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Updated: April 30, 2011 19:06 IST

Questions of life and death

M. S. NAGARAJAN
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Concerned with the journey after death, these poems lack a sense of real engagement with experience.

Why do we shun Death with anxious strife?

If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life?

Joseph Blanco White, “To Night”

Death being the only reality in human life, it is no wonder that it has always been the major motif for many of the greatest writers, thinkers and philosophers. Kathopanishad, the famous study on the science of the inner life of man, has the most extended disquisition on death and after-life: How can man reach that stage that transcends omniscience? In his famed Holy sonnet “Death, be not proud”, John Donne admonishes death, since the terrors of death are illusory. If from sleep we derive joyous renewal, the final sleep of death should be an occasion for rejoicing and celebrating since we shall be eternally awake after death. While for the queen of beauty, Cleopatra, the final stroke of death is like a lover's pinch which hurts and is desired, for Hamlet, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Other journeys

Rashmi Anand's Night of Eternity is a slender volume of lyrics on the theme of our journey of death. This journey is portrayed as occurring in three stages: “Darkening of the Light”, when man is confronted with death. On the brink of death, he knows that die he must. There are no choices before him. The second is the stage of “The Last looking Back”, when slowly but surely realisation dawns on him that he must accept it and get ready to face it and “The Flight of the Swan” is the third stage when he is overfilled with the joy of completing life's journey on earth with the full understanding that life and death are only the two faces of the same reality, Eternity. Man is but a part of the spirit that pervades the universe. The pain of leaving behind the loved ones is expressed in the following lines:

My beloved all, on them I have leaned

How can I leave from here?

The realisation that life consists in the very living of it is expressed in the following lines:

The flowers I touched, the fragrance I inhaled

Every spring, every autumn that I did see,

I then realised the ultimate truth

That it was all me, just me.

Certainly Rashmi is much possessed by death; but the redeeming feature is that she never rejects the world itself. There is a deep feeling of yearning for life and living.

Lines such as these fill the pages of Rashmi's book. They have nothing in particular to commend them. Packed with plain, static prosaic statements rather than progressing poetic lines, they appear more like the sentimental musings of one wallowing in self-pity and governed by an attitude of defeatism. The imprecise language diminishes easy communication. What is really missing is the real and earnest engagement with the experience communicated. Hence the lyrics sadly lack the power and candour so vital for good poetry.

Comparisons are odious. One has only to read Rashmi's Night of Eternity alongside of Donne's “Death, be not proud”. And Oh! the difference.

Night of Eternity, Rashmi Anand, Themis and Co., 2010, p. 163, Rs. 225.

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