Book Title: Drunk on Love: The Life, Vision and Songs of Kabir
Author: Vipul Rikhi
IT is always a delight to read a new book on Kabir, the poet-philosopher of early modern India. Kabir provides us with an opportunity to critically engage with the nature of self and self-awareness. Here the experiences of bhakti (devotion) in its everyday manifestations are not what orthodox religiosity has to offer in the name of the divine. Rather, the poet and philosopher in Kabir offer us the wisdom of love, subversion and resistance — all at the same time.
‘Drunk on Love’ by Vipul Rikhi, a bard of Kabir in our times, is an interesting and creative addition to the existing body of works on Kabir. Rikhi, who sings Kabir in his soulful voice apart from being a writer, poet, storyteller and translator, looks at Kabir from the perspective of folk tradition. He follows a people-centric approach to understand the nuanced meaning of love as a site of subversion and self-transformation. This Kabir of Rikhi is much needed to engage with neo-liberal ideologies of consumerism and hyper-masculine fundamentalism.
For Rikhi, Kabir is a poet and philosopher of creative and critical sensibility, who has turned the world upside down in his poetry of different canons. Rikhi underlines that Kabir belongs to everyone — the so-called knowledgeable and educated, as well as to those who are marked as ‘illiterate’. To know Kabir, one needs to deeply imbibe the profound meaning of love rather than having any formal knowledge. Due to the profoundness of love in Kabir, he has been discovered and re-discovered by people from all traditions — from seekers of the spiritual to those having faith in poetic-political resistance against injustices of all kinds. For the author, Kabir is the philosopher of our early modernity. There is fusion of tradition and modernity in his understanding of the complexities of life.
It is a joy to know Kabir once more through Rikhi. In an autobiographical mode, the author unravels his own journey with Kabir. He tells us how Kabir transformed him from being a ‘person of mind’ to another kind of being who is able to be fully present in the moment with his body, heart and mind. Thus, this book bridges the gap between university-oriented academic writings on Kabir and a Kabir of ‘Jan’, the folk tradition in South Asian context.
Many Hindi writers and scholars, including Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, have written about Kabir as a paradoxical thinker who questions the duality between self and other and creates a possibility of union between temporality and transcendence. Another interesting work by Purshottam Agrawal, a public intellectual and literary critic, presents Kabir as a poet and a philosopher of his own time (early Indian modernity), and his preoccupation with a critique of orthodox religiosity and its poetic and transformatory efficacy for the contemporary world that stands divided along the lines of religion, caste, gender and race. According to Agrawal, Kabir needs to be read as a philosopher and poet of ‘atma-khabar’ (self-awareness) and a critical thinker on the lines of Socrates and Gandhi.
Vipul’s Kabir, rooted in the ideas of Jheeni (Subtle), Ram, Guru, Identity/Duality, Upside Down and Surat Shabad, is as much about mysticism as about being up against the traditions of persecution. ‘Drunk on Love’ offers an opportunity to stop the ‘othering’ of fellow beings and live in harmony. This is a highly recommended book for anyone who wishes to participate in the odyssey of love, resistance and life.