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Creation and Criticism

ISSN: 2455-9687  

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

Vol. 06, Joint Issue 20 & 21: Jan-April 2021

In Memorium


C.L. Khatri:  A Messenger of Human Values


 

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:

 


 Poems of CL Khatri


 

1. Rag-Picker

 

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)

 

2. Khajuraho

 

In Khajuraho

stones

speaking

smiling

kissing each other

embracing his beloved

making love with her

dancing in ecstasy

climaxing together

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!


 

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