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"DAWN TO DUSK" By Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar

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Book Review
by Kedar Nath Sharma



This book contains 71 Hindi poems composed by Dr. Mahendra Bhatgar translated into English by the poet himself, two other doctors of literature and by the present author. The blurb of the book is written by a Professor who is carried away by the romanticism of Wordsworth so much so that he himself sounds poetic while eulogizing Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar.

Poetry or any other kind of literature should be evaluated objectively without any subjective/ emotional indulgence. Indian critics are given to praising (without showing the drawbacks) the works of their target authors, because they fear that the evaluated author would get annoyed if dispassionately analyzed. It has been observed several times that they do get annoyed. Therefore praising the works of the author is considered a safer course than doing justice to literature.

The title Bhor Sey Saanjh( Dawn To Dusk) suggests that some poems were composed in his youth and some belong to the age of maturity ( old age). But in the book there is no such segregation. The poet could have given the date of composition of each poem. However a meticulous reader can easily discern.

In all 32 poems have been translated into English by the poet himself, 12 poems after the first 27 are translated by Dr. Mukesh Sharma, 16 by Dr.Narendra Sharma ’Kusum’ and 11 by K.N.S.

The first three poems of this collection are about the stars. Taron Sey (To Stars) shows how the poet comprehends the twinkling stars delineating the human predicament of exploitation and oppression. The youthful poet studies objects of nature in the light of what he observes in the society of that time. Timir Sehchar Tarak shows that happiness and sorrow of human life are similar to the rising and setting of the stars during the night and day the twin divisions of time in which human beings have to live. The natural association of light and darkness points out that the trials and tribulations alternating with joy and merriment in human life too are natural.

In Jagtey Tarey (The Waking Stars) Mahendra Bhatnagar is not only poetical but also factual as unlike human beings the stars are bereft of dreams and devoid of happiness and sorrow which the human beings experience. This poetry can conveniently be called romantic but is much deeper than that.

Pure romanticism is tangible in the poem Sandhya (Evening). In it the poet has depicted a photographic picture of the landscape which he himself is watching while sitting on a mound.

The advent of the rainy season in Barsat (Rain) brings relief to human beings. The pictorial quality of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry becomes very vivid in Bhikaaran (Woman Beggar). Its pathos shows that the poet is endowed with the milk of human kindness. The tragic death of the destitute is extremely touching. In Vardaan( Boon) pessimism gives way to optimism. Hope seems to sustain life. The metaphor of quiet solitary night, at its declination, standing still like the puzzle of life presents an unique example of Bhatnagar’s poetic craftsmanship in Dhalti Raat (Night At Its Fag End). The night here is personified and in the second stanza mannequin like manifesting satiety, modesty and loneliness seems sleeping, as if, it has lost everything. This is perfect Keatsian picturization. The poet admonishes the night not to be so engrossed lest there should be a new dawn and that the string of damask sun rays is not snapped. The poet is using the Hindi language like a juggler uses his artifacts to present diverse patterns.

That the young poet is very ambitious and is not finding the prevailing circumstances conducive therefore his poems are effusing his frustration. In Sathi Sey (To the Companion) he is seeking assurance from his buddy whether she would stand by him when he is without sufficient means(oil) as no wick can emit light without the oil. The poem Vaidna (Agony) describes the pain felt by the poet caused by the dumb (mook) deficiencies. In Deepak (Lamp) he is talking about mook jeewan (dumb life) in Sathi Sey (To the Companion) he is seeking a boon for his mook mun (dumb mind) and in Aseh (Unbearable) he is complaining about his mook haridey Veena (Dumb heart lyre).

In Yug Kavi the poet is alluding to the scientific revelations made in the world as a consequence of which today’s literati are discarding yesteryear’s imaginative literature which once used to be the trend.

In Abhi Nahin (Not Yet) the poet laments that nobody is protesting/rebelling against centuries old oppression and barbarity because of the weakness of the oppressed human mind. No revolutionary has yet taken birth. The similar strain of poet’s anguish continues in Mashaal. In Greesham (The Summer) also he is moved by the discomfort experienced by the poor. In Naya Sabera (The New Dawn) he is hoping for the amelioration of conditions. In Kavi (The Poet) Mahendra Bhatnagar calls himself the rebel born to herald new times with relentless efforts and indomitable courage. In the poem Nari (Woman) the modern woman seems to be the harbinger of change in the society, In Parbhanjan (The Storm) the poet is again harping on the coming revolution. But in Nao Sainik Vidroh (Naval Revolt) he is describing how the revolt in the Indian Navy had shaken the citadel of the British rule by forging unity in the country.

Vikal Hai Desh (The Country is Restless) because of the slavery, Sampardyak Dungey (The Communal Riots), Janvani (Public Voice), Jindgi Kaisey Badalti Hai (How Life Changes), and Merey Desh Mein (In My Country) all show the poet at the dawn of his life getting perturbed by the miserable conditions of the people of all walks of life.

All these 27 poems are translated into English by Mahendra Bhatnagar himself. One phase of his poetic career has come to an end so the poet has added 12 poems translated by Dr. Mukesh Sharma. These poems show a change in the mood of the poet as well as that of the tormented but lethargic people of India who have changed their attitude towards foreign rule. They have been roused. In Sadiyon Baad (After Centuries) The Citadel Of The Imperialists Has Been Shaken. The people’s vigour has been stirred and they are marching on a collision course creating seismic tremors. All darkness is shattering, the storms of rebellion are raging. The Hurricane of Independence ( Swatantrata Jhanjhawat) is rising like a cyclone to root out frustration, personal rivalries and stupidity. The tyrants along with their sky high mansions have been undone and the land has been changed into a cemetery. So there is a need for a Rill of Nectar (Piyush Dhara) endowed with a healing touch to start flowing.

A sea of humanity (Jan Samundar) is abounding and advancing step by a step. These steps are the steps of martyrs of an era. These will never stop. They will create a new world and the youth of this era is challenging the agents of destruction. The same feelings are again surging in Ajay( Invincible). The indomitable youth of the time does not want to be pushed into frustration again because he feels that he is immortal and his every emotion is ever enduring. He does not want to stop in spite of any impediments.

With the passage of time the mood of the poet has also changed. In Pashaan-Ur (Obdurate Heart) he finds that the people have become stubborn. They have become cruel. The volcano of destruction has erupted and the creativity has stopped. In the third stanza of Sambal (Anchor) the poet sounds hyperbolic but he is determined to over come all obstacles in life. The best thing in this and other poems is the brevity, raciness and the alliterative use of the language which makes Mahendra Bhatnagar stand out as a distinct craftsman in Hindi poetics. In Mujhey Yaad Hai (I Remember) the poet is damning the exploiters. In Kala (Art) too he is seeking equality in the social structure. In Manzil Kahan (Where Is The Destination?) the poet is reiterating his determination to usher in new era of his dreams. In Jindagi Ki Shaam (The Evening Of Life) the poet is perturbed on watching the poor old men facing the pangs of life and he feels strongly to ameliorate their condition. While thinking of humanity he is reminded of the mythological character of Manu and man’s tendency to rise up in rebellion to face even death as at Jalianwala Bagh. Life (Jindagi) for the poet seems gloomy. Look at the imagery conceived in Hindi and translated into English:

The nauseous smell
Of a putrid carcass
Saturating the heart.
He hates such a life.

The poetic journey of Mahendra Bhatnagar has reached the third stage. The poems of this stage are translated by Narendra Sharma “Kusum” (NSK). The most of the poems in this section are real poetry in which poet’s imaginative faculties have taken over the cogitations of his mind in the earlier poems of this book. The poet is at his best while composing poems about nature. In Barkha Ki Raat (Rainy Night) he has portrayed a picture in words. He has personified earth as a fair complexioned woman who has taken off her sari studded with stars and has stretched her robust arms for a bear hug. He has romanticized rain and sexualized earth. In Chaand Aur Tum (You and the Moon) he is making use of the stream of consciousness device. Sitting on the terrace he is contemplating that his beloved too must be sitting on a roof top and looking at the moon as he himself is doing.

Look at the delicacy of his thoughts in Jao Nahin (Do Not Depart). He is pleading with the night not to depart because during one such night some one had bequeathed the wealth of her beauty to him and that night was the witness to such an emotional surrender and fondness.

The poet is describing the anguish of mind he has experienced while expecting the arrival of his beloved in Pratiksha (Expectation). Another lovely poem is Poonam which is both a person of that name and the Full Moon peeping from behind a Peepal tree and shinning at the horizon respectively. But Poonam does not know that some one is watching her.

The glamorous beauty of a face ,Jhalakata Roop, peeping from underneath a thin veil is compared with the moon thinly covered by the clouds. Translating such a poem into English is a tough job because Kaajal is not collyrium which is a medicated eye lotion, its nearest word in English is Kohl which is black powder but yet not Kaajal. Anyhow this poem is enchanting. In Samarpan and Bada Kathin (Very Difficult) the poet is appreciating the beauty of the moon in its full glory. In Grehan (Eclipse) the poet seems to be infatuated by the moon and seems to stretch his imagination to the extreme. However, in Mrig Trishna (Mirage) the poet has a different thought to hang on the peg of moon. He opines that hankering after extraordinary targets is nothing but a wild goose chase. Probably at the time the poet composed this poem the astronauts had not yet set foot on the surface of the moon. In Samriti Ki Rekhayen (Imprints of Memory) the poet is stressing on the unflinching devotion to his better half. Chaand Merey Pyar (Moon, My Sweetheart) and Dopehri (The Midday) also the poet is expressing his devotion to his beloved.

With Tum Aaj Likh Lo (Note It Today) the fourth section of this book has started and the poet is predicting that in a few days time the ancient dilapidated chateau of slavery will crumble down and the rigmarole by which the poor, the farmers and the labourers were being squeezed will shatter. He is hoping for the change in the entire atmosphere. Frustration is writ large in Aik Saanjh (An Evening). The beauty and the brevity of poet’s language is very well illustrated in the following lines:

Maun
Mun – maina
Barsey naina!
Madhu- Madhav beet gya
O, Madhupayee
Madhuras reet gya.

Howsoever accurately these lines may be translated into English their delicacy cannot be effectively communicated. In Kiya Pata Tha (Who Could Foresee) the poet is depicting a predicament when a happy scenario is suddenly changed into the adverse situation. This happens in the lives of many people particularly at the times of disaster and natural calamities. On such occasions time tested convictions are shattered. In the poem Prarthana (Prayer) the poet is praying for defeat and hopelessness but still wants to sustain himself with expectation and desire. He wants to face the music of life with music on his lips.

Punarjanam (Reincarnation) reveals poet’s desire not to be born carrying the baggage of previous life. Probably he does not want the Karmas of the previous life to influence the present one. He wants the life after rebirth to be free from vicissitudes. With maturity in life the poet in Yachna (Solicitation) is not seeking to fulfill his youthful desires of flesh but looking at the well chiseled idol of God he wants to have a hug from God to enjoy the extreme pleasure of life. It would be absolutely wrong to find sexual connotations in this poem. In Raat Bhar(All The Night) fear and hope are juxtaposed with the blowing wind masterfully depicted in simple Hindi. The poem Shubhkamnayen (Good Wishes) reiterates poet’s love for freedom from foreign yoke everywhere. Samvart (The Turns of the Path) shows that tedium is preferred by the poet to the tediousness. The poems Apekshit (Most Wanted) and Samvet (In Harmony) are examples of typical mastery in using the Hindi language with which Mahendra Bhatnagar seems to be gamboling. So far as thought is concerned, as is usual with him he is hoping for optimism in a state of abject pessimism in the first poem but who is Sukanthi (The Sweet –throated Songstress) in Samvet ? It is an appropriate topic for research for any inquisitive student. Another topic for investigation is provided in Sulakshan (Good Omen) where the poet ends the poem with the possibility of meeting “you”. At the dusk of his life he is not hoping to meet his beloved of flesh and blood.

In Jaroori (Essential) the poet wants the humanity as well as the flora and fauna to be protected from the selfish inhuman beings and the terror mongers. Similar feelings are expressed in Swatantra (Liberated) where the poet says that the entire sky is for all where all can fly unhindered but with discipline. The poet is feeling hurt while seeing the life turn topsy-turvy from goodness to evil in Vidambana (Irony). But he has remained unaffected during the trials and tribulations in Aprabhavit (Uninfluenced).The book ends with the poem Aatank Mochak- New Year 2009 in which the poet wishes and swears that everybody including all Indians will be well protected and happy. His foreboding has proved true to some extent.

Mahendra Bhatnagar is a sensitive person endowed with the qualities of both head and heart. His poetry broadcasts his humanistic virtues, his concern for the destitute,love for freedom, peace and prosperity. He handles Hindi language as a potter moulds the clay. His treatment of nature is unique. While entering 87th year of life he is going young and pulsating with verve. The readers can expect something still more edifying and extraordinary from him.

Author : 
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar
Born : 26 June 1926 — Jhansi [Uttar-Pradesh]. Writings from 1941. M.A. (1948) and Ph. D. (On the novels of Premchand / 1957) in Hindi (Nagpur University). Retd. from the post of Professor (Madhya-Pradesh Govt. service) : 1984. At present Research Guide & doing independent writings. Bi lingual poet (Hindi & English).Eleven poetry collections and five distinguished poetry anthologies are published in English. Poems translated and published in book-form in almost all the Indian languages and many foreign languages (Czech, French, Japanese, Nepali). A well established Hindi & Indian English Poet. 

*Contact : 110, BalwantNagar, Gandhi Road, Gwalior 474 002 (M.P.) India. Phone : 0751-4092908, M - 8109730048. 
*E-Mail : drmahendra02@gmail.coms. 
*Internet Link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahendra_Bhatnagar
[In English &; Hindi]

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