Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan’s ‘Reverie’: A Spiritual Journey through the Exploration of Inner Self
Professor-poet Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan’s poetry collection titled ‘Reverie’ is a masterpiece in today’s fast paced global society — a society that has almost been blind and deaf to view God and listen to His calls. Religion, poetry and life have been blended together in her poems. In these poems there is harmony between emotion and idea, between religion and philosophy. The entire book is a holy container filled with dazzling jewels that purify the souls and attract them for the inward ride. The book reveals the holistic aspects of life that can be outlined in the following ways:
1. Invocation to the Almighty:
God is the supreme power whom the poet invokes in many of her poems including ‘My Master’, ‘Past Moments’, ‘The Over Soul’, ‘God, the Invisible Part’, ‘Karma’, ‘Oh God How Long Will I Be Here?’, ‘Be My Love’. In the opening of ‘My Master’ the poet addresses the Almighty as ‘Oh, Master thou art’. God is the omniscient who has mastered all the four Vedas, sitting under the Kalala tree for ages. God is imagined to be her father, mother, brother and friend to whom she surrenders and wishes for boon. In ‘Past Moments’ she repeatedly invokes and appeals God —
“Be like a fountain
To flow grace to all”,
“Be my love to be loved by all.
Be my grace to bless all with bliss.
Be my splendor to make me
Be my joy to lift all in the current of life”.
In ‘Over Soul’ God is addressed as the boundless source without beginning or end — an idea expressed in ‘The Gita’, ‘The Upanishad’ and many other religious books. Sometimes God is thought to be the invisible part. The poet makes heart-rending appeal to God to fill her heart with ineffable love so that she can pour love in all beyond all the narrow ‘isms’. In ‘Karma’ God sits at the centre activating all. In the last few lines the poet’s appeal is remarkable —
“Oh God lift me from the Abyss
Be my love to grow
In esteem and pride,
To lead all towards prosperity”
Here ‘Abyss’ may be symbolically suggestive of “the thorns of life” (to quote Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’). The poet’s appeal is somewhat akin to Shelley’s to the west wind. Through Shelley a regeneration will come and here Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan wants to lead all towards prosperity. The word ‘prosperity’ is both literal and metaphorical. Here the poet metaphorically leads all to spiritual awakening in mechanised, commercialised, materialistic society. In ‘Oh God How Long Will I Be Here?’ the poet puts an existential question in the problematic choking society appealing God. In this aching world she aches too much and appeals —
“Show me the right path
To tread on.”
Again she appeals Him to change her into a precious stone to decorate His head or change her into garland to adorn His bosom. Here we find Tagore’s appeal to God in verse 6 of ‘Songs Offerings’ “Use this flower in thy service”. Again in ‘Be My Love’ the poet frantically appeals —
“Oh God, be my love to be loved by all,
Be my joy to be shared by all
Be always the breath of my being
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Make me stupendous to brave
Any danger coming all the way.”
Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan may be placed with St. Francis of Assissi and Tagore side by side. In verse 36 of ‘Song Offerings’ Tagore also frantically appeals God —
“Give me the strength lightly to bear
my joys and sorrows.
. . . . .. . . . . .. . . . . .. . . .. . . . . . . .
Give me the strength to raise my mind
high above daily triffles.”
2. The Vibes of Positivity:
Positivity is running throughout the entire inward journey. Even from the dark tunnel of life the poet is hopeful that God may illumine her path and forgive her. God in the form of Sadhuguru will remove all the miseries the poet’s aching soul is subjected to. The poet is optimistic that God will grant her boon to get His grace in every renewal of life. Even in an era of degeneration of morality the poet’s hope comes in the end of ‘Winning’. Only Nature may put all to the right track of life. Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan is a Wordsworthian soul in believing the spiritual power of Nature. The poet is always in God’s company. The poet will be with God, share with Him, follow Him like His shadow, feel His presence even in eyes closed. The poet is again optimistic that the realization of the inner flow of energy alone makes one stronger. The pure intellect used in the proper sense makes one sharper and stronger. Even a country lass becomes the hope of all. The sight of a country lass on path singing, gliding like gentle breeze, beaming like moon, spreading grace, winning all’s hearts fills all the aching hearts with peace and joy. It is hoped that she will meet her counterpart, worth of God’s grace. Hope is finely woven in ‘Go Ahead’ a few lines —
“Going deeper and deeper
Into the inner self
Helps the air to move up”.
Like Wordsworth and Tagore Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan is in God-realization in different aspects of Nature. In her poem ‘The Inward Light’ the readers enter into an ocean of lights. The inward light is synonymous with God. The experience of beholding, feeling the inward light (God) with inward eyes is momentous. A great spiritual transformation is taking place in the poet. It is an elevation, a moral elevation, a spiritual elevation, a transcendence. The poet says —
“The realisation of the abundant
Makes me outshine all,
Drawing millions of people
In such epiphanic moment the poet is blessed and in drawing millions of people lies her humanitarian approach. The poet’s God-realization resembles Tagore’s in “The ocean of light and thus I am blessed” (verse 96, ‘Song Offerings’). In her poem ‘God’ the poet is fully aware of God. In her breathing process God is conceptualised. God is realized in maturation of thoughts, a few lines —
“The maturation of the thought
In turn makes me realize
The divinity in me too”.
The poet becomes lighter than air, faster
than wind in the state of God-realization. Same feeling is felt by Wordsworth in the lap of Nature in ‘Tintern Abbey’. A blissful feeling is permeated in ‘Coconut Grove’ where she feels God’s glory and grandeur in the coconut trees. She raises her hands above her elbow to thank God for His blessings.
4. Nature As the Source of Pied Beauty, Peace and Wisdom:
Dr. Mohan’s words in the Foreward section are remarkable — “She is almost Wordsworthian in her attitude towards nature; her readiness to see into the life of things created by God is unique”. Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan seems to be spiritualising Nature, as Wordsworth does. Nature is the source of variegated beauty, peace, serenity and tranquillity. The repeated expressions ‘the gaiety blue’ and ‘blue hue of the vast expanse of the cosmos’, ‘gaiety green in the lush green fields, the sweet smelling, the sweet fruit bearing trees’, ‘clothed in the green hue’, ‘green hue in leaves’ are feast to the eyes and nose. Though all things change, the beauty of Nature remains eternal. Like Wordsworth the poet wishes to get energy and peace through meditation of Nature. The closing lines of ‘See the Millennium’ we are drawn to Nature to get relief from the asphyxiated life, a few lines —
“Always be close with
Nature and attain the
Once again the poet expresses the same idea in ‘Once the World Was Broad’ —
“Align, align with Nature
For better living”.
It is the poet’s firm belief that only Nature can calm the aching minds in rat-race of today’s world. In ‘Be Blessed’ the poet turns our faces from mechanized harsh reality to the world of Nature including the snow clad mountains, the shining stars, flying birds and children, a few lines —
“Stay close to Nature,
The only way to escape from the
Rut of reality.
The more the mind gets attuned,
The sooner does it become sweeter”.
Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey’ and ‘Table Turned’ echo the same appeal, a few lines from ‘Table Turned’ —
“One impulse from vernal wood
May teach you more of man
Of moral evil and good
Than all the sages can”.
Like Wordsworth the poet voices in ‘Be the Best’ —
“Nature is the best to be in
It never forsakes you nor does
it mislead you”.
5. Faith in God:
Faith is recurrent in the poet’s inward journey. Faith is synonymous with love and God. In ‘The Over Soul’ her firm belief in the existence of over soul is felt, as Wordsworth and Tagore felt in nature and the whole universe. In ‘Past Moments’ faith in God leads her to pray —
“I prayed, I prayed.
The prayers fell upon the ears of
This faith is so strong that she is blessed and then she emerges like a Phoenix with energy full to withstand the test of time. Faith in Lord Krishna and His statement “what we think, so we become” and in her appeals to God is felt in ‘Be My Love’.
6. Unique Identity Formation:
In today’s commercial era humans are in great spiritual crisis. In such a world the poet searches for a real reality like the Mexican poet Octavio Paz Lozano and makes attempts at forming an identity. Through good deeds and actions an ordinary mortal can form his or her identity, the idea of which is manifested in ‘Karma’ and ‘Show Your Identity’. In order to mark one’s identity one must rise above all in thoughts, words and deeds. Getting identity for Ramakrishnan is not getting name and fame but becoming one with God. She reiterates the unique identity formation in ‘A Happy Home’ and ‘Home’ where she emphasises that through good deeds, thoughts, love, respect, peace and trust an Eden of peace can be created — an identity formation.
7. Comment on Rat-race:
Today’s world is materialistic and mechanical. Humans are almost blind to see and enjoy the beauty of nature. Apart from the spiritual aspects the poet gets scope to comment on the rat-race and mechanized society — a society that has put cataract on the eyes of humanity. Such society is a hindrance to God-realization. Her poem ‘Winning’ to some extent is a comment on the fast paced global society, a few lines —
“Look at the world ..fast
Each competing with each other
Getting fame and wealth at the
cost of others”.
Keats’ poem ‘On Fame’ also reveals the same rat-race. Morality has been sacrificed for material gain. In ‘See the Millennium’ the poet’s anger is revealed in the lines —
“All are moving in life as if
Moving in a jostling crowd
No time to rest,
No time to ponder
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
All are in a hurry
Moving to their self destruction”.
Thus the poem becomes a telling critique of the poet’s anger and grievance at the fast paced global society. In ‘Our Miserable Plight’ the same mechanical, business-like busy world is found. Humans are enslaved by computers and machines, a few lines —
“Hooked with keyboard to
Send quotations to promote trade
for the well-established companies.
To compete with others
On the global market,
To get high packages”.
To Ramakrishnan it is really a miserable state in today’s world because of marketization.
8. Communion with the Infinite:
Like Sunil Sharma in ‘Old Man’s Sea’, Tagore and Wordsworth, Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan makes innumerable attempts for the communion with the Infinite. In the lap of Nature Wordsworth and Tagore almost became bodiless and turned into living souls. In dreamy spiritual ambience in ‘St. Antony’ the poet is in communion with the Infinite, some lines —
“He raised his hands towards heaven
to shower the blessings upon me.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My eyes became more sparkling showing the divine spark in me.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
My heart too was in rapturous
Again in ‘Oh God How Long Will I Be Here?’ the same idea is running —
“Let me rest my frame
For a while atleast to
Be in communion with you
At once I feel exhilarated
To become one with you
All the ills, so far threatening me
In such communion the poet’s aches and pains are cured. Same idea is found in verse 1 of Tagore’s Nobel winning book ‘Song Offerings’ —-
“At the immortal touch of thy hands
my little heart loses its limits in joy
and gives birth to utterance ineffable”.
Other focal points permeated in the entire poetry collection ‘Reverie’ include the immortality of good deeds in ‘Who Will Feel When You Leave?’ and ‘My Joy’, God’s glory in Nature, sensuous images in ‘Coconut Grove’ and ‘Temporary Sojourn’, nostalgic atmosphere in ‘A Recluse’, ‘The Second Part of My Career’, ‘My Dad’ and ‘My Mother’, tribute to parents in ‘A Recluse’, ‘My Mother’ and ‘My Dad’, living life peacefully in ‘A Happy Home’, power of the consciousness of inner soul in ‘Oh Mind You Are the Power House’ and ‘Past Moments’, real love versus fake love, songs of innocence in ‘A Country Lass’ and ‘A Single Bird’, immortality of the human soul in ‘The Inward Light’, the inner voice as the reminder of God in ‘God’, longing for the realm of beatitude and supreme blessedness in ‘God’, the Almighty as the redeemer in ‘My Master’, pantheistic philosophy in ‘The Over Soul’, lament for narrowness, comment on the technological advancement bringing health hazards in ‘Once the World Was Broad’, plight resulting from marketization, mechanization and globalization, the meditative posture in ‘Go Ahead’, easeful life through mutual love and trust in ‘A Lovely Pair’, poetry as valuable wealth in ‘The Poetic Wealth’, the glorification and worship of the myriad aspects of Nature, the variegated forms of clouds as wonderful creations and manifestations of God’s glory and grandeur in ‘Clouds’, ray of hope even in the dark tunnel of life in ‘Past Moments’, the regenerative and re-creative power of the self to withstand the test of time in emerging as mythical bird Phoenix in ‘Past Moments’, the bosoms of hearts as the sources of the power of God in ‘God’ and ‘The Invisible Part’, discovery of God and sudden enlightenment and joy in the poet’s inner most recess, lives shining and suffering seen from sociological perspective, questioning the disequilibrium and disparity between the rich and the poor, the softer feelings for the poor students lacking in lusture, sense of hermandad and brotherhood among the colleagues, students and Nature, eagerness to turn again to rest longer under the peaceful shady trees in college, joy felt in viewing and enjoying the simpler and humbler aspects of Nature in ‘Be Blessed’, blessings received in man-Nature interaction, glorification of Nature and getting blessings, peace, tranquillity and calmness in praising and eulogizing Nature in ‘A Single Bird’, spiritual environment, dreamy ambience, family turned into heavenly abode through virtuous qualities like love, peace, patience, trust, in ‘Family’, restlessness resulting from rat-race in mechanized society in ‘Be Blessed’, ‘Once the World Was Broad’ and ‘Our Miserable Plight’, feeling mercy of God in shower of rain, the image of a man-tree filled with spiritual humanism in offering shade and shelter and supporting and safeguarding all in ‘Single Tree’, establishing brotherhood among all beyond all the narrow ‘isms’, sacrificing morality for materialistic advancement, praising the virtuous as ‘elite’ or ‘dignitaries’ to quote the poet’s own words and humanitarian appeal.
If Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ is next to ‘The Bible’, the honourable poet Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan’s ‘Reverie’ is certainly next to ‘The Gita’ or ‘The Upanishad’. This poetry book ‘Reverie’ really finds a fellow to Tagore’s ‘Song Offerings’. Let her inward journey go on forever through the exploration of inner self. My best wishes to her.
~Poet, short story writer, translator and reviewer,
Midnapore, West Bengal, India
All copyrights reserved.
On 19th December, 2019.
About the reviewer:
Manab Manik is a bilingual poet and short story writer, translator and reviewer whose poems and stories have been published in India, Australia, Canada, USA, Belgium both online and print. He is also writing haikus which gain much popularity among the readers. His poetry books ‘Dreams Shattered and Other Poems’ and ‘My Poetic Offering’ published in 2019 have got great critical responses in India and beyond. His stories like Wilde’s and Tagore’s draw tears of the readers. Recently Manab is teaching English literature at Mugbasan Hakkania High School about 70 miles away from Kolkata in India.
- Name of the book: ‘Reverie’
Subtitle: The Inward Journey
Nature of the book: Poetry
Book length: 85 pages
Price: Rs 299/- /$15
Name of the poet: Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan
Publisher: AABS PUBLISHING HOUSE, Kolkata, West Bengal, India