Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cleaning The World to Make it Better

The first two things that I had to do on reaching Alirajpur in 1985 to work among the Bhil Adivasis was to learn their language and also improve my Hindi. Learning of the Bhili language had to be done by speaking it with the Bhils since it was an oral language without any written literature. Hindi, however, had a rich literature so just speaking it with others would not do and I had to read to be able to not only speak in it but also write it as given the inability to read and write of most Bhils at that time, we activists had to shoulder the responsibility of written communication on their behalf. Since as a Bengali, my Hindi was limited to what I had read of it as my third language in school upto class eight, I had a lot of catching up to do!!
I am a voracious reader so reading by itself was not a problem but at that point of time I was a diehard Marxist, even if an unorthodox one and also paradoxically a Vedantist and so deeply into Upanishadic spiritualism!! So literature that appealed to me at that point of time was that which had a proletarian political tinge or a spiritual flavour and steered clear of romance. I read many of the proletarian classics in Hindi by Premchand, Renu, Rahi Masoom Raza, Balraj Sahni, Yashpal and the like. But that was all prose and as we all know one's literary education in a language is not complete without reading and appreciating poetry. Hindi poetry, however, is dominated by romance and so initially I did not find anyone who could pique my interest, even such modern greats like Harivansh Bacchan and Mahadevi Verma. Then slowly I got to know the proletarian poets, Nagarjun, Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, Adam Gondvi and Dushyant Kumar. However, the poet who really inspired me with his explosive mix of content, style and form was Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh. I have no hesitation in saying that I would not have been what I am today without having read him. This happens to be Muktibodh's centenary year and I feel the least I can do is to celebrate the lyrical power of this great poet.

I started the celebration of Muktibodh's centenary by first planning a consultancy that came my way by putting in it a trip to Sheopur which is his birth place. This is a small town in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh that was once a small princely state owing allegiance to the Scindias in Gwalior. Consequently, there was a small community of Maharashtrians there into one family of which Muktibodh was born in 1917. There is an active group there that researches Muktibodh's poetry and keeps his memory alive. After that I went back to a renewed reading of his poems which I have not done much of after the initial reading more than three decades ago. How things change over time. The context has changed considerably over the past three decades and I found that those of his poems which impress me now are not those that had inspired me earlier. Without much ado let me quote one such poem that now ranks for me as one of his best -

मैं तुम लोगों से दूर हूँ

मैं तुम लोगों से इतना दूर हूँ
तुम्हारी प्रेरणाओं से मेरी प्रेरणा इतनी भिन्न है
कि जो तुम्हारे लिए विष है, मेरे लिए अन्न है।

मेरी असंग स्थिति में चलता-फिरता साथ है,
अकेले में साहचर्य का हाथ है,
उनका जो तुम्हारे द्वारा गर्हित हैं
किन्तु वे मेरी व्याकुल आत्मा में बिम्बित हैं, पुरस्कृत हैं
इसीलिए, तुम्हारा मुझ पर सतत आघात है !!
सबके सामने और अकेले में।
( मेरे रक्त-भरे महाकाव्यों के पन्ने उड़ते हैं
तुम्हारे-हमारे इस सारे झमेले में )

असफलता का धूल-कचरा ओढ़े हूँ
इसलिए कि वह चक्करदार ज़ीनों पर मिलती है
छल-छद्म धन की
किन्तु मैं सीधी-सादी पटरी-पटरी दौड़ा हूँ
जीवन की।
फिर भी मैं अपनी सार्थकता से खिन्न हूँ
विष से अप्रसन्न हूँ
इसलिए कि जो है उससे बेहतर चाहिए
पूरी दुनिया साफ़ करन के लिए मेहतर चाहिए
वह मेहतर मैं हो नहीं पाता
पर , रोज़ कोई भीतर चिल्लाता है
कि कोई काम बुरा नहीं
बशर्ते कि आदमी खरा हो
फिर भी मैं उस ओर अपने को ढो नहीं पाता।
रिफ्रिजरेटरों, विटैमिनों, रेडियोग्रेमों के बाहर की
गतियों की दुनिया में
मेरी वह भूखी बच्ची मुनिया है शून्यों में
पेटों की आँतों में न्यूनों की पीड़ा है
छाती के कोषों में रहितों की व्रीड़ा है

शून्यों से घिरी हुई पीड़ा ही सत्य है
शेष सब अवास्तव अयथार्थ मिथ्या है भ्रम है
सत्य केवल एक जो कि
दुःखों का क्रम है

मैं कनफटा हूँ हेठा हूँ
शेव्रलेट-डॉज के नीचे मैं लेटा हूँ
तेलिया लिबास में पुरज़े सुधारता हूँ
तुम्हारी आज्ञाएँ ढोता हूँ।

Muktibodh's poetry gained in popularity and critical acclaim only after his untimely demise at the age of 47 in 1964 with the publication of his first anthology "Chand Ka Muh Teda Hai" or "The Face of the Moon is Crooked" in the same year. Surprisingly despite his continued popularity and the respect that he holds, very few of his poems have been translated into English and I could not immediately get hold of a suitable translation apart from the atrocious one done by Google!! So perforce I have to provide a translation of this poem myself so that I can convey why it is so appealing to me in the present context and give some idea of Muktibodh's genius to English speaking readers even if I haven't been able to do much justice to it!!


I am so far from you
My inspirations are so different from yours
That what is poison for you is food for me

In my friendlessness my constant companionship,
In my loneliness the hands of comradeship,
Are of those whom you consider to be the dregs
But it is they who are mirrored in my pained heart
And so you continuously attack me!!
In public and in private.
(The pages of my blood filled Epic fly
In this fracas between you and I)

I wear the dust and waste of failure
Because wealth is available on the spiral stairs
through cheating and lying
But I have run on the straight tracks of life.
Even so I am angry with my righteousness
Unhappy with the poison
Because we need to be much better than what we are
We need janitors to clean the world
And I am unable to be a janitor
But everyday someone inside me shouts
That no work is bad
Provided that the person is good
Even so I can't push myself towards that.

In the world of movement outside that of refrigerators, Vitamins and Radiograms
That hungry girl child of mine is there in nothingness
In my intestines there is the pain of the small
In the cells of my chest is the shame of the deprived

Suffering surrounded by nothingness is the truth
The rest is all an unreal impractical lie
There is only one truth
That is only a continuous pain

I am an outcaste
lying under a Chevrolet-Dodge
in oily clothes repairing the parts
bearing your orders.

Like all great poetry this one too has many meanings and I will leave it to the readers to enjoy this poem and if interested read more of Muktibodh's poetry and the vast literarcy appreciation of his oevre. But what comes out clearly is its strong criticism of the caste ridden society in India that has been one of the main factors in preventing socio-economic justice for the majority. In the current context of our country literally being drowned in municipal waste I particularly like the mention of the fact that we need janitors to clean this world and make it better but that we, even those of us who reject caste, are not prepared to take up the role of janitors whether in the real or the figurative sense.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice, Rahul. He speaks from the heart.