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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Nature in the Poems of Chandramoni Narayanaswamy by P. V. LAXMI PRASAD

Nature in the Poems of Chandramoni Narayanaswamy by P. V. LAXMI PRASAD

Born in 1938, Chandramoni Narayanaswamy hails from a family of Tamils settled in Kerala. A member of the Indian Administrative Service of 1963, she had a distinguished career both in Orissa and the Government of India before taking a voluntary retirement from the IAS in 1994. Chandramoni has published two poetry collections as on today i.e., (i) The Unseen Abode and Other poems (ii) Sunflower and other Nature Poems. While Sunflower and Other Nature Poems is a collection exclusively devoted to Nature, The Unseen Abode and other poems carry a few poems on Nature. Chandramoni for whom nature has been a companion in a lovely childhood wrote descriptive poems about nature as a child. Now streaks of mysticism and symbolism dominate these poems written in a ripe old age.

Chandramoni Narayanaswamy’s collection of poems has the appeal and zeal to take the readers on a ride onto the depth of nature and enjoy the charm and beauty that overwhelm every emotion and passion and provide an atmosphere serene and beautiful, charming and colourful. In this fast-moving world of science and technology, man has no time to wait and see” nature’s abundant beauty and a collection of poems on nature (Sunflower and other Nature Poems) is itself a tribute to the mother earth. Poetry speaks of beauty and beauty is truth but when the truth that lies beneath beauty is portrayed prominently, it becomes poetry with mission and poetry with implication. (Mukherjee 42)

Chandamoni’s second collection of poems Sunflower and other Nature poems contains a richly glorified twenty-five wonderful nature poems. The fact that she calls her collection “a bouquet of green leaves,” reveals the poet’s deep love and intense fascination for mother nature. In the words of Chandramoni from her preface to the collection, “Nature had always been a book to me, sometimes a picture book to be gazed at in sheer pleasure; at other times as the mood turned pensive or thoughtful, a book of philosophy to comprehend which a century is not enough.” As a child, the poet observed: “To the silence of a lonely child the pages responded with strange similes, metaphors and fantasiesthe first stirrings of poetry in my mind. At sunset, it was Kaleidoscope displaying changing colours.” Nature to Chandramoni was so influential that no book of reading gave her the same thrill just when she watched a rainy monsoon of hiding clouds. “No book gave me the same thrill as sky-gazing in monsoon with the moon, and the stars buried under the clouds.” The beauties of Nature are presented in the hidden vistas of the life grass seeds which the poet describes “tiny receptacles of life” buried under the sand sleep “like hibernating polar bears” and the seeds may possibly perish if summer continues for long time.
Buried deep under the burning sand
by heedless feet marching above
They sleep, these tiny receptacles of life
Like hibernating polar bears
Perchance to perish and mingle with sand
If summer lasts and rain betrays.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 2).

The poet feels that if rain comes and seeps into the thirsty earth, the seeds sprout and spread “a green carpet on the plane.” “The poet presents the theme of love and forgiveness through apt comparison and appropriate imagery” (Joseph 18).
But if the blessed rain does pour
And seep into the thirsty earth
They sprout with astounding speed
Spreading a green carpet on the plane
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 2).

The green earth turns into a majestic carpet of grand welcome on the arrival of rain. It is a beautiful comparison in heightened expression. The poet presents the mysteries of Nature in the poem titled “The Laughing waterfall” where the waters in the waterfall appear deceptive in laughing, dancing and sparkling like crystals. They are originally described as “the hot spring of hidden tears ‘caused by ‘the sorrow buried in the patient’s earth.” The title in the words of John Peter Joseph who reviewed “Sunflower and other Nature Poems” is itself a metaphor indicating deceptive appearance. The hidden tears remain invisible to the seeing eyes.
The hot salty tears are not tasted
Hence not known to any
Only the laughing waters are seen
Clear, bright and up lighting.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 3)

The poet presents the law of nature in the creation of pebbles in the river waters. Pebbles are lovely to play with. The imagery is striking and eye-catching in the lines.
The river leaps from the heights
Its waters sweet and translucent
Crystal clear in sparkling purity
Brings down along with it
Sharp broken black stones
Repugnant to Sight, deadly to touch
Rushing through uneven valleys
It flows quietly on level ground
Gathering all the dirt on the way
The water no longer clear or clean
But replete with poisonous pollution
The stone carried by it
Softened and rounded off
Are smooth and pearly white
Pebbles one loves to play with
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 4)

The spontaneity of expression flows through versatility of theme and the rhythm is effective and instant. With deep penetration, the poet presents the eternal truths of Nature in the poem “The Inextinguishable Light” which is full of hope and optimism.
However deep the fearsome darkness
And however black the endless night
Nothing in nature can ever shut out
The advent of the inextinguishable light
An atom of which He bestowed on me.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 4)

The light of nature is original, imperishable and invulnerable. The wholesome capacity of nature is imposing and unyielding. The devastating capacity of nature is beyond anticipation and comprehension.
All at once the electric poles
Had fallen like nine pins
And the wires snapped like threads
In the fury of the great cyclone
No candle or wicker lamp
The match-box is soaked with water
All around is total black-out     
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 4)

“The Black and the Bitter” is a poem of Nature’s great lesson for mankind while the black represents the black crow, the bitter for the neem tree which tastes bitter and benign. Here, the poet takes the readers into a lesson of universal preaching that Nature ever beholds for man to learn from. Man fails to realize the lessons of Nature.
But the black ungracious crow
Unwanted and shunned by all
Is drawn to the neem
And undaunted by their bitterness
Swallows all the ripe berries
Scatters the seeds far and wide
Causing the bitter progeny
To increase year after year.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 9)

The poet writes that the neem tree is created to serve and cure men of ailments. The neem fruits and seeds are used in Ayurvedic form of medicine.
The tree created to serve
And cure men of their ailments
Minds not their indifference
Nor indeed their gratitude
It knows its mission well
So it blooms and multiplies       
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 9)

Nature creates wonders for the world to enjoy. The cactus is a plant that grows in hot dry regions especially one with thick stems but without leaves. The plant is medicinally useful and it is Nature’s wondrous product. It is described as a plant of hope for the suffering world of lovers.
I am then the stay and anchor
Of a bleeding heart, hungry for love
I wean the mind back from despair
With the remembrance of what I stand for.       
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 11)

“The cosmic conch” is a poem of Nature’s absolute mystery. Chandramoni describes the cosmic conch as having betrayed the patient earth just when it was thirsting for monsoon.
Heralding the long-awaited monsoon
All wait in grateful expectation
But alas! A shower of hail
Then a sprinkle of rain
Is all that falls to the ground
Once more the cosmic conch for cruel fun
Has belied, betrayed and let down
The patient earth thirsting for monsoon.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 12)

Nature imposes a sense of duty, discipline and orderliness on all living-beings. In the poem, “The Time-Keeper”, the poet traces how the crow wakes up the world despite insults and curses. It is the symbol of duty and punctuality.
Unfailing time-keeper of dawn
Alert alike in shine and rain
Repulsive to the human eye
Most unpleasing to the ear
Hated for the clarion-call
But hated most for punctuality
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 13)

The crow is cursed, hated and condemned by the world. Yet, it is unmindful and spirited
Thus hated and condemned by all
Yet undaunted, the irrepressible time keeper
Goes on sounding his clarion call
Sharper, louder and clearer
Same message, same refrain-“wake up”
All you shirkers, the time is up.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 14)

A fine juxtaposition of ideas run through the poem “The Leaf and the Thorn.” Like a thorn that settles on the leaf of a tree, the villainy holds on to the virtuous. The poem abounds in an ultimate reality that the virtuous will win over the vicious. The wicked and the jealous will be finally punished.
Whether the thorn falls on the leaf
Or the leaf falls on the thorn
It is the leaf that is hurt and torn
That is the price paid for piety.
Yet there is hope, the vicious thorn
Hated by all and touched only by the broom
Is swept away and thrown to rot
With all that is the scum of the earth.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 18)

Nature always inspires poets and this inspiration leads Chandramoni to beautify the origin of lotus. It is recalled that the beautiful lotus awakes in muddy ponds. It has an origin of purity out of impurities. The very sight of the flower moves the poet conceive some colourful images centering on its existence.
Conceived and born in mud and marsh
She blooms and rises high above them all
The sun smiles and shines on her
Butterflies hover and dance around her
Wasps flock to her from dawn
And prefer to die with her very sight
Weave colourful imageries centering on her
Lovers see in her the eyes they love.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 21)

As a poetess with deep moral sense, she deals with yet another aspect of modern man’s existence. The conscience of the contemporary world is stifled by the guilt of destruction of the environment for selfish aggrandizement. The society is paying a heavy price for the exploitation of ‘Nature’ by man with his limitless desire for power and wealth. The poet pitifully asks the earth to explain why it punishes the innocent for the crimes they did not commit. The poet holds man entirely responsible for cutting down the trees. The earth’s patience is what the poet calls “proverbial.”
Have you no eyes to see
Or heart to pity
That you punish
And destroy the innocent
For crimes they did not commit?
Man sinned against you
He burnt and cut down your forests
Silted and drained your rivers
Denuded you of your green cover
You suffered and forgave it all
For your patience is proverbial
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 22)

Nature stands as a symbol of resoluteness, indomitable will power, and impeccable force. This is described in the poem “The Sturdy Palm” where the poet finds a coconut palm of her neighbor “battering, bending and tearing its folds despite many a storm attacked it.
But when nature’s fury had abated
And I could again view the world without
The sturdy palm was where it used to be
Battered and almost bald but still upright
A silent mockery of all adversity
A living challenge to the arrogant.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 26)

“The Evergreen Tree” speaks largely of seasonal growth, of leaves, foliage, branches, flowers and fruits and its blessed greenness that never fades. Nature is ever-green in this poem.
It is my mission to protect and care
I am born to give whatever I have
I care not if I am spurned later
For He has given me what none can have
The blessed greenness that never fades.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 30)

Nature punishes those who destroy wild life for their personal gains and selfish ends. Such people meet their doom. “Fate and Bait” is an ironical poem to bring out man’s crime against wild life. Those hunters who tied an innocent goat to sight the tiger eventually fell into its trap. They lost their lives. The goat is saved in the end.
Inside the tree trunk above the root
Was housed a colony of termites
Which had eaten the wood within
The whirlwind snapped the hollow trunk
Down fell the tree in a trice
With the machan and the men in it.
The tiger grabbed him and vanished
Into the darkness of the forest
So did the goat now set free
By nature’s unexpected caprice
As ordained by Him who sees it all
Termites had triumphed over man.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 32)

“The Garden Queen” is a wonderful Nature poem which describes how flowers in a garden compete with one another to become the queen of the garden in spring. In the comments of St. John Peter Joseph, “Flowers like Dhalia, Kalimpong, Gladiolus and chrysanthemum boasted, argued, and challenged one another even before the arrival of the judge. Finding no honey and sweet fragrance they went away from such flowers. Then they noticed in the corner of the garden a small silent red rose. They were pleased with its fragrance, smell and honey. The Judge, the green parrot, finally came and perched on the rose, smelt the fragrance, felt the softness, tasted the honey and then gave its judgment.” (John Peter Joseph 18) It is a poem of heightened imagination.
None but the Rose He has endowed
With beauty, scent and modesty
Is fit to be the Garden Queen.
(Chandramoni, Sunflower and other Nature Poems 37)

Chandramoni is intensely a Nature lover and her passion for Nature gets her to see the roaring sky. It is Nature’s curse and revenge dreaded by all.
This furious down-pour
From the roaring sky in sudden
Fits and starts is not monsoon
But a season not yet known and defined.
(Chandramoni, “The Unseen Abode and other Poems 68)     

Nature is mysterious and her mystery is both nourishing and destroying. In a superb experimentation of writing, the poet dwells at length in her thoughts upon the subject of inanimate object which has been personified to speak about themselves and for themselves so that their assertions and affirmations are effectively emphasized.
I am the embodiment of tolerance
And unfathomable indulgence
My heart is brimming with motherly love
For all the species I brought into this world
I shower my blessings in lightly rain
To quench their thirst and wash away
All the dust and grime from their faces
And make them look green and beautiful.
(Chandramoni, The Unseen Abode and other Poems 69)

The poet’s intense love of nature can be seen in the poem “Monsoon” wherein she eagerly awaits the arrival of monsoon. The poet says that she cannot live without monsoon because she is a farmer of India. It is a representative poem.
I am ever in love with you
And await your arrival
Counting days, hours, even minutes
Scanning the sky with unblinking eyes
For the portals of heaven to open
And let you out.
(Chandramoni, The Unseen Abode and other Poems 71)

A nature-conscious Chandramoni vividly describes spring in many-sided personality.
There is fragrance in the air
Warmth in the atmosphere
Music in the rustling of leaves
And a caress in the breeze
Soothing yet exciting.

There is intoxication for the young
Comfort for the old
And pleasure for all.

Spring is nature’s adolescence
It is way ward and endearing
Now smiling, now threatening
Tearful this minute
Chirpy with laughter, the very next.

When every creeper, plant and tree
And even the lowly grass
Burst into bloom
It is a riot of colours
And in gay abandon
Nature plays Holi
All by herself and all creatures rejoice
In the very gift of life.
(Chandramoni, The Unseen Abode and other Poems 72-73)

To conclude the paper, I reckon that Nature occupies the centre-stage of writing in Chandramoni’s poetry collections. Like Wordsworth, she worships, glorifies, mystifies, philosophizes, intellectualizes and moralizes Nature in the harsh realities of world. She has moved close to the soul of Nature, and has established a deep affinity with Nature. She has explicitly and implicitly transmuted the invisible into the visible, the unfamiliar into the familiar and the hidden into the unhidden. She has attributed human sensibilities to the objects of Nature. She has used concrete imagery so as to infuse a kind of passion for Nature. The poems of the collection are imbued with the colour of mysticism and symbolism apart from striking imagery. The mysteries of Nature are unraveled in a pictorial, lively and narrative mode of writing. All these unfold the poet’s immense love and fascination for Nature. Her poetry remains inseparable with Nature.

Works Cited
  1. Joseph, Peter John. Rev. of Sunflower and Other Nature Poems. IBC (2008): 18. Print.
  2. Mukherjee, Subha. Rev. of Sunflower and Other Nature Poems. Contemporary Vibes 3.9 (2009): 42. Print.
  3. Narayanaswamy, Chandramoni. The Unseen Abode and Other Poems. New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2003. Print.
  4. ---. Sunflower and Other Nature Poems. Bhubaneshwar, India: The Home of Letters, 2006. Print.

Dr. Laxmi Prasad P.V., Ph.D. in English, is a widely published author with 33 national and international journals and 250 publications to his credit.
His published articles include poems, articles, book reviews, translations and Interviews. He has won International Award for Excellence in English Poetry.

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