SECRETS OF THE SOUL – A JOURNEY IN VERSE
PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION
This is a book that will not sell. Not much of a marketing pitch to start with. But I am a wiser man now, after having written and published three books, and not really succeeding in convincing my friends and others to buy and read them. I am awake to the reality that there will not be many takers for this genre. Poetry? So why did I go through with it. Well, I wanted to see them in print and having decided that I was not going to incur any expenditure for the publishing I opted to have them published through the self-publishing platform Xpress of Notion Press (the publisher for my three previous books). What if I do not have an ISBN for the book (maybe later I shall have it done on my own) or the book not being made available on online store like Amazon etc, it will be still available in paperback from the publisher for purchase and I still get to order my author copies at the subsidized price. And of course, friends and others who are genuinely interested can order them from Notion Press at the link which is at the end of this post. This has been a thoroughly satisfying experience – going through the process of designing the interiors and the cover, of course Notion Press does suggest Templates that we can use, but the entire process of selecting the Font and Font size as well as ensuring that the layout comes out properly is our responsibility. Thanks to my daughter who gave me a painting of hers to use as the cover. In the final analysis, I am satisfied – a job well is done.
In all my three books ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’, ‘Darkness and Beyond’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ that preceded this collection of poems, it was an exploration of life, be it my very own or the lives of others that I undertook, to arrive at an understanding and accepting the reality of existence. But in a way the themes for these books were based on the diaries that I had kept and the jottings mainly in verses made over a period of more than four decades. In a sense this collection or rather a selection of what I still like to refer as prose-poetry is a means of recapturing the different phases of my growing up and thought processes. That is why I refer to this collection as ‘A Journey in Verse’.
Four decades ago, on one of those grey monsoon mornings in Bombay (Mumbai as we know it now), having kept awake for most part of the night troubled by my asthma and overdosed antispasmodic, I stood outside on the balcony trying to beat the claustrophobic indoors and as the first signs of light appeared uncovering the drenched roads from the overnight rain, drowsiness crept in and I made my way back inside, to my bed. As had happened many times before, I went to sleep and to a world of my own and to my dreams. I woke up three hours later, still drowsy. I had my morning coffee and took out an old diary that I had preserved safely in one corner of my cupboard and started to write -
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.
‘Ghosts’ was my first attempt at writing. I wrote about the city that I had explored over the last six months, during what I now call as a self-imposed sabbatical. I explored every nook and corner – from the multi-storied affluence and the pulsating rhythms of daily existence to the life on the pavements, the stench of the gutters, and the streets with looming dark shadows; life sustained by the hope that there will be a next meal, that there will be a shelter when the rains come, a fight for survival and a hope, that there will be a better tomorrow.
A dreary grey smoke,
Weaves across a vacant sky,
Whilst a stifled city struggles,
And groans to stay alive. ……..
In the background there lurked something unseen: observing, but not intervening, leaving the happenings to play out as per the script.
There the ghost it starts its dance,
Freed of fetters and a lively trance,
Leaves no footprints on the sands.
‘Ominous Patterns’ which forms a part of ‘Ghosts’ is a snapshot of Bombay with its various shades of grey that never ever left my system, though now I can say that with the passage of time, the ghosts have been exorcized.
On a cold December night at Ellora, as I gazed at the Kailasa temple silhouetted against a star filled sky and the surrounding stillness, I found myself. A feeling of oneness with the world and joy was predominant. 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. There have been other moments that have overwhelmed and drowned me in ‘Rapture’.
Sometimes when to these heights I soar,
I feel this fever more and more,
And in delirium I do rant,
All this fervor’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 fervor sings.
There have been infatuations and experiences that pushed me into despair along the way, and I have emerged with a clearer insight of myself and my relationship with the external world. ‘Rebecca’ symbolizes 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. 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.
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 more my encounters in the external world, the more I started turning inwards to understand my relative existence. ‘Fragments’ is the result of these ruminations – from ‘Being and Nothingness’ to ‘Mere Words’.
‘Oh, I was young then!’ is an acceptance of growing old though reluctantly –
Of approaching emptiness,
Follows me like an apparition.
‘Moments of Happiness’, portrays 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.
‘Stillness’ explores all those moments which stand frozen in time - those moments of joy, ecstasy, of alienation. It is a snapshot of all those pictures, While I seek the stillness therein -
When will these moments ever last?
Is it when I find,
The silence in my heart,
And in the stillness of my mind?
‘Illusions’ defines 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 tranquillity,
To finally merge with the sea”.
Finally, in ‘Secrets of the Soul’, the imagery seeks to mingle the inner world of dreams and awareness with the happenings in the external world of things and events, seeking answers to the turmoil going on within. Here again the presence of the ghost is felt.
I wrote, sometimes in spurts, sometimes in rhyme. Since all the writing was done after what I would call ‘my awakening’, a good portion of them have been recollections. I have rearranged them in five parts – Ghosts, Rapture, Rebecca, Fragments and Secrets of the Soul to reflect the various stages of my journey and that is why I call it A Journey in Verse. 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.
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.