Time Whispers in My Ear by Aju Mukhopadhyay, Published by Lucknow: Oneline Gatha – The Endless Tale, ISBN- 978-9385818-01-01.

Time Whispers in My Ear is a collection of selected poems of an eminent and veteran author and poet Aju Mujhopadhyay. Till date, the poet has already 12 books in Bengali and over dozens of books of poetry, fiction, biography, philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and literature. Aju is well known name for online and offline magazine. The present collection consists of 77 poems that Aju has written over decades of his poetic life. These poems are vast and diverse in themes. The nature of most of the poems is however spiritual and philosophical, but a good number of poems are also written on social, political and moral issues also. The title poem is one of the best poems of the collection. The poet seems to have a Keatsian sensuousness when one reads the following lines:

                        Susurrus over the vast undulating grass

                        Tumbling of water in the forest river of night

                        Cackling of hilly meandering streams

                        Flowing of molten lava down the ravine

                        Spewing of ash;

                        ………………….rolling of water bodies’

                        Seeds sprouting, trees growing and dying

                        Again and again. (11)

But soon when one moves ahead in the poem, one finds growing philosophical when he writes:

Time whispers in my ears

                        That past never sits in its forlorn chair

                        But leaves its essence for assimilation;

                        Time whispers in my ear

                        That ethos of bygone ages, the zeitgeist

                        Can never be recovered by any strategist

                        …………….

                        Time whispers in my ear

                        That everything passes on forever. (11-12)

The poet in Aju has witnessed the time passing by as mute spectator and has experienced the fragility of life and other elements but has deeply felt the greatness of saints and seers like Sri Aurobindo, Buddha or poet and politicians like Tagore and Nelson Mandela will outshine and never fade away. In the poem, ‘Buddha Purnima’ he says:

                        More the time pass by more his influence

                        Reach the tumultuous humanity’s confluence

                        Buddha’s benevolent debonair face

                        Shine in deep blue sky………(16)

And similarly, the same timelessness is observed in the personality of Nelson Mandela- when it is said:

                        O time you honoured the son of the earth

                        For all his worth.

                        Nelson Mandela can be compared

                        To Nelson Mandela only,

                        That in a nutshell is his life story. (15)

In the face of Sri Aurobindo the poet experiences ‘eternity’, so he writes- “In this body sat the God, his face revealed the eternity” (41). Another philosophical poem ‘Tenant’ is worth mentioning. Here, the poet in the beginning portrays the departure of a tenant and questions philosophically:

                        Aren’t all of us tenant

                        Changing it alike our raiment

                        Unnoticed?

                        Aren’t everything on earth

                        Based on temporary arrangement? (75)

The poet has written some god social conscious poems like ‘Peace’, ‘What Peace is Like’, ‘Terrorism’, ‘Politicians of the World Unite’, ‘What An Age We are Passing Through’, ‘Structural violence, ‘In Reasonable Support of Hazra People’ and ‘Deaths before Death’ are some good poems that mirror various social evils of violence and wretchedness of victims of various tragedies.

Some poems reflect the didactic and moralizing attitude of the poet when he says:

                        Seek the real and act like a sage

                        Beyond what you have so long done-

                        Seek the one you have not sought so far;

                        Either the absolute or the details of the matter. (31)

Or in another poem, ‘Pray -That You Play Your Part Best’ when he says forcibly:

                        If you cannot admit God, do not explain it away as nature’s ways

                        Humbly sit before the ever present unknown like a child

                        Pray that you can play the part best as you are assigned. (33)

Or in ‘Worship the Body’, he advises to respect the body:

                        Pay respect, worship, care the body

                        Its image is a resemblance to all posterity.

                        After all efforts, reaching his pinnacle

                        One ought to salute it, his being’s tabernacle. (32)

‘India the Mother’ and ‘Remembering My Mother’ are the poems that mirror poet’s deep love to motherland and mother. In both the poems, the poet acknowledges the universality of the element called mother – for example when he says:

                        With all admixtures India is a cauldron of culture;

                        Present looks best to greet the past

                        Past comes back to harmonize the present;

                        With all imports and revivals, looking to the future

                        India is unique in her original essence. (80)

Or, when the poet remembers the mother after years of her demise:

                        … my mother’s touch and care

                        On birth, in cradle and childhood fair

                        Her pleasure and pain, wrath and fear

                        Affairs with me intimate

                        Are still carried in my veins, skin and memory

                        In my heart and brain, all the parts of my being. (93)

The poem like ‘The Dust’, ‘Death of Roses’, ‘Flower of the Future’, ‘Insects Nest’, ‘The Profiles of bride’, ‘Sea of Humanity’, ‘In The Last Phase of Night’, ‘The Bay is Lost in Shimmering Twilight’, ‘Morning’, ‘A fragrance of Dried Rose petals’ and Raining Still’ are full of alluring images of nature soaked in philosophical hues. In brief, the book is a small but good collection of some really good poems. But a good number of poems are also prosaic, unimaginative, banal and cliché-ridden. For instance, take these lines on terrorism:

                        If any religion has any association with terror

                        It must be in its lowest strata wrought with fear

                        It has no relation to the quest of God.

                        None recognizes a terror’s face

                        Terrorism has no face. (73)

Or in the poem, ‘What Peace is Like’, when these long sentences kill the beauty:

Peace is like the early rays of the sun,

                        ………………., spreading on the eastern sky

                        Peace is like mild- setting sun, sure of its return,

                        Splashing colours on the western sky. (77)

In the long poems like ‘Adivasi’, ‘Silent Witness of the Bygone Ages’, ‘In Reasonable Support of the Hazra People’, ‘What a Great Republican Share are We Basking in!’, ‘Terrorism’ and ‘sea of Humanity’, the sentences are too long and unpoetic that one feels like reading an essay and not a poem. This happens usually when poets fall a prey to over-productivity or they are in inordinate hurry to bring out a collection without making a careful selection of poems and before it even careless in rewriting or chiseling or editing what they have scribbled. Poetry unlike prose cannot be written in all the time, place or mood. Poetry is not written, it actually happens. Poets have to wait patiently to let it come like rains and when it comes, they have to bathe and soak in ecstasy.

The book has also been reviewed by some eminent reviewers like Dalip Khetarpal, Rob Harley, Prasun Banerjee, Dalip Khaterpal which also need to be discussed. Prasun Banerjee and Dalip Kheterpal have critically observed the book and has written dispassionately and judiciously. Rob Harley starts critically but stumbles in the ending lines when he writes in a laudatory tone:

            Time Whispers in My Ear is a special book. It should be mandatory reading for all politicians, company executives and global policy makers but I dive here into an          unlikely fantasy. However, it is a realistic suggestion that this marvelous book of Aju’s           best poetry deserves a place in schools, universities and on all poetry lover’s bookshelves.

(Rob Harley-www.boloji.com)

Such an exaggerating praise when belong to a healthy critical and creative tradition. As it is more a personal comment and surely not an objective review. Such incidents occur when critics lose sense of proportion.

Some poems of Aju Mukhopadhyay make him a true Aurobindo scholar. So, the collection can be worth buying by those who wish to read poetry book not as gifts or complimentary copy but as a true lover of books who still buy and support the writers.

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