Dr. R. C. Shukla (b. April 7, 1943) is a well-known poet of Modern India. Though he has been writing poems in English for the last forty years, his first collection of English poems entitled Darkness at Dawn (1990) came very late. His second anthology entitled A Belated Appearance was published by Writers Workshop in 2000 and after that came his other anthologies- Depth and Despair (2001), My Poems Laugh (2002), The Parrot Shrieks (2003) and The Parrot Shrieks 2 (2005). “An admirer of T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Shiv K. Kumar, Jayanta Mahapatra and Kamala Das; Dr Shukla, with his ambitious plans to contribute to the growth of Indian poetry in English, has endeavoured to distinguish himself with his communicative skills, his rich and new imagery and experimental forms of expression.”1
Dr. Shukla is a poet who tries to explore lover’s point of view in his anthology The Parrot Shrieks 2. The poet uses a man’s bioscope to see and observe the unopened layers of a lover’s heart and mind in this anthology. He also plunges into the psychology of a woman to understand her mystic personality and its resultant effect on the lover who is the poet himself. This doesn’t mean he only ponders over the world of a woman; he through his vivid imagination also takes us to the world of man in love in his own way. Therefore, every poem of this poet is a unique experience in itself and gives a clear picture of the lover and his beloved in the form of monologue. His poems also depicts that woman is Maya- “the mysterious world of Maya” (25), which is a riddle for him; not only for him for all the people of this planet as he thinks: “Without any bias or prejudice, my experiences and observations coupled with my readings have led me to the conclusion that a woman is a great riddle ever to be really understood by a man however enlightened he may claim himself to be.”2 One can make strenuous efforts to solve this riddle, but no avail; it would become more complex as time passes. In spite of that this riddle or Maya in the form of his lady love keeps him engaged throughout his life. He reverberates:
My eyes are my support
I aspire to drink you again and again
The desire that has an end is no desire at all. (13)
This endless desire of the poet for his lady love is just like “the rain without clouds” (13). In spite of that he has great hope to meet her again and lead fuller life as some day she would come to vivify the “silent waters” (13) of his soul. It seems that he is anxiously waiting for her- not for physical union but for the union of the souls. And the union of the two souls would fulfill his ultimate craving for everlasting joy or ‘Anand’. But there is a problem in this process i.e. the lover has the impression that his meeting with her would be possible only in dreams as his lady love remains stubborn in her response to him.
The poet thinks that a female does not understand a man’s feelings and always lives in a different world of her own. It is not always true. Sometimes lack of communication or the right expression also gives the same feedback to him. Perhaps this is the reason due to which only the lover loses his lady love. The lady love is where she is. And she is where the lover could not physically reach at. The whole tragedy of this relationship comes this way, which clearly indicates that there is no mutual bonding between the two. And it creates doubts and uncertainties in the heart and mind of the poet:
All these years
The most precious years of my life
I traversed through uncertainties
Doubts and through disbeliefs. (21)
This doubt is also with the poet in “the religion of love” (21), the religion which he loves utmost. This seems controversial but not as such it is. It is only because he is “churning without any pause” (20) due to the unexpected departure of his lady love. He says:
He does not blame his beloved; he blames himself for this: “Poet / you chose to be wounded… Your separation is complete” (28). And it is his goodness that he prays for himself and for her in spite of her unexpected leaving.
The poet is not always negative in his approach to the image of a woman. It is his failures or dissatisfaction that leads him to such conception. At a place, he gives full credit to a woman (his beloved) considering her ‘the most meaningful thing’, ‘a rose of distinction’, and ‘a perfume beyond praise’ (25) for him. It is his desire that sometimes becomes sick and he starts thinking negatively and it is again his desire that becomes pleasant and he starts thinking positively. It seems that he is led by his desire or craving not by his mind and soul and when he uses his mind and soul he perceives the truth:
My desire grew sick
It lost appetite
Went on growing thinner and thinner
And ultimately for want for your care collapsed.
Then, under the umbrella of truth
I suddenly learned that the sunlight walks
Without any sound
And the sky is not blue as it appears. (26)
The lover-poet comes to know that Maya cannot diminish the aura of truth. Where there is truth, there is no pain, no suffering and no shadow of Maya itself. Here he gets somewhat peace in the journey of his life. The realization of truth is possible only when one peeps into one’s soul. This is a kind of satisfaction one can achieve in such adverse circumstances.
This was a moment where one can see the lover at rest or at peace. But this is not the permanent thought of the poet. The poet again speaks about emotional bankruptcy and insensitivity from the side of his lady love:
I was at a loss
When I found no wave in your eyes
No fervor in your looks. (34)
And, therefore, he is forced to conclude her feelings for him:
All your statements were merely advertisements
And those healing sentences
Merely toys for innocent children to play. (34)
His poetry shows that there is lack of will power in the lady love as she does not convert her thoughts into words. He feels that reticence is armour of a lady and through this weapon she can hide her intentions and at the same time she can hurt other’s self.
Despite all the contradictions and intricacies of the relationship, the poet feels that the existence of his lady love is his identity. He is incomplete without her. His life is meaningless without her. For him his own name has no importance without her. And it is she who makes his identity- his life complete and this completion would help him in achieving bliss in his life:
I loved you to celebrate myself
To vindicate my concept
To distinguish myself
In the crowded world. (41)
The poet admits that the lady plays the role of a navigator to him as she not only inspires him but also gives him strength to accomplish his task. He accepts:
I write poems not for renown
They are for you
To inform you
How you inspire
And how in the afternoon of life
Your appearance reminds
The rising of the sun….(41)
The poet differentiates the personality of man and woman. He thinks that a woman always wins ‘the game of love’ (46) as she has the great ‘amulet’ as forbearance and through it she conceals her inner desire or in a way she can divulge everything, whereas a man is impatient by nature and discloses everything before the world without any delay. He says:
Woman’s great amulet is her forbearance
She successfully hides
The skin of her desire
She is never in a hurry to divulge herself. (46)
This is a big difference between man and woman and it is this difference which creates barriers to the smooth flow of relationship between the two. At times, the poet leaves no stone unturned to criticize both the parties- man and woman. He thinks that most of the women are clever like fox and most of the men are greedy like dogs:
Woman, most of them,
Belong to the fox
While men are obsequious, greedy dogs
Wagging their tails
To the hope of a bone. (46)
The poet is of the opinion that his writing poems and loving his lady love lead him nowhere. His poems consumed his imagination and his patience is collapsed by the woman and he finds himself a man having no importance in the eyes of his lady love. Therefore, he loses his faith:
The poems consumed my fancy
And the woman my patience
And I’m still the same
The insignificant one. (47)
It is here the poet reaches at climax and his words resemble the words of P. B. Shelly: “Our sweetest songs are those which tell us of our saddest thoughts.”3 He becomes a philosopher. He feels that love and pain are two parts of the same coin i.e. life. These two are the part and parcel of life better than a married couple. He states:
Love and anguish walk hand in hand
They remain clubbed
Better than those wedded. (49)
This pain becomes severe when he is alone. “Shukla feels and comprehends with a tremendous force the impact of loneliness and isolation that can corrode an individual and lead him very often to the brink of despair.”4 Though loneliness leads one to despair, it, according to the poet, is splendid as it gives him an opportunity to contemplate and write something creative:
A poet’s loneliness is splendid
It is something poetical
Others lonely persons cannot contemplate.
This creative writing gives him peace and satisfaction. “The excessive burdens on him, the too much frustration in his life compel him to take recourse in the creative world where he finds solace and satisfaction.”5 After this contemplation he finds the way:
You are Maya
It is through this Maya
Through this illusion that
I shall find my way. (97)
The poet believes that a true relationship ‘springs from within’ and honesty and loyalty is its base. Virtues are leaves of the tree (life) and one has to protect one’s leaves from the coming storm:
Relationship springing from within
Is necessity of a soul
Unless honesty is our guide
And a heightened sense of loyalty may instruct. (53)
Then, the cravings of a soul are heard by another soul engaged with the first one, the period of that hearing can produce bliss or ‘Anand’ or the time comes when the two souls unite, it would also generate ecstasy in those lovers. This is what the poet craves for the rest of his life on this earth. He accepts it thus:
If my soul craves for you
And if the intimation reaches you in time
The duration of communication
Can offer us ‘Anand’
Nothing on this earth can. (89)
To sum up, the shrieks of the parrot are in a way the cravings or desires of the lover who shares his painful experiences with the readers and through his expressions the readers come to know about his cravings i.e what he expects from his lady love and how his expectations break down and how the lady love comes in his life and how she departs him on some day and how he controls himself through writing poems and what was his intention behind this love. He wanted to win his lady love not physically but mentally and this winning would result in the union of two souls for getting bliss or ‘Anand’ through the realization of the self.
R.C. Shukla. The Parrot Shrieks 2. Kolakata: Writers Workshop, 2005.
R.C. Shukla. “About the Author” in The Parrot Shrieks 2. Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 2005, 04.
R.C. Shukla. “Forward” in The Parrot Shrieks 2. Op.cit., 04.
P.B. Shelley: Select Poems. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2001, 67.
Dr. Riju Pawar. Diasporic Experiences and Human Relations in the Poetry of R.C. Shukla. Meerut: A.B.S.K.M. Publications, 2008, 23.