Shrikant Verma has been considered a controver¬sial writer right from the beginning. He has carried out many experiments in his poetry. On the basis of his poetic diction evident in his latest poems, it can be said that Shrikant Verma has given a new idiom to Hindi poetry, which is not merely playing with words but giving a digni¬fied expression to the poetic temper in terms of language embedded with layers of meaning. Talking about the poems in Magadh, we are struck by his economy of words. He has used only evocative pronouns around mythical episodes. For those without the necessary background of poetry, it may appear a mere play of pro¬nouns. But if we can react to the inner content of these words, we discover that it is a poetic process which takes us deeper and deeper into our own mental world. Hindi poetry today is in a very strange situation. Every poet considers himself a self-born messiah. But hardly one finds an attempt, a conflict, an inner churning through which a poet after breaking the pre¬valent tradition may have brought out a new image of Man. However, in the case of Shrikant Verma, we find the image of the Man of today emerging through historical and Puranic content of the poems.
It is the image of Man who is utterly helpless and dwarfish in the age of the machine. Even though this helplessness has been widely glorified in the articulate Hindi poetry, despite all the astound¬ing characteristics of langu¬age, it lacks in poetic sensi¬bility. Most of the literary creations done in the defence of the common man seem to have no touch of liveliness.
In this context of the poetic expression in terms of human suffering, one is reminded of the Poet Nagarjuna, who has also used Puranic and mytho¬logical episodes. But his poetry cannot be compared with the poetry of Shrikant Verma. It is not even necessary. All that needs to be emphasized is that there is very little ostentation and gimmickry of language. Nonetheless, his poetry appears like a self-con¬fession of an honest man, who finds himself caught between pre-Buddhist and post-Buddhist situations, that is, between change and status quo. The majority of the poems in Magadh deal with Man’s destiny and his sufferings. Man appears to be standing perplexed at the crossroads of history, because he has lost his self, his sense of being in the dark corridors of Time. Repentance, frustration, self-pity are the impulses that are no longer in his purview. He is passing through the vacuum of Time. This is indicated in his poem Advaagaman (Com¬ing and Going).
Every time he passed
From Kosal to Magadh
From Magadh to Kosal
Every passer-by asked
the same question:
Are you going
From Magadh to Kosal
Or from Kosal
This poem can be interpreted in many ways. After reading the whole poem its political implications also become apparent. Which is the seat of Power — Kosal or Magadh? What are the opposition stan¬ces? Who are the people asking the question? In fact, the conventional meanings of the pronouns make no sense in this or any other of Shri¬kant Verma’s poems. Through the ordinary meaning, he takes the reader of his poems to in some other world. Man has to face himself. In poems like ‘Ujjayini’, ‘Hastinapur’ and ‘Magadh’ he has’given exp¬ression to the Indian point of view, which acquaints one’s soul to the timeless truth, which man has to face again and again in the cyclical move¬ment of fate. In this sense, the extent of Shrikant Verma’s poems is classical.
The only subject of Shrikant Verma’s poetry is Man who, in the midst of despondency, is possessed by an unnamed hope. It is Man who, passing through different phases of religion moves ahead and at the same time goes backward to the same extent. In terms of prosperity, he is going for¬ward, but in terms of civiliza¬tion he has burdened his soul with a past. Man in poems like ‘Magadh’ is free from the con¬cepts of the future, present and past. He merely resides in the vast vaccum of Time which leaves him tormented for the sake of others, that is, for the sake of society. If Man realizes his soul, he, on the other hand, becomes aware of the tragic and tormenting human condition. Through self-torment he becomes cons¬cious about the torment of society. Hence, it would not be correct to say that Shrikant Verma reflects only individual suffering. Through the ex¬posure of the self, he is expres¬sing the sufferings of society. That is why his poetry is relevant and important for him as well though they do not correspond with his political faith.
The poems in Magadh are mature and full of serious self-criticism and faith in Man. Through these poems he has aroused faith in modern poetry and re-established poetry as an entity rendering meaningless the narrowness of isms and groups and defined the original relation of Man and poetry. These poems are a phenomenon in Indian poetry, because, for a long time controversies had been centering more around poets and less around poetry. (Translated from Hindi by Sarala Jag Mohan)
Ganga Prasad Vimal is Hindi poet and short story writer. Teaches Hindi literature at Dr. Zakir Husain College, Delhi.