SUDHAKAR GAIDHANI’S – DEVDOOT – The Angel
“THE WISDOM OF AGES”
Epic poet Sudhakar Gaidhani is one of the talked about poets of present time in the Marathi Literary scenariao. A person of very humble beginnings, he first made his presence felt as a poet, in “Kabreetla samadhistha” (In Trance in the Tomb). Its amusing to note that when Gaidhani was writing his post graduation papers, he had to study his own book in the syllabus. His works brought him acclaim from the literary critics at a very young age. Gaidhani is also an active participant of major literary events of Maharashtra.
Devdoot – God Courier or The Angel, followed his epic poem in 1991. This earned Gaidhani the Maharashtra Government’s Best Literature Award and has made him name to reckon with.
The epic poem Devdoot gives us a larger than life central character. A large bird has dropped down on a desert island on being injured by a poison-tipped arrow of hunter’s son. The injury was Quite fatal and the bird fell blood-splattered on the island .
While flocks of migratory see-faring birds were flying by, they chanced to see the great bird writhing in agony. One by one they landed encircling the bird, marveling at their huge ancestor. They grew sympathetic towards its anguish and decided to ‘mercy-kill’ the bird rather than allow to languish pain.
At this juncture the great bird stopped them and unbosomed himself before them. His last wish granted, the birds, as august audience, listened to his ling monologue.
The whole work is a “picaresque meditation” on the present-day world, full of uncompassionate people, justifying Darwinian theory of ‘the strong prevail over the weak’. A sense of opportunism is always seen for survival.
(I shall act as I speak, but if I stumble at some inconvenient truth, I shall play tricks- how otherwise shall I perfect my politics?)
The anguish over human suffering, and reassurance of solace, is best summed up in :
(Yes, man oppresses man all – and it is man again that dresses his wounds.)
The unnecessary oppression by power- wielders, the rule by terror, the dastardly killings, heinous cries of Warfare and murder move the heart of the bird and in anguish he laments.
(A sling at home and a tree in the yard – so should you go mad at the birds there perched?)
The inference being that one should not misuse one’s power at fictitious things or show one’s might just for the sake of showing it. Yet, war is war and loss is imperative. Sanity ceases when the heart rules the head, the bird cries :
(But war is war, it doesn’t cease, no one has a plain white handkerchief and the warshirts have all been long dyed deep.)
He believes in mobility in life. A person who has a mission to pursue should always be on the move, and that despite the odds he has to face :
(He who marches on should never lose heart. At a certain moment just because the Creator has stopped, by shouldn’t pitch his tent.)
In a world justice is delayed, many a time denied to the deserving, he laments again :
(What sort of justice can there be when the complainant and defendant are both our friends?)
It’s quite a paradox that we expect so much from this world and ultimately, at the receiving end, nothing at all is left for the Society to offer :
(Sell your flesh by the kilo, thus earn. Go from the butcher this trade now learn.)
Yet it offers a message to the future generation, to the world that never ceased, where, like truth, one cannot bury one’s sorrow, that he should learn to be like the rising sun, to offer the best to the world, with an anticipation that he might in turn receive the best.
(The sun rise, from all cares freed – such should be the good man’s deeds : And as the hoodlum goes about bold and brave, so should the saint, too, now and then behave.)
He asks the brave eagles to liberate themselves from the illusory joy-mist. To accept Truth Life’s agonies and pains are like the summer between winter and rain.
It is deploring to see this world live in a travesty of faith, where one promises his love to his maiden, and then in the ark of the night, bargains on her for his own living. This world that pledges to protect all from oppression, exploitation. Those very hands are full of the same sins. The poor, who for a loaf of bread, have to sell themselves, are not only marred by their fate, but also the power-hungry people, the rich and moneyed, who steal into the huts to exploit the weak to satisfy their lust.
Gaidhani has seen, foreborne, and lived in severe penury and thus has painted every ugly picture of this dark destitution, a vital side of human existence, that has made every word of description vivid and picturesque. He deftly handles the stark truths of life. The unforgettable sufferings and an instance is when he describes – “a mother has to wrench her belly to earn herself the relief to see her baby….” The pain and the agony of receiving a small succor, has a very heavy price fixed on the head.
To satisfy the qualms of hunger, for an elder, he would turn to passion, but for a weaning mother, who cannot afford a drop of milk, her state is one of absolute desperation and desolation. People are always waiting in the wings to grab at a chance to indignify this time stricken woman, and they are same people who banish her as a “whore”. For them no honour of Society or Country counts. They are total opportunists. Thus the exploited get further exploited and the poor grow poorer. Here we see that the poet upholds the dignity of the woman in great esteem. He shuns the means attitude of the Society at large, where Man is the master of the situation.
We find an assertion in the view of the poet when he says that a Nation can never boast of its culture or independence or progress, where like the white-ants, it gets exploited from within. It’s just a routine to speak of freedom or to sing a national anthem.
Here we find the poet’s spirit of nationalism stride to a height as he scoffs at the guardians of freedom seeing the present day situation. In the social circuit also, there is a lot of degeneration. He wants to seert that if we have to survive, we have to learn to face the world because Nature and natural forces are beyond human comprehension. One should not wash one’s dirty linen in public. He might otherwise invite room for exploitation. The poet, taking the folk-form of composition, in support of his simple, but versatile style, quote Kabir :
(Kabir calls you from the street with a stick in his hand. He who can burn his house, is welcome to join his band.)
The poet speaks the common man language to express himself. In certain line we come across even a layman’s language. This aspect in this literary work brings home the simple down-to-earth feelings of the poet.
Devdoot spells compassion. The poet seems to suffer from the ironies of face. What one years for is compassion, a sense of co-existence in love and peace. He offers a message :
(Hurry up, wash these wounds on the earth’s heart, lest it split in two.)
The poet elaborates on blind faith, religious taboos social taboos, also physical exploitation of the weaker sex and weaker section of the society. All these, despite political and social reforms. A person for whom poverty was the gift of birth given to him by God, says :
(If the hand of the people living here would reach the moon, then they would take the moon for ‘bread’ and bite it off. So gnawlingly irresistable are the pangs of hunger.)
As the epic comes to its close, we hear the poet’s distressed heart express in anguish the ways of the world are crazy and strange. In the signature lines, we read so much between the lines, the unfathomable depths of the poet’s feelings.
(Dressed in rags we went to sell gold, not a soul turned to us. Then dressed in gold we went to sell rags – and lo !! mad was the rush)
And like a true optimist, he is hopeful of a change in a revolution. He is futuristic (Hope is something crazy, friends)
For the children, or the younger generation, who are all full of life, he warns them not to take the world for granted.
(Children, just because you can take the sky in your sweep, don’t dare to swallow the sun.)
We keep fighting for our birth-rights all our life, and we are obliged also to accept death – inevitable. One has to be so strong in spirit that even the killer has to think twice over the strike :
In the concluding lines the poet accepts the inevitable and released himself from the worldly bonds with gusto. That’s spirit of life and living.
The whole poem is a ling free verse, written in an inimitable style of simplicity, a deserving factor for a poet of such deep and compassionate feelings. It is a “picaresque meditation” on the numerous problems and frailties of the world. It is a broad canvas besplattered with soothing shades of eloquence, fluency and elaborate expanse of meaning while is an undertone to the epic. The messiah-figure of the large bird comprises in itself a completeness and holds the plot close-knit. No where one finds overstrain in wring or expressing what the poet really wants to say. Words cascade into a gentle flow with thoughts and ideas freely playing along its way to inclusion.
The poet is a definite believer in the down-to-earth living, and hence in the entire poem, he dexterously uses simple words, folk songs, idioms, hymns and prayers from Saints. We also have a colourful fare of witty ideas, of sarcasms, metaphors and ironies, and paradoxes, too. He delves with equal ease in politics, religion, poverty, social stigmas and has virtually lived through his work.
Marathi language and literature would have been poorer had it not been sprinkled with the essence of Gaidhani’s sweet and lasting incensed literary works, The late Dy. Prime Minister of India, Shri Y. B. Chawan, himself an ardent lover of literature, had remarked – “Devdoot is a store-house of the ‘wisdom of ages’. ”
We do hope Sudhakar Gaidhani, epic poet so full of fire, with immense zest for life, present to us such masterpieces that remain effulgent down the centuries.
(Tapati Dey )
(Noted poetess-critic, India)
This paper was read on the World Poetry Day at Madras, organized by the World Poetry Socy. Intercontinental