Padma Kalyani Mohapatra | DUJES Volume 27 | 2019 Issue

Process of Identification and Postcolonial Trauma in Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hesitant Light

Padma Kalyani Mohapatra is pursuing an M. A. in English from the Department of Languages and Comparative Literature, Central University of Punjab.

The collected poems in Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hesitant Light take an active role in expressing the structuring of self and healing through the traumatic effects ramified by colonialism, thus implying the psychological dimension of the resultant innate conflict of figuring out his postcolonial identity. Therefore, it is due to this colonial trauma that the poems also embody and reflect a sense of loss. The present study would like to reestablish the view that apart from the political and cultural independence, the sense of liberation in terms of psychological paradigm would lead to the complete or total liberation of the individual from the degrading effects of colonialism.
            Keywords: Poetry, Postcolonialism, Jayanta Mahapatra.

The process of colonialism is marked by violent intrusion of the native’s land, culture, and language and most importantly it affects the psyche of the colonized, resulting into an experience of a traumatic situation by the colonized victim. The colonial process affected different countries in different ways, for instance, if we take British colonialism into account in relation to its construction of the entire colonial structure in India, with respect to Africa, we are apprised of the subtle differences in the treatment of the British who labelled Africans as pagan, evil and barbaric, whereas, they didn’t overtly label the Indians as pagan or uncivilized, rather they were of the view that India in the past, i.e., in the pre-colonial period was embellished in rich culture and heritage, but for some reason, the present generation of Indians have fallen from grace and accounting to the perplexity of the people of India as to pinpoint the exact reason for their downfall, it becomes their (British) moral responsibility to ‘civilize’ them so as to help them revive their lost grace. So, specifically, in the context of India, the ongoing process of decolonization has always revolved around the revival of the golden past of pre-colonial India. But the problem lies in the fact that the colonial process exerting its drastic influence on the present and future conditions of the state, also tries to eradicate or erase the precolonial past of the captured land; thus breaking the innate connection between the colonized by rupturing their authentic source for revival and thus shattering their desire to merge their present to their former state of being.
The importance of past of a particular nation (referred to as history) lies in the concatenation of innumerable blocks of cultural elements that have conflated in gradual years to form the basis of the identity of a particular nation-state that all individuals living as a community share. But when their foundation is ruptured, their essences and identities drain out, leaving them in disturbing space of chaos and conflict. On the other hand, the “in-between” mediators of the state, owing to their exposure to a Western system of knowledge, have been relatively blurred to such an extent that they fail in their endeavor to represent or ‘voice’ for the victims of colonialism. This act of suppression of their culture and identity leads to repression of self which further traumatizes the colonized subject. This act of oppression leading to suppression directs us to the fact that the process of colonialism is not only political but also involves the psychological or mental aspect. Thus, this prolonged tunnel of traumatization integrates the obvious confusion of the colonized individual’s perceived identity, the colonizer’s imposed values molding his identity, the colonized subject’s resistance to it, the resultant disintegration of the former cultural identity of the colonized, formation of a new identity that lacerates the individual’s self-consciousness and affects  his conception and understanding of his self and ignites his desperation to find his own self-identity and his mode of social identification.
The poems in Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hesitant Light try to take an active role in structuring of self and healing through the traumatic effect ramified by colonialism, thus implying to the psychological dimension of the resultant innate conflict of figuring out his postcolonial identity. Therefore, it is due to this colonial trauma that the poems reflect a loss of consciousness of self. This article attempts to reestablish the view that apart from the political and cultural independence, the liberation in terms of psychological paradigm would lead to the complete or total liberation of the individual from the degrading effects of colonialism. One of the major concepts that this chapter focusses on is the concept of ‘trauma’ which as defined by Oxford dictionary is an “emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis” thus, implying an aftermath of a cataclysmic event that results in total shattering of individual point of reference resulting in total defiance to immediate understanding.
Therefore, the event of colonialism can be taken as a cataclysmic event annihilating the basic constructs of individual’s identity and self, and thus make it difficult for the colonized to recuperate from the effects of colonialism, long after attaining political independence from the colonizer. For instance, India achieved political independence from the British on 15th August 1947 making the citizens of India politically independent, but even after seventy years of independence, the once-colonized subject’s psyche is scarred with the brutality of violence, both physical and psychological, that colonialism accompanied. This traumatic event of colonialism stuns the mind of the colonized thus hindering the normal ability of the brain to rationally process the events and eventually pushing it to the unconscious, as he reflects it in one of his poems in Hesitant Light: “If it were a moth, it would catch the fire’s wink, the side of its head carrying a wound which bleeds. Something lies to me in a poem, wound or ornament, and lies without knowing it…” (35). The poet deliberately uses the metaphor of ‘wound’ to refer to trauma of the post-colonial period but the next line unravels and makes his innate confusion explicit, by highlighting an underlying existence of doubt as whether to take the process of colonialism as a boon (as an ornament) or a bane (as a wound), unable to decide whether to attach or detach from it. Once it reaches to the unconscious realm of the colonized, it pervades in the background and sprouts in uneven sequences through a defensive act of repeated rewinding of the traumatic event, in a way familiarizing it.
This repetition of the traumatic event without a rational understanding of the cause behind it leads to loss of the individualized sense of self and pushes him into the chaotic state of identity crisis. The postcolonial subject is involuntarily exposed to the colonizer’s ideological, cultural and political structures of power and is invariably swayed to the perceived ‘superior’ culture while still clinging to his own traditional cultural roots thus placing him in the ‘occult instability’. As stated by Lindsey Green-Simms in the book Indiscretions: At the Intersection of Queer and Postcolonial Theory “… Fanon’s concept of a “zone of occult instability”, which is an unrepresentable space of constant fluctuation used by Fanon to designate the sphere of cultural struggle that must emerge in the wake of codified nationalist and traditionalist culture. As the colonized, direly affected by the traumatic event of colonization, loses his understanding of self, this consequent transitional instability obstructs him to revive the old, pre-traumatic self or to restructure a new identity resulting out of the disintegration of the present traumatic self.
A postcolonial subject starts doubting his identity, as Fanon mentions in the chapter of Colonial Wars and Mental disorders in the book The Wretched of the EarthBecause it is a systematic negation of the other person and a furious determination to deny the other person all attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly: 'In reality, who am I?'” (250), the mentally colonized individual in the postcolonial ambiance is constantly pulled to two different cultural points which result in a divided self and he tries to find a clarity amidst the chaos and tries to structure his own self-identity. This situation of instability affects the psychology of the colonized which consequently results in his gradual loss of identity, the disintegration of his former cultural identity and a possibility to assimilate in the oppressor’s culture leading to, what Homi K. Bhabha called, mimicry. As argued by Fanon, The oppressor, through the inclusive and frightening character of his authority, manages to impose on the native new ways of seeing, and in particular, a pejorative judgment with respect to his original forms of existing” (qtd. in Seals 38).
Such traces of traumatic experiences is found in the anthology Hesitant Light by Jayanta Mahapatra, which blatantly unravels the shock experienced by the poetic persona’s postcolonial self at the meeting of contrasting cultures, the helpless state of being unable to save one’s former culture’s essence and the eventual shock of one’s culture being perceived and defined in derogatory terms, which heightens his intensity of traumatic experience resulting in the formation of a divided self that constantly tries to recuperate from the traumatic experience by ransacking his memories in a hope to connect with his pre-traumatic self, as the resultant fluid identity accounts for his failure to find his roots thus, reflecting his incapability to establish an understanding and self-identity of his own. The initiation of this traumatized self seems to reflect the poet’s own experiences direly affected by multiple influences that have contributed in the structuring of his self, especially the dominance of multiple religions in his life which later pushed him into disillusionment and as a result of which he started questioning the basic premise of ‘faith’ especially when the current religion is a byproduct of the colonial process itself. Mahapatra apprises the readers of his state of victimization where his identity and self-was in conflict since his birth as he was brought up in a Hindu-dominated society, and had proximate leaning towards Hindu faith, identifies himself with Hinduism, but Christianity is unnecessarily imposed on him, the latter religion being significantly sowed by colonialism. When one loses one’s self, he/ she finds the way to find one’s self by anchoring oneself to one’s own faith (in religion, or belief in any supernatural entity), but in the case of Jayanta Mahapatra, the bilateral struggles had already emerged years before his birth; thus conceiving a sense of a divided self which owed its formation to the constant struggles that he undertook to keep up with the innate (Hindu religion, which has already become a ‘part of him’) and imposed Christianity. 
Religion as a vantage point is also reflected in the writings of Frantz Fanon, as stated by Bobby Seals, He (Frantz Fanon) believed that the use of the dominant religion, Christianity, has kept the “wretched of the earth” in a state of stagnation, making them believe that “God” will free them (i.e. only when they are deceased) from the oppressive and pervasive forces perpetuated by European domination” (8). Thus, the ‘colonial memory’ that passed through generations as a family heirloom may have shook the basic foundations of faith in Jayanta Mahapatra, so as to imply the existence of ‘private memory’ of colonialism in families and the intermingling of public and private memory to form ‘colonial memory’; the former kind of memory is also known as cultural memory. Even after departure of the colonizers, with the advent of globalization, which seems synonymous to colonialism, the socio-economic and socio-political issues still pervade in the post-colonial world, contradicting its promise of ‘a better world’ as supposedly assumed to characterize the post-colonial period. According to Fanon, the intermediate space of instability affects the colonized psychologically leading him to experience dire social and cultural alienation. As stated by Seals,
Alienation forces the 'other' to yearn for whiteness because that is what is at the apex, looking 
down upon the subaltern. In that sense, the main purpose of Fanon’s objectivity centered on 
awakening or invoking the ‘power within’ the populace themselves of the understandability 
to work toward self-determination, self-worth, and non-Eurocentric truths. (16)
Thus, apart from the political, the actual decolonizing of the mindscape can begin when the colonized will find his own self by clinging to its native roots which defines his very essence, and tries to heal and recuperate from psychic scars that resulted out of the violent effects of colonialism. This section aims to focus on the psychic influence of postcoloniality and overcoming such psychic trauma is sine qua non to total liberation of the colonized, as opined by Ifowodo,
…Fanon believes the oppressed people dwell and their souls are crystallized, where we must 
come to do any meaningful work of reconstituting the fragmented subject and of national 
liberation, with the realm of post-colonial trauma. (28)
This section too aims to explore the various traces of postcolonial trauma as reflected in the poems of Hesitant Light, the trauma resulting into a forked or divided self and the struggle of the poetic persona to merge both the selves so as to find a definitive identity of his own, reflected in various poems anthologized in Jayanta Mohapatra’s Hesitant Light as “it proceeds from an acknowledgement of the fact that the extreme experience of trauma creates a “radically altered” sense of self. The struggle of the postcolonial subject to recover her identity is, then, quite literally, a struggle to reconcile the fragments of a divided and alienated self […] it is reminiscent of that fraught struggle to merge the “two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings” ('Into the Zone' 28), mirroring my analysis which involves a close-reading of the poems which  would reflect the state of dire desperation as experienced by the poetic persona to cease his complexity and merge his pre-traumatized self with the present traumatized one. The following section will solely focus on Jayanta Mahapatra’s anthology Hesitant Light.
The anthology Hesitant Light begins by apprising the readers of an existence of a fragmented self and the impending desire to consolidate the two selves pertaining to two different states and, the resulting anxiety and chaos the poetic persona experiences during his victimized state of postcolonial trauma.
Cruel seem these bars, the sun so narrow,
I am my home, they say,
for once here, there can be no farewell.
This is my first tie
as my heart beats into barriers of night.
Here play the winds of the world,
the sky too in its uncanny distance.
I stand on an empty promontory
Watching the invisible wave
That goes on beating against my will. (‘The Crossing’, 13)

The poem refers to the ‘bars’ of colonialism that has unduly exerted its cruelty over a mass of people, through the colonizers, over the past years. Confused about the constancy of one’s self, the poem reflects the popular opinion of those who claim that one finds his self in himself as self like the soul can never leave the living “I am my home, they say”. It then refers to the conception of the fragmented self that has resulted out of the postcolonial trauma and refers it as a ‘tie’ between the pre-traumatized self and the present traumatic self, where it reveals the persona’s proximal leaning to the ‘barriers of night’, i.e., the colonial structures (of knowledge, religion, power or language) which claim to serve as barriers to ignorance and mold the colonized in the boon of civilizational attributes. In this ‘night’ of colonialism play the influences of the world, the colonizers whose differences from the colonized or the natives, seems mysteriously unsettling and weird. Using a personal pronoun, the poem reveals the sense of trauma resulting into loss of identity and witnesses the formation of another self ‘against my will’ (13) hesitantly leaning and obliging towards the servitude of the colonizers.
The poem ‘The weight of yesterday’ reflects an attempt of clinging to one’s native roots by retracing one’s past which seems crystallized, so as to find the pre-traumatic self:
… And I go on looking for mine,
as I pass by the unchanging garden
that speaks no bond and no farewell
whose flowers press up a cry in me:
the unheard scream of all dead marionettes
the roses who have pulled up
their legs fearfully into their bellies. (‘The Weight of Yesterday’ 19)
The poem shows the poetic persona’s attempt to find his lost self in the frozen garden of the past “that speaks no bond and no farewell” which symbolizes to the crystalline nature of the past where there is no sense of attachment or detachment. The poet uses the metaphor of ‘flowers’ to imply the various memories that evoke his emotions as he trod down his memory lane. Among many things, the element that seizes the attention is the buried cultural heritage of the past which he refers to as ‘dead marionettes’. The poet creates a haunting image of the ‘dead marionettes’ screaming, but their voice is unable to reach us in the present. The brutality of the process of colonization has killed its essence and buried it under the stinking layers of the past. He has cleverly used the metaphor of ‘marionette’ for culture, as culture (even in the past) was molded as a puppet in the hands of the people or community in dominant power, having no vitality of its own and consequently has faced unnatural fatality when the process of colonialism initiated its debilitating effects by dominating, marginalizing and suppressing the native culture with that of the dominant culture of the colonizers.
Thus, the inanimate marionettes which were functioning in the hands of the ancestral past, have been pushed to the margins by the dominant culture. As a result of which, the colonized lose their sense of cultural identity and belonging-ness and suffer from the trauma of rootlessness as “the roses who have pulled up their legs fearfully into their bellies”; thus implying cultural detachment and scarring of the native self. Invoking the death instinct by using the term ‘dead’ marionettes maybe a deliberate attempt is made by the poet to attribute a state of preservation of the inanimate. If we consider the term ‘marionette’ as a metaphor used for native culture, in declaring it ‘dead’ the poet seems to freeze it thus making it incapable to get affected by any form of exterior forces or time. As a result of its non-exposure to the colonizer’s culture, it will remain pure in its essence and though it cannot be a part of the colonized society’s function, but would be preserved and won’t fade away in the infinitude of time.
The poem ‘Not to Be Loved by a Poem’ lets the inner conflicts of the poetic persona out in the open,” … I groan under the weight of some meaningless confusion as I lie awake in my embrace, blind as the one who pushed me there” (20). The poem reveals the ongoing series of conflicts that is victimizing the persona, pushing him into a dire state of alienation. Unable to trace his cultural identity, he sits in a state of emptiness groaning ‘under the weight of some meaningless confusion’ that seems to imply to the confusion regarding the existence of two selves. Not being able to merge them into a whole being and repeatedly being pulled between the contradictory states of indecisiveness of the traumatized self and the hesitance to leave the native self which leaves the persona bereft of any definitive identity to hold on to and accounts to the formation of an alienated self where he “lie awake in my (his) embrace”, ‘blind’ to find direction or a way back to his pre-traumatized state, “blind” as the colonizers who have pushed him to this state of rootlessness, who are ‘blind’ to the richness of the culture of the colonized natives, ‘blind’ to the brutal effects of their dominance and cultural imposition, ‘blind’ in their superiority and the resulting inferiority of the natives, ‘blind’ in their assertion of norms that shape the colonized society leading to alienation of the subjects from their native culture resulting into a collective loss of identity and social cohesion.
The poems try to establish his cultural identity on the framework of cultural identity as defined by Stuart Hall in his essay Cultural Identity and DiasporaThere are at least two different ways of thinking about ‘cultural identity’. The first position defines ‘cultural identity’ in terms of one, many other, more superficial or artificially imposed ‘selves’ which people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common. […] second position recognizes that, as well as the many points of similarity, there are also critical points of deep and significant difference which constitute ‘what we really are’” (223-25) The first way of constructing a cultural identity is to be in terms of the ancestral and shared history of the community as a whole as imaged in his anthology when the poet invokes the shared past of the collective community of Odisha, by painting descriptive images of Odishan landscape, its myths, history and this process of invoking images and description will contribute to eventual healing from the trauma experienced due to colonialism, as affirmed by Stuart Hall where he states that this trauma “begins to be healed when these forgotten connections are once more set in place. Such texts restore an imaginary fullness or plentitude, to set against the broken rubric of our past” (225). His anthology Hesitant Light is embellished with various images of Odishan landscape, its culture, traditions, history, and myths so as to reconstruct the lost cultural identity:
I am one who goes on mapping lost boundaries,
Forgotten histories,
Making the same jars with the earth of my words
Day after day. (‘Hesitant Light’ 85)
In the poem ‘When the Shadows Would Leave’, he writes,
… yet again: the cool inquisitive north wind
That has made people believe in love,
The salt shallows of Lake Chilika that shrink
as flocks of flamingoes’ winter over,
and the one lonely house in the valley… (23)
The deliberate attempt of the poet to paint this image is to establish one of important elements that adds to the authentic culture of Odisha, as besides Jagannath Temple in Puri which is considered as one of the ‘four dhams and forms an indispensable part of Hinduism; Chilika Lake is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon which is a spot of tourist attraction which adds on to the beauty and socio-economic aspect of Odisha. After Chilika, Hesitant Light also talks about the bridge in Jobra, which is the longest bridge in Odisha and from which one can view the beauty of Mahanadi river, whose fertile soil hugely contributes to the agricultural prosperity of the state.
In the poem ‘Happenings’, he writes:
[…] with the cry of a train crossing
the loneliness of the bridge
where it stands whispering
against the sands of Jobra. (50)
Hesitant Light retells some of the shared collective histories of Odisha that has formed an integral part of the culture of Odisha, for instance, in the twenty-eighth poem of Hesitant Light he ingeminates the history of the mass massacre by emperor Ashoka, turning the river Dayanadi red with the blood of the victims. The pitiable sight transformed King Ashoka completely, who eventually converted to Buddhism and propagated peace from then on. As stated by Jayanta Mahapatra’s himself, You can’t separate yourself from history or myth. The emperor Ashoka massacred thousands of my ancestors in Dhauli. While writing this poem I felt I was back in 261 BC watching the massacre” (31), invocation of such a shared past unites the people of Odisha in an intimate bond of social history, it also serves as a gentle reminder of the socio-cultural aspect of Odisha that attaches him to his native roots and restructures his cultural identity.
The poems in Hesitant Light is embellished with suggestive images which depict the landscape and various cultural practices of Odisha, which its people identify as a part of their identity:
End of the rains in the hills of Odisha.
No wetness drips now from the trees.
Just a silvery light on the black-green twigs
more like the unapologetic smile on faces of the old
and the ill crowding the merciless temple door. […]
And now, in a raging harvest,
the tribe celebrates
in the drum-heavy rite of abandon and dance. (‘End of the Rains in the Hills of Odisha’ 57)
The poem initiates the process of decolonization by connecting with the native masses by invoking the image of the tribal or the indigenous population of the land, as they are untouched by the effects of colonialization and thus represents the culture of Odisha in its essence, as stated by Gandhi in Hind SwarajAnd where this cursed modern civilization has not reached, India remains as it was before. The inhabitants of that part of India will very properly laugh at your newfangled notions. The English do not rule over them, nor will you[i] rule over them. Those in whose name we speak we do not know, nor do they know us. I would certainly advise you and those like you who love the motherland to go into the interior that yet been not polluted by the railways and to live there for six months… Now you see what I consider to be real civilization” (58). The poems anthologized in Hesitant Light seem to revert against the Eurocentric or Western system of knowledge and discourse by emphasizing on local landscape, culture, ritual, and practices.
But cultural identity is not just identifying with the similarities of a shared cultural past but also with identifying with the differences, as ‘cultural identity’ is not a fixed entity but an ever-evolving concept as stated by Stuart Hall in his essay Cultural Identity and Diaspora, Cultural identity, in this second sense, is a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as ‘being’. It belongs to the future as much as to the past. […] Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialized past, they are subject to the continuous play of history, culture, and power. […] It is only from this second position that we can properly understand the traumatic character of ‘the colonial experience’” (225). So to say, the golden past of Odisha reverberating with its unique cultural traditions, rituals, and practices came under the influence of many kinds of colonializations and colonial rulers which eventually shaped the cultural identity of the people living in it. Thus, identity keeps on evolving and molding according to the course of time, power and history and is, therefore, always “in process”.
The past is still accessible to the seeker, but as pointed out by Stuart Hall, the past is embellished in four elements of “memory, fantasy, narrative, and myth” (226). Hesitant Light employs all these four devices to start the process of recuperation from the postcolonial trauma that the poetic persona is seen to be experiencing. The poet constructs the past by using memory as a tool as reflected in many of the poems in his anthology Hesitant Light:
Memories have left no tracks.
Maybe this was to be expected,
For they beat, far beyond
the windows of my prisons
with their homesick, remorseless rhythms. (‘The Weight of Yesterday’ 18)
It is also evident in the poem ‘Reenacting an Old Play’:
Once a friend pushed my seven-year-old body
off a tree branch I was sitting on,
and next lay on the ground thinking… (27)
The anthology uses memory “under the sign of post-traumatic melancholia” (Visser 277) which reflects the melancholic state of the victim and its post-traumatic enervating effects.
As seen in the poem ‘There Were No Trumpet Blasts’ in memory of the 142 children massacred in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, where the poem addresses the persona’s plight and helplessness as he witnesses the dire inhumanity of the terrorists.
Hesitant Light incorporates numerous fantastical elements as well. In the poem ‘End of the Rains in the Hills of Odisha’,
The dark goddess high up on the hill slope
Stretches the hours of ugly, bloodied nights,
her eyes the monopoly of death. Long,
dry sighs of worshippers are merely marooned
in the shadows that secure her legend and life.
She is the goddess fetishized by blood,
Watching over bamboo and bramble and people
Who let themselves be swept from world to world. (56)
In the poem ‘A Burning Ground by the River’, he writes,
 And as I sat there, it came. A lost moonlight.
 It played around the ashes. It had a face,
 looming larger as it approached.
 Every look seemed to be an attempt on my life.
 The wind couldn’t escape being choked
 by the ashes. I couldn’t help notice
 the cold uniform of the moonlight.
 It took me years to walk back home. (90)
The third device of ‘narrative’ is used explicitly in the poems. In relation to the post-traumatic situation that the poet mirrors through the poems, the use of narrative in his poems is an essential tool as “narrative is a powerful and empowering therapeutic tool, enabling integration of the traumatic experience and aiding healing and recovery” (Visser 274). Instances of such a usage are found in his poem ‘Crossing the River’, where he portrays the story of a marginalized tribe ‘Kondh’ woman’s rape scene:
Her face buried in their rage,
the stripped, naked Kondh woman
writhing on the forest floor
can only implore
her deity of the silent trees
to pull down those leaves upon her. (15)
As one cannot separate oneself or one’s identity from the various cultural myths and histories, the anthology is embroidered with a huge number of such myths. One of the important myths that the poem seems to reiterate is the myth revolving around the conversion of King Ashoka into Buddhism after a sudden visual shock that he underwent after the mass massacre he committed turning waters of river Dayanadi into red, in his poem ‘At the Rock Edict of Emperor Asoka, Dhauli Hill, Odisha, 261 B.C.’:
High up the hill, one watches
as the moonlight still scours the dry riverbed
for bodies of the dead in the vain sands
trapped by cries of pain, as the year’s pilgrims
trudge the tortured valley of the Daya
in the pride of a singular belief. (55)
These four devices provide the required cultural traces for the poetic persona to trace his cultural identity by integrating them together. As cultural identity is not rooted in one’s history and past, it cannot be defined as a fixed cultural essence, rather it can be interpreted as one’s specific position at that time, so as Stuart Hall affirms “not an essence but a positioning”.
            The painful crossing through the dark tunnel of individualized postcolonial trauma involves turning to collective trauma, where one kindles out oppressions on various communities owing to their race, sex, class, and gender, even experiences of day to day life that inflicts pain. Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hesitant Light not only paints local traumatic incidents but also incidents that affected the global population. Some instances of such recollection of global memory and collective trauma are reflected in many of his poems when he writes lines such as: “and I suddenly remember/ the well in which villagers up north/ had found seven corpses in the first light” (32); and, “or in the hope of the hostage looking up/ at the sword that will, or will not,/ behead him;/ time’s there in the first careful step/ the Taliban jihadi took as he fired/ at the fourteen-year Malala” (45);
or, when he recalls the traumatizing incident of rape: “And the story of Shabnam/ The raped sixteen-year-old/ Who disappeared from Dargha Bazar/ That still clouds the necklaces/ Of festival lights” (94).
            In the crisis of traumatization, the poems seem to reflect an ardent desire to relive the past. Owing to the sudden blow of colonial trauma, an existence of two selves: the pre-traumatic and the post-traumatic emerges out of the poems. Pulled between the contradiction of reliving the past and inability to bring it back or replicate it completely, the poems places both the selves in two time-periods: past and the present, so as to distance the pre-traumatized self in order to get a rational clarity of the present and find an alternative way to merge the two selves, creating a possibility to fuse the situation in the present with some vital elements that could be resurrected from the past. The poem ‘A Meaningless Evening’ in Hesitant Light apprises the readers of the existence of a second self:
Only a part of me
savors the joy of the footsteps
while another part sweats in fear
at the thought of the many dead
who don’t know where to go. (66)
The excerpt may refer to the poetic persona’s fear of extinction of his cultural values which are typically Odishan, with the onset of the dominance of the post-traumatized self which has been exposed and has imbibed the western tongue which justifies his constant search for his roots by recalling the historical and familial past. The poem describes the persona’s confused state of being and the resulting ‘ambivalence’ which is characterized by significant attraction and repulsion from the colonizer who is perceived as ‘superior’ in the light of the ‘inferior’ natives:
Like finding oneself
at the corner of an unknown road,
and wandering through the confusion
of some powerless anonymity. (71)
The poem points to the amalgamated present self that has inculcated certain western ideas and values and states the fact of the inseparability of those influences and impossibility to wholly return to the past, pre-traumatized self, in the lines: “If I could return to where it came, would it recognize itself?” (78). Like Agha Shahid Ali he uses the word ‘shadow’ to imply one’s past, in a way letting out his inability to separate himself from the colonial experiences, out in the open. As seen more evidently in the poem A Mood of Denial which connects the post-traumatic condition of alienation with the process of recuperating from it, as he writes,
If you feel you are alone,
there must be a shadow inside you,
This shadow must have come
from the past you did not want to be in.
And if you are going out of the door
you don’t know if it’s the same
person you are when you come back in. (87)
The past is like a “familiar door” that holds no choices, but just “the frail songs of years past, sit up, bolt upright, silent and terrified, not knowing where to go” (84). 
            The poem ‘Signs’ reveals an initiation of slow acceptance of the persona’s present traumatized self which is slowly calming the mental and cultural chaos and after a rough-driven transition of fifty poems, one can notice a shift from an ardent desire to go back to the past to a gradual acceptance of the present self, suggesting an imperceptible healing of the colonial trauma:
To tell the truth, a voice inside
calls for help still. The childish sorrow
leaps at me like a cat, when I feel
I have become someone else. (92)
As a victim of colonial trauma, he raises issues such as hunger, poverty, rape, etc. that can be stated as the ill-effects of resulting experience of colonialism. Hesitant Light shows the process of colonialism as a force that has drained the country and its fellow men of all its resources and virtues and has left it in a highly dilapidated condition which will take years to recover. As Irene Visser quotes Hartman in her article Trauma Theory and Postcolonial Literary Studies”: Hartman had already presented trauma theory’s range as including the chronic and the collective, due to its “emphasis on acts of violence like war and genocide” and its attention to “familiar” violence such as rape, and the abuse of women and children” as well as the “nature of emotion and daily hurt” (qtd. in Vesser 276). Hesitant Light has numerous such incidents that highlight the different kind of “familiar” violence that aggravates the traumatic existence of the colonized, as seen the poem ‘Elsewhere’:
Yes, the man walking down the street
knows all about suffering,
crying quietly in his cancer. (41),
or in the poem ‘Already the Houses Appear’, where he depicts the scene:
Somewhere on the riverbed, four men
are raping a young girl, one after another. (58)
The poem seems to question the underlying ambiguity that revolves around the concept and shaping of identity, whether it is a fixed entity, or is it a continuous process of mixing and intermixing of influences, or is it just a name? In the poem ‘Homecoming’, he states:
Like religion was purely a part of certain things which the world brought into being
just in a way flavor arises from a blend
of spices and herbs, it’s a name when I wake up.
Or like history, one we have made ourselves. (60)
In the above excerpt, we get an insight as to how the concept of ‘identity’ emerges from the poems anthologized in Hesitant Light. The anthology deblurs the fluidity of identity by questioning as to whether ‘identity’ is fixed from one’s birth itself, as religion. Or it is a flexible entity incorporating numerous influences in its course of formation?
            Thus, Jayanta Mahapatra’s Hesitant Light seems to mirror the post-traumatic state as experienced by the poetic persona who undergoes a traumatic event of colonialism leading to the fragmentation of the self into pre-traumatic and post-traumatic selves inducing chaos and confusion in the psyche of the colonized, compelling him to question his identity. The poems show an attempt of the colonized to clutch to his native roots in order to anchor himself as he slowly starts to recuperate from the colonial trauma. When he starts the process of reconciliation between the two selves, he realizes that he can neither completely resurrect the past nor can there be a complete erasure of the colonial influences from his present traumatized self. The text traces the post-traumatic experiences and chaos felt by the poet in forms of personal and shared narratives and experiences, native landscapes filled with the darkness of poverty, hunger, futility and rape or abuse of women, disillusionment of life. This results in the formation of a divided self which distances one form of self from the other, thus finding a possibility to fuse the two selves, and in some way, to recover from the present traumatic state. Mahaptra's poetry is a wave of effort that resist ‘forgetting’ and encourage ‘reviving’.

Works Cited
Fanon, Frantz. Wretched of The Earth Frantz Omar Fanon. 2015. Internet Archive, Web.
Gandhi, M. K. Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. Navajivan Publishing House, 1938, Web.
Green-Simms, Lindsey. Indiscretions: At the Intersection of Queer and Postcolonial Theory. BRILL, 2011. Pdf.
Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, edited by Jonathan Rutherford, Lawrence & Wishart, 1990, pp. 222–37. Talis Aspire, Web.
Ifowodo, Ogaga. “Into ‘the Zone of Occult Instability.’” ResearchGate, doi: Web. Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.
Mahapatra, Jayanta. Hesitant Light. 1st ed., Authors Press, 2016. Print.
Seals, Bobby. Frantz Fanon, Alienation, and the Psychology of the Oppressed., Pdf.
Visser, Irene. “Trauma Theory and Postcolonial Literary Studies.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol. 47, no. 3, July 2011, pp. 270–82. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. doi:10.1080/17449855.2011.569378. Pdf.

1 Here ‘you’ refers to, according to the Gandhian idea wherein the reader or a section of people were enamored in Western values and tried to become ‘English men’.