At a time when the nation has been soaked in the spirit of elections in five States, noted author Mukul Kumar has decided to turn a new leaf with Catharsis , a collection of poetry launched in New Delhi recently. Having authored two well received novels, As Boys Become Men and Seduction by Truth , Mukul Kumar has surprised many of his readers by moving from the medium of stories to poetry.
Among those taken by surprise is the noted poet Sukrita Paul, who feels Mukul Kumar’s “poetic ventures will lend a reflective dimension to his fiction just as fiction writing seems to inform his poetry”.
“When a storyteller turns to poetry, the habit of his pen stretches the form of a poem to accommodate a narrative. Ideas flow in a sequence as in a story and there is also the presence of a character or two in the poem. His poem ‘Mr Das’ begins and ends as a story would, carrying the reader into its fold stanza after stanza, arousing the curiosity of the reader about what may happen next,” Sukrita Paul writes about the book. As for Mukul Kumar himself, he explains his transformation from being a fiction writer to a poet: “Of late, I have been predominantly writing fiction, but all the same, I gleefully find myself ever ready to respond to the knocks of poetry at my soul. Soul, yes, as I believe poetry springs straight from the soul, and hence it is pure and pristine. As the German poet Novalis says, ‘Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason’.”
Catharsis , edited by Payel Roy Chowdhury, comprises 52 poems encompassing myriad moods of life. All along they act as a mirror to the poet’s mind and provide a panoramic view of the crests and troughs of life. Take for instance, the poem titled, ‘A Bureaucrat Searches for the Poet’. Here Mukul Kumar, a civil servant by profession, writes about the struggle to balance an everyday, non-literary job with the urge to pen poetry. One calls for a stable head, the other for a flight of fancy. He writes, “I come back home from office/In the evening, and hurry my way into the bed hankering for the solitude/I switch off the light to illuminate the poet within/But it’s to no avail”.
Likewise, he expresses his thoughts about his mother. Of course, he cloaks it in generalities. But the intensity of expression says it all. He writes: “In this night of pain, a pair of hands on my fuming forehead which houses a mind ignorant of disease but in belief of the omnipotence of those hands weaving a convalescent sleep.”
Of course, Mukul Kumar transcends the immediate and personal to talk of life in general too. His words are particularly poignant when he writes about a generation gap between the old and the young. “The contrast between the old man who walks gently but firmly, and me who jogs briskly daily in the evening is double-edged. His heart, diseased but strong, has transmitted the tautness of his limbs to the stick the old man walks on.”
Or take the last poem in the collection. Titled ‘Loneliness’, here the poet expresses the angst left behind by writing, “Can you decipher the silence Abuzz with the unspoken words/Can you smell the presence of those who are absent?”
During the heat and din of elections and highly divisive debates on electronic media, ‘Catharsis’ may be the food you were looking for your soul. It is engaging in its understated ways.