A CRITICAL TRIBUTE TO A REBEL POET
ENGLISH POETRY OF RAJKAMAL CHOUDHARY.
Not many people know that Rajkamal Choudhary whose Hindi and Maithili poetry, short stories and novels had created revolution in the world of literature, was also a versatile genius of English poetry. As he has himself remarked in a publisher’s note on an anthology titled ‘ INDIAN NIGHT’ —- “a major literary event, the first collection of real Indian poetry since Sarojini Naydu and Toru Dutta, from the mind of a modern Indian man with extreme intelligence in his probing’s of the BABOO CULTURE, unsophisticated sick pious unpoetically designed, celebrated a chronicle of the Indian wilderness of the individual insecurity, failures, suicides, murders, rapes, adulterations and black magic”. Whether the “Inddian Night” deserves to be a ’’ major literary event”and if it is the first collection of real Indian poetry since Sarojini Naydu and Toru Dutta” is a separate issue that needs to be discussed and analyzed by critics . But a random view of the galaxy of images presented by the poet in some 60 poems in English are equally mature in content and style and from aesthetic point of view, they are equally significant as their Hindi and Maithili counterparts despite some limitations. While attempting Rajkamal’s contribution to Maithili and Hindi literature critics used to mention merely that he had also written a large number of poems in English and Bangla literature. But never before was any of his English writing ever brought to light in any of the magazines or books published after the premature death of the poet in June 1967. It could be possible only after 49 years ,when a reputed publishing house in Delhi, Rajkamal Prakashan.(It may be kept in mind that the author, Rajkamal had no connection — direct or indirect—- with the Publishing house. In 2015,Rajkamal Prakashan published the complete works of Rajkamal Choudhary in Maithili and Hiindi languages. Comprising eight volumes the anthology presents the entire gamut of Rajkam al’s Hindi and Maithili literary world—- his poems,short stories ,novels, private letters and his literary comments on individual authors and literary trends. It is an undisputable fact that among his great contemporaries Maithili, and barring some exceptions like Agneya, Hindi too, Rajkamal Choudhary was probably the most erudite author . Reading books was his greatest passion. Rajkamal’s favourites included Indian scriptures,Vedas and Puranas,the classical Sanskrit and Hindi English and Hindi literature . A new trend of poetic movement launched and pioneered by a group of young Bengali poets led by Malay Roy Choudhury, Subimal Basak and others drew attention of the readers during the sixties. This controversial group was named Hungry generation and the individual poets who were anti-establishment in their personal life as well as in their writings were identified as Hungryalists. The Hungry Generation inspired him the most mmainly because of his psychological proximity . Reputed American poet,Allen Ginsberg although not a pioneer of the Hungryalists was closely associated with this poetic movement and Rajkamal Choudhary was an ardent supporter of the group mainly Allen Ginsberg and Malay Roy Choudhury whose are frequently mentioned in his writings . Like D H Lawrence his religion was the religion of flesh. Freudian psychology combined with and the existentialist philosophy were his favourites. American novelist and thinker,Ayn Rand finds her name and the title of her novels mentioned frequently in many of his poems.
Rajkamal was a born rebel. He was deadly averse to the present form of democracy. In one , of his short poems he vows to boycot all the government facilities and welfare schemes. His anger becomes so deep and intense that he promises not to cast his vote in any election for electing a public representative.——–
MY PRAYER – SONG (AUTUMN 66)
I will cast no vote, pay no taxes
Stand in no line to form a Q
Take and accept no title no award
No licence no policy no passport no permit,
No whisky-coupon, no job
No AIR contract no wife
I don’t want any social security.
I shall rather go to the Himalay caves
Than bear the ledger books
On my heads and gun on my shoulders
For my masters to shoot
Me and my child.
( Rajkamal Rachnavali,vol.2, English poetry section, Ed. Deo Shankar Navin, Rajkamal Prakashan , Delhi. )
He abhors democracy because he feels the sacrosanct tenets of the system has turned into mobocracy. The entire democratic apparatus and institutions are working against the man as an individual and all the development and welfare programmes are making individuals poorer and more vulnerable. In his most celebrated Hindi poem, Mukti Prasang, he justifies his anti- democratic principles—–
आदमी को तोड़ती नहीं है लोकतान्त्रिक पद्धतिया
केवल पेट के बल उसे झुका देती हैं
धीरे धीरे अपाहिज
धीरे धीरे नपुंसक बना लेने के लिए
उसे शिष्ट राजभक्त देशप्रेमी नागरिक बना लेती हैं
आदमी को इस लोकतंत्री संसार से अलग हो जाना चाहिए
(Prasang 8, Mukti prasang,,1966,Neelpatra Prakashan,Kamayni,Bhikhna pahaadi, Patna.)
Democratic system doesn’t break a man
But bends him on his abdomen slowly
To make him handicapped
, impaired Slowly
Impotent shapes him as a disciplined patriotic citizen.
Man should keep himself away from this democratic world.
(Translation By BKC)
Rajkamal’s main concern in poetry is hopes and despair, aspirations ,frustration and disillusionment suffered by the common man ,more particularly the lower middle class in the present day social institutions largely dominated by sexually pervert and starved capitalists But Rajkamal never indulges in rhetoric ,sloganeering or didactic melodrama. In stead, he picks up his characters and situations from among the masses and knits his narrative in such a deft manner that the characters become his mouthpieces and a strong weapon to attack the system,not the individuals. This however needs to be kept in mind that the effects of such exercises are not limited in range but universal in appeal. In his poem, The Prose order, Rajkamal admits very frankly that ‘he was nobody in the game of alphabets’ because of his bourgeois character. He was nowhere in the poetic world as his thoughts are untranslatable and non- commutive. The poet’s yearning for the world of letters becomes poignant when he pleads gross injustice done to him by the society :
I am not sure of anything,not even suicide.
The mob of weeping children,
The barren landscapes
The alphabets of existence in the society,
The myths have disowned me.
Now .a few words about the text.Some sixty poems of Rajkamal Choudhary have been compiled in the anthology. As I have not seen the manuscript personally, I can not say anything for certain. But I must admit, the poems are pricking the reader’s eyes. The arrangement of lines mostly the use of capital and small letters are strangely haphazard and ill- conceived. I want to bring these glaring mistakes to notice of the publisher as well as the editor,Sri Deo Shankar Naveen and request them to go through the text once again and come out with due modifications if possible , in the next edition (reprint) of the book.
Bashi Kant Choudhary.
Mahishi, Saharsa, Bihar.