Creation and Criticism

ISSN: 2455-9687  

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

Jan 2017

Five Poems of Susheel Kumar Sharma


Dr Susheel Kumar Sharma (1962) has been serving the University of Allahabad as a Professor of English since 2003. He has published four books, thirty-five research papers, five interviews and twenty-eight book-reviews. A collection of more than thirty reviews of his first poetry book, ‘From the Core Within’ (1999, ISBN: 81-85231- 27-3) has been published under the title Bricks and Bouquets (Ed. Sanjeev Kumar, New Delhi: Creative Books, 2008). Prof Sharma’s second collection of poems ‘The Door is Half Open’ (New Delhi: Adhyayan, 2012) has been received very well. Some of his poems have been translated into Assamese, French, Hindi, Lithuanian, Serbian and Turkish languages. Prof. Sharma lives with his family at Vishrut, 5 MIG, Govindpur, Near Uptron Crossing, Allahabad – 211 004, India. He can be contacted through e-mail: susheelsharma.avap@gmail.com.


 

1. On Reading Langston Hughes’s “Theme For English B”

 

I remember it distinctly

That I was passing on

Instructions after instructions

And wanted him to

Take them down each one of them

In his note book

So that in the moments of crisis

When he was losing hope

And when our relations

Were tense and turned sour

They were the reference points

To begin a new relationship

Or save the old one

From getting snapped.

It was then

He had come like a bird

Looking for a place

To make its nest

Or like a father trying

To gather his self bit by bit,

After his son’s death.

And sat silently

Staring with his blue eyes

Into void of

A small room of 8*10 feet

He neither spoke nor did he take out his pen.

He left as silently as he had come.

Next day, again he appeared

Dull and morose

As if he was weary

Of a long walk.

Twisted  my fingers I gestured

To know his purpose.

He wished to study further.

It was a surprise

Thrown at me.

For I had treated him

To be a purposeless friend of the other boy.

“Go and write a page

About a novelist. See me tomorrow,”

Said I very curtly.

He returned with a diary

At the appointed hour

With a page on Shakespeare.

Was he a novelist? I queried

He dropped his head

Like a chicken does

On seeing an eagle dawning.

“Come tomorrow

With a page on thyself;

Just about a page,

Written in one sitting,

Say, about your interests.”

The next day he appeared

Again at the appointed hour

And put forward

A ruffled page

On which

He had written

With confidant words

“I am a poor boy.

I travel 20 kms daily on foot.

To reach the glorious university,

Where I am treated like dirt.

I do not mind this

For I have been raised in dirt.

I am twenty eight now.

All my classmates have left

The university several years ago

But I come back here

Every two years

Having earned some money

To pay my tuition fee.

My schooling has not been smooth but chequered

My schools were located in scruffy areas

But my spirit is indomitable

I shall give you my best.

I know Shakespeare wrote

Dramas of various types

But I have not seen

Any plays performed.

Where was the time

For this luxury?

Toiling day and night

To earn money, to pay

The bills of my ailing mother’s doctor,

Had been my priority.

I read Shakespeare’s stories

Not his plays, to answer the questions,

To pass the examination

Which I cleared every time

Not of course with flying colours

But to get me a seat

In the course I desired.

I am the only person

Aspiring for higher education in my community.

Not many are there here either;

There is none in the teaching community as well;

No wonder they do not know me

Or my parents or my struggles;

 I am writing this sitting where-

Can you guess it Sir?

Sitting in a shanty placed

Over a big drain,

Created to carry filth of the city

To the barrage near Ganges;

In the name of light

I have a kerosene lamp

And all kinds of moths

Give me company at night;

Have you ever stayed

In such a place, Sir?

How then will know my agony?

It is easy to charge me

Of not being a careful student

And not being a capable student.

I have seen hostels

Where students like me

Can take a shelter

By paying fees and

Be raised like officers;

But naives like me

Are not allowed to take possession of the allotted room.

And the warden’s apathy I understand;

It is better where I live.

I have a dream of a better life;

I have a dream of freedom

To change my conditions

I have a dream to love and be loved

I have a dream not to give up

My community but to go back to it

To live with them and sleep peacefully

When neither a policeman comes

For an unauthorized search

Nor does a hooligan extort money.

I am told if one is educated

One gets power.

I wish to taste this power.

Will I ever get a chance

To taste it? Will you be another

Stumbling block on my way?

I am told, you justify Dronacharya’s every act --

Will you repeat him? Will you replicate him?

In your victory will lie your defeat;

My statues will be raised – not yours.

Justice will be done; I have patience for it.”

This made me crazy

This made me go wild.

I doubted my qualifications to teach him

The place appeared to be sifting.

It is better to face

A challenge and change

Than to be burden with a life

Of self-guilt.

I put my signatures on his form willy-nilly.

 

2. The Destitute

 

To hide my brown colour

I dress in white apron

Colour my hair silver

Use a borrowed tongue

Spend my holidays in the States.

The mind is washed away

From beneath my feet.

I lose my motherland to an alien

My business to the exotic

My morals are a kept as a pawn

In lieu of a job

That gives me my bread

Or

In lieu of a few doses of medicines

That turn me a slave for ever

Or

In lieu of education

That belittles my parents

The language no more expresses myself.

The strings are becoming tighter

The apron is no more soothing

The air seems to choke

Me to death.

I’ve to kill myself for regeneration.

 

3. Chasing A Dream on the Ganges

 

What makes me

Knock at your door again

At the thick of the night?

Is it your kiss?

What makes me

Take on an unknown route

In the pall of every night?

Is it your hug?

What makes me

Lose my heart

Every night?

Is it your forgiveness?

What makes me

Pray at your door

Despite discordant notes?

Is it your gratitude?

Here I am in rags

Against your rage

Facing hailstorm

On the left bank of Alaknanda.

 

2

 

The meandering Ganga does not seem to leave me.

Does it follow me or

Do I track her footprints?

From Avantika Temple to Mansa Devi.

From Chandi Devi to Parmarth Ashram. From there to

Swarga Ashram at the Laxmanjhula Ghat.

Then it loses its name and becomes Alaknanda.

I decided to toe the line

Not of Bhagiratha but to explore Alkapuri.

I take on, moving on,

At every turn, feeling

It will be the end

And, find myself

Standing in the queue

Of the pilgrims

To have a darshan

At a temple where

Bhagiratha had once

Stood and prayed.

People were shouting halleluiahs

Showering praise on

The Ganges and Bhagiratha

And I wonder what

Makes me reach here and stand here?

The two ashrams

On the other side

Are becoming me.

 

3

 

To perform a penance

I looked for solitude

On the Ganga Ghats

In Haridwar.

But the honking of

Trucks and whizzing

Of cars and speeding

Buses distracted me from

My mantra.

And I decided to move up.

The hustle and bustle

At the Har Ki Pauri

Did not allow me to meditate

And I moved further up stream

Near Ram Jhula – the rocking bridge.

The fear of it falling on my head was too much to bear

And I moved on to

Shivananda Ashram nearby.

The monkeys found a playmate in me and I drove further up.

I was still getting my oxygen

Though some had cautioned me.

I reached the point of the emergence of the Ganges.

It was not Gangotri but Dev Prayag.

The rock at the meeting point of

Bhagirathi and Alaknanda

Was becoming me but the mantra was vanishing

Seeing the fast flow of water.

What is the use of

Coming thus far

For penance

If one does not wish to lose life?

 

4

 

I woke up early to witness

The dawn after many years

Of late hours of sleep.

The rays of the upcoming sun

Changed colours from crimson to red.

From yellow to pale ivory.

And the Kunchanjunga

Started refracted them

Like a prism used to do

In a practical class years ago.

The sky along with changed colours

The pine trees seem so tall

And silent but a bird in the oak

Jumps from one branch to another.

Like the memories from

Childhood to adulthood.

What is this high pine

In comparison to the majestic Kanchanjunga?

But its trunk hides

The show of the highest peak from my window.

And remember the darkness

Of the trees

Under which I have been living

All these years.

The birds had wings to

Fly to the top of the trees

And could watch

The sunshine

And I went inside

The house to get cosier.

 

4. The New Year Dawn

 

I had been gazing with my dry throat

Sour mouth and bruised shoulders

In the piercing cold of December

At the sky waiting for the new sun

To bring me a new lease of life

Over the garden, over the fields

Over my loan and broken vehicle.

I followed the three stars

Hoping to take me to a place

Where I meet the three magi

Who are to guide me to the shelter of my saviour

To bear my and your nakedness with equanimity;

Near the hearth where I don’t

Sacrifice a dove to keep me warm

Where I do not have to

Say, thou art not mine.

The magi will lift you and me in their arms

And place me at the alter

And offer incense and fruits

And grant us some wings

To fly into a land

Of plenty, of love, of hope,

Without a blemish, without a scar.

In the New Year,

I promise,

I take on life and also death

With equal strides.

 

5. The New Age

 

Blue and pink papers

Are welcome

Uncramped still better

Now I don’t even have to

Stand in a queue to encash a cheque

But why do you

Ask me to come

To the class?

To be in the company

Of black boys

Who smell foul

And silly girls

Who are not ashamed

Of using mustard oil

Or that classroom

Which has not been cleaned

Nor even been swept

For ages; the piercing nails

In the benches there

Tear way my saree,

It no more can be dry-cleaned

Spotlessly.