Wednesday, February 14, 2007

RIPPLES IN THE LAKE

Book Review: Dr.R.K.SINGH

C.L. Khatri. Ripples in the Lake. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2006, pages 72, Price Rs. 60/-. ISBN 81-7977-164-4

C.L. Khatri has been a committed promoter of new Indian English talents as editor, critic, reviewer, and scholar. I appreciate him for effectively using his Cyber Literature, a biannual journal of English studies, to bring in the limelight several creative names from Bihar and Jharkhand. Kargil (2000), his maiden collection of 42 poems, further established his fame as an Indian English poet.

Ripples in the Lake is Khatri’s second collection with 54 poems. It is remarkable for a rare maturity in his voice: “I will walk on the highway/naked as a babe with the spring in my soul.” One can feel the irony in his articulation and choice of expression in poems such as ‘Pitrivin’, ‘Brahm-bhoj’, Brindawan’, ‘Summer’, ‘Professor Saheb’, ‘Winter’, ‘Bapu’, ‘Culprit’, and ‘Carrier Crow’. His native sensibility defies answers to the questions haunting him poem after poem. He voices the feeling of insecurity for everyone:

“Every morning when I go out

I pray to Dashanan to lend one of his heads

As a spare part

If I am beheaded, I’ll use it.

If I escape I’ll return it.”

(‘Dashanan)

Khatri may sound “crazy” in his depiction of the notorious politics of backwardness of Bihar, but he is not a defeatist, wearing a “spring mask”. He is rooted in the soil, confident, and challenging, when he invites detractors and critics to experience the basic humanity of the people:

“You feel pity on ous to see.

Our buffalo rides, rising cow-dust

On our return home with the retreating sun

Semi-nude, haphazard hair

Rustic tongue, home replete with

Scattered grains, straws, dead leaves…

Don’t shut your nostrils with perfumed hanky

Let your nose smell them. You’ll feel better

They are the feathers of our life.”

(‘Invitation’)

He sounds nearly mythical, evoking the importance of Gaya (?) for redemption of sins and final liberation:

“When you don’t get four shoulders

To carry a body to the cremation ground

Turn to us, to rest on our shoulders.”

In his ‘Hangover’ I hear the echoes of O.P. Bhatnagar in a postmodernist vein. He appears, like everyone, tolerant of “hawalas” and “ghotalas” he hears or read about each day:

“The cries still pass through my veins—

cold stolid stones

I go on with my morning ritual.”

(‘Morning Ritual’)

C.L. Khatri’s new collection continues the mindset of Kargil with aspects of difficult life in the country today: natural calamities (‘Life and Death’, ‘Bhuj’), poverty and political immorality (‘Mirage’, ‘Mother’s Cry’, Bapu’, ‘Tears’), environmental pollution (‘Culprit’, ‘Bus Ride’), superstitions and prejudices (‘Tabij’), politics of terrorism (‘English Ghost’, ‘Karbala in Grief’) etc., but here the poet is more form-conscious. Some of his poems do not read as naturally as others. At times I suspect he did not need to use so many Hindi words just as he could have avoided using the French elan vital in

‘Teddy Bear’. Yet the poet’s poems pave the way for Khatri’ to become a potent voice of the 21st century . Ripples in the Lake is very readable and affordable.

--R.K.SINGH

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