The Poet of Celebrated Despair

Edward Cummings, an American poet, states “Well, write poetry, for God’s sake, it’s the only thing that matters.” Having said that I have, off late, been reading John Elia, not because his poetry is the only thing that matters but his poetry places you in a context of life that matters and concerns you the most today.  John Elia is so idiosyncratic, unparalleled and excitingly engaging a poet that one is exposed to a whole new experience as a reader of his poetry. His poetry is deconstructive and militant because it not only breaks, questions and splits to pieces traditional modes of thought and experience but ushers a world where  perceptions are new, thoughts are unique and feelings different. His some aspirations and dreams are strange, his delight and pain is not what is felt by us and  his intellectual adventures transcend the boundaries known to us. At the same time his expressions and questions are not only individualistic but they are cosmic and universal in nature and spirit. John through his poetry puts across a belief that world is a state of existence which has nothing to offer than hopelessness, disillusionment, pain, separation , absurdity and loneliness . It is a world where one is made to chant “Dil-e-nakaam mai kahan jawu? / Ajnabi sham mai kahan jawu?”.

His world is a stage where drama of despair, darkness and desolation of mind and heart is enacted and human beings play as characters for the same. In this world he has lost his expectations and hope of love, loyalty and human association.

He writes: 

“wo shaks abhi tak kar raha hain wafa ka zikir/ Kaash us zubaan daraz ka munh noch le koi”, .

However John Elia is not ready to surrender his self fully to this hopeless world  and cosmic brutality affecting people and he is not content in shedding tears and beating chest as a helpless victim. His job remains to fight back and make the pain pleasurable, celebrate separation, beautify ugliness and welcome despair pervading around. His only delight lies in delighting hatred, defeat and tragedy so much so that he desires and waits for getting scattered and being broken .He writes,

 ” Mai khud ye chahta hu ki meri halat kharab ho/Mere Khilaf Zehar ugalta phire koi”. If world by nature is made to break up your relationships, puncture the promises you make with each other and challenge the unity and associations of life we, as per John Elia, can at least try to keep bitter and possible impacts of it away from us ,as he states :

“Naya ek rabt paida kyoun karain hum ,

Bichadhna hai to jagdha kyun karain hum”.

Apart from that his poetry also features a satire and criticism against our social, political and moral corruptions witnessed around. His observations and experiences arouse in him a protest which is simultaneously a lamenting cry on the disorder and corruption of social and moral life and implicit advice to plug the loopholes existing around. His verse “jo raynayi nighaoon kay liye saman-i- jalwa hain/ Libas-i-muflisi mai kitni baikeemat nazar aati hai” , represents how our psychological and emotional aspects are conditioned in a society which is grounded in class distinctions and economic divisions. It can also be read how class consciousnes dictates our choices and interests furthering the alienation of already alienated or marginalized segments of society. The verse “Nizam-e-daulat k Pinjhaye  Drasht-o-khonain Sharu He se/ Fareebi Qanoon wa Aman ki Aaad Main Chupay Hain, Chupay Rahe Hain” presents  a stark revelation how capitalists and economic masters of exploitation stay hidden under the blanket of law ,democracy and peace in this world. It shows how Superstructure of society comprising laws, politics, culture and education is built as a deceptive tool to cement the building of economically dominating class and exploit the weaker sections. As G B Shaw writes in his essay “Freedom”, “The people who have the power, ‘the master classes’ do their best to create a sense of false comfort in the minds of those without power. The institutions like the Parliament, schools and the newspaper are leveraged for the purpose”. John Elia not only depicts how certain segments of society are subjugated, deceived and forced to exist at the margins by ruling elite ,he also instructs victims to rise, wake up, decide their fate and fight for their dignified survival. He calls for revolution and encourages people to register their role in liberating themselves and breaking shackles of social, politics or economic discriminations. In a typical Faiz way he powerfully jots down, “Zameen hashar uthaye gi zulum k khilaf/ Ye khoon chup na rahega ,ye khoon bolega”.

John Elia is so comprehensive and broadened in his subject of poetry that we see in him religious, absurdist, moralist and Marxist character one at the same time. His appeal is diverse and extensively enlarging that our ailments of intellectual, emotional, moral and political life are duly expressed and addressed. The ironical part is John Elia’s readership is growing in contemporary times but his poetry is not explored and evaluated on broader lines by considering his multi faceted issues that he deals with. There is dire need to see and read him from multiple perspectives and stop tagging him in any organized and institutionalised thought process. He has no institution or school to imprison himself in. He is much more what meets our eye and ears. I end my colum with these verses from John :

“Kya hain, Ghar Zindagi ka bas nahi Chala,

Zindagi kab kisi k bas mai hain”

Tabish khursheed is a freelance columnist from Anantnag.