Creation and Criticism

 ISSN: 2455-9687 

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

July-Oct 2019

Time to Speak-out: An In-depth Study of C.L. Khatri’s ‘Two-Minute Silence’ and Kedarnath Singh’s ‘Do Minute Ka Maun’


Abnish Singh Chauhan


 

Questions on poetry always demand the need of understanding the text with its structural and stimulating patterns of knowledge and wisdom, revealing primordial as well as cordial bonds between the poet and the society. Therefore, it’s a time to speak on the selected poems from two different languages (English and Hindi) for their in-depth study– ‘Two-Minute Silence’ by C. L. Khatri (b. 1965) and ‘Do Minute Ka Maun’ (Two-Minute Silence) by Kedarnath Singh (1934-2018).

 

(II)

 

Here is given the poem– ‘Two-Minute Silence’ from C. L. Khatri’s poetry collection of the same title:

 

Two-Minute Silence

 

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.

 

Mothers and fathers of India

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On your death, on the death

Of your fear and deference

To your vows and values.

 

Ladies and gentlemen of India

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On the death of dhoti and pugadi

Oxen and coolies replaced by wheels

Chopped up hands and lame legs.

 

Friends, stand with me

To observe two-minute silence

On this great grand culture

On this glorious century

On its great promises.

 

Let’s observe two-minute silence

On the shrinking space, shrinking sun

Stinking water of the sacred rivers

Sleeping birds, falling leaves

Watermelon being sliced for quarreling cousins.

 

Someone whispered in my ear

Can’t we do with one minute…?

 

(‘Two-Minute Silence’ from Two Minute Silence, 67-68)

 

(III)

 

Here is given the second poem– ‘Do Minute Ka Maun’ by Kedarnath Singh (केदारनाथ सिंह): 

 

दो मिनट का मौन

 

भाइयो और बहनो

यह दिन डूब रहा है

इस डूबते हुए दिन पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

जाते हुए पक्षी पर

रुके हुए जल पर

झिरती हुई रात पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

जो है उस पर

जो नहीं है उस पर

जो हो सकता था उस पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

गिरे हुए छिलके पर

टूटी हुई घास पर

हर योजना पर

हर विकास पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

इस महान शताब्दी पर

महान शताब्दी के महान इरादों पर

और महान वादों पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

भाइयो और बहनो

इस महान विशेषण पर

दो मिनट का मौन

 

Here is “Do Minute Ka Maun” by Kedarnath Singh translated from Hindi into English by Abnish Singh Chauhan:

 

Two-Minute Silence

 

Brothers and sisters

The day is going to set

On this sinking day

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

 

On the bird flying away

On the stagnant water

On the falling night

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

On what exists

On what is not

On what could be

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

On the fallen rind

On the broken grass

On every plan

On every development

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

On this great century

On grand intentions of the great century

And on great promises

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

Brothers and sisters

On this great adjective

Let’s observe two-minute silence.

 

('Two-Minute Silence' by Kedarnath Singh taken from the blog of www.ijher.com, March 14, 2019)

 

(IV)

 

“Lots of people should be writing poetry, just as lots of people learn to play a tune or two on the piano: but publication is a different matter, for mastering the art of poetry is the business of a lifetime, and no one ever writes very much poetry that really matters”– Harry Blamires (HLC, 313)

 

Poetry is being written in thousands of pages on each and every day in black and white or on silver screen of modern apps and websites: “but publication is a different matter.” Since poetry and publication go together in written tradition, it is incredibly free and easy in today’s world. Even Chunnu, Munnu, and Lallee can post and publish their contents. Who would stop them and why? They have the right to liberty, the right to expression and even the right to say– ‘what if the publication does not matter.’ Publication may matter or not matter, but good poetry always matters much in both the traditions– oral and written. If it is so, good poetry would automatically stand out and reflect its beauty and grace among these thousands of pages. So is the case with these two beautiful poems by C.L. Khatri, a well-known bilingual poet (Hindi and English) and Kedarnath Singh, the winner of the Sahitya Akademy Award (1989) and the Jnanpith Award (2013). Distinguished poet, critic and editor C. L. Khatri 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). Eminent poet, critic and essayist Kedarnath Singh clearly observes the world sprouted from age-old tradition, history and politics and splendidly depicts multifaceted themes in his powerful poetry. His major poetic works are– Abhi Bilkul Abhi (1960), Zameen pak Rahi Hai (1980), Yahan se Dekho (1983), Akaal mein Saaras (1988), Baagh (1996), Tolstoy aur Cycle (2005) and Srashti par Pehara (2014).

 

(V)

 

C. L. Khatri, in his poem Two-Minute Silence, 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 observing two-minute silence in their memories for proper human development and welfare. His call connects me to another popular poem, by the same title, of eminent Hindi poet Kedarnath Singh (1934-2018), which also inculcates a frightening message of degeneration in the present order of the world.

 

Though the titles of both the poems (by C. L. Khatri and Kedarnath Singh) are the same, yet their tone and texture can have their unique interpretations. Kedarnath Singh (twice) addresses “Brothers and sisters” in general, like Swami Vivekananda in Chicago (SVSS, 38), whereas the poet in Khatri begins with a fresh phrase– “Sisters and brothers” of India (of America in Chicago Address), giving preference to sisters (mothers and ladies also) rather than brothers (fathers and gentlemen also) for strongly representing woman in his poetry and highlighting the issues of India in specific. In the first three stanzas, he creates feminine model of identity in relational and interpersonal communication in the territories of India, but he does not forget to include ‘the male society’ in his campaign against the rotten-elements of the society. In the fourth stanza, he goes beyond the limiting principle of ‘gender’ and uses common gender– “friends” and even employs personal and indefinite pronouns as subjects– “us”, and “we” and “someone” in polite manner. His courteous use of pronouns also replicates his own involvement in the movement of change and collective efforts for human welfare.

 

(VI)

 

The poet in Khatri ironically raises some ‘questions’ in assertive form, knowing well the big constitutional framework of India. He knows it well that the Constitution of India bestows certain rights to its citizens, such as– the right to equality, the right to freedom, the right against exploitation, the right to dignity, the right to justice, the right to education, the right to privacy, the right to opportunity, the right to vote, etc. But, there are ample examples to manifest the wrong and defective exercises of these rights in today’s India. Therefore, being patriot the poet appeals to the countrymen to observe two-minute silence on “the torn pages of the constitution” on observing “the uprooted microphone” and “the broken chair” in the parliament, the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India. His phrases just point out the sinful acts or misconducts in the parliament as the acts or conducts of indiscipline, disruption and commotion always waste parliament’s valuable time and spoil the image of the Constitution. Being sensitive and creative, he does not blame anyone directly and seems to follow the Gandhian philosophy– “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Thus, doesn’t he teach the philosophy of love, compassion and empathy to bring the misled Members and their supporters on the right path? After all there is only the need of ending sins or vices from the society, not the need of elimination of human beings, in order to save and nourish life-values in Indian soil.

 

The poet in Kedarnath Singh begins with the portrayal of the depressed and distressed state of the world society: “The day is going to set” and, therefore, pleads to his audience to observe two-minute silence. Unlike P. B. Shelley, he still has a little ‘hope’ as “the sun is going to set.” P. B. Shelly is alone and frustrated even in the day-time on the sea-shore– “the sun is warm, the sky is clear” (PF); whereas, even at the time of mourning, Kedarnath Singh is totally different from him as he knows that there is still some light, some hope left before the final sun-set. Having strong and firm will, Mr Singh wants to suggest that law and order will no longer be in effect beyond a certain time or limit as the day is about to set; therefore, people must arise and awake and work for their common good.

 

(VII)

 

The second stanza gives the impression that Mr Khatri has deep faith and understanding of the structural roots of India. It begins with “Mothers and fathers of India” as a mother is always considered the first Acharya and a father is the second one. Elizabeth Gould Davis in her book The First Sex (1971) also presents the preeminence of ‘matriarchal societies’ over ‘patriarchal set up of today’ in the early periods of civilization on the basis of human rights. Undoubtedly mothers play greater roles than fathers do in the development of the personalities of their sons and daughters. It does not mean fathers contribute less. Both of them are contributive as they mutually cultivate them and shape their life-skills. However, the poet is much disturbed to find that there is no love, acceptance, gratitude and respect for parents in today’s world of trade and industry; he painfully cries on the “death” of father-mother relation, “fear and difference” and “vows and values” due to the dehumanized forces of time. Therefore, he invokes them, also the others, to observe the situation with full concentration, at least for two-minute, so that some solution can be found out for our better future.

 

Mr Singh finds a gradual change in the environment, particularly in the socio-cultural and political structure. Being an original artist, he observes certain movements in nature– the migration of birds and the stagnancy of waters in the evening hours, which a few authors can observe both on physical and natural grounds. These two images symbolically reflect the retired, inactive, polluted and degraded life and society of the present times. He looks towards darkness prevailing all around him due to “the falling night” and as a consequence the objects are not clearly visible owing to the absence of light. Hence, he tells about the dangers of prevailing darkness and wants to move the society towards enlightenment.

 

 (VIII)

 

The third stanza by C. L. Khatri clearly reveals the modernist reflections on Indian people. The poet notices the deterioration of cultural values in the name of progressive change and scientific advancement. Now the so-called educated and up-to-dated men and women of India prefer to be addressed as “ladies and gentlemen” and feel honoured if they are called as ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’ Therefore, the poet does not forget to invite and include these ‘progressive’ people of India in his campaign for the restoration of traditional lineage. He mourns on the death of “dhoti and pugadi” – the symbols of traditional values, as the traditional dress not only represents untainted, simple, sober and hale and hearty living, but also enhances Jivani-shakti (life-force) and restores self-respect and pride. He is also worried about Indian animal assets and their traditional use in organic farming, pollution-free transport and other household works attuned with the healthy environment. But, in the machine age, “oxen and coolies” have been “replaced by wheels” and technology has made people lose their jobs and good health.

 

Kedarnath Singh has a broad vision for the development of the entire society. He appeals to the responsive brothers and sisters of the world to understand the issues of today– “what exists”, “what is not”  and “what could be” before trying to solve them by means of human efforts assisted with science and technology. His three-fold idea for the survival, expansion and development of living and non-living bodies on this beautiful earth is all-inclusive and it is possible only when we start from man to woman, from animal to plant and from living to non-living things through proper tuning between human and technological approaches.

 

(IX)

 

The fourth stanza of the poem by C. L. Khatri would be studied in the next section of this study as it is more akin to the fifth stanza of ‘Do Minute Ka Maun’ by Kedarnath Singh. Accordingly, the fifth stanza by C. L. Khatri is significant as it paints the realistic scenario of our motherland. It enthuses to contemplate on the problems of the present Indian society, particularly problems related to the traditional ways of living with nature. The poet is worried about “shrinking space” in the real life. Space within the hearts and outside the hearts in the physical world is continuously shrinking due to human jealousy, envy and greed. These murky feelings not only distress us but also keep us bound and estranged from perpetual love and unending happiness. The result is before us– “shrinking sun”, “stinking water”, “quarreling cousins”, “falling leaves” and “sleeping birds.” The earth is being divided for nothing, but darker feelings– “watermelon being sliced” and, therefore, human beings along with birds, animals, trees, plants, rivers, fields, skies and stars are spellbound to see the adverse changes in Jambudvipa, a socio-cultural and spiritual continent as envisioned in the cosmologies of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The poet dryly asks his countrymen to observe ‘two-minute silence’ on this wretched development in India and requests to understand the situation for making us more humane towards ourselves and others.

 

Kedarnath Singh believes in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means ‘the world is one family.’ Therefore, he seems to address the people of the world to analyze the situation as the things are gloomy and unwelcoming– the rind has fallen, making the bones and muscles stripped; the grass is broken, letting down man’s soul; plans and developments are flawed and unsustainable, shattering man’s hope. Small wonders if the world is on the verge of ruin and the poet is anxious to know when his prayers will be answered in the forms of joy and bliss on earth.

 

(X)

 

In the fourth stanza, the poet in Khatri continues his creative and corporeal journey through life. He calls his “friends”, a single word used for the first time in the poem, going beyond the concept of patriarchy and feminism. For him friends are friends– they are true or false, it doesn’t matter. The poet mockingly comments on the use of “great, grand, glorious” words in order to goad his countrymen to logical thinking and cogent behaviour. He knows it well that no culture in the present century can be great if words and actions are superficial amidst the unfulfilled promises. 

 

Kedarnath Singh makes a statement full of irony, for the sake of poetic originality, highlighting the solicitous idea of greatness imposed on the present century. He also exposes the so-called “grand intentions” of the policy-makers of the new-age. In this manner, he wants to emphasize that intentions are essential to dream what man wants to achieve in his life; however, he is shocked to know that “great promises’ could not be fulfilled even today. Man got the opportunity, drained the resources and even increased the productivity, but he could not turn his dreams into reality. Man has still some time before the sunset to ponder over his mistakes, learn from his experiences, and re-fulfill his dreams.

 

(XI)

 

There is a modern tradition to observe a two-minute silence as part of Remembrance Day, originated in Cape Town, South Africa on May 14, 1918, to recollect the memories of departed souls of near and dear ones. C. L. Khatri tries to make a bridge between the modern philosophy of Remembrance Day and traditional values of Indian society for manifesting the rhythm of cheerful life on an India canvas; whereas Kedarnath Singh brilliantly presents the reverse order of contemplation in order to cherish and foster human values on a larger scale. In the pattern of ‘One Minute Silence’ song by Irish vocalist Brian Barry, Mr Khatri closes his expressions in the poem on an ironic question– “can’t we do with one minute…?” This question is created by ‘someone’, an indefinite subject, along with a pause of three dots leaving space to interpret the hurry and worry of the unknown speaker from the Indian soil. Hurry is worry and haste is waste. One becomes two only when a digit is added to one. Therefore, ‘two’ is always greater than ‘One’ in the following pairs: “brothers and sisters”, “sisters and brothers”, “mothers and fathers”, “ladies and gentlemen”; and even “we” and “us” reflect the greatness over one. Then the question is– ‘why do we allow someone to poison our ears?’ Kedarnath knows all this and, therefore, beautifully makes a satirical remark on his own adjective– “brothers and sisters” and leaves it to the reading public to contemplate and formulate their opinions (also action-plans) through the comprehensive reading of his deep and meaningful poem.

 

Works Cited

 

Khatri, C.L. Two-Minute Silence. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2014. Print.

Blamires, Harry. A History of Literary Criticism. Delhi: Macmillan, 2009. Print.

Davis, Elizabeth Gould. The First Sex. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1971. Print.

Chauhan, Abnish Singh. Swami Vivekananda: Select Speeches. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2004 & 2012 (Second Enlarged Edition). Print.

International Journal of Higher Education and Research: http://ijher.com/_blog/2019/03/14/98-Two-Minute-Silence---Kedarnath-Singh/. Web.

Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45140/stanzas-written-in-dejection-near-naples. Web.

                                                   


 

About the Author:

 

Dr Abnish Singh Chauhan (1979), the editor of two online journals– Creation and Criticism and IJHER and a Hindi magazine– Poorvabhas, is presently serving as a Professor and Principal, BIU College of Humanities & Journalism, Bareilly International University, Bareilly. He has authored a number of books including Swami Vivekananda: Select Speeches, Speeches of Swami Vivekananda and Subhash Chandra Bose: A Comparative Study, The Fictional World of Arun Joshi: Paradigm Shift in Values and Tukda Kagaz Ka (A collection of Hindi Lyrics). He can be contacted at abnishsinghchauhan@gmail.com.