To writerly aspirations and Maya Angelou

Today, I woke up feeling doubtful and stressed because of the changes happening around me. Then there’s this fear of not being able to fulfill expectations I have of myself. But everyone goes through this, right? And they manage to deal with changes that happen in their own ways. I am told the best ways are to have courage in your daily life and to not be afraid of working hard.

I always liked to think I was never afraid of working hard. I tried to study well, go deep and understand something, be able to contribute in class. But even then, I was a terrible organizer of things and I always operated out of fear and stress.

Here I am again, reacting the same way to the next dilemma I find myself in. And this time, I can’t just make myself believe what I’m doing is ‘working hard’. I can’t go on operating out of fear and stress. The only way I see out of it is to pursue things that scare me, that put me out of my comfort zone. Things that make me question myself more often. But I can’t lose my mind as I try to do this – which is why organisation.

But really, this heavy word *organisation* is simply the following of routine and focusing on the work you have to get done. In my case, using words to express the ideas I manage to catch. It is as simple as that. There is nothing romantic about it, which is why it doesn’t appeal to young people like me.

But romanticizing something is a very useless thing to do. For the longest time I romanticized working hard. But I really thought I was working hard when I was merely sitting in one place worrying about the wrong things. Wrong things like whether this will get me good marks, whether these marks will get me into that college, whether getting into that college will make me one of the cool kids, whether this assignment will please my teacher, whether this story will please my boss and make me go viral.

When instead, I could have made better use of that time by trying to address things like whether I understand something from what I am studying, whether I really want to go to that famous college, whether my assignment is really good, whether I have cracked the story I am presenting to my boss to my satisfaction.

Like I said, I am in a difficult and/or exciting phase in my life – it all depends on the way I choose to see it. There are big changes and big learnings. There is love and there is heartbreak. There is youth and there is growing up. So on this dull, sad and stressed Saturday, it’s Maya Angelou – the knight in shining armour – to the rescue. (no female equivalent for knight? I shall use it as a gender-neutral term then!)

My day is suddenly better. This poem below is the reason why it is necessary for writers to do their unromantic, relentless work: to be able to pass on the struggle to the next generation without letting them focus on the fear part of it.

Am I romanticizing writing this time? Well, circle of life.

So in case you are having a bad day, here’s the poem that turned my day around. And if you aren’t, bookmark it for a rainy day.

Still I rise


You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Poem of the week: Week Forty Eight.

And the last poem of December 2014 from Hemant Divate’s poetry book चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता.

– हेमंत दिवटे

पाहतोय मला टांगलेलं
दोरीवर उलटं
आणि त्याही अवस्थेत
झेपावतय माझं शरीर
तुझ्या नग्न शरीराकडे
एक सरपटणं
शरीरातल्या मऊ काळोखतून काळोखाकडे
तू थांबवू पहातेयस
तुझ्यावर कोसळणारं कुमारीपण
आणि तडातडा तुटतेय
तुझ्या-माझ्यातल्या काळोखाची त्वचा.

Poem of the week: Week Forty Seven.

And here’s the second last poem of December 2014 from Hemant Divate’s poetry book चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता.
बेंबी नसलेला माणूस 
 – हेमंत दिवटे
उंचसखल नाकारांचे पडघम
वाजत आहेत
आठवणींचा गर्भ वाढतोय चिरंतर
किती वाट पहावी तुझी
हातातली फुले डोळ्यांत उतरलीत
आता नसलेपणाची दुखरी खिडकी उघडून
डोकावून पाहतो तर
हडकुळ्या शब्दांचं
पॅरलाईज्ड शरीर दिसतं
आता कुठल्या इस्पितळात जाऊ?
साली दुनियाच बेंबी हरवून बसलेली
मला आता
कुणाविषयीच वाटत नाही प्रेम
तिरस्कारही नाही
आणि म्हणूनच
मी झिडकारतो तिची स्पर्शलिपी
स्तनांवरून बेंबईवरून अतोनात सळसळणारी कविता
आता थोडं चाललं की 
तिचं नसलेलं गाव लागेल
मग मे मनाला झालेला एड्स बरा करून घेईन
विचारांना भोकं पाडून
त्यात स्क्रू पिळून घेईन
पण आता
कुणाची आठवण नाही काढायची
आता चंद्राची पुडी बांधून
निंबोणीच्या झाडाखाली पुरून ठेवायची.

Poem of the week: Week Forty Six.

This is the second poem from stolen time: December 2014. It is from Hemant Divate’s poetry collection चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता. 

– हेमंत दिवटे  
मी वेडातून गेलोय वेडावून
अशी तुझ्या स्पर्शांची गस्त प्राणाभोवती
तुझा अधाशी स्पर्श
कापत राहतो देहस्वर सपासप
मी मनाच्या वेदनेने फोडून काढतो
स्वप्नाचे हात
तर एक एक जखम
वाहत राहते शरीरातून
हा मरण आकांत स्वप्नांचा
ज्याची अतोनात वाढलेली नखं
घुसत राहतात वसनेत
आणि वेडा होऊन मी
धावत सुटतो
तुझ्या शरीरातून.

Poem of the week: Week Forty Five.

For December 2014, I had read Hemant Divate’s चौतिशीपर्यंतच्या कविता, a book of poems in Marathi. The year’s gone but the poems remain to be shared. Here’s the first one:

– हेमंत दिवटे

विस्मरत जातोय
उरत नाही कुठलाही रंग रूप भाषा स्पर्श आणि अर्थ
उरत नाही
ईश्वर आई बाप नातीगोती
मला उरत नाही
जात पात धर्म देश भाषा लिपी
श्वास मन शरीर आणि आत्मा
मी पोहोचतोय
जन्म आणि मृत्यूच्या पल्याड
माहीत नाही मी
जन्मतोय की मरतोय
की पोहोचतोय कुठल्याशा
अनाकलनीय समाधीत



Poem of the week: Week Forty Four.

And here’s the last poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission.

‘Sunday’ Afternoon
– Hoshang Merchant

Actually, it is Tuesday
But I’ve taken off from work
He, from school

We listen to Ifti Nasim’s ghazals
Read gay poetry from Boston
Discuss Ashok Row’s magazine piece

We have installed ourselves
in a world made by ourselves
with a little help from our friends.

I think of Hockney’s paintings
of his sleeping lovers
They sleep, he paints

My lover sleeps, I write
I shop for bread and cheese
My lover dreams

I cannot enter his dreams
Living together for him began
with a dream of friendship

In his dream a boy became a man
There is no man or woman only love

The poem is complete
The challenge of this once empty page met.


Poem of the week: Week Forty Three.

Here’s the second last poem from Hoshang Merchant’s poetry book Love’s Permission.

Reading Rumi
– Hoshang Merchant

This morning has come whoring
Where are incense and prayer?
The sun is in bed
Outside it is raining
Rumi’s plaint reaches our ears
It frees rivers of ink and tears
Something must sit at centre for this to be
The Master absconds
The pupil sits searching
The sky for an eye
He waters the earth                                 Verses wet
By giving up each one’s brought up bone dry and shining
Each letter a burning jewel
Each jewel a burning wound
Received on the way to Mecca
Dealt by the Beloved’s own son
This morning the darlings are turning
at Konya as they do each mourning
They celebrate the son of the Sun
They call to the Lover to come
So the Beloved can become the bridegroom
Each day is death
Each day is marriage
in this world but not of it
Why then do I
turn to you in bed with wet eye?


Poem of the week: Week Forty One.

The poet for the month of November is Hoshang Merchant.
And poems  are from his fifth poetry collection Love’s Permission.

Song of the Courtesan
– Hoshang Merchant

I keep house
like a courtesan

I sit writing poems
in bed

I listen to old songs
of the courtesans

Boys who visit
Find here a strange peace

Even if my mood be
bad or sad

Life would go on
without us

But there would be no pleasure
we live as if there was no death

Though daily we die
in bed

Teaching the boys this
I cease to being the old courtesan that
I long to be
and become purely her song.


Poem of the week: Week Forty.

The last post of the month of October is a slightly longish poem from Amrita Pritam’s poetry collection प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ.  
And as promised, the theme is Cities.

एक शहर
– अमृता प्रीतम

वह फ़सल जो सितारो ने बोयी थी
किसने इसे चोर गोदाम में डाल लिया
बादल की बोरी को झाड़कर देखा,
रात की मण्डी में गर्द उड़ रही है

चाँद एक भूखे बछड़े की तरह
सूखे थनों को चिचोड़ रहा है
धरती-मा अपने थान पर बँधी
आकाश की चिरनी को चाट रही है…

अस्पताल के दरवाज़े पर
हक़, सच, ईमान और क़द्र
जाने कितने ही लफ्ज़ बीमार पड़े हैं,
एक भीड़-सी इकटठी हो गयी है

जाने कोई नुस्ख़ा लिखेगा
जाने वह नुस्ख़ा लग जायेगा
लेकिन अभी तो ऐसा लगता है
इनके दिन पूरे हो गये हैं…

इस शहर में एक घर है
घर की जहाँ बेघर रेहते हैं
जिस दिन कोई मज़दूरी नहीं मिलती
उस दिन वे पशेमान होते हैं

बुढ़ापे की पहली रात
उनके कानों में धीरे से कह गयी
कि इस शहर में उनकी
भरी जवानी चोरी हो गयी…

कल रात बला कि सर्दी थी,
आज सुबह सेवा-समिति को
एक लाश सड़क पर पड़ी मिली है,
नाम व पता कुछ भी मालूम नहीं

शमशान में आग जल रही ह
इस लाश पर रोने वाला कोई नहीं
या तो कोई भिखारी मरा होगा
या शायद कोई फ़लसफ़ा मर गया है…

किसी मर्द के आग़ोश में –
कोई लड़की चीख़ उठी
जैसे उसके बदन से कुछ टूट गिरा हो

थाने में एक क़हकहा बुलन्द हुआ
कहवाघर में एक हॅसी बिखर गयी

सड़कों पर कुछ हॉकर फिर रहे हैं
एक-एक पैसे में ख़बर बेच रहे हैं,
बचा-खुचा जिस्म फिर से नोच रहे हैं

गुलमोहर के पेड़ो तले,
लोग एक-दूसरे से मिलते हैं
ज़ोर से हॅसते हैं, गाते हैं,
एक-दूसरे से अपनी-अपनी –
मौत कि ख़बर छुपाना चाहते हैं,
संगमरमर क़ब्र का तावीज़ है,
हाथों पर उठाये-उठाये फिरते हैं,
और अपनी लाश कि हिफ़ाज़त कर रहे हैं…

मशीनें खड़-खड़ कर रही हैं,
शहर जैसे एक छापाखाना है
इस शहर में एक-एक इन्सान
एक-एक अक्षर कि तरह अकेला है

हर पैग़म्बर एक कॉमपॉज़िटर
अक्षर जोड़-जोड़कर देखता है
अक्षरों में अक्षर बुनता है,
कभी कोई फ़िक़रा नहीं बन पाता…

दिल्ली इस शहर का नाम है
कोई भी नाम हो सकता है
(नाम मे क्या रखा है)
भविष्य का सपना रोज रात को
वर्तमान कि मैली चादर
आधी उपर ओढ़ता है,
आधी नीचे बिछाता है,
कितनी देर कुछ सोचता है, जागता है,
फिर नींद की गोली खा लेता है


Poem of the week: Week Thirty Nine.

It is very difficult to choose just four poems from Amrita Pritam’s प्रतिनिधि कविताएँ. The lines, the images are so many and so removed from clichés that one can’t help but feel amazed at Amrita’s immense talent and hard work.
The last two poems of October are about a theme that fascinates me no end: cities.

– अमृता प्रीतम 

मेरा शहर –
एक लम्बी बहस की तरह है…
सड़कें – बेतुकी दलीलों-सी
और गलियां इस तरह –
जैसे एक बात को
कोई इधर घसीटे कोई उधर

एक मकान
एक मुट्ठी-सा भिंचा हुआदीवरें –
और नालियाँ
ज्यों मुंह से झाग बहती है…

यह बहस जाने
सूरज से शुरू हुई थी
जो उसे देखकर
यह और गरमाती
और हर द्वार के मुंह से
फिर साइकिलों
और स्कूटेरों के पहिये
गालियों की तरह निकलते
और घण्टिया हॉर्न
एक-दूसरे पर झपटते…

जो भी बच्चा
इस शहर में जनमता
पूछता कि किस बात पर
यह बहस हो राही है
फिर उसका प्रश्न भी
एक बहस बनता
बहस में निकलता
बहस में मिलता…

शंख घण्टो के श्वास सुखे
रात आती, सिर पटकती
और चली जाती
पर नींद में भी
बहस खत्म न होती
मेरा शहर
एक लम्बी बहस की तरह है…