Friday, July 30, 2010

Wanderer on Divine Path

 by Guzel Strelkova & Elena Kuzmina*

Abhay Kumar is very young - he was born in 1980 in Nalanda district in Bihar. He graduated from Delhi University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University and since 2003 is in the Indian diplomatic service (Indian Foreign Service). He has a successful career: in 2005 he started as Third Secretary at the commercial department of the Embassy of India in Moscow, and two years later was sent to work as Consul in St. Petersburg. Undoubtedly, Abhay's fluent Russian and his knowledge of Russian history and Russian literature which he knows well and loves, helped him to get his new assignment. While working in Moscow, he graduated from the Center for International Education (Centre of International education) Moscow State University.

He is a successful poet, novelist and painter. It can be said that Moscow has helped him become a writer and poet: it was here he completed his first novel, “River Valley to Silicon Valley- Story of Three Generations of an Indian Family ( Russian translation - 2008), which was released in 2007. His first book of poems 
“Enigmatic Love: Love poems from fairy-tale city of Moscowpublished in 2009 is dedicated to Moscow. The growing worldwide concern over environmental issues prompted the poet to release electronic edition of another poetry collection, "Fallen Leaves of Autumn" in 2010. In addition, the Indian poet’s  poems included in anthologies of poetry edited by Michelle Afford ("Natural Spirit ", 2006) and Anna Cook (" A Moment of Déjà Vu ", 2007), were published by British publishing Forward Press. His work has also been published in Russian journals, in particular, in the "Literary St. Petersburg", "Women's St. Petersburg" etc.

As for painting, critics & experts confirm the words of Abhay Kumar: "Petersburg turned me into a painter," and are not surprised that St. Petersburg  made diplomat, poet and writer, also an artist. According to Andrei Khlobystin, art historian, "Abhay Kumar completely fits into “St. Petersburg titanism” going against narrow professional specialization; if one is in a high, balanced state, one can easily engage in different types of creative activities. " However, the artistic hobbies of Abhay only contribute to his writing talents.

Cycle of poems "Candling the Light" was created earlier - in 2005-2007, in that- the poet's personal philosophy, the spiritual world of a man who is looking for Cosmos in the depths of his own heart and ask questions from the Universe, to know himself and the meaning of human existence.

Poet is concerned about the understanding of momentary nature of being - immortality, life - death, their incompatibility in the present moment and indivisible unity in Eternity. Rhythmic language of poetry could not be more suitable for the study of eternal truths - it is known since ancient times, and therefore Abhay Kumar uses it to understand the mysteries of the paradoxes of the world order. However, as a diplomat, who by virtue of professional knowledge can see that the entire history of humanity is the history of the division of land and power by war, he applies this knowledge to social and political processes of modernity, by comparing the craving for power and getting used to it with the destructive habit of human beings getting used to
But everyone craves for power,
The deadliest drug of all,
Once tasted,
It surpasses the most addictive of drugs,
Making a person mad,
Numbing one's senses
To the suffering and pain,
Of those millions,
Who are waiting in vain,
For their deliverance,
Through these prophets insane,
Power –addicts, abusers,
Who need help themselves.
(Of drugs and drug addicts 9 June 2006)

These verses have been written by a man for whom the concept of citizenship and patriotism  is- not small-town, not that which Tolstoy called "Leaven", but enshrined in the consciousness as a measure of personal responsibility for everything that happens on the planet. Anyone living out here will have to assess in their old age their existence 'here and now' in relation to a global perspective that go far beyond the line of one’s own ego? At twenty-five Abhay Kumar, investigating another ancient antinomy - Good - Evil writes:

<...> Do we need aliens to unite us
Or widows to know war
Or AIDS to understand,
How many die in vain?
Life comes so cheap,
We let many die,
Yet immortality is what we aspire for.
 ("Immortality", 25 December 2005).
He sees the uniqueness of humanity, as the phenomenon of life, at least within the solar system:

The rarity of life
Is so destined,
Only on earth out of nine<...>

("Life is Brief", 3 May 2006)

The poet feels physically extraterrestrial vacuum as the realm of "darkness and oblivion," and sees the sky above our head, not as the protecting firmament, but as "thin air" in which "one day we will disappear", and "it is just a matter of time." However despite absolutely clear imagination of self and the earthly perishability, defenselessness before the indomitable Universe and the unpredictable forces that move it, Abhay Kumar offers the only way to confront temporality of existence:

So let’s make hay
While the sun shines <...>.
And further:
Life is so brief,
Yet so cheap,
It’s difficult to comprehend,
Let’s value this quick-sand,
As lies ahead,
The endless sea of death,
Darkness and non-being..
("Life is Brief,
3 May 2006)

But suppose that the author is - an inveterate pessimist from a young age; it is impossible - he does not give such an impression. The bitterness in his poems is- a tribute to the discrepancy between the realities of the human community, where everything is clearly seen as consequences of self-destruction - the spiritual and physical, the ideals of Beauty and Harmony of the world:

In anger they suffer,
Hurt themselves, lose sense,
Not knowing, only in love
Dwells peace, strength and harmony <...>.
 ("Good versus evil",
June 12, 2006)

However, the young poet is ready to prove that the true essence of man, despite the abundance of fatal defects of the external face of modernity, is more perfect than what it seems. He is ready for such proof. His direct, unmediated faith in the higher wisdom gives it strength, and poetry sound like a victorious, triumphant credo:

I believe the world is more honest than corrupt,
And human beings are basically good,
It’s not in our nature to sin.
I believe God exists,
In you, in me, and
In everything we see.
I believe spirituality is stronger than religion,
It connects us to God without any mediation.
("I believe", 22 May 2006).

Thus, a century ago, a young Russian poet Alexander Blok, whose verses sounded no less bitter wrote:

<…> Пусть давит жизни сон тяжелый,
Пусть задыхаюсь в этом сне,–
Быть может, юноша веселый
В грядущем скажет обо мне:
Простим угрюмство – разве это
Сокрытый двигатель его?
Он весь – дитя добра и света,
Он весьсвободы торжество!
<...> <…> Let the heavy sleep squeeze lives,
Let I choke in this sleep,
May youth be merry
In the future one will say about me:
Let us forgive gloominess –
Is it- its concealed machine?
 It is all- the child of good and light,
It is all – celebration of  freedom!
("Oh, I do want to live ...», 5 February 1914)

Different words and said at a different time, but their spiritual background - is the same: the belief in goodness and light, as a natural, inherent quality of the human heart.

To gain a foothold in any belief, it is useful to test oneself in doubt, and this may have to look into the eyes of "the dark side of life." This is - another of the poems of the cycle.

What we were against is the eternal flux of life - a question that many poets at different times correspond to different words. Blok in the opening lines of the poem "Retribution" has no doubt that "life - is without beginning or end, we are all a matter of chance." Abhay Kumar also discusses the immortality as about ongoing evolution, which is itself - an infinite sum of many beings. Each of them have to stop once, one’s traces will dissolve, but one  is - a necessary link in the overall sequence, and these links are equal in the face of life as an endless natural phenomenon. However, the author decides to take a look at the game of life from the biological side, depriving man of his spiritual fervor, designed to elevate Homo Sapiens over the other inhabitants of the planet - as in deep geological periods, and those who may emerge later. He daringly decides to question the godlike majesty rights of the man :

We are manifestations of life,
The book says-
God created us in his own image,
But sometimes I wonder,
Life goes on,
When we die,
Species become extinct,
And new species evolve.<...>

What if life just uses us
To preserve itself and propagate?
It hardly matters,
This species or that,
Dinosaurs or humans,
It’s just the same,
Only forms change. <...>. 
("The Dark Side of Life",
22 June 2006)

But in an attempt to "illuminate the light" in the search for the meaning of Life Abhay Kumar is still looking for, not in the dark – but the bright side. And, bitterly incensed by the imperfection of the world, feeling the responsibility for the fate of the world, what is obvious  that qualities of his profession  plays a  role in this  (think of how M. Vorontsov, one of the leading Russian diplomats of XX - early XXI century, liked to say: " think big”; in his poem" Good versus evil, "the young poet writes:

God, give me strength to love them all,
While they bleed me
Give me strength to forgive,
To love, to cure, to heal,
The ignorant,
Save them all,From the agonies of life,
Give them back the bliss,
The children have,
Lead them to innocence .

(Good versus evil ",
12 June 2006)

The endless race between good and evil - Marx's eternal struggle and the unity of opposites in all forms, all the cynicism of biological perishability and death  are well understood and experienced by the young poet. But they inevitably lead him and us along with him to the conclusion, which is not new, but it never gets old: Aspiring to behold the distant "bright future", it is better to take closer look at this, which is always - the prologue. We are alive to this day, tells us Abhay Kumar, and therefore:

To look at the stars,
To say a prayer,
To dream a dream.
It’s never too late,
To play a game,
To watch the sunset,
To try a new musical instrument.
It’s never too late,
To try again .

("Never too late",
10 July 2006)

Dream, creative and liberating power of imagination elevates the world to its Highest, where fate is powerless the truth triumphs :

There are no barriers in imagination,
No fear of persecution,
 Imagine, you can achieve the ultimate,
Imagine! It’s never too late.
 (Imaginational and Reality, August 31, 2006)

Thus, gradually, from poem to poem of this cycle, it becomes clear that the author's opinion about the resolution of unresolved antinomies is this: for every one of us to choose one’s own point of view-, despite all ‘rhymes and reasoning’, it is just a personal preference. World’s fatality is relative and insurmountable in the soul, and therefore in our thoughts and deeds. Denying nothing of the proposed existence amidst the sad aspect of life, Abhay Kumar, proposes ways of transforming oneself, which again are known, but it will never become banal since we know they know, but how often do they follow?

Are you scared of loneliness,
Don’t be, because it’s not your fate,
But what you chose to be.<...>

Lonely, bored and burnt-out,
Think, there is still some time left,
Don’t let it be your fate,
Stop for a while and contemplate.
 ("Man - II», October 9, 2006)
And another:
Return to your roots,
It’s there where you belong,
Wherever you may live;
That’s where you will rest in peace.

("Roots", 15 November 2006)

And man drives himself into slavery of life. Let us recall the remark of Andrey Bely that we ourselves create the schedule, and then put all our lives in dependence on them. A century later Abhay Kumar wrote:
Life lives us, or
We live life?
Where is the time to read, write, reflect and act,
To sing and dance, for a little romance?
Life is such slavery.

("Life - is slavery!" 13 February 2007).

Strangely, this is the second time in the discourse about poetry Abhay Kumar on associative memory come the names of the classical representatives of Russian Poetry of Silver Age. Abhay can not be attributed to the Symbolists, in any case - it shaped the world almost impossibly realistic. But, apparently, in the works of Indian diplomat, artist and poet with a kind of philosophical and civic affinity: it is possible, the same desire for liberation from the bonds of disharmony stay in this world, the desire to "free the dream, and understand that dreams do not always soar in the pure sky. The dream may be called upon to indicate the "impenetrable horror of life" – as of  Blok.
He said a century ago about the same:

Да, так велит мне вдохновенье:
Моя свободная мечта
Всё льнет туда, где униженье
Где грязь и мрак и нищета.
И я люблю сей мир ужасный:
За ним сквозит мне мир иной,
Обетованный и прекрасный,
И человечески простой.
Yes, so tells me inspiration:
My free dream
All clings there, where humiliation is
Where mud and gloom and misery is
And I love this terrible world:
After it the other world penetrates me,
Habitable and excellent,
And humanely  simple.
(«Да, так велит мне вдохновенье…», сентябрь 1911 – февраль 1914 гг.)

And when the great Russian wrote this poem in its first edition, he was older than the young Indian just five years ...
And at the end of its cycle thinking author questions:
A writer asks,
Will he find a place ,
In the wilderness of words,
Or disappear in the library-dust?<...>

And himself gives the answer:

But why should he worry,
About the future and past,
A writer must write,
till the very last.
 ("Questions of a Writer, May 22, 2007)

And this is the summary, and the beginning of future poems. We looked at one of the modern Indian poets in the very beginning of career, from the viewpoint of an European, but from the general humanistic outlook he is not in the East or the West, nowhere is impossible to go. The parallels inevitably appear, poetry is spiritual phenomenon and therefore intercontinental.
The ancient wisdom of Indian philosophy and culture is born of the foundations of nature, natural for a man of vision of world harmony, and therefore brings together all the descendants who inhabit the earth today. Indian poetry has only recently ceased to be a "literary canon" and  has ceased to follow certain for her high style, to use certain age-old genres and forms, or to describe the traditional heroes - and began to talk about what is experienced and felt by individual, alive, specific person.

Yes, it's English-language poetry, translated and now available in Russian, but at the same time, of course, Abhay Kumar is an Indian with European education - the heir to the multilingual Indian poetry and tradition- which calls for the realization of God and eternity in one’s own soul. His poetry evokes a lot created in a bygone era: it's a poem, attributed to great Kalidas,  Ritusamhara-"Four Seasons", Rabindranath Tagore's  poetic collection "Gardener" or the verses of the poets of Hindi of the first half of the twentieth century - Chhayavadis -Jayashankara Prasad, Sumitranandana Pant, Mahadevi Varma or Nirala. Some of them, like Kalidasa and Rabindranath Tagore, are known throughout the world, others, like Chhayavadis –mostly to those who read and love poetry in Hindi. Their poetry comes to life in verse of Abhay Kumar, whose name means "Fearless Prince", and today, everything indicates that with time he will become a true "Raja (King)" of Indian English poetry.

1. An antinomy (Greek) - reasoning, proving that the two statements, which are the negation of each other, one after another.

2. Chhayavad (from the word "Chhaya - shadow, it is also the name of the wife of the Sun God - Surya) - the first literary movement in Hindi poetry (the end of the tenth - the beginning of the forties of the twentieth century), which Indian studies, in particular, NA Vishnevskaya , defined as "lyrical poetry of experience", or religious and philosophical poetry.

*Guzel Strelkova-Associate Professor of Indian Philology
Institute of Asia and Africa, Moscow State University,
Elena Kuzina- Editor, Time & Culture(Vremya & Kultura), Moscow

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