Bulldozer, Destruction and Beyond

When the bulldozers,  ruthlessly knocking down shanties, flattening land and maiming the helpless occupants, jeered by an enthusiastic crowd, create a carnival-like atmosphere, poetry resists the brutal and unrelenting onslaught.

Shafey Kidwai

At a time when the indispensable gadget for development and the widely used equipment of peacetime, the Bulldozers eclipse the extermination trail of the tanks and machineguns while actualizing the dictates of a state that relentlessly unleash a reign of terror on the marginalized and dispossessed section of the citizens, poetry can not be a politically inert act.    When the bulldozers,  ruthlessly knocking down shanties, flattening land and maiming the helpless occupants, jeered by an enthusiastic crowd, create a carnival-like atmosphere, poetry resists the brutal and unrelenting onslaught.

The ever-present apparatus for instilling mass fear impels poetry to work out from the realm of literary aesthetics to create a bond of solidarity with victims. By invoking human consciousness and creating an intellectual bulwark against the sinister designs of the power that–be poetry makes things happen. It invalidates  W.H.Auden’s dictum, “poetry does not make anything happen”.

The scourge of violence and hatred prompts it to get along with Linda Hutcheon, who describes the role of poetry in modern times as primarily political and, for her poetry, cannot but be political. The dominant narrative of othering and demonization poetry directly opposes the values of cultural subjugation. It becomes an act of calling out and talking back to inhuman forces. In moments of peril, it builds solidarity that raises collective consciousness against state suppression.

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 It is what has been nuancedly articulated by the Avant-grade literary online Hindi magazine   Samalochan which brought forth two consecutive issues of bulldozer poems. The editor Arun Dev, a celebrated Hindi poet, meticulously availed the creative dexterity of a plethora of Hindi poets committed to various ideologies and literary sensibilities ranging from social realists,  formalists, sceptical, agrarian, impressionist, imagist,  and postmodernists to feminists to initiate a meaningful dialogue against the strong-arm tactics and intimidation.   The carefully chosen and brilliantly rendered poems,  having occasional traces of rhetorical flourish,  fill the denuded space with a world graced by a passion for equality and an abiding concern for the shared legacy. The poems launch a scathing attack on the undeclared war against helpless citizens and explore the possibility of social mobilization turning attention to macabre events censored in the media. They facilitate our participation in the lives of sufferers while displaying the horrors of terrible events. The evocative and sharp-witted poems, some of them laconic, discursive and even unfinished, expose us to the malady of the quotidian, and we feel so engrossed with people leading a life of deprivation.   The depiction of the truth of the moment broadens our perspectives on the nefarious design of governance.

The first issue editorial mentions that a bulldozer is no longer a handy gadget, but it has become the most visible symbol of arrogance of power. Arun dev makes a strong plea for forestalling its march immediately; otherwise, it will grow into a tank. The prophecy turns true, and now it resembles a tank. The special issue is astutely edited by the prominent poet Vijay Kumar, for whom the Bulldozer comes suddenly, and it roots out every trace of human construction, memories and finer points of life. Destruction is its sole object which is also the clinching argument of power. Poetry is the antidote to the cruelty that accompanies the Bulldozer. Vijay rightly points out that poetry takes the life to another platform to save it from untimely and violent death. Poets seek to preserve something from annihilation, how and what to keep; poetry knows very well. Time flows, and words used in poetry stay back after the disappearance of the bulldozers.

The American poet laureate  Stanely Kunitz (1905-2006) personifies the Bulldozer as a philanderer male drunk with gasoline who forces himself on the woman. Women share a lot with earth, and they are the object of plunderage. Many Hindi poets perceive the Bulldozer differently; the first issue of Samalochan begins with a candidly layered poem by Rajesh Joshi, who finds a distinct resemblance between the Bulldozer and the eccentric ruler. His poem  Bulldozer reads, “Have you seen a bulldozer? It closely resembles the brain of an eccentric ruler/ Who never ponders/  it requires just command/ it unleashes all-round destruction /When the eccentric ruler comes out from his dreamy world/ the country gets reduced to debris/ The eccentric ruler tries to stand on the debris/ But he had lost his spinal cord / He seeks to laugh loudly/ The Bulldozer knocked down his jaw, and all teeth/ the bulldozer recognizes none!

Robert Francis(1901-1987), an American poet, quaintly discusses the etymology of the word bulldozer. It is bull by day and dozes by night. It  symbolizes unbridled power, and for Arun Kamal, the distinguished Hindi poet,  it dozes all the time but never relinquishes its power of destruction. Arun  vividly captures the moments of imaginary  introspection  of   the Bulldozer that recalls, “Now  neither moves the wheels, nor the jaw/Grass grew around the wheels and ants made it their abode/ The teeth of jaw got broken down where squirrels  play/ In my time I have uprooted innumerable huts and colonies/  The slowest moving, and the deadliest weapon/ once a child left buried while asleep  in his cradle/  I often think why someone comes before me/ had there been ten persons   gathered my iron would have but have to return  transformed into glass/ Only once a courageous  and unarmed  lady stood up !/ I have to stop, helpless and weakness loom large over me/ I don’t know how to turn back but have to return  Breaking is  esay but constructing  is too tricky /, I wish I were an earthen vehicle

Vishnu Nagar, another prominent poet, opines that the Bulldozer represents an ideology that inhales all the dread with its noise. Vijay Kumar, another influential, takes recourse to ironic posturing and finds the very existence of marginalized and poor people is illegal,  thier hunger and thirst, joys and sorrows, their wish for a roof before leaving the world all need to be repudiated with disdain. The Bulldozer can do it with remarkable ease.

A widely admired poet Leela Dhar Mandloi composed two poems, Bulldozer in the Ramdan and Bulldozer; Remembrance of Tulsi’s Ram. He asserts that the Bulldozer’s driver is an autocrat who is heartless and thrives on cruelty.

 Krishna Kulpati’s take is quite different; who says that Bulldozer can not do any harm to Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Gorakh Dham, Kashi Vishwanath temple and Jama Masjid. It can only ruin the poor. This aside, the two issues carry 28 sensitively rendered poems by Madan Kashyap, Sudhir Saxena, Vimal Kumar, Priya Darshan, Sanjay, Praful  Sheldar, Sharad Kokas, Basant Tripathi, Mahesh Verma, Keshav Tiwari, Adnan Kafeel Darvesh, Avinash Mishra, Fareed Khan, Sandhya, Seema Singh, Achutanand Misra, Anoop Sethi, Bhodi Satitav, Vinod Shahi, Swapil Srivastava, Hubnath and Arun Dev. It is a veritable creative resistance against hatred. Eminent poet and author Ashok Vajpai rightly observes that many Hindi poets stand up against lies, cruelty, destruction hate and fear. Their intervention assures us that the literature has not been forgotten; it is recording, speaking the truth and not frightened at all.

Shafey Kidwai is a bilingual critic and teaches at  Aligarh Muslim University

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