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A dark Dawn



Kailash Vajpeyi.

HE WAS the toast of the town, adored by poetry lovers, patronised by rich, bejewelled women, a favourite at Kavi Sammelans across the country. He was also the leading voice of protest in Hindi poetry when one first chased and met him. There was something to be learnt from him if one were to chase the muse, and find a place for oneself under the literary sun. That was in 1967. Almost four decades later despite the deepening shadows of age and a face wrinkled with experience one can see the dead embers in his still sparkling eyes. Eyes that have wandered around the world to seek the truth that lies buried somewhere between the material and the spiritual.

One felt one had lost him. Or the poet in Kailash Vajpeyi. One felt the halo of spiritual quest that had set him on a different roller coaster was the sign of a weakness in this selfish world. One felt he had left the race without adequate trial. One felt betrayed and let down by the different masks he had started to wear together with the long robes and a customary crown - to hide the bald patches, and the receding hair lines in a vain attempt to give an unnecessary extension to mistaken youthful looks. For his intensity was never in his face or personality but in his poetry, and the manner of putting it across in his expressive voice. A voice that had walking talking jewellery shops and the tobacco-pan-spitting dhoti-clad men falling all over him. That was at once his strength and weakness.

Like the poetry of most young, Kailash Vajpeyi's early poetry had death as the dominant metaphor. Even when he was writing love poetry, the dark streak was visible underneath the overt romance and optimism. This was also discernible from the titles of his various collections. Sankrant (`In a Crisis'), Dehant Se Hatkar (`Beyond Death'), Teesara Andhera (`Third Darkness'). And then came the different dawn which saw the publication of Mahaswapan ka Madhyantar (`Intermission of the Great Dream'), Sufinaama (`Spiritual Verse'), Prithvi ka Krishnapaksh (`Darkside of the Planet'). With the last, and now the latest Bhavishya Ghat Raha Hai (`Future is Happening') there appears to be a resurgence, a return to that dark dawn that's the hallmark of good poetry. Can there ever be poetry in happiness. "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thought," so sang Shelley. Wasn't he dead right?

Now Disillusionment

Anger has now turned into disillusionment, protest has given way to a quiet resentment, hope for the future has found a permanent residence in decay and degeneration of the present itself. The past is irreclaimable, the present dying and the future already dead. Almost all new poetry, and therefore finding fault with Kailash Vajpeyi in this time of despair, can only find a glimmer of hope in a new dark dawn which is, perhaps, round the bend in the unforeseeable future. So hopefully it is time again for poets and poetry.

SURESH KOHLI

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