Monday, November 27, 2006

JUMPING GENES: A Review

Book Review: R.K.SINGH

Y.S. RAJAN. Jumping Genes. Chennai: New Century Book House (P) Ltd., 2006. Pages ix+114. Price Rs. 60/-. ISBN 81-234-1013-1


Y.S. Rajan takes poetry writing as seriously as scientific writing, technical innovation, academic or research planning, and management. He follows “hard realities”, “illusions”, and “difficulties” with the same passion as he experiences poetic moments to recreate his “sensual exuberance” in the world around him. As he characterizes his flame of creativity: “The genes are jumping with joy, sometimes in pain, sometimes in a great euphoria….There are also moments of stillness.” (‘From the Author’). The jumping genes are his innate creative impulses, his natural instinct in action, his poems that intuitively process through his mind.

Rajan’s bilingualism makes a positive impact on his poetry in that one notices a diverse intermixing of sound and sense, or reason and rhythm. His Tamil sensibility enriches and strengthens his verses in English and makes him stand taller than most others who are, I am afraid, simply devoid of their native sensibility, or lack natural rhythm so necessary to make one distinctive.

Rajan’s poetic mind reverberates with a rich tradition of Tamil poets and saints who equip him with “inner wisdom,” penetrating sight into the present day affairs of the world—knowledge, sciences, society, religion/dharma, bureaucracy, economics and politics—to voice a culture of creativity, beauty, harmony, love, and peace, inspired also as she has been by the ideas and ideals of our scientist President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, with whom he has authored several books. He enthralls as he declares: “India my Mother/Bharat my Amma/…I see you in our songs.” (p. 81). The nationalist in Rajan makes him sing the eternal glory of the Mother, whose milk nourishes his dreams of Heaven and bliss of Soul.

He also celebrates unity of mankind, “oneness of being/and oneness of attributes” in the chant of Om, Allah, and Ek Onkar Satnam, but regrets the decline in seekers. He sounds concerned, for example, about Saraswati “sitting/with snakes all over her body crawling” and wishes people, particularly the academia and students, to recognize that “Knowledge, skills and creative thoughts,/ All merge so swell in the new markets !”(p.4)
Prosperity cannot be ensured without recognizing the ‘mantra’ of “Spirit, Science, Skills and Song” (p.63).

It seems the poet does not have many happy memories of his stay in Punjab, where he had served as Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University and Scientific Adviser to the Chief Minister. In fact his poems such as ‘A Punjab Prayer’, ‘A World Prayer’, ‘Gift of Hatred’, ‘To a Leader’, ‘Opened Wound’, ‘A Train Journey and India’, ‘Heroes’ Tears’, ‘Hypocritic Principles’, ‘Leaking India’, ‘Opposites’, ‘Values for the youth’, ‘Individual Differentiation’, ‘Fourth Estate’ etc reveal Rajan’s social consciousness, rooted in his deeper experiences. The poems evince an insightful understanding, critical perspective, and unity in diversity not only in India but also in the world.

Despite hurdles, weaknesses, and cruelties on the one hand, and “greatness and corruption as part of lives,” on the other, journeying towards the eternal is what matters (‘The Paths’). He is justified if at times he appears incensed: “The open wounds/Are washed with the tears/Will it be an antiseptic?” (p.50).

Y.S. Rajan expresses his disappointment, anger and dissatisfaction through irony, often very subtle and very carefully nuanced, as in ‘Individual Differentiation’, ‘Opened Wounds’, ‘A TQM Dinner’, or ‘About a Friend’. He reflects his ironic vision in ‘Leaking India’:

“Mother India! You are full of water
in rivers, oceans and melting snows
still Mother! Why do your children leak
some silly drops in your mighty presence?
Do you like these drops
as Siva likes on His head?” (p. 30)

and

“The hansa kept on flying
with the rulers down below watching
the hansa spotted a few Ravanas new
and turned itself to Jatayu” (p.31)

Many of the 83 poems in the volume, particularly ‘To a Leader’, ‘Truth Untruth’, ‘My Office Building’, ‘Death’, ‘Karna’, ‘Hair and Beard’, etc conceal the poet’s angst or intense irony to express what he regrets: “When I need to live the present, they leave me cold” (p. 41).

As a committed scientist with social awareness, Rajan views poetry, arts, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and even technology and engineering as the means “to drive away all things divisive’ (p 14) and as part of man’s “eternal quest” for beauty and harmony (cf. ‘Dehling Patkai’, ‘The Prayer for India’, ‘Pandit Jasraj’, ‘Feminine Breasts’, ‘Creation’, ‘Values for the Youth’ etc). As for material prosperity, it is connectivities -- physical, economic, electronic and knowledge – that one needs to blend (p 24); it is the urge to “do something to transform your land/with prosperity for all” (p 27) even as he ironically notices all around:

“Hypocritic words are the victory mantra,
and the upper elites’ sustaining mantra;
army of collies fascinated by the opium new;
search did I in desert, for the Milky Ocean!” (p. 28)

Yet, when he professionally reflects on the state of affairs in India, he has a global futuristic view, a total vision—scientific, social and economic. He appreciates his creative activity in ‘Different Eyes’ thus:

“As I see with the eyes of a poet,
many things look so different,
the words flow the rhythm of the mood
and the vision I have in my inner mind;
….Watching and immersing
itself in the things it’s watching ‘n’ enjoying
it loses itself in the process and creates
new visions and diverse truths!” (pp 54-55)

‘Lady Science’ and ‘Soul’s Message’ are two of his skilled compositions one may like to read again and again. There are also very personal echoes in the poem ‘A Siddha’ and I enjoy the poet’s ironic observation when we had met the President of India on 18 May 2005 and felt the “light of joy” together:

“One Siddha
operated the computer
showed his poems

No love making
with kisses;
nor swinging breasts;” (p 94)

I also find one of his four-liners, ‘New Puja’, memorable for its blend of lyric and ironic:

“I offer pujas with silicon chips
and also find ways to pack potato chips
to offer to the devotees
who crawl around my God!” (p 68)

‘To Students’ is a poem which briefly tells us the essence of knowledge economy and creative economy of the emerging world order.

To conclude, I find Y.S. Rajan’s verses in Jumping Genes structurally and texturally more challenging than in his earlier two collections, Blossoms of the Heart and Agony and Harmony, both published in 2002. Here he presents a matured form, with irony as his forte. And, in the true vein of the 21st century, his verses are replete with critical in-look, world vision, native sensibility, and national commitment.


Dr.R.K.Singh, Professor & Head, Dept of Humanities & Social Sciences, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 826004 Jharkhand

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