In an era dominated by prose and the prosaic, poetry is a saving grace. This is especially so, when—trudging through the turbulence of times—it is able to ‘sponge-in’ the world into words, soak them with the possibilities and probabilities of humane existence without being superficial, hysterical or partisan about it. This cognitive-aesthetic soaking in of life into words through poetry is, however, a hugely demanding and humbling task. Forever caught between the lure of spontaneous overflow and a need for discip-lining of emotions and intellect; reactive egoism and a self-effacing inclusive activism; a profu-sion of clichéd slogans and discourses and an emphathetic and organic chiselling of words, the poetic grace—a sum total of its aesthetics, ethics and thematic—at one level hinges on the quality of this balance. At another level it also depends on the capacity of the writer to confront and survive the profusion of digital/virtual bytes and retrieve and reinvest the written word with cognitive and communicative values that empower not only classes but also the masses along with the written word. Anamika’s collection of Hindi poems, Khurduri Hatheliyan is marked by the impress, anxieties and inheritance of this contemporary poetic inheritance and responsibility.
An academician, critic and a writer Anamika’s is a familiar name within the contemporary literary circles in Hindi. Her works not only evoke critical curiosity but also help one gauge the state and direction of contemporary Hindi poetry (by women). While reading her poems, two things become obvious: one, contemporary Indian Writing, being an unconscious reiteration of typical urban middle class sensibility, is still largely by and for the consumption of this class; two, when an academic-critic turns to creation, it only ends up becoming a very self-conscious amalgam of creativity, critique and conditioning, all rolled into one. Anamika’s poetry is no exception. Mixing the felt with the thought, she creates a poetic world and uses it as a mirror to unravel and critique the ironies and angularities of the self and the society and as a pliant medium of/for aesthetic conditioning. Despite her avowed poetic commitment—made clear in her dedication—her best poetry, at times, remains grooved in its typical middle class urban sensibility. It is a sensibility that is at its poetic best while delineating the abstract in human relationships and unravelling the self through sensuous and psychological encounter with the social in which it is situated. Instead of empathizing with the concrete world across—the downtrodden, the rustic, the communal other—it either ends up patronizing them or uses them as representational props to organize and elicit ‘poetic’ emotions. However, the conscious and the committed in Anamika, stimulated as it is by contemporary issues and discourses, tries hard to redeem her poetry from the unconscious pulls of her situatedness both at the level of thought and language. It is her belief in writing as an act of deliberate human commitment that enables her to transcend the class, caste and communal schisms and privilege elemental human bonding.
Khurduri Hatheliyan is a collection of seventy-seven poems split into six subsections – ‘Antehpuram’, ‘Dudhkattu’, ‘Kuchh Attpatti Prem Kavitaein’, ‘Azadi’, ‘Musalman Kya Hote Hain, Amma’ and ‘Tos Bharos’. Perhaps written sporadically over the years, the poems deal with patriarchy and gender issues, seem to align with a feminist ethos, touch upon the communal problem etc., but the main concern that runs through and binds these poems is the question of human faith, connectedness and humane bonding. Poetry equips her with the where-withal to know and to connect (‘Jaanana’, pp. 84-85).
Instead of finding these connections within the clichéd relational matrix/idiom, she discovers it in unexpected yet familiar situations and interactions. The strength of her poetry lies in the rediscovery of these recuperative emotional and linguistic connections and transmuting them into a statement of hope in times of stress:
It is that foolish story Where Horse made friends with grass Caressed and left it intact Like the eyes of a she deer Caressed with its hoof By a deer: With bated breath, watchful, slowly. (‘Ek Paglet Katha’, pp. 57-58)
Within Anamika’s democratic poetic sensibility, faith and love being interchangeable entities, complement and define each other. As such she constantly tries to enrich and enlarge the concept of love through a continuous experimentation and improvization of her imagery. Love for her is neither a spiritual yearning nor a romantic sensuality that exists between man and woman but a sensuously tangible feeling that goes beyond the conven-tionally delimiting spatial enclosures—that of the body, class or culture—to enter the realm of the democratic and the human. She forsakes conventional notions of love for newer substitutes/alternative human chemistry. This love may reveal itself in such mundane acts as that of riding a rickshaw (‘Bharosa’, pp. 140-41) or while travelling in a crowded bus (‘Bus Ticket’, p. 83).
Both the palpable and the abstract in human bonding can only be understood by problema-tizing the abstract and palpable in human emotions/relationships. It is therefore not surprising that many of Anamika’s poems are preoccupied with the problem of redefining/putting into words the inarticulate-yet-sensuous in human experience/feelings so as to put into perspective their enchanting unfamiliarity. In the very process she transforms and expands the whole cognitive and relational experience:
Some deceits are stark white Recently born lamb kid– Violet, warm, soft, li’l one! Some deceits are pale yellow petals Of a bouquet You received in Hospital They laugh the laughter of a helpless father! When the child insists for a moon-toy The mother says, “O.K. I’ll get it tomorrow, son, Now go to sleep.” Is it a deception? (‘Dhokha’, p. 162)
The need for connectedness and trust, the insistence on widening the horizons of human experience and understanding that Anamika foregrounds as strategies of survival along with the inquisitive restlessness that informs, and in fact becomes a continual refrain in her poetry, spring from a poetic world view that is poignantly aware of the omnipresence of violence at the core of human existence. It is the interplay between the two—violence and hope – that enables her to understand and interrogate the ironies of life with a degree of success and communicate its complexities to her readers effectively and affirmatively:
Offerings are an old cradle – That sparrow knows Three feet above the snake hole Hangs whose Little nest (‘Dange aur Karamkand’, p.123)
However, as soon as Anamika-the-poet is substituted by Anamika-the-activist or Anamika-the-academician this delicate poetic balance deserts her. Its place is either taken by discursive acrobatics or activist simplification. Most of her gender-poems—despite their deconstructive potential—fall prey to this propensity of hers. No doubt these poems bring out the passivity, pain and loneliness of women within a violent patriarchal dispensation and suggest a blueprint for female bonding/empowerment, yet the analytic prism that Anamika deploys for the analysis of man-woman relationships is dated. It is still premised on the male-female binary, and hence fails to problematize its dynamics holistically. The ‘Antehpuram’ poems simmer with unveiled anger and polemical potential, but they hardly add anything new to the gender-perspective.
Poems like ‘Angrezi Yun Bhejti Hai Bambarshak Viman’ (pp. 113-115) or ‘Patta Patta, Buta, Buta’ (pp.127-129) bring out the postcolonial and communal aspects of violence respectively. But, like her gender-poems, they read more as ‘thesis-poems.’ It is only in those poems where she underplays ‘the thought’ (i.e. her academic-activist-discursive pressures) and remains true to ‘the felt’ (i.e. the lived, the shared) that Anamika holds her own as a poet. The moment this priority/balance is disturbed, her art turns into mere craft.
The last two poems of this collection, i.e., ‘Jinke Liye Likhi Jaati Hein Kavitaein’ and ‘Kinke Liye Likhi Jaati Hein Kavitaein’, betray Anamika’s anxiety about her art and its relevance, and in fact put this whole collection in perspective. How does Anamika bring them —her target audience—within the ambit of her poetic world? How do they, who might intuitively share and live the poetry and its potentialities but may not share its ‘language’, enter the realm of the poetic? As stated earlier, the possibility inheres in the author’s deep sense of democratic commitment—both at the level of thought and language. While at the level of thought she strives hard to expand the conventional, at the level of language she consciously tries to forge an expressive idiom that admirably supplements her democratic ethos. It is an idiom where the colloquial jostles with the pure, the classic with the folk, the popular with the academic, the domestic with the public, and when both fail she coins a vocabulary of her own to carry the burden of an emotion or a thought. And in the process she, casting away her elitist insulations, not only widens the experiential horizons of her poetry but also makes it amenable to a diverse audience.
Despite the onerous creative burden that poetry bears and in turn puts on the prospective writer in times like ours, it is really wonderful to see this subterranean literary lifeline survive the onslaught of the market and mass-mediated discursive noises. Anamika’s poetry, in its brush with the concrete and abstract in life and in its attendant probe of human relationships, human yearnings and aspirations, tries hard to creatively imbibe these ‘contemporary noises’ and—despite the amorphousness of her themes and unevenness of her ‘craft’—is, at times, able to transform them into a revealing aesthetic experience. It is precisely these redeeming moments that reveal her poetic potential and underline her/Hindi’s poetic future.
Rekha is Assistant Professor in English, Depart-ment of Humanities, C.R. State College of Engineering, Haryana. Her areas of interest include Indian Writing in English and English Translation, Women’s Studies and Communication Skills.