Sunday, January 25, 2009

Local Colours in Shankarsan Parida’s Poetry By Shaleen Kumar Singh

Amongst the rich repertoire of Indian English poetry, only few poets have succeeded in painting local colours in their poetry. Although many diasporic poets have tried to recollect those forgotten ‘Rivers’, ‘Valleys’, ‘Flowers’, ‘Hills’, ‘People’, and ‘places’ in their poems, their predominance has been on ‘Nostalgia’, ‘Memories’, ‘Alienation’, ‘Pains’, ‘Pleasures’, ‘Dissatisfaction’, ‘images’, ‘Symbols’ and many other things but have not adequately sketched the ‘places’, and ‘people’, or ‘Local Settings’. And yet A.K. Ramanujan’s poetry is marked with the characteristics of ‘Autochthonousness’ and ‘Indian Myth and History, her people and customs, her rich cultural heritage: these form the dominant theme of his poetry’ or we can overview his poetry as a gallery of paintings of local colours also. As a poet is a child of an age and he envisions not only the social, cultural and political scenario of his time but also local settings around which he is born and fostered. Like Ramanujan, Sankarsan Parida frequently resorts to native themes, and traditions colours of life. Parida (b. 1953) entered the realm of Indian English literature with his first book of poems ‘The Golden Bird in 1991. Later on his two more collections were published titled ‘The Segregation and The Next Valley Beyond that established his serious presence among post-independence Indian English poets. Born in a tiny village of Sandhapalli of district Cuttak, Orissa, Parida is teacher in a post-graduate college of Mahakalpara of Cuttak. He, being a poet born in village, has been in close communion with nature and his poetry evinces that Nature and local settings have been prominent themes of his poetry. His simplicity of expression is similar to the innocence of a villager who has not been aware of world and its people’s craftiness. M. Q. Khan rightly states:
“---it is the simplicity of expression that compensate for all that may be lacking in his poetry.” (Forward)
And simultaneously if we read between the lines, we will find his simplicity of expression is closely connected with his exhibition of local colours. His both characteristics are intermingled in such a way that we can see local colours are expressed in a simple manner and the same simple manner brightens the local colours in his poetry. This poetic creativity with microscopic and scuritinying eyes and simple words has created several poetic murals of Shankarsan Parida. Being essentially a poet of nature and the lover of beauty, Parida observes the kaleidoscopic sceneries of nature around him and mingles personal notes, memories in an inseparable way. He does not imagine of some far off land or will- o’ the -wisp but watches around him and finds the truth of beauty smiling and luring him and the vivid geographic-historico-cultural presentation of his milieu becomes his forte. There are a number of poems in which he conjoins nature with such a delicate human touch that his poetry appears to be a unique piece of creation. Mr. M.Q. Khan says:
… Parida’s use of image drawn from nature associated with the human existence makes some of his poems quite charming. (Forward, Seg.)
In his first collection Segregation, Parida’s first poem ‘And These Days’ one can observe his deep love for his local surroundings where he lives:
Whether I see them
At Sealdah railway station
Or at Mahanadi Bridge
Or at the school gate of Sandhapalli
I dance in joy
And the world looks all beautiful
And everything is proper (Seg. 13)
Similarly another poem ‘The River in Spate’ written on the Brahmani River provides mantle piece and joy to the poet which was also sought by Wordsworth in his communion of nature. On one hand, he acknowledges the glory of the river and says:
This is the river
This is the Brahmani
Flowing with a sweet murmur
Since time immemorial (Seg. 15)
While on the other, his love to this river can also be discerned as:
Very often
I run to its bank
When agony a serene meaning
In the waves
The floating of strange boats,
Village woman bathing
Forest creatures, making their way
With some significance to their name (Seg. 15)
Similarly in another poem ‘at Behrampur Railway Station’, the picture o the city Behrampur is both graphic and realistic. Here the description of nature still remains predominant:
The sun glides gracefully
Across the whole of glistening Berhampur,
An occasional purchase of guide books begins
And at the main gate
Autowallahs burn perfumed sticks
With very high expectations
And the station dreams of a happy future. (Seg. 22)
The local places confer the poet a feeling of security, homeliness and happiness and the poet feels peaceful and quenched in its vicinity:
The places between Birdi and Gobindpur
Bemuse me with a kind of sentiments
Unusual and sad
And I sit beside the statues
Of the great national heroes
To appease my thirst
For finding the way (Seg. 23)
The poet watches not only the natural elements like rivers, mountains, flower and fauna but he also covers common places like bus stands temples, airlines, urban and rural life and even local festivals of Puri. In his description of nature we may see his poem like Lalitgiri. In which he addressing Lalitgiri in a conversational tone depicts the beauty of the mountain and its overpowering effect on the poet. He writes:
You madden me
The more I see you, the more interested I become
And I think
Your glory and beauty
Can never be exhausted (Seg. 25)
And in another poem ‘The Neea Madhala’, his depiction of the river Mahanadi is equally remarkable:
The blue murmur of the Mahanadi
Kisses the feet of the Lord
And the blue sky scintillates over
The whole scene.
Amidst the blue
His glistening looks
Sanctify the living beings
Of all the stigma and ties (Seg.28)
Similarly, in another poem ‘The Banyan Tree’ his description of the river Brahmani is equally refine and graphic when he writes:
The banyan tree stands on the bank of the Brahmani
With all dignity and glory to itself
Time smiles upon its boughs
The sun shines, the wind blows
And the riverbank provides
A special spectacle
To one who can see into the life of things (Seg. 37)
But his description of common place and common men is equally pictorial simple and narrative. In the poem ‘Rain in Bhubneshwar,’ he starts spreading the hues of local settings as:
It was a fine evening
Children were playing in parks
Retired officers paying cards
Young men and women engaged in shopping
Gossiping and merrymaking (Seg. 35)
And continues his narration:
Thunder and lightning followed
Three rickshaw pullers
Hastily left the pavilion
Towards Rajmahal square
Not an inch was vacant
They staggered on
With heavy sighs.
After a while
The rain subsided a little (Seg. 35)
In his collection The Golden Bird, Parida has included several poems on nature in which the poets love to his local surrounding persons is visible dearly. The poems like ‘The Golden Word’, ‘The Moment Dies’, ‘A Waiting’, ‘Events and events’, ‘And It Embraces’, ‘The Konark temple,’ ‘The Journey,’ ‘And it Descends,’ ‘On The Beaten Track of Life,’ ‘Pandora’s Box,’ and ‘My Dear,’ Dear Father’ are the poems in which the description of nature is mingled finely in the local colours and the mingling is so perfect that none can separate each from the other. The local surrounding of Konarka is well sketched by the poet in the poem ‘The Konarka Temple’:
The Konarka Temple, the Sun Temple
The citadel of ecstasy
With all elegance, glow and glamour
In the brightest and sweetest sense of the term (T.G.B. 21)
While in the poem ‘My Dear, Dear Father’ the poet makes an exquisite medley of memories, nature and local colours. Remembering his father who on a ‘stormy day/when the earth conspired with sky/and rain poured all through/followed by lightening, thunder and wind-‘carried his son 9the poet) on his ‘shoulders/ with a lot of pain/ and proceeded homeward/ on the bank of the river Brahmani’, the poet adds:
On reaching home we saw the house broken
And cooped up under the broken roof
Against heavy adds
And survived the night
Sandwiched between hope and hopelessness.
The next day, the weather changed a little
But no way was clear to the market place
For another day (T.G.B. 50)
In his third collection The Next Velley Beyond The Stars, there are the poems like ‘An Awe Inspiring Hour,’ ‘To Run The Race,’ ‘Super cyclone in Orissa,’ ‘Eternal Bliss,’ ‘Siddhartha,’ ‘Towards The Centre,’ ‘The Refreshing Air’ and ‘A Subtracted Destruction’ in which we witness several instances of local colours when we see the poet narrating Lalitgiri, Brahmani, Puri, Mahanadi, Casuarina Tree, Patrapur Bridge and other local places and people. P. G. Ramarao writes aright in the Introduction of the book The Next Velley Beyond The Stars :
The Brahmani, the Bilua Khai, the Casuarina trees and Patrapur Bridge lend local colour and have a universal appeal in their meaning. This is an instance of how particular gains a universal significance in good poetry. (9)

In the first poem of the aforesaid collection, the poet writes beautifully how he ‘lost company’ and here he spreads beautifully how he ‘last her company’ and here he spreads the local colour with a touch of pathos:
She loved me once
While I was still a child
Wandering amidst casuarinas plants
On the sea beach of Puri
Or enjoying the beauty of the thought provoking
Are of the Boudhavihar at Lalitgiri
But suddenly
I turned to books and enchanting looks
Oblivious of the stagger and stain
And the blissful pain
And lost her company for ever (N. V. S. 13)
Similarly in the poem ‘Eternal Bliss’, the reminiscences of the river Brahmani still star of a ripple of joy in the poet’s heart when he remembers the river Brahmani and writes:
I feel thew same thrill, the same touch
Even after so many years,
Nothing is changed in your face
O silver Brahmani!
The landscape still enamours,
The bank still awaken the desire
Of floating paper boats
During high floods
That appears almost yearly (N. V. S. 21)
Like many other poems ‘Siddhartha’ a social conscious poem the local back ground is put in a very beautiful manner:
While crossing Patrapur bridge
Across the Brahmani
Raju is bemused with remorse and dismay,
His heart beats heavy
With a lingering agony
Of that bygone day (N.V.S. 37)
The poem ‘Towards the Centre’ is also a beautiful example of depiction of local colours. This poem is set on the background of local natural colours:
The golden oriole
Chirps happily
Amidst casuarinas trees
On the sea beach of Puri
In the sun-basked morning
Of late summer (55)
In this way, we can say that the poetry of Sankarsan Parida is marked with rainbow colours of his local atmosphere, people and places and his spectrum is as wide as the sky. He has covered all the major incidents occurring in the local setting: from birds, trees, flowers, rivers, mountains, canals, rains and sun to people and their actions from beauties of nature to the beauties of the places and from pictorial delineation of natural atmosphere to his personal indulgence to such natural local atmosphere. The simplicity of expression is the hallmark of Parida’s poetry, yet he is nowhere seen involved in redundancy, jargon, verbosity or clichés. Like river he flows and like trees, he confers us shade in the scorching sun of materialism. His poetry reminds us of our roots of indianness which should be strengthened at first. C. D. Narasimhaiah once advised the critics but this advice should also be born in mind by the poets too. He wrote:
I wish to indicate very briefly how in Indian critic can function today by going back to his own tradition and make literature yield its benefits like Kamadhenu or Kalpavriksha- the more you know how to seek, the more they give. My critical function would use this opportunity to familiarize… with the rich concepts of rasa, dhavani and purushartha, the Indian value system. (Chapter IV 45)
Here it is to be noted that our Indian Rasa, Dhvani and Purushartha or the Indian value system is so rich and potential that our all knowledge acquired from the western books and classics will acquire new gates of research, thought and wisdom and this strengthening of our roots will gain new fruition on the huge true of Indian English literature. We must be aware that the promotion of indigenous themes in literature will not only enrich the literary treasure with fresh symbols and imagery but also make the local themes international as well as eternal which will also be a sort of sacred service to literature.


Narasimhaiah, C.D. An Inquiry into the Indianness of Indian English Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2003.
Parida, Shankarsan. The Golden Bird. Kolkata: Writers Workshop. (1991) abbreviated as G.B.
----. Segregation. Kolkata: Writers Workshop. (1996) abbreviated as Seg.
----, Shankarsan. The Next Valley Beyond the Stars. Kolkata: Writers Workshop. (2002) abbreviated as N.V.S.