The day S. Diwakar gifted me his copy of Nazim Hikmet’s book my evening was spent along with Diwakar Sir and a very fine critic and writer Narendra Pai.
The conversation between Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai, with me as an active listener, went for long without us realizing the time. On seeing darkness having settled outside the window Naredra Pai sir got up to leave. Diwakar sir, at that point, said, “Lets have a cup of coffee before we disperse.” We decided to have a cup of coffee near the bus stop so that Narendra Pai sir could catch the bus then and there. Since I had my scooter, I drove to the bus stop while Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai came walking. By the time the two reached the bus stop Narednra Pai had changed his mind. He said having coffee would actually get him late and caught the bus immediately.
Soon after he caught the bus Diwakar sir lit a smoke and as we continued conversing I got a call from my father asking me to come pick him up. While I was taking leave Diwakar Sir said, “At least we could have had a cup of coffee together.” Even I felt the same but I had to leave as my father was waiting for me. I left having assured Diwakar Sir that I will join him for breakfast the next morning.
Coming home that evening I wrote a blog-post about the creative coincidental kinship between Nazim Hikmet-Ramachandra Sharma-YNK-Satyajit Ray-Diwakar-Samvartha and also Nazim Hikmet- Faiz- Chittoprasad- Samvartha- Srajana- Diwakar.
Next morning I woke up relatively early and left home to meet Diwakar Sir. While I was on my way my phone rang and I stopped my scooter to see who it is. It was my mentor K.P. Rao who was calling.
“Hello Samvartha. I saw your write up. Is Diwakar still in Manipal?”
“Yes Sir. I am on my way to meet him. If you want to come I will come pick you up.”
“You know, I follow the rules and dont break them.”
“Do not worry Sir. I have an extra helmet.”
“Then come home to pick me up.”
I turned my scooter and drove towards KP Rao’s house. Getting on the scooter KP Rao said, “I felt very happy reading your post. In fact Satyajit Ray stayed very close to my boss in Kolkata. He would wave at us whenever he came to his balcony,” and after a while added, “The beauty of YNK and his gang of people is that they have the entire world on their table.”
In a while KP Rao and I reached the International hostel where Diwakar Sir was put up. When we reached the 15th floor and rang the calling bell of room number 1525, Diwakar Sir opened the door. When KP Rao introduced himself to Diwakar sir who immediately recognized him and saying, “You taught Kannada to computers, isnt it?” welcomed us into the room.
For the next one hour the conversation between the two moved from Panini to Arya to Chomsky to Satyajit Ray to Homi Bhabha to DD Kosambi to Vedas to Sanskrit listening to which my jaws dropped.
The conversation was abruptly cut when there was a knock on the door. It was the driver of the vehicle which was to take Diwakar sir to the air-port. He had come to inform Diwakar sir that the vehicle will leave soon. We immediately left the room and took the lift from the 15th floor to the ground floor only to see that the co-passengers of Diwakar had not yet arrived. We seated ourselves on a couch there in the lobby and the two continued their conversation invoking the lives and works of KK Hebbar, memories of the first all India cartoonist meet and also discussed the tulu paaDdana. After a while the co-passengers of Diwakar sir arrived and so KP Rao and I took leave from Diwakar sir.
During the conversation in the room KP Rao while remembering his teacher DD Kosambi had recollected what was told once to him by the master. “Kosambi would say that if you are not interested in everything then you are not interested in anything.” That sentence kept ringing in my mind when KP Rao and I walked out of the hostel taking leave from Diwakar Sir because the two, I realized listening to their conversation, are literally interested in everything under the sun and above the sun.
If you look at it closely you realize that everything in the world is interconnected. KP Rao says to make computer learn Kannada what came handy was not just his knowledge of technology but also his interest in linguistics and his reading of vedas. That reminds of what the Kannada poet Pu.Ti.Na. says; ‘ee jagadoLu posadaavudu peLiri joDaNe horatu?’ (what is new in this world, everything is an extension, a continuation, an addition.) Everything is connected and hence if you are interested in something then it leads you to everything.
Yes, everything is connected that is how the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, a non-residential Indian Kannada poet Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Diwakar get connected with Samvartha after 50 years. Yes, everything is connected that is how when Samvartha is on his way to meet Diwakar gets a call from KP Rao and he becomes a witness to the memorable meeting between the two giants! Yes, everything is connected and that is how creative coincidental kinships are formed.
“Once as a small boy,” started recollecting K.P. Rao, “I saw a rainbow on the hill near our village and walked towards it. As I went closer and then under it, all the seven colors vanished and turned into mere droplets. I could only feel the moist, nothing else. It got me wet and I could hear a strange sound in my ears.” Remembering this childhood incident he asked, “How can I speak of this experience of mine?” Pausing for a brief moment he continued. “It is the same with music. It is colorful from distance but when you go under/ within it the colors vanish and it absorbs you and you get drenched in that state of being possessed by the rainbow.”
K.P. Rao, my mentor, was speaking at SaRiGaMa Bharathi, Parkala last evening (13 Dec 2016) on music and musicians in his life.
Taking us through his journey of life, closely associated with, violinist Sridhar Parsekar who taught him that music means to see through ears, Salil Chaudhary who composed music in ‘vaadi-samvaadi’ manner, Vilayat Khan, Amir Hussain Khan, narrating stories of his initial refusal to meet or listen to Ravishankar and he becoming the disciple of Annapurna Devi, Sir not just made us listen to some music clips saying, “See this music,” but also provided us with insights on their music and their personalities.
“Nikhil Banerjee was once critiqued heavily by Annapuruna Devi for one of his performance. When we stepped out of her house Nikhil was heartbroken and was almost in tears. He was considering quitting music. We drove sense into him saying Annapurna Devi had only asked him to do more rehearsals to better himself and had not suggested him to stop.” That night, recollected Sir, Nikhil Banerjee sang, in pain and out of will to better himself, from around 10:00 pm till 4:00 in the morning next day.
“I have never heard him perform so well,” said Sir. As Sir said that his lump in this throat and and his eyes became misty, becoming one with the tears of Nikhil Banerjee, of decades ago.
“How do I speak of all these experiences? How can I share what I felt and have carried within me always?” asked Sir.
Hearing of Nikhil Banerjee’s tears for failing in music and pushing him to music, seeing tears in the eyes of my mentor recollecting music and the tapasya for music, my eyes became wet. In that moment I felt/ realized that the language of tears is the closest to the language of music.
You get drenched by both, in an explicable manner, like by the rainbow, when absorbed by it, possessed by it.
Last night I had a strange dream.
In my dream all of Amrit Gangar sir’s experience- reading, viewing, listening etc- was turned into a library where he would visit every now and then to access the huge archive of experience and knowledge. It was a huge huge huge library.
In that library of experience, I was the librarian. Of course I was feeling extremely happy that I have access, though second hand, to all that Sir has read, heard, viewed, experienced and understood.
On waking up I realized the trigger for this dream was my envy for all the experiences in reading, listening and viewing Sir has had and my deep felt desire to be able to access all of them through him.
This was one of the two most beautiful dreams I have ever had, the other being one where I was a line of poetry in the heart of Gulzar.
Thanks for everything Amrit Sir.
“Baba” he called me, as he always does, while I was reading and asked me who the singer is of the gazal that I had introduced him to couple of years ago. He recollected the matlaa of the gazal as:
tumhaarey shehar ka mausam badaa suhaana lagey,
main ek shaam churaa loon agar buraa na lagey.
“Munni Begum,” I answered and a smile slipped out. The reason for the smile was the gazal being in my mind over the last few days.
I had entered the city late in the evening few days ago and as I was entering the city seeing a necklace of streetlights decorating the evening I had recollected the same gazal remembering someone who lives in that city. On the last evening, of this trip, in the city he asked me about the gazal and I smiled like a lover whose inner thoughts had been caught by a friend.
Playing the song of Munni Begum on his laptop, switching on a fancy speaker which illuminates while giving wings to music, he asked what other gazals I would like to listen. I requested him to play, “woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha,” and “aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya,” by Begum Akthar.
He queued the gazals on the player and asked, listening to Munni Begum, why I wanted to listen to these gazals in particular. I smiled again a smile which left a bitter sweet taste on the lips. Those were, I told him, the last songs that someone had sent me during our long long correspondence which became a story in itself.
Listening to my recollection of a distant past that still echoes in my heart endlessly he said, “kaafi sahi laDki lagti hai. kaun ending ko bhi itna romantic karta hai. sahi hai.” I smiled again and the smile left a bitter sweet taste yet again as Begum Akthar followed Munni Begum to sing, “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho.”
Did she remember anything from the past? I had sent a text which revealed that I was in the city she now lives in. There was no response, as expected. I had invited her to come meet. She dint, as expected.
kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi kabhi hum sey tum sey bhi raah thi,
kabhi hum bhi tum bhi tey aashnaa tumhein yaad ho kay na yaad ho.
“phir kya hua?” he asked. “kuch nahi,” I said and added, “kaash kuch hota.”
aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya
jaaney kyun aaj terey naam pey rona aaya.
There was mist in the eyes. I had controlled myself all through the trip but the last evening became difficult because hope was dying every time and love wasnt.
youn toh har shaam ummeedon mein guzar jaati hai,
aaj kuch baat jo shaam pey rona aayaa.
How beautifully she had worded her interpretation of these gazals, which I now wanted to sing to her again.
That night he took me around the city on his scooter. Lonely roads, yellow street lights, cool breeze. I sat behind singing the same gazals that we heard back that evening. Tears took flight from my eyes. As I wiped them I wished the tears that held the fingers of the breeze wrote poetry in air which she would be able to read sometime while passing through that road some day in that city after I have left as my invisible letter remembering everything that once was and of so many things that still remain within me.
tumhaarey bas mein agar ho toh bhool jaao humein,
tujhey bhulaaney mein shaayad humein zamaana lagey.
We went to the beach and stood there as some unknown people were bursting crackers, a run through to the festival of lights. I saw my shadow scattered on the sand because of multiple lights. With no original and multiples around me I wondered what the truth is, like I wondered several times with only written correspondences between us, “does she exist in real?” recollecting the lines by Sylvia Plath, “I think I made you up in my head,” and singing the lines from Bombay Velvet, “merey har ek armaan sey zyaada chaahey rey tujh ko piyaa, kaisey karoon yakeen tu hai dilbar na koi veham piya, bharoopiyaa haseen kusoor kiya beharoopiyaa.”
“samandar zara peechey chalaa gaya hai shaayad,” he said as I stared at the waves running forth and backwards. “shaayad,” I said and looked for traces of waves on the shore which made it evident that the sea had retracted.
kuch iss adaaa sey mujh sey tu bewafaayi kar,
kay terey baad mujhey koi bewafaa na lagey.
The problem to get over someone is when there bewafaayi. It is just bad timing. Such endings feel like the sea that has retracted on some night and will come forward some day again. It always leaves behind an ambiguity such as “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho,” which refuses to end, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it is a matter of the past and that the same wave never comes back to the shore.
You just live with some hope, the same love and the same songs and yes, the same bitter sweet smile on your lips.
Jayanth Kaikini, one of the finest Kannada writers, in an informal conversation recently spoke to me about the cover photo of the book by Dr. Mamta Rao on the short stories of Jayanth Kaikini titled ‘Janath Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’. He said, “I like the pic on cover which Srajana clicked in Delhi market when I was unable to cross road. It looks as if my charcters have gheravoed me and asking me, “what do you think you are?” Pen and paper in my shirt pocket look so stupid and helpless like me.“
That reminded me of a short note I had written, in Kannada, on 10 April 2015 on Facebook when I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy of the book. Here I just reproduce a translation of that small note.
The book by Dr. Mamata Rao titled ‘Jayanth Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’ finally reached me last evening. I first learnt about this book when the designer of the book Raghu Apara, months ago, shared the cover page of the book on Facebook.
A book on the stories written by Jayanth Kaikini triggered immense curiosity and excitement in me. And I was thrilled to see the cover page because I was very familiar with the moment – time and space- in which the photo on the cover page came to life.
It was monsoon of 2010. Jayanth Sir had come to Delhi for the admission of his daughter Srajana, also a dear friend of mine, at JNU for MA in Arts and Aesthetics. After completing the admission process on day one we decided to go around Delhi to see places of historic and heritage value on the following day.
Next day we started our Delhi tour with our visit to Kutub Minar. On seeing the flowers and creepers chiseled on the walls there, some broken some fallen some still intact, Jayanth Sir clicked photographs of those sculpted floral designs and said, “This can make a good cover page for a book.” He followed that sentence with his observations and thoughts on what makes a good cover page, what is the purpose of a cover page, what emotions should a cover page invoke, what impression do cover pages create etc.
I had heard, until then, people discussing books. But never had heard anyone discussing the cover page of the book and its aesthetics.
After the visit to Kutub Minar we went to the Lotus Temple and from there we went to the Red Fort. Opposite the Red Fort we found this small but colourful shrine which made Jayanth Sir say, “even this will make a good cover page picture.” As he said that he clicked couple of photographs of the shrine along with the cycle rickshaws around. He made Srajana and me stand in front of the shrine and clicked a photo of us.
Following this Srajana clicked the photo of Jayanth sir caught in traffic, which has now made it to a book cover page.
I am thrilled because the photo that came to life while discussing about cover pages, has now become a cover page by itself and I have been a witness to that moment.
Thrilled also because the cover page is so apt with this photograph! Jayanth Sir is standing amidst the flow of life and observing the life and humans around him, breathing the same air. There are human beings around him, there is a shrine behind him where God resides. Behind the shrine is a huge tree, representing nature. There are cycles around, which stand for mechanization and human craving to make lives easy. Amidst humans, motors, nature and the divine stands a writer who seeks humanity in the rush of life, enriches human spirit through his writings and tries, in his own way, through his writings, to makes life easy/ bearable by showing the beauty of life.
I congratulate my friend Srajana for this meaningful and loaded photo and also Raghu Apara for designing this beautiful cover page
Almost two decades ago while I was fast asleep in my grandparent’s house in Byndoor, I heard a drum beat. Along with the sound of drum was the sound of a jingle. A voice followed the sounds, singing something in a language which I did not understand back then as a child.
The sound did not just wake me up but also scared me. I held my mother, sleeping next to me, tightly and tried waking her up calling for her. She, very casually, said that the sound of the drum was to wake up the Muslim neighbors since it is the month of fasting and they have to eat before the dawn breaks and assured me that there is nothing to feel scared about. I went back to sleep.
After that in the following years, as a child, I must have visited Byndoor couple of times during Ramzaan month and all of these had got hidden under the dust of time.
Last month after a long, real long, time I was in Byndoor yet again during the month of Ramzaan. A set of playing cards kept my cousins and me awake till midnight. Sleep eluded me even after we all hit the bed. After long texting with a friend I was slowly dissolving in slumber when I heard the sound of a drum and jingle followed by a voice saying in tune “Ramzaan ka maheena hai...” and the remaining words remained unclear. Sleep sucked me in again, immediately.
In the morning when I mentioned how I had forgotten about the drum beats waking people up during Ramzaan a cousin, resident of Byndoor, told me, “They come from some far off place and are here only during the month of Ramzaan to wake people up in the morning.” This piece of information, not known to me until then, triggered curiosity in me.
Deciding to stop the man that night, for a conversation, while he comes to wake people up I went to sleep that night asking all my cousins and relatives to wake me up in case the drum sound doesnt wake me up that night.
As I had predicted that night I was so deep asleep that the drum sound did not wake me up. My aunt woke me up saying the “drummer” was in our lane. Jumping off my bed I ran out. The man would go five houses ahead of our house in the lane where our house is located and come back since there are no Muslim houses after that. I waited as he was walking back.
When I expressed my desire to have a conversation with me, as expected, he asked me why I wanted to speak to him and what is that I wanted to speak to him. When I spelled out my wish to know where he comes from and from how many years he has been coming the man said, “I am actually from Hyderabad.” He told me that he stays near the Mosque of Byndoor. When I said I need to talk him at length he asked me to come near the Mosque at 16:00 hrs. Disappointed me asked him if I could meet him in the day time. “I am either in Shiroor or Bhatkal during the day. I return only in the evening,” he said. I remembered my uncle telling me the previous day that during day time the man goes to collect alms.
“Okay then. I will see you in the evening.”
“Fine. Meet me in the evening.”
“What is your name?”
“Rahmatullaa Shaah Rafaayi.”
My plan was to return to Manipal that afternoon which I had to cancel and I did.
But I couldnt wait till evening. Convincing my cousin to take me to Shiroor-Bhatkal on his scooter, I sat on the scooter.
We thought of first checking at the Byndoor mosque if he was around. But he wasnt. In a small shop next to the mosque the shopkeeper said, “those people are called Saahvari. They are here only during the month of Ramzaan to wake people up. On the day of the feast, at the end of month, they accept whatever is given to them, in cash or kind, by the villagers. With that they go back to their place and come back the next Ramzaan.”
“Does every village has a Saahvari coming from elsewhere?
“I dont know if they go to every village. I know there is one Saahvari in Shiroor. I am not sure about Bhatkal.”
He also told me that these people come voluntarily and are not invited by the Mosque people. But when they arrive the mosque provides them with a place to stay.
Thanking the shopkeeper my cousin and I cut through the Ottinenne hill went to Shiroor. In Shiroor we went to a Mosque, crossing the railway line only to find the mosque closed. An elderly man passing by the Mosque told us that the secretary of the Mosque owned a shop in the market place and we could spot him there. Turning our scooter in the market direction we turned the accelerator applying brake only in front of the shop owned by the secretary of the Mosque.
It was a small shop selling fancy items. When I asked him about the Saahvaris he said no Saahvari comes to Shiroor and the responsibility of waking people up during Ramzaan month during the hour of sehri was taken by the villagers themselves till few years ago. “Now there are alarms and mobile phones to wake people up. So there is no need for someone to wake you up with a drum,” he said and made me listen to his mobile alarm singing azaan, which he said was his alarm tone.
In the conversation that followed he mentioned that there were 16-17 mosques in Shiroor alone. So immediately I asked if Saahvaris came to any of the other Mosques? “No,” he said in a stern voice. When I asked him how many Dargaa was there in Shiroor he said, “Four to five,” in a tone that exhibited his irritation without any hesitation. In a restless manner he said, “Some idiots do go to Dargaa, what can be done?” making his intolerance towards the Dargaa culture evident. “See, Ghalib has said,” he said and uttered the lines, “there is no dearth of idiots in the world Ghalib, look for one and you will find a thousand.” When I asked him if Ghalib actually said that his tone changed and he requested, “Please do not write about this. It is just a saying.”
Disappointed by the response and the failure of not finding Saahvari I moved out of his shop. Ten steps from his shop I must have walked before taking a right turn, staring at the notes I had made till then when I saw four Saahvaris getting down from an auto.
One old man. One young man. One adolescent and one child.
Greeting them I introduced myself and expressed my desire to speak to them. “Afternoon namaaz time is nearing. Can we talk in the evening?” I said I had to meet the Saahvari in Byndoor that evening. “He is my brother,” said the eldest one among them.
Agreeing to talk to me for two minutes the eldest among them introduced the other three to me as his son Mohammad Baasha, his another brother’s son “Hussain” and his younger brother.
His name, he said, is “Irfaanulla Shah Rafaayi,” who has been coming to Shiroor every Ramzaan from 35 years now, “sehri uthaaney kay liye,” (to wake people up for food before fast begins.)
He had first come to coastal Karnataka with his uncle who would be coming to a place called Nagoor “sehri uthaaney kay liye.” Along with him first came Irfaanullaah and chose Shiroor “sehri uthaaney kay liye.” From 35 years, he said, during his visit to Shiroor during the month of Ramzaan he stays in the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa in Shiroor. With his ‘daff‘ like instrument called ‘daayraa‘ which makes the sound of a daff with jingles, and singings ‘naath’, he wakes people up before the dawn breaks around the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa. During other months of the year they all are in Hyderabad and in the Dargaas in and around Hyderabad performing their rituals.
“It is time now,” said Irfaanullaa and gave me an option of seeing him by the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa after 15:00 hours.
“Can you sing one kawwaali for me now before you leave?”
Making a slightly sad face he said, “Come after 15:00 hours. I will sing a kawwali for you.”
Promising him to see him by Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa my cousin and I went to Bhatkal. Finishing our lunch and shopping a bit in Bhatkal we hit the national high way yet again to reach Shiroor.
Breaking away from the National Highway we took to the tarr road and after a while diverting from the tarr road we entered a mud road and came close to a very narrow bridge which could be crossed only by a cycle. Across the bridge stood Jungleee Peer Baba Dargaa.
Stopping our scooter we crossed the bridge constructed over a rivulet. It was a beautiful sigh. Clicking some photos of the environ I walked to Irfaanullaah who was resting my the river under the shadow casted of the narrow bridge.
While speaking to him I recollected the words spoken by the Secretary of the Shiroor mosque. “Some sects with Islaam do not approve of Sufism,” he said and added to it, “Yes, there is no need for us now since alarm and mobile phone have come into existence. But still we come for the love of the people who we know for over three decades now and for the devotion of God.”
Our conversation was interrupted by two young boys who in a harsh tone asked me who I am and why I had clicked photos of the Dargaa. I explained my purpose.
“We dont mind you talking to him. But why click photos of the Dargaa?” Skipping through the photos in the camera they recollected an incident where a “media person” had photographed and video-graphed the Dargaa and then created a “controversy” relaying “false news.” No photo in our camera appeared objectionable to them and let the interview continue.
Irfaanullah said his uncle had first come to Bababudan(giri) first years ago and from there he got down from the western ghats and reached Nagoor for the first time. In Bababudan(giri), he said, a yearly ritual takes place attended by followers of Sufism. “Now my uncle is dead. So there is no Saahvari in Nagoor to wake people up during Ramzaan,” explained Irfaanullah. It seems his uncle had no children.
“Will your son come to Shiroor after you?”
“Yes. Dont you see, he comes even now with me.”
Irfanullaah laughed saying so. His son laughed. I laughed and even the boys who interrupted the interview laughed.
That evening when I met Rahmatullaah in Byndoor he had the contrary to say. “My children are not interested in this. I cant even force them to do what they do not like to do. So I am the last Saahvari coming to Byndoor. There will probably be none after me. He has been coming to Byndoor from 30 years now and has learnt Kannada too. He kind of echoes his brother when he says he comes “sehri uthaaney kay liye,” even when technological advancements have made their work redundant for “muhobbat” and “puraani pehchaan.”
During the other months of the year Rahmatullah is a seller of gems and precious stone. “I have my business to make money. I do this for the love of people and love of God,” he says. “In recent times,” said Rahmatullah, “in other parts the Saahvaris have been facing objections from people not following Islaam.” Their objection is to the sleep of non-Muslimas are being “disturbed” when the ‘daayra‘ is beaten and ‘naath‘ sung to wake Muslims up. “But thankfully no such objections have been faced by me in Byndoor nor by my brother in Shiroor,” said Rahmatullaah with a smile.
I feel sad that I couldnt speak more to Rahmatullah and Irfaanullah and that I couldnt extract more information and insights from them. I lacked preparation too not just time and the two seemed lacking in rooting and also also communication. So several questions remained unasked and unanswered.
Where to go for those answers, I do not know. For how long will Rahmatullah and Irfaanulllah will come to coastal Karnataka also remains unknown to me.
[Originally written for Karavali Karnataka website for my column Shadow of Life there]
Couple of months ago a friend on Facebook (Guruprasad Nayaran) put up a post on Satyajit Ray. While commenting about the books written by Marie Seton, Chidanand Dasgupta, Gaston Roberge etc on Ray I also mentioned about an essay by S. Diwakar where he mentions about Ray having designed the cover page of a poetry collection of the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.
In that particular essay (found in the book ‘naapatteyaada graamaphone mattu itara prabandhagalu‘) S. Diwakar recollects how he first read Nazim Hikmet’s poetry in translation, translated by Ramachandra Sharma and how went looking for a collection of Hikmet’s poetry, without any success. He remembers how, during those days, he once mentioned about Hikmet to the great Kannada writer YNK who on hearing the name of Hikmet got excited and spoke of Hikmet, his poetry and his politics with great enthusiasm in one breath. But to Diwakar’s bad luck YNK’s copy of Hikmet’s poetry collection was borrowed by someone and never returned to YNK.
But then “Twenty five years ago” writes S. Diwakar, “in a small old book stall in the then Madras,” he found a book of Hikmet’s poetry titled ‘Nazim Hikmet Selected Poems.’ He continues to say, “Recently” (at the time of writing the essay) he chanced upon the book again in his library and a detail that had skipped his eyes all those years caught his eyes. The cover page of the book was designed by Satyajit Ray and the book was published by one ‘Parichaya Prakashini‘ based in the then Calcutta.
Narrating these S. Diwakar writes in his essay, how thrilled he was to see a a Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, non-resident Indian Kannada translator Ramachandra Sharma, a Kannada writer YNK and the Bengali language film director Satyajit Ray get connected and how thrilled he was to see all of them get bound together in his mind.
I had forgotten about my comment on Guruprasad’s post on Ray. Completely. But then…
On 24 of June 2016 S. Diwakar came to attend the inaugural function of the Hebbar Gallery and Art Center in Manipal. He was one of the speakers in the panel discussion conducted as a part of the inaugural programme. He was surrounded by other friends and admirers during the tea break following the panel discussion. When one by one started dispersing we met and on seeing me he immediately put his hand in his bag and took out a book saying, “This is for you.”
A yellow bind book with an image of human figure in black whose titled read ‘Nazim Hikmet Selected Poems.’ !!!
“I saw you mentioning about my essay on Facebook. I was happy that someone had read and remembered it as well. I dug out the book from my library that very day and thought of sending it to you by courier but got held in some other work. But in a day or two after that Srajana called me to invite me for this programme and I thought it is better to give you the book personally when I come here. So, here it is,” said S. Diwakar.
My friend Srajana Kaikini, who is the curator of Hebbar Gallery and Art Center was right there when this exchange happened. When I showed her the book saying, “See he gifted me this,” there was a memory recollected.
Sometime in 2011 Srajana and I had attended the exhibition of paintings by Chittoprasad in Delhi. In one of his paintings one can see Hikmet’s book in the frame. Standing before that painting I had recited Faiz’s translation of Hikmet in Urdu; “Meri jaan tujh ko batalaaun bahut naazuk yeh nuqtaa hai, badal jaataa hai aadmi jab makaan uska badalta hai.”
Next day when Srajana went to class with Raqs collective the discussion in class was around Nazim Hikmet’s poetry! That evening we had wondered at the coincidence.
Years after this Srajana witnessed Nazim Hikmet Seclected Poetry collection, where Turkish poet Hikmet and Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray are bound together, being gifted by S. Diwkar who has his own history with the book where Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Ray get connected with Hikmet, to Samvartha with whom she shared her own Hikmet story where Faiz and Chittoprasad are Hikmet are connected.
Srajana clicked a photo of Diwakar Sir and me with the book.
When I opened the book I saw S. Diwakar Sir having documented the date of purchase on the first page of the book under his signature. It read 1. 12. 66. The book was purchased 50 years ago and the essay ‘Sharma-Hikmet-YNK-Satyajit Ray’ was written 25 years ago.
In his essay he says to him Sharma, Hikmet, YNK and Satyajit Ray are not just humans but threads who connect with each other to weave a grand narrative of their times. And he wonders how a creative kinship is formed
I am thrilled to know that 50 years after these threads passed through Diwakar Sir has now passed through me too making me a part of this strange yet beautiful creative kinship. And in a strange way another series of coincidences involving Faiz, Chittoprasad, Hikmet and Raqs collective met S. Diwakar’s narrative of creative kinship.
I am also thrilled about the fact that the book is now in my possession.
When in a stranger town, for work, I befriended a person who was about to go abroad for higher studies in some days. When she left I shot her a mail and she replied. I responded. She answered.
We wrote to each other almost on a daily basis initially and quite regularly, if not daily, nearly after a month of daily exchange.
Slowly I started realizing that I was falling for her but was in denial for a long time. I was also trying to battle my feelings for her.
But then one day, I received a handwritten post card from the other side of the globe. That is it. I admitted to myself that I am in love with this girl and put on the ground all the weapons I had equipped myself with to battle my feelings.
She had drawn a flower on the card. I replied saying, “woh phool tanha mehsoos kar raha hai yahaan, tamaam gulshan ek lifaafey mein bhej deejiye…” (The flower is lonely. Please send an entire garden in an envelope)
I craved for more and I started loving her even the more.
It was that one hand written post card…
(Memory recollected while in a conversation with Rashmi Ramchandani around the magic and beauty of letter writing.)
Day before yesterday (10 April) was the death anniversary of Kahlil Gibran.
That evening while speaking to a friend my friend quoted couple of lines from Gibran and told me that she, in all these years, has not been able to read Gibran’s most celebrated work The Prophet completely because every time she picks up the book she gets lost, in the thoughts triggered by one line or one passage, for a long long time. I immediately said, “You shouldnt read The Prophet if you are not in the right state of mind.”
When asked why did I say what I said and what I meant by it, I had to recollect a story from nearly 15 years ago.
It was while reading APJ Abdul Kalam’s autobiography that I first came across Kahlil Gibran whose lines on ‘children’ is quoted in Wings of Fire. The lines caught my imagination and I desperately wanted to read The Prophet from which book the lines were quoted. I immediately left to the nearest book store and got an omnibus book of Kahlil Gibran.
Looking at the size of the book The Prophet I thought I would finish reading it in couple of days. But it took a whole month to finish that book small in size because the ripples every line every passage would create would drown me in an ocean of thoughts and meditation.
When I completed reading the book I knew the world would never appear the same again. I started recommending the book to every single person I knew. All of this happened during vacations.
When the college reopened I went to a teacher of mine with whom I used to discuss everything under the sun that interested me. I went to him and spoke at length about Gibran. My teacher asked me if he could borrow my copy of The Prophet. “Yes,” I said and the next day I gave him my copy of the book and told him that he should share his thoughts on the book when he completes reading it. “Yes,” he said.
After nearly two weeks when I crossed paths with my teacher in the corridor he said, “Samvartha come meet me.” I thought he must have read the book and would share his thoughts with me. I walked with him to the staff room and took my seat.
“What have you done Samvartha?” asked my teacher. I was puzzled. I asked, “What did I do?”
“Victor is hospitalized.”
I knew no Victor and hence was puzzled even the more.
“Who is Victor? I dont know any Victor.”
“Victor is my friend.”
“Okay. What happened? And what did I do?”
My teacher saw me getting perplexed and worried. He smiled. With the smile on his face he said, “I know you do not know him.”
I got even the more confused. “Then why did you ask me that? And what happened to your friend?”
Asking me not to feel worried or feel guilty my teacher said, “Actually he had come to my room the day you gave me Gibran’s book. He asked me if he could borrow it and I gave him the book,” and immediately changed the tone to apologize saying, “Sorry about giving it to him without your permission.” I dint know what was happening and before I could join these dots my teacher continued,
“Any way, he took the book and started reading it.” Giving a pause my teacher said, “He had a nervous breakdown.”
“What?” I screamed.
Calming me down my teacher said, “He has been going through a tough time and I guess this was not the right time for him to read that book.”
I dint know how to react. I felt guilty because somehow the nervous breakdown of this person not known to me was connected to me. I had a role to play.
My teacher could sense these thoughts in my head, I guess. He immediately said, “You are not responsible for it Samvartha. Its just wrong timing I guess. Any way, he is recovering now and that is a good thing.”
I was shocked because when I read the book, couple of months before this incident, I too was going through depression after losing a good friend under mysterious circumstances. But the book did not damage me further but in a way healed me. As I kept thinking about it I realized that what can heal can also harm. A realization that came somewhere from the depths of The Prophet itself: “Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potters oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
Victor recovered eventually and I happened to see him, just see him, once nearly six years after this and I was glad that he was doing fine.
In these fifteen years I haven’t stopped being a missionary for The Prophet. But every person who I recommend or gift this book, I make sure, I tell them the story of Victor and tell them, “Its a powerful book. Make sure you read it only when you are in the right state of mind.”
Some thoughts of an atheist on the occasion of Hanuma Jayanthi.
While returning from Lanka, after having set fire to Ravana’s empire, Hanuman stopped on a rock in the middle of the sea to immerse his fire-lit tail into the sea and extinguish the fire. At that point a question passed his mind: “What if the fire that I lit also consumes Seeta devi?”
We are living in troubled times and things around are burning. At such times we should be asking ourselves if/ how we are also party to this fire ? In this fire which is consuming everything are things that we love, respect, worship, adore also getting reduced to ashes?
Amidst our anger, war, revenge etc there are always a chance of us losing something precious, tender that belongs to us that is within us that which defines us too.
That for which we are battling only might get lost might get burnt in the fit of anger in the adrenaline rush for war for revenge.