Landscape of the Dispossessed
Rashmi Tikku
NAGKESAR KA DESH YEH by Ekant Srivastava Prakashan Sansthan, 2011, 50 pp., 00.00
February 2011, volume 35, No 2

This long narrative poem is a brave attempt to chronicle the searing landscape of the dispossessed, deprived and destitute forgotten by the official recorders of history in an attempt to make visible what is essentially considered irrelevant and as a consequence undocumented. Srivastava writes with evident sincerity and passion that gives the poem its impetus and also paradoxically its greatest weakness for its unflagging scrutiny of poverty is static and not moored by authorial validation of the moral high ground the poet continuously occupies.

The world the text evokes is ancient but at the same time unmoored from actual historic reference points that would help a reader to get a perspectival handle. Writers and leaders are evoked only to show their irrelevance to the contemporary morass. Overt homage is however paid to Muktibodh abstracting his lines ajab tirchi lakeeron se kata chehra to describe the Indian peasant at key points in the poem.

Buddha, Kabir and Gandhi are also evoked as leaders whose words have completely lost their resonance. The bleak landscape of Nagkesar ka desh yeh is located in a miasmic ahistoric land of the Indian hearland with the geographical coordinates of Central India and has references to Narmada and Amarkantak.The poem is divided into four sections. The first delineates broadly the contours of the journey. Entitled, Samay ke khuron se it traverses a ravaged, dry agrarian landscape peopled by those living in close proximity with the land. As the tourist itinerary into the interiors of rural India continues in the ensuing sections Srivastava introduces a large cast of tribals, farmers, daily wage workers, cobblers, potters into the text who though living on the edge of subsistence are also remarkably resilient. The landscape in the poem revisits the rivers and hills of Chattisgarh and is animated with a palpable love for the region. The red colour of the flowers of the Nagkesar becomes a textual leitmotif giving the collection its title and its sense of hope.

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