BOOKS: The Earthen Flute by Kiriti Sengupta
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BOOKS: The Earthen Flute by Kiriti Sengupta

 Saktipada Patra
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 Saktipada Patra
BOOKS: The Earthen Flute by Kiriti Sengupta
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Saktipada Patra is the former Hornby Scholar of the British Council and he is presently the Resource Person of Oxford University Press and different...read more colleges and universities in India.
BOOKS: The Earthen Flute by Kiriti Sengupta
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Kiriti Sengupta is no longer a newcomer to the portal of poetry; The Earthen Flute is his newest collection of verses with characteristic brilliance. Here we find a poet with a refined sensibility, a mature vision and a greater command of poetic idioms. The poems thrive in portraying emotions that in some quaint way expose the hidden beauty of the world and throw a new light on life’s most common trivialities. Sengupta surveys the world about him not as a callow idealist, or as an imaginative dreamer, but as the exponent of the ethic of acceptance. All this reinforces a strange loveliness of life with its blend of worldliness and spirituality.

To explore and reveal the verses of this collection, heeding all the nuances, is to discover a particularity and a complexity of emotion. Sengupta is well aware of the importance of learning to “appreciate symbols in poetry.” The novelty and the characteristic relevance of images used as symbols stimulate the readers’ sensibility and understanding.

The leitmotif of the verses, as it has already been referred to, is the acceptance of life or, as Dustin Pickering in his brilliant foreword phrases uniquely, an “affirmation of life.” This is revealed in the very first poem of the collection in an oblique way and it gains in efficacy from being oblique. Sengupta here speaks of the three eyes of Durga. Obviously the third eye denotes spirituality wedded to eternity as it has been the same “over the ages.” But, significantly the sculptors with their artistic vision have never bothered about it and “They have been experimental/ Only on her earthly eyes.” They “keep an eye” (the title of the poem itself) on these eyes or take special care of them as the sculptors are concerned only about the enjoyment of earthly beauty which has its additional splendor owing to its unpredictability and infinite variety.

This perception of Nature and the world is foregrounded in “Experience Personified.” Sengupta sees “New grasses bathed/ In the dew of dawn.” He puts off his shoes, stands barefooted and walks again. He experiences an ecstasy — “Tiny droplets envelop my feet/ And permeate the skin of my toes.” Sengupta does not call it “a feeling,” he would rather name it his “experience.” This is not something to be felt through the senses. Here the insentient natural world, now in tune with his feelings, takes on a personality Sengupta finds himself in communion with. The concluding lines hark back to the title and assert it.

In “Kajal Deeghi,” Nature’s calm is a refuge and a solace to the fretful heart: “Leisure around the water/ It was named Kajal Deeghi.” Sengupta is reminded of Jibanananda’s “Banalata Sen.” The lake has, like that enigmatic maiden Banalata, “her profound eyes,” resembling the “nest of a bird” that “house and reflect.”

In this collection Sengupta meditates on life with dispassionate attitude (borrowed from the first poem in the series “Cryptic Idioms”) knowing full well that a “balanced blend” makes “an enjoyable cocktail.” (the second poem in the same series). The flute of life sounds but only to crack, and “Religion or its absence/ Appears back to back” (quoted from the fourth poem of the same series). The web of life is of a mingled yarn — joy and woe, good and evil, faith and skepticism woven together. The claims of total life reminding the moon with all its glory are larger than its share of “crevices” or deficiencies: “With restricted entry of light/ Of love/ And sheer delight” (“Moon — The Other Side”).

“Time and Tide” presents a Bengali widow who “lost her husband when she was only eighteen.” Amidst the relentlessness and inexorability of time and tide causing the omelet to look weird, Sengupta does not fail to notice the “bright eyes” of the widow as she breaks the eggs.

Nature, an epitome of eternal life, is there as something vast and undying source of energy, consolation and wisdom. In “Womb” we find a pertinent and poignant symbol. The mother’s womb refers to Mother Nature. It is clearly suggested that we are all interwoven threads in the intricate tapestry of life. Civilizational crisis lies in our disconnectedness with Nature. We shift our focus on her only after a natural disaster: “With every earthquake I realize/ I have failed to express/ Much attention/ To my Mother.”

The symbol of womb recurs in “Mother Water.” Mother’s womb is there to “withstand much stress and strain.” The Ganga flows on “witnessing numerous banks of civilizations”— accommodating everything, absorbing the fallen and the dead and cleansing the earth. To this poet: “Withdrawal has its share of symptoms/ Like a disease—” and they both deserve care of Mother Nature (the fifth poem in the series “Cryptic Idioms”). The seventh poem of the same series reverts to the first poem of this book, The Earthen Flute. Sengupta’s assertion: “the eyes can see” obviously suggests the third eye that opens up a “wonderful world deep inside.” This is the “inward eye” of Wordsworth which comes to the aid of the senses that can only half perceive beauty and awakes the mind’s attention to the inexhaustible loveliness and wonders of the world.

The eyes provide external stimuli, but all emotions originate from within. Sengupta’s perception of life comes full circle in the concluding poem of this collection: “Struggle for Silence” in which he exalts quietude and says that life is nothing but a struggle to achieve a stage where the flute of life sounds no more to the sensual ears and one finds oneself in complete harmony with the creator: “Quiet grandeur prevails over/ The pinnacle of worldly communion.”

Yet it is earth where the poet wishes to live bearing love in his soul (“Seventh Heaven”), the love where “I” is the nucleus. This unusual juxtaposition — self-centeredness leading to love that is usually self-effacing, leads to a complexity of emotion suggesting intimate human relationship.

In “Let The Flowers Bloom,” elderly Mujibar picks both Shapla to be used in the kitchen and Lotus to be used in Hindu households in religious rituals. In a world, not “broken into fragments” (Tagore), Mujibar’s little son “stretches his brown arms in the sunlight.” The Tabeez offered by the fakir embodies “trust enriched with the flavor of innocence.” Finally, Robi’s unwavering trust breaks through the roof and some unknown bird flutters its wings satisfying his longing for the sky!

In “Reservation,” Sengupta finds himself inducted into a diamond-like civilization with light of life in its core (“Yours Eternally”), but alas, even when he enjoys a happy married life in this world — being married to all its raptures, Sengupta finds his engagement ring “put off his flesh and skin,” but secured in the vault for him to put on again. The poem suggests his pensive regret for something missing in life; he cannot but look forward to a time in the near future when life will surely run “gaily as the sparkling Thames” (Matthew Arnold).

Actually in The Earthen Flute Sengupta is concerned with the pageant of life. The distinctive feature of his diction is density of meaning — many-levelled and metaphorical through and through. The poet achieves a rare blend of simplicity and depth with an eye for aptness and elegance barely to be found in much of the poetry written today.

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