by: Dr. Jaspal Singh

Source: South Asia Post: Issue 27 Vol II


Description: P. Ranchan is a notable literary figure in north-west India. By now he has penned over four dozen of books in different genres that include poetry, fiction, folklore, literary criticism and mythcartography. As a poet he is recognised all over the country and most of his collections of poems have been commented upon in many well-known journals, both in India and abroad. As a Punjabi settled in Shimla he is known for his zeal and zest as also his celebratory existential outbursts that some times surprise. Years ago he was a professor of comparative literature at California University for about a decade before returning to India to join as professor and head of the English Department at Himachal Pradesh University Shimla. As a popular teacher, Ranchan is remembered by generations of students and even now in his old age, as a retired teacher he is surrounded by many young students. Almost every day he visits the Mall and is a regular at the Ashiana eating joint on the Ridge. Very few poets in the subcontinent can match Ranchan’s verse and vigour. He can sing and dance in the company of the young even at the crowded places like Shimla’s famous Ridge.
Description: PANRanchan`s poetic range is imminence a very strong Jungian influence that binds them rare universality pertaining to the archetypes of the collective unconscious of the human race. Ranchan’s 21st volume of poetry has just appeared. This latest collection is in celebration of the lesser known Greek god Pan who is supposed to be the god of ‘flocks and shepherds’. His figure is a condensation of many animalistic traits though partly he puts up a goat like form. He is a lover of music and usually plays a pipe. He is a great love maker also chasing the nymphs. The Olympian gods despised him because of his appearance though Apollo is supposed have obtained the art of prophecy by coaxing him and Hermes copied his pipe and sold it to Apollo. Ranchan, the poet introduces the god thus:
Pan is the Lord Liege
grooves with leaf, bole, root
Loves women
Chases them alone or with him fauns
It’s a spectacle, grandiloquent, serious
mock and mirth-provoking
Lets the loath and unwilling to escape
In to tree, rock, river
Sits under a canopy crown
in the shadow of a dingle
Or by the water’s edge
Strums his lyre
Pours the diapason of his soul
Tapping the irregular beat with his goat feet
It’s strange though he causes panic
because he merges his ontology
in to another
To fuse into greater teleos
Such his alchemy
the auto-erotic, lapsed, lonesome
Must come to Pan
 to be whole[from Pan]
The name of the god is Pan supposedly derived from ‘paein’ which means ‘pasture’. That is why he is associated with plants, forests, and valleys. Herds of sheep and goat are supposed to be grazing there. As a god of the shepherds Pan represents the pastoral stage of human development. Olympian gods appeared much later when Greek city states had struck roots along the Ionian Sea.
The poet says:
Prior to Olympians,
He cannot dig Apollo’s paranoia with Mercury
Poseidon being cross with Ares
Children hiding in corners…
Zeus disguises in pursuance
of extra-mural dalliance with Leda
 in Crete…
When the pagans got tired
of Eros…
They went to Pan
Bathed the rock on the water’s edge
with goat milk
To be natural and whole
They talked to the faeries once again
to see themselves
In the chiaroscuro of their subliminal
And Pan rose from the coves from the
other bank
And gave a glimpse with his splashing
Of the luminous self for a split second Pan is the only god who is supposed have died. His death was reported to the Olympian gods. Ranchan gives a poetic touch to his disappearance:
When Pan fell into gloom and grief
with the fault-lines
With the fissures and cracks
appearing from nowhere in the tectonic shift
The natural knowing of Pan was displaced
Fauns disappeared
Faeries went to sheep or took flight
Pan hid in his lair to nurse his wounds.
The poet asks him:
How did you die Pal?”
He replied from a dingle
 deep as doom;
Faeries left for fresh woods and
pastures new
My fauns grieved, shrieked
themselves to nichil
I lost my raison d’etre
I went boom
Just like that said I, stunned
with amaze
Don`t despair”, he added as Holy Ghost
Dying be entry into deeper caritas
The dead are well somewhere
The living remain and suffer
The fact of the matter is
That the dead mutate and return
The living draw too sharp a line
between the dead and the living
in Avidya, in rank ego-bound ignorance

This is how Ranchan delineates the versified biography of a Greek god who for the Olympians has always remained a caricature. All the poems in this collection are archaic yet extremely modern. The poet goes back and forth on the time scale. The ancient symbols radiate modern meanings. The Freudian technique of condensation and displacement has been skillfully utilized along with the Jungian analytical psychology. He forty two poems in this anthology are rich in philosophical and mythological references. These offer a peep into the functioning of the human psyche.