Jernail S. Anand – Writing in the Virtual World
By Dr. Aprilia Zank
Living more and more trapped in cyberspace (statistics can attest that we spend daily more hours in the virtual than in the real world), we may at a certain point be inclined to demonise it, but the fact of the matter is that the virtual space does offer us an unparalleled range of opportunities. Through it, I have been bestowed the privilege of coming into contact with a large number of amazing personalities from various fields of culture and creativity, among whom I am happy to mention Dr. Jernail S. Anand, an Indian poet, philosopher, teacher, educator, to name just the main aspects of his proliferous career.
Due to both my profession and my passion for literature and art, I had been familiar with creative people before the Internet, but it was the sort of closeness which one finds in the seclusion of libraries, museums, university halls and the like. With the new generations ‘born’ with notebooks, tablets or smartphones in their hands, the encounter with knowledge or creativity acquires new coordinates. The notion of reception needs to be reshaped and reconstructed. What sounds like self-evidence at first view needs though critical questioning. Do we really experience and process literary and artistic contents in a new way in the virtual space? Does it make a difference if I hold a paper book in my hands, or if I read it on a screen, or is its impact on me the same? Perhaps we need indeed to pay new consideration to Marshall McLuhan’s declaration that “the medium is the message.” Extensive research is necessary, and scientists of all domains are busy attempting to transmute their findings into relevant statistic data, but beyond all scholarly devices are the unique literature and art recipients with their particular premises for the reception and processing of literary writings and of works of art.
My encounter with Dr. Anand has taken place – so far and I hope it will change soon – in the virtual space only. I have had no opportunity to meet him in person, yet I have the feeling that we are good old friends. Furthermore, we both belong to a tremendous network of friends and friends’ friends who are in a permanent and immediate encounter and exchange of information, opinions and critical views. For there is no denial of the fact that accessibility of all types is practically borderless in cyberspace. A sheer number of readers can and do access Dr. Anand’s poems, essays and philosophical work in bits or as full books on the Internet. This unparalleled intercourse occurs within our beloved social networks in which communication is possible at any time, from every place and with everybody. But what sounds like a tremendous achievement in general and a huge chance for writers and artists in particular comes at a price. It is precisely the easiness of accessibility that renders the encounter with e-media contents accidental, fugitive, and often enough perfunctory. Under the ‘burden’ of the stupendous offer we are confronted with in cyberspace, we race from stimulus to stimulus in a feverish attempt to absorb as much information as possible. Under these circumstances, we run the risk of being superficial in our assimilation and, accordingly, far from optimal in our response.
Dr. Jernail S. Anand
Now, Dr. Anand is a renowned personality with a remarkable retinue of followers and admirers who always search for his presence and newest publications in the virtual world. And he does indeed regale them with exquisite poetry, thought-provoking quotes, or deep-reaching philosophical musings. The readers’ response is there, but it has evolved into a new language, semiotic to a great extent. We use ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘angry’, ‘sad’ and more signs to save time, or in the best case, we type ‘excellent’, ‘profound’ ‘congratulations’, to attest due consideration. Can this be a satisfactory type of feedback? On looking at Dr. Anand’s literary items shared the day I am writing this article, I spot a poem titled “HOW POOR IS THIS LIFE”. A quick analysis reveals that a response is there: 23 readers have liked and/or loved the poem, two have provided comments of one and of four words respectively, but that is about all. I miss some, to my mind, almost compulsory remarks, e.g. a reference to the Eliotian echo of the lines:
I write so much yet the feeling …
of half fulfilment stays.
or a few words of appreciation for the exquisite metaphors below:
I could not digest the winds
I could not drink the seas
The poet further complains about the unsatisfactory living we are trapped in:
Life! How poor you are!
It is, of course, the spiritual poverty he is is weary of, a recurring theme in Dr. Anand’s writings and a major potential starting point for a debate among the readers of the poem. Decay of traditional values, lack of genuine communication with one’s own kind, failure in the attempt to connect with God – it is all there craving for introspection and deliberation. But here, too, things seem to be doomed to fail to meet expectations:
Things remained half loved
Hence half lived.
Is there any chance left for mankind to find its way back to primeval joy? In the poem “JOYS PAINS”, Dr. Anand emphasises the inextricable duality of joy/pain by using stylistic devices such as capitalisation and the juxtaposition of words with no punctuation, thus almost creating a proper name with a single ‘signifié’. The last three lines convey one more cry-out-loud testimony of the shallowness of inter-human relationships in a world devoid of true communication:
Nobody listens to the shrieks
Which issue from silent lips
Coated with red smiles
A look at the feedback on these major issues present in the poem reveals a poor echo to such a challenging piece of writing: a few semiotic ‘likes’, a ‘sad’ sign, and a positive remark illustrated by a line of the poem. No truly deep consideration offered to major existential questions posited in other poems either. Weirdly enough, this is by no means lack of appreciation or interest, since Dr. Anand is well-known as one of the most widely acknowledged contemporary Indian poets and philosophers. It is rather a peculiar aspect of the nature of reception in this kaleidoscopic world which is the virtual space. Aside from the already mentioned fast-paced character of this medium, which urges us to move on and on to the next items of interest, further components come into play or better said interplay among its users. Visibility and transparency, which per se are positive features of the virtual space, may become inhibitory under the realisation that people ‘can read your mind’ when you express your ideas, opinions and the like on various issues. Direct comparison with other minds can occur, with an uncertain outcome. A reason for many to refrain from a too obvious display of their own facets of spirit or intellect.
Luckily, Dr. Anand’s prolific work has been extensively and skilfully dealt with by scholars who have assuredly taken more than a glance at his literary and philosophical writings. For there is no doubt that thorough reading and rigorous research is still being practised, even in our high-speed world and in the fugacious virtual reality.
Summing up, I think there is no point in trying to solve the quandary whether the virtual world with its social networks are a blessing or a curse. Living without it has become unthinkable, so why not make the best of it. The possibility to display your work and creativity in it, to enjoy borderless visibility and access, and to have the chance of getting feedback from the most unexpected corners of the virtual but also of the real world is priceless. And in this respect I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet the tremendous personality of Dr. J. S. Anand in this scintillating world. This notwithstanding, I am of course looking forward to an early encounter with the man in person.
October 12th, 2017