verses, Hour of Antipathy signals a potent return of a poet of images and philosophic thoughts after a gap of two years, and offers moments of stimulating pleasure and fulfillment. Chambial’s poetry has subtle surge and warmth, and its pithiness and nimbleness in flow of images with rainbow like haziness and beauty amidst silent grey clouds stuns and mystifies. Love of man and humanity is a subject very dear to the heart of poet. Whenever, he feels upset with the wayward conduct of men, he forgets identity in the lap of nature. He loves its swift breeze, icy chillness, snow-clad mountains and tall deodar and pine trees. Just imagine when he asks mouse to keep quiet, he takes out a pen, scribbles a few lines, twists lips, smoothens wrinkles of a seemingly matured face and ushers out, climbs down and goes to the little garden and talks to plants. If nothing else happens, he shuffles pages of many books nonchalantly and sits quietly to start anew.
It gives a strong kick to understand the beauty of Chambial’s latest tiny verses. Not a poet of long lyrics, he does believe in legendary romances, or romance with nature like Wordsworth, Keats or Shelley but loves to create images and interprets life. He infuses a sense of serenity when one imagines a little hut like temple with a red piece of cloth tied to a bamboo on a hilltop.
In a vaguely different refrain, the poet celebrates beauty, charm and magic of nature in rhythmical flowing tuneful lines –
Soft breeze pregnant with heavenly fragrance,
The yellow fields spread to horizon for…
Summer comes tickling with its heat and drought,
Winter sits deep on senses; chill and snow
Spring many a hope in heart with spring’s glow
(The Sun 45-46)
If nature is unsympathetic, it also proves beneficial to humankind, for it has lessons to teach. If nature is blissful, forgiving, generous and benevolent, compassionate and life giving, again it conveys a message of goodwill and tolerance, humanism and harmony. Without wanting, a seeker gets divine blessings and the poet is quite positive and optimistic. An allegory startles as he tells the tale of a mad man, who shouted, ran hurriedly, entered the little hut like temple, and after bowing before the statue, sat quietly and after moments in deep silence, emerged as a real human being. Ironically, he tells that a man engaged in routine affairs rarely behaves like a human being. Images of hilltop and a man running to find solace, speak of the eternal cravings for peace and harmony even if no god exists.
Nature’s fury presents a grand sight. Rising smoke astonishes people watching intently the splendorous nature. Heavy rains turn into a huge bang. An earthquake causes another stunning manifestation, and a breathtaking canyon takes birth. Man is helpless before the marvelous charisma nature performs. ‘An Escapade’ is a painting in words where the spirit of youthfulness and vivacity, careless courage and scary guts determine the movement of young minds. In ‘Wingless’ and ‘Beauties of this World’, the poet again takes us to the charm and magic of nature –
Sit, meditate upon
this LILA in awful wonder
as ‘Sweet songs
stir the chords
of heart and mind.
Poet loves to enjoy a few moments in the garden. ‘Soft’ is meaningful. If the soil is soft, plants grow and roots go deep, a natural phenomenon. Soft voice and words make deep impression –
Soft is what one need:
Soft sentiments, soft moments…
To avoid hurts and bruises
For copious growth
Of stout relations and roots.
(Radishes and Turnips 15)
A wholesome outlook towards life and its complexities stuns. Life is simple why make it complicated the poet says after immense experimenting with impassive and astounding images. In nature, he enjoys glimpses of eternity: ‘Full of fun/I longed /For shower…Sun and shower /In chase since /Eternity.’ (Chase 17)
Man is often a harbinger of disturbance and panic within and without. Strange and calculated acts of man instill fears even in birds. ‘Where is gone the Song’ 14 is a sad lyric as nature faces the onslaught of modern culture of innate yearning. Poet feels loss of sanctity and godly smile of cowherds and shepherds. Feelings of love and warmth appear frozen, and nature is hurt. Such a mental state indicates impending dreariness as warmth evaporates like ‘Water in tea-pan.’
Everything looks indistinct. Even in unqualified fright, people enjoy an ostensibly little victory as tricksters and swindlers drive away the fruit of truth and honesty in a web of bewilderment and ambiguity (Panic 19). He speaks of vague fears while treading quite familiar paths and roads, nevertheless feelings of presence of a hidden enemy and betrayal haunt. Man inflicts persistent wounds, and injures nature to satisfy greedy instinct. If man fails to correct erroneous ways of life, he would encounter deserts, waterless future and sky disfigured and so, shall be deprived of the natural blessings and when he goes through ‘Shades of Solitude’ it offers an entirely different experience of silent and solemn hope
At times, man sits alone and thinks of flaws and imperfections, for guilt of sins committed surfaces. If he rationalizes, sins overweight efforts. Even if a man apologizes for the negative drifts, it is again a basis for a ‘stinking sod /for the surviving soul’ –
Sometimes, somehow even angels
mislay their sanity
to enter the devils’ dungeon.
Man spurns truth and wants to adopt ways of a coarse and uncivilized world. Poet is deeply conscious of the prevalent corruption, greed, dishonesty, political iniquity, inequality and economic exploitation and fall in ethical values. Living among the corrupt, the violent and the hidden terrorists, the sophisticated without resentment and resistance, makes life difficult. ‘We are Living’ 43, is a scathing denunciation of double standards a contemporary man –
We’re living in a land
that abounds in
wolves, hyenas, and jackals…
when morals, ethics and virtues…
love and compassion banished,
jealousy and hatred rule the roost.
Talks of wrongdoings and felonious acts of times appear brutally right and a man laments loss of truth and righteousness. He condemns rulers and bureaucrats for the unethical and dangerous conspiracy –
If hopes were horses, everyone would ride.
What queer times!
Masters have to beg for bread!
Yet they say: hail democracy!
(Masters …Beggars 50)
Poet is aware of corruption, immorality and violence prevalent in the society. In “My Country is great’, he is dryly eulogistic. He feels intensely agitated when sleaze, greed, loot and corruption in private and public life bring miseries and dishonour. He looks at rulers, the rich and the powerful with anger. He cannot do anything, for whistleblowers face elimination. He is conscious of frauds and scandals besmearing the faces of the influential people, who eat everything from sand, coal, fodder, coffins to guns and choppers. He understands the gap between the rich and the poor, and knows the questionable conduct of the rich.
With coal their faces all black to pate,
Rolling in the mire of fraud, who guess?
My country is indisputably great!
The wealth, they keep away from the State
To show the sheep, nothing do they possess.
(My Country is Great! 61)
Untruths, lies, and unconstructive qualities never make a good world, and so a strain of penitence visits man: ‘Man prefer matter; Platonic love spurn. /Changed values; human behaviour distorted /…Man rebelled, strayed away for doing damage.’ He sums up destructive attitude of a modern man, who makes social life disturbing. Poet exhibits anxiety about the man’s fate in present-day scenario and touches not only the material proclivities of an unscrupulous man but also demonstrates man’s deterioration in general conduct and reprehensible fall in ethical quality of life and thus, makes irreparable dents in life of meaning and purpose. He exploits man, nature and unsympathetically misuses natural resources. Mammon worship is the theme of life one infers as poet leads us through a flow of images.
Man has meddles not with morals only,
Dug deep into the bowls of Earth as well;
Has made vulnerable Earth, life, a hell,
In his blind quest for Mammon selfishly.
(Man for Mammon 37)
He is worried about the deliverance of man if he continues to roll in the quagmire of sickening wealth and power and therefore, theory of karma of Gita comes alive in his mind. He is aware of the rash and reckless life where none waits for the right moment, and each one wishes to excel. He wants peace, but remains worried and so jumps beyond capabilities, and stress fills life. He lives in illusions, and hopes prove meaningless.
The poet recalls life, he enjoyed in the salubrious beauty of nature and rural surroundings. Serene living it was that provided nectar like taste of contentment and delight abundant. He still boasts of life of values and ethics, and sits cozily witnessing the pleasure of city life without a touch of its anxieties. Now, everything looks like a fantasy, a dream of life past bereft of hope of revival. It is difficult to link thoughts to better life. What remains of a philosophy of man when he finds –
The rainbow is lost
in the cacophony
of debates futile;
man has grown fangs to bite man;
love is lost in the human heart,
sits like a vulture on the carcass
digging tones of his own demise.
(There was a Man 59)
A thought of disillusionment overwhelms when not very contented and expectant today, presents a dismal picture of future ahead.
If one side of the hill appears dried out and barren, memories continue to go back and tell tales of charm and magic, for tales bubble within young hearts longing for the divine and so try to reach the pinnacle of glory. Curiosity forces an inquisitor to go beyond the reach of eyes. Man’s intrusiveness visualizes it when he hears that everything merges into ‘one integrated whole.’ All animate and inanimate beings move towards the destination ‘A Harmonious whole’ that is not culpable and innocent, for when a man goes beyond, he is one with the eternal and forgets feelings of ‘all the warmth and all the chill.’ At this moment, ‘self’ realizes the ultimate reality.
Deathless is the light
That shines beyond the end
Where all the tides
Of all the oceans rest and cease…
(Beyond the Yonder Hill 42)
Poet is disgusted and disillusioned at the massive and thoughtless destruction man causes to nature and so, he wants to escape inherent torture. In ‘Live with Winning Thunder’ 51, he talks of affectionate parents, who take care, rear up and make childhood and adolescence lively and meaningful and make it a point that children grow healthy in life with an objective –
God’s been so kind to grant this far last.
Let’s save with sense we’ve got what
True, ‘Life is a nine day’s wonder’,
Live it, live with winning thunder.
If thoughts of perseverance and endurance remain alive, life gets meaning. One need not think much but should think of a myna. After satisfying its hunger, it perches on a dry tap and waits for a drop of water. It tries many a time and when satisfied, flies away silently. It does not complain, laments not, and no cribbing ever disturbs but sincere efforts continue to guide the bird. It conveys a great lesson to man, and the poet also appears to tell philosophically the secret of a happy and contended life. After the bird satisfies its thirst, it –
…flies away, unlike human beings:
greedily helpless, helplessly greedy
by their nature; care little for those
who fail to get a day’s square meal.
will man ever learn to live
like these creatures of nature
who do not boast of Man’s slyness?
(Will Man ever learn to live…66)
Contentment and lack of hunger for more teach lessons of life, and encourage man to think in right perspective. Selfishness and ulterior motives do not permit man to live a life of grace and honesty. ‘True Happiness,’ 64, 65, ‘We Frolic & Frisk with the Waves,’ 67 and ‘Tsunami Memorial, Andamans’ 68, 69 are beautiful lyrics that sing hymns in glory of the island, nature and man. He philosophically remarks that life is a mine of tranquility, pleasure and enjoyment on Earth, only if a man has time ‘to look around and care.’ Dancing, frisking and frolicking of waves around convey an eternal message that hard work gives inner and outer pleasure. On the other hand, he laments over the immense tragedy Tsunami brought. Standing before the memorial, he thinks agonizingly of the destruction and huge natural disaster brought to man. When calamity and death visit and disturb man, he looks up for help, and offers prayers. To this extent, the poet thinks on existential self and reality.
External reality appears chaotic, disturbing and unsystematically arcane and he tries to elucidate with images but cannot justify adequately. An inner struggle continues and in intensity of creative upsurge, he feels free and sincerely gives expression to experiences with the help of images again. One observes consistent efforts where the poet tries to find fusion between the subjective and objective and as a formalist, wishes to go beyond the normal range and import of words and images, he uses and at this stage, he beautifies the text and the art of poetry.
A trilingual author of more than forty books in English and Hindi, P C K Prem (p c katoch) post-graduated in English literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1970, taught English in colleges of Punjab and Himachal before shifting to civil services and then served as Member, Himachal Public Service Commission. With three books on criticism in English, seven novels and two collection of short fiction, he has brought out nine volumes of poetry. A bureaucrat turned academician, Katoch Prem (a winner of several awards) is a poet, novelist, short storywriter and critic in English from Himachal, India