The poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: A Critical Study
---- Sibasis Jana
India is a treasure land where the writers have the plentiful scope to express their views. Here the moon blanched sand invites the thought of human passion of melancholy strain with the incoming waves. The amorousness of nature gives the vital spirit to have renewed impulsive tunes. The hilly paths, the seashore, the religious shrines, the glorious cosmology mingle today’s realistic thoughts with psychic journey. Various sights and sounds come into the vision, touch the thematic pattern, turns the audio-visual mindscape to scroll over the blank sheet of paper and give birth to a written document. So poetry come into existent first and it is the product of momentum temporal setting caught in the net of consciousness. And this is true to Jayanta Mahapatra, the most innovative, problematic and Anglophone poets of today’s India. To write something about Jayanta Mahapatra, to venture over his poetry is the outcome of his own self not the distortions of other’s shelf. So he writes-
“There is a door in the heart of man which never opens. Or if it does at
Times, we are not aware of its opening. When it does, it goes on to
Reveal another world-a world where time falls away, and space
Grows, perhaps the self fills with vastness and light.’’
(Freedom as poetry: The Door,
Door of paper, Essay & Memoirs)
Writing poetry is a kind of great experience to him. He feels, he writes. He sits through the night for hours together, watching despair--- the blank sheet of papers in front of him. He experiences the fearful pull of gravity which pulls him down when words fail to appear on the paper. To quote Mahapatra-
“Then, suddenly may be the language is there, flowing into rhythm,
Like the unseen wind moving the branches of the mango tree in my
little courtyard. There is flow of energy as the poem builds up,
building up to the feeling of weightlessness, a sort of zero gravity
one call freedom.”
(Door of paper)
He is poet of ‘Time and moment’, ‘of hunger’, ‘of earth’ and ‘if homesickness’. The stark realities of India touch his heart and the writes about – hunger, myths, rituals, sexuality, love, anger, loneliness, the self and eternity, quest for root mingling with geographical, social, cultural sources. But all his poetic wheel may remain stopped when his celebrated poem “I Her My Fingers Sadly Touching an Ivory Key” rejected by editors in India, published later by Chicago review (Autumn 1971). Here are the lines-
“Swans sink wordlessly to the carpet
miles of polished floors
for the glass of voices.
There are gulls crying everywhere
And glazed green grass
In the park with the swans
Folding their cold throats.
But this gives the speedy highway to the supreme poetry. With the very sweet vein of Orissa tradition Mahapatra opines the thoughts of life itself.
Born in Orissa in 1928, with the schooling of Stewart school and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack and Science College, Patna, Mahapatra made himself as physics in Page-1
Ravenshow College, Cuttack, but bloom himself as concord poet of his genius. Writing poetry is a passing phase, a thrilling experience. To quote Mahapatra-
“Poetry makes me write poems with a bad heart. I don’t know what
That exactly means, but it is the heart that makes one turn secretly into
Someone--- a leader or loser perhaps- passing one to choose values,
Attitudes, and to do the not so—obvious; this heart, as it keeps on
Trying to hide the wounded walls of its house and at the same time
asking itself for a meaning to our lives.” (Many Indians)
With the juice of his poetic faculty his late bloomer instinct of thirty eight spirit drenched the dry root and have the finest flowerings --- “ Close the sky”, “Ten by Ten” (1971), “ Svayamvara and other poems” (1971), “ Countermeasures” (1973), “ A Father’s Hours” (1976), “A Rain of Rites” (1974), “ Waiting” (1979), “ The False start” (1980), “Life signs” (1983), “Dispossessed Nests” (1986), “ Burden of waves and Fruits” (1988), “Temple” (1989), “ The whiteness of Bones” (1992), “ Shadow space” (1997), “ Random Descent” (2005) Mahapatra’s woks present various themes, ideologies and techniques. His “Close the sky”, “Ten by Ten” (1971) consisting of forty nine short lyrics opine loneliness, love, silence. In “Svayamvara and other poems” (1971) he shows his frequency and the facilities of English language and his shortcomings in vernacular language. In “A Father’s Hours” (1976) he articulates despising notes for the political-leader of India and how they are responsible for the loss of value culture and social consciousness. His “A Rain of Rites” (1976) deals with the past heritage of India, the relation of the poet to the natural world as mystery and aspects of eternity. His “Waiting” (1979) expresses the poet’s relationship with tradition and culture and historical past of Orissa. Rites, rituals, charity, festivals, legends and heritage are the part of poet’s own self, “The False start, stresses on the time consciousness of duration and space. The poet opines that life is a false start and it should be renewed again. In “Relationship” he again touches myths, culture, and tradition of Orissa. He shows his relation with Orissa faith, hope, dreams, and memories. “Life Signs” deals with hunger and famine--- the causes of man’s moral disorder. Words are his world, his people are like God. “Dispossessed Nests” (1986) recounts the wailings of the country. “Burden of waves of Fruit” is the amalgamation of hunger, pain, death, time and hypocrisy. His “Temple” (1989) deals with the myths whereas “Whiteness of Bone” (1992) stresses on Landscape, time and contemporary reality. Shadow Space (1977) gives the ideas of helplessness, skepticism, super consciousness, nostalgia, present reality, violence, etc. His “Random Descent” gives the smell of Wordsworth’s “The still, sad music of humanity” as expressed by Pradip Kumar Patra. It is a portrait of mental journey into the spiritual silence. We have the glimpses of Orissa its culture, its lost glory and the contours of Oriya life.
Mahapatra is a fine artist. He is an excellent man with finer physic sensibility. He looked and before and after and pines for the hibernated world undaunted. His ear catches the salient landscape tunic and visual arts depict the easel in full throated eases in full throated ease. The Sewance Review, The Hudson Review, The Kenyon Review, The Time Literary supplement, critical Quarterly gave him the stage to flourish his literary magma. Having the Christianity originated form grandfather by force of famine (1866) and grandmother for missing child episode (Many Indian /32), he had a Christian upbringing, but he is a Hindu through and through. So the eldest in family and youngest in class couldn’t overcome the childhood fear and writing gave him a certain direction in life. Orissa is his paradise. He has great fascination and pride for his root Orissa and the language. There are many Indies, but Orissa is unique. To quote Mahapatra-------
“I don’t think this is one India. There are many different Indias-
Orissa, is one India, Bengal is another, Maharastra, Kerala, Kasmir-
These are all different Indias. It’s easier to relate yourself to a particular
region than to talk about the whole of Indias as construct. The culture
Of Orissa is different from the culture of Bengal or the culture Bihar.
The worship of the god Jagannanth is not to be found anywhere outside
Orissa. The whole oriya culture, the oriya race is built around this god.
The oriya religion is very different from religion in other parts of
India. India comes second, Orissa, come first. (Many Indians)
What New England is to Frost, Dublin is to Joyce, Wesssex is to Hardy, Waverly is to Scott, Lake District is to Wordsworth, Orissa is to Mahapatra. His identity bears the stamp of Orissa. Orissa is his solemnized dreamland where river Mahanadi lulls and adores his muse. Mahapatra standing on the vast Orissa world of scenic paradigm switches from primary imagination to secondary imagination. Konarak, Bhubaneswar, Chilka, Cuttack add the beauty to it. Legends, mystery, myth, culture, historical background, form the nucleus of his poetry. Pomes like “ Dawn at Puri”, and “Main Temple Street, Puri”, ”Indian summer poem”, “ Evening in an Orissa village”, “The Orissa poems”, “The Indian poem”, “The Indian way” reveal his Indian sensibility and his quest for root. So he has rightly stated his indebtedness and love for Orissa, while receiving the central Sahitya Academy Award in 1981 for his book “Relationship” a product of dream, a paean to his birthplace (Larson 476):
“To Orissa, to this land in which my roots lie and lies my past, and in
Which lies my beginning and end, where the wind keens over the grief of the
River Daya and where the waves of the Bay of Bengal fail to reach out today
To the twilight soul of Konarak, I acknowledge my debt and my relationship”.
(The Golden Voices. ii)
The main focus of his poetic creativity spins round the naked earth and the mythological symbolist of aesthetic structures rooted in the naked of which Orissa and India form a significant part. So Mahapatra is the man of his land. His shaping of his mind is truly of his own landscape. According to Long--------
“Behind every book is a man; behind the man is the race; and behind the race are natural and social environments whose influence in unconsciously reflected”
But Mahapatra has the conscious reflection. He is the original poet in the sense that he was not influenced by Yeats, Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Auden. He has not read much poetry. But poetry oozes from his own self, own, vital spirit, own psychic journey channeled through the landscape and surroundings. He was trained to be physicist; he has veered away from physics any way he wrote first then read poetry and ardent admirer of Pablo Neruda, Quasimodo, Seferis, Jibanananda ( as expressed in the interview with Dr. Sarangi). His feelings, emotions, impulses are the saucy framework of his landscape. Orissa becomes the part for whole of India’s cultural and religious past running into present and forming the ‘Presentness of Past' (Eliot’s phrase ) of the rootlesness, emptiness in modern existence. Love, sex, relationship, feelings, affairs make his super thematic overview of his poetic grandeur, Frederick Engels speak of the correspondence between the landscape of a region and the religious faith of the people living there. The radiant sunlit landscape of ancient Greece (suggesting pastoral region of Hellenes), the North German heath (Christian spirit of the word becoming flesh), the Dutch landscape (depose Calvinism), the Himalayan landscape (mystery Shiva), the Balkan Landscape all are the nerve systems to flow the blood to every writing skill. So in Mahapatra’s setting Indian Landscape manifests the destiny of Indians, his seismogram recording the tremors of an ancient land, felt in the body of his private experience, ever wrought in his sensible mind. The stars, the sky, the wind, the waves, the rains, the fields, the trees invite his finer sensibilities to open his mind palpable to the wings of poesy. Divine showers with Indian rosy landscape empowers his glorious thoughts and seeks blessings to salvation---
As the shrines skeins of light
Slowly close their eyes,
Something reaching into them
From that place they learn to bear
The lame lamp post
To the huge temple door,
The sacred beads in their hands
at the human ground (The Temple Road, Puri).
The ‘stream of common men’ or the road to the temple and their prayers has a purified thinking with god relationship and its effect is true universal brotherhood. Religion is the mainstream to overcome the miseries of life and remain oblivious about fanatic world. In “Dawn at Puri” the poet harps on the innocence of the people who always love to wash their sinful body on the sacred land Puri. Puri is the gateway to heaven and it is the link between heaven and the Home. The devotees are diverting from ‘inferno’ to purgatory and at last paradise is their zenith touch. So the poet sketches---
“Endless crow noises
A skull on the holy sands
Tilts its empty country toward hunger
White-clad widowed women
Past the centers of their lives
Are waiting to enter the Great temple”
(Dawn at Puri)
We always see the waiting queue before the temple. The holy sand is the long beach where the funeral pyres go on burning. The great temple is the temple of Jagannath which has a long mythic layer for the great spiritual shrine. According to Hindu mythology Jagannath, Balaram, Subhadra the three idols remain incomplete for the immature waiting for the divine grace of fixed day of fulfillment in marking the idols by the old agile priest. Man’s desire will never be fulfilled for the incomplete construction. So Jagannath stands supreme as the savior of mankind. Streams of mankind from different parts of India mingle together instead of caste, colour and creed. ‘White clad widowed women’ signify the purifying dress and white dress also symbolizes rejecting of every carnal desires of fleshy skin and colorful aspirations adieu to have divine grace for the salvation of their beloved husbands. So the sea scape becomes the part of his mindscape and glorifies his mother’s wish-
......her last wish to be cremated here
Twisting uncertainly like light
On the shifting sands. (Dawn at Puri)
We see how the male society stress the woman’s identity depends on man’s belonging. Husband passing away means the lifelessness of woman. So the ‘widow’ label is clutched to her selfhood. Here is a social space in the Hindu society of Orissa. This poem shoes the local space to Indian space and to a kind of universal space. His mother’s last will signifies the tension between science, rationality and education on one hand, and faith culture and religion on the other hand Here Mahapatra like Dennis Cooley gives ‘ the glimpses of post- colonial tension knowingly and unknowingly. His question of identify also scraps the landscape of his birthplace. A sense of belonging and his own ardent love for the land bears his designation of the poet-
“A man does not mean anything
But the place
Sitting on the river bank throwing pebbles
Into the muddy current,
A man becomes the place.
(Somewhere, My Man)
A Rain of Rites
A poet must relate himself with the place he is living. He never escapes from the land of his own. The flux always originated by the thoughts of humanity nearby. He has the regional setting line frost and typical Indianans cluster round his poetic vision. He writes:
“A poet by reason of his invention,
By his ability to express his feeling
For life. His heat emerges out of the desire to share, to communicate
There is absolutely no sense in a person creating poetry or other art if
He Is not able to share his thoughts with others.”
(“The Stranger within”, 432)
So he relates others to share hi feeling and emotions to others and close informal proximity at talk, walks give the smack of writing zeal. Mahapatra’s identification clears the way to Orissa. In an interview he confesses-
“Orissa has been a most pleasant and painful experience for me”
His identify remain unshaken by the sketchy hand of time and action.
Identity changes from dancer to dance; blossomer to blossom his memories diverts to Orissa landscape, feelings, touches glories, myth, and legends and has the flowering sensibility. What Yankelovich and Barret assert in ‘Ego and Instinct’ we can also same vision-
A person’s identify might seem to be most
Individual, unique and private thing about
Him. Bit since the identity is developed from
Within culture, it is always essentially related
To social and historical factors.
Mahapatra’s concern with the local emerged gradually as the realized need of an idiom that transcends his emotion and passions. His search for identity maximizes the blue gem of his own personal affairs. Like other man he has also his heart and he has also frustration. He was disappointed in love affair, success in the world of poetry. Like Keats,Yeats his unfulfilled unsuitable love brings him sap of poetic juice in his root . Satpathy says--
“Writing gave me a certain direction in life, so I
Stuck to it. Teaching physics also helped.
I loved teaching. I met young people. I met
the girl I married.” (Many India, many literature, p-33)
He has the love with a woman when his only child, a son, was ten years old. He blossomed many love poems. There he depicts her beautifying motion. He confesses-
“My poems were born of love, of love’s selfishness
And of a huge self-pity, like the poems of
Many whom I admire. And it was only
Of myself I thought as words took
Possession of my senses, measured me and
Linked me with the fabled kingdom of
Love. (Youth Times 10)
His love poems are “close the sky”, “Ten by ten” and “svayamvara and other poems”. His amoral desires, passion injected in these poems. But it never has the plethora of emotions or passions but the ecstasy of love with the fear of separation. Fleeting time also sketches the dreaming world. Love is the supreme good of human being. It conjugates to strings of emotion into one. It should be spontaneous but conscious. In his poem ‘Love’, he uses sketchy and pointed words and opines everything. Here the title itself is the part of the poem. His artistic zeal has a ray-
Leave thought alone
To find the meaning
That each one
in a medium
cut to size. (Love/close the sky)
Here the poet feels body; mind and heart go hand in hand in proportionate manner. The lover must maintain time scheme and hearty touch for its utmost fulfillment. Creative fruitful love handshake and amoral desire to gain new spirit is the panacea of his poetic scheme.
“You stare at
it will not turn
(Love / close the sky)
Here ‘sun’ is applied to have eternal bond and without full stop gives the touchy network of man’s anxiety. Stop is here without stop. It is awaking and journeying knowing no destination.
His poetry has love and sex mingling together. He talks freely about this. Eroticism also runs through the cell of these poems. The love poems “Another Evening”, “Women in love”, “The whorehouse in a Calcutta street”, “hunger”, “Armour”, “Love Fragment”, “Of that love”, “Lost “, “The Farewell”, “Sometimes”, “Apartment”, “Morning’, “An ordinary Day” and so on. “Lost” is the casket of his poetry. Here sex is soporific or causing drowsiness or sleep. It explores the positive result of the physical union of lovers. Here lost is ambiguous. The dream of his youthful days of rapture and the contentment that opine the positive offshoot of present erotic venture render the ‘expense of spirit clashed with the agonizing sense of physical inadequacy. Here love appears embedded in a matrix of general lament. So many contradictions and inconsistencies in the speaker’s articulation-
“Here I have learnt to recognized you
at a distance,
the evenings heavy,
the half-light wandering round the room.
And outside my hands, where
Your body keeps shrinking in space,
the first faith of some child goes wrong
like some defect in mechanical toy;
yet what does it lead to?
To what fateful encounter?
Like a misplaced watch, this half-light.
Where was I when I lost it? (Lost)
So lost in physical spirit, gain in the creative world of mind. Physical contact is the only safeguard. The half-light in itself is powerless to protect the women from threat of time. The prerequisite for stability and safety, for the transcendence and defiance of time is warm embrace in the half-light. The woman is stretched out on the stone-breath of her lover, she is also in motion. It has a spiritual experience underneath. The lovers cross the barrier of mundane and temporal vegetable world into the realm of the infinite and eternal panorama. In “A missing person” we have the same smack of bondage in sleep and the stirring of desire. The lovely woman is ‘at the edge of sleep” and the ‘drunken yellow flames” of the lamp in her hand reminds loneliness, lack of partner, loss of own identify and own self-
In the darkened room
Cannot find her reflection on the mirror
Waiting as usual
at the edge of sleep
In her hands she holds
the oil lamp
whose drunken yellow flames
know where her lonely body hides.
(A missing person: a Rain of Rites.p-7)
Mahapatra’s is a unique vision of love themes. Mixture of hope and fear, dream and reality, meeting and separation, anxiety and fulfillment and dreamy thoughts are merged into the solace breath of mankind. Fulfillment of love has an enquiry note—
“can love grow old and tubercular with age?
Or bend by the contortions of constant use?
Can love tank in odd and secret voice?”
(Bells: Svayamvara & other poems, p-27)
Rain gives the vital dose to Neruda to overcome all kinds of solitude and anxietey. Mahapatra is also an ardent lover of rain which brings a promise to new life. With the rainfall he hankers after his ancestral tradition and for purification from dejected mind-
"Here is tapestry of the year's first rain,
like an army, uniformed in gray,
but penitents, down on their knees,
what can ever wash the air of its gashed voices?
It is hard to tell now
what opened the anxious skies,
how age-old proud stones
lost their strength and fell,
and how the waters of the Daya
stanks with the bodies of my ancestors.
(Relationship / 3 pages - 14)
Mahapatra's poetry gives the glimpses of powerlessness, normlessness, cultural estrangement, social isolation, self estrangement, loneliness and silence. His early poems are the spurs of alienation. Loneliness hankers after his life's movie and psychic scenario assumes poetic vase-
"Loneliness is when the ash
upon the veneered table disintegrates
from the breath of ruptured egos,
Loneliness is when an act, a word
hangs undecided and unborn
in the eyes of longing.
Loneliness is of a winner
in a centrifuge of possessions.
Loneliness is of now, of the noise
of the graves, of the silence of the waves,
of the explosions
of nameless, faceless, voiceless atoms.
Loneliness is a face alive
labeled from my other selves,
flames from the pyre of plundered seconds".
(Loneliness: close the sky)
The poet suffered from loneliness and isolation. The battle din of life's anxiety pervades his poetic wings caught up in the snare of summer's fire. The wheels of his journey are griped. All his hopes and aspiration are turned to ash. The loser, traitor, beggar all are destined to isolated forms. In the graves, a wave the poet perceives silent’s tone. Everyone is identitiless and suffers from alienation in the form of nameless, flames, from the pyre of plundered seconds.
In Mahapatra's poetry we see the beggars estranged from the society at large. In the poem" "The Blind Beggar" the poet shows empathy with the beggar, as loneliness is "common to us both". It is a crowded, lighted market place and "light wanders around him the whole day" where he stands in dejection-
"Light wondered around him the whole day
where he stands. This is the main street
pounding hugely like a leaning heart
This is the right corner for his quiet feat.
Moments illuminate his slumped
sorrowing eyes, can go no farther.
They will seem. Each one strong
and sullen, separately same."
(- The Blind Beggar, Close the sky)
So being he is alienated from his vision and being beggar he is isolated from the pomp and splendor of light. The poet is also in the same track as he suffers from inward blindness. The corruptions of the society made him blind with beggarly description. The poet's empathy for the beggar shows the alienated figures of the darker world. Mahapatra is much experienced man. His alienated mind enquires the corruption and becomes dumb with silence-
"I have read the silence
that dances across the land at down
I have watched it grow
from a small lonely window.
The hundred thousand eyes.
when I try to get over it
it creep in to my bed like furtive child"
(Silence; A Rain of Rites)
Even he is silent to the world's blindness. In the poem "Blind singer is Train" he show how the bamboo - stabled man faces the clash of sliver and light over his 'pox-hollowed eyes'. The academics induce a 'spirited' caste amides the companion of progression so --- the poet attars-
Then the ponderous song evokes. The turn
cultured heard away is the standard
procedure of the undamaged, who can only hear
the bones' blind beggary and fell embarrassed
contraction of superfluous substance.
Blind singer in a Train
(Svayamvara and other poems)
Even Mahapatra is dejected and also isolated when he cannot serve the poorest of the woman and her child is the remote village in the hills where they had under a little rice for their one daily meal after the Independence of India. He feels-
"In my blindness, at times I fear
I'd wander back to either of them.
In order for me not to less face,'
it is necessary for me to alone'
- (Freedom, Bare Face P-34)
Mahapatra stresses how the Indians are still destined to starvation after the fifty years of Independence. They are alienated and still under the clutch of colonial bond losing the fragrance of freedom. The poet hankers for freedom with enthusiastic apple in universal tone-
"Trying to find the only freedom I know,
the freedom of the body when it's alone.
the freedom of the silent shale, moonless coal,
the beds of streams of the sleeping god
I keep the ashes away,
try not to wear them on my forehead."
(Freedom: Bare face P-35)
Alienated victims want to get the freshness of freedo0m, want to grasp the light from, darker lanes. As the beggars and suffers, the poet's isolated mind. In the poem "Gandhi" the alienated figures want to burst to bloom overcome loneliness. The waiting seemed meaningless and normlessness. The estranged multitudes bloom to share the forsaken leader-
to be born,
under his tortured steps
we have burst open his blood
we are on his side, perhaps
we hate him
We do not know it"
(Gandhi / close the sky)
Loneliness absorbs the poet's alienated mind. The old men are talking about peace and harmony though suffering in the lonely isolation in the jaw of war's menacing catastrophe. In the poem ''The peace Negotiators" he articulates from the forsaken old men staggering for the flag of peace in the battering days of their life's end. They compromise with utmost determine faith in their zeal. The poet expresses-
"Somewhere, across a table
they talk of it.
under the gaze of war:
in the hollows of their palms.
For the time being
the black windows look on.
most fo them
most of them
are rich old men with dogs:
they have been forsaken.
Here is the ironical tone in the 'forsaken' and the peace negotiators. The old men are the saviors but they themselves are forsaken figures. They are dejected the only companion of them are the dogs in their lonely - loran time net. They are the epitomes of Christ figures with savior motif in their eyes. The "crucified bodies" are the dead soldiers killed are the war. They have the salvation with the touch of crucified vision. So the peace negotiators are saving the mankind from the clutches of damnation. But peace negotiators are estranged from the social decorum, succumbed to loneliness. Mahapatra's alienation touch the loneliness of nun's abode is the poem "The Nun" with the sun's iciness, the post stresses the nun's lack of warmth of passionate love. The nuns suppress their libido and cluster the heavenly touch of solitude. So the poet opines-
“What virgin heat
of her reason
to such the blood
in the thick branches
of that tender
(The Nun / close the sky)
Even her heaven is plastered with 'geometric mosaic'. Her hopes are laden with black and white' isolation of skin'. It also raises a wall of sun-day whiteness. The num's virginity is puffed with hot and cold like the sun. The nun is isolated and estranged from society depriving all her carnal desires.
Something the absence they want to take revenge with completeness of the hunger. Absence of oneself leads to loneliness and sense of presence fulfill all the aspirations and desires undaunted. So the poet feels-
"The silent window of my body open
Each second possesses the wind
as it stumbles
upon the absence of your face
when the windows shut down on your cries
my hands quiver with the glances of my thousands eyes
as your long eyes touch my paid - out pain
and I revenge the presence the presence the presence
from your presence."
(Absence / close the sky)
Something various human relationships find rift among them. In the poem “To my Father" the poet's father wants to alienate from his own self. It is the garden where he is privately empting into and feels loneliness there. The poet reminds-
"One summer I remember, when we could yes,
stand together : the fierce crimson crest, his fire,
that would push, push to tears among the sad
pleasing masks i wore.
(To my Father / close the sky)
The father and the son relationship happen to be isolated islands. An invisible wall stands between them. The expanding voice grows as the father is about to die, to fall to air, when in "To my Father" the old age's dying boat symbolizes the loneliness, separation, the result sheet is responsible fun the separation between the father and the son in the poem "The Report card" sense of loneliness and alienation pervade-
"The loneliness of a splintered mirror,
a shred of silvered paper or the torn hand
from some clock's face, these his own.
the card? foe or friend,
he only found. I never understand,
(The Report card / close the sky)
In this world the woman is the dejected fellow. She finds her life a meaningless, normless. Social isolation clutches her identity to alienation. They man-woman rlationship is a vague question to her. Question of rootlessness and social isolation make her estrangement from the society and her own self even the sense of togetherness is futile-
For how long can we
prolong this togetherness
of being vulnerable together,
in admiration for each other
and the free fusion of grief,
(Intimacy / svayamvara & other poems)
In this orthodox patriarchal society, the mother has the role of romantic resonance. But realty is of different smell. She wants jto get the favor from the father in the family and so she has the attitude of self-pity. So she is wedded to spiritualism. She is busy and engaged in 'puja-patha'. She feels alienated and dejected when all power of the four wall walled domesticity is transferred to her daughter - in-law. But still she aspirse for the lost power, pity oozes in occasional steeping. The mother is dejected, isolated and alienated from the other family members in the family and the poet expresses-
"And a mother's hand floats like a raft
endlissly down the river, still to find and end ...."
(Bazaar Scene: Shadow Space)
In this Indian decorum the most sufferers is the widow. Her life is destined to hazardous, painful and tortured. She is deprived of all the carnal and colourful desires of life. Social culture alienates her to perform spiritual and psychological consequences. In this patriarchal country like India window's life is painful to religious sobriety-
"Her skin breaks into fickls shadows
that trial her to the corner of the little room
where a stone icon stands, weary with vemillion
in an exotic deapery of hopes."
(Widow: Shadow Space)
So is Mahapatra's writings we not only get the ostracized women but he also depicts the women who are suffers and exiled in their own home. Wife, daughter or a mother are deprived of their freedom in this male-dominated society. The wife is alienated from all the freedom she has drunk in her pre-marital existence. Physiological and psychological loneliness hung upon her estranged mind-
"On most nights there's a woman
who just lies in her bed, open
like any old thing in the house she lives in.
Like time, the pours over her.
The wall keep their close watch
over herloneliness; and not even that
can go wrong here ---------------------
(On Most Nights )
So after marriage the women are twice removed from freedom. Firstly she is lonely from the social decorum and secondary she is lonely from the social decorum and secondary she is bowed and chained under patriarchal colonial bond. And marriage is the symbol of colonial chain. Woman faces pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial period in her life. What an irony in this patriarchal society-
"And the woman of sleepless night hears
the footsteps of her loneliness slip out of her back door
through the trees to a garden she has never been".
(On Most Nights: Shadow Space)
Mahapatra is the master penetrator into the core of the female heart. He depicts the women crux under the society which alienates from them. They are alienated from husbands with almost hopes and aspirations are nipped in the bud when she is dejected in the bed; loneliness becomes her husband's substitute. Only 'funeral pyres' will show her path to complete freedom-
"The good wife
lies in my bed
through the long afternoon;
dreaming still, unexhausted
by the deep rose of funeral pyres.
In the lonely bed she has no partner to share her pains and separations. Narcissism becomes her icon. She fell in love with her own self, her shadow. Out of alienation she feels and devours satiety—
''In the darkened room
cannot find her reflection in the mirror
waiting as usual
at the edge of sleep
In her hands she holds
the oil lamp
whose drunker yellow flames
known where her lonely body hides.
(A Missing person)
To escape from darkness she seeks the help of oil lamp, it will help her t touch the light of her life. The hallow flame is compared to the overcome absence of any sharing. So her lonely body hides to escape alienation. This is the picture of Mahapatra's mother. To quote Mahapatra—
"Swathed in a sari, holding onto the oil lamp
in the shadows, the softy flames swaying the breeze:
(Jayanta Mahapatra, Contemporary Author Autobiography Species vol. 9)
As the women suffer from alienation, our mother India also has the same suffering. To quote R.Shankar-
"India also could not find her reflection
physically after decolonization, because during
the colonization India was plundered culturally,
traditionally and economically. India was,
virtually, converted into a skeletal shape."
(R. Shankar, Jayanta Mahapatra, the poet: quest for Identity. Prestige. [p-78)
Missing in the true inner self, our Indian lacks culture and tradition of the past glory. she fails to probe the 'anima' or the true inner self with the utmost bound of her estranged being. So here inner and outer both selves are tormented. Mahapatra's artistic zeal is praiseworthy. To quote Kennedy –
''A Missing person is an epiphany of the creative moment for Mahapatra.''
(Allan Kennedy, written Rites, in Madhusudan Prasad, P-93)
In case of unmarried girl also alienation clutches psychic pattern. When they are out of their parent's home, they feel alienated and isolated as the male figyres temptation oozes for voyeurism vision. Mahapatra takes the snapshots in the poetic impulse –
" But there goes Lakshmi down the road,
swinging her light little hips in unison,
another feels a part of himself forgive him,
the part that never gets out of him."
(Awe: shadow space)
The male-gaze victimizes the unmarried -girl to feel insecure and dejected in the atreets and other places. She feels alienated surround by male comments-
"The voluptuous figures of women in stone
only wish to save our feelings of love and freedom;
they are like old men who do not need their voices,
they have pulled them out their throats
and hidden them away in their past."
(The Quest: Shadow space)
The poer hungers for existential corner in jaws of isolation, alienation and estrangement from the own self. He suffers from solitude and purposeless in this world. The feelings he disgusted-
"Here on earth
when history does not reverberate any more
with thepulse of the drum
or with the chant of the fide on a sacred Puri shore
as a burden of understood things
bullows upward like smoke."
(The lost children of America)
Here in this world we have a feast of somber and gloomy vision of life that is stamped by loss, dejection grief, alienation and suffering. In "Hunger" and "The whorehouse in a Calcutta Street we see how the nameless prostitutes hanging in identity less alienation. They are suffers in this cruel world. In "Hunger" the father victimizes her daughter to have sex with customer for the fulfilled desigr of both from bodily passion and physical concerned.
So hunger leads to alienation in the girl's part. The trio-father, daughter and customer are alienated figures crux in this modern decorum-
"I heard him say: my daughter, she's just turned fifteen ................
feel her; here, share. Be Back soon, your bus
leaves at nine. The sky fell on me, and a father's exhausted
wile. Long and lean, her years wear cold as rubber.
She opened her wormy legs wide. I felt the
the other one, the fish slithering, turning inside.
Moreover, we see how the modern men are dejected and alienated by the whores. The failure of the communication is not exclusive perverse with the whore. "The condition of the modern man is itself solitary and alienated" (C.L.L. Jayaprada in vol II ofk "Indian Literature Today" edited by Dr. R.K. Dhawan). So in the poem "The whoreshouse to have a greater experience of love and lust and relationship - and to fulfill dreams and fantasies-
"The faces in the posters, the public hoardings
And who are here all together.
(The Whorehouse in a Calcutta Street)
But the sufferer poet feels alienated and loveliness redoubled in from an action-
"And the wall you wanted to pull down
mirror only of things mortal and passing by
and her lonely breath thrashed as against your kind.
(The Twenty fifth Anniversary of a Republic: 1975)
So women are free to get Ph. D. and higher aspiration. They get chance to fly over the globe. But the husband - wife conjugal relationship lost the fragrance of unified conjugation. They are alienated and separated from the Sati's and Savitri's vision of chastity and purity of India's holy soil.
Mahapatra is a poet of his land. Land and identity becomes the icon of his poetry. Time and again like the Diaspora eye he searches for the root Orissa. The sense of alienation that is rooted in his father's house gives venture to a rootedness in the land and its history. His 'Indianan' and the post-colonial eye with the antagonistic approach of the theories of Darwin, Freud and Marx, give venture to the alienated vision. The conversion and the lingua franca detach his oneself from other. India sensuality with Indian English adjusts the cross references. To Vilas Sarang-
''The poetry of Mahapatra is extremely local
and his tone ot quiet acceptance, with a
latent awakener of centuries of suffering indicates
a very Indian sensibility. He effortlessly
translates a profndity Indian spirit into English."
(Indian English poetry: since 1950:
An anthology ed. Vilas Sarang; P - 32)
So the poet blooms the vases with poetry from the ashes, remnants, graveyard, hunger, alienation, loneliness and isolation. From murderer to murdered, from master to silent slave, solitude to alienate his identity transmutes the easel of his poetry. So from night to night, the empty window in his lonely well is the material to flourish his ensigns and animations. Though alienate his dreams remain undaunted-
"I want the graveyard to flower without its corpses,
and the sunlit street
to shine without its shadows.
I want the flames to warm the empty heart
of love, to burn a city with pitiable hatred ..... ( )
I want my government to hover
like a butterfly over a garden;
not be, as it, like a wasp or snake ..... ( )
I only want to renew myself
Like this old river's quiet
That has emerged victorious
Over a hurried layers of religion
In the airlessness of the dead."
(Random Descent) References
Mahapatra, Jayanta. “About Hunger and Myself.” Door of Paper: Essays and Memoirs. Delhi: Authors Press, 2007. P – 20.
The New Encyclopaedia Britanica. Vol – 27. 15th Edition. U.S.A., 2007. P – 639.
Cuddon, J.A. “A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory.” Forth Edition.
Delhi: doaba House. 1998. P – 284-85.
Krishnamoorty, Dr. K. “Rasa as Canon of Literary Criticism,” Essays in Sanskrit Criticism, Dharma: Karnataka University, 1964, P – 65.
Dasgupta, S.N. “A History of Sanskrit Literature. Classical Period”, Vol. – 1.
Calcutta: University of Calcutta. 1962. P – 592-93.
De, Susil Kumar. “History of Sanskrit Poetics”. Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay.
1960. P – 261-62.
Ankit, Pritam. “Indian Aesthetic Tradition and the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra”. Re-Markings, Agra, (Vol. – 3. No. – 2, September. 2004) P – 90-95.
Mahapatra, Jayanta. Close the Sky, Ten by Ten. Calcutta: Dialogue Publications, 1971.
n A Rain of Rites, Athens : University of Georgia Press, 1976
n Waiting, New Delhi: Samakaleen Prakasan, 1975.
n The False Start. Bombay: Clearing House, 1976.
n Relationship, Greenfield, New York: Greenfield Review Press, 1980.
n Life Signs, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.
n Temple, Sydney: Dangaroo Press, 1989.
n Whiteness of Bone, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992.
n Shadow Space, Kottayam: S.C. Books, 2000.
n A Father’s Hour’s, Calcutta: United Writers Workshop, 1971.
n Random Descent. Bhubaneswar: Third Eye Communications, 2005.
n Deasi, S.K. “The Poetic Craft”, the Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra. Ed by M. Prasad, P – 116-17.
n Mahapatra, Jayanta. Introduction to his poems appeared in Youth Times (Special number on his Poetry of Love, ed. Pritish Nandy), February – 1. 1980.
n Mohanty, Niranjan, “Sex, Power and Beyond: A study I the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra”, The Quest, Vol. – 1, March, 1987. P- 38.
n Kapoor, Kapil. “Talk on Contemporary Indian Criticism (Untitled) India International Centre. Delhi, 18th January. 1999.
n Thampi, G.B. “Point of View in Comparative Criticism”, East West Poetics at Work, ed. C.D, Narasimhaiah, New Delhi, Sahitya Academy 1994, P – 36.
n An Orissa Journal: July to November, Door of Paper, P – 14.
n A Symphony in Stone, Door of Paper, P – 109-10.
n Jana, Ujjwal. “Perspectivising Indian poetics in postcolonial context: A study in Application of Rasa theory”, presentations of post colonialism in English, Ed. Jaydeep Sarangi, Delhi: Authors Press, 2007. P-243.