BOOK REVIEW by Leonard Dabydeen
BOOK: INTO A CROWDED ALONENESS
Raama Chandra Mouli
INTO A CROWDED ALONENESS (Poetry)
English translation by Professor Indira Babbellapati
Publisher: J.V. Publications, Hyderabad, 2016
Poet (e-mail): firstname.lastname@example.org
Pages 89/ Price: Rs. 100/- $8
Poets, in a deep and overwhelming state of consciousness, do envision our world as an interplay of freedom and loneliness.
This book of 89 pages is a collection of 30 poems written in Telugu by Professor Raamaa Chandra Mouli, and thoughtfully harbored in a thematic perspective and translated in English by the impeccable Google Scholar, Professor Dr. Indira Babbelapati. She is Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.
This book itself, Into A Crowded Aloneness, is a crème de la crème of an enigmatic, pristine melange of solitary poems curated from a swath of social media and web resources, to include originals from Face Book, Andhra jyothi-vividha., SARANGA web weekly, sambhaashinche pustakaalu, Andhra Prabha-Sahithi Gavaksham, vishaalaakshi, mana Telangana, naaku maatrame telisina nenu, NAVYA weekly, swapna Rahasyam, chivanki, Vaakili web monthly, maalika web monthly. The first 24 poems take the reader into a mountain-peak of human endeavour, incarcerating himself in search for that mind-set and yearning for freedom and truth, with the last 6 poems for the Aandaman Yatra (Life Journey). And for the poems to be serenated from Professor R.C. Mouli’s telugu, a language of undeniable sweetness to the Indian ears, and translated by a veteran herself of the pulp of the language, Professor Indira Babbellapati, into English to capture the readership of a global literary scale, is simply a phenomenal challenge. In the opening remarks of this olio of poems, Professor Indira said: “It’s no mean task and I’m not sure If I could do justice to this wonderful poet [ R.C. Mouli] who has not lost his contemporaneity in spite of writing poetry for over five decades.”
Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, of the famous poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night…” once said, “Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own.” And Bob Dylan said: “I think a poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.” (POET’S GRAVES: www.poetsgraves.co.uk/poets_on_poetry.htm) . In a more esoteric note from opening remarks by author, Professor R.C. Mouli in this book, Into a Crowded Aloneness,”…a poet is not a static mountain; a poet is an echoing hill. Poet alone can morph into a poem.” With such intensity of notion, poetry of aloneness has its de jure nuances. From the evocative, spiritual Persian au fait poet of the 13th century, Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi:
This aloneness is worth more than a thousand lives.
This freedom is worth more than all the lands on earth.
To be one with the truth for just a moment,
Is worth more than the world and life itself.
And classic Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran espouses:
And alone and without his nest shall the eagle
fly across the sun.
Wow ! So mind-appealing! And so on this riveting plateau of poetic potpourri, ebullient translator, Professor Indira brings this book of poems, Into A Crowded Aloneness, to embroider the vicissitudes of the human condition in variegated layers of freedom and truth as expressed by original author, R.C. Mouli in beautiful telugu . Dr. Lanka Siva Rama Prasad, a Cardiac Surgeon and prolific literary contributor and founder of Writers’ Corner in Warangal, exuberantly and eloquently garlands Professor Indira in the introductory essay of this book, as “a muse of international fame…excelled in that process in bringing out the essence, rhythm and music of the original poetry.”
Take a read of the first poem, titled Multiple-she (first stanza):
Is the sea in the backyard or
is it in the front-yard of her town?
Living in that sea-town, every night she morphs
into a wind-sail and caresses the salt waters
and by morning, slips back into the human form,
opens her eyes and breathes herself into being.
In their hearts humans sometimes become wilderness;
the sea; mere rain drops. They also transform
into wandering birds settled on
electric lines. Intending to hide…
The imagery and rhythmic flow of thought almost coquettish with the aloneness of the woman (and I almost imagine Professor Indira’s book titles (and contents) – Vignettes of the Sea and Nomadic Nights here, as if she had a mutual bond with Professor Chandra Mouli).
Which, like a tidal wave, rushes me with a je ne sais quoi to the title poem, “Into a crowded aloneness” – a narrative poem so symbiotic in harnessing the meandering streams of an Aristotelian search for TRUTH, winding through poem after poem, almost leaving you breathless in thought and mind-set to the very end. Read the first four lines,
People get translated
into flowers that bloom only at nights,
into the twittering birds of dawn
into strings that hide raagaas in a violin.
And again to browse lines 18-25,
/…A deep felt
yearning to withdraw myself into
a lonesome gathering to cry my heart out
till the body fragments overwhelms me…
But you’re with me like the sriti accompanying a song.
A wave desires to dispose of the sound…is it possible?
This wife, these children and the extended family—
I’m a captive behind this ten feet high boundary wall/
This is indeed a quavering of the mind teasing the body — heavy rhythm and rich imagery. The lonely path into a state of aloneness. A contradiction into the contiguity of life.
And into more browsing of lines 39-43,
Who knows of tomorrow? It may be Colorado tomorrow.
All C++ …Java…or SAP or making friends with Robot No. 92!
At Mercedes factory …my dear fellow, we’re all coolies:
a small coolie or a big coolie …or a big corporate coolie…that’s
And this is the beginning of the endgame of a state of crowded aloneness. After a hard day (or night) of work in the automobile factory, and ( lines 45-48),
your two pegs of whiskey, you notice
your wife and children in deep sleep while
the air conditioner silently releases cool air, …/
Then everything goes awry. The game of life is now over…end of the poem,
The body clad in the uniform with a tag that reads SOLD
hangs on the chest…
(p.31) Telugu original: oka yekaanta samoohamloki
‘mana telangana’ Dt 31-10-2015
And ‘we’ recoils inwardly at freedom lost.
Although the title poem of this book, Into A Crowded Aloneness, may tranquilise the reader into nurturing a sense of doom, crowded aloneness has its array of nuances that portrays life full with fun and frolic. Take a read of this poem, ‘Mastan, the flower seller’ (lines 1-4),
Having befriended flowers for life
Mastan learnt how to bloom.
Sixty year old Mastan and a sixty year old
peepal tree in front of his flower shop./
The narrative in this poem takes the reader through the epiphany of life, of the botany of flowers – planting, growing and the many stages that contribute to ‘Mastan’ running his flower shop, In preparing beautiful garlands, thinking (line 34),
/…How nice it would be if humans too were garlands…/
And in this poem, titled ‘Chance moments’, the reader gets into the skin of a photographer who wants the best photo of a woman (first two stanzas),
She’s a coolie;
when he first wielded the camera,
he clicked a photo of hers focussing
on her graceful face; it’s good
radiating serenity of life.
He didn’t like it.
In the finale of his photographic play, the photographer was satisfied in obtaining a photo of the coolie woman (last two stanzas),
/…light radiated from her feet to face;
she looked as gorgeous as an aggressive setting sun.
He carefully saved the photo.
He never photographed her again!
This is truly the quintessence of the human person, the play of rhythm and imagery, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The photo of the whole person matters. Liked.
Towards the final episodic narrative poems (pp.65-85), the reader is taken into a pilgrimage of the poet’s Yaatra (The Journey) and a search for self. Professor Indira in her translation of the book, made an ambulatory tour de force pointing to this journey, the poet’s traverse through the cellular jail in Andamans and his aloneness reverie.
Take a read of ‘THE ENTRY’, (lines 1-7),
Learn to look within;
learn how to embark on a journey
from the physical to the non-physical,
step by step from the known point
towards an undefined destination,
as wind, as a thought, as a search,
and as a contemplation./
And the poet’s journey continues with philosophic reflections in his search for truth in a crowded aloneness. In the last poetic gasp: No trace of earth anywhere ( lines 7-12)
Life is full of the onus of experiences… acquisitions, wealth,
people, wife, sons, daughters;
each disappears one by one…Who or what remains? Eons of
search goes on…
In the seas, on the earth, in the sky, in the ear, in the fire…One
gets curious about anything hidden/
And the aloneness remains mystically spellbound, full of nuances.
Professor Indira has proffered the reader with a superbly excellent translation of Professor R.C. Mouli’s book of poetry, Into A Crowded Aloneness, from the musical language of telugu. Poetry readers should not hesitate to make this book a treasure read among their collections.
Not many books can be judged by their covers. Into A Crowded Aloneness is exceptional, with the back cover giving us a wealth of information on the BIO of the original author, Professor R.C. Mouli and translator Professor Indira Babbellapati.
Here is an additional citation of Professor Indira Babbellapati: http://scholar.google.co.in/citations?user=oymswMUAAAAJ&hl=en
Leonard Dabydeen: Licensed Paralegal under the L.S.U.C., and a Commissioner of Oaths and Affidavits in Ontario. He is a poetry contributor to social media web, Facebook, and PoemHunter.com. He is also a contributing writer in the Triveni, India’s Literary and Cultural Quarterly; The Fib Review; Shot Glass Journal; Muse India. Book reviews include: Finding the Mother by Mydavolu V. Sathyanarayana, Nomadic Nights by Indira Babbellapati, Biography of an Unknown Woman by Indira Babbellapati, Echo by Indira Babbellapati, Vignettes of the Sea (Foreword) by Indira Babbellapati, M.K. Gandhi, by Ram Sahadeo, and GROANS FROM OLD BONES by Wm F.E. Morley. His WordPress blog is titled: Poems Jogging in the Mind. Author of Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems (2012); Searching for You, A Collection of Tetractys & Fibonacci Poems (2015).