by Shobha Diwakar
Doused with favorable and unfavorable fascinating illustrations of relationships on various levels of human life, Rajiv Khandelwal’s Dwelling With Denial is a candid portrayal of religious faith, social and political factors that examine the aspirations, ‘the denials’ and the demands of life; their repercussions on the communal, economic and collective conscience of man that has ripped society. The ‘blended’ portrayal of life and the interplay of human drama is compassionately conceived in epigrammatic words and sentences that exalts the literary art of the poet in this compendium of verses that conveys a rich medley of amalgamated life experiences discreetly underlying in conclusive stanzas.
An enigmatic and prolific writer, Khandelwal creatively shapes his concrete ideas on the religious beliefs of the individual, social justice, and the intervention of fate and destiny in the lives of the deprived in poems such as The Debt, Dwelling With Denial, Life As Usual On This Road, and Pain Deserving Understanding to name a few. His immense speculation on violence, modern political scenario, and terrorism is candidly revealed in some poems like To The Pilots who Visited Balakot, Job Trackers, Resume and Thank You where he narrates an unbiased impact of terrorism and political hegemony with grace but without commenting on the skeptic perspective on the issues involved. The ‘scorpion twist’ he thrusts at the end leaves the reader to form his own conclusion.
Personal poems centered on the theme of relationships are crucial as they lay stress upon maintaining interaction between members of the family to enrich understanding and get guidance in times of adversaries for moral support. Khandelwal skillfully blends his poetic commentary with nostalgia and heartwarming autobiographical details of his past and present life with his father, mother, grandmother, children, maternal uncle, and grandchildren laying stress on the delicate cord of love, respect and challenges faced. In fact, it is only within the family that one learns fortitude and gets unresisting support. He lovingly recalls when in an adverse situation how he seeks solace in the loving arms of his wife whom he considers to be the backbone of his life. Mother in Our Joint Family, Dear Mate, Tribute to Maternal Uncle, My Wife My Lifeline, Mother’s Mothering, and a few others composed on similar tones highlight the poet’s conception of ideas that lays importance on family life. The understanding between husband and wife and space each gives to the other enhances love and respect between the partners instead of creating a rift and destroying an otherwise peaceful life. Khandelwal sagaciously draws the reader’s attention towards family breakups because of fractious understanding and rueful grudges. He judiciously reveals this flaw in the modern psyche struggling to come to terms with life; to knit a bridge between culture, religion, traditional values, and social demands. Each stanza of these poems is remarkably tranquil, sincere, and transparently authentic in thought, content, and versification.
Khandelwal is an accomplished poet whose engineering skill has intellectually supported him with an insight to carve his poetic compositions with cool speculation sharply chiseled, resonating with diverse aspects of life depicting the incongruities of human nature with discreet examples. A critical study of his poems reveals his expertise in handling themes that emphasize diverse contemporary issues related to social, communal, religious, and psychological factors that affect the characters and the readers’ in a similar manner. The temperate style in which the poet distills his poems keeping the human drama in view places Khandelwal as a prolific composer who pens his versatile verses emanating from ideological challenges and conflicts of everyday life. Poems such as Job Trackers, Unfinished, Tensions, Thank You, Debt, Dwelling With Denial, The Visitation, Resume are symbols of modern political ideology, inequality, poverty, and inhumanity that raise pertinent questions on social injustice. These poems are a powerful critique of contemporary life and the breakdown of moral, cultural, and traditional values sharp-witted conveyed with insightful sustaining evidence about the ‘Ravanas’ hanging overhead to suppress them. Khandelwal skeptically denounces the modern political ideology, which is shrewdly based on creating rifts in society by instigating the public on petty issues to bake their own bread. Within the robust structure of the political poems, the poet provocatively challenges the strengths and weaknesses of such political stooges who in their conceited social movements and organized ‘hartals’( strikes) stall the nation’s progress and mislead the youths who ‘pelt stones,’ kill, kidnap, for a few ‘pieces of silver’ discreetly awarded to create chaos.
Symbolically, this collection is an unsullied voice that sharply tears the collective psyche of society and strikingly provides a systematic and comprehensive account of ethical defiance ruining the essence of human life. Khandelwal focuses his shrewd eyes on the myriad colored activities around him, which he captures, pertinently reflects upon, and streamlines them with his dispassionate poetic imagination. The vivid description of the ‘dog digging food in bins’ while a human life starves of hunger is sorrowfully narrated with vital images that compel the reader to ponder over the issue. The Visitation is another poem that depicts the sad story of a poor man who is forced to carry his dead wife on his shoulders while his little child walks along with him crying bitterly. The poem sympathetically points out the fate of the poor struggling with his Destiny. Thus, the aggressive spectrum of life Khandelwal picturesquely presents in his poems highlights the discrepancy in society: blending reality with concrete images of human miseries, the poet agitates the reader’s conscience awakening him towards the pulls and pressures of humanity speculatively revoked in Pain Deserving Understanding.
Amidst the mournful aspects of life, the poems are inter-spread with light verses about love, romance, and unrequited love that breaks the monotony and seriousness of the poems that make the reader speechless. The light-hearted poems display numerous happy emotions, which the reader thoroughly enjoys and the interplay of language adorned with splendid images, figures of speech, intonation, the longing and the denials leading to the abruptness of the lover’s acrimonious retreat plays upon the reader’s mind for a while. In delving into the recesses of the lover’s propensity with apt use of consonants, the poet captures the complexity of the situations just like an artisan who molds his goods until they are perfect for display. Similarly, the poet effortlessly records misconceptions on various issues in a multicultural world of diversity and critically reconstructs the throes of modernity capitulated neatly in poems like Guilty, A Backward Glance, Dwelling with Denial, The Debt, and Wandering Thoughts, composed on assorted episodes whether in relationships, indulgence, knavery, compassion or Denials. Thus, the poet meticulously ignites a topic of deep concern, but willingly leaves the reader to illuminate his own understanding.
The conversational tone of the poems and the colloquial use of words submerged with real-life illustrations offer an indispensable understanding of the postmodern landscape of changing norms of a booming multicultural society navigating critically to adjust in a chaotic world disorder. Dwelling With Denial catches this fury of objective complexity, subjectively albeit, dispassionately straying away from his ‘egoistic’ suggestions but judiciously portraying the dismal scenario of modernity in a lucid, cultivated style.
The collection is comprehensive with 75 poems compiled rationally dealing with irregular themes to divert the reader’s attention from the sordid poems to those that are humorously dealt to release the reader’s tension in the manner of a ‘dramatic interlude.’ Therefore, the compendium cleverly identifies social poems from those that are crafted with a political theme and those that move around the theme of love and romance, and those poems that deal with literary art. In fact, the collection raises pertinent questions on tragic episodes like rape, murder, abduction, prostitution, violence, and political hegemony in public life and challenging subordination of women who become victims of repression. Caste, class, and gender play a vital role in Khandelwal’s Dwelling With Denial, which is a sensitive revelation of social, communal, and political injustices fuelled with the poet’s ‘ bleeding heart.’ The poet’s pensive, but perceptive eyes act as ‘watch dogs’ that pepper his poems with the incongruities of life he witnesses around him on the internal and external frame of existence.
The strategic plan of the book is widespread, presenting divergent peeps into the pendulum of human survival that lays thrust on the striking personality of the composer who has candidly exposed the root cause of conflicts… whether domestic, cultural, social, political, psychological, or romantic, laced with disillusionment and physical and emotional traumas. Khandelwal ingeniously reveals that the crisis of modern life lies in non-verbal communication deftly asserted in Dreamy Expectation where he writes ‘talking has died’ (73). Although the poet sounds a disillusioned cynic, yet it sorrowfully reveals the craving to hear a human voice instead of a Watts App chat. The compendium of verses rhetorically composed is a scathing critique on humanity rapidly etching towards a critical downfall gracefully manifested in poems such as Pain Deserving Understanding, Dwelling With Denial, The Debt, and a few others. These poems serenely flow out of the poet’s sound reflections of life, melting them eternally into the reader’s psyche just as the tributaries of the placid river succumbs gently into the ocean.
Although Khandelwal appears to remain dispassionately isolated, yet he is a realist who captures the ‘self-denials’ and the insignificance and futility of life where virtue, courage, and piety have sucked humanitarian concerns. The social disintegration depicted is alarming and perceptively embodied in this collection mingled with myriads of textures woven into the framework of the compendium. The epigrammatic use of words, the various figures of speech, neatly sewed together as a whole resonate with virulent cultural nuance diluted with the poet’s poetic fancy that conveys overtones of the ‘Shringara Rasa’ in his love and romantic poems. The ‘Karuna Rasa’ is displayed achingly in Pain Deserving Understanding and others that remind the reader about the pitiful life of the ‘Chimney Sweeper” sold for monetary gain. These poems also reveal ‘Vibhava’ because of the ‘Uddipana’ that arouses the emotional element or the ‘Anubhava’ or reaction. The ‘Vatsalya Rasa’ is adoringly revealed in poems such as Wandering Thoughts, Preschoolers Conversation with Granddad, Pleasure. When Khandelwal writes nostalgically about his Grandmother, Mother’s Mothering or Mother in Our Joint Family he evokes the ‘Shanta Rasa.’ In all these poems besides others written in the same flow, Kkhandelwal artistically conveys ‘Rasa’ and its ‘Sambandh’ or ‘Rasa Nishpatti’ or co-ordination/ production of art emotion. The ‘Adbhut Rasa’ is bewitchingly captured in ‘Love – A Fatigue where the poet is transported into a ‘floating fantasy… sinking into the ambiance like mist,’ or in Reminiscence, where the ‘…caterpillar gnaws greedily…’
Just as the Romantic poets, Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Keats can relate to Bharat Muni’s Indian Aesthetic theory of Natya Shastra so too Khandelwal’s compendium of verses symbolically relates to it. Therefore, Dwelling With Denial projects the Metaphor of Life with a poetic charm of its own with titillating nuances of rhyme and rhythm that imparts to the ‘Sahridaya’ an emotional content in the light of Bharat Muni’s ‘Rasa’ theory. The poems can also communicate Eliot’s theory of ‘Objective Correlative’ and Anandvardhan’s theory of ‘Dhvani,’, which rouses the reader’s ‘Anubhava’ or empathy, effectively produced by the sound of metaphors, simile and alliteration experienced only by the ‘Sahridaya.’ The ‘Viyoga Rasa’ is ardently revealed in Destination, Love –A Fatigue and a few others composed on similar themes.
Dwelling With Denial, elegantly cultivated is a heterogeneous collection of verses developed on the Aristotelian concept of pity and fear causing Catharsis … or the ‘Karuna Rasa’ as sentimental relief to the reader in poems like Debt. Like Aristotle, another Indian critic Bhavabhuti considered ‘Pity’ to be the ‘supreme’ sentiment as it offers ‘purification’ or ‘purgation’ of feelings or Catharsis. The collection ingeniously felicitates Khandelwal’s poetic ‘Pratibha’(Anandwardhan), that expresses itself artfully with sound, sense, and collaboration of ideas richly buried in the shell-like the pearl cosseted within an oyster or a sparkling diamond buried deeply, clutched amorously, clasped adoringly in the doting, generous arms of Mother Earth.
About the Author:
Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India, and retired as the head of the English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems, and essays in national, international, and online journals. She contributes regularly to writers’ lifeline and Indian Periodical.