My Third book of English Poetry ‘The Re-reckoning’ will soon be in the offing. Here’s a small reflection on the Journey of Re-reckoning. This is Part 1.
Until now, I was looking only forward.
And when I realized why it is not making any good sense in my life, I felt the need to connect the ‘forward’ of my life with the ‘backward’.
‘Backward’ that belonged to the age of telegrams, postal mails, trunk calls, Floppy Disks and family time, before the fast-digital ’emotization’ of today took over our sluggish sympathies of yesterday.
In the past I visited, my childhood laughed again and my grandmother returned from heaven. My mother believed ‘his son would be a superhero one day’ who would end our hideous ancestral anonymity and my father’s hair turned naturally black (without hair-dye). Many friends suddenly surrounded me and I was a local hero for no reason (a head boy). The sense of heartbreak evaded me, and all the worrisome noises, that occupy me now like rebellious tenants, dissolved into some kind of effervescence. I returned to the conventional age of adolescence, of greetings and school tuitions, of inconsequential ambitions and unconscious empathy. And of course, of fond nicknames.
Vrindavan became a little less chaotic than it is now and a small hand pulled rickshaw was enough to fit eight children. Today, it has thousands of people coming daily from across the globe thronging to see the hidden divinity (the globalization has hit our little Krishna like nothing else).
It was also the age of more reading and less writing. In the past, I rediscovered things, that although have made their way into oblivion now, but things that make my life feel older than it actually is. And as a side effect, I realized the trivially ephemeral nature of everything that we so proudly possess, ignoring the important ones.
Then came the time when I lived alone for some time and while I was learning how to assemble a new home in a new strange city (here and abroad) and opportunities were just a hand away, it was truly the best and the worst of my time simultaneously (no, this is not borrowed by Mr. Dickens). I nursed and loved an outsider, unconditionally and unapologetically but in doing so, I forgot how to console a mother from 60s or how to save my own house. Social aversion and false-ego conquered me and I terribly failed to enjoy the present. I read stories about masochism and at one point I was worried I am becoming one of their characters.
But in between all the confusion and flagellations, Poetry was establishing its roots within me. And even after hundreds of ‘giving up’ thoughts that I somehow braved, it survived, while nothing else did. In amateur poetry blogs, random articles, and in the curated rhyme schemes, I found a friend who would accompany me like a friend, or a pet dog. And not too distant in the past since I started using contemporary poets (like V.Sheshadri, A.Kolatar, J.Thayil, A.Jussawala, and S.Sethi among others) and classic poets (from Dante to Moraes) as Placeholders of my own creativity, and as a route to escape the crises I was into. Even the Bhakti poets had a vast spoiling effect on me. The awakening of Narsingh Mehta and the epiphany of Raskhan inspired me greatly, so did the bhajans of Meera and philosophy of Gibran and Kafka. But when all other poets disowned me, the eternal Bhagwad Geeta rescued me several times, like my mother’s love. The love of my family remained a big pull out but poetry was becoming my Life Insurance Policy.
I even remember, the first cassette I bought was a dubbing version of the Titanic theme song and I would listen to it for several days until Celine Dion was no more in my head. Hundreds of old fermenting tapes in my new house continue to be pushed down the stack below the layers of new songs. They are not lost, just replaced, like the old chair of my grandfather in my father’s clinic. This has an uncanny resemblance to the poems in my second book ‘Musings of Desire’ that attempt to bring back the ‘dead’ alive.
Well, gentleman, it is the story with every one of us. That life is gone and a new phase ushered with everything opposite, like a coin flip, has essentially taken over. But not everything got flushed out of my memory absolutely. In the anecdotes of my mother, in the old shelves and drawers of my house, between the worn out clothes, and in the sudden demise of the people of my time, the stories reappear in the form of poems in my head. But they do not do so without a sign. The universe is generous to your seeking, and I realized that ‘the backward’ does have a lot of things that make sense…
Ofcourse, the changing landscape of life would always be an imperfect sketch, loose at edges unfinished and untidily colored, but there is much more than what meets the obvious eye.
Strangely, I also stumbled upon the question surrounding ones ‘spiritual roots and identity’. I don’t know yet if the question makes any sense to me still but I certainly asked, of all the things that has happened in my life, who was the main character playing it, was it me or someone else and where it leaves me now…?
This two-year long ‘backward’ reconnaissance gave birth to the Re-reckoning and as such, some of the poems in the book predate poems in ‘Pilgrims’ (2012) even. I hope this would somehow connect to the people who’d be reading it, in the way, everything in our lives connects us all.
Amit Radha Krishna Nigam