Between Births:  Poetic Glory of Lakshahira Das

Dr. Dikshita Bhuyan

Lakshahira Das is reckoned as a poet of distinction in the realm of Assamese poetry. The former Head of the Department of Education, Gauhati University, she is a wellknown personality not only as an educationist but also as a singer, lyricist and a litterateur of outstanding caliber. Born in 1933, Lakshahira Das is one of the brightest luminaries in the cultural and literary world of Assam. Das is a bilingual women  poet “at the core of whose poetry lays a deep love for mother earth and who accepts and welcomes life with its scent, colour, sap and all pains and affliction” ( Sharma, quoted in Das, 1997). Her poems translated into English are published in Hem Barua’s Modern Assamese Poetry (1960). Her collection of poetry in English entitled Between Births was inaugurated in an international conference in Malaysia in 1990. A doyen of Assamese music, she is called the Sangeet Dipika of Assam. The recipient of Basanti Bordoloi Memorial Award as the best woman writer of the year 1995 from the Assam Sahitya Sabha, she is quintessentially the epitome of the Assamese woman, unmatched in grace and talent, and with a depth of human experience. A poet and singer par excellence, popular since the fifties, Lakshahira Das has been writing poems that contain profound understanding of life, pragmatic wisdom relevant for hard mundane living and also quixotic flavour of an idyllic world.            

Lakshahira Das

The poet in a solitary mood traverses alone a long way through the serpentine arcades of mundane life, characterized by acute alienation from the dear and near ones, but the singular stance of the individual with no umbilical cord with home, history or roots. In such time, an inconsolable sense of ennui pervades the inner plane of the poet’s soul. The ‘Green Conch’ for her is a longing that bursts forth with a sigh for the unrequited that rends apart her very being:

But the poet in her mature sixties has acquired a formidable guise around her; easy solidarity with comrades is rare in the ambience, perhaps everyone has cushioned a disguised identity, inside the stealthy indifferent shroud. In such a tortuous time, the only refuge for the poet lies in the verbal solitude of lines of poetry; the words that have given her the fire that purges her of the shackles of mundane trivialities.

This solitary soul is restive and forever seeking for a beckon that would not only illuminate the individual psyche and ethos but would serve the same purpose to the millions. The poet has mystified her artist soul’s urges giving expression to her feminine experience of worldly realities in many momentary impressions. Her stance is irrevocably linked with many and their suffering. The victims of ugly time and ugly demeanours lie suffocated, excruciated with agony. The poet constantly envisions the destitution of any oppression upon the women class:

The common sight of slaughter, the all pervading dance of death, piercing hatred and dismembered love deeply grieve the persona in the poet. For she knows and believes that “in everyone’s bosom is planted the pure rose of living.” (5) To give an expression to her superb lyric sensibility, the poet chooses images mostly from the nature which shows her sincere inclination towards her environment. She mingles the grace of the elements of ecology with the transaction in human life and her poetic sensibilities. The following lines of the poem ‘Lingering Light’ show her keen and subtle appreciation of the beauties of nature:

The expression of Lakshahira Das is concise and lucid. She is hardly ever diffuse or vague. Her love for nature is intense but she never burdens her poems with profuse descriptive passages. Aided by the gifts of accurate and vivid description as well as, brief and suggestive presentation she has succeeded in producing the very spirit of scene. Thus the second stanza of the above-mentioned poem presents an inextricable blending of landscape of her emotions:

She touches “the infinite darkness of cerebral anguish of doubt, understanding” and being oppressed. At this moment, the “songs from the magic flute, from some hidden source fills the air leaving the petals of poesy amidst crushed Rajanigandhas.” The poet reflects the death of innocence in the male dominated world where patriarchal/ masculinity is a symbol of cruelty and selfishness. She has depicted carefully the crisis, violence, sorrow and cruelty that ravage the land. Universal filial love and compassion for the sufferers and rejection of communal violence are her strong feminine virtues. She expresses despair and deep concerns over Nellie massacre of ninety eighties. Her heart goes out in compassion for the massacred innocent children caused by communal riot. Her sorrow finds expression in a horror-stricken lullaby that voices her protest attacking man’s senselessness and cruelty:

Disgusted with human indifference, she turns towards nature and seeks solace and comfort in her lap. In this poem, nature sympathizes with human sorrow and suffering. Here nature is presented as one of the sympathetic mourners over the death of innocent children.

Also read: Eco-feminist reading of Temsula Ao’s Poetry

At the core of Das’s poetry lies a deep love for mother earth. She welcomes life with its pain and pleasure. She feels that life is a lyrical spring of mellifluent. It is full of meaning and aspiration:

According to the poet, the charm and beauty of the world today have faded away and a gloomy, turbid and turbulent atmosphere encircles the whole universe. The purity and glamour of the earth have since been departed and disappeared. Yet the poet does not lose heart, the pessimistic cloud cannot block her. Though the poet has experienced a lot of sufferings due to the fact that the earth is losing its charm, yet the pleasure of living on this earth is the best consolation.

Also read: Jayanta Mahapatra as a Poet: Exploring the Essence of His Literary Legacy

In the later poems, the poet has expressed fervent passion in a more supple and imperative way in which she has depicted the ruthless society of the recent times. She has observed and experienced a colourless, charmless time on her living on the earth. The turmoil of the stormy scene presented by the perturbed and enraged treacherous epoch has besieged the colourful environment and demolished the beauty of the enchanting and pleasant surroundings. The noble and innocent are suffering from suffocation due to imminent danger from heart-rending gun-fire. Thus the poet laments at the burning of the paddy field heavy with ripening corn which is the abode of the poet.

In another poem ‘Debate’ the poet expresses her gratitude to nature for her blessings on mankind. Here the poet is skillful in concentrating her ideas into a few images filled in symbolic suggestion. She has expressed her views suggesting how important it is for us to keep a close relation with nature. Sometimes she is satiric of contemporary man’s recklessness for the rich biodiversity which is the variety of life on earth: genes, species and ecosystems. The services we use from ecosystems, such as fresh water, food, fuel and fibre, medicines, and climate control cannot be provided without biodiversity. Man’s failure to conserve and use biological diversity sustainable perpetuates inequitable and unsustainable growth and presents a world with ever more degraded environment. So she says:

In this poem, the poet points out at men’s refusal to recognize the everlasting chain which has tied the human being with nature as a result of which the earth becomes a land of spiritual sterility. She regrets at man’s foolish debates on the acceptance of the earth as it is:

The words like ‘fragrance’, ‘light’, ‘greenness’ present the poem as a poem of acceptance, affirmation and glorification of Mother Earth. It is rarely that the poems of this anthology address any one strain of thought, slotted in a particular mood. The poems are as different in form as in content and seem to embrace the varied experience of a highly introspective mind. ‘Children’ is a poem of happy mood which reflects the simple delights and joyful exhilaration of a child. The poet is filled with the raptures of her early years when she took delight in freedom and open air. Though she is now deprived of such pleasure, she thanks nature for her benign influence and believes that the impressions of her tender age amidst natural surrounding will prove to be a source of great comfort and happiness in her later life. She feels that nature is the charming gardener who makes her soul bloom. There is a sense of pride in her expression:

The imagery in the poem is carefully allowed to retain the wonder and gaiety of the child’s impressions of the ‘overflowing river’, ‘misty sunshine’, and the silent frolic of the budding ancient trees. With the passage of time, though making and remaking go on in nature continuously, the poet proclaims that nature with her beauty and bounty remain intact in her heart. This can be taken as a fine example of her ecological awareness to arouse men’s awareness and consciousness to protect the glory of nature.

Her easy flowing diction contains an internal rhythm that varies from smooth lyrical strain to vigorous consonantal trot. The tactile nature of her images presents an aura of solidity and concreteness. The suggestive diction brings the implication of a distant magic but natural world:

Another imagistic piece that is striking in its use of  metaphor is ‘Tezimola’ which is haiku-like in meter and syllabic composition.

The culture specific response to a poem like ‘Tezimola’ does not debar alien readers from comprehending the inherent pathos and the note of deep anguish ín the poem.

Thus, the English poems of Lakshahira Das in Between Births are of myriad varieties, as the poet plays on a whole gamut of feelings and emotions like love, anxiety, death, passion, love-hate relations, hopes, frustrations and anger. She has used the aesthetics of ecology to make a verbal exploration of her vision.

Dr. Dikshita Bhuyan is a young critic and poet and an Assistant Professor of English, Madhabdev University, North Lakhimpur, Assam.

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