BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
The Final Frontier
Dialogues between Mother and Son
K L Chowdhury
Author K.L. Chowdhury
Original Price ₹350
Publication Year 2017
Subject English Literature
Review by Arvind Gogoo
K L Chowdhury’s book of poems The Final Frontier (Dialogues between Mother and Son) has three sections, viz. Dialogues (thirty-two poems), Soliloquies (fifty-five poems) and Silences (ten poems). In all the three sections we find intimate and uninhibited talk between son and his old and ailing mother. The personal narratives of the son as well as of the mother are true, authentic, genuine and painful. Each dialogue of the mother is a cri de coeur---a cry from the heart and each answer to a question is de profundis. The dialogues reflect the sensitivity, understanding, observation and mutual love of the mother and son. They show the strength, self-respect and sense of dignity of the speaker. The diaristic passages are bathed in interesting subjective voices. Here the act of experience serves a creative purpose. An idea or the shadow of an idea leads to the grace of appropriate form or architecture. Both son and mother experience a sort of catharsis. It looks as if the mother and son are confessing their love, pain and relationship before a Father Confessor by turns.
Mother, in spite of the many infirmities she suffered from, was a courageous, dignified and an enthusiastic lover of life. She had the will of granite but was intensely human. She was mentally alert and was endowed with sharp memory and alacrity. This made her a raconteur. Being religious she showed and radiated calmness, peace and joy. Her illness transformed her doctor-son into a caring human being. He watched her melt away with his soul in torment. We find shades of biographical touches, tumultuous emotions, psychological insight, descriptive power and aphoristic commentary on life and death which edify the reader and encourage him to see his own self in them. The author says that some of the dialogues are imaginary. Whatever, they portray the various facets of life from an old woman’s point-of-view.
The Final Frontier contains excursions of two unrestrained minds that are engaging and follow the dictates of an uncontrolled observation and imagination. Both drift and are led into digressions of the fantastic and the intimate. Here we find a woman with a deeper insight and abundance of thoughts. Both mother and son have the insight and intelligence to make the reader care for all that they care for. Mother talks about topics of day-to-day human interest. In Do I Deserve to Be Your Son? the author feels guilty and concludes the poem with:
…it is then I feel/unworthy of being a son/of a mother/like you.
In the poem Memories the old mother of the author hints at the nightmare and epiphany of an uprooted people. She lives in the past which is not dead because Kashmir for her is ‘water down the river’.
It is a privilege to dodge ones mother. All children do that. That is what K L Chowdhury has done with his mother over very small things like trimming the nails. In The Nagging Fly mother’s irritability looks lovely. In You Have Become an Excuse the author exposes the hypocrisy of the visitors when they go to his mother to enquire after her health. The poem Charity and Memorabilia is pathos:
We gave away in charities/all your earthly possessions;/we left nothing with us/except your favourite refrain……/I have retained your comb, though,/and your nail clipper as well/the comb as a reminder/of a profanity committed/when I cut your hair short;/and the nail clipper/as an emblem of my failure/to clip the horny nails of your big toes/that stuck out and pointed at me/even as I was giving you/the last bath.
The Final Frontier tells us how mother and son comment on the perennial questions of life and death, ageing and decay, faith and skepticism, existential choice and determinism. Both voyage from the present to the past and from the unknown to the known. Both dangle between what-is and what-is-not. Mother is a woman of firm conviction and belief whereas son is very caring and devoted to her. Both are keen observers of the drama of human life. The mild complaints on both sides apply to all humans especially those who wait upon the sick and nurse them. Nursing a sick mother is not an ordinary job. It is very challenging, and demands patience, resignation and spiritual attitude towards life from the son. In Go Mother, Go the son would like his mother to ‘go’ so that he ‘with tears in my eyes,/I am ready to say good byes’. Some of the poems touch the Pandit religious rituals that the author values, believes in and clings to.
I have come across a book of this kind for the first time in which a son and his mother bare their hearts, minds and souls and find a way to unburden themselves. The poems written in free verse are clean and lucid and pellucid although ambiguity, terseness, and labyrinthine phrases decorate all kinds of verses. Here and there we find some allusions which are essential for poetry. I don’t know why K L Chowdhury calls this anthology The Final Frontier. He could have given it some other attractive title.
About the Author
Dr. K L Chowdhury retired as a Professor of Medicine, Medical College, Srinagar. Presently he is the Director of a charitable institution, Shriya Bhatt Mission Hospital and Research Center, Durga Nagar, Jammu. He is a physician and neurologist, a medical researcher, poet, social activist. He writes on diverse subjects medical, literary, social and political and has numerous research papers to his credit, his pioneering work being “The Health Trauma in a Displaced Population” which was presented at national and international conferences.
He has published three anthologies namely:
1- “Of Gods, Men and Militants”. Minerva Press (Pvt.) India -2000
2- “A Thousand-Petalled Garland and other Poems”. Writers Workshop Kolkata 2003
3- “Enchanting world of Infants” Peacock Books, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors-2007
He was declared Shehjar's 'Kashmiri Person of the year' for 2007.