Exquisiting the Ordinary: Jaydeep Sarangi’s Heart Raining the Light

Heart Raining the Light: Poems composed at Jhargram, Kolkata and beyond

Poems by Jaydeep Sarangi

Cyberwit.net, 2019
ISBN (Paperback) 978-81-8253-673-9
Pp 91
Price ₹ 200.00

A Review by Basudhara Roy

“With faint, unsteady light
life moves on, prayers done
the heart opens, somewhere
a story begins and ends. Who has
time enough to ear them?”
(Jaydeep Sarangi, The City of Joy)

Jaydeep Sarangi
To step into the world of Jaydeep Sarangi’s poetry is to be admitted into a heightened perception of the ordinary. It is to realize the incalculable virtue of commonplaceness, of what the poet calls ‘small things’, and to consecrate them in a language that runs fresh with every poem. In his Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke writes:
If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place.

For Sarangi, in the true Rilkean sense, there is no place, idea, or emotion that is untouched by poetic possibilities and one marvels at the ease with which he woos poetry from the most prosaic subjects he comes across. In ‘This Game is Life’ mark, for instance, the simple, even prosaic play of light and dark; of inevitability and necessity that lends its theme to the single couplet constituting the poem:
I’m sick of the stars, let’s go home.
Let’s go home and turn off the lights.

Here, the small is not merely beautiful and worthy of attention but also epistemologically and existentially valuable and the building block of the poet’s most intimate knowledge. Examine these lines from his poem ‘Small Things’:
Small things keep happening
in mystery of knowing
a drop of dew
the turns of a river
a sweet girl kissing her father’s dry cheeks.
The everyday images of familiarity that feed the poem bespeak the emotive significance of the little, anonymous and unspoken things in our lives and yet, as the poem’s finale, in its unassuming shuffling together of the act of losing one’s key and that of losing one’s vision, indicates, the ‘small’ things in life may not be veritably small. Across the poetic landscape of Sarangi’s eighth collection of poems Heart Raining the Light, one comes across this constant alchemy of the ordinary becoming exquisite; of the quotidian becoming a magic crucible where new truths are sought; of the inconsequential fare of life bring vested gratefully with empathetic attention and understanding. With touches that are reminiscent of both the Romantic poets and their thoroughly unlike contemporary, Jane Austen, Sarangi’s poems succeed in conjuring their own six inches of ivory in their rendering of a poetic experience that is as urban as it is rural and as universal as it is local.
That Sarangi’s poems are distinctly local is an observation that amply manifests itself from even a cursory glance at his oeuvre. With his very first collection of poems, From Dulong to Beas: Flow of the Soul, Sarangi had leaned heavily towards a poetics of locality, of place and attachment, and his poetic fascination with place has continued over the years deriving greater strength from his academic work in postcolonial, particularly Dalit writing. In an interview with Ruchi Singh, Sarangi states, “My choice is deliberate because as a postcolonial critic, my engagement is with marginal discourse. I like to celebrate the small and local.” Dulung, the rivulet of his beloved native village, Jhargram, which has featured perennially and prominently in Sarangi’s poetry till date, becomes then for the poet not merely a personal symbol of his creativity, not merely what he describes as “the sap of my energy and tradition” but also as he states in the interview, “the metaphor of the celebration of the local in a global tongue.” In his poem ‘Dulung Moment’, the lap of the river becomes the place where the poet’s sleep “grows old with time”. Here is both “silence and noise” where the past is benedictively preserved through temporality, for as the poet writes:
…that link
with forefathers lying near the rivulet
Dulung holds them tight.
Local as they are, Sarangi’s poems offer readers access to an experience that is distinct, special, and particular. However, this, in no way, diminishes the universal appeal of his poems which remains unarguably intact. To participate in the experience of Sarangi’s poetry is to give way to a certain tranquillity, sobriety and restfulness that makes itself felt through the spell of the unhurried flow of earth-time in his poems; of the unconditional commitment to waiting found herein; and the infinite capacity for forgiveness within the human heart that these poems are a testimony to. One is apt to rediscover in these poems the benevolence of faith in nature, humanity, and God despite the inevitable unhingement of the times. Terse, compact, dense, symbolic and unforgettably lyrical, each poem washes over the reader like the fresh, invigorating water from a brook offering a healing and solace that is, perhaps, no different from what the poet himself derives from the Dulung that nourishes both his autobiographical and creative canvases.
The title of the collection itself testifies to the breadth of Sarangi’s poetic vision. Here, hope is in abundance; the light ‘rains’ rather than simply ‘falls’ or comes’ and the source of this philosophical ecstasy is the human heart itself. “For he who creates,” writes Rilke, “must be a world of his own and find everything within himself and in the natural world that he has elected to follow.” The times are certainly out of joint and the poet is apprehensive of the anxiety of forefathers over the systemic destruction of our world (‘Forefathers are Worried’); the virtual world is increasingly threatening everyday human interactions (‘All Virtual Now’, ‘A Menace’); and human relationships grow colder in a self-seeking society (‘Growing Lonely’, ‘Mirror’, ‘Relationship’). Yet, as long as the heart rains light, there are countless reasons to rejoice.
These poems, as the subtitle informs us, have been “composed at Jhargram, Kolkata and beyond”, preparing the reader for a distinct expectation of experience that stems from local attachments and belonging. The expectations are not unjustifiably aroused for each of the seventy-eight poems in this collection lends indisputable affirmation to Sarangi’s claim to the title of ‘the Bard of Dulung’. This, however, is not only because the rivulet constitutes the cornerstone of the poet’s creativity and his thoughts and images are born beside and under the inspiration of its banks. What is more significant in Sarangi’s poetry is its assimilation of local knowledges and its invitation to the reader to participate in the same. The poems as fill this volume could not have been engendered by mere accident of location of composition; they are unforgettable inscriptions of the landscape engendered by its long nurturing of a poetic mind. With their dense interrelations to the soil, geography, and philosophy of rural Bengal, Sarangi’s poems offer to their readers a wealth of correlations between the particular and the general. In ‘Home Bound’, this knowledge comes from
these big sal trees
shadows of the early night
the flutter of birds, moving home.
In ‘I want to be a River’, there is the desire to quietly merge one’s identity with the river once the debts to life have been paid:
Long, freak, rising and falling
with the season’s rain, powering .
Life’s motions, cycles of the green
echoing hearts’ tickle, senses alive.
The collection carries poems of place, of relationships, of social empathy, and of many-hued love with every poem travelling via its own subjective route to hope. In ‘Growing Lonely’, for instance, the poet-speaker’s friends “have become friends of others” but still he keeps “always the keys ready”. In the volume as a whole, one is struck by the poet’s almost Shakespearean consciousness of Time as a destroyer. “Time/ and the super fast train/ have no mouth, only teeth,” writes Sarangi in his poem ‘Mirror’. In ‘Relationships’, is echoed the same sense of loss “in the company of distance and days.” In ‘Blind Solitude’, the poet says, “Living is showing/ acting, hour after hour.”
The very first poem of Heart Raining the Light is ‘Travelling with my Poems’ which constitutes a profound statement of the poet’s attitude to Art in general and appears to thematically watermark the collection as a whole. His poems, the poet fears, “will be alone” for there will be more glamorous temptations for readers beckoning from “shop windows” and downtown poetry reading sessions on “floors of carpets”. This knowledge, however, does not disconcert the poet who exhibits a patient confidence in the worth of his poems. He bids them simply fly high like kites on the limitless horizon of the imagination, the readers, his “kite runners”, “soul makers”. He writes in the poem:
“My poems are souvenirs of my faith
ghosts of the half moon night,
prayers , hands folded, eyes shut
rain tips it wings.
heart frisking the light in abundance.”
This, truly, is a fitting beginning to a collection whose pieces evoke love, faith, hope, and gratitude in numerous ways, bringing me back again to Rilke with whose words one may aptly conclude:
“To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquillity, as if eternity lay before them.”

Basudhara Roy is the author of two books, a monograph, Migrations of Hope: A Study of the Short Fiction of Three Indian American Writers (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2019) and a collection of poems, Moon in my Teacup (Kolkata: Writer’s Workshop, 2019). Her areas of academic interest are diaspora writing, cultural studies, gender studies and postmodern criticism. Her research articles and book reviews have widely appeared in reputed academic journals across the country and as chapters in books. She teaches English at Karim City College, Jamshedpur and can be reached at basudhara.roy@gmail.com.

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