Poetry for Soul, and The Daffodils….

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.’

Whenever I read these lines, I’m reminded of my golden days–much like the golden daffodils that pleases the soul of the poet during his tranquil moments. This was one of the first English poems that I had read in school, and I instantly fell in love with it. Back in those times, my innocent mind, introduced to English poetry for the first time, and that too of William Wordsworth, had felt thrilled to imagine thousands of yellow flowers tossing in the wind.

I had always thought that if life ever presents me with such a heavenly sight, indeed I would feel blessed forever. Little did I know that not the sight, but this poem would serve that purpose, because my ordinary eyes would have never seen what William Wordsworth had seen in them.

No wonder he was known as the Supreme Worshipper of Nature. His ‘inward eye’ could perceive what he had termed as ‘life of things’. To him, those daffodils are not just flowers, rather they are heavenly beings–like a host of angels, like stars in the sky, like the Infinite Being existing inside all living and non-living beings. Watching the daffodils flutter and sway in the wind makes him feel a sublime joy.

Henry Eldridge – William Wordsworth, pencil, c. 1807, Wordsworth Museum (Dove Cottage, Grasmere)

On 15th April, 1802, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy reached a place strewn with daffodils. The sight stirred the poet’s mind and his emotions took the form of this beautiful verse. The first version was published around 1804-1807 in the book ‘Poems in Two Volumes’, and later a revised version, the one we read here, was published in 1815.

I’m not a litterateur who is going to present you with explanations, or discuss the themes. I’m simply an admirer of nature poetry, and that too especially of William Wordsworth. I feel an urge to share how I feel, as a reader, when I read this poem. I’m one of those people who swoon over poetry. If you too, like me, are a lover of romantic poetry, I’m sure you will understand.

Since I had started reading Wordsworth’s poems, I could never ignore the ethereality of everything around me. My sister, who continued studying English Literature, had read the poem to me. She talked about Pantheism, and it felt like waking up, like a realization of something which had always been there and I never paid any attention. It was like falling in love with the trees, the sky, the flowers, clouds, grass, rivers, birds. I wanted to drink that all in–all the beauty and the life.

I proceeded to read ‘The Solitary Reaper’ and ‘Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ and felt ecstatic every time. I even picked up a pretty old poetry book from my sister’s collections, put a cover on it and carefully kept it with myself so that I could read Tintern Abbey whenever I wished.

The sight of daffodils, to the poet, is pure joy and wealth for eternity. He is spiritually elevated to a higher realm where only happiness exists.

Reality is rarely kind to the heart of a poet. When reality dawns, it hits hard. The poet had his own journey through love, loss and setbacks and in his own words, ‘the dreary intercourse of daily life.’ The memory of the daffodils is a treasure. When he is lonely, he recalls the memory. It rescues him out of his pain and puts him in a state of happiness. The daffodils are his companions of solitary hours.

I have sometimes wondered, what we perceive as reality is perhaps not real.The struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows are never permanent, but the memory of daffodils is permanent.

Sometimes in the course of my life, when I lose my way, I’m always brought back to my true self if I read one of William Wordsworth’s eternally beautiful poems. It amazes me how the words written centuries ago become so intimate to our hearts. Perhaps, amidst this harshness of reality, people like us are alive because Wordsworth had gifted us a utopian world full of joyous daffodils dancing inside our minds.

(Painting of Daffodils: My own work with watercolour on paper.)

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The Reminiscences of My Childhood – Part II

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The first book I remember was a collection of fairy tales by various authors from different countries. It was gifted to me by my father. He had observed me reading magazines and sections of newspapers meant for kids. He brought a book, wrapped it up inside an old newspaper and kept it out of my reach. My exams were near, and he made me promise that I wouldn’t read it until the end of my exams. Curiosity got the better of me, and I unwrapped the book to get a glimpse of the cover and the index, with my father’s consent I must mention.

That was the moment when the magic of stories began to bewitch me.

Later in my teenage years, he bought me the last Harry Potter book within a week of its release. It was the first time I got a Harry Potter book soon after it was published. I still cherish the memory of reading the last one in the series, with an excitement and a sinking feeling in my stomach occurring whenever the realization dawned upon me that there would be no more Harry Potter books.

I suppose the perfectly happy days of my life came to an end with the end of reading Harry Potter books.

When I try to recall my earliest memories, I discover that little things had made deep impressions in my mind. The walls around our garden were covered with velvety moss during monsoon. I loved to run my palm over them. I sometimes uprooted some parts of the moss in my childish whim. It gave off a green, earthy smell that I still remember distinctly. I played with wild flowers, creepers and ferns. I talked with the coconut trees when the wind blew and their leaves murmured. I had once thrown a tantrum when my mother had employed two people to trim the branches of the guava tree that adorned the centre of our garden. I cried, thinking how my tree would feel when its branches were hit by axes.

I had hurt that tree quite often by scratching its bark with my nails to smell its sap. I wrote my name on it with the little knowledge I had of alphabet and spelling.

I grew up, and the tree was cut down a few years later.

Two decades have passed, and I still feel the intimacy I had with plants and trees. I feel I’m in a direct contact with the soul of the universe whenever I touch them.

I frequently feel that I’m the odd one out amidst the people around me. They’re busy doing important things which have practical uses. I find it difficult to cope with the pace with which the world is growing. Everything has become faster, better, easier, yet people are dying of depression and loneliness.

You may call me a madwoman, a fool or a rebel, but the child within me is still there. In fact, it is the only reason that keeps me alive through all joys and sorrows, through all the struggles of keeping my head held high during times of despair.

The Reminiscences of My Childhood – Part I

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The day is cloudy, and the wind is gaining strength. Sometimes this kind of weather reminds me of my school days. When clouds roared, my mind would drift away from my book and I would look out of the window, momentarily unaware of what the teacher spoke. The wind of a cloudy day always brings a specific smell–of what I don’t know, but I can sense without looking that the clouds have gathered.

I remember when I was in primary school, we used to bring flowers for our teacher whenever we could. We gathered the flowers together before the beginning of our class and sorted out the best ones for the teacher. We played with the rest of them later. If anyone brought Ixora, popularly known as ‘flame-of-the-woods’, or ‘Rangan’ in Bengal, those flowers never reached the teacher. We plucked them out of the bunch and sucked their sweet nectar from the bottom.

Once our poetry teacher asked us to write short poems. I wrote several little jingles, kept one for myself, and distributed the others to my friends, who hadn’t written any. The teacher couldn’t guess, neither had she believed that those were written by any of the students. She had the idea that those were written by our parents.

Near our school were a few little abandoned houses. They could barely be called houses–as most of them were probably built by the railway authorities for official or technical use, and later abandoned for not being of much utility. Those structures fascinated the imaginative minds of children. Someone spread the rumour that there was a body of a dead old man lying in one of those creepy dilapidated houses. Little girls panicked out of fear of ghosts. I was not an exception. The boys found sheer joy in terrifying us, by making up stories of what macabre things they had seen in that house. The teacher came to our rescue.

‘Don’t believe in all that nonsense’, she said, ‘I have been there. I have seen nothing but goats and stray dogs!’

‘Ghosts are in our minds!’, she concluded.

I remember once three of us girls were punished to stand outside the classroom, for reciting poetry in math class. I had felt guilty afterwards, thinking I had hurt my math teacher’s emotions by reciting poetry.

Every year, we had our half-yearly exams before the beginning of Durga Puja vacations. I was waiting at the gate for my friends to come out after I had finished with my Sanskrit paper. A vast, vermilion-coloured field spread out before my eyes. It was Mahalya next day, on which people offered special worship to their forefathers, and the idol of Goddess Durga got her eyes painted. Every Mahalaya morning began with a chanting of mantras to invite the Goddess to earth. I stood there, and from somewhere far away, the sound of chanting reached my ears, carried on the wings of the wind. All else was quiet. The chant, the field and I remained together. The colour of the field reminded me of the vermilion in the middle of Goddess Durga’s forehead.

(End of Part I)

Monsoon

Photo by Reza Shayestehpour/Unsplash

She never understood why people described a cloudy day as gloomy and depressing. She found it calming. The coolness of the air, the rumble of thunder, greener trees brought peace to her mind. She loved to watch when the rain swept across green paddy fields. She loved to hear the leaves of banyan tree dripping. The petals of water lilies danced with the rain drops. A puddle formed just outside the doorstep. Rain drops trickled down the thatched roof and fell into the puddle. She could watch those ripples for hours if she had the chance. Her grandmother made tea with ginger, using wood and coal as fuel in her clay-oven. It gave a smoked flavour to her tea.

She read poems of Rabindranath Tagore by the light of an oil lamp when there was a power cut. She could hear the rain outside. During monsoon, the walls of the mud-cottage remained damp. She never complained, rather she enjoyed the smell of damp earth.

The window of her grandmother’s bedroom opened to an unkempt garden behind the cottage. She used to scatter grains of rice and lentils on the windowsill to attract sparrows. She watched their little light feathery bodies hopping around and pecking at the grains on the windowsill. During rains they took shelter under the window-head. They puffed up their feathers and shook off the water.

Those were tales of the ancient times. She felt as if it was another life–a past incarnation.

These days she watches rain sweeping across the busy city, where people have everything, yet complain about the rain. They resent to get their feet wet, while the people who live on the streets take shelter under the flyovers to protect themselves from rain. Cities have complex stories.

She held a cup of coffee between her palms. The clouds gathered over the city. As the first drops of rain touched the dusty roads, a familiar smell of wet soil brought back memories.

‘Pitter-patter falls the rain,
The river is in spate…’

She remembered reading this poem in her mother-tongue. Closing her eyes she felt cradled inside the womb of Mother Nature–safe and sound, pacified, as she used to feel during her childhood, when she imagined the shadows whispering magical secrets into her ears, in the light of an oil-lamp in the dark, rainy evenings.

Read the poem by Rabindranath Tagore here:

“বৃষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর”
……রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর

দিনের আলো নিবে এল,
সুয্যি ডোবে – ডোবে।
আকাশ ঘিরে মেঘ জুটেছে
চাঁদের লোভে লোভে।
মেঘের উপর মেঘ করেছে—
রঙের উপর রঙ,
মন্দিরেতে কাঁসর ঘন্টা।
বাজল ঠঙ ঠঙ।
ও পারেতে বিষ্টি এল,
ঝাপসা গাছপালা।
এ পারেতে মেঘের মাথায়
একশো মানিক জ্বালা।
বাদলা হাওয়ায় মনে পড়ে
ছেলেবেলার গান—
‘বিষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর,
নদেয় এল বান। ‘
আকাশ জুড়ে মেঘের খেলা,
কোথায় বা সীমানা!
দেশে দেশে খেলে বেড়ায়,
কেউ করে না মানা।
কত নতুন ফুলের বনে
বিষ্টি দিয়ে যায়,
পলে পলে নতুন খেলা
কোথায় ভেবে পায়।
মেঘের খেলা দেখে কত
খেলা পড়ে মনে,
কত দিনের নুকোচুরি
কত ঘরের কোণে।
তারি সঙ্গে মনে পড়ে
ছেলেবেলার গান—
‘বিষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর,
নদেয় এল বান। ‘

মনে পড়ে ঘরটি আলো
মায়ের হাসিমুখ,
মনে পড়ে মেঘের ডাকে
গুরুগুরু বুক।
বিছানাটির একটি পাশে
ঘুমিয়ে আছে খোকা,
মায়ের ‘পরে দৌরাত্মি সে
না যায় লেখাজোখা।
ঘরেতে দুরন্ত ছেলে
করে দাপাদাপি,
বাইরেতে মেঘ ডেকে ওঠে—
সৃষ্টি ওঠে কাঁপি।
মনে পড়ে মায়ের মুখে
শুনেছিলেম গান—
‘বিষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর,
নদেয় এল বান।
মনে পড়ে সুয়োরানী
দুয়োরানীর কথা,
মনে পড়ে অভিমানী
কঙ্কাবতীর ব্যথা।
মনে পড়ে ঘরের কোণে
মিটিমিটি আলো,
একটা দিকের দেয়ালেতে
ছায়া কালো কালো।
বাইরে কেবল জলের শব্দ
ঝুপ্ ঝুপ্ ঝুপ্—
দস্যি ছেলে গল্প শোনে
একেবারে চুপ।
তারি সঙ্গে মনে পড়ে
মেঘলা দিনের গান—
‘বিষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর,
নদেয় এল বান। ‘
কবে বিষ্টি পড়েছিল,
বান এল সে কোথা।
শিবঠাকুরের বিয়ে হল,
কবেকার সে কথা।
সেদিনও কি এম্নিতরো
মেঘের ঘটাখানা।
থেকে থেকে বাজ বিজুলি
দিচ্ছিল কি হানা।
তিন কন্যে বিয়ে করে
কী হল তার শেষে।
না জানি কোন্ নদীর ধারে,
না জানি কোন্ দেশে,
কোন্ ছেলেরে ঘুম পাড়াতে
কে গাহিল গান—
‘বিষ্টি পড়ে টাপুর টুপুর,
নদেয় এল বান। ‘

A Moment’s Tale…

Photo by Verne Ho/Unsplash

While entering the elevator I checked the time and let out a sigh. No I wasn’t late. I woke up late this morning and hurriedly I finished my chores before coming to office. There was a training session at office, for which I had to be on time.

I noticed the date: 22nd April, and suddenly I felt as if the date had a significance. It rang a bell somewhere. I tried to remember why this date was important. None of my friends or family had any birthday–

Wait! A birthday–a birthday it is, but whose?

Now I remembered. Her face materialized in my mind–a girl I knew, and had been friends with in college. Though we weren’t too close or didn’t share our secrets with each other, we had been on good terms for quite a while.

I was surprised to find that I still remembered Disha’s birthday.

Disha was academically brilliant, hard working, headstrong and stubborn. She was a go-getter. Professors loved her, and were often intimidated by her adamantine nature. She was funny and loved to use cuss words while talking. She was a little girl with infinite energy.

I remember a time when we had participated in a debate while we were second-years at our college. We were competing against the first-years and in the end we lost it. That night, she had called me and cried. She felt it was humiliating for her to lose a debate to juniors, while for me it was just a debate and there were more important things in life. I consoled her, and told her we would win next time. I felt a sisterly affection towards her. The toughest girl in class sounded emotionally devastated over a debate in college! I hadn’t expected that at all.

She used to keep secrets about her studies, things she was doing for her career in future. She hid things from her friends–things which didn’t need to be hidden, as they came into plain sight later on. Her other friends were hurt, but I wasn’t. I knew it all along, that she wasn’t being transparent. She didn’t need to be. I always thought it was her choice whether she should talk about her secrets or not.

Her secretive nature became apparent and people started to avoid her. She too had distanced herself from others. She never again revealed the vulnerable little girl inside her to anyone.

The last time I had heard about her on social media, she had settled down with a job in a foreign country.

And today was her birthday.

Even if I wanted to wish her, I couldn’t. I didn’t have her contact, and she had deactivated her social media account long ago. There was no sign of her anywhere within my reach.

It doesn’t matter now. Perhaps I remembered her birthday because once, for a fleeting minute I had considered her as my own sister, when she had sought help from me.

The elevator opened and I came back to the present.

I had a lot of work, and a training session.

—-

The Sensible Mind

Photo by Serge Esteve/Unsplash

‘You women are so complicated!’, Arjun said, draining his glass till the last drop.

He poured some more wine to himself. The sound of dark red liquid falling into the base of the glass was tantalizing. The knots in his head were beginning to untangle, and his tongue loosened.

Shreya silently watched him. She was drunk too, and her head felt light, but she didn’t lose control over herself. She never does.

Maybe he was right. People say that it’s because of hormones: the emotions of a woman follow mysterious paths. Her mind is like a labyrinth where secrets are hidden in places untraceable, locked up in iron chests of insecurities and fear of abandonment.

She wants to be free, and simultaneously her heart clings to people she loves. She is like a dry leaf fallen from the tree, and her love is the fierce wind.

‘Why do you think so?’, she said, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes.

‘You women never tell what you want from us, create imaginary situations in your head, get upset about those imaginations and expect us to understand you’, he said.

He put his glass on the table with a clink.

‘Oh!’, Shreya said, ‘As if you are sensible enough not to hurt others with your sharp words and blatant criticism.’

Arjun opened his mouth, closed it and again opened it to speak.

‘Is this your perception of men in general?’, he said.

‘No’, she said, looking away, ‘I’m talking about only you.’

‘Ouch!’

Arjun was being overly dramatic. He put is hand on his heart and winced.

Shreya tried to hide her smile.

‘You think what you understand is the truth, and your way is the only right way’, she said.

‘At least I stick to what I believe’, he said, closing his eyes, ‘Your mind wavers like a boat in the middle of the ocean during a storm.’

‘Sometimes sticking to what you believe can lead to fanaticism’, she said, slowly, savouring each word, ‘Sometimes it is suffocating.’

‘Probably that’s why we are together’, he said, looking into her eyes, slowly inching closer to Shreya, ‘When I become blind in obsession, your cynical, sane mind brings me back to reality.’

‘Reality is seldom simple’, she remarked.

‘That’s why it is interesting, otherwise we might have become robots who only see 1 or 0, black or white, yes or no, true or false. There’s no grey, no half-truth’, he said.

His eyelids felt heavy. His head descended into her lap. She remained awake for some time, observing the presence of the man in deep slumber. He looked innocent like a child.

Shreya continued stroking his hair. Her last thought before falling asleep was: ‘He will not remember a single thing when he wakes up, but I will remember this conversation forever.’

—-