(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
C.L. Khatri, a poet, editor, critic, translator and academician, has to his credit four poetry books in English, namely, Kargil, Ripples in the Lake, Two-Minute Silence, For You to Decide and one in Hindi Goolar Ka Phool. His poems are widely published, anthologized, reviewed and translated in several languages in India and abroad. Being a sensitive poet, he has been poetically reacting to the world around him very perceptively and microscopically and recording his experiences in the form of poems. Hence there is a strong dose of the element of contemporary consciousness in his poetry. But it is always related directly or indirectly to the history, religion, mythology and even science of the modern world. The North Indian landscape and geography occupies an important place in his poetry which may be easily noticed by a South Indian reader. The local flavour is quite interesting. The harsh realities of the present day India compel him to express his vision of life satirically and ironically. In a way Chhotelal Khatri is a realist rather than a romanticist in his approach to life.
His satirical vision of life is studied here at some length.
It is a matter of pleasure to note that the young poets of India like Chhotelal Khatri have responded to the disturbing event at Kargil and articulated their deep-seated patriotism. Khatri has rightly dedicated the slim anthology Kargil to the Veer Jawans of Kargil. Hegel said that war would awaken the patriotic feelings among the people of any country and unite them by enabling them to forget their minor differences among themselves. Quite in tune with the Hegelian opinion, the Kargil war between India and Pakistan has awakened the patriotism and unity of Indians in spite of their conflicting interests. In one of the poems, the poet offers his salutations to the heroic soldiers of India:
Veer Jawans of Kargil salute to you
Who have reduced enemy’s pride to nil
Before whom the enemy says mew mew
While crawling in the caves, fleeing from the hill. (Kargil 19)
In another poem, Khatri deplores the proxy war and hypocrisy of the Pakistanis. Although Kargil war is to be the immediate point of reference, the poet extends the meaning of the situation from the political to the universal, ethical and every day experiences of life. Apart from the Kargil war, the themes of the poems in the anthology range from the cosmic and mythological to the contemporary and the style ranges from the ironical to the spiritual, from the affirmative to the interrogative. In “The Poet’s Commitment”, the poet affirms that:
Swear, I won’t keep mum,
mortgage my tongue,
or wag my tail. (Kargil 1)
“Homage to Maa” is one of the finest and touching poems in Two-Minute Silence written by Khatri. It makes every sensitive reader nostalgic about his own mother. This poem has a special significance to modern Indians. When the sons become highly educated, they migrate to foreign lands in search of wealth and sensuous pleasures, by abandoning their parents or sending them to Old Age Homes. They cannot even attend the funeral of their parents in India as they have no leave or will to do so. Recently an IAS Officer in Bengaluru (as reported in the newspapers) shoe-beat his mother and forcibly and callously sent her to an old age home. Mahatma Gandhi said sadly, “Nothing hurts me more than the hard-heartedness of the educated.” As the modern man has been growing more and more educated, he has been growing more and more callous also towards his parents. (There may be rare exceptions to this rule). Against such a background, Khatri’s poem on his mother assumes great importance and puts all the callous sons (and daughters) to shame. The poet begins the poem with the scene in which his mother breathes her last in his arms:
I was holding her in my arms
In the icy winter morning
Her breath slipped out of my hands
My numb fingers could not hold her
My palms were greasy, vision hazy. (Two Minute Silence 20)
After the departure of the dear mother, the son begins to feel her absence more and more acutely as the days go by. He repents of not having shared her burden:
She was standing like Mother Mary
Feeding me her breast,
Alas! I could not be her Christ,
She bore the cross all through her life,
I slept in peace, bloomed in spring. (Two Minute Silence 20)
The poet remembers how his mother used to cook food on the chula fed with cow dung cakes, make noodles, papads and pickles etc. in the kitchen; grind grains in the grind stone, dry the paddy for the rice mill. He remembers how she was a frugal housekeeper counting limited number of coins; how she decked the house on festival days and gave her children different sweets on several festive occasions. In short, she managed the all-round responsibility of the house and showered her unalloyed, pure deep affection on her sons. The poet, like Lord Ganesh, considered his mother as identical with the whole world and circumambulated around her. She was happy that she was dying married (as a sumangala). The poet feels her physical absence and mystical presence in his heart which gives him a sense of happiness and contentment:
Absence shows one’s real worth,
Today I feel her more intensely
Than ever I did. A deity in the sanctum,
She lives in me, breathes through me.
Who cares if I win or lose the race I am not in? (Two Minute Silence 22)
In “Mother” the poet speculates about different facets and misdeeds of mother due to a variety of reasons like selfishness, craziness, economic or social fear and insecurity and so on.
They say, “A son may be anti-son
A mother can’t be.” (Two Minute Silence 27)
As a universal emblem of love and sacrifice
she effaces every line of her contour
gets merged into him as a spring merges into a river.
She is our mother. (Two Minute Silence 27)
This is the ideal and universal image of a mother who is an embodiment of love, affection and sacrifice for her children. But in the subsequent stanzas the poet offers certain aberrations of motherhood that he has seen in his life and wondering at the reasons for such abnormalities.
In the modern world including India we see many unmarried girls illegally becoming mothers, but saving their faces and honour and virginity by aborting their babies thereby becoming eligible for the marriage market through cheating the would-be husbands. The poet suggests this harsh reality as follows:
But a woman is etherized upon the table
to abort the baby’s babble. Virginity regained
from swollen belly of buxom earth.
She is also a mother. (Two Minute Silence 27)
In certain cases the mother is driven to sell her children through sheer economic necessity and struggle for survival:
In Kalahandi a mother was reported
to have sold her son.
Cold breath and frozen tears
She was also a mother. (Two Minute Silence 27)
In the present days we see many married or unmarried women (modern Kuntis), who abandon their adulterine children in different ways:
Many a Kunti casts away their babies
in the basket of river.
Many a Karn loses the light of the day.
They are also mothers. (Two Minute Silence 27)
In another example a mother kills her own son mercilessly:
In Kedarnath flood a woman left
her dying son on the roadside with a slab
on his chest, sinking under its weight.
She was also a mother. (Two Minute Silence 28)
Then the poet gives the examples of mothers, who burn their daughters-in-law to death, kill their sons, send them to slog like child labourers, abuse their children under the influence of opium; send their sons to wars by putting tilak on their foreheads. Then the poet offers two contrary examples of mothers like Kali killing millions and Sati immolating herself.
After presenting the picture of various inhuman acts of so-called mothers, the poet sympathizes with them for their plight and for the circumstances which drive them to desperate acts:
There must have been some compulsions.
Nobody loves to betray the dear ones. (Two Minute Silence 29)
In “Tears” the poet describes the situation in which a newly married daughter is parting from her parents for good and joining her husband. All the members of the family like her father, mother, brothers and sisters shed tears at the permanent separation from their dear daughter and sister:
wailing like a cow whose
calf is being taken away. (Ripples in the Lake 24)
In India every woman has to undergo the experience of displacement after the marriage, as she lives in the patriarchal society. She has to leave her parents’ home, go to her husband’s home and acclimatize herself to the new atmosphere, strike new roots and develop new loyalties. Her father advises her to forget her papa and mama and teaches her a new lesson:
Your husband is your lord,
Father-in-law is your father,
Mother-in-law is your mother.
Serve them, obey them, win their hearts,
Forget us all and become theirs. (Ripples in the Lake 24)
The daughter bows down to his feet and then gets into the bridal car:
With apprehension in her veins
tears in eyes and thrill and suspense in heart
She steps in the car, in his arms and forgets the world. (Ripples in the Lake 25)
The experience of parting from the parents paves the way for that of union with her husband and entrance into a new world or marital heaven.
In “Pitririn”, the poet employs the ironical mode of describing the yawning gap between a son’s real feelings towards his father when the later is alive and his exhibition of clearing his debt to his father when the latter is dead. In India it is quite common for people to ignore their parents when are alive and worship their photos when they are dead. Thus, there is a certain kind of hypocrisy ingrained in their behaviour. Khatri satirizes this hypocrisy in this poem very beautifully and effectively:
He, who has never cared for
his ailing father
whose whistling cough and sneeze
are the only nuisance in the house,
who is not worth old newspapers,
performs a splendid funeral face. (Ripples in the Lake 3)
The son, who never offered a glass of water to his old father, now pours the redeeming dose of Ganga-jal. He, who never fed his ailing father, now gives mukhagni to the dead father. He gets his head clean-shaven, his house white-washed thereby getting rid of the pollution caused by the death of the father.
He, who has never fulfilled his wish
donates calf, goat, clothes, food grains…
to the Mahabrahmins for his comfort in heaven. (Ripples in the Lake 3)
The great Brahmins gourmandize and drive away the spirit of the dead. Thus, the son gets a certificate of shrawan-hood and absolves himself of the debt that he owed to his father.
“Conversation” is a very beautiful poem which combines serious speculation and humour. It deals with the theme of the universal acceptance of the superiority of brain and the inferiority of brawn. The humour about this belief is brought out in the conversation between a father and a daughter. When the poet takes his eight year old daughter to his college to show her the physics lab, he introduces the peon, Mr. Johnson to her, by explaining further that he is a lower employee. He clarifies further that brawn is what makes one lower and brain is what makes one higher. Then the daughter confirms it:
You mean brain is superior to brawn.
Brain is the sun-god sitting in the chariot,
With brawny horses pulling the weight. (Two-Minute Silence 35)
Then the conversation continues between the father and the daughter. The daughter asks him some embarrassing questions:
Mummy also works with brawn.
Is she your peon?
No. Peon is paid, mummy is not.
Oh! She is worse than peon.
Shut up! (Two-Minute Silence 35)
It is universally acknowledged that a housewife (especially mother) works more than a husband does in his office. That is because a husband may have several regular and irregular holidays for his office, but a housewife has no holidays at all. In this way she is fated to be worse than a peon, who may enjoy some holidays. Then the daughter comes out with another wise formula showing the inferiority of brain:
I play with brawn, eat with hand,
run with legs, write, wash, make
dolls with hands and kiss with lips.
Thank you dad for showing me
how handicapped is brain.
I would be mummy
I would be Jhoolan dada. (Two-Minute Silence 36)
In the poem entitled, “Sex”, the poet offers a playful and almost Freudian picture of the biological hunger of man, which has to be satisfied whenever it grows uncontrollable. What the poet suggests seems to be prevalent in the Western world right now. He says:
Sex is like hunger or thirst
When you feel hungry,
You rush to the kitchen
To a restaurant or to a relative
Or order for home delivery.
Umpteen outlets, umpteen varieties,
There is no case of hunger abuse
Like sex abuse rampant on and off roads. (Two-Minute Silence 62)
As long as mutual consent is there, nobody can prevent the mating of young men and women. (But mutual consent is rather difficult in a puritanical country like India. That is a different problem altogether.).
You can satisfy your hunger
Any time anywhere with mutual consent
And there is no law to book you. (Two-Minute Silence 62)
Then the poet seems to echo the Freudian truth when he says:
Sex is hunger immune to rags of time
That starts from day one
A baby sucks its mother
Ayah, aunt or one willing to feed breast
Does she need age certificate? (Two-Minute Silence 62)
He then takes the old (fashioned) people to task and tells them not to meddle with his personal problems:
A violation of juvenile rights,
How can fossilized men decide
When should I have the itch?
Dear old scarecrows, don’t meddle
Sex with love and marriage.
They are our personal picks
And not public property.
I am born with a patent of my own body. (Two-Minute Silence 63)
The poet wants to be independent and does not wish to live and behave according to others’ wish and will. He wants to decolonize himself:
I am no one’s colony,
I have thrown away the albatross,
You had hung around my neck. (Two-Minute Silence 63)
In “Professor Saheb” the poet satirizes the practice of nepotism or favouritism necessitated by the family conditions, lack of opportunities and social inequalities prevalent in India. When the poet becomes an Assistant Professor in a College or a University, Mr. Yadav brings his son to the Professor, introduces him as ‘your son’, asks him to bless him as he is an examinee at his college and gives him the son’s Roll Number, Name and Code, indirectly requesting him to give liberal marks to his son in the examination.
The poet offers another example of request for nepotism. Once a distant relative reminds and requests him:
“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. answer books.
Thus spake Krishna to his nephew,
the path of karmayoga in Kaliyuga’s Karma-Yuddha. (Ripples in the Lake 15)
Then what about the students? They are interested not in the acquisition of knowledge, but only in getting high grades and bloated marks. They pester the professor to give them likely questions, which is a euphemism for leaking out the question paper. Thus the Indian society does not allow a teacher or professor to be an idealist, but forces him to be a conniver and a compromiser. If the teacher sticks to his idealism, he will automatically become unpopular and be disliked by all the practical and worldly wise people.
“Government Schools” may be taken as a fine satire on the Government institutes of India in general. Anything connected with government has certain attitudes like impersonality, callous indifference, irresponsibility and shamelessness. Many of such qualities have been observed and recorded by native writers like Nirad Chaudhuri and the foreign writers like V.S. Naipaul. The ministers, who sanction Government schools, send their own children to private and expensive schools. The poet describes the condition of Government Schools, which is common to all the States of India. The politicians have started the scheme of midday meals for all the children in the Government schools, without making an all-round arrangement of cooking, serving, supply of provision, and the security of the cooks in terms of permanent appointment. Many children are taken ill by eating the unhygienic food and being sent to hospitals and sometimes to graveyards, all because of the indifference and irresponsibility of the staff concerned, which is in turn caused by the financial insecurity of the staff. The poet describes all these tragic aspects here:
the train derailed
in the mud of midday meals,
blooming cremation grounds. (Two-Minute Silence 19)
The uniforms, books, cycles, ACDC Bills are supplied to students, who shout slogans, parrot alphabets, fight for food and block the road for demanding proper school buildings. The two lakh teachers in these schools have no features at all. The minister hopes to build blocks of future. But the poet, who knows the falsehood of the minister’s statement, bursts out with righteous anger and despair, ‘Fucking Future.’
“Hospital” is a very good satire on Indian hospital services. The government hospitals, unlike the private hospitals, are notorious for their callousness, negligence, indifference and their ever-readiness to expedite the departure of patients to heaven. What the poet Khatri says about a particular hospital is widely applicable to the Indian, especially government hospitals. The first sight in the hospital that you have is the white-clad doctors and nurses:
Phantoms of white apron with stethoscope
dangling round their chests like a bell hanging
from a bull’s neck with a rope are running late
perhaps busy securing their future in the real world. (For You to Decide 65)
The poet shows how the doctors and nurses come to the hospital later than the scheduled time. Then he describes the pathetic conditions of patients who visit the hospital:
A surge of crying crowd in the corridor
of Sadar hospital waiting for their gods
with endless patience of centuries
conditioned to the stinking pool of urine.
drain water and garbage and to the term expiry—
expired medicine, syringe, OT, ICU, expired patient.
They have been huddled together in the corridor
like cattle in a worn out truck taken to a slaughter house. (For You to Decide 65)
The atmosphere of varied dirt and filth and the imminent expiry of patients create a picture of hell on earth. “Here times moves at a snail’s pace.” Further the poet shows how corruption has entered into the hospitals also these days. The staff of the hospital welcomes you like a wedding guest if you grease their palms. The satire is as powerful as justified.
In “I Have God”, the poet confesses and accepts his average quality with a sense of resignation. For example, he says:
I don’t have impressive CV
Letters of reference
I am seeking my CV
writing my reference,
Will you take my admission? (For You to Decide 30)
Then he highlights his middling stature and achievement in life:
I am not the best,
not the worst,
not in haste,
no dad’s dollar to dole out,
Will you take my admission? (For You to Decide 30)
We have seen in our lives that those who have godfathers are luckier than those who have only a God to rely upon. The poet continues to say:
I don’t have godfather,
I have God; I haven’t seen.
I will go wherever He takes
or bank on my dwarf to carve
a path to hillocks of life. (For You to Decide 30)
Thus the poet is ready to brave the contingencies and challenges of life as guided by Him. This existential courage is as welcome as admirable in the modern world which is known for its cut-throat competition, cruelty and horror of life.
In “Mask” (For You to Decide 13), Khatri adopts the autobiographical tone and decides to abandon the mask that he has been wearing. In other words, he wants to do away with pretension and hypocrisy and be his pristine self. He wants to be a transparent self and wishes others also to be transparent selves so that both the parties may understand each other and communicate with each other. This poem remotely reminds us of W.B.Yeats’s poem on the coat, in which he says that there is a greater heroism in walking about naked than in wearing a borrowed coat.
In “Flames Within”, the poet uses the image of a candle (a variant of a lamp) to describe himself. The purpose of the candle is not only to light the world, but also extend it through multiplication and proliferation:
I am a candle who has lived its life,
Once a frail candle lit me.
I lit a few candles
and they lit others,
A caravan of candles came up. (For You to Decide 15)
Here the light assumes the spiritual dimension. The external light may be extinguished by storms, but the inner flame cannot be put off. The poem is, obviously, philosophical in tone, with an archetypal image of light within.
In “Postcolonialism” the poet wants to decolonize himself by getting rid of borrowed sensibility and living his natural life.
I broke loose from the statue,
You have made of stone.
I disown the myth you hung around my bone,
I am not the dark reflection
of any ivory tower,
insinuating web of a centric world
sculpted, narrated by a foreign bard. (For You to Decide 43)
He wants to overcome his sense of alienation born out of colonial influence:
They said, ‘We are born with
Borrowed senses. (For You to Decide 43)
But his sense of individual identity being awakened, he wants to return to the colonizers their unsolicited lending with interest higher than the principal amount. He wants to have the pleasure of being himself:
The skin I am born with is mine,
with sun, moon and rain it shines. (For You to Decide 43)
In “A Happy Return” the poet satirizes the begging habit of Indians. According to many religions, begging is a virtue recommended by their preceptors for the effacement of ego and cultivation of humility. But in modern India begging has entered the secular arena i.e. social and political ones, not for any effacement of the ego, but for self-interest and self-aggrandizement and wealth:
Once upon a time a young fakir
parted ways from the old fakir
seeking secret to success. Thought
baabu is wealthy. Seek his wealth.
The young fakir turns to him.
He finds him begging before the Collector.
Next day he comes to the Collector.
Aghast! The Collector was collecting alms at the Minister. (For You to Decide 48)
Then he finds that the Minister buttering the Chief Minister for a lucrative portfolio. Then he observes that the Chief Minister is holding a begging bowl before the Prime Minister seeking a special status. Thus there is a chain of begging programme by a man in a lower position before a man in a higher position. Finally the Prime Minister is found begging before the old Fakir for immunity and continuity of his position. The poet therefore concludes:
It is enough. Begging in a beggar’s land.
I am the richest person in the world.
Realization dawns. A happy return. (For You to Decide 48)
The poem is a fine satire on the present Indian political situation wherein everybody is reduced into a beggar for the accomplishment of higher ambition, status, greater wealth and security not only for one generation but for many generations to come.
In “For You to Decide” the poet feels the dilemma of choosing between the ancient ways of life and the modern ones.
Sometimes I wonder
if Vamana’s legs are
what men need to measure
the infinite space and time? (For You to Decide 19)
The poet seems to suggest that the modern science needs the help of the mythical god to measure the infinite time and space.
The modern man seems to be in a terrific haste in his struggle for survival and has no leisure or rest and cannot therefore lead a free life like birds:
Sometimes I wonder
can’t we run slow, stand and stare at ease
kiss the sky and lie on the land
like birds return to their nests? (For You to Decide 19)
If the ancient savages led a nomadic life for their survival, the modern man has also become a nomad wandering from country to country in search of greater wealth and material pleasures. Hence history is repeating itself in a new form, as it were. That is why the poet says:
Sometimes I wonder
is history completing a circle
from nomad to nomad?
Can I get the patent of my ancestral home? (For You to Decide 19)
Computers have occupied most of our life in the modern age and life has been commercialized highly. The poet satirizes this phenomenon:
Sometimes I wonder
if Bharata’s nine rasas would be programmed
if babies would be sold in shops,
You want umbilical cord or warranty card?
This is for you to decide
For me it’s time to retire. (For You to Decide 20)
“Crack in the wall” presents a picture of the irony of life in ancient times as well as in modern days:
Sparrows kept chirping in chorus
The shloka of safety a rishi gave to them
“A fowler will come, strew grains as baits
spread the trap, don’t get trapped.” (For You to Decide 49)
But the rishi’s prediction does not come true, which is ironical.
They continued in chorus like a record player
hoping it will save them. They got trapped.
cursed the rishi, cursed the fate,
Blaming others is an easy escape route. (For You to Decide 49)
The fault lies with the people rather than with the rishi, perhaps because they did not follow the spirit of his shloka, but repeated it rather mechanically like a record player. The poet, then, gives an example of modern life which is characterized by irony and hypocrisy:
Maa, today morning they worshipped the virgins
in the evening fucked them repeating the shloka
‘God resides where women are worshipped.’
Washed off the hands saying, “God’s Will.” (For You to Decide 49)
The poet has, obviously, shown how the modern Indians have made a travesty of the principle of divinity associated with women. The cracks in the walls are yawning. The gap between the profession of ideals and their practice is widening in modern India.
In “Two Minute Silence” the poet satirizes the atmosphere of chaos prevailing in Indian politics, modernization, culture and family life without making it blatant:
Sisters and brothers of India
Let’s observe two-minute silence,
On the uprooted microphone,
On the broken chair in the parliament,
On the torn pages of the constitution. (Two-Minute Silence 67)
It shows how the Indian politicians, who have to be the makers of law, behave like illiterate and irrational beings by throwing away microphones and broken chairs and tearing the pages of the constitution. Thus there has been a metaphorical death of discipline and order. The poet, therefore, calls his friends and companions to offer his condolences to the dead and departed order by observing two-minute silence.
Likewise the poet wants to offer his condolences over the death of the mothers and fathers of India; over the death of old culture like dhoti and pugadi; oxen and coolies replaced by machines and technologies which cripple the labourer now and then. Here the poet laments the death of old dress codes and labour practices. He deplores the degeneration of the grand culture, of the glorious century of India and its great promises.
Similarly he laments over the shrinking space and sun, the stinking water of the sacred rivers, sleeping birds, falling leaves and the quarrelling cousins. He therefore wants to offer his condolences by observing two minute silence. But the irony is that the modern man has no time to spend on offering condolences by observing even two minutes silence:
Someone whispered in my ear,
Can’t we do with one minute…? (Two-Minute Silence 68)
In “Tsunami” the poet describes the tragic consequences of the tsunami on the human life in Chennai in South India.
You won’t believe Demon of December
Tearing seabed swelled up to zenith height
Zoomed across the brimming beach at jet speed.
I felt the ship is sinking once again
May it toss us to his breast! (Two-Minute Silence 44)
Nature appears to be so powerful in its destructive role that the human beings become helpless like mere insects. The poet rightly describes that “We’re Lilliputians for tsunami’s hoods / Devouring men in their muscular jaws / As if mountains of sea were marching forward…” (Two-Minute Silence 44). The poet describes the intensity and enormity of tragedy appropriately:
You can’t imagine magic of an hour
Blood soaked tide hurried back to its bed
With ashes, tears, hopes of a million
Turning Marina into mounds of the dead. (Two-Minute Silence 44)
Then the poet wonders at the strange workings of Nature:
I wonder why it spared the animal
And picked up the men playing on its breast.
It spared the primitives close to its heart
Slapped the insolent deaf to Nature’s call. (Two-Minute Silence 44)
The visitations of natural calamities are as unpredictable as inexplicable. But one lesson they definitely teach man is his finitude and help him efface his egoism.
In “Bapu” the poet satirizes the Indians, who far from following the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, make use of his name, his cap and khadi cloth for their selfish purposes without any sense of shame. The poet regrets of not being born in the life-time of Mahatma Gandhi, but born when India was still suffering from the hangover of colonialism. He feels that the Indians were physically (and politically) freed but mentally enslaved or arrested. He shows how the symbols of the Mahatma were misappropriated by the politicians for the attainment of power and self-aggrandizement:
Your cap, and khadi attire
Hijacked to mask power and pelf
As the sea hides the blackness of sky.
Bapu, I do not feel your touch
in the actors on the pulpits
Chanting your name, swearing
By your name, seeking mandate
In your name like an apostle.
They dump you on the comfort stations. (Ripples in the Lake 29)
Having commented on the exploitation of the name of the Mahatma, the poet remembers the icon of three monkeys shutting their eyes, ears and mouths. In India the practice of hypocrisy is tolerated, but the freedom of expression is not tolerated at all. The poet highlights the double-standards of his countrymen:
I am condemned as an anti-Gandhian.
In this country it is a sin to speak against Gandhi,
But a routine to work against Gandhi. (Ripples in the Lake 29)
In “Invitation” the poet highlights the contrast between rural life and urban life. Whereas rural life is characterized by natural and elemental atmosphere and purity, honesty, contentment and companionship etc, the urban life is marked by different kinds of pollutions like air-pollution and sound pollution, callousness, dishonesty, frustration and alienation etc:
My hut is my temple
Better than your metallic castle,
It has a heart that weeps and smiles. (Ripples in the Lake 64)
In the rural life one may see the buffalo-rides, rising cow-dust, rustic language, scattered grains, straws and dead leaves etc. The poet asks the urban snobbish people:
Don’t shut your nostrils with perfumed hanky,
Let your nose smell them. You’ll feel better,
They are the feathers of our life.
When city pollutants infect your lungs
Come here, we’ll give you a new lease of life
When you get tired of train and plane.
Come here, we will take you to buffalo ride. (Ripples in the Lake 64)
Likewise, the poet invites the city-dwellers to his village to live with Nature, to enjoy their humanitarian hospitality and get four pall-bearers to carry the dead bodies. Thus the poem “Invitation” is very effective in highlighting the positive aspects of rural life and satirizing the negative aspects of urban life.
On the whole Khatri’s satirical and ironical attitude is directed to all the important aspects of life, like the individual, the family, the society, the political arena, governmental institutes, the rural and urban life, natural and even supernatural events that happen in our country. His satire is not harsh or hurting, but mild and educative and eye-opening to the sensitive readers. He shows the signs of becoming a major poet of India with greater dedication to the muses, wider experience of life and ripening. I wish him all the best in his poetic career.
Khatri, C.L. Kargil. Patna: Cyber Publication House, 2000.
---. Ripples in the Lake. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2006.
---. Two-Minute Silence. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2014.
---. For You to Decide. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2016.
About the Author:
Dr. Basavaraj Naikar, formerly Professor and Chairman, Department of English, Karnatak University, Dharwad, is now a UGC Emeritus Fellow. He resides at Sivaranjani Nilaya, Kotur Plots, Malapur Road, Dharwad-580 008 (India) and can also be contacted through e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org.