In a serious attempt to deconstruct the Green and Memory of the poet Huzaifa Pandit, Shabir Mir discovers a stylish poet’s ornate craftsmanship of a deft and subtle artist, a voice to look forward to
Huzaifa Pandit’s poetry collection Green Is The Colour Of Memory was in fact selected by Rhythm Divine Poets as the winner of their 2017 Poetry Chapbook Contest.
The title, Huzaifa himself confesses, is a line borrowed from Randhir Khare’s eponymous poem and it immediately draws attention. Green and Memory are the two keywords here. While it is tempting to yield to the deceptively simple connotation of these two words and by extension read Huzaifa’s poetry in the same vein-poetry of nostalgia and reminiscences- but that would just be a semantic travesty as well as a syntactic tragedy because neither Memory nor Green is straightforward in Huzaifa’s poetry.
Let us first consider the Memory’ part of it.
Huzaifa’s Poetry steeps itself overwhelmingly in Memory. His poetry appears to be his medium to reengage with memories and to reclaim them; sample these:
I will ask the snoring cobbler to stitch,
the skeleton of my poem with threads of my memory
(At a seminar on Agha Shahid Ali)
Here I am an old man,
Waiting for the warm day to sink,
At the rusted gates of the old cemetery crafted in my memory.
The poems in this collection are replete with such preoccupation with memories or as Huzaifa himself puts it, with, Vomiting of Memory. But this ‘Memory’ is not a simple case of nostalgia or bitter-sweet reminiscences of times bygone or even a mature reconsideration of one’s past but the Memory here is rather a complex construct. The Memory of Huzaifa is a conundrum that he himself is trying to solve and poetry is his medium for working out a solution:
Stay puzzled a while-,
I will multiply
reality by fantasy divide it in time and space.
Bear with me a while
I will soon vomit memory.
(At the mental hospital Srinagar)
And an attempt at solution of this puzzle brings us to the second keyword – Green. The Green we come across in these poems is definitely not the classic Green of envy or jealousy. It rather is Green as in raw, fresh: an unhealed wound. And when one considers how Green has become an objective-correlative of a definite Historico-political substratum in Kashmir, Huzaifa’s Green metamorphoses into a mythologized metaphor. Nothing explains it better than these lines:
Time, it whispers, was crucified,
when lips were sealed in three colours
and the nation collided with its destiny.
(Afternoon at Golay Hall)
Although Huzaifa does acknowledge the other hues of his Memory- Yellow, Grey or Red (as he points out in the poem Sketches from Memory) – it is the ‘Green Memory’ that predominate his poetry. And he understands this helplessness of his against such skewing of his memory:
What would I scheme
when the fidgety ash of an ill spent decade
rebels against the yawning poet who writes
with wrenched twigs on baked clay?
(The Mad Book Thief)
But there is no escape from this helplessness; from this Green Memory. There is no Azaadi: because in a convoluted alchemy of time and circumstances the Memory of Huzaifa has become Memory of Kashmir and vice versa:
We wake to midnight news:
shall forthwith be considered a state enemy.
A memory of a raw, painful, unhealed history that is reinforced cruelly everyday on the streets. How can one escape from a history that is repeated everyday?! What else can then a poet write but this:
We wrote back
An ember breeds in our ancestral mouths
when cold minutes prey on a mutilated memory.
We wrote that this fire also feeds on our caned bones.
(Letters to Azaadi)
Often, on cold grainy mid-nights the flag of your memory unfurls on the mast of tedious death.
The doctor says hysterics suffer from reminiscences.
(Dreams at Midnight)
The anger arising from such helplessness does not lead Huzaifa to an outrage or high dramatics. It rather infuses into his poetry as black humor; it sharpens his verses into biting satire and devastating irony:
The very old theatric microphone
bows to old departmental academic claps
the speaker stammers American-Cashmere
an idea strikes my mind, a feeling arises in my heart
In the near future
I may explore the country without computerized post offices
for undelivered orgasms of chaste epistemology
In simpler words I will seek truth like Buddha
in even simpler words, I will doze on expensive plastic chairs
be robbed of nightmares and thank overcrowded university conference rooms
I have forfeited my dogmas
surrendered every charade of a plan.
I have sworn via costly affidavits before
their Lordships: I won’t atone my sins.
Yet, every night, Master, my throat refuses to howl.
I ache for a sip of warm blood.
(His Master’s Voice)
Now coming to the overall style of Huzaifa’s poetry, Nabina Das in her wonderful introduction to these poems points it out so succinctly: “The language in this book is startling, and the emotions delicate. Like Shahid Ali, Huzaifa’s central style is ghazalesque, although he writes free verse deftly.”Per se there are only two poems in this collection, A Ghazal For Zahid and BUHU ush Sings An Elegy For Kashmir which maintain an outward structure of a Ghazal (to some extent) but ironically these two poems are the least ghazelesque of all the poems in this collection. Not because structurally they maintain no kaafiya but only radeef (English Ghazals have by and large done away with behr) and they have no Matla or Maqta proper but more importantly they are nowhere near that self-gazing, in-vocative voice that Huzaifa so effectively uses in the rest of ‘free-verse, non-ghazal’ poems.
The voice that is so beautifully on display in poems like Getting Lost In Pune or in Testimony in February. In such poems Huzaifa the poet separates himself from Huzaifa the subject of his poetry (and repository of his Green Memories) and gazes upon the latter with such sadness and longing as the Ghazal Masters of yore did visa vis their beloveds. And this is precisely what renders such poems with an air of ghazelesque. Whenever and wherever such instances appear the poetry of Huzaifa Pandit invests itself with an ornate craftsmanship of a deft and subtle artist although it must be said that at times the verses do appear crumbling under the overload of the emotions-meanings they are trying to carry. Such a flaw is predominantly an outcome of the restraint that Huzaifa so precociously tries to maintain.
All in all, Green is the Color of Memory is a promise that Huzaifa makes with his readers and if the promise is kept Kashmir has a voice to look forward to.poet