Lullaby of the Ever-Returning Love universal yet coloured by culture
By Ranga Chandrarathne
Sarabjeet Garcha's anthology of poetry titled Lullaby of the Ever Returning is, in essence, a masterly exploration of universal themes coloured by cultural conditioning and geography. It is this unique aspect which makes the book universally appeal, at the same time, codifying the unique culture of the soil.
Love is a recurrent theme in the anthology Lullaby of the Ever-Returning, a theme which is craftily manifested not only in finely- woven tapestry of poetry but also in prose which are at one level belong to the exclusive cultural experiences of the Sikh community but at another to the entire humanity. Both in the pieces of prose and in poetry, what Sarabjeet encapsulates is the multifaceted of love which is beautified and made colourful by the powerful human agent. Although love is a universal experience, it has been aesthetically situated in the Sikh culture adding a unique cultural dimension to it yet preserving the universal character of it.
A significant aspect of love at Sarabjeet's hand is the portrayal of its social manifestation, by and large, defined by the moral codes of a given society. Sarabjeet amply manifest and reinforces the universal adage that a writer or a poet cannot afford to be universal without being local or without being firmly rooted in one's own culture. The contours of Sarabjeet's discourse of love are defined by a diction enriched with powerful metaphors and imagery masterly employed in poems and in the pieces of prose in the anthology. It is a literary feast that one would partake with delight.
the silt of
an ink river
a relic chambers
the heart's hieroglyphs
the soul's trompe I'oeil
The poem is dedicated to his lover and the nostalgia is reawakened through the lines of link, obviously, written in her handwritings. It is not just the feeling of love but something much deeper than it. On the one hand poem is dedicated to the handwriting and on the other hand, it hits out at the destiny that unfolds layer by layer before us. The changes would happen for the good. The poem is marked for its brevity of expression and the metaphors-rich language.
In the poem 'Reawakening', the poet explores another aspect of love which is implicit trust in the partners.
The sundown hush of undressing
Strokes the stoic darkness of desire
From the Himalayas echoing
the solitude of rishis
I come sliding to
the pounding crudity of your embraces
their primeval grip etching
an extinct language
on the papyrus of my bones
and their time-leaping wisdom
making up for
my lack of acquaintance
with persistent scriptures
Moisture finds a home
In your eyes
When I loop garlands
Of incantations onto
the staccato anomaly
which voice becomes
in the nighttime knitwork
of breaths and when
the seven-element matric of
saliva blood flesh fat
marrow bone seed
nudges itself into
the boat of bondage
to transfigure into
a wheel of vagabondage
singing the saga of a speed
that impales the idyll
of countless cross-countries
However, it is not mere sex or having love. In fact, it is an act of union of souls and the poet in explicit terms describes it. Gradually as the dusk settles in, desires in lover mounts up, starting with gentle strokes, and then 'pounding embraces'. Using metaphors unique to India and Hindu life, the poet describes the universal act of love. What is unique in his rendition is that how colourful it would be the subtle way in which the culture has given diverse and colourful shades to the act of love. It is a unique moment where 'voice becomes a night time knitwork of breath'. In the last line, the poet says that the act of love is almost equal to life itself. In other words, it is the sheer profound nature of love which goes beyond a mere act of procreation.
In the Maze of a Gaze
Two glass curtains
Veiling your eyes
Showed me to me
In two neat pieces
my bipolar personality
while my singularity
into the water bodies
of your vision
The poem 'In the Maze of a Gaze' explores the diverse masks that one wears even before one's lover. We may not always happy about the masks that we wear, particularly before a lover. However, before a lover you start to realize your true self and at the same time you wants to see your true self. The danger associates with such a deceptive image is that it stealthily begins to impose itself upon your real self. The poem at another level can be read as passionate union of lovers and the revelation of the self in duality 'my bipolar personality'.
Ghazal for Vanishing
In my palm's I've nothing but the smell of the vanishing,
O Who will set me free from the spell of the vanishing?
Although you can soothsay the continuity of souls,
Is there anyone who can foretell the vanishing?
Something in the dear way she lived has always made me die,
But, I am reborn as an up-swell of the vanishing.
Sarab cannot hear the soft noises of the passing night.
His ears are still drenched with the farewell of the vanishing.
Ghazal for the Vanishing encapsulates a powerful recollection of separation, and separation is manifested in the act of vanishing. It is gamut of things that will gradually vanishes off from our lives. It may be friends that have enlighten one's life and slipping them away from one's life would create life-long vacuum which others may not be able to fill up. As life goes on, one begins to lose one by one of these loved things and persons, often replacing new relationships with the old ones. However, no one can foretell when this 'vanishing' will take place and at which stage of life. The agony of such 'vanishing' would be unbearable and would last long. The poet evocatively captures such vanishings and recreates the crushing pain that such vanishings would accompany.
The diction and the deep philosophies of life enunciate even in the piece of prose of the book. The short piece of prose 'Beside the flow' would provide readers with sheer elegance of the language, the metaphors and the landscape that the writer paints with his evocative diction.
Beside the Flow
The sky, the river, the temple and the bells. The tall, plaint grass leaned towards the river, as if it were bowing to the flow. A solitary house stood on the bright monsoon greenery of the bank opposite. Something was whirring in the distance, perhaps, a water pump.
A black object sliced the current as it flowed from that shore to this, and as it did so, the drone seemed to magnify itself. Behind him, two female voices were conversing, and every new entry in the temple was made complete by the clanging of the bell. A thump, with a mild tinkle of glass bangles, was heard and it seemed as if a mother had backslapped her son.
The sky, the river, the temple and the bells blended into one another, without sullying each other's poise. Not even stirring it. "
By and large, the piece is self-explanatory and is, more or less, like a beautiful painting of a pastoral country landscape, signifying the slow-moving rural life enriched by encompassing spirituality, obviously symbolized by the temple. It is a life which is led in harmony with nature.
The anthology 'Lullaby of the Ever-Returning' has such powerful pieces of prose that a deserving reader could hardly afford to miss out. The anthology stands out for its unique and rich diction often coloured by gamut of rich metaphors derived from Hindu culture and essentially from Indian soil.
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