Views of Critics


Aju Mukhopadhyay’s Poems as viewed by the Critics



“Romantic in spirit, formidable in his defence of true ecological ethics, and a profound lover of Nature, the remarkable outpourings of the widely acclaimed Aju Mukhopadhyay are simply pregnant with yearnings for a better world, a world where peace, fellowship and justice can be universally established, and where Man shall realize his designated stewardship within the natural order of Creation. During my many years of interaction and closeness of association with a rapidly expanding Indian-English small press poetry network across the major extent of such a vast sub-continent, it is hardly surprising that the works of this enigmatic, forceful writer had not previously been known to me, but of a certainty, here is an Indian thinker of high-mindedness and integrity, a poet whose philosophical utterances not only have international appeal and relevance, but exude also an enlightened resolve to be heard and duly responded to. . . .

“There is music, too, within Mukhopadhyay’s poetry, for besides the lyrical quality of his work in general, I was drawn to his delightful poem, ‘Of Melody, Rhythm and Meaning’, as he delves into what may be discovered at the very heart of musicality: . . .

“ – A superb poem (‘The Uncivilised’), delivered with mounting passion and authoritarian zeal, in the writer’s crusading appeal for tolerance and justice in a world largely consumed by greed and aggrandizement of the individual, or whoever is powerful enough to actively encourage such monstrous circumstances . . . . But without a doubt, one of the most impressive poems to be found in this multifarious selection is  is his purely lyrical, mantra-like soliloquy in praise of Peace, as this poet, in so many ways, tells, with constant use of simile and metaphor, of the wonderful nature of Peace. However, and very much by contrast, in yet another of his poems, ‘We are at Nuclear War’, he warns with fearsome clarity of the impending horrific effects of a widespread Nuclear attack and its consequential major scale of destruction, should this terrifying awesome threat not be sidelined and hopefully dismantled. Aju Mukhopadhyay is an excellent poet of profound didactic capabilities. His philosophy of life is distinctly morally sound and, from a literary point of view, really quite admirable. It is greatly to be hoped that this fine opus will soon be acquired and absorbed by many like-minded readers, litterateurs and fellow poets.”

(Review of Insect’s Nest and other poems by Bernard M. Jackson – International Writer and Critic /England)



“The poet concerned is a patriot who likes the diversity of his country. He appreciates the cultural, linguistic, topographical, and behavioral homogeneity of India. In the poem India the Mother, he describes India in its totality and in the meantime, criticizes the foreign intruders and rulers; ridiculing their sense of superiority and saying them ‘pseudo-civilized people’. . . .

There is an undercurrent of intuitive philosophy in the poems of Aju Mukhopadhyay. But, the philosophical notes are not like heavy lashes on mind. Those are delicate like morning dew and penetrate deep into the heart, appealing the mind as well.

“The modern man is surrounded with so many problems. Nothing he finds congruent with his own. He fights every moment for identity, remark, livelihood, esteem and lastly self-actualization; a far-fetched need to be fulfilled. Deaths before Death pictures such a modern man. Longfellow in one sense practically says to bury the past but past is not always to be buried. It has relations with present. It acts as a mentor too, to go ahead without hurdles. Aju signifies it:”

(Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood: An Anthology of Assorted Poems By Manoj Kumar

Pathak, Editor, writer and critic, Jameshedpur, India)

“I finished the book ‘Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood’ with a sense of wonder. Aju is a poet and a conservationist. For a while he took me right away from Australia and not only into his world – of which I feel deplorably ignorant – but on a universal journey. This he has achieved in a language not that of his birth, but learnt later as ‘Indian English’. I was able to get some feel of India, that complex, beautiful and mysterious country. I share his pain at the dangers that beset us all.”

(Review of Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood  by Nathalie Buckland, Nimbin, Australia)

“Aju Mukhopadhyay is an astute observer of the way those in power and control (bankers, developers and politicians) influence the natural world, generally to its detriment. He is also a very keen observer of nature herself together with the numerous creatures she supports including tiny insects, plants, giant animals and of course human beings. This is reflected in the rather unusual title Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood. . . .

“Many of Aju’s poems have a spiritual and philosophical underpinning, questioning motives and our actions on the environment and each other.

“In An Attitude to Life (p. 32) the following excerpt presents a deep philosophical observation.

Man’s life is not

like the birds and animals;

it has extra sense and conscience

pride and prejudice

surpassing everything in subtle sense;

     “Many poems have wonderful imagery and use of metaphor, for example in (The Past. p. 33)

dust flows and gathers like time

coming in or passing out;

time is a dusty affair.

     “Many of Aju’s poems are concerned with the big issues of environmental and life destruction such as the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima. He sees “nuclear” as an evil force (p. 23), with no match in previous history. These poems are in quite stark contrast with some of his shorter poems such as Mili. (p. 38) This wonderful, gentle poem comments on the timeless and inevitable transition from innocent childhood to adulthood. I found this poem very moving and the line, “forgetting her lollipop days” captures perfectly the passage from the carefree innocence of childhood to the responsibilities of adult life . . . .

“The final poem Red-wattled Lapwing (Sleep) (p.88) in this unique collection of insightful and thought provoking poems is simply a treasure. Much has been written about what a poet’s job is, perhaps this poem helps us understand one important aspect of that job, “to save the sky from falling.

on its back, legs upward

sleeps at night red-wattled lapwing

to save the sky from falling;

to support, guard sibling.”

(Review of Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood by Rob Harle, Australia, 2014)

“Aju Mukhopadhyay is a multiple award winning poet. This is his eighth book of poems in English. He is known for his poems on Nature reflecting spiritual sense. His spiritual poems are mingled with Nature. He writes rants going straight from his heart. His poems, simple yet philosophic, full of reasons, transcend the immediate surroundings to take the reader to another world; intimate and poetic. His poetry has been displayed in different sites like boards and exhibition hall, websites, e-zines and print journals throughout the world. He is a haijin too writing the Japanese verses.

“Your unique way of describing the phenomenon of nature and particularly the very sensitive and keen observation of birds, insects, worms and animals, I think- this is a rare element- in the very writing of poetry- in any language so far. You have certainly become pioneer and path finder in this special aspect of minute observation of nature and the non human life around us. You have touched greater peaks in this respect- than Wordsworth, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, etc.”

(Professor Emeritus, Dr. Syed Ameeruddin, Founder President-International Poets Academy, Chennai, India)

“Mukhopadhyay’s poetry embraces paradoxes and contradictions that show willingness to accept the world as it is and, at the same time, never to give up . . . . It is part of his unique outlook on life that all the seeming random acts of greed, destruction and foibles of mankind belong to the same order, as we see in the fine 3-part poem, “Man fumbles with Nature’s bounty in Sundarbans . . . .

“The poems speak of the mystery of things in a profound way. The poet’s eye and ear are intensely tuned, so that image and sound are partners. Forest and garden, water and tundra, the images are vivid.”

(Review of Manhood, Grasshood and Birdhood’ by Patricia Prime, New Zealand in; July-August,2014)


Aju Mukhopadhyay the Poet-by Professor Santanu Banerjee-  

based on Insect’s Nest and Other Poems-

Aju Mukhopadhyay is a renowned bi-lingual poet and writer who has authored a dozen books in Bangla and almost equal number of volumes in English. Currently he lives in Pondicherry, a place that has been hallowed by the spiritual presence of one of the most illustrious sons of Bengal-Sri Aurobindo.Mukhopadhyay’s latest book of verse entitled Insect’s Nest and Other Poems is neatly printed on good quality paper with an attractive cover page featuring wasps building their homes. The publisher’s honesty in bringing out the book is most prominently visible in the almost negligible number of typographical errors. M/S Prasoon Publication, Gurgaon, Haryana needs separate praise for maintaining their quality paperback printing. For in our country, we have been successful in ensuring excellent poems and poets while failing most often in setting up any common standard of professionalism in print and publication. Perhaps Mukhopadhyay is very much aware of this fact through his vast experience as a poet. And that is why in the small dedicatory epistle, he acknowledges many of his exemplary poetry-editors and fellow authors with whom he must have been sharing sweet memories.I too have the privilege of being one of the humble poetry-editors of Mukhopdhyay as once I selected along with my colleagues some of his poems for our journal. This particular incident has ultimately given me this golden opportunity to come near him, to listen to his words more intimately and to be allowed by him to review his latest book of verse. As I open the book and look at the index, I find forty five numbers of poems with individual titles being put under three large groups with separate captions. The first group includes eleven poems and is called ‘With Nature Again’. The next group of twenty two is entitled, ‘Already with you, humans’. And the rest are put under, ‘Looking the other way’. Interestingly, this final host of poems contains those pieces which I once chose to publish in the inaugural issue of Impressions of Eternity. Going back to how I read these verses earlier, I find that these were described by me as poetic utterances on the themes of human existence, its evanescence, and its redemption from vagaries of life. As I now review Mukhopadhyay’s book by re-reading the old poems beside the new poems present there, is it not that I mentally revisit my own perception about Mukhopadhyay as a poet?

Looking closely at the captions of the three different groups already mentioned, I get an impression that perhaps Mukhopadhyay intends to re-examine here the ‘Natural World-Human Existence-Spiritual Essence’ relationships which have also been the chief concern in both the Upanishads and the poetry of Sri Aurobindo. What we call modern Indian English poetry after Nissim Ezekiel is in fact a kind of creative assay which stands in an oedipal relation with this particular tradition and abuses it with the modifiers now well known-romantic, nebulous, verbose, and transcendental. But as A.K. Ramanujan has described in his Indian Oedipus, it seems that Mukhopadhyay’s relation with this tradition is probably that of Rama’s relation to Dasaratha or Puru’s to Yayati. This is actually a reaffirmation of the merits of the tradition notwithstanding serious interrogations into the past.

I read the first poem of Mukhopadhyay’s book and find how the non-human world could evoke in human mind the sad knowledge of transience of the life-breadth:

Ain’t all the great construction
like insect’s nest
brittle and fragile
sure to go
today or tomorrow
measured by time?
Why bother about any mark made of lime?

(Insect’s Nest/9)

The poet is very close to Thomas Gray. All paths of glory lead us to the grave. Or in so successfully evoking the most tragic feeling of evanescence the poet also echoes Sankaracharya. When death knocks at one’s door there is nothing which can reverse the thing impending, no knowledge comes in help. Valmiki too saw the dying Krauncha and poetry welled forth from the adikavi’s heart. The insect in Mukhopadhyay’s poem is much more insignificant a creature but it is after all living being like us and shares in the common threat of death.

Mukhopadhyay crafts one haiku like poem. It is terse and highly suggestive like the verses of Ezra Pound. It connotes ‘the end’ of which we have heard much though there is no record of anyone’s direct experience of it. The poem is thus shaped as a series of questions:

Is it the shadow of a growing dark cloud
over the pond in a moonless night?
Is it the voiceless echo of a sound
flashed in the dark announcing the fight?

(What is Impending/15)

In the ancient Tamil poems of the Sangam age one may be astonished to see an organic relation between external nature and human society. The relation could be experienced through the proper understanding of the imagery of the Tamil bards for whom a “flowering kurinchi” was a young woman, or “red earth and pouring rain” were lovers busy in love-making. Natural world and human world stands here in metonymic relation, for by catching one properly the readers may catch the other. In Mukhopadhyay’s poems too the insects or the golden orioles are not simply ‘like’ human beings, they in fact form one part of the living world while the humans together form another. The eternal law of the universe applies alike to both nature and human beings. With this new knowledge, there is a melting down of the human-non human, man-nature, and existence-essence, body-soul-distinctions and hierarchies. What the Upanishads reiterated, Ramprasad said, or Aurobindo philosophized, Mukhopadhyay also writes:

Beyond all ceremonies,
cultivating the inner being
shedding all disharmonies,
we could become the life’s king.

(Cultivating the Human Being/27)

Modern Indian English poets despised most in Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual quest. They say the philosopher and mystic Aurobindo killed the poet Aurobindo. Especially Nissim Ezekiel called him “a very bad poet” who always wrote about soul in a highly Latinized English. Hence moving against Sri Aurobindo and his followers the New Poets wished to infuse their own poems with the “smell of the earth” and the “blood of reality”. But by reading any of those modernists the sensible readers would find that their chief tool of protest has been irony, which is not at all a weapon of the bold. Marx and Engels needed no ironic expression to call the workers of the world to unite. The modern Indian English poets no doubt talk about their country as a place full of problems, e.g. poverty, unemployment, communal disharmony, and corruption. But do they have that total commitment needed to change the world? These ironic versifiers lack in courage to state problems at its face. As a poet of the contemporary period it is really unique in the case of Mukhopadhyay that while writing about the essence he could also put forward very explicitly his earnest concerns about the miserable state of human existence. Like the poets of the Bhakti movement, reality for him is both immanent and transcendent. Like Kabir or Basavanna, he is capable of speaking about human problems in loud and clear voice:

Among the various hungers, many a need
hunger for food and drink
is the basic urge of life;
until this basic need is fulfilled
till for hunger and thirst humans sink
the greatness of life cannot survive.
It is futile to talk about peace
until the fire of hunger we extinguish
in every human being
if not in every living thing.

(Hunger and Thirst/28)

With equal force, he can write about structural violence, about the problems of the Adivasis, comment on terrorism, and debunk the ideologies of the fundamentalists. Mukhopadhyay could write on abstract ideas:

Aren’t we on earth
floating in a multiverse
in space infinite
with stars in oodles numbers?
Look within!
stars are blooming and dying

(Stars in Space/60)

But he is equally efficient in rendering abstract things concrete:

Peace is like a sleeping pregnant cat
on top of the hay stacked in a barn.
Peace is like a child’s sucking sound
from the round breast of its mother
. . . .
Peace is faithful surrender to the divine
Peace is enchanting shower.

(What Peace is Like/42-43)

In this trouble ridden world he is there for the shower of peace. That enchanting shower comes after long drought and disorder or its worth could not be appreciated by us. Exhausted by hunger and thirst, shaken by terror and death, exploited by the vicious social systems we ask for grace. In Srivaishnavism, there is a description of two ways of grace: the cat’s way and the monkey’s way. In the cat’s way the human beings are like kittens that are all the time helped by the divine force or the mother cat without bothering even of the kitten’s call for help. In the monkey’s way the divine force leaps from branch to branch like the mother monkey and the human beings need to hold her strong so that they may not fall out of her grace. Mukhopadhyay’s poem echoes the age-old notion of falling into grace as he writes:

Rain of grace falls and falls
to soothe my ruffled feelings;
it corrects, it helps, it leads me
always to the right way.
When it rains in the forest of my being
where the tallest trees touch the sky
and the moon shines bright on the leaves
through the gnarled branches
lighting the dark parts of existence,
life becomes wholesome
peaceful and serene.
Removing the dryness and darkness of life
rain of grace falls and falls
perpetually to revive.

(Il Pleut/67-68)

How could the poet escape the impact of Rabindranath Tagore’s songs? Tagore provides necessary signs to Mukhopadhyay so that he may rearrange them in his own poems, in a new system of signification.

It is an experience to read Aju Mukhopadhyay in the context of the various traditions of Indian poetry. As already seen, he is a successor of the old school which the modernists sought to dispense with so that they could justify their own mode of poem writing. But Mukhopadhyay is true to the kindred points of heaven and home. He is writing about the body while writing about the soul and vice versa. He stands with essence while speaking for existence and vice versa. He is a lover of mankind who is empathetically related with nature and vice versa. He is in each and both. He is near perfect. How a kavi could become a rishi is something we may learn at his feet:

Death is the cause of their birth.
From the dead rises the living
Living thing kisses the dead
One dead gives birth to
Innumerable living things ad arbitrium;
Life and Death hugs each other ad infinitum.

(Life and Death Hugs each other/21)

Am I listening to a mantra, or a bit of the Upanishad? Is it an example of which Sri Aurobindo termed the future poetry?

Work Cited
Insect’s Nest and Other Poems. Aju Mukhopadhyay. Gurgaon; Prasoon Publications. 2010


Views on Short Stories

  here it is that will make you happy; i arranged it:
The Moments of Life Reviews- 

review in Tribune   Inbox


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Engrossing tales
Reviewed by Jyoti Singh

The Moments of Life: Short Stories
By Aju Mukhopadhyay. Frog Books. Pages 143. Rs 195.

THERE are stories worth sharing at every step of our life is what one feels after reading The Moments of life. The art of deft narration is better known to the author Aju Mukhopadhyay. Apart from being a master storyteller, he is a writer of poems, essays, features and has to his credit 12 books written in Bengali and 14 books in English.

A person of international fame, he was awarded the Best Poet Certificate of Competence as a published writer by the Writers Bureau, Manchester, UK; Best Poet of the Year 2003 by the Poets International, Bangalore; Editor’s Choice Published Poet Award by the International Library of Poetry, USA and Excellence in World Poetry Award 2009 by the International Poets Academy.

The Moments of Life is an assemblage of 26 short stories set in Bengal and sometimes in the South. The stories take up a whole range of issues—social, political, familial and individual—drawn from the everyday life of the common man.

The opening story, The Moments of Life, after which the anthology is named, revolves around the Naxals. It is certainly an innuendo pointing at the fact that Naxalism is a reflection of the need for the developmental policies and initiatives to reach the grassroots, especially the backward tribal areas. Though it might seem a Herculean task—to work towards taking development to those who need the most, lest their simmering discontent should ignite unrest—it is the only way out. Through the narrator, the author highlights how the discontented, poorest, weaker and most vulnerable people join the movement to escape the adverse situations, dreaming of overthrowing the relentless system. It stresses on how ever-expanding, seamless corruption cripples the good intentions involved in implementing the policies for the betterment of people and also the need to play the role in community affairs with adherence to the tenets of good governance.

Man-woman relationship is a recurring theme—unraveling the changes in the social sphere and the effect on it of several subterranean forces—in most of his stories. The author shows how in man-woman healthy relationships foster the psychological development of people and how the unhealthy ones destroy or diminish happiness.

If A New Day Begins highlights how love transform the lives of Subodh and Sulochana who otherwise led unpleasant ones, The Wonderment of Life—through Anjali-Robert Pinto’s sound married life, who belong to different religion and background—emphasises how care, mutual understanding, trust, compassion and support lead to authenticity in a relationship and concretises it. The Phoney reflects the circumstances that lead women to prostitution while The Cuckold brings forth the sad plight of a helpless woman who is forced by her husband to grant sexual favours to a high-ranking police official so that his business could thrive.

The Pride of a Woman narrates the story of infidelity on part of the husband who cheated his wife into believing that he died fighting a battle, whereas he married in Pakistan and converted to Islam. The Unknown Love treats the theme of incest while The Law of Life addresses the sad plight of lepers.

All these stories—and the others that have not been mentioned in order to delimit this piece of writing—crafted in lucid prose come with morals, silently and smartly pointing and at the same time begging for answers to the ailments of society. The work is indeed a valuable contribution to the genre of short story.



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