Green is the Colour of Memory – Huzaifa Pandit
Publisher: Hawakal Publishers
Year of Publication: 2018
Price: INR 220.00
Kazuo Ishiguro in his famous novel, Never Let Me Go has put it, “Memories even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that the memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.” The same holds water in the case of Huzaifa, whose memory of the whole battery of events coming about in his vale are not only indelibly imprinted on his grey matter, but they never tend not to turn into any other colour but green with shades of yellow and grey.
Huzaifa’s memory even goes back to British Novelist Richard Llewellyn’s, How Green Was my Valley? (1939) for adorning his collection of poems with the title. I can’t be sure as to the drawing of the title from Llewellyn’s novel, but the line in the novel, “How Green was my valley that day too, green and bright in the sun?” somewhat resembles the line in Huzaifa’s poem, Sketches from Memory:
Green is the colour of memory specked
with shades of yellow-grey.
The Novelist sits up to look down in the valley, and reflects elegiacally on the lost glory of his valley. The same elegiac tone is apparent in Green is the Colour of Memory. The poet sobs at the loss of tranquillity his valley once palpitated with. The happy ambience is conquered by the cacophony of roaring guns. The long curfewed nights seem to never pass. The twilights that used to welcome the denizens of the valley of poet are now smoky, grey and lethal.
The book was recently published in May 2018 by Hawakal Publishers after the bunch of poems (that form the contents of the book now) won the Rhyme Divine Poets’(RDP) Chapbook Competition 2017- an International Poetry competition held by RDP- a poetry organization based in Kolkata, India.
Since the creation of poetry, poetry has been used as a tool in the reorientation of various domains of society. The Romantics used it as a weapon to launch a scathing revolt against the previous confines and mechanization of human affairs. It has been used as a very suggestive art form at protests and rallies. From the rights of the newborn babies to the aged ones, poetry is commanding enough to gather crowds in a city square and compact enough to demand attention on social media. Speaking truth to power remains a crucial role of a poet in the face of political and media rhetoric designed to obscure or manipulate the facts.
The poems call out and talk back to the inhumane forces that threaten from above. They expose grim truth, raise consciousness, and build united fronts. Some vehemently insist, as Langston Hughes writes, “That all these walls oppression build have to go! Others seek for the ways to actively “make peace” as Denise Levertov implores, suggesting that “each act of living” might cultivate collective resistance. All rail against complacency and demonstrate why poetry is necessary and sought after in moments of political crisis.
Though the book is fraught with the lamentations, it also contains enormous elements of the protest, thus contributing more to the resistance poetry as Faiz Ahmad Faiz did. The collection has certainly echoes of P.B. Shelley and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. It explores elements of Resistance and Subjugation pertaining to the poet’s own native place. The poet has metaphorically explored the barbarity of the foreigners who have disrupted the bliss of the poet’s valley:
Many rains rain
One even flooded TRPs
and an ungrateful people.
But the scarred blood stains
aren’t wiped from sutured Jhelum
or bruised blue apple shells
The image of Jhelum has been used as a device of adynaton- a kind of hyperbole so magnified as to express impossibility- to fathom the ardency and vehemence of blood ceremony sermonized wholesale in the valley of the poet. The poem depicts the barbarous restrictions over Kashmiri Muslims who are being barred from entering the historical Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
The book is not blind to figures of speech and meter. He has beautifully trapped the grief that sprouts out of the total bondage and chains his natives are imprisoned, and an anaphoric tone in the poem, Friends in Grief, has added to the force and ferocity with which the emotions have been laid bare.
Grief comes calling in hybrid horrors of tragic conversation.
Grief comes calling in hired pain written in expired prescriptions.
Grief comes calling in schizophrenia and painted tea.
Here the painted sea of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has become ‘painted tea’ as a pantomime of the daze the poet is witnessing with nothing to get rid of but the sighs from the depths. The smooth march of the couplets makes it worth reading.
Such manifest and latent allusiveness abounds in the book. Imaginary Homelands for example not only references Rushdie but also alludes to Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, The Namesake. Gogol, the major character in the Lahiri’s novel puffs in cigarettes and marijuana, goes to many parties and loses his virginity to a girl he can’t even remember. This later turns out to be a precursor of the existential crisis that grips him as he struggles to map the contours of his immigrant identity. Far from home, in distant Pune, surrounded by the gloom of a furious and unfamiliar monsoon, Huzaifa reflects on the condition of exile through the memory of a Kashmiri Pandit friend and juxtaposes it with the mournful poetry of Zafar- the last Mughal emperor who died in exile lamenting over his homeland. The juxtaposition then is a device to explore migrant subjectivity:
I pour my exiled grief pressed close to my damp heart
into a well-thumbed copy of The Namesake.
Many encounters ago it lost its virginity
to my curiosity aroused from hearsay
deaf to oriental grief in the printed breath of Ashima.
At the coarse touch of pirated paper
I relive an old memory:
sixteen crescents ago, I consoled her namesake
in a drowsy car warm with a Kashmiri afternoon sun.
I bookmark the page with a tired sigh and play
a ghazal by Zafar
Will someone light a candle in the sovereign’s defeated
memory on a modest grave in a foreign land?
The book abounds in numerous elegiac overtones. His celestial city has become now the city of dead lights, the unreal city of T.S Eliot or the Slough of Despond of John Bunyan.
Beneath this cloak of fog
lies hidden the lost city of dead lights city of dead lights.
(Reading Faiz on Deewali)
The writer is not blind to the moral and ethical issues and audaciously depicts the atrocity and oppression by asking some intriguing questions:
In this city of lights
who would have imagined
gassed darkness would reign?
(Reading Faiz on Diwali)
The city is dead now and not a single ray of sunshine can be seen from anywhere. The sun has sunk now and the valley of the poet perpetuates in utter darkness.
The monstrous sound of the pellets throwing the fatal smoke out of the muzzle is what even a little brain comes across instead of a frisky butterfly.
What does one do when plastic rainbows
pellet your lamenting lungs?
(Evenings of Despair)
In Autobiography, we see the poet very pessimistically painting the sterility of his native land, and the not-to-live wish of the Sybil in the beginning of Eliot’s The Wasteland is what the denizens of the writer of Green is the Colour of my Memory feel. The futility reigns now and the hope of a new dawn appears from nowhere.
The poem alludes to T.S Eliot’s Gerontion where the old man waits for the rains which symbolize life and rejuvenation, and here the poet tired of routine daze and damp of confusion wants an erosion of memory:
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 Cat and Shakespeare alludes to a novel of Raja Rao, and therefore satirizes academia by referencing a canonical novel. It is a campus poem like a campus novel. The poem further strikes an ironical treatment to the UGC and the NAAC.
So Mister Pear, Where did
thou do thy PhD? Poor Shakespeare!
He thought on his feet, Queen
Elizabeth’s academy. Long ago, your maj-
-esty! I forget:14th or 15th or 17th cent-
-ury. The cat groped and poked er poor sec
-retary: Miss Memory and finally resigned:
Which year was it recognized by UGC?
What NAAC grade did you say, please?
(The Cat and Shakespeare)
Green is the Colour of Memory is a mosaic of innumerable segments of modern and postmodern themes. The images employed are abysmally convincing and reference the willing ‘suspension of attention’ extended by the outside world to Kashmir. The book photographs his native place in true light without losing the sense of aesthetic balance. I wish more from the author in future.
Wani Nazir is an alumni of University of Kashmir where he studied for a Masters in English. Presently he is a lecturer in the School Education Department and spends his time writing both poetry and prose in English. His first collection of poems ‘And the Silence Whispered’ came out in 2017.