Delving deep into darkness
Reviewed by Rajbir Deswal

The Chaotic Age
By Dr Balbir Singh.
Omega Publications. Pages 90. Rs 150.

The present anthology of poems laments the travails, turmoils and tribulations of present times, woven into a frilled treatise, embroidered with pangs and pains, flowing from the pen of the author, and breaking free only to allow some nostalgia of the eras gone by, and wilfully forgotten. Balbir Singh celebrates life sans lifelessness, in a kind of chaos and crisis—of faith, honesty, righteousness, beauty, trust, aesthetics, compassion and social and humanistic concerns.

"The collection has enough range in its kitty: recounting the fate of, as innocuous a thing as an earthworm, a hare, a mermaid or even a creeper; harping on extinction, priorities, evil, freedom, loving and longing; and delineating in detail the fate of shepherds, factory workers, haves and have-nots. There is a certain exploration explicit in Balbir’s works when he delves into ‘darkness’; sends a message from his ‘cocoon’ or even when he bids ‘good bye’.

This reviewer finds the author giving best treatment to his sinking in various shades of darkness and all things relating to murky, gloomy and seamy side of, not largely the human beings’ mindset but the predicaments they are placed in.`A0The author is merely a commentator and does not sit in judgement or being on the counselling spree even of a type of voyeurism.

The first poem, Power and Boundaries, in four parts spells the grammar out for the rest to follow, in meaning business of life.`A0But the power of "Rapt bodies grapple in ecstasy" and "Faces breathing against flushed faces/red cheeks, quivering lips`85!"`A0The power of "Burning fire for mad revenge" and "Power grabbed for more might".`A0

The poet also laments the "Psyche of a race hurt beyond repair ..." and "There is not such thing on earth as unbridled liberty`85!" But the poet hastens to add, "Even the Maker is bounded in holy plan/by the sacred laws of Heaven", when he completes his thought process and clinches the issue, almost with a feisty blow of his pen-power, in all its subtler and sterner nuances.

He observes all through, and makes his punches unobtrusively manifest which are mostly one- and two-liners.`A0Sample some: (i) All must return to dust. (ii) Everything does not depend on the refinement of the decoration (iii) `85only life ends, (iv) O’ for a club of crude power, (v) What will humanity mean then?`A0What does it mean now, anyway?`A0`A0(vi) `85 the powerful stub of my fancy, (vii) let us mark our place, (viii)`A0Evil is dressed in the guise of good/like a concubine in bridal attire (ix) Life spent only in labour, for others, (x) What a life we lived, (xi) `85 parts hidden to expose more/infusing blood in naked desires.

This reviewer’s favourite remains, however, Embracing Nature when standing under a lush green flexible plant, he exclaims, "... drooping flowers/shaking like a sweet-sixteen/bent shyly with its own beauty/dangling its earrings/ then raining them on me/ so profusely, liberally/ like the benedictions of a noble saint/ready to abate/ the pains of ailing humanity." Here he comes fairly close to Walt Whitman in his delineation of the claims, counter claims and ultimate blending, binding, assimilation and oneness of body and soul.

Being a teacher of English, the author allows impressions and influences from various poets in his style when the stamping is abundantly apparent in his works, but he is all through aware of native sensibility.