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My world and words

Gopal Lahiri
As they say, writing won’t kill you and perhaps you be safe! But that lighter tone apart, since my childhood, I was always around people who have read and heard many writers, people who would go to see a play or listen to music or be in an art exhibition.

Not overtly shy or have a self-doubt, I always avoid crowd then and happy to be left alone and reading books. Outdoor interest lies only in playing cricket and even in indoor loves to play book cricket. That was not the cell and internet age.

Being an inward bound who never flashes out regularly, the book and library are a prominent part in growing up. Writing comes naturally to me because of that incubated interest in books. Books are like that. They take off and then you have to follow them as it started growing on its own accord.

I don’t know when I started seriously writing, perhaps in high school itself but writing, especially poetry using words in rich connotation, is something which was absolutely essential for me even in those days. Initially, I was more inclined to write prose especially short stories, features and essays, in school magazines and local journals but later shifted to writing poetry.

Being a student of Presidency College, Kolkata, like others, I have also brewed many poems in the college street coffee house, the melting pot of art and literature in Kolkata. Felt gradually that poetry was the forum I should stick to even though alongside I joined drama group, literary circle and edited literary magazines as well in my early days.

Even though I was a science student, I felt an additional pleasure, being in a state of complete absorption in literature. I was not scared at any point of time in my life by the thought that ‘how do you dare to write?’ I write both in Bengali (mother tongue) and later on in English. But then there is no conflict between the two.
In later stages, being an earth-scientist, I really indulge in digging unexplored areas and bring out something new which can be seamlessly integrated into poetry also.

Earth science is unlike physical science, not governed by rigid formula or equation.  There are so much uncertainties in nature as solution words are not always scripted on the outcrops and we are yet to capture all the nuances especially in sub-surface. Imagination comes into play a lot and you have to be flexible in mind. In oil industry we are working on various scenarios to firm up any strategy or plan. So it’s a different ball game and I think poetry sometimes act as a catalyst.

In recent times, I write much less in Bengali, not due to any bias but more due to write for my new readers in English. Yes, sometime, it becomes a hard task but I choose the particular language if I feel comfortable to express my feelings and do justice to the theme of the poem.

Ideally I should dream first, work on quiet reflections and critical words and then think of the medium but in real life it doesn’t figure out that way! I was uprooted from Kolkata almost thirty years back and honestly now I dream more in English than in any other language.  Is it due to my rootless settings? I really don’t know the answer. But what if some poems aren’t meant to be dreamt at all? 

I guess I love to watch and listen to the people in realms of beautiful earth- how the world is and how the world ought to be. My words find a narrative in nature which shapes my life and underpin that the time has come for delving deep inside to explore the bursting lifeline within a chaotic existence and seek beauty and happiness of mankind.
Coleridge once remarked that poetry is the best words in best order. Long back, one of the poet called me ‘word artist’.  Some readers feel that in poetry familiar words are put into an unfamiliar role. The power of word is such that one poet feels ‘ If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry’. It’s true that mystery of the poetry is word but at the end poetry is more than word as beauty lies in its essence.

Magical

Shadows, whose faces are there?
missing the known vowel, beneath water,
what works is the calling
of the whooshing water fowl.

explore the miracle, a gallant kingfisher
in flight looking effortless.

rambling, wavering, erratic
the wind break out in a savage laughter,
the distant coast takes a sharp turn
for the rugged cliff.

like an advanced wave
rolling on the yellow sand bed,
the words living for the moment
turn into something magical.

whispers surviving the past,
take to the ground,
the broken crustaceans
crack open the memories
of the bursting seeds
living together for ages.

I never really want to grab the readers by their frontal lobes and immediately snag their attention but to try establish a dialogue between the writer and the reader. I find more of life in poetry and learn the discipline as you have to turn away many details in poetry. We are reminded of this, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” (Orson Wells). Sometimes my poems represent a multitude of thoughts play into the words and letters. It is true that given the opportunity, words and letters can recreate texture and rhythm and I feel that’s poetry.

Script

In you, I never mirror myself,
the trench lines, the raging red in the horizon,
unable to refute the truth.

I am not the evening sky
that lays out the deadly, cut throat
vision of the rising moon.

eyelids casting a grey shade,
the sallowness of my complexion
tampers the dreary painting on the wall.

beside a flower vase,
reclining opposite the glass window,
windswept paper boats prepare for war.

I am not at war with another universe.

outside, the world
float like sunlit feathers of birds
leaning against the iron grill.

on a piece of paper
my words like a glint of steel
script stories from the round stones.

After finishing a poem, when I return to the rest of life, all that remains is an overtone of images, of resonant words, a brief silence, and then the reality bites. I’m back and it’s as if I have fast forward a few moments and the hidden joy and a sense that I have crossed some hurdles in life with ease and elegance. Be there in Siwalik Hills or at Galle sea coast or Niagara Falls, I was in search of the words which set the literary tone.
I have edited jointly a poetry anthology ‘Scaling Heights’  a few years back and the experience was like unbuttoning the secrets emanating from various poetic minds. That was a maiden venture but love to do again in future.

One can say that poets live a bit in air but I am lucky in that sense as my science education probably discipline myself to a certain extent. A great many friends of mine are writers but I also like the company of others to glean the other aspects of life which I normally is not aware of. Social media broaden our canvas but selection is a key to survive there. Modern world can’t tolerate ‘one more night of silence’.

What I admire most is poetry but I must say it is not an extension of dreams and the most important thing is that it can make a difference. I have a lot of questions in mind to explore the means to scale heights. Even if you look at the various changes in nature in sunny days or cloudy nights, you can understand.‘ Is it too dense” is it too long over all? Or are the layers too thick?

Honestly speaking, I love to find a voice at the end that echoes with a surge of inner life within our soul. Let the lessons of life evolve into our life as we use them to make ourselves and the future much better.

Question

The question I ask
Why not let me speak in?

The sound is lulling
Not knowing the answer,

The evening is somehow numb,
Bitter,
Becomes mine.

Honestly I love to reach all ages of life. There is nothing as such target audience for me. Remember what Lord Byron says ‘A drop of ink may make a million think’. Now It may be ‘A tap in the key (board) may make a million think! I believe in ‘Keep it simple’ and ‘Keep it snappy’ theory. Not sure, what will be its impact. Just circle around some distant centre and the results spiral into universal answers. The experience from an observatory standing in a different place in time is like listening to the trumpet in D major.

I have travelled a lot around India and abroad, not just because of my profession but also I like to see the beauty of the nature and meet the people. Recently I was in New York and saw one black man reciting Langston Hughes poem (Tomorrow, /I’ll be at the table/When company comes’) loudly right at the corner of a street. That was fall time and while walking in the Central Park, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the colourful trees and my thoughts revolved round ‘something of the fire almost/ amber to orange to red/ in flame’. So true is the thoughts of Jane Austen’ At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth’.

One of my friends told me once, ‘there is beauty in ordinary’. I could realise that when I was in Sunderban a few years back and gently recoiling the moment,

locals suffering from
hunger and disease,
as they say, crocodile in the water
and tiger on land, the twin terror,
ignoring the lurking danger,
and hiding the details,
I could see
words in lips adding with a
flicker of a smile.

Sometimes, I like to find myself at home in history domain and heritages always fascinate me. I feel comforting to disappear into all that unknown world and to know that no one else will know me but that never happens. For that particular reason, I like visiting Delhi time and again because of its history and heritage.

Writing is one of the many things that helps me sane along with photography and music. Love to write not only on feel but also from my own reflections. Personal experience is important but it should be relevant to the bigger things.

Still a long way to go, still in a search of applying meaning to the world with those magic words reflecting sounds and images of life. Still interested in getting a better idea of what artistically matters to me. It’s time once again for me to begin my journey back through all the ramblings and create a path of my own.

But then my world will not be always in a state of whole immersion in activity in coming days. Once I will retire from my profession, I will have more space and time to pick up threads from my world and insert in lines and stanzas From then on, it will be a journey in a quiet alleyway to reach my readers.
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