Beyond self Ved Rahi’s collection of Dogri poems ‘Paar’

Suman K Sharma
In the garden of literature, poems blossom forth as so many flowers of diverse kind. Indeed, Ved Rahi’s Paar is a flowerbed of varying hues and fragrances. The tastefully done up volume carries 77 poems in Dogri, including 11 ghazals and 8 ‘neo’-Bhaakhs.
After the publication of Chup Rahiye Prarthana Kar (2003) and Battorar (2014), it is the third collection of poetry of one of the most prominent authors and poets hailing from Jammu.
Rahi is his own master when it comes to giving vent to his muse. Most of the poems in the present collection are in free verse. But that does not mean he is unmindful of the prime rule of poetry – that a poem should sound like a poem, its words ringing true to their intrinsic music. Take for instance, these lines from Kavita at page 53 –
Kavitaa naiyen ai
Kusai jujjai daa faisla
Naan kusai vakilaa di daleel…
Note the play on the sounds of the vowels aa/ai, the liquid consonant ‘l’ as also the nasals of ‘naiyen’ of ‘naan’.
Even in the genres such as Ghazals and Bhaakhs, that demand adherence to certain parameters and conventions, Rahi shows his versatility, following the dictum that a poet should write only that which he can write. In his ghazals one finds that he has done away with charming practice of the poet giving hint as to his identity in the maqta, the concluding sh’er of the composition.
As with ghazal, Rahi has experimented with the Bhaakhtoo. ‘Bhaakh is an exquisite gift of the hill-folk of Jammu. It is a miracle,’ he enthuses in his essay P’haden De Andar Di Bhadaas (pp 13-16, Soch, National Book Trust 2012). The genre lays more emphasis on the sur – tune – than on words. The poet finds a curious kinship between the Bhaakhs of the mountainous tracts of Jammu and chord and choral singing of the ancient Greek. The rendition of a Bhaakh is a spiritual experience. ‘(Its) initial notes synchronize with heartbeats. They rise ever so slowly to the pancham swara, like a man ascending a steep climb. Then they spread out like mists scattering over hills. Now they thicken like a thicket. Fore and aft, high and low – they eventually join one another like menfolk cooperating with each other in difficult times….’ What is characteristic of Rahi’s Bhaakhs is that, in addition to the melody, they have the gravitas of meaning. His Bhaakhs – which carry the distinctive prefix ‘nami’ (as in ‘new’ or ‘neo’) -are superb poetry in their own right.
Technicalities aside, what does the poet have to say in the collection?Its two-line rubric goes thus:
Paihlen apne baahar nikalna mushkil ha
Hun us apne paar utarna sikhi gaye
Difficult it was once to come out of own self/I have learnt now to wade through myself.
His poems such asCharj, Chulla, Majboori, Titli, Gujja Taa, Jindgi,Apna-Apna and Andra de Bhitt dwell upon the angst of being and the ever-present urge of transcendence. Rahi, though in an essay Apne Andre di Chhaan Been (Soch, pp 2-3) categorically declines that he is an ‘Existentialist’. “…(T)he the reality lies inside. It is important to bring that reality out. The outer revolutions and alien movements prevent access to the inside. Rarely has the participation in those movements created good literature. How can we, by adopting the ideology of others, say what our heart has to say?”
The ‘self’ is as important to him as the world that he inhabits. Prarthana 1 and Prarthana 2are his propitiatory hymnsto the Earth and the Sun – in the fashion of the shlokas of the Rigveda – urging them to continue to be munificent to man. He celebrates the pains of child-birth (L’hutne di Peerh) as ‘sirjan da saroor’ – the exhilaration of creation; through the metaphor of a charming flower coming out of a broken flowerpot, he expresses the wonderment of a parent at the marvel of a new-borne (B’sahh); he sings to the bonding with a fellow human being, which like ‘the glow of a lamp’, is closer than that of ‘the words strung together in the discipline of a ghazal’ (Rishta) and in Ditti di Cheej – the longest poem in the collection -he pays a moving tribute to his pet ‘Tiger’.
Rahi has a peculiar way of paying homage to the great personages of history. In his short, thumbnail sketches, he revives them through associative memories. The thirteenth century Turkish poet Rumi stands before us with his sombre flute every time the tearful parents send their newly married daughter away to her in-laws’ place; and Tulsidas (1497?-1623) comes alive at the moment he dedicates to Shri Ram his prana along with the manuscript of the Ramayana.
In Paar, Rahi has given expression through his poems – each of which on average is no longer than 10-15 lines – to some of the most diverse,intimate as well as intricate experiences of human life. Paraphrasing Sylvia Plath, one can say that he has gone so far so fast in such a small space that he had to burn away all the peripherals.