POETRY AN ODYSSEY
I am a victim of beauty! It chases me like a hunter chases the wild animal in a forest. It is not that it finds me on its own: I always walk into its trap willingly like a fool. Because life the catalyst in life’s milieu incites me to search for something that I do not know, in every created object. Usually when my vision sights something, I experience a strange pleasure not comparable to any pleasure familiar to all people. I cannot face this pleasure and I feel at once vanquished before it. It is such a total surrender to it, that it is equal to instantaneous death. Sometime later I come out of it limping, due to the unremitting monster of life knocking at the door of my consciousness. Then perhaps I am said to be living; although I feel I was pulled out of that state of being like the dentist pull out the tooth. I am an addict of this killer pleasure and my so-called life is but a string of alternating moments of living and dying.
Why do I search for such pleasure so obstinately and why do I die in the process and why does it not deter me from the search. It is strange but true. May be it happens to many other people too, but their number in the world is I suppose infinitesimally small. Can you explain the experience of this pleasure? No. Sometimes I doubt whether it is pleasure at all, because even deep sorrow either mine or more so of the other person, catches me in the grip of a similar state of mind. You melt now into some primordial liquids and flow away, so to say. It may be rather like an intense involvement with something. It is more poignant when that something is other than your subjective-self. Perhaps Buddha passed through this moment when he saw an old and shriveled man and a dead body on the street and plummeted into a lightening decision t! o leave his wife, his child and his kingdom, to go and melt away like a granule of salt in the vast ocean of humanity.
Or probably when he was crucified and was about to give up his ghost, Jesus also, must have had an identical experience and cried out lifting his face towards heavens:”Oh Father forgive them for they know not what they do”- one thing is certain this experience is inexplicable like the lines of Paul Roux, “Like a simple man scattering himself in flute, the shepherd descends the hill’s adolescence; his sheep following him with two wine branches for ears and bunches of grapes for rudders, his sheep follow him walking vines”.
Or like Paul Valery’s lines “ O supple wooden flesh you must twist and untwist yourself, complain without breaking and give the winds the voice they look for in disorder.” These lines are only felt, involved in and enjoyed in the metaphysical sense of the term. That is why still in the process you seem to be groping in the disorder of creation to find the light of order. You are deeply absorbed but not fulfilled; that is why you keep going to it repeatedly.
The architecture of clouds on the treetops, on the housetops or the rains of falling leaves in the autumn, may not mean anything to the common eye. For they have no geometrical or symmetric or any deliberated and calibrated shapes or forms. But the searching eye is captured by them for endless duration of time. They are irresistibly absorbing phenomena leading the viewer to an absolute state of oblivion, where his being is virtually abolished.
Universe, which is a constant flux of occurrences of being and becoming, falls in the ultimate analysis into two parts, the subject and the object. “I” the subject views the Object, the surrounding universe which is a bewildering sight. This is the reason why in the eyes of the child who comes out of the womb and see’s the world for the first time, you find those bewildering looks of search in strange things. Although the child grows and gets familiar with the world and the millions of objects of creation, gathering experience as adult, the mystery of creation still persists even if the child grows leaping from the known to the unknown. It is this everlasting unknonwness always left over at the end of the quest that keeps the wayfarer on the path, eternally trecking, deeply involved in the quest of the unknown. Perhaps! It is this unknown that is felt by the searcher as beauty, tantalizing him endlessly. It is a feeling of something touching his senses and eluding the grip of his faculty of cognition. It is always doubtful whether he captured it at all.
He finds it here he finds it there, he finds it everywhere, in the sunsets, in the sunrises, in the clouds, in the breeze, in the birds, in the flowers, in the crowds, in the solitudes, in the silences and so on. And yet his thirst for it is unquenched and his search remains and adventure or a real Odyssey. It is this grange tantalizing beauty that gives sometimes the seeker, the adventurer the rare flash of what may be the truth, that this baffling phenomenon called creation is perhaps not a conglomeration of many different objects but is only one object manifesting in myriads of forms. Gaudapaada was one such adventurer who said in his Advaita Karikaas “MAYAAMAATRA MIDAM DWAITAM, ADVAITAM PARAMAARTHATHAH”(In the quest, all that you see as several, is illusion, but actually it is only one). It is also possible that another seeker’s experience might give him a different flash of the truth; it is a complex problem of an intellectual hid-and-seek. But the puzzle has been never solved eve since the dawn of mind on this planet though some have laid claims for conclusive solutions. So fulfillment on this subject remains only a utopian dream. At any rate that is my experience of ‘beauty’ at this point of my life, which is long enough for such an expedition. I always felt that everything hurts me and there is nothing to cajole me. This is the common state or fate of a seeker. But then if you do not seek anything and if you do not sharpen your eyes with curiosity, if you lull you mind into sleep by gorging on only familiarities of life, you are one of the creatures of creation in the usual sense of the term i.e. biped-One word of caution- here the word beauty should not be taken in the commonplace sense of the term. It is in fact the philosophical quintessence of the intense quest of the unusually evolved men who are after something yet unknown.
It is in this state of being that these strange men see objects of creation differently and when they speak of what they see we feel it strange and interesting. This is what Rudrata really means in his shloka defining the genesis of genius.
“MANASI SUSAMAASHINI VISPHURANA MANEKA DHA BHIDHEYASYA
AKLISHTAANI PADAANI CHA VIBHAAANTHI YASYAAM ASOU SHAKTHIH”
This in fact is the native place of the symbols, the metaphors, and images.
Vaamana dwelt, much earlier, on this point in similar terms
“Arthasya darshanam drishtihi samaadhi karanatwaath
samadhih”Awahitam hi chittam arthaan pashyateethyuktham purasthaath”.
(chithiika agrya mavadhaanam)
Well this is the philosophical foundation of the poet who is the seeker of order in disorder and called a POET in common parlance. I would now give a few illustrations of my own experience though I have desisted from doing so all my life. It is rather difficult to ruminate on hazy memories of the dizzy-bygone experiences.
Once I was traveling by car. We were passing through forest which was also a hilly track, the orb of sun slipped into the horizon, a thin layer of light and darkness spread over the earth and the car was running fast. Sometime later something in me forced me to shout ‘stop the car’. The car-stopped and I came out. It was a strange, mysterious experience devouring me. Everything was still, the forest, the hills, the birds, all, all-living and non-living beings. In the clear articulating dark blue sky a star appeared as if thrown up by the west from somewhere. It was staring at me. Very soft and cool layers of breeze were wafting from the forest, which looked like a silent crowd of trees running at me and string at me as a strange creature. The profoundness of the silence the real mischief maker, the hero of the evening’expidition, threw a shroud of mystery into a tree and took me away into unknown realms of existence when I felt like changing myself into a tree and grow branches to grab the totality of the feeling of the forest. Then probably the voice of my interior began to speak. Instantly I rushed to the car, took my ever-ready notebook and pen and recorded the speech in human tomes. They are like this:
“Chased away by the human bazaars/silence fled into the hills/
Time flows like water slipping out of the fingers/Seasons like
Spiders weave lines in the valleys of the eyes/drop by drop when I sip the silence of the hills/I cannot even excuse my own heart/which pulsates disturbing beats in my breast/
I measure the forest with the song of a bird or with the melody of
A meandering brook/when the saffron flames run amuck like a
crowd of sanyasins in the forest/ I embrace the bodies of the trees
and listening to their painful heart-beats, I cry loudly-“
(‘Silences; From “The Burning Sun”)
Another time I was passing on my way to Kurnool from Hyderabad(towns in Andhra Pradesh/India). After passing a few villages and some village-like towns far flung from each other and tapering down as we advance, we were finally launched on a voyage of limitless arid land stretching from horizon to horizon. The sky furiously unleashing a downpour of ruthless sun; not a bird, not a living creature anywhere to be seen.
At an astronomical distance a little dot of tree could be seen as the symbol of stoic silence that stretched over miles and miles of distance. A half naked man holding a plough was seen moving slowly forward tilling the unyielding hard soil. He is the only living creature in the immense void encircled by the horizon. The trees, the birds, the winds, all seemed to have fled away leaving this hapless creature called tiller, alone. Again I had stop the car and come out, stand staring at him sinking into thought, leading to unfathomable abyss of the unknown. When the car honked the horn I came out of those primordial waters of sub-consciousness, like a frogman with the snails and pearls of the nether world. I transmuted my experienced silence into speech. Since I pass through, these experiences every now and then, I am wont to overlook noting them in words! Each time. In the present case, the lines are as follows:
“He who bears the plough/On his shoulders and earns his hunger/
Alone earns the right/To appease his hunger/
If the sorrow of the crops that grew this year/is not mitigated/
In the coming year/
Only fist bearing sickles will grow in the fields.”
(‘Flies’ From “The Burning Sun)
Once it so happened that my superior officer who was by nature arrogant and extremely conscious of his power of office unduly insulted me. We have many such lilliputs strutting in millions in our government bureaucracy. I was very upset, returned home and applied for some leave and left for Ooty-My abode of peace! And my Ashram! As the car was proceeding to the airport I saw on the way a woman barely clothed literally in rags, holding a shriveled up naked child and begging. My attention was at once arrested, stopped the car took a deep look at it, keeping a rupee in the palm of her stretched hand. Then I said:
“The child in the womb better it remains/in the womb itself
In our country/otherwise if it comes out and cries with hunger/
The people of this land will show the way to the footpaths/but not
To the fields”.
Then it began to revolve in my mind like a whirlpool-
Then came the words:
“Look! That child that descended to the earth holding heavens in
Both fists/is sleeping like a tear, on empty stomach. All the
Metropolises are standing by, hanging their heads in shame/O
Rose bush, don’t sing if you have any shame/vomit all those
Bulbuls from your throat/”
The car passed some more distance when I saw the monstrous structure of the Government Secretariat, in front of which on the roadside Gulmohar trees were in full bloom. It was spring; yet it looked to me like a diabolically wrong juxtaposition of two diametrically opposite things. Like the Greek Sybil all along the route, I was mumbling undecipherable speech. When I turned my head and saw the Secretariat I shouted:
“Now it is not even abuse-from head to foot my whole body is
Blowing dreadful hurricanes of blood and fire/
My hand raises to smash to smithereens that huge structure with
One stroke of my fist.. Exhausted I look at the trees pitiably and
“ I do not want poetry. I want a bomb crammed with a thousand
seeing and breathing the carbon dioxide of this obnoxious
Civilization/why those trees bear flowers? /why don’t they bear
Bullets in their branches?
What do you find there, if you look at me like this? /
Alive I am mortal, dead I am immortal/…
O bird, do not sing your song here, fly away in search
Of your own green hills and forest/”
(From Seshendra’s modern Indian Epic “My country my people”)
A Poet can give any number of such experiences but here any more of them will be redundant. It is enough to sway I guess that a poet is a picture of storms of colors, which give you luminous glimpses of his inner world. How many fascinating dreams. I dream often, how many visions of men and women of the earth, of the creation I get, how many ravishing desires infest my being to fashion and pattern the world at the point of WILL! How many impulses and instincts goad me and lead me to the fantastic articulation of speechless metaphors and dumb symbols helplessly swimming in the dormant waters of my consciousness. They all seem to be the natural citizens of the psychic realms of volcanic men like me, susceptible to sporadic paroxysms of expression.
- Seshendra Sharma