May 26, 2020
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In Shadows

Lyrical poems on life's futility

In Shadows
Shadow Space
By Jayanta Mahapatra
DC Books Rs 65; Pages: 82
TRYING to create a niche for himself in the shadows of the days gone by, Jayanta Mahapatra seems to lose sense of time in his poetry as he melodiously sways between the abundance of yester-years and the futility of life today.

Shadow Space is Mahapatra's 15th volume of poetry in English. The best poem is Possessions. The poet sighs in suppressed grief as he waits, ensconced in melancholy, for better times to come. Mahapatra glides from one thought to another and the reader is struck by the magnanimity of the vision. However, there lurks a fear at the dichotomy of the vision that was, that is, that should have been, and more important—that can be. "There is always a door open somewhere." The fate of India is compared to the illness and weakness of the human flesh and the spirit that inhabits it.

The writer floats images of death and illness so as to draw the reader into the ploy in which author and reader distance themselves from the present, view it as a necessity to be endured. There is no hope for better times to come nor solace in the present.

Written in blank verse, the poems move with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. Two radically divergent ideas are juxtaposed by a thread of melancholy, difficult, yet not impossible, to fathom. "I try to touch things. No one has yet come to turn on the lights." Probably the themes touched by Jayanta Mahapatra necessitate a treatment of a melancholy nature. For example, Waiting for the Summer of 1994, written after the rioting in India.

Interwoven with a stream of romanticism, the poems of Jayanta Mahapatra celebrate a yearning for the native land and memories of the good old days gone by. They revel in the fact that faith and hope get submerged under the debris of the ever-moving hand of time. What remains has no truth, is transitory and weak. An aesthetically well-constructed and thought-provoking anthology, bordering on the desolate and the forlorn. To be enjoyed in moments of solitude.

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