Reading Amarjit Chandan’s Poetry as Philosophy

Satya P Gautam*

Amarjit Chandan’s poetry can be read as an articulation – as a phenomenology of exile – a continuous and constant concern with the experiential realm of reflections – reflections on situating one’s locations, and transitions from those locations – of sojourns and movements – of journeys in the realm of imaginary consciousness –  journeys through which one moves from one perspective to another – attempting to see things through.

The spatio-geographical movement or relocation which Chandan chose, offered him a new environment, a new experiential realm. In this new environment, Chandan’s relation with his linguistic-cultural heritage no longer remained the same which he had lived in his intense feelings of being an outsider, an exile (a state of alienation) while living in his native land – the land of his ancestors.

The dialect which we speak, the words which we hear in our waking moments, the words which help us identify and differentiate the content of our sensory experiences, the words by which we classify and categorise the world as given/presented to us in its primordiality, the words with which we think and live – these words were living in Chandan’s memory and imagination but absent/missing in his everyday life in his new environment. The discomfort – an unease – of this strange vanishing of one’s language – a silence in which he had to live – the suffering of not being able to hear or/and speak his language as he could, before migrating to UK – made Chandan relate with his language in a novel way – living with his language in memory and imagination – through memory and imagination. His dialect, his speech, his mother tongue – which had vanished from the practical affairs of his daily existence – was now always with him in his memory and imagination, all the time.

Chandan’s poetry is an expression of his quest and struggle to articulate the silence which he experienced in his second exile. Wordlessness – a wordless silence – is an experience  – a feeling  – (which) can sensitise us towards two aspects of our embeddedness in language.

The first kind of wordlessness we feel in and through language, despite language – we feel it because we are creatures and creators of language. The words are with us, around us, surrounding us, words connected/linked/related with one another in their significative/signifying relationships, connected so intricately/mysteriously, entangled with one another in  a seemingly convoluted manner – that we finds ourselves helpless – incapable of articulating our experiences – we have to struggle to communicate the sense that we make of the world, of our life – we find it difficult to share with others what we find full of meaning or /and value for us. Despite the words, we find ourselves speechless, wordless. Silence engulfs us. We suddenly find ourselves wordless. We have to find ways of recovering our language, reinventing it, rediscovering it.

The intensity of the experience of the second kind of wordlessness is radically different from the first kind of wordlessness. Though it is rooted in, and related to our experience and acknowledgement of the limits of language which we experience through first kind of wordlessness mentioned above, it dawns on us only in our endeavour to go beyond language, transcend the language in which we remain immersed while living our everyday life routine activities and experiences. This engagement with the limits of language – looking beyond the beginning and the end – searching the sources of the synch/connections between words, meanings and the world – brings  us to an encounter with the infinite, the unbounded, the limitless, the mysterious  – where the ultimate is present with us, before us, but in its silence, and in our silence – here  we are with silence, in silence, witnessing a silent dialogue between sense and senselessness, between life and death, between value and worthlessness, between hope and despair.

Having experienced this silence, we return to language, in language. Having seen the richness and poverty of the constitutive relationship between language, our lived experiences of the world – and the world – which is presented to us in and through language – always remains beyond language. We keep on making efforts to capture this elusive, but not illusory, world.

Poetry helps us in our struggle to capture the wonders and mysteries of this elusive world, and makes us hope that our struggle is not futile. In this struggle, our relation with our first language is primordial and unique, constitutive and and foundational.  Perhaps, we need some aloofness and distance (perhaps sometimes by quirk of chance, but sometimes by choice and cultivation) from the state of immersion in our language to appreciate the richness of this relationship at a reflective level. This reflective stance has found an articulation either through poetry or through philosophy. But the best moment is the moment when poetry and philosophy become one. This unity is the achievement of Chandan’s poetry.

* Satya P Gautam, Professor of Philosophy, now in Jawaharlal Nehru University, was Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Rohilkhand University Bareilly, India

Read also about Amarjit Chandan’s Book Presentation in Greece: