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Indian Born British Poet Make Waves With His Poetry
The last three decades revealed a new phenomenon in the field of English literature. More and more Indian, Chinese and African origin writers have excelled in writing poetry and novels unlike in the period of the Raj days when only a very few writers of Indian origin used to write in English. The British Indians use the English language as their vehicle of creativity with Indian idioms, simile and phrases from Indian culture. One such person who made a mark as a poet in the English speaking world is Dr.Jitendralal Borkakoti, a resident of Broxbourne, a small town in the county of Hertfordshire, England. Jiten, an Indian born British citizen, has lived in Britain for 46 years.
Jiten was born about seven decades back in Golaghat, a small but distinctly cultured town, where he completed his school education. After having completed his IA Examination from Cotton College, Guwahati, he proceeded to Delhi University where he obtained his BA(Hons) Degree from Hindu College and MA from Delhi School of Economics. After a short spell of running the family Tea Estate, and a very short stint at Agro-Economic Research Centre, Jorhat, he went to England in 1966 to study at the London School of Economics where he completed his MSc(Econ) and PhD degrees. He did not come back to Assam, but embarked on a teaching career, and retired from Middlesex University, London. Jiten, who has been writing poems for about 48 years, a fact unknown to his colleagues and friends, has finally decided to edit his poems after retirement, and to prepare a collection of his poems. A small volume, entitled Love & Life containing 65 selected poems, written between 1964 and 2011, at last has been published. For details, Google “Love & Life by Jiten Borkakoti” and relevant information will come up.
Jiten writes poems in two distinctive styles. The first one is in pentameter type rhythmic verse and the second one is in free verse like Eliot penned .This must have happened because he started writing poetry, as his passion, very early in life when free verse did not receive the full acclaim of today. As the passion grew in him, despite his career as a hardcore economist, he turned to free verse to express his deep feelings, observations and emotions about the world, human life, eternal time and the futility of human vanity and hatred, and above all about love in its multifarious dimensions: jilted love, lost love, physical love, yearning for love and so on. His first poems - mostly slow-paced, lyrical poems - were written in the sixties of the twentieth century. It would have helped the reader if Jiten stated the year in which a selected poem was written. Although Jiten’s early work drew heavily on traditional English poets, he soon turned to Indian myth and to the rather mystical writings of Jatin Dowerah of Assam.
Although a British Citizen by naturalization who settled in London, he was an Indian at heart, and he kept visiting India in search of his roots and to explore his Assamese identity. His poems boldly reflect his spirit of freedom. In his poems, Jiten, expresses himself with great poignant delicacy. The poems resonate with the beauty of the hills and valley of Assam, often the tumultuous ripples of agony of human life, and sometimes the exultation of the glory of life. The poems reflect a tender sensitivity not only of nature but also all that is fragile and sensitive in the human spirit. For all that, Jiten remains an English poet and it is through his British tongue that he reaches out to the world. Though rooted in his locale, he often reaches out and accommodates realities beyond his immediate world. A widely travelled person, with varied interest of music, economics and philosophy, he can express his poetic thoughts about human existence, timeless eternity and love in his poems: ‘Cosmic Flight’, ‘The Vietnamese’, ‘ Eternity’, ‘My India’, ‘Quiddity’s Visions’, and ‘Adieu, My Laura’. Jiten believes in the role of the poet as seer as Blake did, before Wordsworth, Coleridge and others started the Romantic Movement in English poetry. In all-pervading darkness, the poet needs love, and the assurance of love at every intrepid step. His mother influenced him greatly as he lost his father at the tender age of 6, and love for mother is revealed in ‘To My Mother’ which has touched the hearts of many people. To quote: “Only now I realize the love/ You bestowed upon me,/ Only now I understand the tears of joy/ Rolling down your cheeks,/ Only now I cognize the whispered sweet words,/ When in school, I won glorious prizes.”
In the swinging sixties in London, the poet found only fake love; and this is expressed in ‘Futile’ where the background is a dance hall. To quote: “Your beautiful body moves in buoyant ecstasies of flesh/ When dreams are spread out over your pink lips,/ Through self-deception from inspired expectation/ I become a broken feather,/ And drift in the blue sky of your captivating eyes.” In his early poems, the poet seems to admire a beautiful maiden, as written in ‘A Beautiful Maiden’. To quote: “The starlit joyful, and yet melancholic, smiles,/ From the corners of your cherry-tinged lips,/ Meaningfully mischievous fluttering of your eye lashes,/ Where from white pearls of beauty fall,/ Exquisitely stir my body and soul.” Then the poet feels cheated and jilted. There are several poems dealing with this aspect of human sorrows. But the one that deals with it so touchingly is ‘End of Love’. To quote: “So I pour my out my misery into the sea,/ Feelings of misery turn into drops of tears,/ Tears from my swollen eyes roll down my cheeks./ And I slowly walk into the sea,/ The coolness of the sea embraces me,/ The waves lash the pebbles of the shore/ In redoubled strength, as the wind howls,/ And my misery is washed away from my mind,/ As my tortured soul departs my cold body!” Then the poet becomes suspicious of love, as in ‘Suffering’. To quote: “Is it spontaneously and naturally true?/ Or, in innocent ignorance, I naively construe,/ That you love me, and I love beautiful you!” But the poet at last finds love, as in ‘Crossroad’. To quote: “At last I have the amphora of blissful happiness,/ And the amphora is full of bountiful love,/ My life is serene and green today,/ Past shadows of my crisis have gone away.”
The poet questions the ultimate purpose of human existence as expressed in ‘Quiddity’s Visions’. To quote: “You but hew a moment of time’s endlessness,/ You but capture a speck of dust of spatial vastness,/ Let them talk about Dante, Kant and Einstein,/ Socialism and sex, alpha and beta, beer and wine,/ But all will muse on dark and cold graves, in the end.” As we are all relentlessly being carried by time to death, the poet feels frustrated by the injustices in the world as described in ‘Eternity’. To quote: “And I desperately try to understand,/ With a fat book in my hand,/ The bloody explosions, and the sacred wars;/ I resolutely try, but in vain, to drum up and / Eradicate hunger, pestilence and injustice./ And I flow on, on and on, to the dark sea of eternity.” In the poem ‘Oracle’, the poet captures a pearl of wisdom. To quote: “When your soul has been sold/ To the highest bidder who hold/ The golden key and wait outside the door in cold,/ You must have a heart very bold and in wisdom’s fold.”
The Pulitzer Award winning poet, William Meredith, who also read Jiten’s poems through me, said, “Words addressing evil won’t turn back/ but they can give heart/ the cheer is hidden in right words”. Jiten’s poems reflected these qualities, despite the grief the poet sometimes must experience when he/she considers what people have done to the planet and to each other.
The book written by Jiten has created a ripple all over. The poems deal with the human emotions of love in its multifarious dimensions, and also with the wider questions of human existence and timeless eternity. Hence, the tile of the books aptly is Love & Life. Some poems are relatively more abstract than others, but abstraction helps to capture emotional depth and intensity. Jiten has correctly described, in the Preface of the book, that “A poem in the last analysis is a painting of a thought painted in words”.
Once Dr. Hiren Gohain stated that “It is perhaps no longer possible to think of poetry as a direct outpouring of heart. The heart is there, but between it and the printed page, there is quite an obstacle-race. The specific qualities of a particular language, the traditions of its poetry, the practices of their poets of the language - all intervene between the naked heart and the finished form of the poems”. Jiten has been able to cross most of these hurdles except in case of a very few like “To My Mother”. However the contradiction is that this very poem appeals to many readers despite its simplicity. Perhaps it is the sincere usage of the idioms and phrase appropriately that masked the obstacles.