Homage to the Gurudev

sweet and sour

 I mugged up ‘Ekla Chalo’ — walk alone — and was able to recite it is Bengali. I spent three months in Shantiniketan and read whatever I could find of his works translated in English, including ‘Gitanjali’ which I loved.

We were allowed to have his ‘darshan’ once a week and saw him seated like a monarch on his throne in the huge garden of his mansion Uttaravan. He was awe-inspiring,  over six feet tall, long hair curing down to his shoulders and a flowing white beard down his chest. He was known as the Santhal Raja because the region round Bolpur was predominently populated by Santhal tribesman.

Later, I read other Bengali short-story writers, novelist and playwrights. I concluded some of them were better craftsman than my icon Gurudev. He was still the best as far as use of bejewelled words were concerned and a great writer of songs.  Once I was bold enough to say so at a meeting and narrowly escaped being roughed up at Kolkata airport. Most Bengalis worship him as a deity and can’t take a word spoken in criticism.
On the 150th anniversary of his birth, I turned over the pages of my personal notebook on which I put down memorable quotations. I spotted two right at the beginning. I reproduce them for my readers benefit:

I hunt the golden stag
“You may smile my friends, but I pursue that vision that  eludes me?
I cross hills and dales. I wonder through nameless lands
Because I am hunting the golden stag.

You come and buy in the market and go back to your homes laden with merchandise
But the spell of homeless winds has touched me,
I know not when and where.

I have no cave in my heart, all my belongings
I have left far behind me
I cross the hills and dales, I wander through nameless lands.
Because I am hunting the golden stag.”

And: “India has aspects — in one she is the householder, in the  other a wandering ascetic.  The former refuses to budge from the cosy nook, the latter has no home at all. I find both these within me. I want to roam about and see all the wide world, yet I also yearn for a little sheltered nook, like a bird with its tiny nest for a dwelling and the vast sky for flight.”

Dying thoughts

Asadullah Khan Ghalib had four obsessions: love for liquor, love for women, concern over loss of youth and dying. In one of his couplets he admits:

Mout ka ek din muavven hai
Neend raat bhar kyon nahi aatee
When there is a date fixed for my death
Why do I keep awake at night thinking about it?

I also often think of death and try to solve its mystery. No one has yet come out with a plausible answer. But I have never, ever lost sleep over it. What bothers me is not dying but the increasing dependence on other people, pain and humiliation that usually precedes death.  Consequently, when a few years ago the Dalai Lama sent me a red string to tie round my wrist with his blessings that I have a peaceful exit, I was overjoyed.  Although I do not believe in mystic powers of talismans, I did tie that string round my wrist for a day and still keep it in my drawer. For some reasons I found comfort in reading poetry on the subject. Two verses of Tennyson I have committed to memory are:

Sunset and Evening Star
And one clear call for me
May there be no moaning at the bar
When I put out to sea.
Twilight and the Evening Bell
And after that the dark;
May there be no mourning of farewell
when I embark.

The most recent pronouncement on the subject that I came across was in Haruki Murakami's first novel ‘Norwegian Wood’. Most of his characters are college students who spent a lot of their time boozing and fornicating. A few end up taking their own lives including two of the narrator’s closest friends.  He writes: “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life to learn. What I learnt from Naoki’s death was that a truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All one can do is to see that sadness to the end and learn something from it. But what we learn will be of no help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning.”

Sounds profound but I am not sure what it means.
This is our India:
Do not worry about those who have come through boats...
Our forces can easily defeat them.
Worry about those who have come through votes...
Those are our real enemies.

(Courtesy: Freedom First & Col T S Tanwar)

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