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Manas Bakshi, a poet par excellence from the soil of the poets like Rabindranath Tagore, has had excellent poetic career, spanning four decades and winning encomiums from the literary firmament. Through the medium of his poetry, particularly in Parnassus of Revival, he marks variety by the rich use of evocative imagery, symbolic modes, thematic variety and artistic excellence for the snapshot delineation of widespread evils: injustices and prejudices, hypocrisies and jealousies, inequalities and insecurities, and so on in the current society. He is not a silent spectator but a keen observer of evils and events, he witnesses in the spectrum of society. He records all his feelings, expectations, experiences, observations, happenings and so on to fulfill his poetic objective from the social perspective. His poetry mirrors the society he lives in. It reflects the satirical vein as the nucleus to satirize the evils in the society.
Keywords: Poetic Concerns, Human Relations, Evils and Events, Social Perspective
A poet is one who has an observant eye and a sensitive heart for human concern and social relation in the welfare of man. He marks a clear-cut distinction by virtue of his distinctive features and special characteristics in the genre of poetry. No two poets are alike or same but they may be similar or dissimilar in presenting thematic treasures and poetic ideals, technical brilliance and artistic excellence. Here is a poet belonging to the class of poets par excellence in the galaxy of contemporary Indo-English poets. He is none other than Dr. Manas Bakshi who occupies a significant place in the poetic panorama by virtue of his rare merits in the contemporary era.
In the anthology of poems, entitled Parnassus of Revival Manas Bakshi deals with kaleidoscopic themes underlying life. Time with its past, present and future and man's predicament in time's reign, nature with its lovely scenes, social evils, lacking in faith in human relations, dilemmas, perplexities, confusions, conflicts, degeneration of values, degradation of standards, anarchy and so on in the current society enriched his thematic plenty. He delineates the wide range of themes employing striking imagery, felicity of word-clusters or expressions and precise and crispy lines to exemplify his poetic dynamics. He deserves all encomiums for the merits of the anthology.
Manas Bakshi grows into a humanist by virtue of his good background or sweet disposition. He criticizes the present society for lacking in human relations and social concerns. The prevalent social distinctions and discriminations, status variations and economic depressions to cause inequalities and injustices are against his principle as a poet and man. Through the spectrum of poetry, he shares his heart-felt feelings to the readers in the most convincing and appealing way. As a poet and man, Manas Bakshi is deeply committed to man's peaceful existence and human relations. Man to aim at man-for-man or human relation therefore becomes the focus and fulcrum of his poetry. He presents his feelings, moods, experiences, findings, happenings and so on, as he has broad mission and wide vision as a poet of human relations and concerns.
A poet of human consciousness and social awareness is bound to respond to all the evils confronting the society today. I quote my (Dr. Rajamouly Katta's) definition of poetry from my article in Susheel Kumar Sharma featured in Language, literature and Culture, "Every poet lets us listen to his heart-throbs for our heart-responses. It is his primary goal and bounden responsibility to describe events, incidents, experiences, dilemmas, problems, etc that he glimpses through, and weapon and organ he fights with for the aimed reforms and desired solutions. It rises from the reality and actuality of life in the way the plant rises from the ground of truths to bloom the flowers of facts".
As a poet, Manas Bakshi believes that poetry is the expression of realities that lurk in his mind and heart. The poem, 'A Poem of Untold Moments'(26) reflects his views on poetry:
Words not always enough to delineate
The bubble surfacing on
A purple heart's edge.
... ... ...
That is always a poem
Of untold moments
In untold words
Of metaphoric exuberance.
As a poet, Bakshi defines a good poem as a choice, preferred to any material offer, the only option for him as unfolded in his poem, 'Aesthetic Balm' (9). It should touch the heart by a message of consolation as a lesson for the reader's inevitable learning:
What will you opt for
A handful of Dehradun rice
Or, a fine poem that touches a lacerated heart,
As the winter-end breeze blowing over
The paddy field after harvest?
Manas Bakshi's love for man is the nucleus theme of his poetry as revealed in the collection of poems. He, as a poet and man, loves the race of man and so he wishes man's world to be safe and peaceful. He exhorts every individual to grow into an ideal family and all families into society to reflect human values. His appeal to the race of man ultimately culminates in his universal wish that the earth must be safe. In the poem, 'Caution'(7), he indirectly appeals to the race of man to live in happiness, saving the earth the world for man' existence, averting all evil happenings:
Don't destroy me
To destroy yourself...
... ... ...
Your first succour, last resort
It's me, Mother Earth.
The poet indentifies with Mother Earth and appeals to his fellow man with profound feelings of helplessness to stop his act: "Don't bite/To bring out/My last drop of blood." Humanism is the heart of Manas Bakshi's poetry for he loves family relations. In the poem, 'Smile a Day' (61) he gives full marks for marital ties and familial relations: "But full marks?/Sorry, I can't!/Have my wife and children/Waiting till I breathe my last." The poet loves conjugal life as the ideal and preferential one for it gives him solace and bliss. What man gets in marital relations is missing in extramarital relations. In the poem, Surrealistic' (21) he distinguishes the marital with the kiss to bestow on man bliss and the extramarital with a 'secret kiss' to be short-lived and 'half-finished': "Halcyon days are short-lived/As a secret kiss,/Looking back often means/The surfacing of a hidden urge/To refurnish all/That is half-hearted, half-finished."
For the poet, love is pure. It is the choicest emotion. In the poem, 'Moving Leeward' (27) he criticizes the lovers today for their non-commitment to love. They are not true lovers. It is for their temporary pleasures: "And love---/Mere a conjunction/Dominating a secluded space/Of momentary togetherness." Manas Bakshi's faith in humanity is comprehensive and compulsive on the part of man. In the poem, 'Moving Leeward' (27) he therefore loves humanity built with the bricks of faith in cordial, harmonious human relations and peaceful existence of man:
When faith is no more
A condition of living,
Marriage seldom sacred
Relations often sartorial
Down a life-line
Truth to reflect love in man helps man love fellow men to have unity as a sign of humanity. The poem, 'Clairvoyance-like' (8) expresses the truth, the truth of humanity: "Truth is the moment of love/We feel united/Since birth." He advises his fellow beings in his poem, 'What Likely the Art of Living Is' (44) to wish for the safe existence of man, maintaining man-to-man or human relations in the age of man-created barriers: "Only for/Raising a storm inside the orbit/Of the suffering human psyche/Mired in the textures/Of relations mechanized." As a poet and man, Manas Bakshi is against human suffering. He does not like inequalities and injustices, discrimination and humiliation, so on. He is upset more and more with male domination to result in gender discrimination. For him, poetry springs from pain and he expresses the idea in his poem, 'Parnassus of Revival' (14). The theory of his poetry is that it begins in the pain of a girl-child and it is evident in the lines:
Poetry beginning with pain
As a girl child
On the Indian soil....
His poetry mirrors his bitter feelings and unbearable experiences in the sad incidents of humiliation meted out to women in the long past, the past and the present. He portrays his deep concern for woman in his first poem, 'Indian Woman' (1). The feelings related to the incidents of humiliation to women haut him and hurt his heart deeply for he has high reverence and soft corner for women, He identifies with the woman in suffering:
An Indian woman,
An emblem of duty to family
And love for husband,
Affection to children
And devotion the Creator,
Sustaining for aeon
The legacy, lechery and lapses
Of a male-dominated domain---
He identifies with woman in different aeons. She faces 'the fire ordeal' to prove her chastity. How it is to see her suffering! He shares the suffering of Sita as she suffers for no fault of hers: "Having no fault of my own/.../Had to face a fire ordeal---/To prove my chastity/With feminine courage." As a poet and man, Bakshi shares the woes and throes of the Pandavas. He feels that the action of the Kauravas as 'shameless'. He shares Draupadi's suffering, identifying with her. The suffering of women did not lost but continued as ' a stigma of yore!' to the 20th century:
The legacy followed
Even in the 20th century
To adorn me with a crown
Of a royal devotee,
Offered forever to the deity
Of imposed myth
And imagined glory-gaiety!
Neither a Goddess
Nor a call girl
He has deep anguish for the tragic fate of 'Lower caste woman in Kerala!' a hundred years ago. He expresses his vehement protest, indentifying with her, Nangeli saying: "I preferred chopping of my breast/To paying tax/To the king of Travancore/For covering up the same." It is shameful to think of the humiliation meted out to woman in the form of molestation and rape even in the 21st century in the so-called civilized society with the sense of equality in the democratic setup: "I am that Manipuri girl/Baring my body in vehement protest---/Many of you/21st century civilized male/Unblushing, unfazed, remorseless/Just relax again!"
Bakshi as a fellow being feels ashamed of being a male to victimize a woman to unbearable agony and suffering. He referred to women: 'Padmini of Chittore with deep feelings. He wishes woman to be very strong to avert all the evils related to her and fight like Indian soldiers for her motherland:
I've the fighting spirit
Of Razia Sultana,
The indomitable courage of Rani of Jhansi,
The patriotic spark of Matangini Hazra
And the undying zeal of Kalpana Chawla;
Years glide on in time's ride but there is no change in woman's fate and existence. She becomes a victim to rape, sometimes rape and murder, stealing her money and treasures, the triple crime. There are ghastly incidents of rape of babies, girls and women of any age for the satiation of man's barbaric act in his demonic lust. He feels hurt for the pathetic and tragic plight of Nirbhaya identifying with her: "My fate hasn't been changed---/Still I am one after another Nirbhaya/In the hands of the criminals/Gang raped and slain!" Woman lives in the society today amidst fears confronting her all the times. She feels insecure because of brutalities and cruelties of man's violence in various forms. The poet feels sorry for the inhuman act of foeticide. To resort to foeticide by a woman in modern age is a sinful act. He wishes to have security for woman against prevalent insecurity in the present society:
Sorry to say
I have neither a foeticide-free sky
Nor the deserved
Social security reign!
Manas Bakshi as an optimist whole-heartedly wishes that the people should change the pitiable plight of woman in the present inhuman scenario: "I will, for sure, one day/Make India worthy/Of woman's existence." The poet feels that a child gladdens its family by its sweet smile and strengthens the nation by its brilliant caliber and career when grown. He wishes that no foul means should spoil the child's smile. In the poem 'Bugbear' (11), he equates 'child' that gladdens the near and dear with 'flower' that sweetens the atmosphere:
A smiling flower
A smiling child
Bliss of Nature
Sacred and divine
Religious fanaticism: a knife
The poet presents the portrait of man and woman living in an unwelcome situation against his wishes in the poem, 'Unmasking' (15): "I will make a portrait/Of man and woman/Going deep into the realm/Where the trite terms/Of a prosaic living entail/A nomadic shibboleth,/Where everyone's/Aimless wandering." The society today is mired in numerous ill-treatments to the poor, 'Pavement dwellers and pedestrians' as the sign of marginalization. There is no way set to solve their problems. In the poem, 'Live from Kolkatta Pavement' (30), the poet presents the city's realistic picture to reflect their pathetic plight of the poor for miserable lives:
Marginalized as they are since birth
Groveling for survival in shady shanties,
Like the very footpath
Sheltering the alive and the dead.
The poll promises go in vain. The promises are the words wrought on the surface of water. The leaders are in fact for good governance as per democracy but not poli-tricking for poly tricking. The poet aptly compares votes to fallen leaves to say that they have no value and power after elections. He presents the most unwelcome situation: "Vote is over,/Torn ballot papers/Mute as the fallen leaves/Can't divulge the secrets of poli-tricking." The poet feels sorry for the martyrs are remembered once in a year in the way the great leaders of great sacrifice are forgotten. It is done as a show but not as a mark of real respect for the departed leaders: "Swirl around a martyr's tomb---/Martyrs initiated at the baptismal of fire/Remembered once in a year!"
The nature-lyric depicting the sun 'Saluting the Sun' (54) making a fact that there are unwanted children and they might not know their male parents. The children grow to be unruly and violent with every possibility of turning terrorists:
Justice? No, not the real cause,
It's all myth
Really is virgin mothers
Of unwanted child still
Scream in the blind alleys of life,
And Karnas today
Often turn terrorists!
In the poem 'Aesthetic Balm' (9) the poet feels that the worldly life is losing its glories against his wish. He concurs with time's powers as time conquers man's life: "As worldly life loses its charm/To a sardonic smile of Time." The poet presents the picture of the world today in the poem, 'Introspection' (12). He unfurls the fact he is against absurdities and calamities: "It's is a polarized world/Some having more than needed/Some having nothing, superseded/Some enjoying nocturnal glee/In longing eyes/Some dying in the street/After day-long pitched fight!" The poem, 'Aesthetic Balm' (9) lends a poetic utterance to his ideas about the pathetic plight of the people in the prosaic society today:
We're wandering in wilderness
Craving for a festival of colours
For minds and stress
For eyes away from
The wonder of a poetic landscape!
In the poem, 'Introspection' (13), he lets his unbearable feelings known to the readers. To all these unwanted happenings and violent incidents, God is silent. He is indifferent to human suffering: "Nowhere to go/...Better to close/The windows and the door/And feel emotional flames/Burning within/...Silent God/At the other end/Playing Sudoku/In the secluded corner of human mind." The poet, on behalf of man, wishes God to avert man's suffering and hurting feelings, He is man's God to be in reign for the welfare of man. It is His responsibility as the Almighty. But God is silent. In the other poem, 'Dwelling on a Stone God' (19), the poet expresses the indifferent attitude of God to man's resorting to violent ways: "The stark residue of a stone-God/Showing neither anger nor smile." The poet ironically unfolds the view that God is busy having so many schedules that He is not able to redress man's grievances. Thus, man throws the sole blame on God for His being over busy: "For God/lways acting like a minister/Overburdened with several portfolios/Is never spared with a single blame/In human eyes full of vengeance!"
Here the poet echoes the satirical vein of Kamala Das on the life of hypocrisy in the hues of reality led by many in the society today and God is in heaven away from man with the sense of hypocrisy as presented in her poem, 'Fancy-Dress Show': "God is in his heaven and all/Is right with this stinking world." The society is full of 'miseries and mistake'. In the poem 'A Cyber Age Poem', (10) he wishes man in the society today to be 'neo-human' and all the past history not to repeat in the present: "Cyber age; world seems within reach/Flower, fruits and vegetables---all hybrid/Days nearing the pinnacle of global warming/For a fresh start with neo-human seed?"
The poet loves peace from the heart of his heart in the poem, ' As the Pigeons Saw It' (63). He expresses his love for peace by the traditional symbol of pigeons, 'Flying in a jubilant mood'. He loves India for its universal peace and communal harmony:
Some white pigeons
Messengers of peace
... ... ...
Crossing the border
They felt comfortable and safe
In the peace-loving Indian territory,
Were amazed to see here
Secular majority heralding the cause
Of global peace and communal harmony
Sparing not even an inch
For terrorism to creep in---
The poet says that the pigeons had good image about our nation as it was meant for peace and so they felt comfortable to enter it. They felt disappointed as they found all chaos and unrest in India today against their expectations in a peace loving country: "The pigeons felt sorry for/Being driven to a wrong place,/Felt ashamed too/For being stripped off/Their hallowed image!"
The anthology mirrors the state of lacking in man-to-man, man-to-woman, man-to-nature, man-to-God relations in human society especially in the present society. It is slender but it is a good blender for blending all noble thoughts and bright ideas for their beauty in variety like the pretty flowers put together into an exquisitely beautiful garland. The beauty lying in the variety of poems of the anthology, Parnassus of Revival, bestows on the readers gaiety.
Bakshi, Manas. Parnassus of Revival. The Poetry Society of India, Haryana, 2017.
Rajamouly, Katta. "Poetry for Reform: Susheel Kumar Sharma's The Door Is Half Open". Yking Concise Encyclopaedia of Language, Literature and Culture, Yking Books, Jaipur, 2014.
Das, Kamala. "Fancy-Dress Show". Poetry and Prose Selections, Amar Publishers, Guntur, 1995.
About the Author:
Dr. Katta Rajamouly, Professor and Head, Department of English (S.H), Ganapathy Engineering College, Warangal has to his credit: The Poetry of Philip Larkin: a Critical Study, Learn English through Conversation, Grammar and Dictionary of Grammatical and Literary Terms. As a poet, he published 1080 poems in his poetry collections, Beauty in Variety, Cherished Cherries, Petals of Insight, Voices and Silences and Kavitanjali. He has short story collections: Post Gandhian Days, Thorns in the Path, Shadows of Realities and Naked Truths; and novels Rajarishi in Quest of Peace, Man-for Man, a Quest, Smart Child, and Troubles and Tribals. He can be contacted at email@example.com.