The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In Harness-A Critique



A year ago, Prof. Tripathy, Retd. Professor, S. C. S. College sent me a critique of my book through a friend of mine who is translating my poems to Oriya. He wanted the same to be published in any of the newspapers, if I could do that. But it was a difficult task for me to approach an editor of a newspaper to publish a critique of my own book. I am also not aware of any quicker way to publicity, if getting a critique published in a local daily can be termed as publicity. No wonder, "In Harness" continues to be one of the least-critiqued work in the literary market.

Now I have a web presence; I have a couple of blog spaces. [My other blog is at this link]This is no less than any publishing forum. I need nobody's permission to post Prof, Tripathy's write-up. By doing this I will live up to his expectation: he who can publish a book of poems can publish a critique.

Read on what he has to say about "In Harness".

A. N. Nanda

===============================================
The Quest of the Dream Merchant: Reviewing In Harness
===========================================

She is so indispensable to me now –
I can’t manage without her anyhow,
At lonely hours or in company
During pauses amidst back-breaking drudgery
Or after a sumptuous meal,
Deep in thought or before my nap
Or even after a nightmare,
A kiss on her cute red lipI
s the one for which I go crazy. ‘The Escapade’ In Harness(pp.40-41)

Mr A.N. Nanda’s obsession with the beautiful Muse is evident from the lines taken from his poem ‘The Escapade’. She, the “little slim beauty”, the “darling dream-giver” and “life’s lyric lively” (The Ultimate Chance, P.100) is his passion and craze. Despite his administrative responsibilities, the administrator – Poet carves out for himself a few lonely moments to be with Poetry who is the source of envy for his “lady legal in my life” (‘The Escapade’) i.e., his wife. Poetry, as he declares, is

at the root of my strength
Darling of my heart’s wishes,
She is to me the silent giver
Of my courage, consolation and pleasure …. (‘The Escapade’)

Family responsibilities, economic consideration and professional ‘drudgery’ have never stood in the way of his composing poetry which act he has chosen as a mission to “navigate” “into the mysterious world of poetry” (The preface to In Harness) and explore the multiple complexities of life though, as he humbly confesses, he is “a beginner who is just struggling to push his scripts through the difficult process of publication “(‘The Preface’).

But the fact that In Harness, Mr Nanda’s first poetry collection, has been published by a renowned publishing house like Writers’ Workshop, Calcutta establishes that his work has immense possibilities for the future and for a “beginner” this first publication is certainly an achievement.

The poems such as ‘The Escapade’, ‘The Ultimate Chance’ and “Licence’ show Mr Nanda’s total commitment and devotion to his creative pursuits in spite of heavy engagements and busy work. In the collection Mr Nanda makes sincere endeavour to “harness” his emotions, feelings, ideas, experiences, observations and thoughts and put them in black and white for his readers’ enjoyment and enlightenment. He observes in his preface ‘Let me acknowledge and let me say it in prose …’ that modern poetry “is meant for an exclusive group of intellectually matured pundits” and therefore, most often becomes “arcane and esoteric”. Mr Nanda’s objective is to make his poetry eminently readable and interesting and receive “readers’ applause”.

‘The Ultimate Chance’ is a poem about Mr Nanda’s growth and progress as a poet. He started in “fits and starts” and often “faltered”. But for the last thirty years he has been trying to “harness”

My restless palpitations
In overstretched frontiers
Of my untamed imagination,
In my wild dreams
And my intimate perceptions.

He frankly confesses that though he “Yearned intensely” for poetry’s “touching melody” she “vanished” “like a mirage”Before I could capture a glimpseOf those crucial moments -------

Yet he has not given up. As he says:

I am a dream merchant
In search of a customer affluent
For affording a fair bargain

For these long thirty years Mr Nanda has been writing poetry “with audacity and passion” and his patient creative pursuit has yielded tangible results. His sense of achievement and fulfilment is evident in the following lines:

You have quietly come back
In your gossamer veil and floral braid
To my tranquil domain of imagination
At your own sweet discretion
And your pleasant consideration.

And now he does not want to let this “Ultimate Chance” slip from his creative life. Because without poetry, he feels, his life will end up in utter failure.

Or else I drag on this way
Till my life’s last day;
It would make little sense
If I lived a hundred
A life full of fiasco
Or a life full of regrets.

He, therefore, makes the last emotional appeal to his dearest Muse:
Oh my darling dream giver!Oh my life’s lyric lively!Ride on my shoulderAcross the life’s riverAnd please for my sakeDon’t shy away this time

Thus, Mr Nanda wants to “navigate” “across the life’s river” with the help of poetry like John Keats desiring to go to the land of the nightingale “On the viewless wings of poesy” (Ode to a Nightingale: Keats).

Over the years the poet’s confidence in his own creative ability has grown from strength to strength. This poem ‘Licence’ voices that aggressive confidence and sincerity of purpose:

Yet I don’t give up
It’s for others to relish
My job is to cook n’ serve

He does not bother about how he is “interpreted” or appreciated. He just wants to carry on with his pursuit of poetry wholeheartedly in the midst of daily “drudgery”.

One should keep uttering
I have the poetic licence
to change the rule of the game
In any case the game is scoreless
It’s to be played as such

The lines should not be misunderstood as an expression of creative arrogance. Rather, Mr Nanda nourishes an ambition to be original in his own way and to leave behind his individual poetic foot-prints in the sands of literature. He desires to free himself from the “Ordained Circuit (‘A Ramble’) which, he feels, might destroy his creative originality and individual identity as a poet. His mind is in a state of turmoil.

Now I ponder restlessly.
Aren’t these
The robe with its cushion padding
The spongy flooring, and the felt ceiling
Keeping me miles away from me? (‘A Ramble’)

He has the feeling that

A dream
Has finally descended on me in that hour soporific
A jasmine of distance, swinging in her grace
Chanting the hymns from the freedom epic. (‘A Ramble’)

and

I have understood
The sweet whisper of the dreamy woods
Its inviting signals distinct from miles
Stirs me now to rise in revolt (‘A Ramble’)

Finally the poet hopes to take “giant strides” into Muse’s “lawn evergreen” (‘The Ultimate Chance’) and settle there for ever. The poet has the ultimate desire to escape into the romantic and mystical world of poetry which is free from the fever and fret of this ordinary materialistic universe which may squeeze life out of him.

In Harness contains a number of “Portrait” poems depicting the lives, activities and fates of people the poet came across in life. Wordsworth chose as subjects of his poetry “incidents and situations from common life” and “humble and rustic life” because “in that condition the essential passions of the heart find better soil in which they can attain their maturity”. (Wordsworth’s preface to the second Edition of Lyrical Ballads, 1800). Mr Nanda’s portrait poems figure such simple people: his dead father “towering like a guava” (‘Bereavement’); an old widowed mother-in-law whose

Husband lost to heaven
And sons to daughters-in-law
She would live a life of destitute now (‘The Last Piece’)

and who “like an accident victim immobile / She witnessed the marauders looting, / Their qualm killed and compunction crippled” (‘The Last Piece’); an innocent woman after being victimized by society turns into a vengeful prostitute who

…… now pines for taking the revenge
Against everybody, for the past neglects\
Starting with her careless parents
Or the mocking neighbourhood,
Or the avaricious kin
Or all those pretentious souls….. (‘Rebirth’)

an old woman “the unsung heroine” suffering and waiting for death after a life of sacrifice (‘she made one and all / catered, contended, and glad’) (‘Obituary, No hurry’); a village barber whose tribe is almost extinct with the advent of modern city saloons; his village school teacher, a picture of malevolence and cruelty, for whom the poet has a deep-seated hatred (‘It’s Deep-Seated’); a mendicant beggar who is a popular figure in remote villages of Orissa (‘The Visitor’) and finally two romantic portraits of ‘Emily’ and ‘Binnie, My Love’. In the portrayal of these men and women who are drawn from the poet’s personal experience, Mr Nanda is down-to-earth, compassionate, humane, yet at times caustic, bitter and critical. He exposes hypocrisy, cruelty, and inhumanity which have crippling effect on the poor, the lowly and the underprivileged.

Mr Nanda’s keen sense of observation and a knack for details are demonstrated in some finely-drawn descriptive poems such as ‘The Emerald Island’, ‘At Night, on a Platform’, ‘Mini Ganga’, ‘Winter Anarchy’ etc.

‘Down to Earth’, ‘Down hill’, ‘A Distant Nightmare’ and ‘Scaling the Saddle Peak’ are poems that narrate some horrifying experiences of the poet. Materials for his poetry have been drawn from experiences and observations related to day-to-day life in society. At times very ordinary things or objects appear extraordinary. ‘From the Tomb of a Hawai Chappal’ is such an extraordinary poem in the sense that an ordinary hawai chappal has been elevated to the status of a higher being. The discarded hawai chappal who had served his master with “a selfless sequence of tireless chores” and who was “his strength, a willing friend” was thrown into the ocean where now he has buried, happy and contented:

Now I have no regrets
Rest of my days will pass this way
Beneath the starlit sky, amidst the mermaidsand
I’ll chant the psalm of a meaningful existence
Into the depth of cosmos, unto the sublime vacuum.

There was agony of neglect in his life; yet the last days are spent in ecstacy and fulfillment with the sea mermaids. Man is a mean betrayer; but his hawai chappal is worthy of being called truly trustworthy and large-hearted and so his last days are spent in the happy company of the mermaids.

Mr Nanda’s deep concern for some social ills finds expression in some poems like ‘The Brahmin forgets his Hymn’. The poem is a bitter criticism of the prevailing caste system (a post-Mandal phenomenon) that has victimized the higher caste Hindus especially Brahmins who are fast sliding into the minority status.

The last poem of the collection titled ‘Fog’ voices the poet’s concern for a decaying and dehumanized society where

Confused passers-by flounder for direction
Even the nearest ones sadly appear marauders
Believer turns sceptic under the weighty dampness
We bump into each other, ignore, and disappear

Yet the poet has not lost his faith. Rather he prays for a better future:

We all pray in silence for the Sun to reappear
And fight for our right and restore them to us
The God incarnates when world is inundated
By the deluge of white lie and its embankment swept

A better future may be a dream, may be a reality. But the poet is very practical. Though he is a “dream merchant” he is equally conscious of where mere dreams may land man. So he says

We have to limit our dreams
In dream even we can’t go to dizzy heights
We fear – a fall is a finish
We need to live under a concrete ceiling. (‘The Canopy’)

Though In Harness carries lots of promises, some poems in the collection are prosaic in diction and uninteresting. They lack in that quality of lyric beauty; there is excessive use of inversions and other figures of speech as poetic devices which appear artificial. There are images which are not very powerful to convey the feelings for which they have been used. For instance, the image of the poet’s father “Towering like a guava in backyard” (‘Bereavement’) and the image of the lady who “lived a life / shorter than the utensils” (‘Obituary, No Hurry’) are not very appropriate and forceful images. They fail to evoke the required feeling or reaction. Of course, Mr Nanda has categorically said in his Preface that he has made every effort at revision of some poems “to inject some poetic seriousness (Poetic profundity?) into them” and demand for poetic diction in them still remains unmet”. Mr Nanda’s intention is very clear. In future he may “inject” more “poetic seriousness” to his poetic writing so that he will create beautiful poetry and achieve that “Poetic Profundity” which is his ultimate dream as an emerging poet.
_____________
By
Subas Chandra Tripathy
Retd., Reader in EnglishSCS College, Puri
LB-192,
Badagada BRIT Colony
Bhubaneswar-18
* * * * * *

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One More Post


One more post, and no bragging.

"In Harness" gives only fifty-one poems, but the one I'm going to post here is my favourite. It is so for many reasons: first, it came spontaneous. when I was revising (rewriting?) another very bad poem, this one came and replaced it, like a wayward child getting suddenly reformed to end the longstanding worry of his/her unhappy parent.

About this poem I can share one event that happened before me. A friend of mine one day visited me with her mother who was a widow. She happened to be a sensitive soul who had heard from her daughter about my writing hobby. She asked me to read a poem. I was surprised--usually I had to chase people to listen to my poems, and here was a woman who asked me to recite, with politeness and empathy that a poet would take ages to forget!

And I recited the poem. She listened to it with rapt attention and gave some nice comments about it. I was happy, but felt she had something more to tell which she probably withheld.

The next day, my friend telephoned me to say that her mother was crying the previous night. And she complained that I should have no business to write poems that could make others cry. It was a kind of appreciation, I understood it. I had no doubt the poem had spoken what it should have.

Don't tell I have bragged again. Please...


THE LAST PIECE [page 25, "In Harness" by A. N. Nanda, ISBN 81-8157-183-5]
-------------------
One morbid afternoon
Her husband slept his last
Not to wake up again.


The cry calmed
After thirteen days of flurry
Of feast and fast, hymns and alms.


Thus she became a widow
And lost her right to silk and gold
In the sixty-third year of her life.


The gold she rescued
Time and again from usurers’ grips
Wouldn’t adorn her wrists any more.


Nor the wedding sari
She long preserved in naphthalene
Would ever swathe her body.


Armed with their right of inheritance
The officious daughters-in-law
Accosted the sobbing soul.


And they grabbed the gold,
All by themselves, taking her nod for granted
To the last retrievable piece.


Like an accident victim immobile
She witnessed the marauders looting,
Their qualm killed and compunction crippled.


At the end of the agonising spell
Her wedding sari was only left
Out-of-fashion and undistinguished.

The dilapidated silk
Redolent of unsung glory
Would stay alive till her final journey.


Husband lost to heaven
And sons to daughters-in-law,
She would live a life of destitute now.


Approaching fast the chilly December
A time to scrabble about the wardrobe
For a bundle of benevolent warmth.


She would grab the sari
Perforce, in those freezing nights
To wrap her body, and not to wear it.
_________________________
Visakhapatnam
01=06=1999

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Emily: A poem to present




I left my last post with a promise to come back with a poem from my already published work "In Harness". Here is a poem I wrote when I was in Bangkok in April 2003. I consider it a love poem and my readers have mostly agreed with me. The girl for whom I wrote it came to know about it when there was time enough to say goodbye. And then a surge of emotion swept over her. 'Nanda, I couldn't know you loved me so much,' she came and hugged me with tears in her eyes. That is quite a memory. Now I do not have her address or else I could have sent her a copy of "In Harness" in return of the creative impulse she so graciously filled in me.

Oh, how can I say I am not bragging?

___________________________________

E m i l y

By A. N. Nanda
["In Harness", page-50, 2004]
* * * *
The sweet girl, the intimate
Smile for my sake
And smile once again…

When you smile
Lightening flashes, jovial
Snow melts and cherry blossoms
Lily wakes up from slumber
The moon peeps behind the floating clouds…

When you smile
Every dull moment cheers up itself
Worries melt like sweet ice creams,
Monotony evaporates
Into the sky of inconsequence,
Wishes jump unruly in every direction
Like the charged, mischievous popcorns…

I hear you humming
Like the tinkles of wind chime;
You flood my senses
In fun and frolic;
As I get your glimpse
I feel your glorious warmth
And long to gawp at you
Again and again
And yet again.

Your moist lips speak
Myriad of themes in silence,
Your expressive winks convey
Plenty of mischievous suggestions;
I understand them
In my own frivolous way
Beyond the limits of deadly commonsense.

Emily, the girl with her sweet presence
I love to say, again and again
**“SA RANG HE! SA RANG HE!!”

_________________________________________
Bangkok / 11-04-‘03
**Means “I love you” in Korean language.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Happy with My Muse


In the year 2004 I was on my mettle to get into print come what may. Enough is enough; I had no patience for being told repeatedly that poetry does not sell. Self-publication? Yes, that will do.

Then came a quick idea: why not send the stuff again to the publishing house, Writers Workshop, Calcutta? Four years ago, its proprietor, Mr P. Lal had returned the stuff as unpublishable, saying that the poems lacked "prosody". Still, there would be no harm if he refused again. I resubmitted the manuscript to him.

And the reply came in a fortnight: he was willing to publish, but on his condition. I should make an advanced purchase of one hundred copies on payment of 16,000 rupees. Of course, he wrote in his draft agreement that he would give me a royalty of 10 percent in the shape of books. That means out of 350 books he was to print, he would give me 135 books for a sum of 16,000 rupees. I had no other go. Moreover, I had heard many good things about Writers Workshop, like one would get famous getting published through that concern; that Writers Workshop is a publishing house sympathetic to new authors, and so on. What else should have I done than except accepting it? By then, I had already kept the poems with me for almost ten long years!

As promised, he printed the book entitled “In Harness” on time and sent me two copies of it. [ISBN 81-8157-183-5] I was happy to note the quality of print, the cover design and the binding. They were impressive. For a moment, I thought my money was spent well—or at least it was now easier to get convinced. Others who saw it were full of similar appreciations. That pleased me.

I was eager to take possession of another 133 books, for I thought I would distribute them among my friends and colleagues, get their appreciation and go through the real feel of being a published writer. After a month or so, say in April 2004, I went to Calcutta. But at the Writers Workshop I was told that it would take some more time to get finished with the binding of the book. Then I thought I should meet Shri P. Lal, having come such a distance, but I was told that he was busy. He did not have even five short minutes to spare for a personal meeting! I felt bad and then thought I should talk to him over phone from “The Book Nook”, the dingy bookshop at the ground floor of his residence. I talked to him, but after I was finished with talking, I felt I should not have asked for getting connected in the first place and I should do better to forget that I had ever talked to that gentleman.

Then I was told that I should pay for the postage for the despatch of books to different reviewers, poetic societies and libraries. It was not one of the conditions in the agreement I signed with Mr P. Lal, yet I paid that. Then I decided I should not come to this place again to collect my books. The fellow sitting at the dingy bookshop asked me to deposit the postage for sending the rest 133 books and I promptly acted upon that. Anyhow I wanted to get out of the place.

In due course I received the books, and they were not 133 in all, rather three books short. I had no mind to tell that to the Writers Workshop. I knew keeping quiet would be far more peaceful than kicking up a row.Besides, all the time, I was not oblivious of the fact that I was a new poet. Probably it was in my interest to tell that everything was fine and even to this day I continue to tell that.

Then the question remained what to do with those books? The answer was simple: distribute and get over the hassle. I distributed it to everybody I thought I could. My boss, my subordinates, my friend who hates me for speaking unnecessarily pompous English, an important visitors on my premises, and so on. I remember once I offered it to a senior officer who refused to accept it. According to him, he would not be carrying any more load in the flight, for it would overshoot his weight. And he advised me to send the book across by post!

There was another incident worth remembering. A colleague of mine said that he needed two copies to explore the possibility of selling them through a countrywide chain of bookshops. I gave him exactly two of them, but since then he has not bothered to report me the developments.

I was unable to reconcile that publishing a book of poems could be such a losing proposition! Well-wishers reasoned it out for me:

'Look, you’re writing poetry for your pleasure, isn’t it? If so, every hobby demands some expenditure. So, you’ve rightfully spent some of your money and why bother?’

Yet I went to bookshops to personally hand over my books. Through them I thought I would reach my esteemed readers. But the shopkeepers are shrewd businessmen, not the hapless poets. And they had the same usual creeping response: poetry doesn’t sell. Finally I distributed 13 books to three bookshops at Bhubaneswar, 5 books each to three booksellers at Calicut, Mangalore, and Visakhapatnam. At Bhubaneswar, even after one year, nobody could sell a single copy. One bookshop sold one but said he was not sure about that and asked me to visit him again to collect the book, as he was hopeful of tracing it out. Another bookseller has still five books with him and my four or five visits in the mean time have not helped me to get them recalled. Every time I had gone there, the salesmen informed me that the proprietor was not present. I do not know how many more visits I should pay to succeed in that.

The position was not different elsewhere. Nonetheless I got my money (after deducting forty percent) from there as some people bought the books returned from the shops. I do not know who exactly bought them and I am still eager to know about them.

Two and half years have gone in the meantime. Somehow all the books have got distributed. The other day, Mr P. Lal responded to my query that he does not keep tab on the review of books he publishes. One Professor S. C. Tripathy got my book and attempted a critique of it. A very encouraging review at that! A friend of mine took it to a local English daily to publish it, but he was told that it was too late. In fact, he approached the paper at a time when more than a year had elapsed since the publication of the book. I thought I should help myself but then I had no contact for this small job. Later when I created a blog (My other blog: http://books.myvisitindia.com), I published it there. That was the satisfaction--a nice feeling to be able to help myself, to return a favour in my own way. Thereafter, a few of the poems out of “In Harness” have been translated and broadcast in Radio, and published in Oriya magazine.

So, that is all about the money the book generated and accolade it brought to the author. I do not have the guts to do the final accounting of what I gained or lost in money terms. I know I might not have broken even, or maybe I have achieved that if I take into consideration the honoraria I got from the All India Radio. The only satisfaction is that I am a published author now and I can brag about that.

Isn’t this blog the right place to brag? May I post a few poems in this blog? Next time...

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Stepping out Gingerly


I am just a beginner, and like any beginner I've freshness, inquisitiveness, fear, and willingness to go by the norm. I've already a blog, created in a small-timer blogspace where I regularly post contents with literary overtones. Maybe I want to have a bigger audience or maybe I want richer features or maybe I want to simply put my eggs into a different basket, I've come here to try my hand at blogging. I shall try to keep it literary, but then no one knows how things would shape as time marches on.

A stanza of verse will be appropriate to make the moment memorable. Only yesterday it came to me while I was commenting on a
post of a friend whom I met here in the blogosphere. In fact I felt I should arrange a more respectable place for my contents as I visited his blog.

Nowhere but nowhere
can I go now
Now that I've returned
After aeons of roving
just to inhale your smile
and plunge into your smiling eye.

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