A many-tiered affair

A new collection of poems provides a nuanced perspective on the life of a father

Though scriptures and ancient literary texts equate the domineering father with the omnipresence of God, the image of father across cultures continues to be that of estrangement and hostility. Despite being instrumental in ensuring the well-being of the family, father symbolises emotional rapture, the most entitled living and the object of fear, instead of love, compassion and longing.

It is what Kafkaesque universe comprising “Letter to his father”, “The Judgement” and “The Metamorphosis” and poems on father by Sylvia Plath. Mark Irwin, Robert Haden and several other equally distinguished poets articulate, but it does not go well with the literary traditions of India.

A many-tiered affair

Contrarily, the memory of even overbearing father leaves many Hindi poets misty-eyed. Oppression, brutality, ambivalence, caring and compassion enliven his personality, and father is equally heartbreaking and heart warming. An anthology “Prem Pita ka dikhai nahi deta” (Love of the father remains invisible) showcases it. Astutely edited by a promising Hindi poet Kumar Anupam, it is published by Vijaya Books, Delhi.

Everyday life

The collection carrying more than 200 poems by 142 prominent Hindi poets provides a nuanced and substantial glimpse into the everyday life of a person who is pilloried for his spotty record. The poems, some of them perception-altering ones, go well beyond generalised common sense and try to produce an evocative portrayal of struggles, despair, success and hope of a person who relentlessly oversees the family affairs.

The poems span a spectrum of feelings while locating father in the social web of human relationship in which the presence of the mother provides emotional succour to everyone, and she emerges as a family therapist. Kumar Anupam who bagged the Sahitya Akademi’s young author award, usher us into a world through a perceptive selection of poems where the oft-cited image of the father surfaces is replaced with that of a forgotten everyday hero.

Tracing the staggering depiction of the father in Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and other epics, Anupam says, “In the old scriptures it is the father, not the mother who was integrated with God and the Rigveda urges God to be as simple and accessible as the father. The father is always depicted as affectionate and affable, and he resembles the fire. Kalidas equates him with the king time and again."

The book opens with a heart-wrenching elegy that was composed by renowned poet Suryakant Tripathi Nirala to mourn the death of his daughter, and a touching send-off follows it to his daughter by Makhan Lal Chaturvedi. Trilochan’s three laconic poems wrapped in intense imagery demonstrate his layered emotional bond with the father.

For Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the poet and artist’s legacy has nothing to do with biological off-springs, and whosoever care for books, amazing stones, disfigured images or artefacts will be his heirs

Agyeya’s poem “Cheeni chai Pete hue” (Sipping Chinese tea) conjures a distinct feeling for the father though the narrator initially seems to be wary of remembering him. "Do you ever think about your father while sipping tea. It is not good to reflect on fathers. It exposes you completely. We could have become different. Had we been different; we would have come closer to the father.

Not many know that the eminent critic and literary theorist Namwar Singh did compose poetry, but the volume carries his poignantly rendered poem on his father’s birthday.

Unpretentious and sympathetic meditations on the interconnectedness between father and son by prominent Hindi poets such as Nagarjun, Muktibodh, Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, Kedar Nath Agarwal , Raghuvir Sahai, Kunwar Narian, Ashok Bajpai, Leela Dhar Jagudi, Arun Kamal, Vishnu Khare, Manglesh Dabral Rajesh Joshi Leela Dhar Mandloi, Vishnu Nagar, Ibaar Rabbi, Om Nischal, Madhav Kaushik and the like feature in the anthology.

Jitender Srivastva’s two poems divulge the most intimate relationship between father and daughter and innocence and buoyant enthusiasm of being the father of daughters do portend well for the family; they create an immediate sense of emotional fulfilment.

Human relationship hardly lessened the scourge of patriarchy. Kumar Anupam does try to understand the various forms of societal patriarchy through the lens of oppression – weary female narrators. How could a caring father create emotional anguish and deafening silence? Savita Singh, a celebrated poet creatively articulates this pertinent question and marriage without consent becomes a metaphor for trauma, and it inflicts a wound that never heals. The loving daughters are impelled to behave like a grieving person: “How daughters still love their fathers; they who render them homeless / Midway their lives ./Fathers, who push them into the unfathomable darkness od dispossession/ How strange it truly is, before whom our necks stay bowed the most/ Are the ones who beheaded us after all” ( Loving daughters translated by Medha Singh )

Death of the father

Nida Fazli

Nida Fazli

Kumar Anupam also included Nida Fazli’s Urdu poem on the death of the father. In Urdu literature, father is always held in high esteem. Recently, a distinguished Urdu poet Suhail Kakorvi jotted down a full-length book, partly in verse, "My father lives in hearts". For Suhail, his father was a source of creative inspiration.

The collection spans a spectrum of feelings and resonates with euphoric elements of family life and make us realise that the bond with the father is a many-tiered affair.

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