Prayag Saikia is seemingly an easy poet; but he is not .The caravan of images in his Surya Katha keeps constructing thoughts of varied hues. Passion adored with simplicity, spontaneity, lexical plasticity and Sanskritised sonority delight the reader of Saikia’s poetic lines. These essential features reveal less the poetic style and jingle of words and more the spirit and subject of the poetic creation of Saikia. The subtle artistry of even the translators of his poems, with all their wealth of the linguistic, supra-segmental and situational equivalence have faltered at most of the places ,though their sincerity deserves all appreciation.
Surya is being and becoming, not hearing and acknowledging; for it the whole soul is changed into what it forms. Man is immortal ,If he persists in his search for Surya, the source of light:
The shutter of the camera closes.
The shutter of the mind opens.
[‘A flock of birds arrive to shroud the sun’]
The poet accepts the hard fact that Surya Katha varies with versions; it is a tangle of queer desire:
Some behold the sun with Kunti’s sight
Some with Karna’s
Some with Jayadratha’s
For some the sun is love
[‘Startled, a flock of birds take wing’]
When desire seeks to represent itself it has to do so in the face of multiple strategies of containment and denial ,strategies which indefatigably seek to frustrate any attempt at complete acceptance ,confidence and validity.
Surya Katha, tells of the Sun , is an ambitious project that artistically fuses art and poetry. It is a novelette in verse where ‘memory is the full moon’ and ‘there’ is darkness/Beneath the burning lamp of Pradip’:
I’m a pseudo-poet
Acquainted with none but Vyas
[‘Rhapsody of darkness’]
‘Bridge of Entity’ is about the entity as the ‘soul of the bridge’:
The bridge of entity
By the light of dawn
[‘Bridge of Entity’]
Solar deities are popular thought of as male counterparts of the lunar deity [usually female];however ,sun goddesses are found on almost every continent[e.g. Amaterasu in Japanase tradition].The earliest records of human beliefs say ,the early goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon had a sun above their head as a symbol of dignity. The Sun was a major aspect of Egyptian symbols and hieroglyphs. In the Vedas, numerous hymns are dedicated to Surya devta, the Sun personified. The ‘Gayatri mantra’, which is regarded as one of the most sacred of the Hindu hymns is dedicated to the Sun .Images of the Sun and light recur in the volume:
He goes through the names of the sun-gods
In different countries-
Apollo in Greece
Rha in Egypt
Liza in Africa.
[‘Here Comes the Sun’]
The Mahabharata describes its warrior hero Karna as being the son of Kunti and the Sun.The poet describes Karna as ‘hard to be born a Karna’:
Surya is our nearest god.
It’s easy to have it ,
But it’s hard to be born a Karna.
[‘Arupda, I’d Like to Have Few Snaps of Sunset’]
The Ramayana is about the protagonist Rama as being from the Surya Vansam or the clan of kings as bright as the Sun. The charioteer of Surya is Arun.
Writing is a means of creating a place in the world; the use of the personal voice and self-revelation are means self assertion. Saiki’a poems open areas in which previously genuine poetic emotions are expressed in ways which reflect the true voice of feeling ;he shows how an Indian poet can creat a space for himself in the public world. He brings a sense of locality in his poems:
I’m neither a bandit
Nor a poet
A fallen leaf from a wintry tree
Laden with words
[‘Season of dismay’]
A major concern in Surya Katha is Saikia’s perception of the conflicted nature of human life, i.e., the interconnection or synthesis of pain/joy, intensity of feeling/numbness of feeling, mortal/immortal, life/death, the real/the ideal, and separation/connection. Each human soul is potentially divine. Holiness is the highest summit of life and divinest power in earthly dress. There is a spiritual bend in Saikia’s poetic thoughts: Time says be a monk and beg for the sun.[‘Mica’]
Truth never resides with lust, fame and greed. Saikia is the explorer of Truth; the music of harmony in human life. At the same time, we must not forget Saikia’s artistic fusion of divine time with divine experience: The hues in thousands are bound for the nests, It’s the sunset hour. [‘A flock of birds arrive to shroud the sun’]
Realization of Sun God is potentially an experience which may be summed up as soul-making ,out of ‘countless tales from the antique Puranas.’ The poet focuses on immediate, concrete sensations and emotions, from which the reader can draw a conclusion or abstraction:
There’s no darkness
Beneath the burning lamp of Pradip,
There’s the light of the pyre.
[‘One of the Disciples of Prabhupada is Pradip’]
As a reader, we must follow the dreamer’s development or his lack of development from his initial response to the Surya to his final statement about the experience which remains ‘an unknown game’ of eternal space.
Mahim Bora has rightly observed that Surya Katha is ‘a significant move towards modern classic;’ the novelette in verse translated from Assamese to English .Krishna Dulal Baruah has done a stupendous task of translating Saikia’s verse into English. Text with allusions and mythological overtones is always difficult. The poet’s own translations of three poems demand special attention where the poet-translator involved himself in a rich linguistic decision process. Saikia satisfies the heart, he inspires and stimulates the thought. His poem purges, it transforms, it exalts us. We catch a spiritual glow as we read,we see before us the unfolding vision of glory beyond glory. Saikia is not a didactic poet; he leaves silent message in the mind of the reader. I can sprinkle ink
Not word [.][‘The Silent Message’].
Surya Katha by Prayag Saikia, translated by Krishna Dulal Baruah,New Delhi:Sanbun Publishers.
The Poet: Prayag Saikia has, till date, six collections of poetry, a novel, a short-story collection and a novelette in verse to his credit. His poems have also been published in Indian Literature, Chandrabhaga, Poet International, The Statesman’s festival issue, Chicago Poetry online anthology, Gulistan (literary journal of Uzbekistan) etc.