Book Review: The Wanderer

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Wanderer (Poetry) 
by Rajender Krishan
Publisher: Setu Publication, Pittsburgh 
Paperback: 276 pages 
ISBN: 978-1947403154 
Price: Paperback $11.00 /  900.00
Kindle Price: $2.99 /  99.00
(Free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers) 
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When Life Appears Complex!

Kanwar Dinesh Singh


The Corona pandemic in 2020 has shaken the entire world. People were not at all prepared to see this havoc. Occupied with rosy visualizations of life and human existence, humans suddenly got jolted by an invisible virus. Natural or manufactured, this microbe has come with many lessons for humankind. Besides the loss of numerous lives, humans have suffered from the colossal wreck of financial systems and mental peace. Shattered by the traumatic experience of the pandemic situation, many people globally have slipped into depression. In these disconcerting circumstances, there is a dire need to spread words of positivity worldwide. At the individual level, people need to engage themselves in pursuits of creative self-exploration and practice self-restraint to keep their inner selves calm and unruffled by the outer circumstances. Creative writers, artists, philosophers, teachers, and thinkers owe a huge responsibility to that purpose.

 

In his recent collection of poems, Wanderer, Rajender Krishan mulls over the uncertainties and anxieties caused by the ubiquitous outbreak of the epidemic. He relies on the time-honoured wisdom of ancient Indian scriptures to discover solutions to the complex problems raised by the pandemic situation. The poet’s mind meanders through ‘the grand cosmic network’ (p. 39) and settles on a resolution to keep things extremely simple to avert irresolvable complications in life. Mostly, problems arise due to the clash of opinions and perceptions, since people look at things from their own glasses. People build their high-ceilinged watchtowers to look at the reality, which is only visible while staying grounded. The poet puts it in these words:

 

Raj Chowdhry
Everything is essentially

a mere projection

of one’s perception;

 

the opposing experiences

of pain, pleasure

profits, losses

are but ephemeral,

a transient reality

(p. 45)

 

It is often the lack of mutual understanding that leads to the breakdown of peace in life. Today, people need not indulge in mindless debates; rather like mystics, delve into the depths of their own inner selves and realise the truth of human existence, “to transcend / the mundane and / attain harmony” (p. 59). Rajender Krishan puts it in a somewhat satirical tone:

Kanwar Dinesh Singh
 

Deafened by the commotion

they are now able to hear

the celestial song of tranquillity

in the theatre of war within

 

. . . the perpetual inquiry

of whodunit continues

while the unperturbed mystic

witnesses the chaotic drama

(p. 59)   

 

In his poem, “Debate”, the poet depicts how scholars or intellectuals complicate “the fundamentals of life” – they give excellent speeches, offer convincing arguments, and the audience applauds them. However, amid the noisy applause, their “sensible discussion” turns into a “competition” between them, “inviting Ego and tossing Morality / out of the window. . .”:

 

. . . The idea of winning

turned the discussion into an obtuse argument

and the original idea was pulverized.

 

The debate ended inconclusively.

(p. 61)

 

 

The poet underscores several ironies of quotidian life, which have encumbered human existence. In “transformation”, for instance, the poet casts aspersions on the flawed beliefs and rituals: “Went to the temple / to get some peace / Came back lugging / the tightened identity / of a burdened typecast” (p. 63). In “Routines”, he counsels: “Prayers are answered / only when you know / why to pray / how to pray” (p. 153). He believes, “When life starts / appearing complex” (p. 153), the solution lies in simplification. That’s why he seems fascinated with the unique, calm, watchful, meditating, and mystic self of a wanderer: “The mystic – drowned / in his wandering self, / leaves marks of footsteps / as expressions of fulfilment / on a known journey / with no beginning or end” (p. 75). According to the wandering mystic, the only mantra for peace in life is contentment, simplicity, and being true to oneself: “Talk not of doctrines or morality / if practicing not, what you preach” (p. 87). The title poem, “Wanderer”, also gives a sutra promoting a happy life:

 

Allow me to exert
For one more day
In my attempt to empty
The trunk of cravings. . .
(p. 91)

In this collection of poems, Rajender Krishan poeticises several abstractions, which include creativity, crux, conscience, insight, transformation, discourse, tranquillity, veracity, outlook, contentment, viewpoint, togetherness, perfection, balance, conflict, and fulfilment – each offering a piece of advice for a better life. Some of his statements sound like aphorisms, such as “Gluttonous ego sows a personal seed”, “Pointless work breeds a chaotic life” etc. Even in their abstractions, the poems are worth pondering, and thought-provoking in these times of crisis. Each poem accompanies a highly suggestive illustration. The illustrator, Niloufer Wadia, deserves kudos for her outstanding artwork. Special commendation to Meera Chowdhry for the concept of the book, which is pertinent to the day! All praise to Setu Publications, too, for upholding quality in the production of this book!

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Dr Kanwar Dinesh Singh
Poet, Storyteller, Critic
Associate Professor of English
Editor: Hyphen (ISSN 0975 2897)
Email: kanwardineshsingh@gmail.com

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