Contemplating society’s different realitiesMahesh Paudyal's Shunya Praharko Sakshi, an anthology of 108 short poems, reflects diverse human experiences with acute literary sensibility
The landscape of Nepali poetry has historically undergone a crucial debate: whether poetry should be interventionist or should it be a spontaneous and lucid expression of subjective feelings. Irrespective of the debate, an informed poetry reader is likely to accept that a poem must reflect sincere human experience.
Mahesh Paudyal's Shunya Praharko Sakshi, an anthology of 108 short poems, reflects diverse human experiences on a variety of topics. It is a collection based on his contemplations of humanity, romance, love, childhood innocence and adult experiences through war, violence and politics. These multifarious themes are pitched with poetic vision, aesthetic consciousness and literary sensibility. And although all the poems are pretty short in size, a majority of them do appeal to the senses, and more importantly, require intellectual and tactful observations on the part of the reader for poetic epiphany.
The anthology begins with ‘Karnali’, an incisive criticism on politics perpetrated on the Karnali region through which many have progressed but the people of Karnali. ‘Sanwidhan’, as one of his poems is titled, was supposed to be an iridescent box of hopes and dreams, but it turned out to be the largest politics that was ever effected on the country's citizens, says the poet. Similarly, there are other poems dealing with general but apposite themes—how humans are made to live with paradoxes. ‘Kawya Sarowar’, Janmadin’, ‘Siyo’, ‘Jallad’, ‘Swabhimaan Ko Bojh’, etc, are among some of his more powerful poems, and they precisely pin down intricate conditions and plights of general human life.
His reflections are infused with the internalisation and personalisation of local situations and problems. ‘Dharaaharaa’, ‘Buddha ra Ma’, ‘Chhori’, ‘Jaat’, ‘Tihar Ma Sapana’, ‘Sahidkiwidhawaa’ and some other poems deal prominently with local circumstantial reality, and explore the eccentricities and problems perennially existing in our society.
Some of the poems speak for the oppressed and the disadvantaged, like in ‘Shramik ra Kawi’, where he shows us the reality of blue-collar workers. ‘Vijeta’ shows us a majhi's indifference to any victory, because no victory has ever been able to change his plight. As powerful as these poems are, what is more commendable is the fact that while the reflections are upon political and social realities, the poet himself has not taken any position or passed any kind of judgement. He stands merely as a witness.
Child psychology has also occupied a space in this collection. Disgruntled with adulthood, blemished by politics, the poet at times becomes nostalgic of the innocence he had as a child and wishes to think of the world as he did as a child, the perfect abode to unburden his burden of adulthood experiences. In ‘Umer’, the poet compares himself with a river which never harks back to the bank that once he had trodden; in ‘Janmadin’, the speaker reminisces and realises that he/she is well ahead with times and cannot go back. ‘Bachchaako Khel’ and ‘Samrat ra Bachchaa’ both satirise ingenuous adult thinking.
Paudyal's poems seem to be inspired by postmodernist optimism—you do not need a grand theme to compose a poem; something small and little can be engaging. Therefore, everything is subject matter for poetry.
In terms of rhetoric, Paudyal has handled paradox as a rhetorical device quite tactfully. A few examples are intriguing: ‘Jallaad’, who is doing his work to live a life; ‘Jamin’ is the ultimate destination despite one's exuberant flight. In another, an exquisite lady finds beauty as too burdensome, as a ‘Bojh’, and wants to exchange it with someone else's ugliness. Similarly, some parallels are intriguing. For example, in ‘Pahaad ra Haami’, he draws an incongruous similarity between humans and mountains: though the mountains seem to be calm and composed, like humans, they also have their own silent battles, they are also crying, in the form of Mechi and Kali.
As the poems are really short, details about relationships, places, and experiences are concrete and short. The collection entails a substantial proportion of prose interspersed within poems. However, the prose is not always so prosaic. Paudyal's keeping of every poem short and terse means they sometimes lack the vigor or the profundity of emotions. Readers become unable to connect deeply as feelings shrivel off before they reach saturation. Perfervid with curtness of expression, the poet does not touch deeper on the subject matter at hand despite the topic being ambitious and pressing. Similarly, the collection lacks the variety of style and presentation: all the poems are similar in size, nature of diction and in direction. Sometimes, straightforward language can be used to address deep philosophical issues in prose but poetry is such a genre which demands adroitness in handling emotions and feelings juxtaposed with linguistic dexterity. And that is sometimes lost in his poems.
At its best, the anthology foregrounds personal experiences without generalising universal values: the sturdiest poems point to an inner world and the secretive spaces that the persona inhabits instead of being swayed by typical and abstract things. Some poems are intellectually challenging as they require fundamental understanding of both eastern and western philosophies but in some, emotions fall short.
Shunya Praharko SakshiAuthor: Mahesh PaudyalPublisher: Shikha BooksPages: 120Price: Rs 200