Tuesday, September 19, 2006

R.K.SINGH's COMMITMENT TO FLESHLY REALITY

R. K. Singh’s Commitment to Fleshly Reality



R. K. Singh is one of the leading luminaries in the firmament of contemporary Indian English Poetry. Sober and sedate, he articulates his feelings and thoughts in measured syllables, eschewing unnecessary flamboyance of language or flights of fancy. Woman is the chief source of his creative afflatus; woman not as an imaginary angel but woman in her all corporeal riches, eyes, thighs, globular breasts. He honestly makes a clean breast of his ungovernable attraction for the feminine body in the following lines:

“I seek new strides in each of your moves/new dreams in your eyes and thighs/…each time I look at you/ I see natural woman/the fount of poetry.”


(I Do Not Question, p.41)

This “natural woman” is not the product of airy imagination, but one with moorings in fleshly reality. The following lines further illumine his psychic commitment to down-to-earth reality in this regard:

“I want to rest in your lap/and drink from your golden breasts/hide me in the
curtain of your hair/shield me in the grove of your flesh.”

(Music Must Sound, Poem No.4)


Singh is bothered by no inhibitions in regard to sex thirsting with whatever Eve he comes into contact. He is thirsting for “female smell in bed” as “aloneness” is agonizing to him : “Let’s kiss/each other in our/strangeness” (Music Must Sound, Poem, 5). One fact, however, remains inexplicable as to whether he succeeds in achieving the desired response. “If life vibrates, music must sound”—this is like an article of faith with him. The stirrings of life must needs generate the music of sex which, in his wise, becomes a synonym of life. Thighs, regarded as the repository of warmth in Indian Erotics, occupy a major place in his sexual imagination. “Hidden between thighs/is the spring music/beyond birth.”

(Music Must Sound, Poem 7).

The poet’s vibration of life impels him to forge rapport with woman, not already familiar to him. His yearning after physical commerce melts his soul :

“ I want to rest in your lap
and drink from your golden breasts
hide me in the curtain of your hair
shield me in the grove of your flesh.
(Music Must Sound, Poem 4)

I cannot but comment that this stanza provides a refreshing contrast to the ones extolling the corporeal glories of Nayikas (beloveds) in a direct manner. The Indian Erotics sets special store by description of female beauty of form, institutionalizing the system of Nakha-shikha which follows a pattern of describing the bodily components from toes to head. The thrust of the passage is the desire of the poet to enjoy the pleasures of his beloved’s flesh. But while articulating his desire, he is eulogizing some of the components of her physical attraction : her soft laps, her luminous spherical breasts, her glossy luxuriant hair, and above all, “the grove of your flesh”. The image the poet nourishes of the richly developed members of the female body finds exquisite expression in this compact phrase. A faint shadow of the traditional pattern of Nakha-shikha is discernible here.

It is, however, a little intriguing that the poet feels no hesitation in inviting and cajoling strange women to share his bed : “Won’t you share/my aloneness/tonight?” Will it be uncharitable to comment that sex constitutes a major drive of his psyche? Borrowing support from the examples of the artists and painters, the poet assumes, as it were, the liberty to portray “all/that animals do and men conceal in the night.”

Let us state that this assertion to emulate animals seems born of a reaction against social or familial unspoken restrictions in matters of sex. Sex, essentially a creative force, distinguishes man from the animals only in the matter of private or demonstrative indulgence. That can be attributed to the fact of his being over-sexy. “A flying horse parched/on the island of her flesh”---perhaps affords a key to the poet’s response of glorying in witnessing sexual combats, exposing him to the charge of being a voyeur.

The sex drive is so strong in the poet that he does not take congnisance of his wife being in the family way in his thirst for gratification. The stanza, beginning “Stooping over his gravid love”, depicts the spoiling of the consummation of the “coital bliss” by the waking up of the child. Frankly speaking, “realism” of this variety is not supportable. The wife’s putting the child to her breasts is perfectly natural, but the mingling of the erotic and the maternal offends taste. “Directness”, sometimes extolled as a virtue of expression in such contexts in appreciation of the modern Indian poets writing in English, needs a second look. Let me be not misunderstood. Kamala Das, a major poetess of the Post-Independence era adopting English for self-expression, is often forthright and evinces an immediacy perhaps unparalleled, and makes herself concede that she is genuinely sincere in her protests against social restrictions and her disenchantment with her unfeeling husband in regard to his sexual bouts with her, without the accompanying “Passion”, evoking a sympathetic chord in the reader’s mind. The urgency of sex being made ‘felt’ takes away the odour usually unflattering from it and renders the Indian “Sahridaya” of the Classical School sympathetic to the “Ashrayalambana” of the emotion of “Rati”. (1) We have failed to recognise any such urgency in the sexual cravings of R.K.Singh.

“A stray sperm/ grows in the ovum/blooms as a puffball” (Music Must Sound, Poem 16) on the face of it, looks an uncalled-for observation. The poem, beginning “How hard we try to empty”, seems, apologetic in tone which is an unconscious effect of the Family Welfare Programme currently under way. The following stanza presents a picture of “Samyoga Shringara” in terms of Indian Erotics.(2)

“under a bloody roof
my tattered trousers remind
the bed sheets love stained
before light shone
in a sulphurous pond
I display
my naked person
to ghosts and witches”

(Music Must Sound, Poem 17)

This is an instance of “Rati” in union. The “Anubhavas”(3) to wit, the manifestations of the enjoyment of “Rati”, are here transparently obvious, needing no special mention or iteration. Let us observe that our Classical Erotic Poetry affords no such pictures of sex-union, whatever be the reasons. Devotional Poetry of the Krishna School contains images of “Vipareet Rati”, reversion of the normal postures as between man and woman in sexual unions, but there, too, the devotional poets like Suradasa become so deeply lyrical in the portrayal that the “Sahridaya”, if not excessively squeamish, loses himself in the emotional overflow of the poet and relishes the “Shrinagara Rasa”. In the instant case, it is difficult for us to identify ourselves with the poet in his experience of sexual delight because of taste being impinged upon in some way or other. We have, no doubt, portrayals in Suradasa’s poetry of Radha cherishing and protecting the ‘love-stained’ ‘Saree’, a constant reminder of her enjoyment of ‘Rati’ with Shrikrishana which has been noticed by the latter’s emissary, Uddhava, when he visits Gokula, armed with Krishna’s message of ‘Yoga’ and ‘Jnana’ for the erstwhile beloveds. Radha does not get the Saree washed as she is resolved to nurture the sweet memory.

Let us again remark that even there the “Sahridyaya” is not obstructed by any mental let or hindrance in the matter of enjoying and feeling for Radha’s disillusioned psyche. Singh’s depiction of sex, deliberately oriented to so-called Realism, offends taste. It may be affirmed that our remarks are not grounded in old die-hard morality. On the contrary, we hold, as I.A. Richards has stated, canons of propriety should flow out of the general atmosphere, woven and promoted by the poet in his created world. And we shall immediately observe that the world created by R.K. Singh in his sexual portrayals lacks the depth and aroma of sincerity which might have induced us to identify ourselves with his frame of mind governing such depictions. His bathing naked in “a sulphurous pond” (a la vakrokti) puts us in mind of the “Jalavihara” (aquatic sports), resorted to by Krishna and his beloveds during the night after the celebrated Dance of the “Rasa”.

The stanza, beginning “Every stain on the bed speaks”, (Music Must Sound, Poem 19) sounds like expiating the wrongs done to the ‘spirit’ of love. This is all very good and desirable. But, Indian Erotics has no accommodation for such expiations and apologies. Our outlook on sex, albeit mainly creative, provides ample room for fleshly delights which is attested by the singular phenomenon of the composition of the reputed Kama-Sutra, (Science of Erotics), by Vatsyayana, who has been hailed as a “Rishi” or Sage. Coming to poetry, the atmosphere created and nurtured by the poet, should be convincing and supportive of the desired import. Let us incidentally remark that apology in amatory contexts is usually offered by the lover to the beloved with whom he has failed to keep his tryst.(4)

As a rule, Singh’s poetry here depicts the unions in a low key. It appears as though he deliberately subdues the palpable emergence of the sexual passion on the surface. In his intercourse, especially with his own wife, he remains grossly matter of fact, rather business-like. But when it comes to extramarital relationships, the element of emotion does make itself register its presence, howsoever weakly. Sample the following lines :

“Giggling behind the hill/is the woman I know/If you touch my finger/you shall
know/what winter is.”
(MMS, Poem 22)

We can deny emotion in these two lines? The following stanza, too, calls for inclusion in this context:

“Danger board shifts
my gaze to veiled beauties
moving like thoughts
with the best of motives
manoeuvre to kill a poet
learning the secret of
the first menstrual flow.”

(MMS, Poem 25)

The picture is typically Indian. Veiled beauties arrest the young poet’s attentive look. Art lies in concealing art, they say. Let us remark that beauty lies in concealing beauty, not in open outrageous demonstration. “Moving like thoughts” is an apposite simile, signifying unostentatious, unobtrusive passage of the ladies. Then the charm of the following two lines, “with the best of motives” et cetera, begs description. “Killing the poet” runs counter to the accepted classical Indian canons of Erotics, but the charm here overrides the classical taboo (of alluding to death) and the modern “Sahridaya” comes to sympathise with the poet in that the spontaneous rise of “Rati”, embedded in the human soul in the form of “Vasana” (a technical expression),(5) is immediately stifled, nipped in the bud, as it were, for obvious reasons, which cuts the poet to the quick. “Manoeuvering” again is an artistic expression which has spontaneously sprung in the poet’s mind. It suggests an amount or a kind of dexterous managing, rather a stratagem, to achieve some designed end. Here the women, passing noiselessly, with their countenances veiled, have clearly forged no stratagem to harm or injure the sensibilities of any one. But the poet, in his unsophisticated simplicity, feels that they have all combined to “kill” his emotional upsurge by not taking any cognizance of his amazed look at them. Here “Kill” conveys an import associated with the Word-power “Lakhana”
enshrined in the Indian verbal science.(6) Then again the beauty of the phrase, “with the best of motives”, enraptures the “Sahridaya”. As a matter of fact, the veiled Eves have no motive at all vis-à-vis the lookers-on. Yet, the poet ascribes the best of motives to them which do not correspond with the practical blow they have dealt to his nascent emotion of “Rati”. Let me repeat that R.K.Singh’s Muse, though usually unostentatious, is not essentially insensitive to the charm of telling phrases.

“The first menstrual flow”, however, acts as a fly in the ointment in the instant context.

Having has intimate connections with Varanasi, it is but natural that the poet’s imagination should have been thrilled at times by the congregation of the fair sex at the holy Ganga ghats. It is a common sight to find women, comprising a fair proportion of charming blondes, bathing nude or half-nude in the cold waters of the Ganga, attracting the delighted lecherous looks of even those, having declined far into the vale of years. The poet takes notice of this phenomenon, and lets us hazard the belief, joins the ranks of the “old gods”, leering “at their bare backs”. Allusion to “Two white moons” is charmingly meaningful.

The poet conjures up images familiar in the family orbit, in a new, refreshing vein. Look at the following stanza.

“in mind
his eyes fire
his images
nightmare
the poor soul
in scorpion cage
cannot brave
the dark combats”

(MMS, Poem 37)


Manifestly, these lines enshrine the picture of a newly married girl, not yet fully sensitive to the pronounced stirrings of Cupid, having her first encounter with her love-thirsty husband. This depictures a situation of “Samyoga Shringara” (love in union). The husband is the “Ashrayalambana” of “Rati”, the “Vishayalambana” being the girl wife.(7) The darkness of the situation and the unhampered access to her constitute “Uddepana vibhava”(8), that is, the immediate stimulants. The “Vyabhicharis” or Transitories of “Mada” (intoxication), “Harsha” (joy), ‘Avega” (agitation), “Ugrata” (vehemence), “Mati” (rationality), and even “Shanka” (incertitude as to the ultimate success) come into play: “His eyes fire”—here is clear “Uttejana” coupled with his resolve to have his wish fulfilled.

The beauty of the vignette consists in the bipolarity of the reactions, the poet being not oblivious of the feelings of “Trasa” (fear), “Dainya” (depression), “Vreeda” (bashfulness), and other kindred feelings associated with a situation of amorous confrontation on the part of the girl-wife, totally uninitiated in the marital experiences. “Poor soul” is a telling phrase. The different postures adopted during the encounter by the husband prove nightmarish to her. “Scorpion cage”, however, is a phrase a little over-conceived, overdone. But it does pinpoint the psychic trepidation of the young wife in the unaccustomed situation. “Cannot brave the dark combats”—this beautifully sums up the situation. Let us observe without mincing words that the stanza furnishes a lovely vignette of ‘love in Union’, that is, “Samyoga shringara”. Again to borrow a technical phrase from the “Nayika-bheda” (Division of Heroines), this enshrines an image of “Mugdha”(9).

An impression has, willy-nilly, formed in our mind that Singh’s Muse is more delightful and playful in regard to “Parakeeyas” as compared with the “Swakeeya”(10). Here, however, R. K. Singh falls in line with the generality of a cross-section of Indian poets. In classical tradition, love is usually sweeter and more engaging outside the marital orbit, imaginably because of the fact that it remains largely untinctured with the drawbacks of close unchequered intimacy. In certain devotional cults, Radha, the celebrated beloved of Lord Krishna, is a “Parakeeya”. The following stanza enshrines extramarital love :


“I thought I knew her before and my heart bowed to her native virtues
each touch she offered stirred and drew me near
before entering her depths I felt how dark was the dance
I never liked to part with her but the tears in her eyes were saying:
“no no”

(MMS, Poem 2)

To me it is one of the most lovely images available in R.K. Singh’s amatory poetry. It is a case of love springing, apparently not from physical attractions, but from a perception of native virtues in the woman. The poet had the good fortune of being offered “touch after touch” by her which contributed to drawing him nearer her. A woman is primarily the cynosure of eyes because of her physical glories. In the instant case, the attraction is not visual, but internal. But, the poet would have made himself liable to attack on ground of basing his heterosexual love purely on imaginary attributes, ignoring the fundamentals of human nature. That is why, cautious as he is, he alludes to the efficacy of feminine physical touch. The incorporation of this tactile element more than makes up for the absence of any allusion to the woman’s corporeal charms. He enters into her innermost being through these touches, an exquisite accomplishment by a single tool of perception. Reference to “how dark was the dance” is pregnant with a wealth of suggestions. This darkness imaginably alludes to the welter of feelings and emotions which agitated the woman’s soul in giving her heart to the poet. It might have pendulated between responses, positive and negative, for a thousand and one reasons. We have reasons to believe that the two had enjoyed physical commerce for a stretch of time. And, lo and behold, the finale was distressing to the poet, also to her, when she tearfully rejects his enteratics to stay with him. “No, no” might have come to him as a dagger-thrust.

This is a touching picture of “Samayoga Shringara”, culminating in separation, which enhances its poignancy. Here is love fulfilled in ultimate non-fulfilment. Pure frustration would have been less painful. Uravshi in ‘Vikramorvashiyam” of Kalidasa made Pururava frantic with grief when she disappeared after having lived with him for a sufficient while.(11) R.K. Singh is not Pururava, neither is this lady Urvashi. But the Sahridaya is bound to feel for the lover in his unexpected deprival of his sweetheart’s company.

Another beautiful poem involving extramarital love:

“I leave my memories
in prayerful trance
float above my body

till rapping her fingers
at my soul she breaks
the silence: ‘I have come

with my dreams promised
years ago. Won’t you
once kiss and melt in me?

(Memories Unmemoried, p.11)


Frankly, this piece enshrines a dream experience of the poet-lover. While in a sort of trance, he is visited by his old sweetheart who breaks his psychic vacuum, as it were. And it is she who craves for a kiss from him who wishes he melted in her being—the two becoming one—the eventual consummation of love. Let us remind the readers that in the Yogic “Sadhana”, “Sayujya”, Complete Communion with the Divine, constitutes the ‘summum bonum’ of the Yogis(12). Earthly love will undergo an ethereal transubstantiation, should the lovers merge and melt into one. In such cases, the nature and completion of the “Rati” suffers a sea-change. We doubt whether such a melting of souls is considered possible of accomplishment in cases of marital love by the poet.

‘Love is Efflux’ is another lovely poem which glorifies love as an effluent from the corporeal charms of the beloved which illuminates his soul and silently leads him to merge his “being” in “her glowing presence”. We cannot but observe, not disparagingly but with a sense of appreciation, that even when love assumes a non-fleshly complexion as the end product, the poet, with his psychic moorings in realism, accords due prominence to the glories of the flesh: “My being I merge/ in her glowing presence” (MU, p.12).

Never taking to the classical “Nakha-Shikha” description, the poet, nevertheless, recognizes the spirit of beauty as the elusive “Charm”, not “seen, but felt”. He proclaims:

Charm is the/spirit of beauty/divine/mysterious/
honest/expression of the self/not seen/but felt. (MU, p. 15)

This “charm” is consanguineous with the “Lavanya” which, in the classical formulations, transcends the beauty of the different members of the female body and pervades her entire appearances, baffling all verbal enunciations. It is a sort of shimmer which does not forsake a beautiful young damsel even when she has emaciated to a mere skeleton. Classical Indian poetry sets much store by this “Lavanya”, (13) the indefinable “Charm”.

Poems like the above breathe the spirit of love, immune from fleshly associations. But it will be simplistic to believe that Singh’s Muse is ever indifferent to the attractions of the feminine form as that would be much too unrealistic. He will seek his sweetheart ‘in the grammar of silence, in the accent of love” and will “kiss death out of flesh” (I do not question, p. 22). That is to say, flesh is of the essence of love in the eventual analysis and the sincerity of his kiss of her hand carries the potency to exorcise Death out of her. Allusion to death is forbidden in Indian Erotics, but the heartfelt sincerity and transparent honesty of the lover as to the efficacy of his kisses washes away all vestiges of any impropriety. The point being hammered home is that flesh is an indispensable component of heterosexual love. The poet makes no bones about his belief that the value of the physical facet of love cannot be ruled out: “when the sun is erotic/and the moon lyrical/the winds turn tempestuous/in the orbit of love/legs slide by calls of pleasure/for life to continue” (I do not question, p.23).

Though the poet’s experiences are mostly sex dominated, at times they breathe forth a different odour such as in the following stanza:

I feel her hyaline influx
In my deep love leaps
from the soul with subtle glows
her breath runs through my veins
this vassal of the flesh blushes
as I drink the infinite in her.

(My Silence, Poem 3)

As he is in physical union with his sweetheart, he feels the transparent inflow from her contact of mysterious influence into his inner being which invests his love with subtle glows : her breath runs through his veins and resultantly, he feels her shorn of material limitations, becoming a part and parcel of the infinite, and himself suffering a sea-change in essence, drinking “the infinite in her”. And, concomitantly, “this vassal of the flesh blushes”. This is a unique experience in matters of love, suggesting the spiritual force of the beloved. The poet’s honesty is also worthy of appreciation in calling himself “vassal of the flesh”, the slave of physical passion. Such pictures of “Samyoga Shringara” are a rarity in Classical Letters.

Yet another example of Love in Union, to wit, ‘Samyoga Shringara’ not breathing the mysterious air, is available in the following lines:

“Is it the perfume
of your body
that makes the night
drunken?
Your lush lips
ripple fire
in beautiful silence
your fragrance radiates
flowers and water.
Can I seek
my voice
in your breasts?

(My Silence, Poem 5)

The perfume of her body makes the beloved belong to the class of “Padminis” of Classical Indian tradition whose breath exhales fragrance.(14) The night becoming “drunken’ is charged with a pregnancy of meaning. The atmosphere being intoxicated “breathes there the man with soul so dead” as to escape its influence, far less a person endowed with a psyche already love oriented? The second stanza conjures up the image of the sweetheart lying silently supine in the cosy bed with the lover drinking her richly juicy rubicund lips. Paradoxically on the face of it, the juicy lips emit forth ripples of fire in the lover’s soul. These ripples are the palpable stirrings of “libido”.

Incidentally, let us observe that the touchstone of feminine beauty in Indian classical tradition is its potentiality to sexually agitate the beholder. Singh’s Muse ultimately belongs to this family. Even if no allusion to her fragrance radiating flowers and water had been made, the charm of the picture would not have suffered any diminution inasmuch as the night is already “drunken”. The concluding lines suggest that the whole enjoyment is buried in studied silence in the familial atmosphere, but the spherical breasts impel the poet-lover to articulate his yearnings for the fleshly pleasures: “Can I seek my voice in your breasts”? Let us again observe that such portrayals of love are not to be easily met with in the Indian classical “realms of gold”.

The poet’s experiences extend beyond the bournes of privacy. We have already noticed how his eyes take note of the old gods leering at the naked backs of the bathing women at the Ganga ghats. Here again his eyes catch the phenomenon of “rape and adultery in the crowd’ on the occasion of the Durga Puja. How sarcastically he remarks:“To express sex/a crowd is convenient in the bus”! However, his comment, “while the cowards fear the coming closer of boys and girls”, in this context seems misplaced.

The lascivious seems to exercise an unconscious influence on the poet’s psyche inasmuch as he is intensely human, made of flesh, blood and bones. He seems to take unconscious delight in the spectacle of a sex-greedy person handing over coins to a beggar woman “just to look at/ the tanned fronts/ behind the little holes/ of her only saree”. The stanza beginning ‘while I was petting and necking” (My Silence, poem 14) leave us in no doubt as to his being sex-greedy albeit he feels for the poor woman who was calculating whether the proceeds of the sale of her body that night would enable her to purchase a new Saree.

The following stanza etches the picture of ‘Love in Actual Union”, that is, cohabitation in a symbolical vein, pressing into service analogies from the cycle of seasons:

Spring’s full youth
he unbuttons
her printed skirt
on red cushion
feels autumn
dropping down
the leaves of year
(My Silence, Poem 15)

All that pinpoints the poet’s (My Silence, poem 15) intercourse. With advancing age, it seems the poet cannot successfully respond to his “burning within” and cannot “enjoy the flames of passion”. He rightly remarks: “love is a high explosive/not charged/by induced sexuality” (Flight of Phoenix p.12). In her physical vigour and verve is a ‘sine qua non’ for attaining consummation of “coital bliss”. Waning of physical vigour and waning of the poetic afflatus seem curiously intertwined. “In bed I keep with her/wondering what I’d haul in our/burning, sleek, empty sex/now mind’s dried with dry hive/ I cannot create with bald head:/sky showers ashes of rose” (Flight of Phoenix, Poem 58). “Bald Head” reminds us of the persona in Eliot’s ‘Love Song of Prufrok’. Having a couple of children and crossing the age of forty seems a damper for the fire of sex.

The poet is generally not happy with his life nor with the notional postures and attitudes. Personal unhappiness, tell-talely, springs mainly from his frustrations in the matter of love and sex. Like Shelley, who was nurtured on “bright silver dreams”, Dr. Singh feels restive at the social and familial restrictions impliedly in sex contexts. “Can’t you drop your saree/and all that conspire to conceal/passion in/my eye seeking freedom/to unite and transform/the night through body’s dark alleys/don’t you love your freedom?” (Flight of Phoenix, Poem 41).This desperate utterance aimed at smashing to smithereens the tradition-bound unspoken trammels, imposed on freedom of sex the familial orbit, to confess honestly, does make the “Sahridaya”, not a woman-hater, but feel for the poet-lover as he is deeply struck by the sincerity of his anguish. When he complains about the general prosaic tenor of his life, “unloving life day by day”, and yearns for “a release” from ennui, then, too, imaginably, sex will afford him the much-desired relief. One wonders at the magnitude of his frustrations in that “Coal city” in his personal life, or maybe, his official life also, respecting love :

“Everything is falling apart
every wall is cracking
I too am breaking
to be someone and to belong
drink in love like many
secured sure happy
I too want to live and be loved
not piece by piece friends,
but, will they let me?”

(Flight of Phoenix, Poem 65)

Accordingly, in that his emotional starvation, the sensitive reader cannot but accord him his need of sympathy and commiseration. Nonetheless, when his frustrations get coloured by anger, though veiled, he breaks forth:

“We are nation/of cowards worshipping dumb/images can’t stand/a full fleshed person speaking/nude in god’s home like in bed/performing love with/ wife or self in dark alone/ever ignorant/moralizing/hell of fear/with legs tucked up/posing brave.”

(Flight of Phoenix, Poem 39)

and one fails to carry one’s sympathy with him the whole hog. Juxtaposition of worshipping dumb images and denial of absolute freedom in matter of sex can scarcely enlist our approval. The one militates against reason, but the other is pregnant with possibilities of engendering moral chaos. When he smells “my boneless semen”, taste is violently outraged.

We conclude by alluding to R.K. Singh’s philosophical conception of “Rati’, the root of love. Old concepts of sexual morality do receive a shock when the poet lavishes encomium on “An undressed woman” and the “venerable in myriad colours” as a tool of “ever-growing consciousness”. But, the poet himself is internally immune to any qualms and in an easy, natural frame of mind, he alludes to “the split in cypress” being “vulva”, having its “roots” in “Purush-Prakriti”—the celebrated formulation of the “Sankhya” Philosophy in which Purusha, the counterpart of the Brahmana of the Advaita, remains inert of Himself and feels agitated only by coming into contact with Prakriti, the Feminine Principle—this union ultimately leading to Creation.

In another poem, the poet speaks of “Shiva’ and “Shakti”, a dual single, suggesting the insupportability of “me and she”, i.e., man and woman, the essential principle of creation. In the same vein, he alludes to the Chinese “Yin and Yang” principles and emphasises the harmonization of “lingam’ and “yoni”. This integration of the twin principles of Masculinity and Feminity has its roots in the Vedic provision that the “Paramatman”, the Supreme Being, divided himself into two, man and woman, to enjoy himself, becoming bored by solitariness.(15) All that points to the cardinal truth that “Rati” or sex is a welcome possession of the human consciousness on which the universe has evolved. The poet’s sense of profound joy and gratitude finds uninhibited articulation the following ‘Psalm’:

Blessed is
the bedroom
the bathroom
the kitchen
the drawingroom
the terrace
the lawn
and every little
place and spot
where we prayed
or sexed together
we glorified our house
and declared His mysteries.

(Memories Unmemoried, p.11)


R.K. Singh’s Erotic Muse strikes us with its openness, its seriousness, its candour and its eventual exaltation of Rati to a plan where the apparent glamour of the flesh merges into a Universal Principle of Creation.

Notes

References made to R. K. Singh’s poetry are from his following collections:

My Silence (1985), Madras, Poets Press India.

Memories Unmemoried (1988). Berhampur, Poetry Time Publications.

Music must Sound (1990), Dhanbad, author.

Flight of Phoenix (1990) Berhampur, Poetry time Publications.

Two Poets: R. K. Singh (/Ujjal I do not question Singh Bahri (The Grammar of My life), (1994), New Delhi, Bahri Publications.

References

1. The Rasa-Sutra, that is, the Rasa Formula, of the generally acknowledgedly original Acharya Bharat Muni runs as follows: (Vibhavanubhav vyabhicharisanyogadasnishpattih”). According to this formulation, the “Sthayi Bhava”, to wit, the Dominant Emotion, becomes Rasa from a combination of “Vibhavas”, the “Anubhavas”, and the “Vyabhicharis” (also known alternatively as “Sancharis”).The “Vibhavas” are the Causes or Determinants; the “Anubhavas” are the Consequents or Ensuants and “the Vibhicharis” or “Sancharis” are the Transitory emotions, usually accompanying the rise of the Dominant Emotion, the sthayis, “Rati” (love between man and woman), “Hasa” (laughter), “Krodha” (anger), “Shoka” (grief) et cetera are recognized as the sthayis or the Dominant Emotions while “Nirveda” (detachment from worldly concerns), “Glani” (internal weakness), “Shanka” (apprehension), “Vreeda” (bashfulness), “Harsha” (pleasure) et cetera are identified as the Vyabhicharis since they do not last long, but appear and vanish in the wake of the rise of the Sthayis, the Dominant Emotions. It is out of the combination of these elements that Rasa is produced, the original seed being the Sthayi which itself attains the status of Rasa, becoming palpably felt and experienced. “Vibhavas” or the Causes are divided into two categories, “Alambana” and “Uddipana”. The Alambanas are the Supporting Causes and the Uddipanas are the Stimulating Causes. For example, “Rati” is aroused, involving a man and a woman. They are the Alambanas. These “Alambanas” are again divided into two classes: “Ashrayalambana” and “Vishayalambana”. If “Rati” is awakened in the heart of Dushyanta at the sight of Shakuntala, the former will be called the “Ashrayalambana”, one who “shelters” the emotion; and the latter will be called the “Vishayalambana”, one who is the object of the rise of the emotion of Rati. The “Uddipanas” are the circumstances which stimulate the awakening of the emotion, including the natural surroundings, the actual situation, the beauty of the persons concerned et cetera. “Anubhavas” indicate the rise of a Sthayi, being the external manifestations. The Sancharis are the assistants, accompanying and helping the rise of the Sthayi. For example, Dushyant, attracted by the sight of Shakuntala, feels the kindling of Rati for her, but is also internally visited by Transitories, such as, anxiety, apprehension, agitation, incertitude, et cetera. He casts greedy looks, sighs, paces to and fore—all these are the Consequents which follow as a consequence of the rise of the dominant emotion. These are the Anubhavas. Let it be noted that different Sthayis give rise to different Rasas which justify their appellation because of their becoming tasted or relished by the sensitive readers or beholders of a dramatic performance on the stage.

2. “Rati” produces the “Shringara Rasa”, the Erotic Rrelish. This Shringara is divided into two categories: “Samyoga or “Sambhoga” which suggests ‘Love in Union’, that is, love when the two lovers are together and ‘Viyoga’ or ‘Vipralambha’, Love in Separation, that is, love when the two are separated from each other.

3. “Anubhavas” already explained in 1.

4. Apologies, in Indian Erotics, are tendered by the lover to the beloved when he fails to keep up his appointment with her to visit her. Such beloveds or “Nayikas” are called “Maninis” who usually adopt adverse postures in relation to the lover.

5. “Vasanas” denote the instincts or impulses, better when he visits then known as the “Sthayis”, are transmitted from generation to generation of mankind in the natural way. As such, they are naturally embedded in the soul or psyche needing no teaching or training. These “Vasanas” should not be confounded with the popular notions of “Vasanas” as instincts or impulses smacking of the libidinous or lecherous.

6. Indian Science of Words recognizes three powers of a word, called. “Abhidha”, “Lakshna” and “Vyanjana” . “Abhidha” denotes common usual meaning conveyed by a word which is called “Abhidheyartha” or “Vachyartha”. “Lakshana” denotes a meaning derived from the Vachyartha which is called “Lakhyartha and Vyanjana denotes a meaning really intended by the speaker which transcends the earlier two meanings. This is called “Vyangyaratha”, the suggested meaning..

7 and 8 are already explained in 1.

9. “Nayikas” are variously classified in Indian Erotics. When they are classified according to age, they fall into three categories: “Mugdhas” between the ages of 14 to 16, “Madhyas” between the ages of 17 to 30, and those above 30 or thereabout are known as “Praudhas”. Interestingly, this classification is linked with the psychic capacities or alacrities of the Nayikas concerned to respond to the emotion of Rati. “Mugdhas” are usually apprehensive as to their first encounter with their lovers or husbands.

10 Nayikas are again divided into three categories : “Swakeeyas”, “Parakeeyas”, and “Samanayas”. “Swakeeyes are duly married wives. “Parakeeyas” are those who contract relations of love outside marital orbit, that is, with those, not their husbands. “Samanyas” are whores or prostitutes who welcome each and every person for consideration of monetary gains.

11. Urvashi is the Nayika and Pururava the Nayaka, King Pururava who in special circumstances, liberates her from the clutches of a demon. After giving birth to a son, she leaves Pururava in accordance with an “Abhishapa’, or Curse, which makes Pururava frantic with grief. She has, however, reunited with him in the play.

12. “Sayujya” denotes merging of the “Atman” with the “Paramantman” in the Yogic “Sadhana”.

13. “Lavanaya” is defined by Acharyas thus: “Muktafaleshuchchhayaswaralattvamintaraf./Pratibhati yadgameshu lavanya tadihochyate.” ---That which shimmers in the limbs of the damsels like the liquid shimmers of the pearls is called “Lavanya”.

14. “Padminis” in Indian Erotics are those Nayikas whose breath emits forth fragrance. Interestingly, in classical poetry Padmini Nayikas are sometimes pictured as attracting a host of bees around them due to their fragrance.


15. It is significant to note that Bharata speaks of the ‘Shringara’, the product of “Rati”, in glowing terms, calling it “sacred, holy and immaculate”.

--R.S.TIWARY

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R.S.Tiwary: A veteran tri-lingual writer, poet and critic in Sanskrit, Hindi and English with more than three dozen books, scores of critical articles, and several translations, from Skanda Purana to The Eve of St. Agnes, besides prestigious awards and honours to his credit, Professor Tiwary retired as Principal of K.S. Saket Postgraduate College, Ayodhya in June 1976. He published one of his significant books Current Indian Creativity in English (Jaipur: Book Enclave) in 2003 (from where this article has been reproduced) before leaving his mortal frame on September 9, 2003 at the ripe age of 90.
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