Rain and Revulsion: Prasanta Chakravarty

This is a GUEST POST by Prasanta Chakravarty

“Slime is the agony of water.”

~ Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

The Birth of Revulsion – Pranabendu Dasgupta

No certainty where each would go —
Suddenly the descent of a cloudburst, rain.
We stood, each where we were,
And stared at one another.
It is not good to be so close
“Revulsion is born” – someone had said

“Revulsion, revulsion, revulsion.”
Then, lighting a cigarette, some man
Muttered abuse at another next to him.
Like an abstract painting, spiralling like a gyre,
In a wee space
We slowly fragmented, dispersed.
Had it not rained, though,
We would have stepped out together.
Perhaps to the cinema, tasting a woman’s
Half-exposed breast with the eye,
Then laughing out loud,
We could head for the maidan!
Someone maybe would sing; someone
Would say, “I am alive”.

But it rained.

(Krittibas, Sharad Sankhya,  1386)

 ঘৃণার জন্ম

প্রনবেন্দু দাশগুপ্ত

কোথায় কে যাবে ঠিক নেই —
হঠাৎ দুদ্দাড় ক ‘রে বৃষ্টি নেমে এলো।
যেখানে ছিলাম, ঠিক সেইখানে থেকে
আমরা পরস্পরের দিকে তাকিয়ে রইলাম।

এত কাছাকাছি থাকা খুব ভালো নয়।
” ঘৃণার জন্ম হয় ” –কে যেন বললো
” ঘৃণা, ঘৃণা, ঘৃণা। ”
তারপর সিগ্রেট ধরিয়ে, আরো একজন
খুব ফিশফিশ ক ‘রে
পাশের লোককে গাল দিলো।
বিমূর্ত ছবির মতো তালগোল পাকিয়ে পাকিয়ে
ছোট্ট জায়গা জূড়ে
আমরা ক্রমশ ভেঙে, ছড়িয়ে পড়লাম।

বৃষ্টি না নামলে কিন্তু
আমরা একসঙ্গে বেরিয়ে পড়তাম।
হয়তো সিনেমা গিয়ে,রমণীর আধ -খোলা স্তন
চোখ দিয়ে চেখে
তারপর, হো হো ক ‘রে হেসে
ময়দানের দিক যাওয়া যেতো !
কেউ হয়তো গান গাইতো ; কেউ হয়তো
বলতো “বেঁচে আছি “।

কিন্তু বৃষ্টি নেমেছিলো।।

(কৃত্তিবাস, শারদ সংখ্যা ১৩৮৬)

There is this opening gambit—an aphorism is aligned, about the certainty of uncertainty: that we do not know where we all shall end up at any given slice of space-time. But this uncertainty is as much a variable of our actual existence as it is about a world within, continuously being formed and moulded in our interactions with other objects, including other human beings, with whom we come in contact from time to time and tend to enhance such contact through intimacy. In fact, we are especially most vulnerable during genuine moments of certainty, arising out of a sense of connection, that looks like camaraderie, with humans and other loved objects. This is the premise that the poem would like to settle.

In this particular case two possibilities of intimacy are opened up, each developing within certain circles of familiarity. We are shown two options and then are ferried through the more severe one, until we reach the point of no-return, the point of radical non-communication, effected through revulsion, which we see to be taking birth. Read in this manner, it would seem that there is an argumentative logic to the poem, one that it wishes to attest. It takes us step by step through certain images, by the end of which we come to appreciate this logic, as we travel to the root of the idea of revulsion: the incessant drenching in the closeness of endearment and intimacy, and the spatial microcosm that certain events might create, events that bring us close and by means of bringing us close, those very events counter-intuitively narrow down our possibilities and breed negativity. We get a gradual sense as to how revulsion might spawn and how it might get entrenched, especially in personal relationships, by appreciating a fine line that distinguishes attachment from free movement.

But the opening is also a dramatic staging; just a slight shove to a condition of evenness and a movement initiates. In res medias. Few friends, in all likelihood young men, have gathered to spend some time together. They have no fixed plan. It is the company of each other that they enjoy. They meet on this particular day. And then there is unannounced rain. Not ordinary rain, but a cloudburst. Sudden, concentrated rain. This torrential rain creates the possibility of a different kind of closeness. How to qualify this rain is a difficult problem though. Clearly it is metaphorical. But does the rain arrive on its own, that is to say, must it arrive at one point in friendship and raise the intensity and density of relationships: which would mean the agents in friendship have no say in reining the density back in a more affable possibility? Perhaps at one point rain must fall upon human interactions which would take them beyond good natured and merely loving camaraderie. Human participants in more-than-social interactions are often not aware of the gathering cloud of dense intensity. We give in to rain, to its vehemence and keenness and the drenching. The rousing aftermath follows. Rain would be the metaphor for inevitability in such a case. Rain descends. Upon us. A deterministic rain, is it? Rain clearly brings with it some tangled, grey possibilities, the root of revulsion that it is. Or is it that rain is summoned consciously by the interacting circles of friends who wish to escalate and reinforce the nature and quality of their friendship? Are they testing the tensile strength of their bond and wishing to raise it a notch or two by summoning meghmallar?Are we then able to trace the unintended personal repercussions of the intentional human action, which in this case is willfully summoning natural intensity among actants?

But the rain arrives and with it, the possibilities alter.

We stood, each where we were,

And stared at one another.

Rain provides the homies with a sense of docking. But in this case it fixes and binds the participants too. Density also brings with it fixity of purpose. And scope. It shrinks us into the encircling rungs of familiarity. The first inkling of shuffling uneasiness is in the very postures of the participants. They remain standing. The situation is less than relaxed. Among friends, rain or snow or such other unfavourable natural condition outside is often an opportunity to unwind and de-stress. Inclement nature provides us with a possibility of seeking warmth within a private space.Friends are supposed to loosen up, perch, settle down and harmonize with the setting. But not here: the companions kept standing. Are they perplexed and bored by the steady pitter patter of rain? Are they beginning towait for the rain to fade away sooner or later, even as it shows no letting up? And not just that—they also begin to stare at each other, and continue to do so. As if there is nothing else to do. Time is still.The staring could seemidle. But it is evident that soon they begin to gauge each other through their steady gazes. Measured, continuing staring brings forth the primitive-ominous along with it. It renews an ancient play in the blood-streams of the players. It is for the first time that they can smell each other so close. They are within each other’s touching distance.

Does this most intimate hatred paradoxically enable our at-homeness-in-the-world?

Revulsion, a Dance Abiding

Revulsion is a piquant stir of hatred and disgust. It is deeply felt and visceral but also a state of being. It is a significant basis of human interaction. There is of course a more social way of looking into radical revulsion—which takes is into the terrains of religion, caste, race, disability and so on. These are institutionalized forms of revulsion, though each of these finally would come down to individual cases and the contours of the acts deriving out of revulsion would be ever changing. In Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches, 1496), a chapter is called ‘How the Witches Deprive Man of his Virile Member’:

“In the town of Ratisbon a certain young man who had an intrigue with a girl, wishing to leave her, lost his member; that is to say, some glamour was cast over it so that he could see or touch nothing but his smooth body. In his worry over this he went to a tavern to drink wine; and after he had sat there for a while he got into conversation with another woman who was there, and told her the cause of his sadness, explaining everything, and demonstrating in his body that it was so. The woman was astute, and asked whether he suspected anyone; and when he named such a one, unfolding the whole matter, she said: “If persuasion is not enough, you must use some violence, to induce her to restore to you your health.” So in the evening the young man watched the way by which the witch was in the habit of going, and finding her, prayed her to restore to him the health of his body. And when she maintained that she was innocent and knew nothing about it, he fell upon her, and winding a towel tightly about her neck, choked her, saying: “Unless you give me back my health, you shall die at my hands.” Then she, being unable to cry out, and growing black, said: “Let me go, and I will heal you.” The young man then relaxed the pressure of the towel, and the witch touched him with her hand between the thighs, saying: “Now you have what you desire.” And the young man, as he afterwards said, plainly felt, before he had verified it by looking or touching, that his member had been restored to him by the mere touch of the witch.”

Such a predicament is legitimate ground for revulsion. In this case there was reparation, but the situation is not often so equitable. The sheer creaturely, acrid energy of revulsion is an ancient community-kinship condition, like the one just described. Hate dogs love like a stubborn shadow, a constant bloodletting.  Cain or Shakuni or Phaedra are ancient prototypes. The English temperament is too bland and retiring for revulsion proper, and yet Iago is hate, of course, as is Caliban. Revulsion inheres vision; a peculiar penetration. So, the positive theories of moral sentiment hate hatred (there is often an economic element in such moves—vendetta is costly!) But revulsion is more; it is disgust added to hatred. And anger has nothing to do with revulsion—anger fades away once vengeance is extracted. It lacks anchorage. Of course sentimental forms of religion and humanism at once marked hatred as the outcome of mental turbulence, loosely calling it hardened anger, and concluding that it cuts off reason.

But it has been a long time that evolutionary psychologists have made a case that the moral sentiments of hatred and anger evolved in the primeval environment of humans for distinct reasons having to do with the formation of group dynamics, the punishment of uncooperative freeloaders, and the pursuit of status, honour or reputation.Social hatreds were useful for testing and displaying one’s ability to recruit kin, friends, and dependents. Such forms of hatred were a generally recognized relationship hedged by ritual, expectation and sanction—in Europe as well as in the subcontinent, though played out in different forms.

But extended forms of hatred, which turns it eventually into revulsion, is as much social at it is pre-social. And this dynamics is what Pranabendu’s poem wishes to explore. Where lies the well spring of reproach? In rain: the poet replies.


Low Tone Warfare

No jouissance aggression, this. Rather, the power and purpose of revulsion is expressed most tellingly in and through silence or though private forms of aggression. Genuine cruelty is always casual, off hand and witty. It happens through muttering, and so hits beneath one’s skin like a million shrapnel. There are hushed exchanges, an understanding that—

It is not good to be so close

“Revulsion is born” – someone had said

“Revulsion, revulsion, revulsion.”

Then, lighting a cigarette, some man

Muttered abuse at another next to him.

Like an abstract painting, spiralling like a gyre,

In a wee space

We slowly fragmented, dispersed.

The group is both illuminated and threatened by proximity. Fragmentation and dispersal are the natural outcome, as it were. We wait in narrow, unpainted rooms, breathed on by some crawling, invisible doppelganger of a confidante. This is the most ambulatory and chaotic abstraction, only manifest in lowlight and in absolute proximity. Simultaneously terrifying and thrilling, this condition. Is this some universal miasma haunting some settled group dynamics?  Do some animal beings and abstractions follow us all the time? The close ones hover, light cigarettes, and are now ready to strike. Are they working within our brain? Are the intimate, spectral ones assisting us in breaking away from the conglomerate? Who are these angels who double up as the muttering fallen ones?

Lateral Living:Another Syntax of Being

What happens on the other route, the one not taken? What would have happened had it not rained? That one sustains a poetics of indirection, summoning another set of performance. There is no misrecognition among the actors in this case. The transactions there are optimal, feel good. Friendship is amiable here. The important thing is to mark the specific aesthetics of subjective interpenetration in this overtly optimistic and buoyant lateral space. The wayward form of intersubjectivity is deliberately kept limited.

We would have stepped out together.

Perhaps to the cinema, tasting a woman’s

Half-exposed breast with the eye,

Then laughing out loud,

We could head for the maidan!

Someone maybe would sing

An immediate readerly reaction could be that Pranabendu is enunciating an obverse set of images in order to underline another set of possibilities. Indeed, there is an imagistic elaboration of descriptive scenarios which help draw a contrast with the earlier tension-filled one. But a more attentive engagement shall make us realize that it is in this section that Pranabendu is being most scathingly judgmental in a deeper sense, one which goes beyond the mere summoning of images. The contrast with the main thread is not merely descriptive but a deliberate one by which the banality of this lateral move is gradually laid bare as we come to appreciate what might it mean to give in to an evenhanded passing through along life’s edges. This is a secure form of time-serving which most of us will call life.

Indeed, it is far from an outright binary. Pranabendu creates a fault-line between the two states—between what passes off as life and the realization of something more primeval possibilities of the cloudburst. The epiphany of the rain does serve to reinscribe the dilemma but the sheer strength of the coupling of proximate revulsion makes us realize what the social, shorn of any deeper commitment, might look like.

This is the zone of rainlessness. And the sublimation of organic drives happen in this terrain—a unique human capacity.

The first word to mark is ‘together.’ What is the nature of psychological entanglement in the essentially behavioral mode of conducting life? How does such a stag-form of togetherness see itself being-in-the-world? What has been the relational mode? Stepping out together most certainly points towards an equitability in the group dynamics where the question of the personal space can be kept at abeyance. The amorphous and baggy quality of the participants is marked by this idea of togetherness. We are entering into a more fluid zone of sociability which by its very nature of the upbeat collective keeps away from demands of coercion and coagulation, obligation and care. This is possibility of existence beyond conflict, certainly not at war with its inhabitants.

The projected restive activities that this collective togetherness indulges in are delineated through sharp, brisk images, in a sequential manner—

  1. a) To the cinema, boisterously
  2. b) Laughing out loud
  3. c) And then head to the maidan
  4. d) Someone maybe would sing

In a way, each scene is a strange replication   of the earlier one. All of these are one vast potentiality, directing us towards a mode of camaraderie, as it were. There are relentless, infinite inscriptions of the world—one leading to the next and then to the following one—that highlight our living by charting particular positionings in the world and that simply persevere, immanently.

There is rather a kind of looping movement between the ‘togethered’ subject position of the participants and the world which they inhabit. Each participant is negotiating difference—that is the chief relational aim. The world finds itself in the subject and the subject finds itself in the world. What the world finds in the subject is a certain activity of consciousness, which partially reinvents the world as it repeats it. It all seems like a permanent persistence of living laterally, day in and day out, keep away steadfastly from the domain of rain and rainmaking.

And then someone would say:  “I am alive”.

This emphatic announcement, this zest for the limited subjectivity is the shrillest moment of the poem, worked out at the acme of this relational indeterminacy.  Could there be wistfulness in hoping for a simple life—of a living that is more than banal but less than what is cut short by the rain? But Pranabendu is never satisfied by wistfulness, a deficient mode of living. All acts of repetition have led to realization of being alive. What enormous alienation, what persistent cut of the violent being,  must have led to this crescendo of our  zestful living that makes us not only feel alive, in collective and banal camaraderie, but also leads us to  announce and celebrate such a form of living.  Is this an expression of guilt and regret, born out of extinguished aggression that rain would not allow? Herbert Marcuse has christened this state as one of surplus aggression, a state of complete inertia, absence of tension and annihilation:

“Characteristic is the permanent repetition: the same commercial with the same text or picture broadcast or televised again and again; the same phrases and clichés poured out by the purveyors and makers of information again and again; the same programs and platforms professed by the politicians again and again.”

The modus operandi of projected and extinguished aggression is instructive. Fantasy, which could have been a vital site of our connectedness to our world, it is not here any act that converges or transforms the world. No, the world seems to inhere in the fantasizing subject, and the terms are repeated and shifts gears as our position in the world changes. That is the reason you taste the half exposed breasts of a woman through your eyes. The subject’s purely half hearted and distancing act of sexual fantasy is sucked out of all meaning and hence this kinesthetic confusion. Tasting, a more involved mode of sensual involvement can only happen through one’s eyes, through adolescent forms of voyeurism. All adults in such a form of living are perpetually in the state of adolescence. Consequently, the interface between the moving conglomerate of the friends duplicates as the relational map of the world itself is continuously modified by the moves of all units. In effect Pranabendu is presenting us, in the second thread, with types of unrealized or derealized fantasy. Fantasy gushes out in the simultaneity of cornucopia. And hence: no fantasy takes place at all. All relationality is pure inherence.

Though not directly indulging in private property in the sense that Marx has underlined, yet this second, boisterous mode of living, in its sheer estrangement, shorn of all senses and away from the dangerous proximity of rain and revulsion, is only able to fantasize about a singular sense: the sense of having. Singing and laughing—as Pranabendu advances, are the sounds of suburban leisure. We do not know where the noises come from or how the bodies in their moving togetherness looks like either. Both laughter and singing therefore come across to us as hesitations, sucked off their visitations and are getting constantly displaced and lost, in a lovely manner.

The participants themselves, we discover, are finally docile, good sports. This is what Giorgio Agamben has described as the lovable, the punctum that is the ethical ground for the membership in the social: “Thus whatever singularity (the loveable) is never the intelligence of some thing, this or that quality or essence, but only the intelligence of an intelligibility.”  All desire in them is bound up with pure good life. Self-referentiality is subsumed within the travelling male-group dynamics. And we are flooded by versions of constant expectations. We are dealing in agents whom Lauren Berlant, in another context has called, “folks of endless weekends.”

The Evil Ecstatic

This poem is about a border experience. The central social-ontological question that Pranabendu keeps asking, in this poem and in much of his oeuvre, is this: What does it mean for human existence that we can be overtaken by feelings, the objects of which we find detestable or even evil or vice versa? How might one enframe the cognitive boundaries of aversive emotions within an overarching scheme of surpassing attractionplayed out within life’s interactions?

Here is what the poet Bhaskar Chakraborty has to say about this continuing streak in Pranabendu:

চাপা যে সন্দেহ আর অবিশ্বাস, চাপা যে ঘ্ণা আর ক্রোধ–অবহেলা, লাঞ্ছনা, অপমান — চাপা যে ভয়, বিরক্তি আর মহানিঃসঙ্গতা — সেইসব বিষযন্ত্রণার মধ্যে দিয়ে তিনি আমাদের কাছে এসে পৌঁছেছেন। তাঁর কবিতার মানুষ আর জীবন আর প্রক্ তির স্বাদ গ্রহণ করতেকরতে, আমরা তাঁর সেই গতিপথটার কথা যেন না ভুলি। আমরা যেন না ভুলি — কী সরু, কী জমজমাট, কী কর্কশ একটা সময়কে ছুঁয়ে ছুঁয়ে তিনি এসে পৌঁছোলেন আমাদের কাছে। প্রতিভাবান যাঁরা, ভরসা পাই এই ভেবে যে, হাজারো বাধার মধ্যে তাঁদের স্বরটা ঠিকশোনা যায়। ব্যাপারটা সামান্য নয়। ব্যাপারটা সামান্য, যদি আমরা প্রশ্ন করি নিজেদের, দৌড়োয় তো সকলেই কিন্তু পৌঁছোয় কজন?

(শুধু বিচ্ছিন্নতা নয়/ ভাস্কর চক্রবর্তী)

॥পর্বসন্ধি পত্রিকার : প্রণবেন্দু দাশগুপ্ত সংখ্যা থেকে অংশবিশেষ॥)

“The muffled suspicion and mistrust, the muted repugnance and indignation—disregard, humiliation and ignominy—the dreary routine of dread, discomfiture and limitless estrangement—through these avenues of toxic affliction, he has reached us. As we savour the humans and life and nature in his poetry, we ought not to abandon this flight path. We ought not to forget how restricted, uproarious and shrill a pulse he kept measuring and reminding us about.  One feels optimistic that we shall not miss such voices of the gifted, even with numerous obstacles. This is not a small thing. It is simple, if we are able to self-reflect: all of us are on the running track, but how many of us can reach our destination?”

(Not Just Rupture, Parbasandhi Patrika, Bhaskar Chakraborty)

It pours. Rain happens. Rancour is hydraulic. And rancour is crucially bound to furor. Evil strikes right at the moment of ecstasy. At the moment of evil we are simultaneously noble and ignoble. We are always already drawn to competing directions in our deepest engagements. Perhaps the situation colours itself into sharply contrasting emotional states? Aurel Kolnai, perhaps the greatest of Western thinkers who has systematically gotten under the skin of this ‘double intentionality’ of loving aversion, used to say that the amoral is not a separate type of intentional form, but merely reveals itself as a backlash to the experience of affirming the primary, positive value. So, rather than continuing to focus on the internal content of mental acts rooted in unconscious drives, such contents, at such points of closeness, became the background for studying the structural laws of human experience, of the causal connection between certain emotional states. We are dealing with fragility and imperfection.

The enframing of the problematique that engages Pranabendu has been tackled in a different way by those who have tried to understand the workings of the psyche.  The locus classicus is Freud’s 1915 essay Instincts and Their Vicissitudes, where he states that “the external world, objects, and what is hated are identical.” Not only at the very beginning, but  “As an expression of the reaction of unpleasures evoked by objects.” He goes on—hate “always remains in an intimate relation with the self-preservative instincts.”Given the (perceived) fundamental hostility of the world to the self, the very possibility of object relations depends on a profound mistrust of the object and, consequently, on different modes of appropriating objects.

Ian Suttie, extending on this thematic, concluded that the becoming of the self is always in reference to the non-self; one must build up constantly by gradually distinguishing the non-self: “which restricts its movement and acts in a way not expected or wished by itself.”He saw hate as the frustration aspect of love. “The greater the love, the greater the hate or jealousy caused by its frustration and the greater the ambivalence or guilt that may arise in relation to it.” The more the non-self appears as powerful for pleasure or displeasure, the more the self finds itself vulnerable and hence the whole experience turns inharmonious. Sometimes the closeness gratifies need and conforms to our wish; sometimes this same perceived closeness seems external and the experience acts in disagreeable or unanticipated ways. Self consciousness then is a continuous process of birthing/parturition—a tussle between charge and occupation, longings and anxiety, fulfillment and frustration; right from the beginning any relationship is a give and take between loving feelings and recoiling claims. Disappointment shall lead to the successive emotions of discomfort, need, anxiety, rage. Finally, either one comes out of the dyad or leads into morbid self sufficiency until one ends up in the isolation of dementia praecox.

This was neat—the psychoanalytic explanation. But it does not at all explain the far more complex sense that revulsion may not be a primary, first formed and directed emotion but an intensification of anxiety roused by a threat, effected through a relentless possibility of closeness. It is an offshoot of the preservation of the self within spheres of social recognition and not just personal intensification—which always teeters at the edge of incomprehensibility. As the touching distance offers itself, something happens that takes the agents beyond the sum total of organic needs and gratification.

The acute awareness of a threat to their existence as agents coming viscerally close in a closed spatio-temporal locale is also simultaneously social. The condition is offered by possibilities of intimacy: rain, in this instance. But the rain is not merely a catalyst. Rain is the crucial ontological-social event that must take place from time to time. The perception of impending hazard to the agents that proves to be so terrifying is because rain offers a possibility of the coupling of momentary depth, but such a moment will have lasting significance on the part of the participants. This condition, once experienced must give rise to revulsion. This particular sensual desire for an object must lead to having a violent physical revulsion simultaneously. Revulsion is being born, yes. But is that the end of the road?

Pranabendu is far too complex and subtle a poet to consider aversive emotions and space as the summum bonum of life and rest there.

Cleansing Rain of Acid

The disgust felt in detecting putrefaction, or existential threat or identifying the core of a fearful moral reprehensibility is not an end in itself for the simple reason that these conditions are intrinsically tied to boundless love and attachment.The very formlessness of lush life must always be a conflicting domain.

The chink in radical revulsion is that it still allows for the agent to maintain his involvement in experiencing this emotion.Hatred shakes the whole person, our very existence, with great power and intensity, to the core. Kolnai avers that if we hate, we are—from within that experience – “witnessing the force of the entire Universe” concentrated at a single point.The condition and force of it is stupefying.It is this point that gives birth to the enduring relationship, according to Pranabendu. The will to destroy the hated object arises out of the belief and desire that the object of hatred might ever have existed. But the condition can only happen if we come too close to feel and experience the object during the time of rain.

Could such eruptions of acidic rain be meaningful and fulfilling?

This essay had begun with a justly notorious quote from Sartre, as he elaborates on the idea of viscosity and sliminess in final chapter of Being and Nothingness. Luce Irigaray, among others, has marked how it is impossible to speak about indeterminacy, fluidity and ambiguity within the prevailing models of Western being; Sartre’s being one of the last ones in the chain. In the borderline state of existence, and in elaborating forms of intimacy, fluidity is the only hopeful possibility. The viscous and fluid state goes far beyond contamination and/or misogyny. It is a condition and price of intimacy. This also brings us to emphasize that such forms of intimacy are neither solely personal nor ontological. Ontology always lies at the obverse to the social. One can actually go back to actually ponder about an old sociological distinction that Emile Durkheim had made between mechanical and organic forms of solidarity.  Though Pranabendu has mostly engaged himself within the realm of the personal-relational and group-dynamics, one can easily see that the implications of formulating and extending the two forms of friendship has profound implications on the very nature of larger forms of social formations and solidarities.

The real question to ask is about the very structures of co-existence that would keep away from the lateral move of monotony and seek deeper forms of solidarity.  For Pranabendu, it has always been this fatal intertwining of fire and ice—মস্ত একটা হাওয়ায়, ভাঙা ঘরে, মানুষ কাঁপছে—a huge gale, in its clutch, ramshackle, human-beings tremble: this has been his evaluation and optimism about human capacity. Human relationships, their very tenability, to such a poet, are dredged—from end to end—with helplessness. Nabanita Deb Sen, had made a comment that though in English, tangled relationships are expressed as love-hate, in case of Pranabendu it is often hate-love. For example in another poem titled ফিরে এসে, After Return, he says তবু মানুষজনের সঙ্গে দ্যাখা হতো/ ঘৃণা-ভালোবাসা হতো—“still one would meet other human beings, would indulge in hate and love.” Or ভালোবাসা যাবে কি তাহলে?/হয়তো বা যাবে/ অনেক সহজ ভাবে ঘৃণা করা যাবে (যুদ্ধের শর্ত)—”can one love then?/ perhaps/ one can hate with more ease.”(Conditions of War). Or this: revulsion can be a reason for poetry to emerge, for the sake of art itself—কবিতা লেখবার জন্য কবিতা লিখবো/ ভালোবাসা তুমি তৈরী হও/ ঘৃণা তুমি দুবার-তিনবার করে /ডাক দিয়ে যেও ( কবিতা লেখবার জন্য)—“let me write poems for writing poetry/love, you get dressed/hatred, two or three times/you give me a holler.” (To Write Poetry). But then from pure revulsion Pranabendu would blossom flowers and make the moon silently rise. He is forever aware that relationships are a bi-way process, a Sisyphean effort. Sometimes he himself may have foreclosed those ways: হাত বাড়াও, মানুষজনকে কাছে আনো/অত জটিল ঘুরিয়েছিলে কেন লাটিম—“proffer your hand, bring other humans closer/why did you turn the top so intricate.” He is aware of his own culpability. And yet, this deepest of involvements with other humans and ants, dust and hail—these turn him to a complete outcast.  In his hallucinatory moments he can, as it were, overhear his students, in hushed tone, gossiping in the corridors about his condition; brambles and thorny foliage constantly seem appearing perilously closer.The fierceness and revulsion that the furor of closeness breeds is sometimes akin to the footprints of a tiger, he had felt. But this very state of being an outcast is intimately connected to believing and trusting other humans one more time; one last time this sin of reaching out to fellow beings with full concentration and spontaneity—that is what the hope is.  Sometime he would call this symbolic moment of arrival as his white pigeon (শ্বেত পারাবাত).

Now is the time to return to the cleansing rain of fire and acid:

কিন্তু বৃষ্টি নেমেছিলো।. But it had rained.

Only since it had rained one could come close to other human beings and had the opportunity to taste the full brunt of revulsion from one’s interlocutors, friends, comrades and other intimates. This is the only way to scour the bedrock level of attachment. Once you take this route, a form of living silently and threateningly take root.  Anticipating solidarity shall then also must mean anticipating the soot and lava in the ensuing downpour.

You beckon me and I rush forth— hoping, hoping for the most scathing form of contempt that only such rain can bring. The inevitable recompense is to get dispersed and fragmented. Yet rush I must. To teeter at the edge breaking down is bountiful. This is how the inevitability of our closeness unfolds. And perhaps: in times of such flux and fomentation, this is the how another form of the social just might take form.

The miasmic rain is fated and inexorable with presence and contiguity.  A lifetime of rain and swamp, and the poet would say: যে আগুনের মধ্য দিয়ে যাচ্ছি , তাতে যেন আমার পুন্য হয়-“ “Let my being be regenerated as I pass through this blazing fire.”


Select References

Dasgupta, Pranabendu. Collected Poetical Works, 2 Volumes. ed. Sumanta Mukhopadhaya. Kolkata: Saptarshi Prakashan, 2016.

Parbasandhi Patrika. Pranabendu Sankhya, Volume 3, Konnagar, Hugli, 2000.

Pranabendu Dasgupta Smaran Booklet. ed. Arindam Niyogi. Kolkata: 2008.

Bersani, Leo. ‘Psychoanalysis and the Aesthetic Subject.’ Critical Enquiry. Volume 32, Issue 2, Winter 2006.

Bersani, Leo and Ulysse Dutoit.  Forms of Being: Cinema, Aesthetics, Subjectivity. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Marx, Karl. Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, 162.

Durkheim, Emile. The Division of Labour in Society. New York: Free Press, 1893/2004.

Kolnai, Aurel. On Disgust .Chicago and La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 2003.

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2011

Klein, Melanie and John Riviere. Love, Hate and Reparation. Norton, KS: The Norton Library, 1937.

Freud, Sigmund. ‘Instincts and Their Vicissitudes’, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Richmond: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1957.

Suttie, Ian Dishart. Love and Hate. London: Free Associations Press, 1999.

Agamben, Giorgio.  The Coming Community.Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Irigaray, Luce. The Sex which is Not One.Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Taussig, Michael. The Nervous System.Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 1991.

Marcuse, Herbert. ‘Aggressiveness in Advanced Industrial Society’.Negations: Essays in Critical Theory,MayFly Books/Ephemera; Revised edition 1968/2009.

Hochschild, Arlie. The Commercialization of Intimate Life:  Notes from Home and Work.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Lefebvre, Henri. Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Continuum, 2004.

Scheler, Max. Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

Nirenberg, David.Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

William Ian Miller. Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997.

Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life. New York: Vintage, 1995.

Prasanta Chakravarty edits humanitiesunderground.org and teaches English in Delhi University.

One thought on “Rain and Revulsion: Prasanta Chakravarty”

  1. Excellent critique of life and its myriad forms of controversies. ‘ Man is a bundle of controversies ‘ …aptly proved by the imagery created by the ecstasy and revulsion of rain on different psychological states of Man.


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