Bhaskaranand Jha’s “Two Indias and Other Poems”: A Superb Specimen of Radical Functional Poetry

R. K. Bhushan Sabharwal

- Prof. R. K. Bhushan Sabharwal


This collection of poems, Two Indias and Other Poems, has shown the amazing growth of the poetic vision and poetic craftsmanship of Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar. This is functional poetry embracing the working and movement of life in its entirety and the poet’s honesty and seriousness in understanding the urgencies of life are suggestive and expressive of his convictions and maturity. This is an intensely lyrical expression of the poet’s deep sensibilities, political, religious and social tensions, pains, agonies and genuine concerns. His canvas has widened and encompasses all that happens within and beyond time and space to sensitize the reader about what damages and disgraces the harmony, goodwill, fraternity, peace and the laughter of everyday human life. We can clearly hear the sighs, sobs, cries and groans of the innocent, the neglected, the deprived and the victimized and the helpless on the wounded, bleeding and suffering the beloved motherland; these have been captured in all their nakedness and truthfulness in his fresh poetic idiom and metaphor by the stricken conscience of the poet at the sight of the vulgar and savage laugh of the callous powers that rule and run the sanctity of the system with their loud-mouthed hollow declarations. The poet’s badly hurt sensitivity speaks unafraid freely and frankly with strong convictions in no choked voice, though at times, his screams are at their highest pitch. However, these songs actually sing of his larger golden dreams of happy, healthy and harmonious humanity, at present suppressed, crushed and destroyed, but can be realized and fulfilled through serious moral and spiritual teaching. There is a frequent sway and swing of the lyricism of the poetry of the British Romantics like Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson and Yeats with echoes of the Irish guts and grit in these radical and rebellious poems of Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar, true to the meaning of his name (SUN) destroying the darkness from every corner of the universe and warming and burning the cold and frozen hearts. This is also his radicalism at the deplorable loss and unfortunate collapse of moral and spiritual values with open, deliberate and audacious disrespect for the ideals and sacrifices of the brilliantly enlightened personalities of our beloved Mother India and those enshrined in our glorious literature. He asks Delhi where the Duryodhanas and Dusshashans have become progressive and proactive wearing a cosmopolitan mask standing tall in the modern Mahabharata for the dignity, liberation and emancipation of women and watching the gaiety of rapists whom the arms of law and justice cannot bring them to justice.
This is a fine poetry of politics, persons and personalities playing upon the innocence of the general populace; the poetry of pallid and peevish poverty and people ploughed down into utmost penury by the conspicuously mighty but not necessarily right. The poet’s mind delves deep into the past and present and looks to happy vibrant future with optimism and faith as the social and cultural traditions and religious ceremonies and rituals and rites followed and practiced by the masses in innocence or ignorance but scrupulously shall fructify one day in the fulfillment of desires and realization of dreams cherished since long generation after generation. Bhaskaranand Jha shakes, disturbs and rouses the sensibilities of the reader to the prevailing wide-spread mess and spoils of stinking corruption, hunger, starvation, exploitation and anarchy to the malicious delight of the powers that be there but also acquaints and awakens the dull reader to wake up and rise to mend matters. His tributes to the gems of India-A. B. Vajpayee and A. P. J. Kalam are not that glowing and lacks luster. However, his poems on Maithili cultural glory and his tribute to Maharajadhiraj Kameshwar Singh  are indeed highly appreciable and deserve our attention in knowing what Maithilis are and , for that matter, what Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is! The poet’s use of surprising richness of imagery and striking poetic language and idiom to portray the procession of the events and pageants of the contemporary world shows the wide expanse of his outreach into the new horizons. This new collection of Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar’s poems is a poetic assertion of Matthew Arnold’s dictum-“Poetry, at bottom, is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty.” There is a notable and remarkable assertion and application of this unchallenged function of poetry in all literatures. The poet here exercises with restraint the moral responsibility and socio-cultural, socio-religious and socio-political convictions to enlighten the reader about the exact meaning and functional purpose of life.    
The poet’s heart bleeds at the complete criminalization of the entire social, political, economic, religious setup and even the justice system and his pain and anger find radical but genuine expression in poem after poem in this collection. Most of these poems are a relentless indictment of the degeneration and debasement of human values in a tactfully organized manner. The poet’s deep pain and anguish, and his humanistic concern can be felt in such a disheartening situation in the following lines-
           “Where corruption prevails,
           The corrupt are more active
           …………………………………………….
           ………………………………………..
           The innocents are crudely run over
           Their ideals have a post-mortem.
          ……………………………………………..
           The country, poor, crawls with a bowl
           For the children, starving and naked.”
                                                                                     -Anarchy p19  
The closing of the poem awakens us to the conscious moral and spiritual collapse wherein the devils dance in mad glee amidst willful confusion caused by the intellectual cunning, hoax and hoodwinking-
           “The best become the worst of all
           The worst do prosper in full swing,
           An innocent heart lacks conviction,
           A tactful mind shrewdly robs like a king.”
                                                                                     -ibid
These lines have a loud echo of W. B. Yeats. This cacophony of crooks about the welfare of the masses, alleviation of poverty, development, prosperity, nationalism, vision of a new India, deafening songs of sympathy for the deprived, depressed, destitute and helpless to wonderfully improve their plight has deafened , disturbed and angered the real poet, Bhaskaranand Jha. He says-
           “Those who follow don’t lead;
           Those who lead don’t follow.”
                                                                -Floral Tributes p20
The poet is not only rues and critical of the performance of politicians but is sarcastic and ironical about offering bouquets of flowers to them. And he is absolutely right when he says that only very few deserve these bouquets even when they die-
           “A very few deserve
           Shrouds of floral tributes
           Just after they die in harness…”   -ibid

Even today, India “divided into several pieces” remains ”scarred, stabbed, butchered” and is still haunted by the English past, writhing and groaning, born blind to the great sacrifices made by our forefathers and their “soaring zeal of patriotism”. This youthful patriotism of this gifted young poet is simply astonishing. We can hear the shocking cry of his soul in these lines-
           “Secular, moral, embracing conscience
           Has succumbed to lynching
           And communal crusade
           That is adamant to give another blow
           To the national fabric.
           National integrity and harmony
           Have lost their toil-stamped impression;
           The tri-colour looks unwilling to unfurl.
……………………………………………………………..
           To the mast of singing jingoism
           For carnage carnivals
           For a handful of vultures of the polity
           And the corrupt politics……….
…………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………
           The old rogues
           In newly sewn Indian attires-
…………………………………………………………….
……………………………………………………………….
           Pleasant breezes are yet to blow afresh!
           Soothing rains are yet to kiss
           The half-dead crops alive in the dead field
           Of peevish and impoverished peasants.”
                                                                                     -1947
The poet’s eyes are wide-open to see this disgusting show with tears welled up in his eyes, his soul benumbed and the glorious poetry singing its functional statement. “1947” is a striking metaphor for the selfless endless sacrifices of our great forefathers for freedom to fulfill dreams of brotherhood, understanding, peace, harmony, love, happiness and prosperous growth of posterity. And what we have done, what we are doing and where we have landed our beloved Mother land adored by the noble blood and sacrifices? Wow, dear Bhaskaranand Jha! Salute to you for daring to portray the truth of the day! Bhaskaranand Jha is faithful and truthful in portraying the polluted and stinking mud of politics and polity with his daring poetic dash and dig at the managers of the system suffering from deadly ailments “of lucrative schemes and programmes”- “an eyewash for the masses” whereas-
           “Theirs is a kleptomaniac tendency
           To commit and omit scams and embezzlement,
           From the underworld of swindling thoughts….”
                                                                           -Black Sheep of Politics p 36
All their hoarse declarations of idealistic and ideological standpoints lost in hollow promises and shallow performance, their values of humanity, morality, nationalism, “exemplary commitment, spectacular dedication” and even “their patriotic loyalty to the nation”-
           “Are what they sacrifice or shun or drop now
           To the altar of dark politics of contemporary India
           Staggering stuck in mud of crimes and corruptions.”
                                                                                                           -ibid

Not only this, the poet is painfully aware of the dubious bloody games played from across the borders against our land “of love, compassion and humanity.” The “untrusted masquerading face” with blood-smeared hands engaged in back-stabbing since long and exposed globally is a potential danger to our beloved motherland whose cries rant the skies. Bhaskaranand Jha Bhaskar is at his poetic and patriotic best in his short but very eloquent and rhetorical poem, “Cries of the Country”. He tells us how India is confronted with the savage dread  and dangers from the people and powers beyond-
           “Mentally blinded by the lights of religions
………………………………………………………………………
           With jaws of fanaticism, inhuman resorting to fratricide
           In barbarian exercise of their perennial superstitious beliefs
           Where religion lies, humanity dies, God flees, and society cries.”
-Cries of the Country p26
The poet is using this as a double-edged sword to daringly expose the barbarian irreligious and unreligious bloody tendencies of “deep-rooted bigotry, fanatic hatred” gone mad to drench every page of the Book of Life with detestable steaming blood! In “Hounds of Politics”, the poet tells us how these beasts of prey have laid a long trap from which the victimized poor have no escape. In “Dance of Democracy”, he tells us that elections in democracy simply change the people in power with their soaring greed maintaining the status quo and leaving the general populace to roll and rot in their deplorable pitiable plight. The evil curse of hunger troubles and teases and haunts the men and the cattle. In a short poem of rhythmic beauty, “Hunger”, the lyrical closing leaves the reader dazed-
           “Fire in the belly activates the hands
           Rather than building castle on sands.
           Hunger in mind makes us thoughtful
           Mind held high so grave and graceful.”
                                                                                     -Hunger p 56
Still he breathes in “the billowing fragrance/ lingers in the gusty winds of hope” in “Bleeding Roses of Kashmir.” (P27).

Amidst all these cries, cruelties, callous crimes crushing to crush the beauty, truth and humanity, the rapes of the innocent from two to twenty, eight to eighty are celebrated here and the rapists remain beyond the long arms of the law and go scot free.  The poet’s anguished heart bleeds-
           “Nirbhayas, Nancies and Asifas
           Must be murdered
           As a punishment to be born
           A mere helpless girl?
           Unprotected, all unsecured
           In their own volatile turf
           Be it home, society, state or country…”
                                                                           -Sexual Assaults p 34
Humans have become beasts, brutes and savages and the yahoo is ferociously out to rule. The poet says that in such a sorry and dreadful state of affairs-
           “The time is ripe to impart ethics-
           Value-based education;
           The dose of spirituality is a must
   ………………………………………………….
  …………………………………………………..
           Why nor moralize an immoral society?”                     -ibid
These are times of mass exodus also and Poll Dates, Holy Cow, Republic, Award Wapasi, Have and Have-Nots, Happy Beggar, Indian Demagogue, Political Brouhaha, Smiling Buddha Bleeds, Freedom is Chained, Sobbing Sita, Sex Vultures, Demon is Reborn-  all tell their tale when there is the Festival of Colours in the Hues of Life and the Hands tying Rakhi , Mother Goddess arrives and the Goddess Durga is worshipped ceremoniously. Still the Railway Platform tells a different tale in the new and refreshing poetic images, idioms and metaphor. The poetic personality of Bhaskaranand Jha takes a whirlwind tour of the length and breadth of the Mother India. This is the India where “Survival of the Fittest” is the high sounding message for all. Zeal to survive in the world of turbulent times alone moves us forward. This zeal is essential to be the fittest in our game of survival. Here is the stark realism the poet emphasizes-
           “Zeal to survive in the world
           Is what matters most,
           More than anything else
           In existential life.”                                     -Survival of the Fittest p 48
This is the “sole motto and dictum”, we must carry on to pull ourselves through these painfully troubled times. The poet understands that our society is not only morally deteriorated, debased and decayed but also dead. This teaching and moralization are the most urgent need and ought to be the top priority of those who run, govern and guide the affairs of the country and society as-
           “Deeds and misdeeds both bleed
           Good deeds are crippled and crawl
           Beaten by the misdeeds of life’s race
Miscreants outrage their modesty
……………………………………………….
………………………………………………………….
Sounds of deeds echo but no outcome
For the rescue of the victims harassed!”    
 -Silence of Sounds p31

When we have an over-all honest view of these poems with the feeling heart and loaded head of Bhaskaranand Jha, we realize that he has made, created and directed poetry to be truly and significantly functional failing which poetry is devoid of its life-blood and soul-stirring strains! These poems pierce through the heart of the reader and the poet has successfully fulfilled his mission as a poet in highlighting the cancerous ills that afflict our beloved Mother India, society and humanity and cause writhing pains day and night; he has also suggested meaningful effective remedies to cure and restore the health of the Glorious and Resurgent India!

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