JOURNEY AS METAPHOR: VOYAGING THE POETRY OF SELECTED INDIAN DISABLED POETS
Yasoda lulling Hari to sleep,
Pens Surdas, popularly called as Sant Surdas, was a blind poet of the fifteenth century. In this verse "Krishna in the Cradle," he personifies sleep being able to walk, a journey towards Krishna’s eyes. Most of Surdas’s works are devoted to lord Krishna, being composed of thousands of songs in the patronage of Moghal emperor Akbar, that contribute enormously to the Hindi literature. Surdas’s disability too is mystified, asserting his plea to Lord Krishna to take back his vision as he doesn’t want to see anything else in the world. in the Indian context, the journey of invisibility is against gender, against social prejudices, and a reassertion on their original identity as a poet. In the attempt to read journey as a metaphor, this essay will look at the various connotations of journey as a symbol of traveling within, how some of the poets with disabilities in India define travel as a metaphor of resistance, and the ways adopted by them to reconfigure their disability sometimes fitting gender into the question.
Locating simple words towards intricate poetic lines is a natural way for two visually challenged poets in their mother tongue. It lies in the hearts of the people, the darkness, thick as an infection, clear as pelting stones, that perhaps kept two sisters exiled at their own home. The Satyawada sisters popularly known with their pen name "sathyawada sodarimanulu" in Telugu, remain as a witness to the age of no computers, a prejudiced life with no opportunity to learn Braille. The elder sister in the duo, Raghunadhamma, recalls many of their adverse situations in her domestic life. The younger sister, Suryakumari, is influenced by her sister’s interest in poetry. They have written many stories, composed songs and sing. Not having a school education takes no reflection in their poetry. Not having the opportunity to see the world outside the home because of their rooted traditions of a Zamindari family, takes no place in their worldview of poetry. Being confined in a room with the radio waves, they picked up the language; their first poem was on radio. I was curious to know the ways of recording their thoughts, drafting them, revising them. They told me of the natural travel of words, thoughts coordinated between the two poets. They gave a sketch of their lives, being spent many years unseen by the public view, then slowly spelling their names through written word. Their mastery over Sanskrit acquired from radio, knowledge on Indian classical music gave their poetry the musical flavor. "Our poetry is an examination paper, we cannot correct, neither evaluate" they confess. In one poem, which I have translated, they compare themselves with two of the trees Mango and Neem. They talk about "Ugadi" a festival, new year to Telugu culture. The poem is a dialogue between the trees on the occasion of Ugadi.
Mango and Neem
The poem has a simple moral, but the way the poets compare themselves with those trees and make their lives together makes it pertinent to gender struggles, questions of disability in the conservative families, and education as a deconstructed notion of learning. They started their journey invisible to the world outside, absorbing the outside world through the sound waves> Poetry brought the sisters away from home, as they talk of radio as a woman, who can sing, teach, and entertain in one of their poems "Who You Are". They personify the darkness in another poem, telling how darkness travels for permanence, but gets weakened gradually. They insert the question of sightlessness in the poem, giving fluid meanings to darkness.
Darkness Tells the Truth
The perceptions of light and darkness travel physically in paintings. While colours travel through the canvas, Yasmin Sawhney, visually challenged poet and painter, brings words in them, co-passengers as images and speaking pictures. Sawhney’s poems speak of a picture more as a movement than static. Her poem "White Earth" speaks about the environment as a distorted canvas, ironically white as a pure entity.
The phrase "Save the earth" is repeated in the second part of the poem too, not aimed at mere emphasis of saving the earth, but suggesting the state of many slogans remaining limited to the campaigns. In the second part of the poem too, she maintains the same irony. Being a painter herself, she pictures white earth poetically, also reflects on the failure of many slogans, flags and posters, inability to make use of productive time, most of the social causes being traveled to the oblivion, and the societal Hippocratic state.
In Sawhney’s poem "Where is God," her journey to find God is a metaphor for questioning inequalities of gender.
Where is God
In the next part of the poem, she declares that God is found in the nature, equalities of gender and religions.
Where ears heed the Creator’s voice
Her journey through poetry as she stresses "Find Your Space" for a woman friend, extends the metaphor to reflect on disability. Being housebound, she metaphorizes the life and world around her in the wordly and visual landscapes.
Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyaya on the canvas of twice removed realities, paints words clearly. In his poem "A Simple Cup" he muses,
Nothing could make me
Mukhopadhyaya’s creation of a simple cup is not a simple articulation of kitchen space, but talks of many phases in and out of a home. "A Simple Cup" metaphorizes limited space, fed by tea, labeled with the colours of orange and yellow, placing the smile too. the cup in the kitchen space is a painting of it’s voyage towards the home.
As he confesses in his poem "Misfit",
The birds knew I was Autistic;
While Yashodha tries to make Krishna sleep, she travels through the opening and closing of Krishna’s eyes. Krishna in half-awakened state, becomes the subject of Surdas’s verse, aesthetically pleasing as a natural invocation to sleep. The journey of the world they disconnected finds the connections by their own ends in the Sathyawada sisters’ poetry. Sawhney’s view of love is:
reflects on love as a journey, traveling like the Sun, sky as the perpetual space. Sawhney’s writings show that, journey is about being in world from home. Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay’s poem "Mrs. P's House" shows how the house is going to be demolished soon yet
And listens to the trapped sounds, always too familiar—
The house is in ruins, yet the echoes travel through, similar to the chosen poetry of Indian disabled poets, voyaging towards return. They travel through the home in their imaginary or real connections, world and it’s cartographies as fixed and static geographies for example with the writings of Sathyawada sisters, shutting down the possibility of articulating language other than their mother tongue directly connected to their inability to travel outside the home, visual as in the verses of Sawhney, wide as in the poetry of Mukhopadhyaya.