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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri




Poems of Majboor

Dr. T. N. Dhar

Dr. T. N. DharI should begin this review with a confession; I have not read the poetry of Majboor in the original Kashmiri. So I am happy to respond to the translated version of his selected poems in the Waves, which I must say at the very outset, is quite readable. The poems I have learnt from Majboor himself, have been selected by the translator, Arvind Gigoo, from his various published collections, and deal with several interesting themes and moods. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing what considerations guided his selection, and how easy or difficult was the j ob translating them.
Because of their thematic similarities, the poems can be read in several clusters. The first one deals with the perennial concerns of poetry: the mystery of the creative act, its joys and perplexities, its agonies and ecstasies. The second includes poems that embody the poet's response to his immediate contingent reality. These deal with the appalling inequity in our social fabric, the suffering and indigence of the common people, and the pain and trauma of his small community, which was forced to migrate from the Valley of Kashmir. The third is of poems that generate varied and contrastive moods: while some mourn the loss of values and ideals, others celebrate hope and promise and dreams of peace and harmony.
A good number of poems are about the intricacies, the delicate shades, and the complexities of artistic creation. The Fossil, for example, is less about an anthropological curiosity and more about seeing objects in a moment of stasis, which obviates the fear of loss and change and affirms the permanence of art of the "true, the good and the beautiful" over the mutability and corruption of life. A similar mood defines the spirit of The Broken Hand. Severed from some pristine idol, it is not a mere relic to be treasured for its beauty, but a source of speculative excursus into the artistic and spiritual, of dreamlike possibilities which contrast with the nightmare of the existential burden of life. The Painting dramatizes the very process of creation, in which the imaginative powers of the poet are brought into full play to create an ideal situation of the "painter getting merged into the picture". The immensity and force of this power is seen at its explosive best in another aptly titled poem, Creation, in which the nebulous flux of life - suggested through its diverse and des­perate images - is transmuted into a pleasing garland of harmoni­ous cohesion. The alchemy of the creative process is suggested forcefully by the kinetic power of its imagery.
The poet is not content merely to create poems that please by their exquisite shape; he wants them to embody a strong regenerative force, which has the potential of changing the contours of the existential, of affecting the quality of life in this world. His struggle to get the right kind of words for shaping his new compositions, in the Chiselled Words, does not merely reflect his anxiety to create an impressive poem but also his eagerness to invest it with the power to regenerate and to renovate. Poems, in Majboor's estimation, can "wash the pale earth" to "cover it with light". to "sweeten stale conscience'', and to "light lamps in the dark meandering streets". The poet's wrestling with the agonizing and ecstatic aspects of the creative process, in the Secret. are suffused with the same aspiration, for:
"The silence of the night
its solitude
are a hope for the morning”.
The same hope permeates the texture of Wilderness. The poet is painfully aware of the "dusty cobweb" that has besieged him, but he is hopeful of lighting "a lamp in the whirlwind." This consoling thought animates even a murky poem like the Funeral, in which he sees the truth of our continuous involvement with "cold funerals", but also affirm that life is still livable, because it is full of ever-new possibilities. Hope also colours the vision of a dejected lover. for he sees that
New twigs will sprout
The mirror will speak,
The earth will smile,
the rising sun will watch
her dream and her dance.
A number of poems provide a scathing criticism of the society of our day, the most-prominent being The Topsy-turvy Tree. The image in the title of the poem is emblematic of the physical and environmental degradation of the world as well as of confusion in its scale of values. The images of devastation. decay, and sterility dominate its landscape to create a kind of Eliotian Waste Land, where the reverberating moans give us intimations of the world of pain, suffering and bondage. The Hungry Man is a sharp picture of the growing injustice and unfairness of life in the "sinful city". The hungry man, its central focus, is in a deplorable condition of want and misery central focus, is in a deplorable condition of want and misery which contrasts starkly with the opulence and affluence of the vulgar few. Even though he finds a stone with which to hit at the unjust system, he fails to achieve anything; and his pausing "for a thought" suggests more his impotence than stoic wisdom. This sharpens our disgust towards the archetypal city of our times. Another concretely realized picture in The City is of the city the poet had to leave because of the rise of militancy there. It exposes the stupidity and confusion of the people who took control of its affairs from their wise forebears, creating false knowledge, in which violent ways are confused with the struggle for attaining freedom. Moved by the pain and suffering of the people of his community who had to flee their homes and hearths to take refuge in camps, the poet In Prison laments that their condition is worse than that of prisoners in jails.
The poems of pain, suffering and displacement stem from the experience of the poet. But this does not diminish his hope in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. With the help and bless­ings of goddess Saraswati, the muse he knows so well, he charges his poems with the power to shape a new world of hope, love and peace. The poem embodying this vision is appropriately called The Coming Millennium. This very hope, vain though it might seem to many of us, informs the spirit of the longest poem in the collection, To the Swan. The poet pleads with the swan to go to his native land over vales and hills, and to all the beautiful places which lie ravaged at this moment to tap their spirit and energy for accomplishing what lie earnestly wishes:
"To restore peace in the valley
to cure all aching wounds
to end grief."
Several poems in the collection stand apart. While A Juggler's Trick skillfully brings out the evanescence and evasiveness of life, The Fowl, though meant to dramatize the stub­bornness of self-styled intellectuals, is somewhat coarse and plain. With deft strokes, the Portrait of a Child builds the contrast between the purity and innocence of childhood and the corruption that overlays the process of growing up. A similar skill is in evidence when the poet transmutes the familiar images of a Snowman to emphasize a vital truth about us, that we are constantly moulded by physical and social pressures, which prevent us from acquiring our distinct identities. The playful act of a child, which is a com­mon sight in the valley of Kashmir during winter months, is used to telling effect.
All in all, the poems in the volume are uplifting. As is evi­dent in the translated version of the poems, the poet has handled themes with skill, economy, and with a surety of touch. Except for an odd line or phrase, which makes the reader stop for a while, the poems read well. A little bit of retouching will help smooth such rough edges. We hope that the poet and the translator will sit together to make that possible, and also produce another volume of translated poems, so that Kashmiri poetry can reach a larger audience.

Arjan Dev Majboor



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