Itinerant idiolects - 2 by U Atreya Sarma

(Autobiographically speaking, with poetic flashes)
An eternal quest, starry-eyed…
By U Atreya Sarma

U Atreya Sarma
“I pray, give me the wisdom to perceive
The unity and purpose in your deeds,
So, I can stop my perplexing pursuits
And grasp the beauty of the Universe.”
– Prof CAB Sastry (27 Sep 1936 – 03 Dec 2017)
(From his poem ‘Reflections about Life,’
Metverse Muse, Issue 41-43, Sep 2016-Aug 2017)
It is certainly a pleasure to be steeped in literature, but the ever-chasing demands and deadlines buffet me, leaving me clueless and fazed. Well what exactly are the demands and deadlines? Of course, the routine editing and reviews; submissions and translations; endorsements and forewords.

You will ask, “But none has forced them on you, why not snap out of the tangle?” No, I can’t, for it is a healthy entanglement, at least as far as it doesn’t unduly cut into my domestic obligations. And I can’t be heartless where friends and people have genuine expectations and inculpable sentiments.

The pursuit of literature is possible only when you have a home, a sweet home to nestle in. But a home comes with a bit of bitterness in the form of sudden repairing needs and maintenance questions, the frequency of whose irregular recurrences proving to be too daunting. And they demand money, though most of your pursuits are a labour of love, in the second innings of life.

Money is precious since it makes many things. But to keep the accounts live and up-to-date even for whatever little I have, unsettles me. Thank God, I am not affluent, for then the problems would have been far too more for me to handle.
Though home is sweet, there are many things out there that are worth your time and money.

I love places and people, sights and nights all over. That’s how I had been in Mumbai and Pune, though my permanent address, at least as of now, is Hyderabad. A change in the chemical equation for my scientist son has then brought him, my wife and me to Bengaluru with my time now divided between it and Hyderabad. The division reflects in everything – clothes, books and miscellany, for I can’t afford to have two complete sets of everything. And I can’t carry the entire house with me. As a result, quite a few times whenever I look out for an important thing, it wistfully stares at me from across the other metropolis.

Of all the four places Mumbai is certainly the most important for its awesome proportions, ever-pulsating energy, colourful cosmopolitanism, and exotic land-cum-seascapes – explored and unexplored. I do carry many a memory of it including a few telephonic chats with poet friend Gopal Lahiri, whom I couldn’t meet because of the short spell of time I spent there. We lived in Amisha Apartments (Sector 8, Charkop, Kandivali West), overlooking a mangrove and providing a distance view of the Global Vipassana Pagoda to our right. As I strolled out for the essential morning chores, my eyes drawn toward the avian perches on the crossbars of the electric poles, twinkled with a sense of relief…
Mumbai: Alongside the pigeons,
The sparrows also have a place.
(Mumbai-1, from my diary, Sep 2, 2014)

Then about the lore about the chores…
The misty horizon of the sky and the sea
And the vast verdant canopy of the mangrove
Snaked through by the sinuous fishing brooks
Dance in the incessant monsoon splash
Eagerly pulling me into their showering symphony
Along with my matutinal umbrella
And bag of milk sachets and newspapers
To embrace me in the splurge of their seasonal greetings.
(Mumbai-2, from my diary, Sep 2, 2014)

For one who has long lived in Hyderabad with its relatively equable and non-sweating climate, how would Mumbai feel like?
Mumbai – The city never sleeps
But boy! Its air ever sleeps.
(From my diary, Aug 25, 2014)

Weary of wandering between Hyderabad and Bengaluru, I do quite a few times feel like leaving both of them for about a week – away to the Emerald Island of Sri Lanka on a holiday, one of the long cherished destinations in my wanderlust. I am almost ready when I find out that my passport has long ago expired. Renewing it is another time consuming rigmarole. So I conveniently put it off, and turn once again to the clogged To-Do list.

Even as all these demons have kept chasing me, some more have barged in, to distend the list, which to me is what the Directive Principles and Constitution is to India that is Bharat, the enigmatic country.

But tell me, how I can be a true Indian unless I read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and the Sanskrit classics as of Kalidasa and Bhasa, in original, and draw out a wisp of their fragrance and quintessence?

India is a unitary federation of many states with a rich variety of languages of which Telugu is one, my mother tongue – a language with a classical status, with the largest number of people speaking it, next only to Hindi.

But do you consider me a true Telugu if I disclose that I am yet to read the Andhra Mahabharatam – trans-created into Telugu by the legendary trio Nannaya-Tikkana-Errapragada, each of them belonging to different periods during the11th-14th centuries? I should certainly feast on this magnum opus and enjoy its epic grandeur and its pristine Telugu euphony. And if I don’t read at least a couple of works Kashikhandam and Palanati Veeracharitra out of the poesy of the great Srinatha (1365-1441), the King of Poets – how can I say I am learned in Telugu? Then we have the devout Bammera Potana (1450-1510), a household name across the Telugu land with his Andhra Mahabhagavatam. If I don’t quaff it with zeal, won’t people scoff at me with a sneer? While the Vijayanagara empire had a place of glory in the history of South India, Srikrishna Devaraya (1471–1529) the phenomenal emperor-poet-patron, who knew only success, applauded Telugu as the best of the native tongues. So a reading of his renowned Amuktamalyada, a classic, is a must.

Alongside, I should revisit the masters of English right from Chaucer to GM Hopkins, and also read the Continental classics in translation.

After claiming to be armed with all the knowledge and wisdom from the above oeuvres, if I can’t memorise and readily reel out at least some five hundred Sanskrit stanzas, a thousand Telugu poems, and some two hundred English poems from the works of a cross-section of immortal bards, what’s the use of my learning? How will I be considered educated at all?

With a vastly increased international concourse and discourse, thanks to the effects of globalisation and e-revolution, how can I be a global citizen unless I have a reasonable command of a foreign tongue like Spanish, in my case, on which I have already spent some money? The big question is where to find a slot in the congested wish-list to go back to the Iberian belle?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, cautions the aphorism. I have my own plans to be an active boy, read oldster. I should go to the hilly origin of a major river and trek along its course down to the point of its merger into the sea. How thrilling it would be to watch the sinewy dance of the river, the flora and fauna flourishing around it, and the people of different sub-cultures inhabiting either side of it with their local histories! Just watching the water or swimming in it won’t give you the full-throttled thrill, unless from a vantage height you jump down and take a deep dive into some cool waters. An aquaphile like me can’t shove this urge under the carpet.
Once tickled by the gurgling sound of the refreshing waters, it transports one to the lulling realm of musical bliss. So this humble soul yearns to practise some freestyle vocal music and sing out to himself at least a hundred or so classical songs in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and English with a full-throated relish from atop a verdant hilltop. Be assured that my voice is like that of the black bird – not the koel, but certainly the crow perhaps.

What’s music if it doesn’t lead us into spirituality? I believe in God and like everything else I do, here also I am blissfully slothful and irregular. However, I had my tryst twice with Lord Shiva by being on a vow of forty days each – with all its rigours. But that’s not enough. I would like to initiate myself a third time into Shiva deeksha, but with a much greater focus and a multi-angled exploration. And on ‘The Simple God’ that is Shiva here is my simple hymn.
Lord Shiva is the blondest in complexion
Yet he hides His shine with ash in negation.
To Him alike is pastry or poison;
So venom to dwell in, has His throat chosen.
He is lost deep in the rigors of His fiery penance
Too busy to holiday at any cooling resort;
So on its own the Gangetic cooler rests on His crest.
He closes for eons both His meditative eyes tight;
Yet doesn’t lose sight of anything ever at any site;
And nothing whatsoever escapes His unseen third eye.
A coiled cobra or a carnelian coronal counts the same;
So do deadly serpents wind around His arms and neck, and play a game.
Every prayer of wishes answers He with a bounty of wealth;
Yet roams about and draws His energy in the funeral filth.
(The Simple God, from my diary, Feb 12, 2010)

Come on dear, “Art is long and Time is fleeting,” says the sagely H W Longfellow. But you can neither shorten the Art nor stop or turn back the Time. So be contented with what you have. Also note that if you have gained something, you have lost something – and that is life. What you say is fine, but the idea of contentment is not making me contented, though I know very well that I am left with just about one-fourth of what I have already lived.

As I am tossed about by these deliberations, another deadline sneakily looms up before me. It intones, “I am Death, the ineluctable Death. I am the only way to keep all your deadlines for ever at bay.”

Yes, dear Sir, you can whisk me away whenever you want, for I do believe in the Theory of Karma – To go on doing one’s duty, bothering not of the fruit. Like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, every action I have performed would have its result, sooner or later. So also every wish I cherish should find a way to its translation. I keep my current account, a perpetual one running across births. I don’t mind having any number of births if it helps me honour my endless deadlines and fulfil my teeming spree of aspirations. And finally, I agree to be contented – to be a tiny speck of this eternal cycle. Is there anything else I can do?

This piece is dedicated in homage to my affectionate & inspiring English teacher at college, the late Prof CAB Sastry, mentioned in the epigraph.


  1. You Are Not Alone

    You are not alone on this wind-rush march
    Itinerant ink scribing papyrus
    Upon demands and deadlines flaming porch
    Or over ant-hills disturbed omnibus.

    Sometimes the hour is long as day or night
    And eyes rebel to yawning sleep-o-tide
    But you cannot haul sail in the ship’s flight
    For the ink must flow where shadows abide.

    When it is not by your will, but dharma
    This oeuvre lit-fest embellish your mind
    Tour your cradled domestic regatta
    And unfurl all your constraints free from bind.

    Where vista cravings for horizons tempt
    Our writing rhapsody must be well spent.

    1. Thank you, so much, dear Leo for your rich, evocative poetic response. Sorry, I didn't notice the comment earlier.

  2. Your Hymn to Lord Siva is beautiful. Writing about Mumbai you Said "City never sleeps, Boy! its air ever sleeps". Enjoyed reading it "Parakaya pravesam" (entering into your thoughts). Congrats.

    1. My very dear Ranmkrishna Rao garu (who are now in your heavenly abode since 26 Apr 2021), Thank you so much for your metempsychic appreciation of my poems. I value your words, and continue to draw inspiration from your life and work. Please bless me.

  3. Atreyaji, So nice to read this autobiographical medley of thoughts with poetic flashes sprinkled with information on epics, great literary luminaries and the tidbits on our metros you meander between.

    1. Dear Panka'jam', Thank you so much for the (fruity) jam of your comment, which I didn't happen to see earlier, and please forgive me for it.


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