(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
C.L. Khatri (1965-2021), the distinguished poet, critic and editor, is an unbeaten entrepreneur of words, writing with a purpose– to lament the “loss of centre that used to hold and discipline us” and concomitantly stretches his hands to help and grow the people of his society through his collections of poetry– Kargil (2000), Ripples in the Lake (2006), Goolar Ka Phool (Hindi: 2011), Two-Minute Silence (2014) and For You to Decide (2016). Considering his significant contribution to Indian Literature in English, particularly in the field of poetry, a book— Indian Poetry in English—Petrichor: A Critique of C.L. Khatri’s Poetry (eds. Sudhir K. Arora and Abnish Singh Chauhan) was published by Prakash Book Depot, Bareilly during his lifetime.
Dr Khatri spectacularly writes about the unhealthy changes in the age-old value system of the contemporary Indian society based on three-traded goods in the economy– the market goods, women’s labour and men’s labour. Goods are produced for market, where man and woman are labourers, producers or consumers in the global economy. This situation is alarming only for one reason that is enough to make it clear that a man is not a man and a woman is not a woman in today’s business world. He or she is something else, indicating that there is sheer erosion of values in Indian life and society. The poet keenly observes it, profoundly contemplates on the emerging questions in his mind and feels “achingly haunted” like “a crane fluttering in the cage.” He is mentally anguished and tormented on realizing the loss of “what is worth emulating in the past” and, therefore, calls his audience for proper human development and welfare. His call connects me to his departed soul as well as to his popular poems as some of them are given below:
With the boulder of the day
laden on my back
I start roaming these alleys
filled with filth with the dawn of the day
with eyes buried in the rags
as though looking for my luck.
I recede in the forsaken water pipe
as the night descends on me.
It feels terrible.
This water-pipe is my other face
and this sack is my third leg.
With two faces and three legs
I can’t really be called a man,
yet I am a man just like you
who have sheltered me in this pipe
and made it may sweet-home
decorated with perfect social justice
equality with pigs, insects and worms
who live along with me
when the dusk descends
and have equal right to
hunger, poverty and illness.
Still I am privileged
for I can dream
someone coming forward
tearing this veil of darkness
and lighting the lamp lying
there in the rags. (Kargil 10)
kissing each other
embracing his beloved
making love with her
dancing in ecstasy
writing a new discipline
with words engraved on stones
ask a visitor
looking for catharsis
who is stone
we or you? (Kargil 14)
3. Professor Saheb
‘Good Morning, Professor Saheb’ wished Mr. Yadav
He is your son, pointing to his son
‘touch Sir’s feet’
‘Bless him, Sir’
An examinee at you college, Sir
A slip containing his Roll No. Name and code
was thrust to me.
“Only his photo is missing”, I mumbled.
Condensing the distance, a distant relative
Said to me, “Beta, you are the only star in our family
Lift your relatives. Pour huge marks in their pocket
Award M.A. and Ph. D. degrees
Without rhyme or reason
Here is your cousin’s Roll No.
Do strong pairvi in his M.A.’s Answer-books.”
Thus spake Krishna to his nephew
the path of Karmayoga in Kaliyuga’s Karma-Yuddha.
Students, like snails in the rain
Appeared in my department
I was happy to have my audience
But bull turned into bear
When they said, “Guess question, please.”
My spirit sank back into the bottom of the sea
I was lost into whirlpool of thought
Who am I? a Conniver or a professor?
Who is my audience? Vacant hall and dust coated
benches? (Ripples in the Lake 15)
4. The Bliss of Beauty
I am enthralled by the aroma
emanating from her flowering body
like an arrow from the quiver of Kamdev
like a freshly ripe Alfanso ready to be squeezed.
Night is led by the fragrance of Raat rani.
I must have license like bee to kiss all her petals
to suck her juice, to smell her fragrance.
My hands do not crumple her petals,
my lips do not steal her colours
as bees do not offend the flowers.
Shake off provincial prudery, my love.
See, you are as fresh as before like Kabir’s shawl.
Not I but the time is the worst offender to your beauty.
So make hay while the sun shines,
enjoy the bliss of beauty-a golden phase in life
apply the beauty balm to the aching mate
before you are yoked in a plough to pull for the rest. (For You to Decide 69)
5. Writing a New Ramayana
Indian woman is no longer
‘Empty pitcher’ waiting on the well,
Barbie doll looking for her prince
marching regally on white horse.
She knows how to dig tubewell
have her fill and sell the rest.
Exporting ‘Mississippi-long hair,’
donned in denim striding proudly
in Dalal Street, carrying logs of life,
reaping the harvest of spring,
precariously performing rope walk
She is writing a new Ramayana
where Sita rules over Ayodhya in his absence
Ram has to pass through fire ordeal
before being crowned as Army chief.
Undaunted of fingers she laughs and cries. (For You to Decide 31)
I, Abnish Singh Chauhan, with the team of Creation and Criticism pay my sincere tribute to this messenger of human values. May his soul rest in peace!