The Tribune - Spectrum

, September 15, 2002

A poet’s grief
R. P. Chaddah

Parting Wish — Poems
by Vijay Vishal. Writers Workshop. Rs 100.

THERE is a difference between solitude (which we all need) and being alone (when we fall prey to loneliness). In order to achieve the former, you tend to detach yourself from the world around you for a while; you need to overcome the dangers of isolating yourself by reaching out to people through your poems, if you are a poet. Parting Wish is one such collection of poems especially written to keep the memory of the poet’s wife afresh, ‘who smiled while alive and smiled out of poet’s life’ at a young age, leaving the poet with a blue chip of grief.

The book under review is Vishal’s second collection of verse, the first, Speechless Messages, appeared way back in 1992. This present collection is a bouquet of 36 poems — a rich blend of contemporary events, anecdotal wisdom, familial relationships, environmental imbalance, and muffled literary influences. Vishal writes from personal experience and his emotional memory works very effectively through this collection of verse.


The eponymous poem Parting Wish recollects in one single sweep all the good things that epitomised the persona of the poet’s wife—her deep devotion, her chaste emotion, her steel sincerity, a giver of joys... inching towards death, worried about the poet’s health. The poet could not help ending the poem with ‘A difference to me and mine’. The ending reminds one of the famous ending of one of Lucy poems of the nature poet William Wordsworth.

‘But she is in her grave, oh/The difference to me.’

Poems such as Contradiction, about wastage of paper, Corporate Living, about the togetherness of ants when faced with a difficult proposition, giving to the poet ‘a latent lesson/ in diligence/ and corporate living, and the poem Limit, about ‘Money is honey/ whose sweetness/ Bears the after-taste/ of diabetes, Speechless Message and Blue Balloon are other poems which break new ground and have something new to offer to the readers. Luckless Lass is almost the poetic rendering of the life and times of the courtesan Umrao Jaan, depicted beautifully in the movie of the same name by the inimitable artiste Rekha.

Gender Bias (sons are gold/Daughters are silver) has its sequel in the poem A Cycle. Mediocrity Mechanism, Rectification, Suicide Spree, Holi Hai, etc., are hardly the subjects tackled in the poetry of the 21st century. We have come far from the poetry of the likes of Sarojini Naidu. New Millennium, Fulfilment, To the Kargil Heroes bring to the fore the poet’s reaction to things contemporary.

The last poem, Searing Search is bogged down by the absence of precise connotations. The Miracle celebrates a new love and in the same breath the poet feels mired in misery and treachery. The poem echoes the many concerns the poet has dealt with in other poems more thoroughly. The poet tries to relive events in his life and is somewhat contented to round off the poem with ‘Dreams do blossom into realities/ Miracles do happen in life’.

Of the many poetic devices at his disposal, the poet opts only for the Swinburnian forced alliteration. A few would suffice:

‘Frivolous, foppish fashion fantasies;’ ‘Decked with dishes and delicacies;’ or, ‘Sunny, sandy shores,’ et al.

Somehow or the other, the feeling comes to mind that Vishal is too much into Hindi and Punjabi poetry. A case in point is a stanza from the poem Fair Encounter, which is self-explanatory:

A gem of injured merit/ Suffering with a smile/ Sensitive beyond sensitivity/ Her lapsing into loneliness/ Ah.

The book has an old-world charm in which facts of life have been given the format of poems, but the subjects Vishal writes about are hardly touched by modern poets of Indo-English poetry fed on the likes of Nissim Ezekiel, A. K. Ramanujan, or Jayanta Mahapatra. The book does not have the potential to go down well with the aficionados of modern English poetry.