Bird Smaller than the Eye
Prabhakar Machwe
ANKH SE BHI CHHOTI CHIRIYA: COLLECTION OF 59 POEMS by Indu Jain Saraswati Vihar, New Delhi, 1978, 95 pp., 18.00
Sept-Oct 1978, volume 3, No 2

When Indu Jain published her first collection of poems, titled 64 Poems, I had reviewed it in Hindi and remember to have said that she is a new poetess with promise. Her second collection is now available. I am glad that the promise is fulfilled. She has matured in her expression.Lecturer in Hindi, a familiar TV commentator and broadcaster, Indu Jain’s life is full of extroversion, excursion and encounter with various layers of our complex society. Yet she has managed to keep her inner poetic being unruffled. There are some poems which express the incongruity and bitterness of these two levels and she writes such lines, full of gall and vitriol:

After every war truce torn to shreds

Again the open seams

Crying harvest

River turning into fire

Dust does not stay on the slippery

round table

The merchant does not open his purse-


Eyes search in files

What is in my hands

Putting the indelible ink on the finger

Life becomes crippled

Now everything is to be done by others

For my life

Someone else has to die

Everyone pours a Iota of water

In the milk-pond—poison spreads

Blood oozes from the headlines

There is oil in the pistol on that side

And Ganges water in locked jaws on

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As the blurb says the poetess does not belong to any ‘ism’ or ‘coterie’. She has a nagging consciousness of the pol­luting metropolitan un-naturalness and so she says in the poem, ‘No water in rivers/only we/sand-castles/fall down/we the beautiful people…. Where has the water gone/where is the life in the wind? If we get space in the bus we may search/ If we could avoid the queues, we may get breathing respite/If the transistors are silent, we may say/But at present, the only anxiety is somehow let us go home.’ The same feeling is conveyed in poignant poems like ‘On the bank of every river’, ‘Womanly waiting’, ‘My girl student’, ‘Unaffected—one goes through the bazaar or songs’, ‘0 Queen-dictator’, ‘Harsh machine sounds’, ‘Weak hands’ or a poem like ‘Why?’—


On every park wall and

Pedestal of every leader’s statue

Obscene remarks

So that every leader may become

Parallel to every goonda!

Government reminds gaoled citizen

within brackets

Murder within brackets is divine

The gun will get a medal!

Before military needs there is no wall

There is no freedom from logic

Give the price—you may not take

what you like

Isn’t Independence Great!

But such overt socio-political satire is not the poetess’s main forte. She ex­cels in delicate etchings of nature, nature­-and-man relationship, personification, nostalgia, poems of love remembered and re-visited, the feeling of indigency born out of the turning from youth to age. Among such poems the ones 1 liked most were— ‘You said—see, trees grow even now’, ‘0 Unconscious, sleeping turning your back’, ‘Mighty trees in telephone-poles’, ‘Suddenly standing in a crowd’ , ‘Love has many names’, ‘With setting sun’, ‘Thick overgrown standing sharp grass’, ‘Jungle beyond window’, ‘Bird smaller than the eye’ and the poems on colours like ‘Green and White’.

The best of these more sensitive poems are nature-sketches, impressionist scenes as the two small poems:

Miles-long sadness

Spreads out

On lonely footpaths of

Green hills

Smoky sky descends

A dry waterfalls


Wind become grey

Autumn sky mirror

Dimmed with sighs

Will cracks again break on the face

Will the courtyard be enlivened

Again with the shadow-deer of frag­rance

Indu Jain’s images are familiar yet unfamiliar. She does not play merely with words and their juxtaposition but tries to dive into the depth of words.

The bird motif is a very obsessive theme with modem poets. Wallace Stevens’s and Jibnanand Das’s or P.S. Rege’s poems are familiar nearer home. Agyeya’s ‘I said Bird’ (Maine Kaha Chiriya) is not just an extension of Pant’s several Skylark-like poems on birds. As Carl Sandberg puts it, ‘a modem poet is an amphibious animal, who is thrown on the land, but wants to fly like a bird.’ The desire to break the cage and sing freely is a natural instinct. Probably more so with a woman poet.

Indu Jain is excessively conscious of her indigenous adjectives and adverbs. Quite a new stock of them are: Chhayavi and dhuainle and sannayi and katavadar and bekhauf and hasbemamool and peki and uchat and hookati and so on.

Lines like the following have a haun­ting quality.

Love has many names

Like the suddenly flying away bird

Life imprisonment instead of death


Improbable probability.

With these plus points, if some of the poems are not quite perfect, it matters little.

Prabhakar Machwe is a well-known writer in Marathi and Hindi.