Yesterdays …

 by Rose Mary Boehm

On the rim of my haunting

there is a place

where all those I have loved         Ginosko II

merge with someone

I used to be.

I often conjure up your face

and it swims at the edge

of my vision.

As soon as recognition

brightens your features

they melt,

shy of the light.

Quoted from : http://ginoskoliteraryjournal.com/images/ginosko15.pdf

And another … ….

TONIGHT

By Silva Zanoyan Merjanian

Tonight a thousand eyelids will close on beautiful lies
and quivering lips will sleep unkissed
untouched by sultry blue jazz

in the dark tonight …

lust will blister on menopausal gritty tongues
and blind vultures will circle

parameters of a man’s heart ?                                                                                   Ginosko I

tonight middle aged men will look for love in midtown bars
and women selling artificial flavors to the tune of hallelujahs
will sharpen their knives

tonight poets will find the words to color their hell
and dip their pens in wounds that aren’t even theirs
tonight …

somewhere it will rain on wingless birds ?
their love songs mending broken pillows in high notes
tonight …

she will step out with her hair down, in new stilettos
she’ll blow a kiss with naked lips

through the door left ajar tonight …

tonight’s no different than any other night
the walls are thin,

the moon is skinned,

blindfolds handed free.

Read more …

 

Beauty Of The Quest

Cover of "Altai-Himalaya A Travel Diary"

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part X : INDIA (1924)

The Talmud relates that the dove brought the first olive branch to Noah from Mount Moriah. And Mount Moriah and the mountain Meru both lie in Asia. Here is the beginning of all things. Here is the source for all travelers and all searchers. Here is raised the first image of the Blessed Maitreya—Messiah—Muntazar, the Messiah now awaited by the Mohammedans. Thrice powerful M ! Here, above all disputes, the teachings have raised up the olive branch of the new world. Here is ordained the universal commune.

Some one voluntarily approached and touched our tent ! Who is this man, with his long black braid and a turquoise earring in his ear, and garbed in a white kaftan ? It is the Lama, Pema Don-dub, the local ikon painter. We ask, “Can you paint for us the Blessed Maitreya, exactly like the one in Tashi-lhunpo ?” He consents and now he sits on a tiny rug in the corner of the white gallery, and with various pigments, paints the Image full of symbols. He prepares the fabric for the painting and covers it with levkas (a mixture of chalk on glue), and irons it with a shell. He works exactly like Russian ikon painters. In the same way does he grind his colors, heat them on a coal pan; and thus does he keep an additional brush in his thick black hair. His Tibetan wife helps him to prepare his colors.

And so, in the corner of the white gallery is being conceived the ingenious image, many-colored. And each symbol upon it more clearly defines the Blessed One. Here is the frightful bird-like Garuda and wise Magi and Ganeshi, elephant of happiness, and Chintamani, the Steed, bearing on its back the miraculous stone, Treasure of the World. A sacred cycle of chosen symbols. And upon the image and the hands is laid pure gold.

Like our ikon painters, the artist lama chants hymns as he labors. The chants become more fervent; this means he is beginning upon the Image itself.

And another wonder occurs, only possible in this land. In the deep twilight when the waxing moon possesses all things, one hears through the house the silvery tones of a handmade flute. In the darkness, the artist lama is sitting upon his rug, playing with rapture before the image of Maitreya-Messiah-Muntazar.

The Strings of the Earth !

Talai-Pho-Brang.


Panoramic Kashmir
Panoramic Kashmir (Photo credit: NotMicroButSoft

PIR-PANZAL (1925)

Where have passed the hordes of the great Mongols ?

Where has the lost tribe of Israel concealed itself ?

Where stands the “Throne of Solomon” ?

Where lie the paths of Christ the Wan­derer ?

Where glow the bonfires of the Shamans, Bon-po, of the religion of demons ?

Where is Shalimar, the gardens of Jehangir ?

Where are the roads of Pamir, Lhasa, Khotan ?

Where is the mysterious cave, Amarnath ?

Where is the path of Alexander the Great to forgotten Taxila ?

Where are the walls of Akbar ?

Where did Ashvagosha teach ?

Where did Avan-tisvamin create ?

Where are the citadels of Chandragupta-Maurya ?

Where are the stones of wisdom of King Asoka ? . . .

All have passed by way of Kashmir. Here lie the ancient ways of Asia. And each caravan flashes by as a connecting link in the great body of the East. Here are the sandy deserts on the way to Peshawar; and the blue peaks of Sonamarg; and the white slopes of Zoji-La. And in the flight of the eagles is the same untiring spirit; in the fleet steed is the same unalterable motion. Nor does the world of roses and shawls of Kashmir resemble that forgotten and hidden world of Kashmiri blades.

Sacre du Printemps“— when we composed it together with Stravinsky, we could not conceive that Kashmir would greet us with its very setting. In Ghari, camping out by night, when the vivid spring sky became afire with stars and the mountains were azured, we observed rows of fires upon the mountains. The fires started into motion, separated and strangely circled about. Then the mountain slopes became aglow with these fiery processions. And in the village below, dark silhouettes began to whirl about brandishing resin torches on long staffs. The flaming circles proclaimed the end of winter frosts. And the songs proclaimed the Sacred Spring. This is the festival of the Ninth of March.

Bulbul,” the nightingale, sings on the apple tree. The cuckoo reckons out a long life. White linens are spread on the meadow and a samovar is boiling. Red and yellow apples and sweet cakes are passed around to those seated upon the spring grass. The eyes of the violets and the white and yellow narcissus are woven into a many-hued carpet. At evening, flocks of ducks and geese completely cover the tiny islands over the lakes. Small bears steal out on the spring glades. But none fears them—unless the mother-bear is with her cubs. . . .

The river banks are sloping. A line of boatsmen steer their canopied boats. . . . Upon a broad road the oxen drag themselves and the wheels grind along. Three-hundred-year-old plantains and tall poplars guard the ways. And the teeth of the encoun­tered travelers gleam often in the smile of greeting.

In the sheds lie the sleighs—veritable Moscow sleighs. In the yard, a crane screeches above the well. The straw roof is over­grown with green moss. Along the road are gnarled willow trees. And the greetings of the children are noisy. But where is this ? Is it in Schuya or Kolomna? It is in Srinagar, in the “City of the Sun.”

Tiny, big-bellied pillars—small ornamental designs—steep little steps of stone—the gilded roofs of the temple—creaking, orna­mented window-shutters—rusty locks—low little doors with their “curtesy”—carved balustrades—slanting tiles on stony floors—the odor of old lacquer—small windows with diminutive panes. Where are we then ? Is this the Kremlin of Rostov ? Are these the monasteries of Suzdal ? Are they the temples of Yaroslavl ? And what of the endless flocks of daws ? What of the naked branches behind the windows ? This is the chief palace of the Maharajah of Kashmir. How curious is everything which re­mains from antiquity. But the modern additions are hideous.

Upon the road are many Fords. In the hotel dining room one sees the faces of Americans. In the jewelry shop, side-by-side, hang two paintings—one of the view of Delhi, the other the view of the Moscow Kremlin. Among the crystals into which one gazes for destiny; among the sapphires of Kashmir and the Tibetan turquoises, are shimmering green Chinese jadaites—and like a garden, many-colored are the borders of the embroidered kaftans. Like precious shawls, the rooms of the museum are strewn with minute Iran-designs and “Gandhara,” belabored by destiny, unifies the cleft branches of West and East.

In the styles of the temples and mosques; in the angular carved dragons; in the tentlike, sloping hexagonal tower, is seen an unexpected combination of the old wooden churches of Norway and the Chinese pagodas. Out of one well is drawn the Roman­esque Chimera, the animal ornaments of Altai and the tiny animals of Chinese Turkestan and China. The Siberian paths of the nations have carried afar the same meaning of adornment.

The fort of Akbar stands firmly planted. But after you have climbed the steepnesses and flights, you may perceive that the old bricks and the claybeaten cement barely hold together. The arches are ready to give way.

Nishad, the garden of Akbar, occupies the site from the lake to the hill—a high place. The structures are modest and upon the corners are the little towers so beloved by him. They are characterized by simplicity and brightness.

Shalimar—the garden of Jehangir—is also in character with its possessor, standing “for itself.” There is less of outward show, but more of luxury—of that luxury which brought the descend­ants of the Moguls to poverty. The last Mogul, in Delhi, secretly sold furniture out of the palace and destroyed the valuable fac­ings of the walls of Shah Jehan and Aurungzeb. Thus ended the great dynasty.

The weaver of Kashmir accompanied the making of each of his designs with a special chant. Such a searching for rhythm reminds us of the great harmony of labor.

No song relates why the mountain “Throne of Solomon” bears this name. This is a place of such antiquity. Janaka, son of Asoka, had already dedicated here one of the first Buddhist temples. Seven centuries later the temple was rebuilt and con­secrated to Mahadeva. . . . But whence comes the name of Solomon? The mountain received the name of Solomon from a legend that Solomon, desiring a respite from the conventions of a sovereign’s life and from the burdens of his court, trans­ported himself upon a flying carpet to this mountain with his favorite wife. Here, again, we come upon the mention of that “flying apparatus” possessed by Solomon. A similar mountain is in Turkestan and in Persia.

It is not alone the mountain “Throne of Solomon” which transports the consciousness into biblical spheres. In the valley of Sindh the prophet Elijah is reverenced in a special manner. Most stirring are the legends; how the prophet sitting in his cave saves fishermen and travelers. Under various aspects, at times benevolent, at times stormy, the prophet appears to defend the works of justice and piety. Mohammedans and Hindus, divided by many differences, equally reverence the prophet Elijah.

Purple iris will always recall Moslem cemeteries. They are covered with these flowers. But there is also joy. The lilacs have blossomed, lilies of the valley are nodding and the wild cherry tree glistens.

Mount Moriah Cemetery Gate


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

~ T S Eliot

 

Let us go then, you and I

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question….

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes

Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

And seeing that it was a soft October night,

Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time

For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

Rubbing its back upon the window panes;

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—

(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)

Do I dare Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

I know the voices dying with a dying fall

Beneath the music from a farther room.

So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

Then how should I begin

To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—

Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)

Is it perfume from a dress

That makes me so digress?

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

And should I then presume?

And how should I begin? . . . . . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?

I should have been a pair of ragged claws

Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. . . . . . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

Smoothed by long fingers,

Asleep… tired… or it malingers.

Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald)

Brought in upon a platter,

I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

Would it have been worth while,

To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

To have squeezed the universe into a ball

To roll it toward some overwhelming question,

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—

If one, settling a pillow by her head,

Should say: “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,

Would it have been worth while,

After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

After the novels, after the teacups,

After the skirts that trail along the floor

—And this, and so much more?

— It is impossible to say just what I mean!

But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves

In patterns on a screen:

Would it have been worth while

If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

And turning toward the window, should say: “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all.” . . . . . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

Am an attendant lord, one that will do

To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

Deferential, glad to be of use,

Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind?

Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Resource : http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1567/1567-h/1567-h.htm

Related articles

Journal : My Odyssey

Light
Light – Courtesy @Doug88888)

This publication is my tribute  

to  the wayward amongst us;

and especially to ones who outgrew it.

……   ……

This spiritual saga over years score

Shimmers alive at a temple door…

Today, I hold myself erect

Halt at the temple entrance

But skip the practice ancient

I demand my own light

Submission I refuse

And all forms I deny

Here and now, O’ Deity

At your hallowed shrine.

Great you are, same

Being in all

The Master Grand

Cause primordial

But screened in

By our ceremonials.

Thy ritual dos and donts

No more compel, thy priests

With faith without love

Seem just a cartel

In their cloister of sad smiles

Flags, façades and piety.

*  *  *

Now this burden of life

I take upon myself

To costs I agree

Its choices I embrace

I know It’s me…

Small and weak

But the sole thing too

That’s known to me.

It’s where I’ll stay

Whom I’ll discover

Shrink all space

Let Time arch over.

I will break in, O’ Deity

To the depths of peace

And its light revealing.

*  *  *

Sure, it daunts

The vastness barred

In me haunts

Unknown and spread dark.

But the alternates just distract

And I reject yet the game false

Upon all souls hangs its pall –

Our fear masked in playful calls.

I trundle long in black tunnels

Fail to grasp a speck of heaven

Fling off hard and bounce sharp

But crash back in with vengeance

It shocks and tries, draws to test

The mind taut : deny or consent ?

In my eye rise each term and form

As a vagina wet stands in witness

Alluring still, accusing harsh

The dripping penis caught offguard.

And so goes the series march

Boxing me to voluting prompts

Libidinous – the despised rot

Bonds of yore, cravings taunt

Teeming abrim but worth nought

Transitioning nights, vague dawns

On empty core, bombed raw

Vigil in pits … awake now –

Cannot yet embrace myself

With choices diseased

I no longer defend

In that dungeon dark

Though depressed

Transfixed, yes

I refuse to crank

And I frozen face

Edgy sandstorms

Moral marshlands

Whirling sqall

In my mind’s mirror

In which I’m had

My universe

In cloudy bands

Where the soul bleeds

Pinned stiff

Lacerated within

By revelations demonic …

There’s more

Stubbed senses for sure

Of imposing forms

Unblessed, forlorn

The far sound of running tap

Unnerves the neural nap

Dead, dumped odd

Hung estranged, out cast

On just a thought nebulous

Of a hurl sudden, victorious.

I yet honour the memory

Of many a false start

Of fired highs

And puffed starch

So I sit over the furled self

Unharmed by head

Its mingled thoughts

Into feelings on the lurch

Bear unmoved

The throbbing pulse

Alassed recount

Of acts corrupt :

This licentious prisoner hovers

On wracked breath

And draining cough

But is in fact choked

On a past present

Of ambitions frayed.

*  *  *

‘Twas a journey long, my dear

To witness all and keep safe

On the path blank but unclear

For a spark just my trust’d pave

For those late mornings clear

Unencumbered winter delights

With a sun warm and mellow

On lazy cats half asleep alive

Contrary to that unsure bed

To discordant shades my will would take

Spent on view

On the first cue

At body feast, gazing vivid

With overrun sensuality

Chasing the shapely hind

Tinge in fancy nets sweet

” Possess not, O Youth !” I knew

But the sage call seemed so far

Too wrongheaded for my regard !

But then I began to see

With just half a good eye

Wherein it reflected strange

The world, its masks

Its ugly mirage

Stranger ways

Roles – give and take

Swings mighty fake

Without root or heart

Faith or permanence.

‘Twas a blind alley, O’ Deity

But that half eye was yours

Which saw the farce

Lent weight to pause

For the burst of shine

On a cold summit

Impelled glad dance

And bells resonating repeat.

I wait … instead

With familiar anti-self

Same paths of lure

“Not mine,” I sense

Then hold dilemmas clear

In my spirit –

Where light still flickers

In snag heaps

And weaning disunion.

*  *  *

Barely upright, on what I know

I doubt each moment in the flow

Witness, accept and now embrace

The rocky views, their barrenness

Slip, collide, slide into wreckage

Stare close at the mind, incessant

Holding myself with love

Wipe off the damned tears

Pat the fears to sleep

And dress up my own sears

For day next in odyssey

Wade into pains

Burn the same

To be free …

Untill that day, in radiance

Enveloped with transcending sense

I stood high

On the walling fence

Still hauling up

The rest of myself

Eyeing all

The being in morn

Before the rising peer

Basking healed

In its glowing balm

With nothing

Not a trace in between.

Unburdened complete I found myself

Stripped neat

Free of subtexts

Layers mental

And body zones

Sans celebrations then

Just smiles about

Beaming from the sun

And lit I everywhere

No hope or fear

No gain or loss

No being made

… Homogeneous.

I met myself much later

The buddy from start

Then witness dear

Of all that I thought.

There was no being–for–itself ever

The one who lived was a prayer

By whom I know not, O’ Deity

To whom or why is the mystery.

*  *  *       *  *  *

This is an intimate poem, started in late 1980s,

reviewed umpteen times and finished minutes before.

Body-Mind-Spirit s

Journal : You Ask …

You ask, how my life is spent ?

Hear : My nights are a grant

And dawns are lent, as in alms !

Oh ! To live is not to breathe mere

Without heartaches, tears

And sleeves wet.

Look …

How besotted lovers pass

The witching hour

Eyes open pierced

With mirrored dreams of glass.

This sore is the enemy

Over my deep loss;

The ache too is ever

What the heart craves for.

Even a moment’s rift starts

The hunt for hub, my frenzy

For the fragrance lost.

My destination sometimes, then

Is a prelude mere to trek thence.

~ Meena Kumari

Freely Paraphrased.

Pakeezah

Journal : Lyrics Of Rebel

The days pass in bits and parts, night avails in shreds n pieces;

We’re each endowed in accord with heaven’s cover, its reaches.

I’ve wished to know this heart of mine

But have heard the laughs on each try

Like a yell on top at my defeat once more

Will in rout and loss, my life down and beat.

But what of defeats, of their attacks oblique ?

Move on I must, keep on walking

I have the beau after my heart

And this unrest too, ever since.

It starts but is without consequence

When my story is without that name…

That co-traveller who dissolves

In the dark folds of my mane.

Ill-repute, yes, I do embrace

But am lost no more, no more misplaced.

Why must I not heed

The calls of youth in heart ?

Pick at its joyous yields

Its smiles and laughs ?

Not all are destined otherwise

To avail in life… those rewards.

Flowing tears pause to tell the eye

It’s not the goblet that melts in wine !

Is the day over ?

Or is the groom’s party

On the boat drowned ?

No dirge from the shores

I hear not a soul’s howl !

~  Meena Kumari

Freely Paraphrased.

Journal : Two Poems

The Exile

It all began early but in immediate context

The vocation chose me ere I could assent

And got trained at which I wished no part

To meanings much that meant little

And cures, tall lures that ended short;

My wager lifelong thence began

To keep out money from what I am

Definitions the world and people heap

On a new-born yet to awake from sleep

Thus it continues, clear since it has been;

I live and earn to meet the needs

With mind turned in on the spirit 

Being the being ‘thout supports

Unpropped, at peace, witnessing

Life’s deserts and wondrous oasis.


O yes, I’ve been rebuffed …

For not being ambitious enough

And have roved all over

From one place, one job to another

Suspect, to my employers

Of being unwise and unsafe

Meant huh… but nothing here

Unpawned I moved like a bow full stretched

Arrow in place to fly sharp fearless

Without wile, no vile, I would veer never

From bull’s eye now large straight to steer,

For people, never mind, are nothing, I say

They held naught my want, just antipathy

For I’d pass them by as I’d dull hokeys

 

Damn the hierarchies, the fools organised

At lives I’d spurned, the lords and lackeys.

* * *


The time to move on was then never too far

My woman would trouble and I’d look beyond

For those about would love and make her cry

Through uprooting days, wound up domicile

And I’d watch the little boy, his undisguised glee

Laughing, glad real, untouched, forward looking. 

*** ***  

Being Deep Asleep

The being in deep sleep is without compare

It’s us in unique bliss but with self unshared

Without body dreams, mind ego, just vitality

No thought, no desire, no impressed identity.

It recharges the mind field that feels so refreshed

De-loads all organs and liberates the instruments

No honey traps to interfere, no nagging to tire

And the fun, dear reader : we are there somewhere

Only, we don’t know and not as we think of ourself.

 

No gap, no knowledge, but they come back in tact

The name, tax sense and dues return in fact

Skills, emotions, pollution, tea, family and friends

Come to party again in throbbing non-existence. 

* * *

 

This morning

When the dawn was yet to break

My mind unburdened

Did not jog the Memory

And stayed content

With the self of deep sleep

Who is free of matter

Of time and space, and who

Liberates and pervades

The swallow pairs playful

About the ground I stand.

 

Yonder, circling on high

There’s an eagle I see

Prey in beak

Floating placidly …

Sudden as if in jest

It releases the prize

And eyes its fall

Supremely confident …

Waiting, waiting till last

Before swooping down

To regain the stuff mid-air

In one precise sweep. 

* * *


Isn’t the caretaker lad’s honour unworldly ?

Is the barber, silently at work, meditating ?

Being, pure being, immense

Ha la la la, in view

Cool blaze issuing from depths

Of each I and you

Etched and projected

Into forgetfulness of itself

To identify with form

Love and feel forlorn

And chase the world

Settle into the mirage

And take it for real…

From which I now awaken

Allow the origin to reclaim

Reconcile at the source

But fiercely accentuate

This segregation absolute

Between the me-universe

And the witnessing self.

 

Oh yes, I’d wade into it again

For acts in truth and joy

To hammer at the privileged

Fake immortality and ploy

 

For the last man to know

He’s free, immortal, God. 

*** *** ***

 

Long Poem : Shadows Of Shame

I drove my lady out on a Sunday, a monthly routine. What with all that transpired here, there and everywhere, it was late in evening on the return leg when I suggested we eat out, so she wouldn’t have to spend time in the kitchen. And, boy… it had to be street food !

When we were full and quenched, I calculated we had spent a grand sum equivalent of two-and-a-half dollars. Aha, ahoy ! I exclaimed to myself. Why the hell do I rail against govt policies, inflation et al, when I might have great food at such fantastic prices compared to what it would cost anywhere else in the world ?

Indeed, why ? Because, among 60 % of India’s population earning minimum wage for an average family size of four, who can afford to spend Rs 120 on street food and entertainment fare ? On chat – samosa – tikki – golgappa – kulfi ? Which is why. I find it insolent of people when they judge the economy relative to other economies, by their own fortunate solvency or what their colleagues in business and government service opine.

Here’s my introduction to Les Miserables, recorded right off the scene I encountered on a city street in Calcutta, soon after I had started on a my career …

SHADOWS OF SHAME

The city avenue is agog today.

The sun is set, traffic crawls

And a class war has begun

By the quaint lamp from colonial past

In its yellow light and dim cast.


I heard the screams first i
n local din

Before walking up to drama high

Caught in curiosity and mystified :

I see, what…A man chest bare in pajamas

Thundered with a cracking voice

” The bitches ! The thieves !! “

” The bitches ! The thieves !! “

” Mo-fuck bitches !!!

” Guttersnipe thieves !!!!”

Accusing without a pause

Charged, within his compound wall

Looking over with a flushed face

Popped eyes and killing stares

At two women, their three kids

Threatening dire, at them each

Pounding the ground with explosive fury.

 

He rushes back to huddled shade

Where parents stand, family lined up

To watch him sally forth again, and again

Bursting out, yelling full-throat

Trembling with rage

Causing tremors with a finger shake

At those ladies accurst

And I told myself :

This would hurt serious …

 

‘Twas a heart foaming vulgarly

At the pavement dwellers’ family

With a mind so disjointed

Spewing aggression

In fear’s sway !

He raves without pause

Pacing up and down

Brow stressed with rants

With quaking furrows

Meaning aloud, louder

To knuckle dust them proper …

 

I look at the wretches

On this side of gate

In full glare they stand

By their homeless shade

A tiny makeshift tent

Of polythene sheet

With kids behind them

Cowering, ill-clad

Apprehensive but stuck

To their grounded feet

Watching …

 

The man lunged a cane in hand

To his family’s loud gasp

His old parents recoil

But the rambler peaks

Teen brother in tow

Lagging to restrain and looking lost

Diffident and tame

His unease covered

In shadows of shame …

 

The tall woman this side

Now lets out a shriek

Curdles the blood

Of onlookers, I see

She thrust forward the girls

Little, naked and shy

Sad pouts, looks aground

And hovering in tentativeness …

The crowd is mute

As jury glass eyed

Attentive to lawyers spar

On either side

Waiting … to write

On books open just then

To see through the drama

And record their judgment …

 

It’s the younger woman’s turn

To step up the stage

To ” strip the monster “

With her accusing lance

A finger outstretched

And wide sweeps of arm

Histrionics real, I find

So brilliant of her

Spitting fire from close

Quick to back into home

Pleading sharp their essence

Their poverty, homelessness

Plain alibi, she gestures

Of their innocence

Her pitch querying appeal

To mango men in jury …

 

Insinuations dart from stares latent

I observe the verdict’s clear

Among the gathered men

Quiet, erect, listening intense

And spreading their sense

When the aggressor halts

Unsure sudden, in ebb

Now looking around

Bewildered, afraid …

 

There, he buttons up and in

I read his confidence thin

More, a terror writ large

With the brother expressing

Tugging, hinting escape

Pulling him back

While the man himself

Shows his coiled up anguish

Steals a retreat thinking,

“How incredulous !”

Humiliated, chafing, tapered

Pausing just once

To make it clear …

 

But the destitutes right then

Go for the kill

Flaunt their rags

Their bellies caved in

And pinch the hearts

With wails, convincingly

Run the foe aground

Down and down

And the fray’s done in

The parents shrink enough

To issue their call

” Damn the wench !”

” Filth they are …”

Righteousness misplaced

I felt, the manner was small

Face blackened, it seemed

And the dignity was false.

 

The man recedes heavy

On benumbed steps

His sense now laden

And ears were plugged

Bellowing yet in mind

Being unrepentant

Though the frame was slouched

But his eyes were up …

* * *

Soon, I hear the chatter

Loud, from their mansion

Rum to shore up

Feudal pretensions

Nursing the defeat

Under influence

To power built up

And willed violence

Letting out a yelling storm

On the weak and uninformed

Through unreasoned bawls

Innocent questions unformed…

* * *

Outside, the unscathed dwellers chirp

Of their stagy victory

And people then content disperse.

Their poor abode I see

Opens on three sides :

The rooms are imagined

Sleeping mats tattered

A few utensils black

Dented, most mattered …

The older woman, now calm

Sweeps the ground

While the pot’s on fire

Exhorting the kids around :

Up, up, girls !”

Boiled rice in warm whey
And a pinch of salt ! Hey …”

Encore :

Boiled rice in warm whey

And a pinch of salt ! Hey …

Monotony comes alive

Like a playing record stuck …

 

The younger one

On a low stool, sighs

Spits copiously out

Holds her face for long

In her two palms

Staring straight

Into vacuum …

Then, heaves up sudden

On her feet

Looking at her bosom

And her boobs extend

It’s body time,” she nods to herself

To put the breasts

To livelihood due –

To be the goddess, verily

To the ones who wait

For her cue…

Journal : Great Lyrics …

Naturally, it depends …

But here’s something that is both beautiful and witty. I found it crisp and very musically delivered by Jethro Tull

“Mother Goose”

As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose —
so I turned her loose —
she was screaming.

And a foreign student said to me —
was it really true
there are elephants and lions too
in Piccadilly Circus ?

Walked down by the bathing pond
to try and catch some sun.
Saw at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing
into hankerchiefs as one.
I don’t believe they knew
I was a schoolboy.

And a bearded lady said to me —
if you start your raving
and your misbehaving
— you’ll be sorry.

Then the chicken-fancier came to play —
with his long red beard
(and his sister’s weird : she drives a lorry).

Laughed down by the putting green —
I popped `em in their holes.
Four and twenty labourers were labouring —
digging up their gold.
I don’t believe they knew
that I was Long John Silver.

Saw Johnny Scarecrow make his rounds
in his jet-black mac
(which he won’t give back) —
stole it from a snow man.

Journal : Diary Rhythms

Extremities, In Between

[ These are ‘ Diary Rhythms’ from another age. But I perceive that nothing has changed.]

 

The sunset reflects the day
Casting blood in the west :

They walk in file, load on padded crowns
Eying the feet ahead, to pace and drown
Steps, stepping on steps…

In silence

Stop on cue
To tilt their heads

And throw the damned pile off

Sitting light on disdain

In a jerk practiced

To scorn the Fates.

The thud loud is but without relief
Prompts the humour best

Calls in beauty

Of the body

On its return vicious

And in thought cool

To more of it

For these tribes women

I leave my soul

So, like the forest people, may I be

Free at heart while bound still.

*     *    *        *  *  *        ***

A kid asleep is pulled up sudden
By the hair, jsmacked hard then…

Horror of horrors, the eight corners fill
With the lad’s terror, howling screams
As if he’d woke up without his limbs
Or watched a ghost face in slow-twist

Trembling, traumatised by Dracula king.
*     *    *        *  *  *        ***
Nothing soothes …
Questions terminate on own failings
Spirit voluting in harsh rhythms …
Looking now at men addicted to sodomy
Their curious, gullible or bored victims !

They bend to offer to ego lord
Hum and shriek to ecstasy sad

Harnessed to inadequacy…
Curled in defeat

Impressions bloody
Too weak to strike

Angry, surging …

Unsought beauty, joy disused
Potential latent, sleeping muse …

The options are clear

In soft breeze
And shimmer rustling

Off sesame leaves.

*     *    *        *  *  *        ***

Sunlight pours on choking humidity …

I curse behind the squint

As inflaming sweat trickles

Into the eye…
It makes me yearn of cool drafts

Of the winter months

Of romance filled days

Deep yellow mottles

And nights under a warm quilt

Content with happy dreams.

And now, walking the streets

I rush, imagine

A pick-axe in hand

To kill the burning sun.

Anything, any… I mutter

But that fiery presence !
The damned heat exhausts

Blasts off indoor walls
Into hair, clothes, water and air
And this very body

I am off again

To lie bare in mango grove
In its shade and breeze

That quiet shore …

It comes back then

As matter of course
The night frozen

That morning cold
With a chit in pocket for rail patrol
To identify myself, just in case

I was dead before the sun rose

Famished, dying

Feverish, curled up

On my own shivers

And a bleak platform
The last train since long gone
Leaving the lone

Moonlit soul

Stretched, deserted

Breathing half and losing slow …

I feel and know the heat now
Know and feel the freeze

And how !
Think yet of pleasant mid-day sun
An afternoon open and summer fun …

Feel and know, know and feel
The insufferable extremes
Sweet and sour in between
This power overwhelming me

How do I find and tread the path
In the middle

The wise mean ?
Must I bite the apple to spur on
To ‘nother knowledge on the brink ?

Till the fruit is known once more
Through shattered balance

And restoring chores !

*     *    *        *  *  *        ***

 

I’ve had enough of the fruit, I say
One day …

The facts impressed integrate

In me, the self, free in itself
Knows meanings widely spread
Over space, cultures, time scales
In these tip-of-the-iceberg appearance

Of forms, names and relevance
To desires imagined

Real and apparent.

Bang !

Now I tread the middle way
With this perspective, seated at apex
Awake to all perceived

As hearsay !

Journal : View To Heaven

Bangalore Pics – Part I

 

Indeed, it’s the view that invites me to capture … as opposed to details. That’s for the scientists and the artists, which I am not.

What draws my aesthetics is the view, the ” all ” of it … shapes, colours, silhouettes, life, contours, motion, contrasts, hues … collaged together to that wholesome impact.

That is ” I !” The Thing, the Image and the Self  is ONE.

 

 

 

Journal : Atharva Veda – Part II

A SMALL SELECTION OF FREELY PARAPHRASED HYMNS … contd 

[ Part I @ https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/journal-atharva-veda-part-i-29-2/ ]

Source :Hymns of the Atharva Veda [ 1895 ] by Ralph T.H. Griffith

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/av/av01034.htm

Vedas, Vedic Age and Vedic People : A Brief contd

Vedas do not advocate any religion. It is a body of truth and practice, with a knowledge and belief system in accord, that projects the ” Sanatan ” way of life. It does not have a God apart from ourself, a Prophet for our exclusive salvation, an organised administrative structure headquartered in a particular place, a specific Book for veneration, and a plethora of rules with manned mechanism for watch and control over the laity.

The Vedas are panentheistic, the perspective concomiting with monism, which blows away the seeming idolatory in Vedic practice oft apparent to Western eyes. Even the proverbial ” beam in the eyes ” of the followers of both Christianity and Islam, when they actually worship the idols prominent in churches or the Black Stone in Ka’ba, is acceptable to a Sanatan practioner who sees all deistic, monotheistic or pantheistic, observations as so many means to arrive and subsume in the monistic unity.

No one can be converted into Hindu or Sanatan Dharma. One can only grow into it, through a long period of imbibing and internalisation : Sareeramadyam Khalu Dharmasadhanam. However, once the Vedic truths are instated in one’s reason and understanding, it is easy to subscribe to the way in practice, without having to obtain any approval or formal initiation.

*   *   *

Contrary to what laymen, religious spokesmen and pundits in the West believe, Dharma does not translate into religion as Christianity or Islam conveys.  It refers to a righteousness, of what is right and wrong, derived from perceived ” Eternal Living Principle ” converging on every heavenly system in the universe, each terrestial entity, body or life, and upon our very self. Dharma is everything that promotes life, beauty, balance, sustainability, harmony, abundance, growth and happiness. It is evident in nature, its natural functions and empowering processes, of which all being is manifest.

Dharma, to the Vedic people and Sanatan followers, means a codified art of living as individuals and being as a community. It purported to build upon nature, its beauty and wealth, a human order that would be in accord, that would institute a way of life which allowed animal fulfilments in civilised ways and constantly point to ways and means to excel at that, both personally and collectively. It raised the perspective and values system oriented towards ” Liberation for Self and Welfare of All,” ” The World is One Family,” … very dictums that guide the informed Hindu even today.

Dharma endeavours to mould and form human beings who would not sink into animal attitudes and behaviour in personal life or take to socially destructive conduct upon assuming power or authority of sorts, who would instead become, contribute and continue to tread the path of excellence all his life. Every feature and practice of the Vedic order was instituted with that purpose in context, especially the Gurukul education and internship system that fostered such values as respect for truth, justice, love, friendship, liberty, forgiveness, uprightness, honesty, sincerity, humility and self restraint.

               *   *   *

(9)        A Charm To Accompany The Shaving Of Beard

BOOK VI  HYMN LXVIII

( Lo ! ) Savitr is here with the razor

O Vāyu ! Come thou with hot water.

Let the one-minded Ādityas

Rudras and Vasus moisten the hair.

Shave ye, who know King Soma !

Let Aditi shave the beard

And let the Waters bathe it with their strength.

Let Prajāpati restore his health, good sight

And days extended over a long life !

This razor used by Savitr for shaving

The one who knows Varuna and the royal Soma

Even with this shave ye, O Brāhman

Let this man, the one who shaves

Be rich in horses, kine, and children.

(10)       A Priest’s Benediction Upon Food

BOOK VI  :  HYMN LXXI

O Agni, the Hotr !

        Make all that I eat

        As sacrifice well-offered …

        All food, of varied form and nature

        Whether bought with gold

        Or received as a gift …

        Horse, sheep, goat or bullock.

        Whatever … sacrificed or not

        Bestowed by men

        And sanctioned by the Fathers

        That comes to me

        Pleases and delights …

        May Agni, the Hotr

        Render as sacrifice well-offered.

        O Gods !

        Whatever I eat unjustly

        Of food bestowed and received

        With a measure of doubt

        Whether to accept or refuse

        That I now swallow…

        May the greatness of Universal Being

        – Vaisvaanara, the mighty

        Make it sweet and blessed

        To me.

(11)       A Charm To Restore Or Increase Virile Power

BOOK VI  :  HYMN LXXII

As the black snake spreads himself at pleasure

Making wondrous forms …

So, with Asura’s potent consecration

Let the potion promptly make thy member

Vigorously correspond, limb to limb.

As the member of the tayadara inflates with the wind

Becoming as big as the member of the wild ass

So too, let thy member grow and become.

As much of a limb as is that of the wild ass

That of the elephant

And that of the domestic ass …

As great and vigorous as that of the horse

So too, let thy member grow and become.

(12)       A Nuptial Benediction

BOOK VI  :  HYMN LXXVIII

Let this man be again bedewed

With this benedictory sacrifice we now offer

And comfort with the sap of life

The bride, whom is to marry him.

With life’s sap let him comfort her

And raise her high with princely sway

In wealth that has a thousand powers …

That, the couple be inexhaustible !

Tvashtr formed her to be thy dame

Tvashtr has made thee to be her lord.

Let Tvashtr give you both a long life.

Let Tvashtr give to you a thousand lives.

(13)       A Prayer For Pardon For Cheating In Game

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXVIII

If we have sinned with both our hands

Desiring to take the host of dice

To regain our loss …

May both Apsaras today forgive us that debt –

Ye, the one who brutally conquers

And ye, the one who is fierce to look at.

Ye, the stern viewers of sins !

Ye, who rule the people !

Forgive us for what happened as we gambled

And not urge us to pay the debt we owe to him

( nor leave us saddled with that burden upon us ).

For he was with a cord

To Yama’s kingdom.

My creditor, the man whose wife I visit

He, O Gods, whom I supplicated before …

Let not such men dominate me in speech.

O ye Apsaras duo, the gods’ consorts !

Mind this : let not the burden be upon us

Let not such men dominate me in speech.

(14)      A Charm To Be Pronounced By Bride and Groom

 BOOK VII  :  HYMN XXXVI

Sweet are the glances of our eyes

Our faces are as smooth as balm

Within thy bosom harbour me

For one spirit dwelleth in both of us !

(15)       A Charm For Success And Happiness

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXXIX

With fortune of the Sisu tree

With Indra as my friend to aid

I give myself a happy fate.

Fly and begone, ye Malignities !

That splendour and felicity

Wherewith thou hast excelled the trees

Give me therewith a happy fate.

Fly and begone, ye Malignities !

Blind fortune

With new leaves

Then deposited within the trees —

Give me therewith a happy fate.

Fly and begone, ye Malignities.

(16)       A Woman’s Love Charm

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXXX

This is the Apsaras’ love-spell

Conquering and irresistible.

Send the spell forth, ye Deities !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

I pray, may he remember me

Think of me as loving

And his beloved.

Send forth the spell, ye Deities !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

That he may think of me

That I may never, never think of him.

Send forth the spell, ye Deities !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

Madden him, O Maruts, madden him !

Madden him, madden him, O Vayu !

Madden him, O Agni, madden him !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

(17)       A Young Man’s Love Charm

BOOK I  :  HYMN XXXIV

From honey sprang this plant to life;

with honey now we dig thee up.

Make us as sweet as honey

For, from honey hast thou been produced.

My tongue hath honey at the tip

And sweetest honey at its root :

Thou yieldest to my wish and will

And shalt be mine and only mine.

My coming in is honey-sweet

And honey-sweet, my going forth.

My voice and words are sweet.

I fain would be like honey, in my look.

Sweeter am I than honey

Yet more full of sweets than licorice :

So mayst thou love me, and only me

As a branch full of all the sweets.

Around thee have I girt

A zone of sugarcane

To banish hate.

That, thou mayst be in love with me

My darling, never to depart.

(18)       A Woman’s Love Charm

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXXXI

Down upon thee, from head to foot

I draw the pangs of love longing.

Send forth the charm, ye Deities !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

Assent to this, O Heavenly Grace !

Celestial Purpose, guide it well !

Send forth the charm, ye Deities !

Let him be consumed

With his love for me.

If thou shouldst run three leagues away

Five leagues, a horse’s daily stage

Thence shalt thou come to me again

And be the father of our children.

(19)       A Man’s Love Charm

BOOK II  :  HYMN XXX

As the wind shake this tuft of grass

Hither and thither on the ground

So do I stir and shake thy mind

That, thou mayst be in love with me

My darling, never to depart.

Ye, Asvins ! Lead together and unitedly work

To bring us loving couple close, body and heart.

Now let us have the fortunes of you twain

The vows ye have for other

And your spirit when we meet.

When eagles, calling aloud, are screaming

With the joy of good health

Then let her come to my calling

As does the shaft

Attached to the arrow’s neck.

Let what is within me

Reach out to her

Let what reaches enter her within :

O Plant ! Seize and possess the mind

Of the maiden rich in every charm.

Seeking a husband she has come !

And I came longing for wife :

Even as a steed neighing loud

May I meet the fortune and good fate.

(20)       A Woman’s Charm

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXXXII

The philter that gods have poured

Within the bosom of the floods …

I heat the spell for thee

By Varuna’s decree

Burning with pangs

Of my love yearning for thee.

The charm which the gods have poured

Within the bosom of the floods

Burning with the pangs of my love …

That spell for thee I heat

By Varuna’s decree.

The philter which Indrāni has effused

Within the waters’ depth

Burning with the pangs of my longing …

That spell for thee I heat

By Varuna’s decree.

The charm, aglow with my longing

Which Indra and Agni have effused

Within the bosom of the floods …

That spell for thee I heat

By Varuna’s decree.

The charm aglow with my longing

Which Mitra and Varuna have poured

Within the bosom of the floods …

That spell for thee I heat

By Varuna’s decree.

(21)       A Man’s Love Charm

BOOK III  ;  HYMN XXV

Let the Impeller goad thee on

May thou rest not in peace upon thy bed.

Terrible is the shaft of Love …

Therewith I pierce thee

Unto thy very heart.

That arrow winged with longing and my thought

… its stem, Desire; its neck, Resolve.

Let Kāma truly aim and shoot forth

And pierce thee

Into thy very heart.

The shaft of Kāma, pointed well

That withers and consumes the spleen.

With hasty feathers, all aglow …

Therewith I pierce thee

Unto thy very heart.

Pierced through

With fiercely burning heat

I steal to me

Gentle and humble

With thy parching lips

All mine own, devoted …

With sweet words of love.

I drive thee hither with a whip

Away from thy mother and sire

That thou mayst be at my command

And yield to every wish of mine.

O Mitra ! O Varuna !

Expel all thought and purpose

From her heart.

Deprive her of her own free will

And make her subject unto me.

(22)       A Charm To Secure A Match For A Girl Of Age

BOOK II  :  HYMN XXXVI

O Agni ! Let her soon be happy

With a husband who, to please us

May show up

And be approved by wooers

Be respected in assemblies

And shines in congregations.

May such a suitor arrive

Seeking this maid

And bringing good fortune to us.

I work the bridal oracle

With God Dhātar’s truthfulness …

For bliss, beloved of Soma

Bliss, dear to Prayer

And bliss, gathered by Aryaman.

O Agni ! May this woman find a husband.

Then, verily, may King Soma make her happy.

May she bear sons

Be the chief lady of her household

Be blessed and bearing

And rule beside her consort.

As this lair, O Maghavan

That is now fair to look on

Was dear to wild things once

As a pleasant dwelling they owned …

So too, may this maiden here

Be a darling to Bhaga

Be loved by her lord

And be the prize

Of his coveting affection.

O Girl ! Mount up

Embark on Bhaga’s ship

The full, the inexhaustible …

And thereon bring hitherward to us

The lover whom thou would wed.

Call out to him, O Lord of Wealth !

Make thou the lover well inclined.

Set each on thy right hand

And send the one lover

Who is a worthy of her choice.

Here is the Bdellium and the gold

The Auksha and the bliss …

Bring these thee, O Girl

To the suitors assembled here

To find the man whom thou would have.

May Savitr lead and bring to thee

The husband whom thy heart desires.

O Plant, be this thy gift to her !

(23)       A Woman’s Imprecation On Her Unfaithful Lover

BOOK VI  :  HYMN CXXXVIII

O Plant, thy fame is spread abroad

As best of all the herbs that grow !

Emasculate for me today this man

That he may wear the horn of hair.

Make him an eunuch with a horn

And set thou the crest mark

Upon his head.

Let Indra with two pressing stones

Deprive him of his manhood.

I have unmanned thee, eunuch !

Yea, impotent !

Made thee impotent

And robbed thee, o weakling !

Of thy strength.

Upon his head we set the horn

And we set the branching ornament.

Two of thy veins the gods have made

In which lie the vigor of a man.

I pierce those testicles of yours

With wooden studs

And take away their life

For that woman

Who has taken charge of you.

As a reed or cane is split

To make a mat

So do I split your wooden penis

Down to your testicles

For that woman to have.

Journal : CALCUTTA DIARY, 1985 …

EQUANIMITY IN OLD CITY

There … crammed in dark spaces

They huddle without love

In their angry images …

Here no one dreams

Just wants and thinks

Of wresting the meagre

And damn the others in –

Own parents and siblings.

 

It’s the world of the poor

With noises many

In the slums of the city

With cubbyholes to each

 

Where impotence lords

Over the women and kids

Who have no hope

And nothing to beat

Except laughters forced

Empty, mirthless

With nothing to hold

Hunger, dead men and idleness

Where children cry for ever more

Of simple needs and food ” sure ”

While adults think of worlds away

From unsure rations and bad tea

Sexual lees and cigars cheap.

*    *    *

 

Soft voices float in a pub elite

Over protean faces, strange links

A world cool and high, busy cooking

Among waiters dressed

Sellers and iced drinks

Well attired ladies and gentlemen

Brooding, whisper in festive silence

Precipitate their leisure, build up pines

In deep seats plush and semi dark confines

Look through the walls of tinted glass

The crowd, cars loud and the din barred

Mobbed by heat, speed, sweat and scars …

*    *    *

 

Back home, the evening spoils

Over argued nothings

Matters expressed

As in, ” i’m just saying ”

I seethe needless

But keep the regard intact

Instead, arch over to scratch

The unreachable on my back.

In between, the smoke seems tasteless

The heart looks dark and drinks depressed

While the peeping moon full hovers

Through the window

On this day disempowered

In the night about our bed

As she moons holding me

As of old … resurrected.

 

*   *   *                      *   *   *

Journal : One Scorching Afternoon

… The Memory of Fullness

In that distant town since long lost

Among quarters low

Abathe in winds hot …

The Sun was ablaze

The noon poured fire

And sage mothers

Shut the doors

Downed all windows

And early retired

I lay …

Watch and fidget

That face asleep

Kindness incarnate

Breathing, chest amove

In peace

A hand of love on me

My mother stern

Still voicing concern

That I do not burn

In the inferno

Raging outdoors.

So there I lie, restive

Fiddling festive

Tuned in…

To calls from the Sun

The friends imagined

At games in coppice

In the streets empty

Small spaces free

Under the flaming tree …

But I lie, squirm anxious

Conflicted immense, restless

Between her soft care

The reposing heart pure

Being lined

In her countenance

In the weight

Where her arm rests

With affection

And holds me back

From the world manifest

And God… it is

My mother stern

Still voicing concern

That I do not burn

In the inferno

Raging outdoors.

And there … as I lay

She rolls over

Fading from me

Her magic arresting

Even as my empathy

Happily resonates

With yells beamed in

From the god loving

Who keeps bright

The illumined sights

Among friends in grove

In spaces curious

The flaming “gulmohar”

And all the games

We play under…

Like a loadstone out there

Drawing the wild in me

Causing me to rise

With care extreme

From the mat cool, of straw

Under house cat’s stare

That freezes me dead

Half way through

With a glare that said :

“Are you sure ? Is it fair ?”

But I am far too rushed

By crow calls

That seem so anguished

While still half raised

On an elbow, I chase

My mother’s forgiveness

And bow my spirit

To her small form

How devotedly tall

With rules I well knew

From her sharp blows

By the very arm

I still felt on waist

That tender embrace

Settled serene

And radiating grace.

Hung for ages thus …

Half raised, with feline Probus

My hovering thought

And her stare intense

Before I resolve the variance

Beseech the powers

On-high, for cover

Longing prayerful and deep

That moved the breath

I had held in me

Now certain and free

I decide to reap

My happiness, the mirth

In bright outdoors

Amidst the heat

Among the gods

And the trees

Along forlorn streets…

I stand full height

See the cat depart

And tip-toe carefully

To open the door

And close cautiously

To meet the glory

With a silent yell

The cool out there

On the hot steps

With a heart pell mell

On a muffled start…

I latch back the gate

Touch fondly

Its weathered face

Watching thoughtless

Sensing the bond in place

Before gliding away …

Merry, merry, below

The Flamboyant’s faith

Moving songs of joy

Tingling mottled shade

On gnarled roots bobbed

Like ancient stays

That umbrella bright red

Blooming welcome heartfelt

Between the sun and earth —

A mighty fine mid – day…

I stoop in wonder

Of the streets yet bare

And readily oblige

A scorching wave

And pick up to peel

An unopened bud

Pluck out a stamen

Lock its bobhead

With another proud

To force a war

Of tugs and scars…

But the thought sudden shoots

‘ Where are they, bandicoots ?’

Now collecting the pebbles

I imagine possible feuds

And squat at last

On one exposed root :

‘ Where are they ?’ I dilate

Sketching lines on ground

Crisscross and straight…

Feel the ball, just then

In my trouser pocket

Bump it hard on earth

See it rise to zenith

And catch it on the trot

In one happy swoop …

‘ The game’s on elsewhere !’

One step, then two

Into howling blare

Past houses silent

My raging despair

‘ Implore the parents, shall I ?’

No, that wouldn’t be fine

I feel, bare feet on grass

By the tar road, sparse

Build a sprint for the lark

Glowing fire on my back

I cross the road as it meets

The molten pitch, which sticks

Searing the sole, brisk

I jump over quick

To foot-eroded bricks

On the side path

And launch a canter sudden

Hearing the jingle, anon

Of marbles pocketful

The top unstrung

Spinning, it’s ecstasy

On the run

Swishing the ball mid – air

The baton perfectly swung

Lo ! The kingdom’s come…

The full view gladdens

Green grass, trees mum

And tall coconut palms

Sway to music pleasant

Wide open spaces

Fragrant and cool

A littered drain far

Falling to pieces

The algae on it thick

And dark

Of slithering snakes

Grown huge in the park.

The little king I am

Now free, not a sham

In sun and deep shades

My own escapade

Gained well in time

Constraints untied

At somersaults happy

Below a tree, helping

A girlish weed crushed

Looking over my own bruised knee

Always with an eye

For the pythons of the drain

Calling, aiming, punctuating

With hoops and jumps

Ha – ha – ha…

Times great extend

Till another arrives gleeful

Hailing cheer, wild prattle

Dancing, singing close

Holding warm to pointless laughters

Under a heavens mild

Suppressing a smile …

*    *    *

The illumined momentum of the melee

Today reveal truths

Simple, yet unsurpassed

Glowing undiminished

To this day …

The mother essence of life

That Shangri – la !

*   *   *       *   *   *

Journal : Three Poems

Festivities

Gaiety all about, good company, fine drizzle
Chow spreads great, hearts free, loud people

We saunter lucid, lost in perceptions wet
Breeze blows cool by our glasses raised
To toasts joyous with joined laughters
Unmarked then, I now recall much after

Colours !  Colours !  Everywhere
Merry greets, embracing brothers
Expansive whirls to gods’ ardour
Without craft, thought
Or dark shadows …

Colours !  Colours !  Everywhere …
We meet, away I lead
To read with her again
The book long open
With my confession
On page one …

Deep, without sobriety
Merged… lit complete

When, from within the drapes
Of her tresses, she laughs
And ‘fesses :
“ I caught myself
All the time
Speak of you
For no reason or rhyme.”

Spaced full, I moon
In the glow wrapped
With the blessed one.

Spaced full, I moon
In the glow wrapped
With the blessed one.

BEAUTY BEHOLDEN

After months of unconcern
I yearn to see her again
Rouged in blush …

That glow simple
The sparkling gush.

Nothing interrupts
As I find my way
Through the noise
That people make

Past the motion
Commotion
And events…

At the door open
I halt to watch her
Raise the eye
And shoot her query
Expectant, without a word.

Instead, I soar on the scent
Of a surprised rose
And a silence
Lit in warmth.

We speak, but that
Isn’t high with me

Sitting just…
Facing the care
In smiles deep
And deeper still.

I flirt seriously
To its silliness.

Up for bye, the wave lingers…
Through dust, heat I walk into

While I get a hold on me
Resume with skill to raise
My world opaque
Lost on significance.

The game tires… it’s a race
Without real value or grace
So I go back for a moment
To the parting I feel
Lodged perfect
Spreading
Thanks
To all I meet

For, beauty
Is the first virtue
I found in my vitality.

DEATH OF A CROW

Below, on the ground
Under the mango tree

One flailing, turning crow
Looks bewildered
Gasping for breath.

All local crows
Crowd about
Congregate
Circle about
Flurry blind
Witnessing death.

The creature aground
Flips to its back
Wide eyed
And back to its side
As others poke
Bite and strike
For good old response
And goad him
To revive.

But he’s lost, losing sharply
Gaining more
But sheer incapacity
Bewildered, bearing high
The drama last, of life
In anguish and pain
But ‘thout craft
Or cruelty.

Just concerns loud
On flapping wings.

MOTHER AND I

MOTHER AND I … … A Tribute

 

 

He, I hear, is terminally ill…

I rush from a city far

To be with the living god

Odor of life churned

In truth and hard earned.

He, indeed, is terminally ill…

I bear his blast of torpid times

Failing body’s morbid mimes

By his bed but I know the best

I’ll be sometime in a future test

 

As he is in my each recall…

Limpid, fearless, standing tall

Loved, friendly, compassionate

Spirit deep, sharp immense.

He now lies terminally ill…

The seer he was is witnessing

In quiet eerie, looks fixed

Through nights stretched

And lost sleep

Resonating of scriptures I read

And It then happened

In quick succession

His withdrawal calm

The last breath

Our wait…

The howling silence

Death…

And cremation.

 

*   *   *

The news drew the shallow heirs

Commiserating, posing, red weird

Stooping low, seeming lower

With eyes stuck on assets meager

Broaching sly their soft claims

Illiberal, covet strange

Set on matters odd

In those hours of pain

 

They trigger brawls

The woman faints of the free-for-all

At the men she’d nurtured

On her love, with care

Were clawing now at her remains

As enemies sworn, pitched against

Heartlessly, in sub human ways.

Their game’s foiled with some wit

Calibrated drama, deliberately knit

It saddened us

Still at the crease

In space secured

Convalesce in peace

Mother and I –  in rally

Devoted, thankful…

Succour each, happily.

 

*   *   *      *   *   *

THUS SPAKE SHIVA, THE TRAMP

A tramp alright

I am, young man, 

But come, hear me out…

I’m one and One

At once, it’s clear

Of that there is no doubt

Let’s look at each

Here face to face

Pick the truths we live by

For my matted locks

Are a world apart

From your Olay face refined.

Truth be told

It’s crutches you hold –

Cheque books, cash cards

iPhones

And the web worldwide

Your palace – in – fief

The Saville suit

And girls crashing

For your tick

Or mere pass by

Or the staff starched

And groomed to serve

A brat that feels

His Highness big

A lord of own pig sty

Then, that chauffer yonder

Who defers to you

Regards you too

As a helpless fool

Who owns the shining cadillac.

Truth be told

These are the crutches you hold –

For proof, young man

If you were to lose

One by one

Your freedom to choose

And your propups

To celebrityhood.

Gone would be the wealth

The authority you meant

The fount of power

Contacts you held

That raised you aloft

The being you felt

Now crippled

Indeed helpless

Redefined strange

Timid, deranged

Unsure

Insecure

Without the dough

To shave or procure

Or someone to call

Recognise and assure

At war

On all fronts

Near and far…

What be your truth ?

Now, in you

Yet lies the proof

No, you are not reduced

To the form you see

Of I amused

But you can

Now step up to view

This agitated mix

Churned within

That road to calm

Gains bit by bit

Of rest and balm

And the journey long

Long, too long

To mind quelled

At quiet ease

Unsupported peace

And freedom to be

In truth

As is.

* * *

I know that look

You now cast

On the tramp same

From minutes past

Yes, I live the truth

You’ve visualised

At that road’s end

When men surmise

The unreality

Of all these forms

Looks that’re worth

Less than a corn

And the reality

Of Self within

Buried deep and lost

To rationalising

On profits booked

And more beyond

Our powers would yield

For expanding fief

To that belief

The idea we have

Of ourself, feel

The poise made up

Of clout we wield

Our charms that work

To reflections

That influence us, to us 

Spurring commands

Impressive summons

To delegate or bestow 

On women we favour

And men

Who supplicate.

And this is the truth

I remember the fruit

Of this self on props

You’ve been thus far

Like a Sphinx

That’s blatant zilch

A real tower

Of illusory belief

Conditioned idea

In truth, you know

That deserts us

Without its supports

In our bank accounts

Cash cards, phones

Our palace – in – fief

Our suits Saville

The staff we buy

Links worldwide

And our caddy –

* * *

Come now, then

It’s time you looked

For the Self that is

Still yours, with you

Ever was and will

Into which

Our roots go

And which is

Not a thought

Not an idea

Nor belief

Nor the power

To execute

Or possess all this

That bind us to it

Nor of summons

We use to beckon

The slave

Who makes us save

Those thoughts

Of ourself

The ego we make

And inscrutably etch

That personality

To which we attach

And are carried away

To its world of dreams

Then real

With an identity

That compares

And feels

And competes

With the other

Fictitious elves.

Anon, then

To the Self

That is

Which is instead

A nought complete

Homogeneous

Sans time, space

Term or concept

Want or breath

The void absolute

‘Thout fiction and dreams

All cause and effect

Phenomenal

Without Psyche

And psychosomatics

Or this physiology

And stir brainy.

It’s there

Here untouched

And are we

Untainted, unfudged

And real

As real can be

Wherever we are

Howsoever we see

In suit Saville

Or our skin

In life and death

Beings all

Small and big

Low or uncouth

High or beneath

It is the One

We cannot corrupt

The ground very

On which we erupt

Form and dream

Fashion our scream

And cause the mess

Unending distress

Of a mirage full

Of self – interest

Placing the few

Called fortunate

On top

Of teeming dregs

In burning ignorance.

It’s the One we are

And we seek to serve

By living the truth

And bring to fore

The verve of freedom

Embed in each

The moral heritage

Our access to peace

And ethics plain

In fraternity

As this tramp

Now before you

Holds the truth

For you to see

But will disappear soon

With earth for support

Body divine

Not a speck more

Than drapes of sky

Seeming the one

Walking away

And being the One

Immanent

While you, looking on

Will sense

The oneness 

The unity we have

In existence


But that notion

Cosmic beauty

Wouldn’t be knowledge yet

Till you detach

Consciously 

Your identity

From its legs …

* * *

Aye, young man

It is the truth

But let me not

Withhold you

It’s you, my friend

That’s in contrast

Fixed unsure 

Having a blast

Unsettled certain

As you now know

Without manicure

With money in store

Without bodyguards

Paid minds for pard

Without designer dress

With limo to press…

Watch it, watch it

The eyes on you

Now no longer stop

At your dirty stubble

They all pass

As if you were

Nothing, just trash

It’s simple

And plain to see

Mere matters of fact

Now bite your Mac

Keep it as is

The knowledge you’ve kissed

Will work within

And change you

Till you find

Habits aligned

No longer hard

To sense the One

Without the ‘I’

And its shards.

Impossible, you say

When it all begins

My friend, with One

And returns

To same Being 

Quite like

This singularity

At a black hole

Which beyond

Our limited view 

Crunches big

And recycles

The matter back

To our logic …

It’s of habits, dear

We’ve internalised

We find it hard

To see the One

The substratum

To things all

We visualise.

We’re One

Let’s just say

Nothing apart

From One that holds

This vagabond

And yourself

In suit, with fief

Bulging wallet

The tall mansion 

On lands, your pride 

Resources common

Cars you ride

In exclusivity…


To women who fall

For your looks groomed 

Over intent cruel

Until you de-identify

And disown all

Setting them free

To be happy or not

For your own lark state

In liberation.

* * *

There, my dear

Feel not deflate

Slighted least

Less priviledged

You’re the boss

One and same

As I am

Un-owned, unpledged

As high or low

As crucified

With wants and flows

As confused

And as clear

Why we each

Without fear

Ought to love

The Self that owns

Being each

And help ourself

To touch and teach

And help with just

What we have …

More and enough.

Which, I admit

Is hard to do

Till the ‘I’ is lit

By the One

In our perception

Showing it up

As reactive bundle

Of ideas formed

Of future and past

Desires now

Reflecting impact

Instating power

On how we relate

To beings, objects 

In environment

We thus experience

Value and  judge 

In unclear depths

Want and urge

Motions and will

Subconscious

Emote or think

Outside in

But stumble seldom 

To the heart pure

And never

To the seer sure

Peering over

The knowledge valid 

In intellect 

Instead, we are crazy

It seems

Set on pleasure

Sex and senses

A gratuity continued

In addiction

Not to wonder

Experience and learn

But for the craft

At power to own

Possess and collect 

Not to be free

Be well, do good

But to indulge

In willfulness

Heady caprice

Intoxicated whim

The horrible substitute

For liberty.

We are, my dear

Solitary entities

Unexamined

With obvious finitude

And indelible fear

Fighting to survive

Grabbing to secure

Competing, comparing

Rolling emotionally

With morals uncared

Street smart ethics

Breaches money does fix

From our tower high

Stairs to heaven

Well nigh . . .

Until we touch our real Self

And are absolutely purged

Of existential dreads

That ride

On inner processes

Rising inexorably

Of primal fears

Illusions vivid

Dreams amove

Of identity now tied

To this feeling now

The experience then

In the mental frame

Anchored in memory

Rooted 

To beings related

Objects specific

That mean the world

Wide and huge

Translating mundanes

In pleasure and pain 

Shading the Self

From ourself

With fruits we believe

Are important, nay

Vital, nay

Essential to us.

* * *

Hear All, Mister

Missus and Mademoiselle !

We could be happy

Twenty – four seven

Ever adequate and complete

And survive without becoming

A survivalist

Possess, without owning

Own, without possessing

Let’s dump this make believe

Of gaining immortality

Through progeny

Money, power

Godly profits 

And house angelic 

Through friends or family

Any or all things in life

Of me, I, mine

Coiled up deep …

Let’s dump superstitions

Masquerading as truths

Beliefs subscribed repeated

And habits internalised

Which are but dreams

Just imagined

And capitalised !

* * *

The One, deep blue

Wrote for me on the rock

That I accommodate Fate

And Time’s shocks

And choose

As I will

Through future rumble

Ever emerged

Ever in and apart

From surreal past 

Beyond bodies gross

All forms within, subtle

And that causal

I primeaval

Made of what

I know not

From where

I’m past care

Or why

I no longer spy…

It’s just the One

I am, life infusing 

The same in all

Guise multiple 

Big and small

Wax and wane

In appearances

That rise and set

On this heart

Mind and intellect

Which I watch

At peace

While the ghosts act

In this wondrousness

Of Existence

Swaying

Between the two banks

Of matter and consciousness …

But they all tire

And return

To my embrace

To my serenity

As you look on

And still think

Of this apparition

As the tramp

Participating

In the jamboree !

* * *        * * *

THE CHARWOMAN

I am a working man on a day off
Till late mooning in dreams, lost
In sun, shadows and sand dunes
Dance, haunts lucid, silhouettes

But they now thrust the news, you know

That daily collage from under your door

I smell but hear the rush, as feet recede
Serving publicity, they turn the day in
In this thick wad of crisp, fresh newsprint
With texts barren and models kindling
With busts, butts, pouts, lies and skin
All smiles and cheer
In sad, layered reckonings
Grandstanding without meaning
Aggregating things
About lives empty.

I glance at the tidings and literary heap
Shake at the predictable

Skip to sports leaf…

Exult at fluky joys

Like what

My charwoman keeps
For me

This sweet, viscous day of the week.

I light up and read

In fact, waiting for her

My gladness make the words ebb
To a blur
And the ash falls as I rise
To knocks I hear
I stare, by the door open
As she enters, but avert
With a grin wide
Glowing back to hers…
Mon ami, I am alive
As I’ve never been
And could now die
For what it means…
She picks the clothes I had cast last night
Opens the drapes to let the sun in, bright
While moving to kitchen, for the first brew
On feet firm, body supple, sweeps through
It’s a great world, dipped in peace
She’s draped in red and joy clean
There’s green and yellow
Fiery black somewhere
A clarity in abundance
Replete with assurance
In echo
Like a cuckoo call
Or a music stretched
In relaxed miracle.
 
I wash n dress…
While she’s over with
We sip the tea, laugh
Our pleasure relating
In anticipation clear
She put the tray away
In freedom we hold
Kiss to heart’s way
Warm and stirred
And happy within
Spaying thoughts
Jus’ feel touching
Soft and hard, push
Each enveloping
Melting attitudes
To hungry being…
Beyond, in depths, resonating

We draw the other

Body held in hand
Size, seize and move

Assume full, unplanned

Play and offer our vitality

The other we enter, take in

Hear the calls farthest

Drive and meet it close

She opens smooth

Curls up in pose
Accepts and showers

Divine unfurls, glows

O Whirlwind Goddess

Of this blossoming
You awaken the worlds asleep

At point each within

Your secrets simple, your involved play
Momentums massive you generate
Sources joyous, unknown

You sure bring to spate.

And now

Your being full

In slumber deep

Love loving love

As newborns keep

Just simple, flushed

Glamour free

Unclaimed

Deserving all

Unclaiming.

Journal : Feb 15, 2012 : My Personal Odyssey

Vow In Fetters.

 

This spiritual saga over years score

Shimmers alive at a temple door…

 

Today, I hold myself erect

Halt at the temple entrance

And skip the practice ancient

 
I demand my own light

Submission I refuse

And all forms I deny

 

Here and now, O’ Deity !

At your hallowed shrine.

 

 

Great you are, one Being in all

Master Grand, cause primordial

Screened in, alas ! behind forms

 

Ritual dos and donts, its masters

On faith ‘thout love yet fast, uh

Fill the cloisters with smiles sad

Not for me the motions, O’ Deity !

Façade imposing, flags and piety.

 

*  *  *

 

Now I take upon myself

This burden of life

To costs I agree

And embrace the choice

It’s me, I know…

So small and weak

But the sole thing too

That’s known to me

 

Where I will stay

And discover it all

Shrink the Space to me

On Time arch over

 

I vow to break into, O’Deity !

The light revealing

In the depths of peace.

 

*  *  *

 

Sure, the barred vastness daunts

Upon all souls I know hangs its pall

Gray cover immense of unknown, dark

 

I trundle long in its black tunnels

Flay to grasp a speck of any heaven

Flung off hard but bounce sharp

And crash back in with vengeance


It shocks and tries, and draws to test

The mind taut, deny or now consent

All in eyes rapid, terms and forms

Series of march the voluting prompts

Feel, thought, cravings, despised rot

Desire, habits of flesh, in lack caught

And the day abrim with worth nought

Transitioning nights set in vague dawns

On my core empty, bleak and desperate

To hear the calling, vigil to know, wait


For rise when I’d seize my essence !

Here, body diseased no longer defends

Dark acrank, it generates insufficient

Stuck dead in moral marshlands

Being inter galactic, blackened…

Swishing with relativity’s limiting speed

Into the cloudy bands where minds bleed

The spirit stiff, struck within

By revelations ill – fulfilling


Stubbing the senses they much overbrim

With truths coloured, unblessed an’ thin

Even the running tap unnerves me

My intellect dumped, unsounding

Hung – o – hung lifeless, hibernating

For the start sudden and conquering …

Many a false launch I did see

Stirred up loin, puffed up vitality

Just the ego coiled up, its proud thrusts

Thoughts mingled, feelings on the lurch

Peaking in throbs at my temples

Mind wrecked, acts corrupting

Wracked breathless, drained coughing

Licentious prisoner, ambitious victim…

*  *  *


I still hold on to witness, safe

On blank path my trusts pave

In late mornings clear, winter delights

With sun warm mellow, lazy cats alive

On unsure bed and spent on view

Conscious very of discordant cues

Chasing vivid the shapely behind

Gaze the body, senses, fixed mind

Starts of lust, sweet tinge remind…



” Possess not, O Youth sensuous !”

But the sage call is far, too rough.


I hear the world strange

See all its stranger ways

Mirage like, covered ugliness

Roles to and fro at give n take

‘Tis a blind alley but I still wait

For the burst of shine on cold dunes

Gladness, flowers and folk tunes …

But surroundings seem so unfamiliar

Paths I take are not mine, it is clear

The dilemma though is not my first

Through obstacles, strident divorce.

*  *  *

 

I keep upright with what I know

Doubting each moment in flow

It’s me, too, being the witness 

This rocky view, its barrenness

Slips, collisions, slides and  wreckage

Stares close up to mind, incessant

Hold me, to wipe the damned tears

Pat my fears to sleep, dress the sears

 

Know not how long was my odyssey

Pains, the wade, wait for being free

But I’m glad, my sense did transcend

When I stood upon the walling fence

Eyeing the world beyond, boundless

Yet hauling in remnants of myself…

 

Unfettered, I tipped into freedom next

Sans mind and body, nothing to celebrate

No Space, Time, just smiling sun – self

No hope, no gain or loss, no being made

That light was now this I, freedom clear

My buddy from start, then witness dear

There was no being – for – itself ever

One I thought and lived was a prayer

 

By whom I know not, O’ Deity !

To whom or why is the mystery.

*  *  *       *  *  *

 

This is a very intimate poem about my spiritual journey,

starting in late eighties and finishing by the century – end.

I present it now, after a dozen years of incubation !

 

Of One Soul – Meena Kumari

a big fan of Marilyn Monroe.

Meena Kumari’s life brings to fore the great divide between the few whom life enriches with complex and tragic experiences and the rest who live with a linear fulness or emptiness without those devastating upheavals that bring heaven and hell together. It is especially for the benefit of the latter group that I recall her life and its context, which raised a destiny’s child to become an exceptional actress, and as a poet who lived by her heart and departed in its shine.

( Her poems here are freely paraphrased, and are not literal translations. )

The moon’s solitary

Sky resting in itself

Lonely heart I found

Every time we met.

 

Hope’s dead, even

The stars have set

Just the reek shimmers

And within fills, of itself.

 

Is this life we call ?

Breathing mere

Being alive just

Through this all :

Body lonely, spirit

Dumped upon itself.

 

Even with partners

I met on the way

We trod alone

Each in, to ourself.

 

Beyond these lights

Now on, now off

The house will stand alone

Shrivelled and forlorn

Looking over the path

And interminably wait

After I finally depart

Utter, in my loneliness.

 

Why insist, my dear

Why hear me narrate

A life story bland

Tale wholly joyless.

These words come from one whose life’s story is neither bland nor without joy. As an actor, Meena Kumari is immortalised in some scintillating performances that ever lit up the screens of Hindi cinema. The first ever Filmfare Award for Best Actress was bestowed on her in 1953, for her role in Baiju Bawra. She received her fourth one for the iconic film Kaajal. And Pakeezah, which released two months before she passed away, is a stellar all – time classic today.

The actor grew up as Mahjabeen Bano, the youngest of three daughters of Ali Baksh and Iqbal Begum. The family was poor at the time of her birth on August 1, 1932 but before her birth Ali Baksh looked forward to having a son who would turn their fortune. They could just about manage enough influential references to gain admittance in Dr Gadre’s clinic, in which Iqbal Begum delivered the baby Mahjabeen. An absolutely downcast Ali Baksh took away the newborn and left it in a Muslim orphanage ! Hours later, the despairing but repenting father went back to pick her up and brought the baby girl home.

Meena’s mother was actually a Hindu girl, Prabhavatidevi Tagore, derived from Hindu – Christian parentage, who converted to Islam after marriage. She then came to be known as Iqbal Begum, with the screen name of Kamini – a dancer, actress and Kathak teacher. Ali Baksh was a Shia Muslim Pathan with a large heart. He had been cared for by a Brahmin for 12 years and was an adept Hindu-style astrologer. He had interest and skills in music and poetry. He used to play the harmonium and essay parts in the Parsi theatre. He composed music for peripheral films, which paid some for his efforts but never enough to secure the needs for staying in business. The family lived next to Rooptara studios in Dadar, Bombay, and Ali Baksh was forever hopeful of getting a major break in the film industry. But that never happened.

Not much is known about those early years of the future star of Hindi cinema. Through the ’30s, they stayed in Rooptara Studios, then leased by Vijay Bhatt, and remained hand to mouth. Mahjabeen’s elder sisters would go to school in the morning and the parents to their work in Vijay Bhatt’s productions. The baby would be cared for by the cleaning woman attached to the studio, Sita Tayi, untill the sisters returned from school. Later, the eldest one, Khurshid, took care of the youngest in the family. Later, the family shifted to a naerby flat, in Dadar itself.

Mahjabeen used to be very competitive in school, becoming irritable when her test scores were less than that of her friends. But the Baksh family, perpetually hounded by their want for necessities they did not have, began discussing how the six-year old Mahjabeen could earn for the family. The little girl baulked at the suggestion; she wanted to study, read and write. She used to carry her books even while travelling with her parents on outstation shoots. Ali Baksh was also against the idea of Mahjabeen working in films. That was the social norm too : women from good families did not work on stage or for the screen.

But Prabhavati Devi would have none of that; it was a necessity, an immediate means to make ends meet. Sometime back, they had to give up their flat in Dadar because they could not afford it, and had to return to their earlier quarters in Rooptara Studios. Meena felt it all, from the pain settled in the eyes of her parents, but more in the termination of her studies. Later, even while she was well into her work in films under the tutelage of Vijay Bhatt, she would enroll in a Urdu school, and with an English teacher, in an attempt to remedy the deeply felt loss and make herself ‘ literate.’

Meena’s parents met Vijay Bhatt for work opportunities for their children in his projects. He went over and observed from afar the three Baksh girls at their informal play, acting out roles they had seen their parents rehearse. Vijay Bhatt offered Mahjabeen a child’s role in his production, Leatherface, which released in 1939. The role required her to work with a cat, which she was very afraid of. But she went through with her deliveries in the film and made her parents proud.

Meena’s looks and talent brought more opportunities… and started the unstoppable phenomenon called Meena Kumari. Ever since that ugly beginning against her wishes, she remained the one bread earner of the family and was steadfast in her care for them till the very end. But she was never without that intense love – hate relationship with films seeded then.

Blistering frenzy must have drawn him to these ruins

Who else would light a lamp in storms this booming ?

Every speck must hold his prayers pure

Each form of God, He must have cured.

He’d have quenched the thirst of burning thorns

Lovingly held in palm the waters, dripping hot.

And if he finds a rough stone shining as gold

It will remind of his heart, broken and pure.

Before the traveller wipes off the blood spatters

Know he that made this garden of rocky barrens.

Meena Kumari acted in 94 films before her death in 1972, months short of her 40th birthday. Sans a normal childhood since 1939, she was immersed in work over the next four years, mostly in Vijay Bhatt productions : Adhuri Kahani, Pooja, Nai Roshni, Bahen, Kasauti and Garib (1942). Vijay Bhatt became her mentor and, on the sets of Ek Hi Bhool (1940), rechristened Mahzabeen as ” Baby Meena, ” as which she was known until she grew up to be a young lady and assumed the name we now identify her with.

In 1939 itself, an up and coming writer called Kamal Amrohi met Ali Baksh in his Dadar home, for someone to play a child’s part in Sohrab Modi’s Jailor. After the preliminaries, Ali Baksh sent for his daughters and one came running immediately, barefoot, with traces of mashed banana all over her face. Ali Baksh apologised for the unmade appearance of his daughter, scolded the girl and asked her to wash and come, remarking that the little one looked pretty otherwise. Amrohi agreed and promised he would recommend the girl to Mr. Modi. As it turned out she did not get the role. But Kamal Amrohi went on to become a film director, with whom Meena fell intensely in love and married 13 years later !

More films followed : Pratiggya, Lal Haveli, Duniya Ek Sarai, Piya Ghar Aaja and Bichchade Balam (1948). In Ramnik Production’s Bachchon Ka Khel (1946), Baby Meena became the heroine – Meena Kumari – performing with credit and winning recognition from all in the industry. The phase continued with several hits on the box office, including some mythologicals and fantasies : Veer Ghatotkach, Shri Ganesh Mahima, Magroor, Hamara Ghar, Anmol Ratan, Sanam, Madhosh, Lakshmi Narayan, Hanumaan Pataal Vijay , Tamasha and Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag (1952).

Think not of how will ‘morrow unfold

Who can say what the moments now hold ?

Hold your tears, let not others cry or weep

How then will calamity affect, whatever it be ?

Tame the river and dam the flow

We can too, without hullabaloo.

Turned to hope in instant each

Infirmities vanish, we march on free.

If our nights are calm, spent in peace

Days break clear, gathered surely.

Let us speak of today and hear of now

Why think of next on the morrow’s brow ?

The year 1952 was especially tumultuous for Meena Kumari. It saw the release of her well received film Baiju Bawra, directed by Vijay Bhatt. It became a huge commercial and critical success and catapulted both its lead actors, Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari, to stardom. The film was a musical, set up in Mughal India of 16th Century, with classical Hindustani melodies wonderfully built into it. The intense story line had everything of human interest… joy and sadness, oppression and rebellion, defeat and victory… and relationships of all hues.

The superhit movie established or enhanced the careers of all the artists involved, Meena amongst them. She won the Filmfare Award and music director Naushad, one of the best ever, received the inaugural Best Music Director Award. This was to be Naushad’s first and only Filmfare Award. Mohammed Rafi, the exquisitely melodious voice in those memorable songs, remained the undisputed best over the next two decades.

And the world noticed the young lady of unblemished beauty, Meena Kumari. It was at this point that she saw the opportunity frontiers she could step up to. In a proud moment of glory on 21st March 1954 at the Metro Theatre in Bombay, only five awards were presented at the Filmfare inaugral, and Meena Kumari was associated with four of them : two each for her films Baiju Bawra and Do Bigha Zameen. The fifth was for the Best Actor, conferred on Dilip Kumar for his performance in Daag. When Meena rose to receive her award, the theatre filled with thunderous applause and ovation to herald the country’s leading lady of celluoid. At this historical juncture of her career, her tremulous voice remained true to her emotions while accepting the award. A nation had showered her with love and appreciation and returned their devotion to her.

Many years have come and gone and many others have graced the stage to accept the award but none yet have captured the spirit of triumph and victory as Meena Kumari did that night. With her that night was Kamal Amrohi. The industry had found a winner… a hard working and soft spoken actor of great sensitivity, capable of carrying challenges on her own and delivering big – time successes.

Meena Kumari was introduced to Kamal Amrohi by Ashok Kumar in 1952, on the sets of Tamasha, when too she met actress Madhubala for the first time. Later, while working together in Amrohi’s Anarkali, their relationship flowered. It deepened when, after just a few scenes of the project had been canned, Meena suffered in a car accident and was laid up in Sassoon Hospital, Poona, for five whole months. Amrohi used to visit her during the weekends. Meena was doubtful if he would still consider her for the role ! To reassure her, Amrohi wrote on her wrist : “ Meri Anarkali ” [ ‘ My (love) Anarkali ‘ ] and signed his name below. The Anarkali project however was abandoned after the first schedule.

My past…

This dark abyss of my loneliness

In concert like this chronic breath

With me in life, living as I

As this pulse… throbbing

Which numerous moments lacerate

Deepen with their rocky probes

As they descend, stay and depart

While the agonal blood flows

Seeking someone… for refuge

For the deep want… to call

A mate, one with this soul.

Soon after marriage, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari produced a film called Daayera (1953), an ode to immortalise their own love story. The movie was rejected by the audience and was declared a major flop. But it remained closest to the couple’s heart. At a time when there were no zoom lenses or trolleys, Kamal Amrohi achieved spectacular effects without them. It was lauded in The Times of India, a major daily, as a ‘poem on celluloid’. A judge of Allahabad High Court wrote a letter to the daily, saying ‘I’m not upset that Daayera has flopped but that the man who made it will never make such a film again.’ Kamal preserved that letter till the very end.

Kamal and Meena planned another film, Pakeezah, an epic saga of human life and character, attitude and relationship… a massive tome which took 14 years to complete, from 1958 when planning began to 1972 when it was first screened in theatres all over. The scenes in the movie’s popular song “Inhi logon ne…” were originally filmed in black and white, but were later reshot in color on Meena Kumari’s suggestion ! We will shed more light on the movie and those years a little later.

In 1953, Meena starred in six films, including Daayera. The movie Dana Paani had Bharat Bhushan, the male lead from Baiju Bawra. Gossip was rife about his affair with Meena Kumari, for which he received many a threat on himself and his wife, presumably from Kamal Amrohi or his assistant, Baqar. But Do Bigha Zamin, directed by Bimal Roy, had a socially powerful theme and proved a trend setter at neo-realism. Meena’s role in the film was secondary, as the kind and helpful landlady who writes letters on behalf of the hapless wife of a marginal farmer struggling in a distant land. The film’s commercial success was moderate but it was celebrated as the first Indian fim to win the International Prize at Cannes in 1954. Foot Path was Meena’s first with Dilip Kumar. Naulakha Haar was forgettable but Parineeta with Ashok Kumar, got her the second Best Actress Award and the Best Director Award to Bimal Roy. It remains the most faithful rendition of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel dealing with very complex happenings in a girl’s life, in which she secretly bethroths a wealthy brat, her childhood heart throb, and publicly weds a self – made man, who saves her family abode and their honour.

During the rest of the 50s decade, before she came to be looked upon as a great tragedienne and actually known as the ” Queen Of Tragedy,” 27 of Meena Kumari starrers were released. The film Baadbaan had a stellar star cast of Dev Anand, Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Usha Kiran. Directed by Phani Majumdar, it was the first ever film in India to have been produced by a workers’ cooperative. Meena matched the boisterous Kishore Kumar and rollicked in the rather obscure Ilzaam, the first of six films with Kishore Kumar. She pranced gaily with Robin Hood Dilip Kumar in swashbuckling Azaad, the top grossing Hindi film in the year of its release and one of the biggest Hindi film hit in the decade. She paired up with Kishore Kumar again and made expressive eyes in the light-hearted Miss Mary, which was entertainment pure… an out-and-out comedy that kept one on the edge. Shararat was again a fun movie with Raj Kumar and Kishore Kumar in double role, with that memorable Kishore song “Hum Matwaley Naujawan…” Bandhan had Motilal and Pradeep Kumar, with songs by Hemant Kumar. It won the National Certificate Of Merit For Second Best Feature Film. In Ek Hi Raasta she was Sunil Dutt’s widow whom Ashok Kumar marries after defying societal norms. She was the love angle, and later the step mother, to Raj Kapoor’s character in Sharda, which did reasonably well on the box office. It was a very difficult role to essay and had been refused by all leading actesses of the day. The finesse which Meena vested in her role earned her the Journalists Award For Best Actress. Yehudi, with Meena again paired up with Dilip Kumar, was set in ancient Rome at a time when Jews were severely persecuted by the State. Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan saw her play opposite Rajendra Kumar, the jubilee star.

Those were heady days for Meena Kumari… In a sponsored program broadcast over Radio Ceylon in 1958, Meena gushed enthusiastically about her first ever visit to her husband’s home town, Amroha, in north – west region of Uttar Pradesh. She and Kamal Amrohi had been there in 1956, four years after they were married. The area is rich in culture, architecture, mangoes, sugarcane and fresh water fishes… Deprived of such exposure through her life in Bombay, she exulted with joy and gratitude, and referred to her husband with high regard, love and extreme respect. Nobody then would have suspected that the couple would be estranged two years later, in 1960.

It is said that they never formally divorced but separated in 1964. Meena did not come home after her shoot and never stepped in their Pali Naka home thereafter. She stayed in actor Mehmood’s house for a while, who was married to her sister, Madhu, before moving to one in Janaki Kutir, Juhu. Kamal rushed to Mehmood’s house to reconcile their differences and escort her back. But Meena refused. Afterwards, their respective egos took over. They never spoke a word against each other, never had a formal divorce, and always loved each other till the end.

What could have provoked her to take such a step ? Was it true, as is generally believed, that her marriage to Amrohi was a failure ? Did he ill-treat her, as was widely alleged ? It is said that Amrohi did not want children with Meena Kumari because she was not a Shia Sayyed. They raised Kamal Amrohi’s son, Tajdaar, who was greatly attached to his Chhoti Ammi (younger mother). Due to their strong personalities, however, Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi started to develop conflicts, both professionally and in their married life. ” It is true,” Kamal Amrohi confessed. ” I used to advise Meena against accepting assignments which would harm her reputation. I used to be a little harsh sometimes but it was all in her interest.”

It was all on account of excessive love !

What is this glow

Clothed in ashen colours

A corpse ice stiff, wearing

A body of lava as if, made in

A desire dumb, a want silent

With ill repute for burial garment !

Every drop is holy, of soiled tears

Which infirms mob at panacea Kauser.

What’s this din, soundlessly stretched

As in notorious den under glitzy shade ?

What is this Paradise that startled wakes ?

This embodied wait eternal, named Silence ?

And what is this bound in my feelings unbound

Where walls n doors obstruct the spirit’s rove ?

A long sensual journey to valley of radiance

I find inscribed at every turn

Just two names : Call it Death

If you cannot say Love.

Tajdar later recalled how their marriage came in for a lot of criticism from the conservative people of Amroha. By marrying an actress, a boy of the Sayyed family was perceived as having tarnished the reputation of their aristocrat family. Kamal made her promise that she would quit acting once she had completed the projects on hand. However, when the time came she pleaded, ‘ I’ve been in the limelight since I was four. I can’t give it up now.’ He couldn’t say no to her, but he laid two conditions — one, she wouldn’t take on films which, in his judgement, were below her dignity ; and, two, when they were to attend social functions together, she would travel with him in his car and not the other way around.

In 1955, the couple went to the Filmfare awards function. Meena had won the Best Actress award for her ‘ Lalita ‘ role in Parineeta. In the rush to get away after the show, she left her gold purse on her seat. Kamal saw it but did not pick it up for her. Actress Nimmi picked it up and returned it to Meena. Meena was surprised that Kamal hadn’t noticed. But Kamal told her that he had. He didn’t pick it up for her because… ‘ Today it’s a purse, tomorrow you might ask me to pick up your shoes.’ On another occasion, when Meena asked him to hold her purse for a moment, he is said to have scolded her in public revealing his alpha-male values common in conservative bourgeois and feudal families.

Both were great artistes with massive egos. Clashes were common and their separation was inevitable. There were rumours about Meena being fed just leftovers from previous day. After they separated the mongering got wilder. It was said that Kamal used to regularly beat her up. Tajdar informs that both were mere gossip and not true. But, without doubt, Meena felt oppressed by the feudal attitude and high – handed behaviour that Kamal brought to their relationship. He was the possessive master; she was not prepared to be the acquiesced slave.

Meena perceived the cruelty and lived the paranoia. She earned millions but Kamal will only allow her a monthly allowance of Rs 100. She desperately wanted to help her sister, Madhu, when Mehmood earned practically nothing. But felt constantly thwarted. Kamal’s lavish productions, Daiyra and Pakeezah, and his Kamalistan studios ( 1958 ), were mostly financed by her earnings. There were too many and far too restrictive do’s and don’ts she had to observe. And, she was watched over. Kamal had issued strict instructions, and had people deployed, to prevent any other man meet Meena Kumari on the sets. His assistant, Baqar, slapped her once when she insisted on letting the budding poet-lyricist Gulzar into her make up room !

Let there be someone now to immediately spot

Turn sudden with longing, unexpectedly call :

Cohabiter, my Cohabitee !

Co-owner of my melancholy 

Friend to my unfinished being !

All your wounds are pain to me

Every groan of yours

Link to my sighs deep.

You, a deserted mosque

And I, its muezzin’s call

That issues high and travels far

To meet its own isolation

And tiptoes masked, to pray

Offer namaaz, on the heart

Of this barren land, prostate

To the god unknown

I wonder who ?

Meena Kumari enjoyed doing films with Kamal untill the release of Chandni Chowk (1953). Reportedly, a few (competing !) directors had approached Kamal Amrohi with film signing offers for Meena Kumari which he had refused… declaring that Meena Kumari was not going to sign any more movie contract for the next four months for lack of dates. Afterwards however, Meena Kumari signed Chandni Chowk and Bandhan on her own, which made industry bigwigs feel cheated and ill – disposed towards Kamal Amrohi. They starting meeting Meena Kumari personally, when Kamal Amrohi was not present with her.

The professional drift between Kamal and Meena only accelerated with time. In 1959, during an interview, Meena Kumari was asked about her relationship with Kamal. She responded with :

“ One can never understand a person without spending time with him. Perhaps, there are people about who are not able bear with my success. Hence they are paving my way with thorns.”

Perhaps, Kamal Amrohi had started feeling inferior her. But at that juncture, when the biggest of banners were vying for her dates, there was no way to stop, to turn away from all that she had assiduously built up. She held Kamal with the same respect and regard as before but felt the need to remove him from the professional relationships she had in the industry. Equally, perhaps Kamal Amrohi was not jealous of Meena’s success but merely overprotective and worried, even insecure, of the gossips about an ongoing affair between Meena Kumari and Bharat Bhushan, and later with several others.

Meena’s loving and generous heart was irreparably stung by the distrust implicit in Kamal’s attitude which pushed her over the edge to alchohol and other paramours. Meena felt too little love in the relationship and not enough freedom in her life. Kamal felt he was giving both in excess. Their conflicts led to irreconciliable alienation in 1960 and actual separation four years later. Meena Kumari, once a happy woman, became depressed and found solace in liquor. During those years of separation from her husband, she associated with other men with intimacy… her relationships with Gulzar, Sawan Kumar Tak and Dharmendra were well known.

Her thoughts here reflect her condition and her rebellious resolve :

Days now pass in bits and parts

And nights availed in pieces and shreds

We each are endowed in accord

With heaven’s stretch in our arms spread.

 

I’ve wished to know this heart of mine

But have heard the laughs each time I tried

As shouts loud in ears at my defeat

This rout once more, life serially beat.

 

But what of defeats, of attacks oblique ?

Move I all time, must keep on walking

For I have the beau now after my heart

And this unrest too trailing ever since.

 

My story may start but is of no consequence

When it is without that name, my one friend

That traveller-co who dissolves and fills

My being sensed in folds of dark mane.

 

Ill-repute, yes, I do embrace

But am lost no more nor misplaced.

Why must I heed not the calls of youthful heart

Pick at its joyous yield, smile and laugh ?

Not everyone is destined else

To avail their life and its reward.

 

Now flowing tears pause to tell the eye

It’s not the goblet that melts in wine.

 

Is the day already set or was it

The groom’s party on the boat that drowned ?

I hear no dirge from the shores

No howling cry or a soul’s baul !

Kamal Amrohi is portrayed by Nida Fazli, Kamal’s lyricist in Razia Sultan, as a prurient, eccentric and vengeful man… Fazli wrote that Dharmendra was made to don black grease-paint in Razia Sultan because Amrohi could never stomach the fact that Dharmendra had had an affair with his wife. That, Amrohi was fond of women and pretty faces and insisted on seeing a pretty face every time he woke up after taking a nap in his office. That, he even behaved badly with Sohrab Modi, who had given Kamal his first breaks to script – writing career in Bombay film industry.

In the 60s, Meena Kumari essayed roles that were dangerously close to her own tragic life, after her separation from Kamal. The intensity and power in those celluloid tragedies were derived from her own personal situation and emotional make up in those years. The conviction and strength of those characters she portrayed, in a series of films, earned her a repute as ” the great tragidienne ” and the endearing crown of ” Queen Of Tragedy ” popularly bestowed on her.

The decade started with the release of Kohinoor and Dil Apnaa Aur Preet Paraayi, which were yet carryovers from her more happy days. Kohinoor was a typical fairytale, very commercially presented as an entertainer for the family. It had ample comic moments and Meena Kumari showed a huge knack for fun in them. The songs were very melodious, and Dilip Kumar got the Filmfare Best Actor award for it. Dil Apnaa Aur Preet Paraayi was a more emotionally intense comedy with great performances, especially by Nadira. It earned the Best Music Director Award for Shankar Jaikishan. It was a romantic musical with links to the medical profession and the beautiful Himalayas. And Meena looked ethereal in her role as a sensitive and caring nurse. Both movies were very well received.

The year 1962 proved to be a watershed. Meena Kumari created history, and remains unique to this day, by being the sole leading lady to have been nominated at all slots for the Filmfare Best Actress award in 1963. The nominations were for her roles in Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam, Aarti and Main Chup Rahungi. She won for Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam, which was conferred with 3 more awards, but her performances in the other two movies had equally impacted the audiences.

Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam was perhaps the most perilous mix of the reel and real. Meena poured her own life into her role. She confided to Gulzaar that she would shed tears and dull her senses with liquor while essaying the role. Produced by Guru Dutt and directed by Abrar Alvi, the story was set in Bengal during late 19th Century British Raj years, when the prosperity of feudal principalities was on the decline. They ‘ lords ‘ still lived in grand palaces and the goings on in one such was presented through the eyes of a simple architect, essayed by Guru Dutt himself. The film had other great actors – Waheeda Rehman, Nazir Hussain, Rehman, Harindranath Chattopadhyay and Sapru – but everything recedes in the background from the moment “Atulya” ( Guru Dutt ) comes across the immense beauty and sadness of “Chhoti Bahu,” wife ( Meena Kumari ) of the youngest “Choudhary” ( Rehman ). Struck with the magnetic countenance, Atulya quite unawaredly becomes the confidante of Chhoti Bahu. The decadence of the Choudharys, their straying ways, and the tragic lives of their love-starved spouses is then revealed. Constantly denied, Chhoti Bahu becomes the drinking companion to her husband, merely to retain his company for herself. Thenceforth, the entire story is overpowered and taken over by the loveless being of Chhoti Bahu, her struggle with the indignities she suffers. But she remains steadfast by her husband even when he is paralysed. Untill she is abducted by the elder Choudhary and is killed and buried.

The reality which Meena gave to her character stirred the collective consciousness of the nation then, especially women folk who could easily identify with it. Her portrayal of Chhoti Bahu is perhaps the greatest performance ever seen on the Indian screen.

May such mad ardents pass your way

Who on their shoulders carry their own graves.

 

With adorned ruins of heart, they squat and wait

For the spring bloom mayhap to come their way.

 

This flowing river, these dissolving shores

May someone crossover and beyond go…

 

Even you looked at me and I looked you up too

You lost your heart but I my life, my life’s verve.

Aarti, directed by Phani Majumdar, had a vengeful Ashok Kumar, simple and unemployed Pradeep Kumar, and scheming Shashikala in pivotal roles. The film was the first venture of Rajshri Productions. It too dealt with marital discord, gender equation and attitudes, negative alpha behaviour, and the medical profession. The Bengal Film Journalists’ Association acknowledged Aarti as one of the top ten Indian films of the year and conferred the Best Actress Award on Meena Kumari. Main Chup Rahungi had the hugely romantic song “Chand Jaaney Kahan Kho Gaya…”, exquisitely rendered by Mohd Rafi. But its storyline had the same woman’s strife and struggle… an unwed mother, who followed her heart, then finds herself abandoned by the wealthy and flambouyant heir. She goes away during her pregnancy but returns to handover the child to the care of an orphange, in which she starts to teach. The male lead was played by Sunil Dutt, who won the Filmfare Best Actor Award the next year.

Kinare Kinare (1963) starts with Partition in ’47, whereafter Chetan Anand and Meena Kumari remain in the frame untill Dev Anand enters. The film went unnoticed except that the experience prompted Dev Anand to observe, ” Meena Kumari was the most beautiful actress I have worked with.” Almost all songs in Dil Ek Mandir were raging hits. Meena was paired with Rajendra Kumar, who essays the role of a medic, but it was her husband in the movie, Raj Kumar, who won the Best Supporting Actor Award. The movie was the 5th grosser in 1963. Akeli Mat Jaiyyo was convoluted and forgettable, though it had Rajendra Kumar in double role. Sanjh Aur Savera (1964) with Guru Dutt was a weepin melodrama. Guru Dutt commited suicide shortly after the film was released. Gazal was a light Muslim story with good songs and a very good star cast. Sunil Dutt gave a great performance in the role of a simple poet who falls in love with the voice of a girl. Meena Kumari was awesome in her performance as a girl who loses her voice just when she is a about to hear a good news. In Chitralekha, Meena is a courtesan with bewitching beauty, of whom the stately prince ( Pradeep Kumar ) is smitten. Ashok Kumar was a Yogi oscillating between lust and spirituality, who falls for her physical charms. Admonished by the lady, the yogi commits suicide while the prince abdicates the throne and comes to marry her. But despite having a great story and cast, the script and unsuitability of the performers to their respective characters led the film downhill on the box office.

Production of Pakeezah started in 1961 but without dates from Meena Kumari. Her shots were taken in 1964 but it all came to standstill for years when Meena separated from Kamal Amrohi. It remained stalled through most of the sixties untill actors Nargis and Sunil Dutt saw the rushes and told Meena, ‘ You must complete the film.’ Also, it was no small matter that by early 1964 a whooping sum of 40 lakh rupees were already spent ! In 1967, Meena called Kamal to her house and suggested restarting production. They then met, after three long years. ” Not much was said, but streams of tears were shed.” Amrohi greeted her with a token payment of a gold guinea and the promise that he’d make her look as beautiful as the day she had started the film. They had dinner together and she gave him her diary to read.

In March 1964, when Meena had left home, Pakeezah was more than halfway complete. Five years and 12 days later, she reported again on the sets of Pakeezah. Over the next two years, the estranged couple met frequently but they never spoke of their sad past. The actress used to tell her close friends – composer Khayyam and Delhi distributor Sayeed Bhai and his wife among them – that God would never forgive those who had wrecked her home with their misplaced sympathy, advice and encouragement. It was a clear admission of her own error at precipitating that tragic pall upon her life, for which untill then she had held Kamal and his ways alone responsible.

My love, in the afternoons

When sea waves rise and resonate

With the beats of my heart

I obtain my strength to bear

This separation, longing for you

From life-glorifying rays of the Sun.

Meanwhile her films Purnima, Kaajal, Bheegi Raat (1965) and Pinjre Ke Panchhi and Phool Aur Patthar (1966) released. Purnima had the lilting evergreen ” Humsafar Mere Humsafar…” and Dharmendra, but fared average with the audiences. Kaajal with Raj Kumar, Dharmendra and Padmini, was an extraordinary movie, with a story too complicated to summarise in a few words. It held our interest with its fair share of deaths, disasters and romances leading to chaos, doubts, suspicions and separations that end in guilt, regret, penance, reunions and fulfilment. The emotional appeal of the film, its music and the songs, was so strong that it kept the viewer engrossed till the last scene. Kaajal garnered for Meena her a fourth and last Best Actress award. Bheegi Raat yet again brought Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar together, with Meena portraying their love interest and Shashikala the spurned vengeful woman. The movie did well on the box office. Pinjre Ke Panchhi did not have a star cast but Phool Aur Patthar, with Dharmendra, was a blockbuster, the top grosser in 1966. It celebrated its golden jubilee, catapulting Dharmendra to stardom.

Phool Aur Patthar also served to set Dharmendra and Meena Kumari up as a popular cine couple. They went on to act in more movies like Chandan Ka Palna, Manjhli Didi and Baharon Ki Manzil. The first two had a lukewarm reception on the box office. Baharon Ki Manzil was an engrossing suspense – thriller in which Meena Kumari plays a young mother’s role and then had a recall of identity that was different from what everyone about took her to be. Dharmendra stood out in his performance as a psychiatrist. It was Meena Kumari, in the central role, who looked alcoholic, a litlle loose physically and a shade tired… and not upto expectations.

The roles Meena essayed in later movies were character parts, main and challenging, but not leads. Heavy drinking had badly damaged her liver and, in 1968, she fell seriously ill. She was taken to London and Switzerland for treatment. Upon recovery, she settled her debts and made peace with her estranged sister, Madhu, whom she had not spoken to for two years. Her good looks had waned. The roles she then played were no longer ‘central’ from box office perspective : Abhilasha (1968), Saat Phere (1970), Jawab (1970), Mere Apne (1971), Dushmun (1971) and Gomti Ke Kinare (1972). Jawab, in common with the fate of Mera Naam Joker and Prem Pujari that year, bombed at the box office at first but was later both well received and regarded. In Mere Apne, Meena shone forth as an old widow who chose to live with a loving street kid than with relatives who merely saw her as housemaid and a nanny to their child. Being motherly and caring, she is loved by all, even by the violent youth of the locality. Directed by Gulzar, her understated histrionics in the film as the lady of peace and the peacemaker between two warring youth groups remains memorable. As is her role in Dushman, the super hit of 1971. She excelled at portraying the silent, implacable widow of a farmer who had been run over by a drunk truck driver. The frozen stares projected her absolute condemnation of the culprit. The nuances she brings on her countenance conveyed her unrelenting hardness and fire in her heart.

Gomti Ke Kinare went nowhere with the audience and proved to be an absolute flop. The producer of her 1968 film, Abhilasha, was a builder who gave her a bungalow in lieu of her fee for the film. During her last days, while Gomti Ke Kinare was still being made, the producer Sawan Kumar Tak went bankrupt. Meena Kumari sold off the bungalow and paid a huge amount to Sawan Kumar. The film was her last release.

The urgent resumption of Pakeezah in 1968, at Meena’s initiative, can be seen as a dire move of someone who had suddenly woken up to her rapid burn out. Compared to the movies that were then being made and the roles that came to her, there was a grandeur in Amrohi’s filmmaking – an epic scale and magnitude of treatment – which alone held the promise for Meena to raise a landmark. And, post their reconciliation, the only man in whom Meena Kumari had implicit faith was Kamal Amrohi himself !

The evocative songs and the background music already created for the film provided the right ambience of the period in which the movie was set. Kamal Amrohi’s eye for details brought great depth to the lavish sets. A deliriously lush and romantic film, the script was pregnant with opportunities for Meena in her dual role, first as the love of Shahabuddin and then as her courtesan daughter. As the blonde-haired Nargis, she seeks to escape the brothel by eloping with her lover, essayed by Ashok Kumar. But the patriarch (Sapru) of Shahabuddin’s family refuses to accept her… and Nargis flees to a graveyard. On her deathbed, she writes to him a letter asking him to come for his newborn daughter. But it is her sister who arrives, finds her dead, and brings the baby back to the brothel house. The girl grows up and, after many struggles and much strife, finds her love in Salim, nephew of Shahabuddin. Salim heeds nothing of the Patriarch’s outright rejection of his love. He marries Sahibjaan and names her Pakeezah, the Pure !

But it wasn’t just Meena Kumari who was desperate to restart the making of Pakeeezah… as a letter that Amrohi wrote on 25th August 1968 to his estranged wife proves :

“…only Pakeezah’s completion remains unsettled. You have made a condition that unless I give you a divorce you will not complete Pakeezah. Even this knot can be untied…I will free you from your marital ties. After this if you wish to help complete ‘your Pakeezah’ I would be most happy to do so. This is my request, that Pakeezah on which the fortune of many people depends, and which has the good wishes of so many people should not be felt uncompleted if possible. […] You have better means. You have power. You have box-office appeal, and most of all Pakeezah needs you personally…Pakeezah that is like a sinking ship will reach ashore under your care.”

When the film was resumed in 1968, several financiers asked Kamal Amrohi to replace the music with one that was more contemporary and trendy. Amrohi said that he would have agreed, if Ghulam Mohammed was yet alive. But he could not betray a dead man who had given him twelve beautiful songs. In keeping with the times though, he kept only six songs in the film.

Kamal Amrohi’s mastery of his craft and his literary brilliance shows throughout the movie. He sketched all the set designs and camera movements, and personally selected every costume, right down to the bangles worn by the minor characters. He enlisted the help of erstwhile Bombay Talkies’ cameramen, German Wirsching and R D Mathur, and composed a series of eloquent tableaux to stage the scenes. Pakeezah’s chandelier – heavy, fountain – adorned Gulabi Mahal is draped with curtains and inhabited by statuesque women with trailing dupattas. There is a visual maximalism that is deliberate; the fancy setting seems surreal. Its splendour fills the eye and stirs the senses. But we are never without the sense of the heart beating at the film’s core.

The dialogues were terrific, as how it prevailed in 19th and early 20th Century Lucknow. They were just appropriately hued for the occasions in the narrative. Salim’s first words for Sahibjaan, about her feet actually, are simple but so soft and touching as to melt our hearts. Salim’s ripostes to the Patriarch are controlled and understated, but scathing. And, it quivers with pathos when Sahibjaan declares herself as the dead who are merely alive.

Amrohi effectively used two sound motifs throughout the film — the train’s piercing whistle, which reminds Sahibjaan of her admirer and hope; and a soulful rendering by Lata Mangeshkar which mirrors her moments of sadness. Kamal used symbols to great effect for expression, economy, and to add to the film’s integrity. The bird with clipped wings and the snake in the house serve as external signs of the struggles in Sahibjaan’s life. At times, the semiotics is heavily underlined — a torn kite on a tree is shown when she returns to the house in helplessness and defeat.

Raaj Kumar made his presence felt in the film : with the likeable steadfastness of his character as well as with impeccable dialogue delivery and his own screen presence. But Meena Kumari’s failing health necessitated that some of the dance sequences and scenes be shot without her. Amrohi shot the entire song “Chalo Dildaar Chalo…” without showing her face. Her understated performance and moist eyes, sparkling with unshed tears, had a hypnotic effect. The dances were extremely well choreographed, but cleverly hid Meena’s inability to dance… she walked and moved ever so gracefully in the song “Chalte Chalte…” even as two other girls danced in the background. All the high energy dance sequences were captured in long shot, and each of them were performed by Padma Khanna, who acted as a double for the specific purpose.

During the dubbing, Meena was barely able to stand on her feet nor had the breath to pack power in her dialogues. Yet, she strove to give her best. Kamal Amrohi had shot 35,000 feet of film of which 14,000 feet was retained. At the premiere on February 4, 1972, among all the big-wigs of the industry, Meena Kumari sat between Raaj Kumar and Kamal Amrohi and watched that magic Kamal had weaved on celluloid. She was excited, overjoyed, and very pleased with what she saw. When Khayyam complimented her with, “Shahkar ban gaya !” … that is, ” the film has become priceless, ” … she was in tears. She regarded the film as Kamal Amrohi’s tribute to her.

But the film’s opening on 20th February was a disaster, causing panic among its producers and financiers and grave disappointment among all involved. But Meena was happy with what she had seen on the screen. The restart of production four years ago had almost brought about her reunion with Kamal, whom she had never stopped loving. Now, she felt the love bond ever more clearly. Common friends suggested to Kamal that he bring Meena home, in Pali Naka. But Amrohi felt it would remind her of the past and that would adversely affect her health.

It was a past most telling captured in her words, in how hurt she was when they had separated :

“Divorce me, even with that rage in your eyes.

But return to me my youth too, along with the alimony !”

In any case, post Pakeezah, Meena and Kamal used to be together for most of the day and she seemed content with the arrangement. It is said, they remarried. But her malaise was beyond cure by then.

You ask, so hear how my life is spent

Night as a hand-out, dawn as alms lent.

 

Oh, to live is not to breathe mere

Thout heartaches, tears, sleeves wet.

 

See their nights how besotted lovers pass

Eyes open pierced, mirrored dreams of glass.

 

This sore, my loss deep is the enemy

The ache too is what my heart seeks.

 

Even a moment’s separation, if it occurs, starts

The hunt for a hub, frenzy for fragrance lost.

 

The destination I reach sometimes then

Becomes a prelude to my journey next.

While despondency prevailed at the indifferent reception of Pakeezah at theatre counters, Meena Kumari died of cirhosis on 31st March, 1972. Suddenly, as the news spread, people began flocking at theatres all over and soon the film was declared a huge box-office success. It has since acquired a legendary status and is today regarded as perhaps her best, and one of the greatest film ever produced for Hindi screen.

Pakeezah did not receive any Filmfare Award, but for a consolatory one for Art Direction. The veteran actor, Pran, turned down his Filmfare Award that year in protest, even though the Filmfare Best Music Director Award had been won by Shankar-Jaikishan for Be-Imaan, for which film Pran had himself been awarded as Best Supporting Actor. He felt that merit had been ignored when late Ghulam Mohammed was not awarded for his music in Pakeezah. It is reported that Kamal Amrohi was told that he and his crew would receive a special award for Pakeezah for a consideration. He refused to “buy an award” without a second thought.

Pakeezah was the inaugural film telecast by Doordarshan, India’s state-owned television station, when it began broadcasting from Amritsar ( in Punjab ) in the early 70s. It was specially beamed towards Lahore nearby, in Pakistan. Thousands flocked at Lahore, from as far as Karachi, hundreds of miles away, to see Pakeezah. It was a flood… the crowds stampeded the streets of Lahore to get to the television screens placed at strategic points on virtually every street corner !

At her death, Meena Kumari was in more or less the same financial circumstance as her parents were at the time of her birth. It is said that when she died in a nursing home, there was no money to pay for her hospital bills. It was remitted by the doctor who cared for her in those last hours.

She was buried at the Rahematabad Qabristan located at Narialwadi, Mazgaon, Mumbai.

Meena Kumari wished this epitaph to be on her grave :

She ended life

With a broken fiddle

A broken song

And a broken heart

But without a regret single.

Her confidante, Nadira, had recalled, “I bathed and dressed her for the last rites. Without money or work, Meena would not have been able to face life. It’s better that God took her away.”

* * *

Meena Kumari’s poems are all about love, and its impossibility as she discovered in her own life. She looked for it, went ways to find it, and wept for it.

” In fact,” she said, ” love is my biggest weakness, and greatest strength too. I am in love with love. I am craving for love. I have been craving for it since my childhood.”

Perhaps she had it but never found it. Or, perhaps, it was the childhood itself she was craving for, which she never had.

” Appa! Appa! I don’t want to die,” Meena cried out from her deathbed to her elder sister Khursheed. I would imagine that when she closed her eyes, on that terminal day on 31st March of 1972, her heart was still open.

This night, this loneliness

This sound of heartbeats

And this silence dense…

The poetry of love composed

And rendered by these stars

Sets in quiet desolation

Lying on the eyelid of Time.

This last pandiculation of feeling

Of love, pipes on

As the sound of death

In all directions.

* * *

Everyone calls you over…

Come, if even for a flash

Do up my eyes closing

With a dream of love.

” Enshrined forever in our hearts as the tragedy queen, kohl – rimmed eyes brimming, long – suffering, traditional ‘Indian woman’, we forget that Meena Kumari was one of the finest actresses of her time, with a range that went far beyond white saris and glycerine. She was one of the few actresses of her time who could carry huge cine projects on her own star power. She had very few films with the ruling troika of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. And while she immortalised the roles of the alcoholic Choti Bahu and the heart wrenching Sahibjaan, we only need to watch Kohinoor, Azad or Miss Mary… to realise that it was unfair to slot Meena Kumari as a tragedienne. Her comic timing was impeccable, and her range as a dramatic actress was truly remarkable.”