D. C. Chambial’s article on Winged Reason
K. V. Dominic’s Winged Reason: A Portrait of Social Realism
D. C. Chambial
(sent for Guntur book on Indian Poetry in English)
Prof. K.V. Dominic, a versatile teacher, editor, poet and critic–all in one–is well-known in the field of Indian English literature as ex-editor of Indian Journal of Post Colonial Literatures (IJPCL). He is now the Secretary of Guild of Indian English Writers, Editors and Critics (GIEWEC) and editor of its biannual journal, Writers Editors Critics (WEC). Dominic has also emerged as a poet of social realism in the debut volume of his poems–Winged Reason. This paper aims to study his poems in the present volume for his social concern.
K. V. Dominic, like professor Shiv K. Kumar, is also a “late bloomer” in the world of Indian English poetry. In this very first volume of poems, he exhibits his penchant for social themes such as religious harmony, poverty, corruption, suffering, human cruelty, mafia crime, old age problem of aloofness, misappropriation of money, haves and have-nots, problems of the handicaps, female foeticide, the evil of dowry, corruption, disparity, unemployment and neglect of intellect in India. In addition to these themes, the poet has also taken care of dignity of labour, service unto humanity as service unto God, maternity, and beauty.
POEMS ABOUT HUMAN SUFFERING
In ‘A Nightmare’ (22-23), the poet presents a comparison of the haves and have-nots. On the one hand, he pictures those who have things aplenty, and on the other, those, who don’t have even the bare minimums of things that sustain life. The protagonist of the poem thinks himself to be “a hawk hovering in the sky.” In his flight, he, first of all, sees “an obese boy / whose mother was beating him to eat more.” Whereas in the nearby hut lived a famished child “crying for a crumb.” Then the hawk moves to another sight of a “lavish wedding feast” full of “rich delicacies” being enjoyed “by the pompous guests.” Outside “the town hall”, he saw “two ragged girls … / struggling with the dogs in the garbage bin” to find something to eat to keep their bodies and souls together. The poet juxtaposes affluence and dearth.
Thereafter, the hawk moves to a “public School” where the teacher has made a poor boy stand in the verandah in “the humid weather of forty degrees” for not wearing a tie. The hawk’s wings take him to a spectacle where a large number of men, looking like ants, were standing outside a wine shop “run by government.” What gave him the greatest surprise was that even the beggars stood there in that line for wine. The poet wants to show how the people squander their money on wine while poor women stand in a long line and wait for their turn for rations. This also shows men’s wasting money on wine and women suffering for their concern for the family. The male folks’ concern is limited to their enjoyment of themselves with wine, while women sacrifice their comforts for the sake of their homes and families.
He, then, describes another scene where the “public water tap” flows incessantly wasting the water and there are some taps that remain dry. The protagonist’s heart goes out for the poor people of the neighbourhood who wait and wait for water for hours in vain. In the next stanza, the poet gives pictorial description of rich people living in luxurious buildings in their old age and their wards gone to foreign lands; in the adjoining slum live three generations together in the same room. This poem is a picture of opulence and scarcity to focus the attention of the governments: state and centre that seem to have become blind to the needs of the needy.
‘Anand’s Lot’ (26-27) is about the child-pickers. They pick up young children and force them into begging. Anand is one such young boy. The poet begins by telling how jubilant and happy he was while living with his parents. Every day his mom loved him. He looked smart in his school uniform. One day, while going to school along with his other school-mates, suddenly, a car stops beside him, picks him up and whisks away to some unknown place. Now begins the saga of his suffering. When he tries to call for help, while being taken away, a man with whiskers gags his voice with a towel. Ultimately, he is taken to “a house and shut in a room.” He is given dry bread to eat and made to sleep on cold and hard floor. After some time, he is again taken in a car to a strange city and dressed in torn clothes. He is threatened to be killed if he dared defy their orders. Then the boy narrates his pitiful tale in these words:
I have to sleep in their hut,
eat dry bread which I hate;
always wear stinky rags.
They scold me and beat me
for not earning as they dreamed. (26)
These lines reveal the abject condition in which such children have to live. Though this may not be a real story, yet a simulation of the lives of a number of such other children lifted by these gangs and forced into begging. Their dream of a life full of modern amenities turns into a life of hell. Dry, cold bread and stinky clothes, what they hate, are thrust upon them. Such children, often, wonder about their parents, if they still remember them. A host of human atrocities are heaped on them: “Go to the shops and beg or I’ll kill you.” This becomes the fate of the apples of their parents’ eye. Their dreams are shattered. They have no choice except begging and living a wretched life. The poet, in this poem, seeks enactment of government measures to stop such evil and unsocial activities and enforce law to bring to book such gangs.
‘Gayatri’s Solitude’ is about the loneliness of a lady, who is already eighty years old. She has five children living in the United States of America. She, in her old age, lives in an “old-age home” as there is none to look after her in her palatial home that her children have built in the town. Her children live under an illusion that “their mother is cozy.” This old lady suffers solitude despite all the things of this world at her call. She has lost appetite and sleep. Her pathetic condition finds expression in these lines:
Dawn to dusk,
sitting in an armchair,
looking at the far West,
longing for her children’s calls,
she remains lonely. (31)
Her utmost misery, due to estrangement from her children and grand-children, is described in these lines: “The depth of maternal love, / and the pangs of separation / no child can gauge” (32).
Certainly, children are never aware of the agony of maternity until they themselves get singed in the same fire. This poem throw light on the suffering of the aged people living an estrange life.
The poem, ‘Tsunami Camps’, deals with the sufferings of people during Tsunami. They are made to live in camps, in shelters built of GI Sheets, in scorching heat. Despite the fact that people donate a large sum to provide relief during such natural calamities, a huge portion of it “is hoarded in the government exchequer, / or diverted for some other purposes.” This is how the government misappropriates the money so received and plays with the sympathies of the people/donors. Life in camps is so miserable that they prefer death to life. They lament: “”It is better to kill us than to torture like this.” They get neither sufficient food, nor drinking water. The last couplet of the poem sums up the plight of the Tsunami sufferers: “Unending wails and unending sobs; / not even gods listen to their cries.” They feel that neither the government, nor the God listens to their woeful cries. It is an unending tale of their suffering. In this poem, the poet satirises government’s apathy for the sufferers and misappropriation of the money received for the purpose.
‘Old Age’ describes the woes of the old people: at this age body weakens and one becomes dependent on others even for one’s personal needs before death. In one’s old age, even one’s dearest children “turn ungrateful. / They hate and curse / And never care.” Old age is contemptible, but it is the truth of life and cannot be evaded. All those who live up to old age have to bear with its ignominies. This poem pleads care from children whom these old people have brought up by sacrificing their own comforts.
‘Rahul’s World’ depicts the sorrows of a child who is turned out of the class by the teacher for not doing his home work. At home the atmosphere is not congenial: father is a drunkard; he often beats his mother and Rahul; super is thrown away; often they have to sleep without food. How can one study in such an atmosphere? For Rahul, the whole world seems full of cruelty: “Cruel father, / Cruel teacher, / Cruel world.” While at this age he “longs for love”, he never gets this precious thing, called love. There are a good many little children who are denied the balm of love to ameliorate their sorrows and wipe their tears. The poet shows is concern for such children.
‘What a Birth’ is the story of a lady who has just returned from her hard work in the hot sun from her fields. She pines for some rest from this heat in her house: “A thatched hut / cardboard walls / boltless door.” Inside lies her, ailing and hungry, mother. Her daughter has also returned from school and is hungry. Whatever they had for lunch, in the pot, has been devoured by the stray dogs. In the evening or night her “Drunkard husband / will come … / to resume beats and kicks” – the fate of a poor lady! The poet wonders at such a birth and the store of sufferings in her lot. By exposing the abject condition of the poor, the poet wants that government should help such poor people with the bare minimum of food, clothes, and shelter – roti, kapraa, and makaan.
‘Helen and Her World’ is about a visually challenged girl. She is very brilliant, takes notes in her class very fast; she knows answers to each and every question. But what a tragedy that in her exam she cannot write her answers for want of the facility of Braille script. The poet deplores:
Had her scribe known
spellings of all words,
she could have won a rank
in her degree examinations. (39)
The amanuensis, provided to her for writing her answers, was not as intelligent as she. He, while writing answers on her dictation, misspells some words that she knew well. For his deficient knowledge, she had to lose her rank in her examination:
She is the light of the class,
light of the family,
light of the village,
but alas the light never sees itself
It is the greatest paradox of her life. In spite of her lights (intelligence), she is unable to see the world. She remains in perpetual darkness. The poet has used the word, “light”, as a pun, to denote her intelligence and eye-sight. ‘Vrinda’ narrates the tale of a physically handicapped girl of “twelve or thirteen” years old in a TV show. She has lost one leg but she is never sad. She dances to the tunes of Hindi film songs and entertains a large number of people. She has “turned her challenge / to strength and success. / A loud message to the world!” She is not deterred by her handicap but meets this challenge boldly and becomes a source of encouragement, and sets an example to those who feel disheartened at their physical handicaps. Both the poems teach the world a lesson: such handicaps can only be belittled with courage and will.
DIGNITY OF LABOUR
‘Harvest Feast’ embraces the theme of cooperative farming, as practiced in communist countries. Kerala is also ruled by a communist government. The students are taken to the fields for harvesting crops. Such little hands that elsewhere run after butterflies and enjoy their childhood, have to work in farms and toil hard in sun and shade:
moved through the rough fields;
ploughed the land; sowed the seeds;
plucked the weed; reaped the corn;
carried sheaves on their tender heads;
threshed, husked, cooked. (35)
It is all taught to them by their teachers: education and vocation simultaneously. There is no shame in doing one’s duty, instead it teaches “dignity of labour” that can “solve the food crisis” and save millions of lives around the world who die of hunger. After the crop is harvested, they cook the food with their own hands and enjoy the feast:
Those little pupils from Kozhikode,
avidly feasting rice and payasam;
The harvest banquet of their sweated labour.
Nothing can be tastier than this.
It also brings to mind the lesson: the outcome of hard-work is always sweet. However, the young hands should not be taxed with such tiring tasks. Verily, lessons in practical learning and dignity of labour are good, but not labour. Care should be taken that such lessons in dignity of labour do not turn into exploitation.
The poem, ‘Haves and Have-nots’, describes that these two categories are created by man and not God. For Him all are equal. The protagonist protests:
What right has the mortal man
to divide and own this immortal planet?
What justice is there for the minority
to starve the majority? (37)
In the present democratic set up, it is the capitalism that rules. The dreams of “Have-nots” for “health and happiness” are shattered. They do not find any hope from any quarter. They are borne in misery and die in misery.
ECOLOGY AND GIFTS OF NATURE
The poem, entitled ‘I am Just a Mango Tree’, narrates the endless uses of a mango tree to humanity. While a mango tree gives everything: wood to burn, leaves for animals, juicy fruit for human beings to relish besides oxygen for all living beings to survive. But, what does it get in return only an axe. For man’s wile acts of destruction, the mango tree asks God: “God, why is your man so selfish and cruel?” To this the God replies:
‘ … I created him
in My own Image
but he’s gone astray;
My agony is endless.
That’s the fate
of Father everywhere.
I shouldn’t have created this human species;
But how can a father kill his sons?’ (41)
Because of man’s such destructive acts, God Himself feels hurt and ashamed for having created man. The poet warns man of ruthless ecological destruction through this poem and wants to create an awareness among the masses.
‘International Women’s Day’ (42-43) narrates, despite the world celebrating Women’s day, how women are discriminated all over the world. Women have been considered everywhere: “an instrument of lust / and hot-selling sex!” Even at parents’ home: “Mum and dad love him; / she gets only reproaches”, and “Seldom educated; / hence no employment, / and always dependent.” She tries her best to do her best for the welfare of her family and home, but “Her love and sacrifices / remain unrewarded.” The poet as a reformer holds up a mirror unto the society and demands a right place for her. He writes:
Venerable is woman,
for she is your mother;
she is your sister;
she is your wife;
she is your guide;
she is your teacher;
she is your nurse;
and above all,
she is your angel. (43)
How pitiable that she serves man in every phase and age of his life, yet she is considered inferior and is always marginalized in the society. A question arises: Is humanity possible without her? The answer is always in the negative. Why, then, this discrimination against woman? It is a question that still looks for an answer. Woman must get her equitable right to live as an honoured and respected individual in society.
POEM ABOUT WORKERS
‘Lal Salaam to Labour’ celebrates the dignity of labour. It is “the backbone of country.” Without labour nothing is possible. It is needed in fields, factories, construction, almost everywhere. The labourers “nurse bubbles of dreams; / but reality pricks them oft, / and make heaven of tavern” (44-45). When they fail to get even enough food, they seek solace in wine. Perhaps that is the reason why majority of the workers can be seen drunken after their working hours. In order to show our respect unto them the poet writes:
Let us not be unjust
when we pay them wages,
for we can’t do what they do.
Give them at least their due;
the more we give, the more we get;
Put charity in humanity
a spiritual bliss that never dies. (45)
The poet is verily realistic in his approach: we require labour only to do the things that we can’t do. Then, why to disparage and hate them; they deserve our love, respect, and praise. It is the demand of humanity to be humane unto them. The title seems to display his penchant for humanitarianism.
‘Laxmi’s Plea’ is about the menace of dowry. It tells the tale of a poor girl, named Laxmi, who became orphan at a very young age. She, somehow, educated herself and earns a little to feed herself and her bed-ridden mother. Her “meagre salary … / hardly meets … food and medicine” (47). But the society is so cruel that it never sympathizes with any person. Laxmi has to bear with the pinching remarks of the society like “when is your wedding?” (46). The poet considers [with all thinking people of the society] dowry as a menace. Many a gem, among girls, lay down their lives at the altar of this demon, but the society remains blind and turns a deaf ear to the demand of ending this devil/menace from the face of society. Each and every girl must realise her dreams and has not to prick her “bubble of dreams” like Laxmi, the protagonist of this poem. Ultimately, for want of money and being unable to arrange for dowry, she decides to remain single. It is also a bold step on the part of Laxmi; for, if a boy can remain single, why can’t a girl? Unless the girls are not bold enough, this menace cannot be wiped out.
POEMS ON ANIMALS AND BIRDS
‘A Sheep’s Wail’ (24-25) is a very significant poem that proves man as “the cruellest” and “the most ungrateful / of all God’s creations.” The poem is in the form of an apostrophe in which the sheep addresses man. The sheep tells man that he is vested with certain “special powers” that they [sheeps] don’t possess. Man is considered the most intelligent; so, he domesticated animals. Man deprives the sheep from its fur that God has given to their kind for his own benefit and comfort. Man not only takes the milk of animals for his use but also kills them for his food. The poem becomes satirical in that he has invented some “false philosophies” to prove that he/man is “His choicest” creation. The poet posits that all creatures are His children and creations. It seems most absurd to call man as his child. The heaven must be reserved for the animals which serve throughout their lives this “choicest” being, and not for the one who kills and exploits them: “If a heaven is there / we will reach their first / and pray god to shut you out.” He debunks man of all his morality to own a place in Heaven, if it exists.
‘Cuckoo Sings’ is based on the truth that the beings of nature, like a cuckoo, enjoy life in singing and loving without worrying about existential needs. On the other hand, man toils throughout his life and remains unsatisfied due his unending desires that make him more miserable. The more he gets, the more he yearns. The more he toils, the more he moans. The cuckoo calls its mate, in the song, for love: “Wake up mate, / let’s start love”. Its song, on the other hand, exhorts man, as his habit, for toil: “Wake up man and / sweat for your bread”. The poet affirms:
Yes, cuckoo lives
singing and loving,
while man exists
sweating and moaning.
This poem juxtaposes carefree nature to ever worried man. While those living in harmony with nature are always happy, those severed from it lead an ever troubled life. Will man ever learn to contain his desires and live a happy life?
‘Sleepless Nights’ is a comparative narration of the cuckoo’s natural home and the carefree freedom it enjoys juxtaposed to human living in a concrete-cell and trying to get, unsuccessfully, the cold air in hot and humid night from the fan. See the comparison, apparent in the poet’s narration:
The cuckoo lies on his God-given bed;
the gentle breeze always caresses him;
the nocturnal music lulls him throughout,
and his sleep is sound
free from cares and worries.
I lie in my concrete house,
fighting against the man-made heat,
and the dreary sound of the hot-wave fan.
The late and heavy supper in stomach,
and all such unnatural ways of life
take away that God’s own gift. (56)
While the cuckoo enjoys sound sleep in its natural environment, man is unable to sleep in his artificial environment created by him for his safety and comfort.
‘My Teenage Hobby’ tells about “angling” as the persona’s pastime. Once he angled a fish and saw it struggling for freedom; his conscience pricked him and he “unhooked the fish”. Since then “Reflections on life / became my [his] pastime” (48). This poem shows poet’s concern for all living beings, and manifests his humanitarian attitude towards them.
ON POLITICS AND POLITICIANS
‘Indian Democracy’ is a satirical poem on Indian political system and the vices that it nurses. The poet remarks that election in India is a “several billion business” in which “secularism is butchered.” During elections, against the principles of democracy, politicians bank on cast, religion, regionalism and parochialism. Nobody cares for “nationalism and patriotism.” The demon of communalism is nourished on the altar of democracy. He voices the prevalent vices of Indian democracy:
… democracy reigns
drinking tears of thousands!
brought from jails
to prove majority on floor;
horse-trade of billions!
The governments that are elected are corrupt. People vote the same politicians “again and again”; for, they have “no other options.” In this manner Indian democracy, the largest in the world, continues to live and rule without caring for the people who elect them. Once these politicians are elected, they become the sovereign masters and lord over the poor people, who have voted them to power.
The poem ‘Om’ is also a satire on the Hindu Brahministic philosophy that considers one caste superior to the other. The poem begins with the notion that this is the sound that emanated with the creation of the cosmos and embodies the Hindu Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The poet writes that even chanting of “Om” was “Once the monopoly of the high caste; / low-caste people were denied / it’s (sic) listening and muttering;” (66). He writes that the low-caste people were, instead, forced to pronounce it as ‘On’. It is “the holiest mantra of mantras; key to all problems of the world”. It serves as “a tonic to mind and body.” It is the source of mundane “peace and happiness.” It should not be the privilege and prerogative only “of the high caste” but of all. When it, the sound or Naada of “Om”, was created with the creation of the cosmos, God did not reserve it for any one class or creed. He gave it to all human beings for their well-being and mental peace in moments of crises and peace alike. Why, then, should men divide humanity for the recitation of this mantra or sound? One caste of people can recite it while others can’t. It indirectly voices the protest and anger of the deprived castes and class against the one that mastered over them. God has created all equal. All extant social distinctions and disparities should be banished from society to end all caste based discriminations between man and man to evolve a healthy and harmonious society.
FESTIVALS AND SOCIAL HARMONY
‘Onam’ is Keralites’ favourite harvest festival. It continues for ten days with various celebrations: it comes after monsoon and people celebrate it by “feasting with new rice”, with flower decorations, such as pookalams in front of every house. The atmosphere is rife with “Onam songs, / Onam plays and Onam dances.” There are many competitions in “sports, games and arts” to forget their worries for these ten days. The poet also tells the legend that is behind the celebration of this festival. It celebrates the golden rule of a Kerala King, named Maveli. He was a very just king and equality prevailed in his kingdom. Vishnu could not brook this happiness in his kingdom and out of envy hurled him to the underworld, and “granted him a boon / to visit his people once a year” (54). It is believed that Maveli, the king, visits the people and land during Onam to find every one happy. But, he returns at the end of Onam celebrations, as one very sad: “he returns in tears.” Festivals are the backbone of Indian culture and social harmony and strengthen unity in diversity.
PCK Prem very pertinently comments: Dominic’s social concerns are genuine and he is forthright in unequivocal condemnation of the rich. This is possible only for a person who is committed to an ideology. … he believes that words sublime and true, sincere and forthright cannot provide happiness to the downtrodden but definite and positive efforts are needed so that they get all the essential things of life necessary to live ….” (110). IK Sharma, a prominent contemporary critic, writes: “In most of the poems the poet is in and around his state. Through portraits of known and not so well known characters he attempts to showcase his contemporary Kerala. Certainly, it is significant that he has not lost touch with his local roots” (Poetcrit 156). It is suffice to label him as a regional poet.
Dominic’s poetry projects him as a social realist and champion of the down-trodden concentrating particularly on his own state, and obliquely on humanity in general. As a new entrant in the field, he needs extra care with his creations to make his place authentic and permanent in the arena of Indian English poetry.
Dominic, K. V. Winged Reason. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2010. Print.
Prem, PCK. “K.V. Dominic’s Winged Reason: Poems of Man’s Earthly Life and Painful Realities.” Labyrinth 2.2 (April 2011): 104-10. Print.
Sharma, I. K. “A Big Bunny in the Field.” Rev. of Winged Reason. Poetcrit 24.2 (July 2011): 155-57. Print.
Dr. D. C. Chambial, acclaimed poet, critic and editor of Poetcrit has published seven collections of poems in addition to innumerable critical articles, poems and short stories in reputed journals. He is one of the editors of Writers Editors Critics. Among the awards and honours he has received include The International Eminent Poet Award from International Poets Academy, Madras, 1985 and Life Time Achievement Award for poetry in 2009. He won the best poetry award for his fourth book, Perception, from Michael Madhusudan Dutt Academy, Calcutta, in 1994. He can be contacted at: “Duni Chambial” email@example.com. Postal Address: Dr. D. C. Chambial, Editor, Poetcrit, Maranda, Himachal Pradesh, India, Pin: 176 102.
K. V. Dominic’s Winged Reason: A Portrait of Social Realism
D. C. Chambial
K. V. Dominic’s maiden collection of poems Winged Reason is a depiction of social realism. There are thirty nine poems in this collection which can be classified into the following categories: poems about human suffering, about dignity of labour, on economic disparity, on ecology and gifts of nature, about women, poems about workers, on social evils, poems on animals and birds, on politics and politicians, about religious discrimination and on festivals and social harmony. Dominic’s poetry projects him as a social realist and champion of the down-trodden concentrating particularly on his own state, Kerala, and obliquely on humanity in general. (100 words)
I, D. C. Chambial, do hereby declare that my article entitled “K. V. Dominic’s Winged Reason: A Portrait of Social Realism” is original and unpublished.
Dr. D.C. Chambial
Maranda, Himachal Pradesh,
India, Pin: 176 102.