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Aju Mukhopadhyay the Poet: In appreciation of Insect’s Nest and Other Poems

Aju Mukhopadhyay is a renowned bi-lingual poet and writer who has authored a dozen books in Bangla and almost equal number of volumes in English. Currently he lives in Pondicherry, a place that has been hallowed by the spiritual presence of one of the most illustrious sons of Bengal-Sri Aurobindo.

     Mukhopadhyay’s latest book of verse entitled Insect’s Nest and Other Poems is neatly printed on good quality paper with an attractive cover page featuring wasps building their homes. The publisher’s honesty in bringing out the book is most prominently visible in the almost negligible number of typographical errors. M/S Prasoon Publication, Gurgaon, Haryana needs separate praise for maintaining their quality paperback printing. For in our country, we have been successful in ensuring excellent poems and poets while failing most often in setting up any common standard of professionalism in print and publication. Perhaps Mukhopadhyay is very much aware of this fact through his vast experience as a poet. And that is why in the small dedicatory epistle, he acknowledges many of his exemplary poetry-editors and fellow authors with whom he must have been sharing sweet memories.

     I too have the privilege of being one of the humble poetry-editors of Mukhopdhyay as once I selected along with my colleagues some of his poems for our journal. This particular incident has ultimately given me this golden opportunity to come near him, to listen to his words more intimately and to be allowed by him to review his latest book of verse. As I open the book and look at the index, I find forty five numbers of poems with individual titles being put under three large groups with separate captions. The first group includes eleven poems and is called ‘With Nature Again’. The next group of twenty two is entitled, ‘Already with you, humans’. And the rest are put under, ‘Looking the other way’. Interestingly, this final host of poems contains those pieces which I once chose to publish in the inaugural issue of Impressions of Eternity. Going back to how I read these verses earlier, I find that these were described by me as poetic utterances on the themes of human existence, its evanescence, and its redemption from vagaries of life. As I now review Mukhopadhyay’s book by re-reading the old poems beside the new poems present there, is it not that I mentally revisit my own perception about Mukhopadhyay as a poet?

     Looking closely at the captions of the three different groups already mentioned, I get an impressions that perhaps Mukhopadhyay intends to re-examine here the ‘Natural World-Human Existence-Spiritual Essence’ relationships which have also been the chief concern in both the Upanishads and the poetry of Sri Aurobindo. What we call modern Indian English poetry after Nissim Ezekiel is in fact a kind of creative assay which stands in an oedipal relation with this particular tradition and abuses it with the modifiers now well known-romantic, nebulous, verbose, and transcendental. But as A.K.Ramanujan has described in his Indian Oedipus, it seems that Mukhopadhyay’s relation with this tradition is probably that of Rama’s relation to Dasaratha or Puru’s to Yayati. This is actually a reaffirmation of the merits of the tradition notwithstanding serious interrogations into the past.

     I read the first poem of Mukhopadhyay’s book and find how the non-human world could evoke in human mind the sad knowledge of transience of the life-breadth:

Ain’t all the great construction

like insect’s nest

brittle and fragile

sure to go

today or tomorrow

measured by time?

Why bother about any mark made of lime?  

(Insect’s Nest/9)

     The poet is very close to Thomas Gray. All paths of glory lead us to the grave. Or in so successfully evoking the most tragic feeling of evanescence the poet also echoes Sankaracharya. When death knocks at one’s door there is nothing which can reverse the thing impending, no knowledge comes in help. Valmiki too saw the dying Krauncha and poetry welled forth from the adikavi’s heart. The insect in Mukhopadhyay’s poem is much more insignificant a creature but it is after all living being like us and shares in the common threat of death.

     Mukhopadhyay crafts one haiku like poem. It is terse and highly suggestive like the verses of Ezra Pound. It connotes ‘the end’ of which we have heard much though there is no record of anyone’s direct experience of it. The poem is thus shaped as a series of questions:

Is it the shadow of a growing dark cloud

over the pond in a moonless night?

Is it the voiceless echo of a sound

flashed in the dark announcing the fight?

(What is Impending/15)

     In the ancient Tamil poems of the Sangam age one may be astonished to see an organic relation between external nature and human society. The relation could be experienced through the proper understanding of the imagery of the Tamil bards for whom a “flowering kurinchi” was a young woman, or “red earth and pouring rain” were lovers busy in love-making. Natural world and human world stands here in metonymic relation, for by catching one properly the readers may catch the other. In Mukhopadhyay’s poems too the insects or the golden orioles are not simply ‘like’ human beings, they in fact form one part of the living world while the humans together form another. The eternal law of the universe applies alike to both nature and human beings. With this new knowledge, there is a melting down of the human-non human, man-nature, and existence-essence, body-soul-distinctions and hierarchies. What the Upanishads reiterated, Ramprasad said, or Aurobindo philosophized, Mukhopadhyayalso writes:

Beyond all ceremonies,

cultivating the inner being

shedding all disharmonies,

we could become the life’s king.

(Cultivating the Human Being/27)

     Modern Indian English poets despised most in Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual quest. They say the philosopher and mystic Aurobindo has killed the poet Aurobindo. Especially Nissim Ezekiel called him “a very bad poet” who always wrote about soul in a highly Latinized English. Hence moving against Sri Aurobindo and his followers the New Poets wished to infuse their own poems with the “smell of the earth” and the “blood of reality”. But by reading any of those modernists the sensible readers would find that their chief tool of protest has been irony, which is not at all a weapon of the bold. Marx and Engels needed no ironic expression to call the workers of the world to unite. The modern Indian English poets no doubt talk about their country as a place full of problems, e.g. poverty, unemployment, communal disharmony, and corruption. But

do they have that total commitment needed to change the world? These ironic versifiers lack in courage to state problems at its face. As a poet of the contemporary period it is really unique in the case of Mukhopadhyay that while writing about the essence he could also put forward very explicitly his earnest concerns about the miserable state of human existence. Like the poets of the Bhakti movement, reality for him is both immanent and transcendent. Like Kabir or Basavanna, he is capable of speaking about human problems in loud and clear voice:

Among the various hungers, many a need

hunger for food and drink

is the basic urge of life;

until this basic need is fulfilled

till for hunger and thirst humans sink

the greatness of life cannot survive.

It is futile to talk about peace

until the fire of hunger we extinguish

in every human being

if not in every living thing.

(Hunger and Thirst/28)

     With equal force, he can write about structural violence, about the problems of the Adivasis, comment on terrorism, and debunk the ideologies of the fundamentalists. Mukhopadhyay could write on abstract ideas:

Aren’t we on earth

floating in a multiverse

in space infinite

with stars in oodles numbers?

Look within!

stars are blooming and dying

constantly.

(Stars in Space/60)

     But he is equally efficient in rendering abstract things concrete:

Peace is like a sleeping pregnant cat

on top of the hay stacked in a barn.

Peace is like a child’s sucking sound

from the round breast of its mother

. . . .

Peace is faithful surrender to the divine

Peace is enchanting shower.

(What Peace is Like/42-43)

     In this trouble ridden world he is there for the shower of peace. That enchanting shower comes after long drought and disorder or its worth could not be appreciated by us. Exhausted by hunger and thirst, shaken by terror and death, exploited by the vicious social systems we ask for grace. In Srivaishnavism, there is a description of two ways of grace: the cat’s way and the monkey’s way. In the cat’s way the human beings are like kittens that are all the time helped by the divine force or the mother cat without bothering even of the kitten’s call for help. In the monkey’s way the divine force leaps from branch to branch like the mother monkey and the human beings need to hold her strong so that they may not fall out of her grace. Mukhopadhyay’s poem echoes the age-old notion of falling into grace as he writes:

Rain of grace falls and falls            

to soothe my ruffled feelings;

it corrects, it helps, it leads me

always to the right way.

When it rains in the forest of my being

where the tallest trees touch the sky

and the moon shines bright on the leaves

through the gnarled branches

lighting the dark parts of existence,

life becomes wholesome

peaceful and serene.

Removing the dryness and darkness of life

rain of grace falls and falls

perpetually to revive.

(Il Pleut/67-68)

     How could the poet escape the impact of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs? Tagore provides necessary signs to Mukhopadhyay so that he may rearrange them in his own poems, in a new system of signification.

     It is an experience to read Aju Mukhopadhyay in the context of the various traditions of Indian poetry. As already seen, he is a successor of the old school which the modernists sought to dispense with so that they could justify their own mode of poem writing. But Mukhopadhyay is true to the kindred points of heaven and home. He is writing about the body while writing about the soul and vice versa. He stands with essence while speaking for existence and vice versa. He is a lover of mankind who is empathetically related with nature and vice versa. He is in each and both. He is near perfect. How a kavi could become a rishi is something we may learn at his feet:           

Death is the cause of their birth.

From the dead rises the living

Living thing kisses the dead

One dead gives birth to

Innumerable living things ad arbitrium;

Life and Death hugs each other ad infinitum.

(Life and Death Hugs each other/21)

     Am I listening to a mantra, or a bit of the Upanishad? Is it an example of which Sri Aurobindo termed the future poetry?

Work Cited

Insect’s Nest and Other Poems. Aju Mukhopadhyay. Gurgaon; Prasoon Publications. 2010

© Santanu Banerjee (Professor)

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Comment by John fralich on November 16, 2017 at 15:16

Hi as gardeners, we have a trellis of lilliquois, the carpenter been comes to fertilize the flowers. When I first looked it up, most of the information was to eradicate them. Later I discovered that ninety percent of the bees are anti social.  We have a wealth of plants to attract the monarch. We fed some in an aquarium. It is amazing to watch the process and see the first flight. Just acquired a copy of the mother flowers and their messages. My wife is a botanist and ayurvedic physican. She is collecting all the sacred trees.aurobindo, and  the nondual inhabitant of your residence along with Adams and nisargadatta are not two. The sankya connection is  the habitat of an anubhava

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RABINDRA SANGEET, AND INTERESTING VIDEOS RELATING TO INDIA'S HISTORY

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RABINDRA SANGEET - JE RAATE MOR DUAAR GULI

RABINDRA SANGEET

-Je Raate Mor Duaar Guli
This song gives the extraordinary feeling of the capacity of Sri Anirvan to arrive at the very moment of emergency when he was needed. How he just appeared there, was a miracle.
http://www.esnips.com/doc/d68409ad-a62e-4c4d-ae57-9083ffda7336/Ashoktaru---Je-Raate-Mor-Duarguli

That night when my doors were smashed by the storm, I did not know it was you who had entered my house. All around everything went black, the wick of the lamp was extinguished.
I stretched out my arms to reach the sky, towards hope..
I did not know it was you who had entered my house,
That night when my doors were smashed by the storm.
I lay there sobbing, thinking it all a dream,
How could I know that the storm was a pennant of your triumph?
Morning dawned, and I beheld you,
A fountain of tears, you, yourself.
The whole house, save for ourselves, was and had been empty.
I did not know it was you who had entered my house,
That night when my doors were smashed by the storm.

AAJI JHORER RAATE TOMAR ABHISHAR sung by KALIM SARAFI


AAJI JHORER RAATE TOMAR ABHISHAR

Sung by Srikant Acharya, intro by Soumitra Chatterjee

http://www.esnips.com/doc/71cd2d88-32e1-45e2-84b6-17b37de0308c/Apan-Gaan-2---04---Saumitra-Chattopadhyay--Srikanta-Acharya---Aaji-Jhorer-Raate-Tomar

Sung by the famous singer Pankaj Mullick of the 1940s.
http://www.esnips.com/doc/fb86d1e1-81db-4223-8f23-186f36793dfb/001.-aaji-jharher-raate_Pankaj-Kumar-Mallik
Art thou abroad on this stormy night
On thy journey of love, my friend?
The sky groans like one in despair.
I have no sleep tonight.
Ever and again I open my door and look out on the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me.
I wonder where lies thy path!
By what dim shore of the ink-black river,
By what far edge of the frowning forest,
Through what mazy depth of gloom art thou threading thy course to come to me, my friend?

**************************

GANDHIJI'S FAVOURITE -

http://www.esnips.com/doc/baefd96c-e4f8-4fb5-912d-d0d2b65ea479/Rabindra-Sangeet--Jodi-tor-dak-suney-keu-na-aashe-tobe
SUNG BY SRABONI SEN

http://youtu.be/5MYDX77cyw4

Sraboni Sen - Tai Tomar Anondo Amar Por -

http://youtu.be/RwPODzUtsHE

INDRANI SEN - Je Raate Mor Duar Guli - http://youtu.be/JTmOIYIhZaw

RITA GANGULY - http://youtu.be/y5NOBFbAFR4

http://youtu.be/6-HpjpeoB38

AND http://youtu.be/CAYnCWCu6yE

ALSO http://youtu.be/Inemer1Vscc

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NOTEWORTHY COMMENTS BY MEMBERS OF ANIRVAN AKASH

BY SHARAT KUMAR BHUSHAN

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Right now busy in addressing J Krishnamurti's followers in India and abroad.Struggling to finish book on Adwait,Raman,Nisargadatt Maharaj,Jk

BY AJU MUKHOPADHYAY

, aju mukhopadhyay

- "I am thinking how so to fix the attention so it can be unwavering- never turns aside- Oh! What great a job-"

My interest in Sri Anirvan continues with greater intensity these days. I have read almost all the valuable translations of his writings appearing in the blogs.

Unfortunately I do not know any Bengali although ambitiously I got many of his writings from the Dharampal's when I met them some years ago.

BY VIKRAMAN BALAJI

request: it seems Sri Aniravan used to give regular talks on Sri Aurobindo's Savitri in the Pathmandir. It would be a great service if someone could translate these talks since Anirvan's insight would help clarify many aspects of Savitri.

Thanks again and best regards

Balaji

BY SHARAT KUMAR BHUSHAN

Sharat Kumar Bhushan Di' I do not know why these lines by Hammarskjold are coming to my mind after reading your comment.

"Night!The road stretches ahead.Behind me it winds up in curves towards the house,a gleam in the darkness under the dense trees of the park.I know that,shrouded in the dark out there,people are moving,that all around me,hidden by the night,life is a quiver.I know that something is waiting for me in the house.Out of the darkness of the park comes the call of solitary bird:and I go-up there

BY SUBHASHISH BORAH

subhashish borah

- We should be proud of what we are, and we should not be dejected at what we are not as we desire. We should be proud of what we are not that we didn't wish for.

But the horror is that we are starting to be proud of what we are not that we desire to be!

The philosophy is that if you are X, be proud of being X, and don't be dejected because you are not the most fortunate one of the world you may have a dormant desire to be so. And be proud for you are not the most unfortunate person in the world and you didn't, don't and will never desire to be so.

But don't be proud of your vain self-images, just be proud of what you are and realize it with optimum firmness. There is a difference between "Will" and "hope". Suppose you want to be something or somebody in this life time. You cannot become that, if you are not at this very moment not that something or somebody you want to realize.This should be dormant within you waiting just for expression or manifestation. When proper time, environment and other supportive factors will be available to you, and if you have the necessary will to be so, you will one day appear as such.

Let's be our realities, not our imaginations! Let's be free from our inner insecurities! And here I intentionally use the word to be 'proud' in place of simply to 'accept' oneself, because the fact of 'Will' cannot properly manifest through a meek humbleness or moral humility.."

BY GURUCHARAN OJHA

Gurucharan Ojha

- Accept my hearty greet "Jayaguru". I am from Odisha, Devotee of Swami Nigamananda Saraswati. I read little more before Swami Nirbana nanda Saraswati "Anirbana".

I just need to know about his life details.....

BY SUBHASHISH BORAH

subhashish borah - "It is the "sense of wonder" that as 21st century's "homo-fabers" or "homo-technicus" evolving(I doubt!?) far out of our real natures of "homo-sapience" we have lost and we have forgotten to be astonished at things beautiful and as well as horrific!! We have been oblivious of feeling strange at anything...

This sense of wonder I believe is the real essnce of all creativity not only poetry or other art forms but science, mathematics , physics, chemistry, biology etc everything...

It impels us to discover things"

BY ANIRBAN

Anirban NAMASTE,

"To all the members in this GROUP"

It's really a pleasure and an honour for me to be a part of this group.

SRI ANIRVAN - THOU ART THE RULER OF THE humble mind of mine. CANST THOU RULE mine DESTINY, TOO?

My most humble PRONAAMS to GOURI-MASHIMA and GAUTAM-MESHOMASHAI.

I DO PRAY TO THE LORD OF ALL LORDS FOR QUICK RECOVERY OF GOURI-MASHIMA.

OH LORD, I think I am pretty LOUD and CLEAR.

ANIRBAN-AKASH - Is it a confirmation that our desires/DESIRE are(IS) fulfilled?

For though our desires may yet be fulfilled in this very human birth, do we really crave for our DESIRE to be satiated? If so, how do we enjoy THE ETERNAL LILA?

May we be firmly grounded whilst we touch THE AKASH (The SKY).

Best regards,

Anirban

BY SMT KALYANI BOSE

Kalyani Bose Dear Anirban,

I was not being able to come to the site for a very long time. Just today I opened it up to see your page and am inpressed. Are you or do you know Bengali? Of course you are because you have read His books. Your question about enjoying the ETERNAL LILA has evoked in my mind an expression form Sri Chaitanya Mahapravu. The Eternal Lila is like 'Tapta Ikshu Charvan' - Again 'Mukh Jwale NA JAi Tyajan-

Prosanti O prasannataye Ujjal Theko.

May the Grace of Sri Anirvan bring in us the Yuganaddha Dyavaprithivi.

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