I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN
MY JOURNEY THROUGH VERSE
I remember standing out in the balcony at 4 am in the morning. I found that it was better to get out on to the balcony and lean against the railing trying to breathe in the night air, not that Bombay then had a surfeit of fresh air, but that was better than sit inside suffocating within the apartment. Of course the more important reason was to be with myself, there on the balcony gazing into the night, into the night sky, feeling one with the stars and letting my fantasies fly. Despite the discomfort, these were periods of intense living. As the medicine slowly took its effect and the drowsiness started setting in I used to move into a world of dreams. May be an hour and a half later I would slowly make my way back to my bed and fall asleep. I remember that was when I started writing poetry; at least that is what I thought it was. What an irony when one considers the setting! I remember that I used to keep awake, sometimes till the morning dawned with the clanging of the milk bottles, and Bombay slowly woke as I moved towards my bed. The mornings in Bombay were always grey and by 7 am the road was populated with people, office goers, and the frenzy increased as the peak hour approached. It was on one such early morning that I started writing ‘Ghosts’.
It is in ‘Ghosts’ that I wrote about events as they happened and as I observed them and they ultimately became my connection with the external realities and the effect they had on me. Bombay, a city that I love and hate, taught me a lot. As I explored every nook and corner of the city, I saw the life that goes on outside the areas of affluence, the life on the pavements, the stench of the gutters, in the dark shadows, with the hope that there will be a next meal, that there will be a shelter when the rains come, a fight for survival. A hope, that there will be a better tomorrow.
Somewhere I hear a clock chime,
Marking the passage of fleeting time,
Somewhere I hear the motor whirr,
Slowly from my slumber I now stir.
On this grey and gloomy morning,
Like many other mornings I have known,
I see the faces of the dead walking,
This city’s streets up and down.
This is how ‘Ghosts’ starts. There is something that always seems to lurk in the background of each event, something unseen; observing the happenings without interventions
There the ghost it starts its dance,
Freed of fetters and a lively trance,
Leaves no footprints on the sands.
It was much later that I wrote something more on the effect that Bombay had on me. You see the city never did get out of my system.
A dreary grey smoke,
Weaves across a vacant sky,
Whilst a stifled city struggles,
And groans to stay alive.
These are the opening lines of ‘Ominous Patterns’ which forms a part of ‘Ghosts’.
But my fantasies were not always grey. This was also a period when I discovered ‘Rapture’. I remember how on one of those nights, especially after one of those more severe attacks, as my breathing slowly started easing, I experienced that feeling of oneness with the world: the night was particularly cool. It was late December and the sky was filled with stars and the silence; all had their effect on me. I felt transported to another realm and the words just poured into my head. When I went to bed it was as if in a trance. When I woke up, I was surprised that the trance had stayed and I was enveloped by a feeling of lightness and joy. You may feel that I was drugged by an overdose of my medicine, but my head was clear and I sat down to write ‘Rapture’. It just flowed, I do not how, but I completed writing at a stretch. Even now when I try to recollect and revive that state once again, it does not happen. It was something mystical. Not that I did some great writing, I have always kept it to myself and enjoyed reading it again and again. It has been something very personal.
Sometimes when to these heights I soar,
I feel this fever more and more,
And in delirium I do rant,
All this fervour’s magical chant.
I love everything on earth,
That has given rise to beauty’s birth,
Every joy, pity and pain,
In my heart a passion gains.
In my rapture I had seen,
All that love that never had been,
Now once again I spread my wings,
As my heart in fervour sings.
This is how ‘Rapture’ ends. I discovered fervor later when I read Andre’ Gide’s, ‘The Fruits of the Earth’ where he says “I will teach you fervor’. Gide wrote this book, while suffering from tuberculosis. In the preface to the book, Gide writes that “it is the work of a man who, if not actually ill, was recovering, or had recently recovered from illness – of a man, at any rate, who had been ill. In the very flights of its poetry there is the exuberance of someone to whom life is precious because he has been on the point of losing it.” He further adds, “May my book teach you to care more for yourself than for it, and more for all the rest than for yourself.”
I have had my dreams, I have had my infatuations and I have faced crises and had my fears. I have had experiences that have pushed me into the depths of despair and I have emerged with a clearer insight of myself and my relationship with the external world. I have tried documenting my passage through life in the only way I knew, put it down in words. I followed no particular order, sometimes in spurts, sometimes in rhyme, but wrote as they came to my mind. I have written my recollections and my reflections and of events that were happening around me, with increasing intensity. Since all the writing was done after what I would call ‘my awakening’, a good portion of them have been recollections, I had to rearrange the sequence to reflect distinctly the various stages of my life itself. In fact I had to put them in different sections so that the continuity is maintained.
I guess it was easier that way, from the first stirrings of infatuation to love, to an obsession, to unrequited love and finally to say,
Leave me, let me be,
Content in my fantasy.
‘Rebecca’ symbolises all that and more. As I stood gazing at the statue in Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad, the floodgates opened and all that had lain hidden for a long time, flowed out. The veil that had hidden many a mystery seemed finally to lift.
Unshackled from the bonds of infatuation and having suffered the pangs of separation one moves through a sabbatical before he comes down to the harsh realities of life. The movement towards the recognition of all that is beautiful and the bountiful gifts that nature has to offer, overwhelms, and one is drowned in rapture. This is what ‘Rapture’ intends to capture
The more my encounters in the external world, the more I started turning inwards to understand my relative existence. These turned into ruminations and that’s where I found my Solitude. From ‘Being and Nothingness’ to ‘I remain’
In nothingness I remain,
Waiting for a spark,
To light the fire again.
And on to ‘Oh, I was young then!’ an acceptance of growing old though reluctantly –
Of approaching emptiness,
Follows me like an apparition.
The thought process thereafter becomes fragmented as I start to move back and forth in time. This still happens as I try to understand every emotion, every thought that is generated around me. I do try to cling onto moments, as slowly but surely they slip away. In ‘Moments of Happiness’, I accept the temporality of happiness -
These are certain moments and they pass me by,
They remain etched in my memory, as I try
To understand what is my quest,
To perpetuate these moments, try my best.
In ‘Stillness’ I explore all those moments which stand frozen in time, those moments of joy, ecstasy, of alienation. It is a snapshot of all those pictures and I seek the stillness therein, it can be seen as a extension of ‘Moments of Happiness’
When will these moments ever last?
Is it when I find,
The silence in my heart,
And in the stillness in my mind?
It is in ‘Illusions’ that I finally end up defining the ultimate purpose in life as I have understood it–
Life is just a river that flows,
On its way it winds and grows,
To settle down in tranquility,
To finally merge with the sea”.
Finally in ‘Secrets of the Soul’, the imagery becomes hazy and complicated, as my own inner world of dreams and awareness mingle with the happenings in the external world of things and events, in a bid to correlate and seek answers to the turmoil going on within myself. Here again the presence of the ghost is felt. It took me a long time to write down my thoughts, in bits and pieces, and it has been one long journey, but the secrets that I seek to understand never really end, that is why this is an incomplete poem, running into nearly two hundred lines.
I seek the secrets of the soul,
That beat the drums of destiny,
The shadows that shrivel and stretch,
Shiver as they dance around
The dying embers of the fading years,
As they turn to ashes and the dust,
They disappear as the darkness descends,
Leaving only the footprints,
To be blown away to oblivion,
And beyond to a another world,
Another day, another night, once again.
Only the ghost remains unbound and free.
This could go on and on but that could be another journey so I end with ‘Absolution’ or’ Nirvana’.
I stand absolved,
Of all the guilt and shame, that eroded,
The entrails of my conscience,
As I shake the shackles from my ankles,
Break away from the bonds
That held me down.