Makarand Paranjape is a spiritual poet behind the stance of a modernist. He is allusive, complex, nuanced, but as this book shows he can open a web of interconnecting symbols and motifs with lines of endless meditations. The very title with themes of rainwater driving upon parched and restless terrains, flowing into tributaries that merge into rivers and end in the vastness of the ocean evokes a powerful Vedic symbolism.

The development of interweaving images and meanings in the ‘Confluence’ and references to parallel ‘Dry Salvages’ by TS Eliot is itself a trope. The image of the sounds made by water as his own voice is another metaphor that expands while it plumbs deeper, as it were, into the aquamarine depths of the ocean.

The sequence begins with Rain, moves to the River and culminates in the Ocean, each a symbol of awareness. The first line of the Prologue initiates this rumination already holding in seed the denouement,

The song of surrender is rain.

When its first notes are heard

you realize how unsullied words can be,

how exact their meaning,

Rain is effortless…

It is the beginning of a symphony with a single note hanging in air, soon to gather points and counterpoints of sound, coalescing, crystallizing, until the whole orchestra stirs into the synchrony of multiple selves. Poem 1 begins with ‘an uneasy restlessness of afternoon’. ‘heat…and warm swirls of air around the room…Oppressed…Then, with a crack of thunder like a smile of relief…The sky breaks into rain’. Poem 3 builds on the ‘scorching summer…tilling the field, toiling in the sun, until the skin peels off our backs’.

“The long rain-drops curved like scythes, slashed the soft brown earth. Torrents of muddy water swirl in the furrows.” And all the complications of flood and power cuts, acid rains, boats and the break of rain-dance follow in the buildup of the schema. And then, the Lake, with its beautiful views gives an opportunity to understand, to connect:

At night, the street lamps around

threw reflections on the waters,

lighting the inside edges

with rows of shimmering streamers.

And this, followed by the vision:

Lord…I am still a cripple outside your temple…

…But when it rains,

I am granted the rare blessing

of glimpsing you, being whole again.

And now the healing, and now the seeded metonymy of implication:

Inside, wrapped in a blanket,

I lay, listening to the rain,

gradually, drifting into slumber

dreamless into the night.

As he comes to the close of section I, the poet leaves more hints like pools of water glimmering with light:

Come listen to the rain.

The rain speaks in its own language…

So, if you have forgotten how to listen,

try again.

Come, listen to the rain.

Section II is River. Not one, but the five rivers of energy flowing in us: the river of body, mental formations, feelings, perceptions and consciousness. Reminiscent of the five sheathes of each individual as described in Indian psychology, that of the gross body, the subtle bodies made of mind and prana, and the causal bodies made of vijnana or intuition and bliss. And then the personal loss, the giving up, giving in, mourning his father’s demise, but connected to the Universe:

…on the verge of chilling waters,

laving my bowed, shaven head in the timid


High above, beyond sight or breath

these lucent currents originate:

mighty glaciers ponderously slide

And then the breakthrough, of years of suffering held in knowledge and ignorance, action and inaction, acceptance and resignation, living and dying,

in my cupped hands

mountains thaw into streams

the darkening monsoon sky

heavy with sorrow, breaks

in salty trails on my face.

The waters underneath

Mingle all in their embrace…

Section III is disappearance in the Ocean, like a salt doll, which attempts to plumb the depths with its body. “Who would then come back to give the account of how deep the ocean was?” And now begin a series of experiences and realizations that remove the coverings of personality and the falsehoods of ego.

I stood ravished

as your single touch

undid me completely

tearing to shreds the ancient fabric of self,

the stubborn tissue of self:

thus, I became eternal

freed from my moorings.

The sound of rain grows into hush. The initial surrender into self. The uneasy restlessness into stillness. This is the confluence of the poem, within itself holding strands and various energies, images and symbols flowing into one, the poem becoming its own journey and revelation, until everything reaches the grand finale of That.

What remains in the womb of space

is a full emptiness…

where time slinks away

disappearing into always.

And then, a Krishnamurti-esque resolution of all untruths:

So hold the contradictions

in your palms

gently, without reaction—

and before your eyes

the complication is resolved

like snow flakes melting on contact

leaving but a cleansing drop or two

of dew.

A collage of various sights and insights, solutions and dissolutions, to meld the sublime with a childlike joy, the poet reveals the moment when he finally disappears while performing the Aarti:

He disappeared like camphor

burning bright and clear

in the dark night—

…eating itself,

until it was

gone without

a trace

leaving only its faint perfume in the purified air.

And then, the epitome, Vedanta lived in purity in a sage, ancient and modern, at the hill of Arunachalam:

O Hill of Fire,

blaze in my heart

as pure consciousness, the eye of the “I.”

O Pillar of Fire,

thou One without a second,

peerless, solitary, effulgent,…

O Lord of ascetics,

O ego-slayer par excellence

destroy me completely now.

“Hearken; it stands as an insentient Hill. Its action is mysterious, past human understanding…When it drew me upto it, stilling my mind, and I came close, I saw (it stand) unmoving.” The image of the hill, carefully interwoven at the end, into a reverie that returns constantly to the Origin without cause, the End without reason:

You alone are real; I am only yours; or, we are one…

Alone, eternal, immense, immovable Arunachala-Shiva….

Confluence is a work that grows and grows upon you. New hints are seen on further readings, suggestive and hermeneutic, open with endless possibility, with such weight that no movement is possible. It is a work that invites close deliberation and offers great reward for those who embark on its complexly simple journey and discover their own genius while studying the epiphany of the poet’s self.

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