Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan’s ‘Reverie’: A Telling Critique of Grievance at the Asphyxiated Mechanized Racing Society
Though Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan’s poetry collection ‘Reverie’ is basically about the inward journey through the exploration of inner self, it becomes a critique of soffocating racing life in mechanized society. Such an asphyxiated life resulting out of technologically advanced society, slightly or deeply is revealed in the poems ‘Show Your Identity’, ‘Past Moments’, ‘Temporary Sojourn’, ‘Be Blessed’, ‘Karma’, ‘Winning’, ‘See the Millennium’, ‘A Happy Home’, ‘Love’, ‘Oh God How Long Will I Be Here?’, ‘Once the World Was Broad’ and ‘ Our Miserable Plight’.
Today everyone is caught in mechanized life that is choking all. People have no time “to stand and stare” to quote from W. Davies’ poem ‘Leisure’. A subtle idea of mechanised society has been suggested in the poem ‘Show Your Identity’ in the expression “gross like existence” that is also repeated in ‘A Happy Home’. The word ‘gross’ means ‘extremely unpleasant or disgusting’. To the poet existence is extremely unpleasant as humans don’t show their identity rising above all in thoughts, words and deeds. The expressions “Think and find”, “Regret to have/ gross like existence” come out of the poet’s suppressed grievance.
In ‘Past Moments’ the expression “Amidst barren lands” draws the readers’ special attention. It seems to be less literary. In a wider perspective the entire world has been turned into barren lands and in Elliot’s words “the Waste Land” and both metaphorically suggest the disappearance of spirituality in an asphyxiated society — a society that is characterized by race, race, race for material gain. Again in the line “…to lift all in the current of life” the poet appeals God to lift the fallen humanity and channelise it to the right current of life. Such appeal comes as humanity has gone mad in pace and race in an era of tunelessness, disintegration, mechanization, insensitivity, despair and anxieties, a few lines —
“Driven to post to pillar without a
hay stick to hold.
Laden with despair.
Fraught with anxieties”.
Despair and anxieties are also the results of mechanical society from the cobweb of which it is difficult to escape. It is not merely of the narrator but also of the entire racing world — a world that is running with ‘pressures’ in the poet’s own word.
In ‘Temporary Sojourn’ the word ‘rut’ reveals the monotonous life. Life as if cannot be diverted from ‘the rut’. William Somerset Maugham’s lines from ‘The Lotus Eater’ are worthy of mention —
“They are like train-cars travelling forever on the selfsame rails. They go backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards……”.
In today’s era of technological advancement life is drooping and for this an escapistic tendency comes from ‘the rut’ to the world of Nature time and again. Thus comes the line — “Lovely to forget the world”.
Rat-race and asphyxiation are going simultaneously. In ‘Be Blessed’ the poet’s grievance is expressed very clearly —
“Wherever we turn, aren’t we
Whenever we turn the T. V or Radio
aren’t we disturbed?”
In these two rhetorical questions lies the the answer ‘yes’. And this restlessness and disturbance are because of the mechanized society where humans are panting desperately for breath to enliven life. An escape from it is hardly possible. Here again the same expression ‘Rut’ that was found in ‘Temporary Sojourn’ is found here — an indication of the poet’s disgust and disgust. Disgust and grievance are also manifested in some of Keats’, Wordsworth’s and Shelley’s poems including ‘On Fame’, ‘The World Is Too Much With Us’ and ‘Ode To The West Wind’ respectively.
Life is now too heavy because of “the bundle of our karma”. The word ‘Abyss’ in ‘Karma’ literally means ‘a bottomless pit’ but metaphorically it may suggest the existence of man in the dark tunnel of life, problems, confusions, miseries, melancholy and thorns of life. And this situation comes because of ‘pressures’, ‘the bundle of karma’ in the poet’s words in a society that is blind to God but sighted to material gain.
The poem ‘Winning’ is the best example of rat-race, a few lines —
“Look at the world ..fast
Each competing with each other
Getting fame and wealth at the
cost of others”.
Here the poet satirizes and mocks at the fast paced competitive global society — a society, gone mad in running and running after fame and wealth. Same pace and race are found in ‘See the Millennium’ where she clearly comments on the race — a race that chokes life, a few lines —
“All are moving in life as if
Moving in a jostling crowd
No time to rest,
No time to ponder
No time to listen to the inner voice
All are in a hurry
Moving to their self destruction”.
Yes life is really running, pushing and making space in a jostling crowd without thinking the real purpose of life. Davies’ poem ‘Leisure’ floats in the readers’ minds.
Again the poet’s grievance is revealed when she says —
“Busy is the word lingering in
the lips of all.
No time to heed to the biological
clock in all”.
Thus the poem becomes an attack on the foolish race and asphyxiated life. In ‘Love’ while talking about fake love the poet refers to ‘chat’ and ‘media’ that are very fashionable in today’s society. Chatting and exchanging pictures via media make humans lazy, mechanical and lead them towards treachery, not real love-affair. Again electronic age comes here —
“In the electronic age
It is phenomenal”.
Humans are oscillating to and fro like a pendulam and don’t know what to do. The asphyxiated life is portrayed in the lines —
“Day by day troubles start
No way to get out”.
In the same poem ‘Oh God How Long Will I Be Here?’ the poet again reveals suffocating life in the expression “All the ills” and so the poet’s escapistic tendency comes from such harsh and asphyxiated world to the spiritual world. The poet blames today’s inventions that invite diseases, a few lines —
“Today the inventions increase
The health hazards”. (‘Once the World Was Broad’)
In this poem she actually criticises the excessive use of inventions of science but she has praised the earlier inventions that were soothing. The poet’s regret becomes uncontrollable in the lines —
“Now the world is too small
The heart is too narrow”.
Loss of love, faith, sincerity, fellow feeling is gone now.
‘Our Miserable Plight’ is a telling critique of the fast paced global society, marketization, mechanical way of life and thereby pushing life to the state of asphyxiation without any scope of thinking and meditating and living life peacefully, a few lines —
“Always in an immovable state
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”.
Men are really caught in the cobweb of technological advancement. They are too mechanical today. Like W.H.Auden professor-poet Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan satirizes today’s way of life. Such mechanical life leads all to stress, and anxiety, a few lines —
“Feeling all the time exhausted
under stress, losing interest
In quest for materialistic advancement and luxury in an ultra modern society humans invite their miserable plight and thereby creating a harsh, rude, asphyxiated state of existence, suppressing God under the wheels of too much use of technology.
Mrs. Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan
Mrs. Pushpalatha Ramakrishnan is former SG Lecturer in English at Alagappa Govt. College, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. She is former Associate Professor of English at Government Arts College Melur, Tamil Nadu. She prepared course materials for UG and PG students of Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. She is co-author for the translation of Yoga Vedam in English “Knowing Self Is Success”. She is presently engaged in editing and proof reading for several publishers and assisting scholars in guiding for higher studies. Apart from that she is translating PhD thesis into Tamil. She translated the study materials into English from Tamil for other universities.
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