Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Half moon over Gaya
In early 1997, I met a writer whose book I had read and been hugely inspired by.
The blurb on the back-cover described the author in powerful, resonant, awe-inspiring terms. The writer came to aquire the aura of an awesome sage in my consciousness. His address too was in the book, he lived in Dehradun. I was going to Dehradun to attend my school's platinum jubilee, so I met him just before returning home.
As it turned out, he was a small man - literally, and figuratively. And the things he told me - all of which which I listened to courteously, without protest or argument, as I was there with an attitude of reverence - were most apalling, reactionary, hateful and bigoted. So that was a big let-down and disappointment! It also left me quite disturbed.
Before I took his leave, he gave me a novel of his in Hindi, which he described as his magnum opus, called Bin udgam ke srot (The source-less streams), and wrote inside, in Hindi: "for Rama, who has given me the conviction that my work has meaning for the people of my country".
Taking the train back home that evening - I immediately struck up a friendship with two boys from a Dehradun school who were returning home after their ICSE examination. After they got off at Varanasi the next evening - I was left with a terrible sense of loneliness and sadness. I took out the Hindi novel and began reading.
I was struck by the lyrical, sensitive quality of the writing. As I remembered the author and my conversation with him, dismay and sadness grew inside me. The train stopped at Gaya, and I put down the book and walked down the compartment to the door, and standing there looked at the platform and then up at the night sky visible over the end of the platform shed. There was a half moon in the sky. I walked back rapidly to my seat and taking out my notebook began writing:
"A half-moon over Gaya ..."
Thus began an awakening in poetry. I had no interest in poetry before that. The following days, weeks and months saw me write many poems, many of them simply as if I was noting down or transcribing something dictated from within me, fully formed. This poetry was an expression from deep within my inner world, within an intensive context of personal experience, work and circumstances.
The poems are in Sandhyabhasha (twilight language), or mystic communication!
P.S.: I didn't read any more of that Hindi novel! Several years later I donated it to the library of my school in Dehradun.