Dilip Mohapatra’s soul-stirring poems - As pure as Dewdrops of the Dawns - A critical Analysis

Dewdrops of Dawn

Author: Dilip Mohapatra
Publishers: Authorspress, New Delhi
Pages: 154
Price: Rs. 295/US $ 15

Review by K Pankajam

Dewdrops of Dawns is Dilip Mohapatra’s sixth poetry collection containing seventy poems on varied themes and in categories  such as narrative, satirical, speculative, spiritual and the like.  In the publishers note it is stated that ‘the poems are expected to cater to the reading pleasure of a wide range of generations, from the baby boomers to post millennial.”   This statement is truly the testament to the contents of the book.   Betty Anne, Associate Editor at Spillwords Press observes that   ‘Each page is etched with sweeping images of life and death, love and sorrow, beauty and the starkness of reality. ‘ 
In the title poem The poet affirms that ‘nothing ever could be fresher and purer than the distilled tears of joy that the stars shed quietly in the small hours’ and further juxtaposes the morning reveries to the sublimation of thoughts that condense to words which then seek their springing base in enthusiasm in the course of which imagination gets unchained from its erstwhile ‘bondage of hibernation’. 
“Thoughts sublimate
and condense to form words
and  words float with abandon
seeking the source codes
that shape really
and then the flow cascades
down in exuberance
freeing the imagination
from the bondage of hibernation

to be incarcerated………….”                    (page 16)

The poetic excellence here of putting   distilled tears of stars on par with the condensed thoughts emanating from creative pursuit is fresh as the dewdrops of dawn and deserves high appreciation.
In ‘Endless Pursuit’, the poet speaks about perseverance as of waves  that retrace when sands beneath dissolve and sink, but the speaker of the poem moves on to firmer grounds not willing to give in, which goes on and on.  This gives us the hint that for tasting success in life hard work  and perseverance are the contributing factors.                                                   
I trudge along
the broken hourglasses
Dilip Mohapatra
trampling on
the sharp and spiked
shards of memory
sometimes following
the much trodden paths’
sometimes taking
the roads less travelled
resting in my
pit stops once a while
and get up again
rejuvenated ad refreshed
to continue my pursuit…..”                                                       (page 18)

Topography is a wonderful poem describing a wholesome woman, in which the imagery from nature like damp earth, waves, inundated valleys, volcanoes spewing lava, rivers of unbounded desires, blind alleys and the like all succinctly conjoined, wherein the implicit references make it a fresh new experience to the readers.

‘Unbroken’ is a poem explaining the momentous journey of a dried coconut frond, half-broken, but not detached from its erstwhile base that hangs limply and the fresh green fronds atop mocking at its ‘pathetic impotence’.   The poem takes an unexpected hint as the dried frond woven into a mat undergoes a second spell of life, when seated on it the priest offers prayers and it enjoys the tinkles of the bell and the aroma of the joss sticks in the sanctum sanctorum and the poem here is open to interpretations.                                      (page 20)

In poem titled ‘The Tug of War’,  the poet accuses humans who took the world as hostage, delineated their territories, declared sovereignty, staked claims to their land, religion and faiths and denied entry to others who may dare to intrude and here the poet expresses his ire and concludes the negative impact of all these misdeeds  in his inimitable style,  simple yet powerful.   

And then it has been all along
a never ending tug of war
between power of love
and love of power.                                   (page 27)

We can all relate to the fact that when insecurities and uncertainties spreading fast like jungle fire,  we scramble for a safe corner, run and run till we reach our funeral pyre   heaving  a sigh of relief that the run is over. This is the subject matter in the poem ‘Pursuer’ , the concluding lines of which are so  profound and thought provoking.  They sum up the poem as a whole:

But then you pause a while
and wonder if it is really over
and have you really been free
from your real pursuer
the real predator stalking you
all the while
all your life
which perhaps is no one else
but you
yourself.                                    (page 32)

“The death of the dawn/ lamented in the breath of the flautist /that dies in the cacophony /of the morning birds.”  These line are an example of wonderful poetry.  ‘Reclusive Me’ is an inspirational poem which describes ‘Insomnia’  as the phenomenon that overpowers and swallows the dreams of people;  the dreams they chased, those eluded, goaded or played hide and seek with them, pulled them out of the doldrums or those made them climb the hills or scale the peaks, but all these things do not prevent them from pursuing their to do list or drag to downbeat attitudes and the poet affirms his  mindset brimming with positivity , when he says;

I have a long day ahead
and my to do list is full
I got to get up 
and peel off my images from the mirror
amble out of the confines of my home
to sweep off my shadows from the pavement
and to wipe off my footprints
from the wet sands
and all the traces that could
prove my existence
and then fade into
eternal anonymity
and lose myself in the mass

Just another face in the crowd.      (page 37)

The fears of a hypochondriac,  i.e. a person excessively preoccupied with imaginary illness is the theme adopted in poem titled ‘Faceless’.  We can come across such people in our acquaintance, who amble from hospitals to hospitals, doctors to doctors and will not be satisfied when declared physically fit.  Here the poem is in first person narrative,  the tone a bit  satiric, but the subject  is not.  (page 40)

Natural imagery appeals to the reader's senses.    The imagery in poem titled ‘Filling the Blanks’  strewn with vivid images from nature and the personification of some of them like sea, waves and  ‘hermit crabs’ all contribute to the feel of the poem in totality.

The moist rocky ledge
juts into the sea
which plants its liquid kisses
on its insensitive lips
 in tandem with the waves
crashing on the shores
while the hermit crabs
emerge surreptitious  only
to hurry back into their holes                                                              (page 42)

‘Choosing the Noose’ is a sensitively penned poem  in first person about  Cdr. Kulhushan Jadhav , who happened to be  the  naval cadet trained by the author and  who became a ‘sacrificial goat’ and  was awarded death penalty by a secret Pak court ‘without trial, without a chance to defend his innocence, waiting for the lever to be pulled’ ,  a case that drew wide media attention.  A sample stanza from this poem is enough to sensitize the readers and make them choke.  After reading this poem it is true  as envisaged by the poet that ‘somewhere in some corners few eyes would be moist, few hearts will bleed while his last breath will mingle with the breaths of the martyrs who died for the country, but the poet concludes that his heart will continue to beat and he would continue to live forever, till eternity.
They claim magnanimity
and allow my mother
and wife to meet me
behind the thick glass partition
my mother’s eager arms
that could have hugged me
perhaps for the last time
hang limply and ache
in helpless agony
while I wait on the death row
on the other side
reciting the oft rehearsed
monologue under coercion
admitting my guilt………………”                            (page 50)

The father in Mohapatra is proud  and optimistic about his daughter, Sona, who is a renowned play back singer  as evident  in poem titled Give Me Red (for Sona) dedicated to Lalparimastani, her ambitious project on music and culture.

Poem ‘Sometimes’ is a look back into  one’s bygone times and the thought of undoing certain things all of us sport one time or the other  and other times we just want to ‘allow our boat to drift ahead lazily, while we rest on the oars’.   

Life is a balance between perfection and imperfection.   The realism in  ‘Dots and Dashes’   makes one conscious of the importance of the in-between silences in sounds that truly intoxicate or overpower  and make one’s presence felt.  The poet  implies  here that there is nothing called hundred percent perfection and  ‘it is not all about righteousness, but a little bit of sin,  imperfection and mischief, also a little bit of dust in your eyes in a sanitized room is that makes it what it is’.                                                                                                  (page 58)

‘Mind Over Matter’ is a wonderful poem.  Even though colours in Vibgyor are dispersed through the prism, what one sees is what his retinae translate or transmit.   Similarly even if the flute melodiously and meticulously creates a heavenly tune with the seven notes, what one hears is what his ears let him hear, may be it can turn out to be a riotous rhapsody for somebody.   The poet has this to say that it all depends upon individual tastes and moods or decided by one’s own sense implying that mind alone matters.           (page 67)
Tete-A-Tete is a cute poem, presented as a narrative between  charcoal and diamond unraveling  a great universal  truth in too little words that where there is no sense of self and one who  gives back more than what one  receives,  he will be valued and celebrated   everywhere.  (page  71)
The humor in poem Distressed Denims (For Ira) -  Ira  is his grand-daughter - is pleasantly enjoyable, not one to miss,  and will bring  a smile to  the readers . The author and his better half are eagerly waiting to receive their granddaughter at the airport, who is travelling alone for the first time.   Seeing his grand-daughter’s knees popping out of the frayed slits on jeans,  her grandma exclaims and screams whether she slipped on the way  and torn her pants and injured herself.  At this the new-gen girl chuckles and explains:
 “You see folks
 this is the latest fashion statement
and comes in many forms
shredded frayed
tattered torn
subtly ribbed with knee cuts
ripped and  patched
sometimes with messy ankle rolls …..”               (page 73)

We, the  grown-ups often  fail to understand these new-gen fashion statements, a gap between the generations as they say and is  quite common in many households and relatable to many of us. 

Mirror does not lie at all.  Looking at the mirror, one thinks that he/she is adorable.  As time passes it shows blotches here and there, a face hardened with time with dark freckles and crows’ feet, but at the same time his/hers translucent eyes lead them through memories corridor.  “Mirror Mirror” is a mirror,  mirroring on its screen events parading backwards and is a good read. The author here is able to take the readers along with his memory lane and the poem suddenly take a twist to a philosophical level and concludes thus:

…..till the sympathetic impact
cracks you to pieces
for the good old question
has lost its relevance
and you exist no more
to taunt me
to scare me
or to remind me
what I was
what I am
and perhaps what I will be.                                                                 (page 75)

‘The Race’ is such a fine piece of poetry that time and again it will make you sit and think of times, that travels with us at times with equal pace,  at other times overtaking us taunting us to catch up, some times crawling way behind us, but the poet cautions us;

time is the worst ever predator
that you may encounter
for in due course
it would pick up speed
to outrun you and run you over.

It’s just a matter of time.”                                                       (page 87)

This is a reality many of us tend to overlook. 

The poet in Dilip Mohapatra is concerned about nature, the heedless destruction of trees by human beings, who can’t hear the cries of trees, makes him own up that “now is the time perhaps to atone our sins and sacrifice our blood on the barren land to make it menstruate..”  He hears the trees’ lament:

you have been crying since ages
when you lent your shoots unwillingly
to be shaped into shafts of arrows
that drew blood first from your wounds
and then in many a battles
but what else could you have done?”                                     (page 105)

‘My Wife’s Handbag’ is a lovely poem.  The poet says that it could be ‘the most mysterious black box owned by Pandora, the inventory of its contents even unknown to its inventor’, which can hold anything from rabbits to  pigeons and she can pull out  almost anything  to meet an unexpected need, but the poet never tries to explore it.  The situation when  the poet gets impatient as she rummages endlessly for  a ten rupee note to pay for a cup of tea is so well put forth in the following lines: The humour sense here is at its best:

“………and in my agitation lose control of my rising blood pressure
and she knows the signs so very well
and before I could burst a vein or two …..
pulls out a tablet of Sorbitrate and put it
under my tongue.”                                                                              (page 153)

The ways adopted to understand a poem or entering into the maze of a poem are diverse from person to person as everyone may not be adept at it.  “For the Sake of Poetry” is a study class aimed at it, one should read it first hand to understand it fully, hence not quoting from it.       So if the readers are really interested to master this, please go through the poem.  As there is no short-cut for learning, it is better to learn it from the master himself!! I can only suggest that you own a copy of the book, sit with it in your cozy corner and enjoy reading it.

Great works  always  stand the test of times.  I have no second thought in saying that Dilip Mpohapatra’s works will stand the test of times and I wish him all the best.

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