Wednesday, July 8, 2009

SONNETS TO THE MOON FROM A PRISON CELL

{ People other than Shiny Ahuja should read it too}

(This extract from Oscar Wilde’s classic De Profundis was the favourite of the greatest teacher I have ever come across in life. Those were my graduation days. By sheer co-incidence later, I also taught it to a class full of most brilliant boys and girls, many of whom have it etched on their hearts for life. An amazingly versatile girl with profoundly aesthetic and mystical leanings, who later majored in bio-chemistry, said this at the end of one my lectures: “I feel like a little stream pouring into a boundless ocean.” From that day, I withdrew from the podium and asked her to teach the class for the rest of the session. She did that with √©lan, doing a much better job of it than I would have done. My students lovingly nicknamed her the “pretty priestly professor – she WAS extremely good looking. Her boy-friend, himself a genius, though an erratic one, once asked me to immortalize these beauteous moments through a book. One day I might. - Harcharan Bains)

THOUGHTS FROM PRISON


“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”- Wilde

“I have lain in prison for nearly two years. Out of my nature has come wild despair, an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb. I have passed through every possible mood of suffering. Better than Wordsworth himself I know what Wordsworth meant when he said—
Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark,
And has the nature of infinity.

But while there were times when I rejoiced in the idea that my sufferings were to be endless, I could not bear them to be without meaning. Now I find hidden somewhere away in my nature something that tells me that nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all. That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is humility.
It is the last thing left in me, and the best: the ultimate discovery at which I have arrived, the starting-point for a fresh development. It has come to me right out of myself, so I know that it has come at the proper time. It could not have come before, nor later. Had any one told me of it, I would have rejected it. Had it been brought to me, I would have refused it. As I found it, I want to keep it. I must do so. It is the one thing that has in it the elements of life, of a new life, a Vita Nuova for me. Of all things it is the strangest; one cannot give it away and another may not give it to one. One cannot acquire it except by surrendering everything that one has. It is only when one has lost all things, that one knows that one possesses it.
Now I have realized that it is in me, I see quite clearly what I ought to do; in fact, must do. And when I use such a phrase as that, I need not say that I am not alluding to any external sanction or command. I admit none. I am far more of an individualist than I ever was. Nothing seems to me of the smallest value except what one gets out of oneself. My nature is seeking a fresh mode of self-realisation. That is all I am concerned with. And the first thing that I have got to do is to free myself from any possible bitterness of feeling against the world. I would gladly and readily beg my bread from door to door. If I got nothing from the house of the rich, I would get something at the house of the poor. Those who have much are often greedy; those who have little always share. I would not a bit mind sleeping in the cool grass in summer, and when winter came on, sheltering myself by the warm close-thatched rick, or under the pent-house of a great barn, provided I had love in my heart. The external things of life seem to me now of no importance at all. You can see to what intensity of individualism I have arrived - or am arriving rather, for the journey is long, and ‘where I walk there are thorns’.
Of course, I know that to ask alms on the highway is not to be my lot, and that if ever I lie in the cool grass at night-time it will be to write sonnets to the moon. When I go out of prison, Robbie will be waiting for me on the other side of the big iron-studded gate, and he is the symbol, not merely of his own affection, but of the affection of many others besides. I believe I am to have enough to live on for about eighteen months at any rate, so that if I may not write beautiful books, I may at least read beautiful books; and what joy can be greater? After that, I hope to be able to recreate my creative faculty.
But were things different; had I not a friend left in the world; were there not a single house open to me {even} in pity; had I to accept the wallet and ragged cloak of sheer penury: still as long as I am free from all resentment, hardness, and scorn, I would be able to face life with much more calm and confidence than I would were my body in purple and fine linen, and the soul within me sick with hate.
…. When you really want love you will find it waiting for you.
I need not say that my task does not end there. It would comparatively be easy if it did. There is much more before me. I have hills for steeper to climb, valleys much darker to pass through. And I have to get it all out of myself. Neither religion, morality, nor reason can help me at all.
Morality does not help me. I am a born antinomian. I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not for laws. But while I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see that there is something wrong in what one becomes. It is well to have learned that.
Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. My gods dwell in temples made with hands; and within the circle of actual experience is my creed made perfect and complete: too complete, it may be, for like many or all of those who have placed their heaven in this earth, I have found in it not merely the beauty of heaven, but the horror of hell also. When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe -- “the Confraternity of the Faithless” one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Everything to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. It has sown its martyrs; it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having hidden Himself from man. But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating. Only that is spiritual which makes its own form. If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it will never come to me.
Reason does not help me. It tells me that the laws under which I am convicted are wrong and unjust laws, and the system under which I have suffered a wrong and unjust system. But, somehow, I have got to make both of these things just and right to me. And exactly as in Art one is only concerned with what a particular thing is at a particular moment to oneself, so it is also in the ethical evolution of one’s character. I have got to make everything that has happened to me good for me. The plank bed, the loath-some food, the hard ropes shredded into oakum till one’s finger-tips grow dull with pain, the menial offices with which each day begins and finishes, the harsh orders that routine seems to necessitate, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at, the silence, the solitude, the shame - - each and all of these things I have to transform into a spiritual experience. There is not a single degradation of the body which I must not try and make into a spiritualising of the soul.
I want to get to the point when I shall be able to say quite simply, and without affectation, that the two great turning-points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford, and when Society sent me to prison. I will not say that prison is the best thing that could have happened to me; for that phrase would savour of too great bitterness towards myself. I would sooner say, or hear it said of me, that I was so typical a child of my age, that in my perversity, and for that perversity’s sake, I turned the good things of my life to evil, and the evil things of my life to good.
What is said, however, by myself or by others, matters little. The important things, the thing that lies before me, the thing that I have to do, if the brief remainder of my days is not to be maimed, marred, and incomplete, is to absorb into my nature all that has been done to me, to make it part of me, to accept it without complaint, fear, or reluctance. The supreme vice is shallowness. Whatever is realized is right.
When first, I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would be always haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else- the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver—would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power and their power of communicating joy.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TEACHERS AND LOVERS

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence ends." -- Henry Adams

BITS FROM AN INTERNET CHAT I ONCE HAD WITH A BRIGHT YOUNG JOURNALIST :
(The name of the journalist has been changed to cover her identity. The conversation took place some nine months ago)

12:00 PM Me: AND i find you exceedingly level headed and honest. That’s more than I can say about the whole generation of boys I have lived with as a teacher, though some of these students have certainly been gems of the rarest kind .

12.01PM Varindaa: Do you miss teaching?
12:01 PM me: Most certainly, although I strongly feel that all I have left is formal teaching. What else am I doing stealthily with you for the past half an hour so? Subterranean 'Operation Teaching'?
12:03 PM Varindaa:-) Well...let me add that if that was the case...I hope I have learnt my lesson
12:05 PM me: In all my teaching career, I remember three students, two boys and a girl, whom I loudly used to ask never to come to my class because, as I told them, there was nothing I had to teach them. It would be enough if I could learn something from them. They were so far ahead - and not just in terms of knowledge. They were on a different planet from mine in pure wisdom, mental stature, breadth of vision and poise in personality. I feel that if I ever had the opportunity of teaching you, I would have to put you down as fourth such.

Varindaa : Wow....that is quite a compliment...one which I am not sure I deserve. After all…you hardly know me
12:07 PM And I have not exactly done things to endear myself in a manner fitting of a good student.

12:10 PM me: If you had ever been a teacher, Varindaa, you would know how lovable all students are; they look at you with such trusting eyes, and mostly we teachers betray their trust. They put their lives in our hands Their hearts beat in our bosoms, their hands are stretched out like that of a little infant reaching out for his mother. They lovingly surrender all they have, even their minds and all -- and yet we keep treating the relationship as 'just a job'. When a student is wondering how wonderful a person her teacher is, all he is thinking about how small his pay packet or how long his promotion is.
Teaching, my dearest Varindaa, is an unlimited high romance. No one who is afraid to be called a romantic fool has any business to be a teacher. All but high romantics and prophets should barred from entering any place of learning. Education is not for the wise. They do not know what to do with it, except to use it an incense in a brothel. Education is only for the possessed. It is for the “God-intoxicated people”, for the deeply committed and the deeply sincere, “for those who can afford to make fools of themselves.”

12:12 PM Varindaa: But what is pitiable is that majority of our teachers are not like that
Especially the ones in Humanities...which I studied and which specially needs teachers who are passionate about what they teach.
12:16 PM me: I would rather not call them teachers. "pedogogic workers'? The greatest asset in a teacher is not the information in his skull but the love in his heart. No one can be teacher without first being a lover. Teaching beckons you to the hearts and minds of your students, and there you are welcome as a divine guest till you let them down. I have never seen a student letting a teacher down; and I know that ten thousand out of ten thousand and one teachers fail to match the trust and love of their students. May be that is a bit cruel, but just a bit.
12:19 PM ‘to me the only yardstick to measure the collapse of a society is the manner in which teachers treat their vocation and also, perhaps as a consequence, the way the society treats its teachers.
12:20 PM Varindaa, you may have not noticed it, but i have already tried to deserve my salary as a teacher even in this relationship with you, even though that is the last thing I would want our relationship to be.
12:24 PM me: Incidentally, I was exceedingly lucky with my teachers. They were all gems, and I had a crush on them ( especially on an extremely dignified and beautiful madam who used to teach me Punjabi. A better and more noble person I am yet to meet, although she never encouraged my crush which bordered on ( in fact, crossed the bounds of worship.) Now, I am talking as a student. And this is what I meant by the purity in a student’s heart.
12:25 PM Varindaa: ha ha

Monday, July 6, 2009

Universe and I !

Because this universe was not created by my grandfather (or yours!), therefore its laws are not tailor made for me ( or you). But I have been given the option of living by these laws andstaying happy and peaceful, or trying and creating my own laws and come eternally to grief. The universe does not ask me to accept its laws - laws like the inevitability of death, aging, betrayls alongwith unquestioning love and loyalty, failure and success in the same baggage, the two cheats. This universe does not ask me to accept her turths but neither does she offer me any guarantee against the perils of my non-accpetance. She leaves me free to make an ass of myself by strutting around as pivot of all that exists. But the universe also stays clear out of the way of my happiness if I choose honesty and humility above self-defeating hypocrisy and implosive arrogance.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SONG OF THE FLAME

SONG OF THE FLAME

( Written about someone on her return from abroad when I was about twenty or so, and that was about half a century ago!

She said my arms burn,
My heart aches, my bosom burns, my palms burn/
My head is in a swim, and legs burn, my thighs burn/
My belly is a furnace, and my lungs burn, my eyes burn./
My ears and my nape and my cheeks burn/
The desert in my soul and my oozing peaks burn./
Burn, burn, burn, burn,/
She said I burn./
Flames from her mouth leapt forth and curled,/
Round my legs and my groins and my waste,/
And in through my lips, tasted as the oceans taste./
And into my bottomless stomach were hurled,/
There for long to dance a dance/
As saints do or madmen in a trance./
The fire in her embrace drowned us in velvet dark,/
Fire extinguished fire, and all was over./
And we descended into a deathless sleep,/
That smoothed her curves and cooled her cheeks,/
And kissed the desert in her stomach and her oozing peaks./
And as we returned,
The cold corpse of the roaring flame,
Lies between us, indifferent to glory or shame.
I said “farewell” as we readied to go,
She mocked the corpse, turning to the door,
Her non-concern was a pendant in her neck.
As I gave her cheek a half-repenting peck.
In an all enveloping dark.
But the sun shot through the chinks of the door,
Flooded the room but washed us ashore.
"Oh, there was too much light, too much light./
I hid my face in her darkening hair,/
For light is what I cannot bear,/
And darkness what I cannot fight."/

She said I burn

SONG OF THE FLAME
( Written about someone on her return from abroad when I was about twenty or so, and that was about half a century ago! If you find it okay, you may please share it with the world. Otherwise, just link it to "burning" in your piece)
She said my arms burn,
My heart aches, my bosom burns, my palms burn/
My head is in a swim, and legs burn, my thighs burn/
My belly is a furnace, and my lungs burn, my eyes burn./
My ears and my nape and my cheeks burn/
The desert in my soul and my oozing peaks burn./
Burn, burn, burn, burn,/
Burn, burn, burn,/
She said I burn./
Flames from her mouth leapt forth and curled,/
Round my legs and my groins and my waste,/
And in through my lips, tasted as the oceans taste./
And into my bottomless stomach were hurled,/
There for long to dance a dance/
As saints do or madmen in a trance./
The fire in her embrace drowned us in velvet dark,/
Fire extinguished fire, and all was over./
And we descended into a deathless sleep,/
That smoothed her curves and cooled her cheeks,/
And kissed the desert in her stomach and her oozing peaks./
And as we returned,
The cold corpse of the roaring flame,
Lay between us, indifferent to glory or shame.
I said “farewell” as we readied to go,
She mocked the corpse, turning to the door.
Her non-concern was a pendant in her neck.
As I gave her cheek a half-repenting peck.
In an all enveloping dark.
But the sun shot through the chinks of the door,
Flooded the room but washed us ashore.
."Oh, there was too much light, too much light./
I hid my face in her darkening hair,/
For light is what I cannot bear,/
And darkness is what I cannot fight."/

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

price of being born

My teacher wrote to me this once during my second year at college:

Life is hard and stiff -- all said; and the price of being born is existence. one does not always get what one wants in life and there is no way to be sure if what one wants is what would be in one's best interest in the end. But one has to accept what comes and be grateful that it is no worse. That said, this is no excuse for escapism or for always not trying hard enough to accomplish what one considers worth accomplishing. The only way to be happy and peaceful is to give off one's best, work through the long day and at the end of that, retire in the quietness of the evening to one's self, throw oneself on the bed, put one's arm under one's head and go to sleep with the satisfaction that the best that could be given had already been given, and there was nothing left to give and that therefore there is no reason or use or wisdom worrying what one's efforts would translate into- success or failure. This is as true of our efforts at preserving the sanctity and bliss in human relations as of the labour in the field.

Take Tagore Simply !

Take Truth Simply /////
Rabindra Nath Tagore///
Whatever may come, my dear, take truth simply. //
Though there can be some who can love you, there will be //
Others who never can, and if you must know the cause, //
It is as much in you as in them, and in all things around. //
Some doors are closed against your knocks, while //
Your doors are not open always and to all comers. //
Such has been and for evermore shall be, and yet //
If you must have peace, my heart, take truth simply. //
There is no need to be abusive, if your boat flounders by the shore //
Though it sailed through the storm. //
Keep yourself afloat by all means; but if it impossible to do so, //
Then be good enough to sink without a noise. / /
Things may or may not fit you – it is common; //
And events may happen without asking for your leave, //
Yet if you must have peace, my heart, take truth simply. //
You press and are pressed hard in the crowd, //
But space there is enough and to spare for all in this world, //
When you have counted your losses to your last farthing,//
Your sky still remains as blue and clear as ever. / /
You find, when suddenly tested, that to live is sweeter than to die, //
You may miss this or that and that and the other, but / /
If you must have peace, my heart, take truth simply. //

me? vane?

A man once spat in the ocean and spent the rest of his life measuring the consequent rise in the water level.

melodies unheard

Rajiv Mudgil to me show details 2:52 PM (1 hour ago) Reply
AND WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH A FRIEND WHO REACTS WITH SUCH ABUNDANCE OF FEELING AND THOUGHT!
What do I do with you? I read you and there is an ache in my heart - the dim aura of mortality. Regardless of which of us survives the other, the existing together in the melting world of welled up eyes will cease.If only one could stay forever in the place of your last paragraph. Why does beauty die prematurely to appear only in our half conscious, unremembered dreams? Condemned to never have that which shows itself in a moment of glory and then plunges us into a deeper darkness of despair.

(SAID KEATS - ODE ON A GRECIAN URN)

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

Though winning near the goal -yet, do not grieve;

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

For ever panting and for ever young

God bless your mother.

death is piteously powerless against moments already lived

the uncertainties of life, yes. but there is also the greater certainty of immortality of every moment we live, every breath we take, every beat that resonates in our heart. death is really so piteously helpless and weak against life for it cannot take away from us even a single moment we have already lived and it can not come a minute before life decides to leave. where life is, death is not. and life keeps throwing such abundant unexpected happiness at our feet at every turn we take as we hardly know what to do with or where to keep. the immeasurable and beautifully unexpected happiness that your words fill my day with, for instance. like saying, "koi sitaare luta raha tha, kissi ne daman bichha diya." never close your heart to the sky and keep your lap always open and waiting and the universe will never tire of pouring forth its soulful beauty to fill that lap. and what gratitude will ever equal the sheer undeserved and unexpected sunshine that your words fill the mind-caves here with. and how to repay the joy that equals the delight children have when they dance naked in the rain in village streets, madly pursuing the maiden rainbow at the end. how would you feel if i tell you that you are the first one to visit me here, and your words are the virgin dew that sparkles on the page. i started the blog only last night. we are never ready for the immortal wealth that universe always insists on our accepting. in the face of such pulsating moments, even the eternal darkness of death begins to melt. be happy always. death is only a reminder of how full of life each moment is.

love and fear

Every action taken by human beings is based in love or fear, not simply those dealing with relationships..... choices involving war, peace, attack, defence, aggression, submission; determinations to covet or give away, to save or to share, to unite or to divide - every single free choice you ever undertake arises out of one of the only two possible thoughts there are: a thought of love or a thought of fear.
FEAR IS THE ENERGY WHICH CONTRACTS, CLOSES DOWN, DRAWS IN, RUNS, HIDES, HOARDS, HARMS.
LOVE IS THE ENERGY WHICH EXPANDS, OPENS UP, SENDS OUT, STAYS, REVEALS, SHARES, HEALS."

FROM "CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD" - WALSCH