Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’






A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
‘I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN’

At the stroke of the midnight hour, the ordinary man closed his eyes as he sat in the shadows. Only the desk lamp was on and the blank screen of the computer stared at him.

He remembered that day, when at last he had declared to all those who heard him, that he was just an Ordinary Man. It happened as he was returning home. The road was slightly wet with the remnants of a light drizzle and he was walking slowly avoiding the puddles of water that had collected on the pavement, when he heard a voice calling out from behind him –

“So who do you think you really are?”

He had turned around and found no one. However he replied loudly so that whoever it was hiding in the shadows could hear him –

“Sir, you asked me who I am. What shall I say?  I have been asking myself this question for quite some time and reached nowhere.”

“So you think that you are a saint?” the voice again responded

 “No sir, I am no saint to throw away everything that I have and go in search of an answer. If I had, I would have been a saint. Don’t you agree, Sir?”

“If that is so, you should have a name. So what is it?” the voice once again responded.

“Well I have a name, but what’s in a name? Sir, you may call me an Ordinary Man.” I replied.

He looked around once again to see who it was. Then it dawned on him that the voice in fact seemed to originate from deep within him.

So as he stood there on that desolate road, he threw his arms skyward towards the moon and the stars and shouted “Hear you all, I am just an ordinary man. Please do not ask me again- who I am?” With that he had returned to his apartment, his head clear from having shed off the burden that he had been carrying for so long. He sat down in front of the computer and typed-

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.

That was exactly a year ago. Now once again the voice woke him up as he was slowly drifting away to sleep.

“Well did people believe you?” the voice asked

“I am not really sure. Some said they believed me, some believed in me and most of the rest have been silent. I really don’t know whether they heard what I said.” he replied.

“I hope now you realize that however loud you shout, you will be heard only if people choose to hear you. You know what was wrong with your statements – you included a vast majority along with you and called them Ordinary. That is not acceptable. If you had shouted ‘We are all extraordinary people’ I am sure that many would have heard you. After all what is there in being ‘Ordinary’. You thought that being ordinary is a satisfactory state of mind. Well it is not. Ask me I shall tell you. I like it when I am called extraordinary and I am sure that when all those who believed in you said that shouting out like you did requires a lot of courage and therefore extraordinary, you must have felt the same despite all your exhortations that you are ordinary.”

Well that was a small dialogue I had with myself on the eve of the first anniversary of my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’. Today as I look back at the year that was, I feel elated, in a sense that I have been able connect with at least a small section of the vast number of readers out there. Reviews have come in from genuine well-wishers and readers, which I know have been in the nature of support to an author friend and as a realistic critique of the book. These are the ones that have given exposure to the book and myself as an author and I am grateful to all those who did take the trouble of going through the book in full and writing a detailed review. All of them have been illuminating and given me joy and made me look at how I have connected with the readers. May be they really liked it; I am sure that some of them did, and after a year when I myself go through what I have written, there is a sense of happiness and satisfaction that I have been true to myself to a very large extent, though there will always be a small something that I have kept back.

In the introduction to the book I write “I never wanted to write a story. My life has been one long series of conversations with myself and I thought that the only way I could really say what I want to, is speak to someone; a friend perhaps or maybe even a stranger. If you ask me why I would do that, I cannot answer truthfully; it could even be vanity.” But now, when I have just finished writing my second book I know I have moved on. For now I have not written about myself, so the question of vanity does not come in. I have become but a small part of a larger canvas where exist other lives that need to be understood.
The Ordinary Man (as in my book), does not want celebrate his birthday by blowing out candles or cutting cakes. This day he wants to thank all those people out there who had lent their ears to hear him say ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ –
I am just an ordinary man,
I do just what I can,
So let me be,
As you can see,
I am one of those who also ran.

You cannot say I do not care,
Of love and dreams, I’ve had my share,
Of pain and pleasure,
In no small measure,
Though now I stand alone and stare.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I AM JUST AN ORDINARY MAN - MY JOURNEY THROUGH VERSE



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.
Ominous patterns,
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’
Though cold,
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 –
The forebodings,
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.

Friday, September 4, 2015

RAPTURE


  Rapture

When in these rapturous states I fall,
I hearken to every beauty’s call,
And in passion I embrace,
All the gifts of nature’s grace.

When the green grass I do see,
I am filled with infinite glee,
And the song the chirping birds sing,
Makes my heart in resonance ring.
          
         * * * *
Paddy fields, so green,
A sight for sore eyes,
Never had I seen,
Such blue skies.

I sat at the edge,
Watched the river flow,
Such fragrance, such cool,
I never had known.

My legs in the water,
Hands in the air,
I breathed in this freshness,
That was everywhere.

The setting sun cast,
A reddish glow in the west,
I had awakened now,
To an eternal quest.

       * * * *
The cuckoo cries ”spring is here”,
The flowers bloom, the sky is clear.
Everywhere it is red, yellow and green,
A sight so pretty to be seen.

The birds inhabit the blue skies,
The bee from flower to flower flies,
The river water full and clear flows,
Fed by the mountain’s melting snows.

I stand to absorb all this joy,
Transformed again into a little boy,
His feelings so pure,
In his state so secure,
That never a moment,
Does he lament,
His impermanence.

          * * * *
When I see the sun does shine,
I marvel at that power divine,
And in its warmth I fall asleep,
Into a world of dreams I creep.

There I see such wonderous sights
They take me on fantastic flights,
A thousand visions dance around,
the air is filled with a melodious sound.

  * * *  *
In the east a golden dawn breaks,
As the sun rises,
With all the splendour of a ceremony,
The sky is lit with an orange fire,
The birds chirp in harmony,
The night’s agents disappear with the dark,
Good things begin to rise with joy,
Yet another day to live.
The fragrance of the morning air,
Embraces me like a lover’s arm
I wake, stretch my limbs
And yawn, with sheer delight,
Its good to see once again,
This morning light.



In the coolness of the moon,
In her embrace I did swoon,
My heart with love overflows,
In the dark my passion glows.
          
          * * * *

In the depths of every cave,
I find these figures that make me rave,
Figures of stone many ages old,
They still stand firm and bold.

When I touch these cold stones,
They come to life, I feel their bones,
Through the ages, hand in hand we walk,
About Gods, kings and queens they talk.
   
There I see great battles fought,
The horror and glory that they brought,
All the blood that did flood the field,
The victory markings on the shield.

There sat the glorious king in court,
With all his people in rapport,
As the dancing girls came whirling on,
An era in its brilliance shone.

Oh! exquisite Ellora,
Your beauty breeds terror in my heart,
For as I stood,
Gazing at your Kailasa,
The spectre of my present vacuity,
Stood gazing down at me.
Oh! what hands were those,
That gave thee thine shape?
What mind was it,
That conceived the beauty,
Which till then had lain hidden,
Behind nature’s veil?
And now ages could’nt tear away,
That expression from your face.
You are alive though
Your creator is dead.
My hands, oh! my hands,
They could only feel,
Your smoothened curves.
How I wish they could paint,
The joy in my heart,
At the sight of your silent splendour.
    
It was in Ajanta,
That I peered into a dark chamber,
There sat the Buddha,
Steeped in divine slumber.
At my entrance, he did wake,
I thought I saw him smile;
I gazed in awe,
Dumfounded for awhile,
For this magnificent obsession,
Gave rise to a succession,
Of a thousand more Buddhas,
And everyone did smile.
Oh Buddha! if you could impart,
Life to these stones,
What could you have been?
I stand here and imagine,
A sight I never had seen.

Men now have become stones,
But these stones of yore,
Though devoid of flesh and bones,
They still live on.

Men now know no art,
Which can reveal and mould
The images of the heart;
Their hands are tied,
To machines they have built,
And under them, they now do wilt.

There I saw Lord Shiva’s dance,
I was drowned in divine trance,
And my head in veneration bow,
To the Lord who rules above.

I marvel at these men who mould,
Stones that speak of ages old,
All the fervour of their heart,
Has poured in through their supreme art.

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.