What is Madhushala(book) all about; apart from tavern of wine?

By Sunil Kumar

As you must be aware; Madhushala is book of 135 “quatrains”: verses of four lines (Ruba’i) by Hindi poet, writer and Amitabh’s father Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

What is it about? If one cursorily listens to these verses; as most people do; ready to marvel at the poet’s prowess of words and the delightful social connotations of alcohol courtesy the madhushala(tavern/wine house); he will be missing the point.

Harivansh Rai was a profound poet-philosopher who gave aesthetic shape to his internal ruminations over life, love and subtle meaning in this book. You cannot understand the many nuances of meaning Harivansh Rai imbues in this book in one reading.

So suggest you read the book repeatedly to get a better and more insightful perspective. Millions of opinions based on the reader. Beauty or the converse is in the eyes of the beholder; the reason why two critics/aficionados may not have the same opinion.

‘Madhushala’ is not necessarily a tavern. ‘Madhushala’ symbolizes dreams, ambitions, life, the universe or a complex system with multiple relationships.

Any person who yearns is man in the context of this poem. Wine(मधु/हाला/ साकीबाला), is what he yearns for, provider is Saaki(साकी – one who serves wine), the medium is pyaala (प्याला – wineglass) and the place which provides is ‘Madhushala’. There is a lot of rhyming in the book; a more handy way to weave its way into the appreciative reader’s mind.

The vagabond(supposed protagonist) of the verses is rebelling against orthodoxy and stratified thought; and wants to chart a new fluid path through strictures/diktats of societal constraints.

The author himself describes it as an exploratory journey; a flight of fancy; in turn a pointer to the “Chayavad”(neo-romanticism(humanism/love) movement in Hindi literature; particularly poetry. Go through “Madhushala” only if you are interested in this philosophical-abstract literary genre. Thoughtful meandering into collective consciousness with an attempt to change it is not everybody’s cup of tea nor is it easily intelligible. In contrast; there are now multiple options now available to engage with.

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