Book Review ‘Chitakte Kaanchghar by Amit Agarwal

During childhood, Hindi was just a subject. Despite being my mother-tongue, speaking and writing good Hindi was difficult for me. But I still remember the joy I felt when I used to read the poems of Harivansh Rai Bachchan. They always seemed to bring a new melodious note to me life. That is how I have always felt with poems. Away from the restrictions imposed by language, poems have a world of their own. Without being tied up by the rules of grammar, poems are those words that manage to reach the reader’s heart with a rich simplicity of their own.
 
I feel fortunate today that I got the chance to read some such beautiful gems that have made my life more beautiful. Amit Agarwal, who blogs on  Safarnaamaa… सफ़रनामा… is a known name. He found me deserving enough to read his book and share my thoughts on the same. I am thankful to him to have gifted me a collection that will always embellish my thoughts. I am sharing my thoughts on the book here. I hope that my readers will find it worthy to add this collection to their life and enrich their minds and hearts.
kaanchghar

Image Source here

 
The poet has divided the book in three parts – Random musings on life (जीवन), Cerebration leading to nowhere  (विस्मय), Abstractions about Divinity/ spirituality (आभार). Each section is evidence of a sensitive mind at work. The description of a bleeding heart makes you feel the pang in one place and in another place one finds uncommon comparisons which reflect the pride the poet feels in himself. The poet sometimes feels restless with the changing times and yet we find him delighting in his own dignity a little while later. Abundance of words rich with nuances is a strong weapon of the poet. Critic and friend, love and hate, failure and success, indifference and honor, appreciation and ingratitude – all form a part of this world.
 

Random Musings on Life

Just like life offers a myriad of experiences, poems in this section too are colorful and captivating. Certain motifs depict the world in such a way that they goad us to think. Grief, disregard, failures – the poet has beautifully captured all this and more through some very short poems. Life is seen sometimes as a delicate glasshouse and sometimes as a pack of cards – brittle and breakable. But the reason for this undoing is not any outside force, but one’s own weaknesses.

बेमानी है बहुत  मासूम हवाओं पे  रखना  इल्ज़ाम 

ताश के पत्तों  के महल बसने को नहीं  हुआ करते. (‘हवाएं ‘)

It is useless to accuse the winds

One can inhabit not a palace made of cards (‘Winds’)

What is the use of such a life that can just breathe – a life that has no path, no destination? Someone who never really tried to live a life, was he ever alive? These lines makes us ask this pertinent question –

जड़ें रह गयीं प्यासी , मिट्टी तक ना पहुँची

 

हाँ आई तो थी बारिश बस पत्ते  भिगो गयी.  (ज़िन्दगी )

The roots remained dry, could reach not the soil

Yes, rain did come, but drenched only the leaves. (Life)

Where has the spark gone of a life that was once full of so much aggression? 

जला किया ताउम्र  जंगल की  बानगी 

बाद मरने के ना इक चिंगारी नसीब थी. (ज़िन्दगी )

My whole life I burnt like a forest

When I died, I received not a spark.(Life)

Time changes constantly.Clothes change, words and their definitions change.  What was yesterday’s taste dies at the altar of new age fashion. Old furniture too is like that spare object, ready to be thrown out. Is the poet too like that piece of furniture that is useless and insignificant? No, the poet will not give up so easily.

नये चलन के इस दौर से 

मेल नहीं खाता.  

…पर मेरे जैसे अब 

बनते भी कहाँ हैं ! (‘बेकार’ )

I may not be a match 

for today’s fashion

….But how many like me

can you find in this world!(‘Useless’)

Forgotten‘ (‘भूला गया’) is one such poem where the poet compares himself with that ‘deewla’ that has been set aside, disregarded and forgotten. Just like the ‘deewla’ lies in a corner, unable to serve its purpose, a talented writer/poet too is unable to reach his full potential unless he reaches the reader who can understand him. Reasons can be manifold as to why the writer is unable to reach out to his reader. The poet than feels concerned what if his new poem too is condemned to a life of neglect.

Clothes‘ (लिबास)reminded me of a story I had read about Mullah Nasruddin. ‘The Hungry Coat’ narrates the story of Mullah when one day he is extremely busy. When at the end of the day he remembers that he had to attend a feast of a rich man in town, he realizes that he has no time to change his clothes since he would get late for the feast. So, he reaches the rich man’s house. People there are all elegantly dresses and seem to ignore the shabbily-dressed Mullah. Nobody even offers him any food. Mullah leaves the party, only to return after some time in an exquisite coat. Everyone starts paying attention to him. Mullah sits at the feast and starts feeding his coat all the food that is offered. People are shocked to see this and ask him what he is doing. Mullah replies that since everyone started welcoming him only when he came dressed in that coat, it is obvious that the feast was not for him but for his clothes. Everyone is ashamed of their behavior on hearing this.

मैं गया था आपके जलसे में  लेकिन

मामूली  कपड़ों  में आप  पहचान नहीं पाए! (लिबास )

I came to your feast but

You recognized me not in my ordinary clothes (‘Clothes’)

 Through the poem ‘Love’ (इश्क़), the poet draws attention to a commonly observed fact in everyone’s life. When the times are good, we are surrounded by people. When the times are bad, we are often left alone. 

लबरेज़  था जब, तो आते थे कई यार मश्कें  लिए हुए 

प्यासा हूँ आज,  तो मसरूफ़  हैं  सब ही  कहीं – कहीं  ! (इश्क़ )

Many used to come with pitchers full, when satiated was I.

Am thirsty today, but all are busy, somewhere or the other! (Love?) (The poet’s own translation)

Damp crackers(सीले हुए पटाखे ) and ‘Bonsai(बोन्साई )are a satire on the artificial life we live today. Just like the bonsai plant never reaches its full potential because it is trimmed by the keeper as per his own likes, similarly, follies of the society, and indiscretion of thoughts limit the poet’s abilities. The keepers of a faulty society snap the poet’s imaginative wings and curtail his free spirit. Beauty becomes synonymous with all that is ‘normative’ in society. It leaves no room for independent imagination.  

ख़ूबसूरत हूँ बेशक़ 

और शायद क़ीमती भी..

 ..लेकिन ये असल मैं नहीं  हूँ! (बोन्साई )

Beautiful I am, that’s true

and expensive too, maybe…

…but that’s not the real me! (Bonsai)

 

 Damp Crackers‘ inspires us to live life to the hilt. Whatever we do, we should do with a complete heart in it. Life without enthusiasm is not life. Paper made flowers emit no fragrance. Lonely moments are better than fake relationships. Silence is better than dishonest words. That which is not true, is meaningless. That which aggravates the pain is not needed.

मत सजाओ कागज़ के फूलों  से,

इससे तो ये गुलदान सूने ही अच्छे हैं . …. 

Do not decorate with paper made flowers

It is better to leave these vases empty…

 .. 

मत लगाओ हमदर्द का मरहम बेमानी, 

इससे तो ये ज़ख्म ताज़े ही  अच्छे  हैं . (सीले हुए पटाखे )

Apply not a balm of words that feel not my pain

My wounds are better left untouched…(Damp Crackers)

Cerebrations Leading to Nowhere

Poems in this section depict the restlessness of the poet’s heart with much depth. The joy one feels in union and the anguish of separation can only be felt by someone who has ever been in love. The absence of the beloved makes life ‘a sad song’ but her embrace…

होगी महज़ इक अदा  

उनके लिए 

मेरी तो मगर 

जान ले गई !  (उनकी अदा )

Might be her style

for her

but it took away

my life (Her style/Charm) 

 

There is surrender in love but there are demands too. When the poet is cheated, he is in despair because 

जाते हुए सोचा न था 

लौट कर आऊँ गा तो 

अजनबी बनके मिलोगे (अजनबी )

I thought not

when I return

You will greet me like a stranger (Stranger)

Nanital Sept’12  is a captivating poem – I cannot praise it enough. The poet lavishes praise on the happy landscape of Nainital which is evident in the beautiful rains that wash it and purify it. The artless simplicity of nature steals away his heart. But there is one more thing above everything else – the unity of the city. It inspires him and everyone to live in peace and harmony.

मंदिर के घंटे

अज़ान की आवाज़

ख़ामोश खड़े चर्च 

गुरुदद्वारे का प्रसाद ..

कितने ख़ुशनसीब हो तुम

नैनीताल 

ख़ूबसूरती के अलावा भी 

कितना कुछ है तुम्हारे पास! 

The bells of the temple

The cry of Azaan

Quiet Churches

Offerings of Gurudwara

How fortunate you are

Nainital

Apart from beauty

You have something else too..! (Nainital Sept’12)

Human beings, however, have left no stone unturned, in tainting this beautiful landscape. Nainital November, 2011 showcases thoughtless plastic-like fake families. The setting up of Rifle Shooting Site scares away innocent birds and shows 

‘अस्वस्थ, ओवरवेट, शिथिल 

और मानसिक तौर पर बीमार बच्चे .. 

….  

‘थक’ कर भागते हुए…  ‘ 

Unhealthy, overweight, lazy

and mentally unsound sick children…

….

running ‘tiredly’…

Masoorie‘ has charming valleys where the poet loses himself. He is awakened by a ‘lively butterfly’ or a ‘little mountain bird’. Drops of rain make the poet fell playful while standing water gives him a sense of stability. Amidst all the hustle-bustle of life, the poet feels at peace as the long pine trees, that look like the lingering hair of a ‘saadhu’ (saint), send a cool breeze along his way. The various treasures of nature – water, breeze, plants, trees – they all bring colors to his humdrum life.

On Changing the House‘ is another poem that has left lasting impression on my heart. Who does not like his house? One has to be rally hard-hearted if he does not feel any pang on leaving his house. The poet laments the fact that he had to abandon his house. Then he feels that one day, he has to leave this body too. Then, he eill be left with no friend at all. The empty house might one day get someone who will love him again, but not so the poet who after death will be forgotten. Perhaps, this is the reason the poet asks his God for some grace period, so that he gets disinterested from life.

ताकि फिर वापस  

यहाँ आने का  

                                            दिल ही न करे! (…और अंत में ईश्वर के नाम )

So that 

My heart craves not

To come back here!…(And in the end , To God)

 

Abstractions about Divinity/Spirituality

Poems in this section take poems to a new pinnacle of glory.

Dirty Drain‘ ‘(गन्दा नाला)can be read on many levels. This is one such expression that is layered with meanings. I sometimes see here a devotee who expresses his gratitude towards his God who has overlooked the faults of the former, and cleaned away his sins and purified him. Sometimes, I see the poet here talking to his Muse. His pen rectifies his mistakes and cleanse him. Some such flaws that might have otherwise made him biased have been discarded through contemplation which had made him neutral and moral. 

Path‘ ( ‘रास्ता’ )shows us the right path. As they say, whether one sees the glass of water as half empty or half full, depends on our own thinking. The poet too has reflected on this. Whether the traveler sees flower-beds or the butcher’s shop in his path will decide whether ‘ the path from your village to my abode is hard or easy’.

In ‘Prayer‘(‘दुआ ‘), we see the poet praying to nature. Heat bothers his body a lot but he is witness to the unrelenting rains that are wrecking havoc on the nearby mountains. The poet wishes for some respite from heat but not if it gives pain to others. So he prays so it might not rain: 

 

‘जाने दो

मैं  सह लूँगा गर्मी  का दर्द

पर वहाँ मत करना और उपद्रव  !

Let it be

I will bear the brunt of heat

But wreck not havoc there! 

Morning 1 (सुबह 1)and Morning 2 (सुबह 2reflect the indifferent and immoral attitude of man towards nature. Diwali is a festival of happiness but it has become an occasion where for a few moments of thoughtless joy, man has insulted that very nature which has made sure that humanity survives. The air and water that sustain us, have been trampled upon recklessly. Nature stands helpless like that mother who can neither forgive her depraved sons nor curse them. Man, unfortunately, has not just forgotten to express gratitude towards his Mother Nature.. He has forgotten that his life depends on her survival.

 Contemplation (विपस्सना)

Has the poet failed in his contemplation? No. He has found through his words and awakened conscience that which completes him – that love, that surrender, that sense of belonging which connects him to his Muse, that harmony which a singer finds in his song, that devotion which only a humble devotee can find in a God none has seen.

                                                                                                                     लेकिन बिना साधना के

मुझे वो मिल गया

जो अनशवर है, सनातन है,  शाशवत है,

सत्य  है-

          तुम!! (विपस्सना )

Without contemplation

I found that

Which is

Indestructible, Infinite, Eternal

That which is True

You! (Contemplation)


W H Auden has said that ‘ A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language’. Amit Sir’s poems are outstanding expressions of language. What remains hidden from the eyes of an ordinary man is discovered only in the poems of a discerning poet. When I asked Amit Sir as to why he has chosen this title for his book, he replied

“The title was not a mulled over result of many choices as it occurred to me very conspicuously and flashed brilliantly in my mind…like the most thoughts behind my poems..
It conveys/signifies the painful sighs (not the shock) the resident (here, me, the poet) living inside an elegant glass house experiences when he finds it cracking…now, this ‘cracking’ is of utmost importance (in this context)…its slow, gradual and silent! Its neither a blast nor a shattering nor a demolition. That is why I used ‘chitaktey’. My publisher told me that the correct word was ‘chataktey’, and wanted to replace it with the one suggested by him, but I resisted. I feel ‘chitaktey’ has a delicate femininity about it whereas ‘chataktey’ is loud and garish. 
‘Kaanchghar’ also has more than one meaning and is not difficult to understand..dainty and aesthetic no doubt, yet it is ‘self created’…its a mere concept…beautiful to look at from outside but suffocating the inhabitant, far from the maddening crowd but with a killing loneliness..an illusion more sinned against than sinning!”
 
Isn’t that food for thought? Tribulations of heart, anguish of soul, contemplation, wonder, and a search for infinite sublimity – all these perceptions and experiences form what has been called ‘Chitakte Kaanchghar’
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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21 thoughts on “Book Review ‘Chitakte Kaanchghar by Amit Agarwal

  1. कभी पढा नहीं पर वाकई उम्दा. वैसे पहली बार इतना पूर्ण विश्लेषन भी पढ रहा हूँ. आपने तो पूरी किताब को यूँ कहें तो शानदार मलाई-कोफ्ता बना डाला, लजीज.

    Liked by 1 person

    • कुछ ज़्यादा लम्बा हो गया न – पर रोज़ रोज़ तो मलाई-कोफ्ता खाया नहीं जाता, कभी कभी खाओ तो ही मज़ा आता है… 🙂

      Like

  2. Amitji’s writing has that spark and profoundness which can make anyone spellbound. I’m a fan of his writing.
    This is a wonderful and extensive review revealing the beauty of the micro-poems. The wisdom behind each of them is unfathomable. Thanks for presenting such a review…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Sunaina! Your review exudes the veracity of an intelligent, indulgent, curious and attentive reader combined with the brilliance of an erudite writer that YOU are!
    I simply loved it:) Thanks tonz for this wonderful value addition to ‘Chitakte Kanchghar’..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Sunaina,
    After reading your review in Hindi, I stopped by here to comment. Is it some unknown cosmic convergence that drew me here today, I wonder. Earlier this morning during our exchange I remarked that I wrote something in Gujarati. Well, I’m baffled on reading these words, “जो जीवन आक्रोश से भरा था, वो कैसे ज्वालाहीन हो गया ?” Furthermore, your take on it… enjoyed reading these words.
    “समय में निरंतर परिवर्तन आता है। … क्या कवि भी इस पुराने फर्नीचर की तरह इस युग में व्यर्थ, बेतुका और अनावश्यक है ? नहीं – क्या इतनी आसानी से हार मान जाएगा वो ?” All of this in sync with my thoughts today. 🙂 There’s a lot here… will read more of your review again, and will add Amit Agarwal’s “Chitakte Kaanchghar” to my list of books to read. 🙂 Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, I cannot read Gujarati….but I am glad I discovered your blog in English…:) It was some stroke of luck that we met and exchanged a few words just like that. Here’s to something more lasting than that…Hope the connection continues and we find in each other that inspiration we all so direly need sometimes…:)

      Liked by 1 person

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