Indian response to T.S.Eliot, a myth or a mantra, has been haunting our literary pundits since he quoted the Upanishadic aphorism ‘Datta, Dayadhvam, Damyata’. Explicitly or implicitly Indian response to T.S. Eliot has taken the form of the exploration of Indian thought in his work as well as his impact on Indian literature. His impact is not restricted only to poetry but goes beyond the domain of literature to literary criticism also. If art is the antenna of human race, surely T.S.Eliot emerges as a major spokesman of our race that is virtually living in his wasteland, lacking direction and meaning in life. Scholars are also tempted by his phrases such as ‘dissociation of sensibility’ and ‘objective correlative’ that perhaps he has borrowed form the Newtonian mechanics and Cartesian philosophy built brick by brick on the pattern of basic building blocks in the scientific thought. In the present paper I have restricted myself to Hindi literature and scholarship that revolves around T.S.Eliot’s early poetry and have analyzed the Hindi poems from three parameters such as context and intention, range and applicability, and finally in terms of an alternative view of tradition. Re-reading T.S.Eliot in the company of some of the Hindi poets can be truly an adventure in ideas and a refreshing experience.
When viewed objectively against the background of a destabilized society that has lost its traditional belief, T.S.eliot emerges as a true spokesman of a decadent society. The Waste Land and The Hollow Men stand up against the first two decades of the twentieth century and expose the boredom and horror of the age’s faithlessness. The modern waste land is inhabited by people who are devoid of faith, where the pretty month of April is cruel, where only rocks are visible, where there is no water. The Hollow Men represents the irony and emptiness of modern man. The land appears dead and full of cactus. The man’s voice has been choked, he expresses himself in mutterings, his words are hollow, the figures have lost their charm, the images their color and all efforts now are motionless. The devastation, crumbling faith, collapse of human values and degeneration are spread in all the aspects of life throughout the world. Though the Indian situation and milieu present a different scenario, however the age is struck by a few parallels in the context and intention of some Hindi poets that I have highlighted. The New Hindi poetry comes to us in the first Tar Saptak (1943) which later took larger dimensions and was published in “Second Saptak” and “Third Saptak”. The new poets are Gajanan Madhav Mukhitboth, Agyeya, Prabhakar Machve, Sarveshwar Dayal Saksena, Girja Kumar Mathur and others. Of this new poetry, Surya Kant Tripathi Nirala is perhaps the father, and T.S Eliot the godfather.
In an analysis of T.S. Elio’ts poetry we should not overlook the fundamental fact that he was trying to recover the lost wisdom of bygone ages. Essentially his was a quest for meaning and values in life. It was this search for authenticity and wholeness that brought him close to the Indian philosophical thought. His basic problem was how to introduce a value system in a devalued world. Many Hindi poets who have to function against this background of a fragmented civilization and have gone through the experience of alienation, are equally concerned about the restoration of a value system in this chaotic world. At the centre of Nature, Destiny, and Man the basic question is of human personality. For Agyeya, the unified human personality is the source of faith and creativity: 1
मैं उस असीम शक्ति से सम्बंध जोड़ना चाहता हूँ अभिभूत होना चाहता हूँ जो मेरे भीतर है । इत्यलम् , अज्ञेय
It is interesting to note that much of Eliot’s portrayal in his early verse is similar to that of Kaliyuga as prophesied in Hindu Scriptures. We cannot claim that he had read the scriptures or was influenced by them, although its possibility cannot be denied absolutely because there are definite similarities in Eliot’s depiction and Puranic apocalypse. Thus we see it is a circular movement: the similarity in the portrayal of Kaliyuga in his early verse and in its turn his verse influencing the modern Hindi poetry. The milieu changes but the truth remains the same everywhere all over the world. The bitter truth of this age revealed itself in the poetry of Eliot. The others felt in it the expression of their own feelings. The ice was broken, the path was paved and the ball was set rolling. The poetry now lost cheerfulness, optimism and hopefulness because it had now seen ugliness beneath beauty, boredom beneath happiness and horror beneath glory. It is not accidental that the new words of Hindi poetry were now darkness, silence, death and rock:
खंडहरों के मूक औ निस्पंद से उमड़े अकेले गीत ये भूत से निर्देह भयंकर बेचैन काले व्यथित आतुर तिमितर नुपूर के अकेले स्वर उमड़े अकेले गीत व्यक्तित्व और खंडहर , मुक्तिबोध
तन्मय तिमिर छाया है जहाँ हिल डोल से भी दूर है केवल अकेला व्योम ऊपर श्याम नीचे तिमिर शायी अचल धरती भी अकेली एक तरु के तले भी केवल अकेला मौन आत्मा के मित्र मेरे, मुक्तिबोध
This darkness is not the outcome of the meaningless agony of the romantic poets; this is because
दब चुकी जो मर चुकी है आत्मा खत्म जो हो गयी आकांक्षा मुक्तिबोध
Eliot’s reaction to the sterile immediacy of contemporary life finds an exact parallel in :
एक मृषा है जिसमें सब डूबे हुए हैं क्योंकि एक सत्य जिससे सब ऊबे हुए हैं एक तृषा जो मिट नहीं सकती इसलिए मरने नहीं देती एक गति जो विवश चलाती है इसलिए कुछ करने नहीं देती इन्द्र धनु रौंदे हुए ये अज्ञेय
Much of Eliot’s between-war verse offers an oblique comment on the socio-moral ethos of the time. Eliot snatches the mask that had covered the reality so far because he has now heard the bang that disturbed “the silence that is in the starry sky” and “the sleep that is among the lonely hills’, and now,
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mud cracked house.
The Waste Land
Mukhtibodh finds the same tumult:
बुद्ध के स्तूप में मानव के सपने गड़ गये, गाड़े गये। हँसा के पंख सब झड़ गये, झाड़े गाए।। सत्य की देवदासी चोलियाँ उत्तारी गई, उधाड़ी गई। सपनों की बातें सब चोरी गई, फाड़ी गई।। चाँद का मुँह टेढ़ा, मुक्तिबोध
In this modern waste land the sordidness becomes candidly physical. The meaningless sex cannot be connected with marriage or children; it is totally devoid of emotion as is the case with the typist girl in The Waste Land:
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover;
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass;
‘Well now that’s done; and I’m glad it’s over.’
The Waste Land
Girja Kumar Mathur experiences exactly the same boredome:
अध भोगे अध डूबे रहे सभी कथा खंड दूरी से छूकर निकल गई घटनाएँ भीतर बहुत सूखा रहा हुआ नहीं सराबोर देह भी न भीगी कभी इस प्रकार कि सांसें न समा पाएँ असिध्द की व्यथा
Eliot’s preoccupations amounted to more than disgust at the futilities of urban life, clutter of drawing room or dustbin, a scornful substitute for the pretty was only the apparatus of Eliot’s early poems. Squalor itself was not his bane; what perturbed him was the helplessness of sensitivity and idealism against matter of factness. Bharat Bhushan Agarwal and Gajanan Madhav Mukhtibodh come to the same conclusion:
आज बना निर्जीव न उसमें शक्ति कि कर भी ले वह कुछ चीत्कार- आह। सब और आज गति हीन शांति, निष्प्राण मौन अस्वस्थ्धरा, अवरुध्द वायु, निस्तेज गगन, गंदला, अशुध्द जग का जीवन जीवनधारा, भारतभूषण
दिन के बुखार रात्रि की मृत्यु के बाद हृदय पुंसत्वहीन, अंतर्मनुष्य रिक्त सा गेह दो लालटेन से नयन दीन निष्प्राण स्तम्भ दो खड़े पांव लकडी का खोखा वक्ष रिक्त मस्तिष्क तेल की है मशीन विहार, मुक्तिबोध
The poets of “Second Saptak” have fully realised the insignificance of man. They voice their feelings in a still better way, so much so that we find sometimes exaggerated forms also:
मस्तिष्क इतना खाली खाली लगता जैसे हो कोई सड़ा नारियल धर्मवीर भारती
Like T.S. Eliot, Agyeya and Mukhtiboth do not leave us in despair. They also provide new possibilities of human development. If The Waste Land concludes with “Shantih, Shantih, Shantih” so also Agyeya provides us possibilities of a resolution of various psychological and sociological conflicts that are at the heart of the matter in his poetry.
जब तलक यह आत्म संचय की कृपणता! यह धुमड़ता त्रास! दान कर दो खुले कर से, खुले उर से होम कर दो स्वयं को समिधा बना कर मुक्तिबोध, अज्ञेय
And an empty wilderness awaits regeneration:
बाँधकर मानस का शून्य तम निःसृत हुआ है द्युत बदली के बाद, अज्ञेय
The poets of modern times in Indian languages have found in Eliot an appropriate model for their experimental versification. In order to express his feelings Eliot substituted the dramatic monoloque and other impersonal devices such as semi-dramatic vignettes and allusive symbols. The Waste Land is a monologue embellished with mythology. This device is used particularly by Agyeya. In order to achieve impersonality in poetry he suggests two ways: first, the artist transmutes his individual self into a larger self and the immediate moment into eternity and the second, he transforms expression into a medium and surrenders himself totally to that medium. Personality, according to him, never mingles with medium. The poet now takes on himself different characters and dissolves his personaility in them:
मैं ही हूँ वह पदाक्रांत रियियाता कुत्ता मैं ही वह मीनार शिखर का प्रार्थी मुल्ला मैं हूँ ये सब, ये सब मुझमे जीवित मेरे कारण अवगत, मेरे चेतन में अस्तित्व प्राप्त तार सप्तक, अज्ञेय
In his Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot, depicting the dull evening, compares it to an unconscious patient on a table and evolves a new trend in the tradition of imagery. In Hindi poetry, with the advent of realism the soft and airy words like dream, dew, tears, snowflakes are replaced by कुकुरमुत्ता for example. Nirala, for the first time, dispelled the magic wonder of romantic era:
अबे सुन बे गुलाब भूल मत पाई जो तूने ख़ुशबू रंगों आब खून चूसा खाद का तूने अशिष्ट डाल पर इतरा रहा है कैपटलिस्ट कुकुरमुत्ता
For Agyeya also
ये अपमान मैले हो गए हैं देवता इन प्रतीकों के कर गाए हैं कूंच कालगी बाजरे की, अज्ञेय
Now the poetry becomes symbolic. In fact the images and symbols have taken the same place in Hindi poetry that characters had in older poetry. The complex sensibility is expressed in a better way through images and symbols than through characters because human characters have their limitations. Dushyant Kumar expresses his helplessness beautifully:
मेरी कुंठा रेशम के कीड़े से ताने बाने बुनती तड़फ तड़फ कर बाहर आने को सिर धुनती गर्भवती है । मेरी कुंठा कुंवारी कुंती बहर आने दूँ तो लोक लाज मर्यादा भीतर रहने दूँ तो घुटन सहन से ज़्यादा
Eliot derives music and rhythms in a poem from the colloquial language. One of the best examples of rhythm derived from the contemporary colloquial idiom may be found in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon the table.
The Hindi poets too, use colloquial idioms and derive rhythm from it:
मेरी यह भाव यंत्र? एक मचिया है सूखी घास फूस की उसमें छिपेगा नहीं औधड़ तुम्हारा दान साध्य नहीं मुझसे, किसी से, चाहे सधा हो! बावरा अहेरी, अज्ञेय
Thus we see that T.S. Eliot in his early verse marked a major shift in poetic taste and poetic practice. The change in style and sensibility and the shift in perception that his poetry brought about could be seen in the poetry of many Hindi poets but the range and dimension of Eliot is so vast and varied that it has been virtually impossible for Indian writers to take this whole and neat. The modern phase in Hindi writing, however, is too crowded and too near to permit safe generalization. Agyeya comes closest to him. He wrote an article on impersonality, he translated Eliot’s essay on ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, he propounded the theory of experiment in Hindi poetry and published a journal named “Prateek”. It cannot be said that the poets of Hindi were totally influenced by Eliot, yet the overall similarities of structure and theme suggest if not direct influence, then a virtually identical response to the changing times.
- Quoted in नयी कविता : सिध्दान्त और सृजन by Dr Narendra Dev Verma
- The quotations from the Hindi poems taken from Tar Saptak: Poems, edited and compiled by Agyeya, Bhartiya Jnanpith Prakashan