If you want to write

DSC06741

It comes from within somewhere,
poetry does
sometimes,
at least.

In pain and separation
lie roots of creation.

A selfish voice,
shrewd, speaks from within:

“Keep pain alive
and separation as it is,
if you want to write.”

 

Published at:   https://indianreview.in/poetry/if-you-want-to-write-rajnish-mishra/

 

Advertisements

No, I may not return

painter dg3

No, I may not return ever.
Yes, that’s destiny, 
self-scripted,
inflicted.
Had I known,
written the script, 
contemplated The end 
of the road less travelled? 
Had I, ever?
Past is not a place
to revisit.
Past is not a phase
to re-live.
Past is not a page 
to rewrite.
Past is past; 
the slippery sand 
that slips dryly
From between the fingers,
is lost,
Is gone.

 

Published at:

http://stanzaicstylings.blogspot.com/2017/06/i-may-not-return-by-rajnish-mishra.html

That night I just caught that train

DSC07257

That night I just caught that train.
For never return. I did not stay 
At home, just left. 
What was it? Inertia, inaction,
Prophetic soul? The Prince and I,
Pathetic both, with self-inflicted wounds and pain,
Nostalgia: missing home.

They’re wrong who say that home is 
Where heart is. 
No, it’s actually where stomach is,
And job is, and monthly paycheck is, 
and the savings account.
Heart is gentle, what worst can it do?
Compare that to stomach’s doings and see 
who wins. Stomach, once aroused, rumbles and grumbles
And pushes the body it owns, 
our body, 
around.

 

Published at:

http://stanzaicstylings.blogspot.com/2017/06/that-night-i-just-caught-that-train-by.html

 

Of Journeys and Destinations

DSC01214

When I had collected the marks sheet of high school, I can’t fully bring back the exact feeling of elation now but I do remember that, I was happy and anxious at the same time. Happy because I had, by luck, managed not to get second division marks. And I was anxious that someone would snatch my marks sheet on my way to home: an eleven minutes walk. High School used to be an important and scary class. It was when one took one’s first board exam. Many used to fail, and more were scared of the instances of failures that their parents and elders could cite with exact details.

The next time round, it was intermediate, the year of Kalyan Singhji’s Anti-Copying Ordinance. “The UP board’s brochure of 1992 exams proclaims that its high school pass percentage of 14.70 was the lowest in its history and the intermediate pass percentage of 30.38 was the lowest since 1969. The 1992 exams, it may be noted, were held under the very strict Anti- Copying Ordinance of 1992.” [Source: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2008-05-28/news/27729482_1_board-exams-engineering-colleges-middle-class%5D

I was a proud first division holder of the year in which the majority had either failed or failed to secure first division marks. I remember that the first three ranks in our school had gone to Biology students, the only three in the whole school to secure first division marks, the rest had all got third or second divisions. Physics was my favourite subject and I was hoping for distinction marks in it. I was disheartened by my marks in Physics, although I had secured average marks in other subjects in a lean year.

That year was from where began my journey towards knowledge of the inherent nature of the life of the short-lived wo/man who is inherently and farcically (or tragically) short sighted too. Getting what one wants does not get one anything. Destinations aren’t ever fixed in life that is one long journey. I thought that getting first division in intermediate was something. That it was some sort of final achievement after which all would become easy. Myopia thy name is man!

It meant nothing. My marks in intermediate lasted me only two months, after which I had to face the Mount Everest of my life till then, a peak even higher than my first board exam of High School. There was only one place where I had thought of doing B Sc from (or my father had thought of my doing MBBS from, but I was sure I couldn’t clear IMS entrance test, and I didn’t). I believed, by what I had heard from my school seniors, that I would not be able to clear the entrance test, and I missed it by mere one question, i.e. two marks. The list closed at 172 and I had secured 170. There was no negative marking in B Sc entrance test.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Kha Chang

IAS BSC

Kha Chang and I had joined the same section of the same class of the same school in the same year. What a coincidence! We then studied together from class seven to twelve in that school. No, he is not there in the image above. It has some other friends of mine, and classmates, from my University years. Kha Chang was my best friend for the first three years of the school. Before him, there were some other best friends in another school. I never had best friends in my muhalla, as I was not allowed to mix up and play with the three boys of my age there. I could and did play with many other children of the muhalla, but those three: Madhyam, Shyam bhaiya’s younger brother and Bablu, were all non-studious good-for-nothing types. My parents wouldn’t allow my befriending them. So, my friends were all from my schools.

In my first school there were Achyut Bhave and Manoj. And then, tere were acquaintances who now qualify for the friend position, but were not friends then, just class mates, viz. Anupam, Dashrath, Malik, Amitabh etc. When we meet now, the distance through which we have to look back makes it impossible to re-see parts of our collective past as they were, and we accept that we were friends.

In my second school, there were two distinctly different circles of friends: Bengali and Hindustani. Kha Chang was a Hindustani friend of mine. We were in A2 section, and it had Bengalis in majority. Sections B and C were Hinduastani majority.There used to be a sort of polarization based on the identities arising from language groups of the students. In the Hindustani group of our section there were Ravi, Ranjeet, Prabhat, Dhawal, Vikram Veer, Aalok, Rahul etc. The Bengali group had Diponkor, Biressor, Ajoy, Maity, Mota, Borun, Arnab, Omiyo, Biplab, Pulak, Debopriyo etc.

Kha Chang and I did our best to stay away from group rivalries. I remember very vividly how once we stood on the roof of the hall room while many made a circle around the two gladiators: Ravi and Ajoy (0r was it Diponkor?). We were never interested in physical violence. Or, to judge it from a more conservative point of view: we weren’t masculine enough to want to fight. I don’t remember having seen Kha Chang in any kind of school fights: group or individual, although I was beaten twice (by Rajesh and by Vikram) and I had started the fight both the times by challenging the other party.

It was Rahul, my friend from the previous school who had joined the same section, class and school (coincidence or fate?) and was also A friend of Kha Chang,  through whom I came to know my best friend in the new school. I remember our very strict Vice Principal in whose hands, no, through whose elbows, I had received a thorough beating, an open mouthed Kha Chang being the only witness. We, rather he, had converted the whole thing into a kind of heroic adventure in which the hero is beaten by the villain. There are benefits of having a friend as a narrator. He makes you either the hero or the hero’s friend, even when you lose to the villain in the end of the story.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

My Last Telegram

FTTR_RTT56B_Telephone_2

(http://upload.wikimedia.org)

There weren’t many telephones back then in our muhalla, when I used to be a child. There wasn’t any at our place. My eldest uncle had called once from the place where he used to live for work those days. He had to call at his friend, our neighbour Mr. Jain’s place, twice. When telephone was not as close as the next door or front house, it was the standard procedure. You called to inform that you’d call at certain time and then you made the call for which someone would be waiting eagerly at the place and time decided upon. People had patience then. They’d wait for hours. People had patience, as they’d let others occupy space and receive hospitality for unlimited time, in their house for using their phone.

In the fortunate event of the telephone set’s being in close neighbourhood, somebody from the house with the telephone would call someone from the house for whose member/s the call was made and that would bring in a whole set of persons desirous of talking with the caller. Those were the days of government monopolization of the department: a time when our muhalla had only one colour television, at Rakesh Bahaiya’s house. In the age of ultimate patience, people used either to be so good or act so good as their behaviour encouraged numerous future calls.

pcrd

(http://images-00.delcampe-static.net)

Even more common and important than telephone used to be post cards, inland letters, letters and telegrams, in their increasing order of price. Post cards that cost only twenty-five paise were my favourite. I used to write them to my friends, filling up all the available space. Inland letters used to be costlier, nearly thrice the price of a post card, and had nearly thrice the space to, to be filled everywhere.

There was a definite limit to an obviously cost linked volume of the text of a telegram and its syntax was formed keeping only one rule in mind: prune mercilessly all but the fruits and flowers. I had received money orders and telegrams for my grandparents. I had sent a very few telegrams in my time too (no money orders) a long time ago.

With the rise of the popularity and prevalence of the mobile phones and the internet, the importance of other (read older) modes of communication waned. When they announced that the Government of India was going to discontinue the telegraph service in July, I had a wish in my mind: to send my last telegram. I searched for telegraph offices in my neighbourhood and found none. I had gone to visit my brother and repeated my search in his neighbourhood with the same results.

I went inside a post office near my brother’s place to ask about the place from where I could send my last telegram and they gave me a place at least five kilometres away. I returned to my place and went to the post office to ask about the telegraph department. They informed me that theirs was a totally separate department and then gave me a large locality to search my needle of a telegraph office in. I hadn’t time enough to travel ten extra kilometres for what my heart wanted. In sum, I failed to send my last telegram.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Banaras Hindu University and Change

OSHO_GURU__12_

(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh)

It was a tradition in my family. We all went to the same university for our studies: all the siblings of my father and all the sisters of my mother. There was nothing else ever thought of. The name of Banaras and that of the university with the same name in its beginning were inseparable in our collective un/conscious. It was not planned: the programming of the software whose paths led only to one place for higher studies. It was an institutionalization of the prejudice that had solidified in the years after our independence that had given BHU its special elite status in Kasi. The other two universities of the city and the colleges of Purvanchal University stood nowhere in comparison to BHU on the scale of snob value. As far as I know, although the absolute position of BHU may not be the same, vis-a-vis the other universities in the world; its position vis-a-vis the other universities in the city remains the same.

I must also mention that Dr. Singh (who sent the image of the singh dwar above) et.al. are the products of the same university. In our time, as in the time before ours, anyone who could, did study in BHU. I don’t, nor did I, in the past, sustain the idea of the inherent supremacy of the students and teachers of the university (Okay, for some time, I did attempt to defend such a stance, but soon gave up the impossible task). It was the herd effect alright, but more than that, it was the bewitching beauty and the expanse of the campus that made it all happen. I dropped one year after intermediate only because I would not go to any other place. The choice of the exact institute to study in was made on the basis of externals. In particular, the choice of an Institute over a Faculty, and more than that, because the institute I chose had the following structure in it:

DSC01351

This is the (then) non-functional glass house of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences. It did look rivettingly captivating on that day, when I was passing the institute on my red Hercules bicycle. It stayed in my mind long and strong enough to affect my decision of choosing the place for my studies. It was a good decision. I met with some very bright minds: many of them from Bihar, but some from other parts of India too. It was a common joke those days, to call our university Bihar Hindu University. There were few Banarsi students in our batch too. Most of them had reached there through their supernumerary or Central Hindu School quota. Even fewer were students from Maths stream. Mihir, Ashutosh and Debashish were from the Maths stream, and the last two from Banaras too. My university years were the best years of my life. No, it’s neither due to nostalgia nor due to my loyalty to the good old days that I say so. It’s the truth.

 DSC01352 DSC01361

DSC01362

The Institute of Agricultural Sciences is located very strategically. The Central Library, Birla Temple and The Central Office are on its three sides. Right in front of the main entrance to our institute is the Central Library of BHU. To the right of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences is the Central Office. We, the students of the pre-millennial decade, spent a lot of time around the institute too. There was a gym and the amphitheatre ground for those who wanted physical fitness. There was the library for those who wanted to study. Strangely enough, the same place was also popular among those who did not want to study at all. And then, there were tea and samosa stalls that mushroomed everywhere there was a possibility of students assembling. Our favourite were the tea stalls on one side of the temple (afternoons) and the tea stall near the singh dwar on one side of the statue of Mahamana (evening).

To the left side of these buildings is the famous Birla temple. It used to take around twelve minutes at full speed to reach Birla Temple from my place on my bicycle. The temple, as can be seen in the image below, is huge and splendid. On all the sides of the temple compound there are mango or guava orchards. Across the temple used to be our favourite path to reach the hostel of our institute, SRK Hostel. We used to carry our bicycles across, entering from the main gate and taking the narrow back door to exit.

OSHO_GURU__13_

(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh)

For me, the temple and the library, along with many parts of the university campus, were extensions of my house. I used to spend a large part of my day in the campus and used to feel safe and secure there. More than that, I used to feel at home. The way I never felt anywhere after entering my professional life, in any place. Entering the singh dwar (main gate) of the university from the city was like entering another world. The  state, environs and traffic congestion on the road leading to the university make the contrast even sharper. The moment one enters (in season) the flame of the forest presents a spectacle that can be better understood by actually seeing.

IMG_0124

(Photo: Mr. Rishi Vohra)

RISH_AND_AP_PHOTO__3_

(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh) 

As my posts keep touching the central issue of the change in the city (urballaghology), The huge structure dominating the background of the singh dwar must be focussed upon (Dr. Singh has done half the work for you already). In our student decade, the structure that dominated the scene used to be the aptly called singh dwar. With time, the whole Lanka-Naria neighbourhood had some sort of building boom and the whole area was changed beyond recognition. No, I’ve used the hackneyed italicized and bold phrase purposefully. I mean it without any attempt at exaggeration. I know, change can’t be fought against. But this change has made ugly and puny of what used to be majestic: the dominating and central structure of the yester-years, the singh dwar. My friend Rishi thinks and feels the same about this particular change.

I do remember having observed a similar experience in another context. My cousins had come to my paternal house after around a decade and half. We had spent our childhood playing on the rooftop, chabutaras and verandahs of the house. My father stayed in the house and the others all left. So, it was a reunion after a long time. We entered the house, and the one nearer my age exclaimed “Everything has shrunk! I don’t remember this house’s being so small. The verandah and the roof used to be more spacious when we were small!” It was a sort of anti-climax for the speaker, and, in a way for the listeners too. It’s not a pleasant experience seeing one feel cheated. It becomes even more painful when one is cheated out of one’s home. It’s scary.

My university has changed a lot. Just like my city, the reasons are all related to the security. Today, there are barricades all around the temple. No one can enter the temple with their bicycles, as we used to, there is a well demarcated parking area, at around 100 metre radius from the entrance of the temple. the various grounds that we used to cross on our bicycles freely have fences. The garden in our institute where I had discovered the most beautiful flower I have seen till date: passion flower:

Passion_flower_2r

(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Passion_flower_2r.jpg)

I used to reach my institute at around seven thirty on the days of exam. The place where I used to go for revision, because I knew that nobody would come there to disturb me, was that garden. I used to sit there revising for around an hour. My only companions used to be the peacocks that used to roam freely there. There also used to be an mulberry tree there. it used to bear fruits regularly and, I think adequately for those who needed them, as I never saw all the fruits plucked. On one of my returns to my university, I went to meet my old friend, the garden. There was no garden to be seen. The whole garden area was converted into a car parking for the institution. I am not good at putting my emotions on paper with sufficient objective correlatives. So, you can’t feel the way I did back then. Nostalgia has a modicum of hope in it. It is the remote and faint possibility of being able to revisit the past places/people that makes the pain of nostalgia sweet and bearable. When those places/people are no more, nostalgia becomes some sort of stinking-bitter-toxic fruit.

No, the idyllic past does not return, but I was there when my university used to be beautiful, safe and open. I can never feel easy, having lived that past, with the fact that they have murdered my beautiful past and pulverized even the remains to feed them to the dogs of change.

Time, Change and Kasi 3

GYANVAPI_photo_DR_VP_SINGH

(Photo: Dr. Atma Prakash Singh)

This photograph is very important for me. I thank Dr Singh for sending it. I am quite sure that this photograph that belongs to the decades before the conversion of the Gyan Vaapi Temple-mosque compound into some sort of battleground, post-1992, must have been captured by Atma’s father. Therefore, I must actually thank uncle, his father Dr. V. P. Singh, a Kasilogist, Kasiphile, a fine painter himself and a renowned art and architecture photographer of Kasi.

The area shown in the image above looks nothing like it nowadays. Back then, as I had mentioned in one of my previous posts, the whole compound was totally open. We, the children of Anand uncle’s coaching used to go there to play. We used to run around, sit or just stand and chat. Nobody would mind. Gyan Vaapi was very close to Adi Vishweshwar Temple, were Anand Sir, my father’s old friend used to have a very successful coaching centre that was named on the deity of the temple. That’s why, my attachment to this space is totally areligious, personal and emotional.

As this post falls in the urballaghology series, it is about change in the city, my city: the socio-cultural and physical change. For us, the mosque with a wall of a temple may have been strange, but never unnatural. It belonged to the city, and to the overall set up. We never questioned the incongruity of its elements. At one place on the temple wall of the mosque (I know, it sounds so strange) there used to be a spot that Hindus used to worship by applying vermillion etc. Muslims had their mosque, Hindus, their side of the wall. I don’t remember being aware of the history of the wall and the mosque until the rise of the new consciousness among the Hindus of my locality (using any other word carries with it the risk of generalization of the blind kind). If there is any possibility of my accepting any essentialized notion of the spirit of times, the strongest chance is in putting forth the assertion that nearly a decade after 1980 was the decade of the rise of the secular: a rise that had non time for openly and solely religious issues. Nobody in their right minds would ever even dream of the BJP coming to power in the centre.

I remember the old timers and Congress supporters discussing the issues related with corruption and low growth etc. with a sense of having eternity in hand(no pun was intended originally). They had to go on the back foot after the rise of the saffron spirit. The BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal combine brought about some kind of internal revolution before the external shock. They effectively and efficiently cultivated the mass paranoia, converted it into a mass hysteria that culminated with the demolition of the Babri Mosque. They had reopened (opened, for my generation) the bloodiest pages of the medieval Indian history, underlined and highlighted the sections written with the red of Hindu veins, and had held people’s heads in a vice like grip to make them read those highlights. I remember having read the thing well, and having learned the language of hatred of the “other”.

Years later, after I had taught myself some language other than that of hatred, I found that there were many others like me. There were many whose identity did not depend on the vilification of their “them”. They are comfortable with what they are, and have no fear of what others are. The name of Late Mr. Asghar Ali Engineer flashes before my mind when I think of the people fighting against communal hatred. I respect the work the gentleman has done. It was only a couple of months ago that the idea of meeting him, or, at least establishing some kind of communication with him, came to my mind. I could not do either. He passed away the day before yesterday. May his soul rest in peace! In Kasi, there’s Professor Dipak Malik, also known as Comrade Malik, who is also working against communalism. Then there’s Prof. Rana P. B. Singh who had told me once that in addition to his work in mainstream geography, he has been working on communal harmony in Kasi for a long time now.

Returning to change, Kasi and I, I had learned to direct the darkness of my hatred towards my essentialized other very unconsciously and very early in my life. The “us-them” divide was introduced to my young mind in my primary school. I do remember few nine year old children discussing heatedly the faults in the character of the gods or prophets of the religion pitted against theirs. But that was then, and it ended there itself. We did not carry it home, the hatred. A sustained kind of hatred originated in me, in us rather, after a couple of years of concentrated propaganda was maintained at its high level. In the hindsight, I can see that media definitely played a central role in the communalisation of my locality, ergo city. I am not totally cured for sure, but I am trying to keep myself rational while dealing with things like hatred.

Time, Change and Kasi 2

DSC04075

The previous post was about urballaghology (pronounced urb-alla-gho-logy) {the study (Gk. logos) of change (Gk. allaghi) in cities (Gk. urb)}. It was about change in the city of Kasi: physical, cultural, social and economical. The physical change in my city is the easiest to observe and demonstrate as it’s in concrete form viz. in streets, buildings, temples, ghatscape, roofscape, Gangaji etc.

The image above was taken from the roof of my paternal house: my home for two continuous decades. I know about the roofscape from house in a much better and more  detailed way than I know the same from any other roof of the world. When I compare this image from 2013 to what my mind has stored from 1993, I find that the whole ochre coloured front, the white wall to the extreme left and the tower to the right with its base are newly sprouted. This whole new facade of the front  roofscape obstructs what once used to be a clear view of Gangaji and its bank on Ramnagar side.

Image1693  Image5033

When we talk of change in the ghatscape (very painful to observe as a kasiphile), what immediately comes to my mind is its heavy commercial use of the buildings on and around the riverfront, and all the changes that originate from there. One of the instances, discussed in this blog already, can be seen by comparing the two images above that are chronologically separated by two year’s time. The white colours of the house to the right was substituted with a garish green shade that does not gel in with the white all around, and the overall prevalence of white in Kasi.

The streets I had known for over two decades, and had expected to find the same whenever I went there the next, had changed just within a couple of years. Not far from my house is the road that leads from Sonarpura to Shivala. Nearly mid-way, to the right, if one went down the slope, used to be the long, white-washed front of an old house. It had been there since as long as I remember. On one of my return trips, after a gap of a couple of years, while i was passing from the spot where that house used to stand, I found Vishal Mega Mart instead.

No, I am not anti-modernization and all. We do shop at Vishal Mega Mart and it provides the much wanted competition to other such chains, thus benefiting the consumers. There must be such places at every neighbourhood. Only, they should not come at the cost of changing the places beyond recognition. At least, not the habitual and reassuring look of the streets and buildings.