Tuesday, September 8, 2009

forward - m leelavathy


In 1913 Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature. We are yet to find a second Indian writer being chosen for the honour despite the fact that several Indian creative writers are far superior to some of the laureates in Literature from the Western countries. It is no secret that political bias has been a deciding factor on many occasions. There may be other reasons too of which absence of faithful effective translation into an international language could be a significant one. This occurs despite the fact that English is deep-rooted in the Indian psyche with its history of existence in India for more than two centuries. English language was the strongest weapon used against British rulers. Though it may seem to be an irony of fate, it is a nondisputed fact. The medium of communication for the leaders of the freedom struggle to inspire people of various regions, speaking different languages, was English. The magnitude of the wealth that they took away was huge. But one compensation they unwittingly imparted to Indians was propagation of English in India. Now English is one of Indian languages and there is nothing unpatriotic about mastering the language. Proficiency in English possessed by Tagore or leaders of National movement was not considered, in those times, as a mark of subjugation to colonialistic authority. Knowledge of an International language is much more a necessity in our times. It is this realistic view that is reflected in the linguistic policies adopted by Central Board of Education. Many of our younger generation acquire proficiency in English and their creative urges blossom out through that language. Indo-Anglian Literature has made its presence felt in World Literature. Our universities and some of foreign universities have included Indo-Anglian Literature in the syllabus for various courses of study. Kamala Das is known widely and is admired by students of Literature in foreign universities. Women of Kerala have a right to be proud of Kamala Das and Arundhati Roy who have made their voices heard in the literary world.

If the reason for “many of our gems of purest ray being destined to serene the unfathomed caves of ocean and many four fragrant flowers being born to bluish unseen” is linguistic limitation, effective translations and original writing in English are the remedies. Many of our present writers in Malayalam do possess talents to be recognised in International forums - Among poets, Kamala Das, Satchidanandan, among novelists Anand, Radhakrishnan, to point out a few names. Awards are not the only criterion of recognition. More significant is that the writers should get more exposure in world literary forums and be known internationally. The door for entrance into the international world of literature is, for us, English.

Young minds, who possess a flair for writing, have to be given proper attention and encouragement and training. As talents in sports are enhanced by training so also innate faculty of mind. The attempts of beginners cannot be expected to be superb, wherever sparks of genius are spotted out, they have to be fanned to flame.

In this collection of Winnie Panicker’s poems there are genuine sparks. The emotional experiences described, reflect an introverted mind by and large. Silent intense love, thick and dark loneliness, earnest expectations kept in secret, the physical experience of dying etc, expose the world of an introvert mind. See the expressions and images like: “ silent more than the deepest depth”, “love that is suppressed to die”, “fury of wind that blind the vision”, “silent like the silence after storm” (Silence), “ dark like the darkness in the deepest corner of volcano”, “walls around seeming to come closer and not allowing to breathe”, “feel the veins thicken” (Black Opaqueness), “dead noise of loneliness” (Dead Noise), “darkening light of the night sun”, “the most difficult task of remembering dreams” (Nightly Visitors), “Silent friend that chirped on the window pane”, (Silent Friend), “I who would sacrifice anything including my breath for you” (Just for you), “the call to flowers to bloom faster and the clouds to pour their tears” (The Call), “Sitting beside the window with a tear drop gliding down cold cheeks” (Snow), “left alone, no one to bother, no one to smile” (The Touch of loneliness)…

In all these you find a mind turned into its own depths. Yet, introverts like Prometheus include in the indulgence of ones own emotions a gulf of sympathy for similar souls. “Oh! I suffer for those whom I see suffer” is their inner voice as that of Imogen (Tempest, Shakespeare) when they perceive the fury of Tempest into which destiny hurls them. The poems ‘Broken Dreams and Hopes’, ‘Flowers on the Violin’, ‘Biography of a Beggar’, etc belong to this category. ‘The flowers on the violin’ is probably the most beautiful poem in this bouquet. It reminds one of the stories related to Beethoven who gave the visual experience of moonlight to a blind girl playing his famous symphony on a Piano. In this poem, the violin player, a man is blind. A flower girl is enchanted and places a bunch of flowers on his violin. ‘Broken dreams’ is a tragic story. War comes thundering and deprives Dad and Mom of their only child whom they had visualized in their fondest day dreams as a “world famous musician”. War mongers have no music in them and deny the blessing of music to the innocent world. Shakespeare said:

“The man who hath no music in himself
Nor is not moved by the concord of sweet sounds
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils”
‘The Painting’ makes us experience how creative talent of man elevates him to the Presence of The Creator. A painter with his lines and colours, a poet with the divine power of words, a musician with the concord of sweet sounds’ are thus elevated. Their creations have “life” in them. Not only the artistic creator but all those who possess a responsive sensibility fall in love with his creation.

In this collection of poems, those belonging to the second category of indulgence in the ecstasies or sympathy in the sufferings of those around are capable of attracting more intense and more intimate readerly response. I believe their tribes will increase as the poet grows in age and experience. This is in no way a prophesy; just a purely subjective feeling.

The poet has already outgrown the stage of teen-agers who sometimes identify rhyming with poetic skill, as is seen in a few pieces here also. Rhyming has its own charm but a mechanical collection of rhymes can seldom be substitute for ‘emotions recollected in tranquility’ or ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’.

G.K Chesterton once remarked: “Poetry is a happy marriage of sound and sense; but alas, this is an age of divorce.” We live in an age when divorce is much more common. One is reminded of this humorous observation, these days, when word chains appear under the title poetry in periodicals in our mother tongue.
Winnie Panicker is genuine. I wish her all success. Howard Nemerov gives us another witty definition: “Poems are written by Poets, Idioms are written by guess who”. Winnie has succeeded in winning a place in the first row. But she has miles to go along the woods that are lovely, dark and deep. I sincerely wish her the nerve and the verve to take up the challenge and keep the promises.

forward to winnie j panicker's forthcoming book' flowers on the violin'