Poetry, apart from being an unnecessary talent, is also an affliction. It results from a massive chemical disturbance inside one’s brain. I have lived with that disturbance since I was 12* or so. That is over four decades. It is essentially a joyous disturbance because it rearranges thoughts in your brain. Speaking of thoughts, it is fascinating how anything can trigger poetry. In a sense, it is like an attack of libido—one has to generally yield to it and satisfy it. For me, the poetic lust is more easily satisfied than the libidinous kind.
This morning, on my routine exploration of YouTube, I went looking for some work by the eminent poet Taabish Dehlvi. In particular, I started playing a recitation by him. While listening to him a line struck me: “Jo na aaye woh khayal achcha hai.” (A thought that does not occur is good). It has a specific context within the ghazal but that is not the point of my post. The word ‘Khalyal’ (thought), which is among most commonly used both in Urdu and Gujarati, set me off on writing my own little piece below. The point is that after over four decades, it still gives me unusual joy to be able to say something poetic and, hopefully, say it well in rhythm. So here it is:
तेरे ख़याल आये और बेईजाज़त आये
जैसे मयखाने में इबादत आये
ज़हर भी आज कल मीठा मिले है
हर चीज़ में तेरी मिलावट आये
शजर की डालीयों से छलनी है धुप
और सूखे पत्तों पर तेरी आहट आये
गौर से देखूं तो तेरी सूरत उभरे
टूटे आईने में भी तेरी बनावट आये
Here is the lose transliteration of the poem. It rhymes in Hindi/Urdu but I am too bored to make it rhyme in English:
Your thoughts came but without permission
Like a prayer in a tavern
Even poison tastes sweet these days
It seems everything is spiked with you
Sunlight filters through tree branches
I hear your steps rustling through dry leaves
Looking closely shows up your face
Your image even in the broken mirror
It would be understandable that reading these lines someone might conclude that I write about an unfulfilled desire for an unnamed person. I would have no problem acknowledging if it was indeed so. But these lines, like almost anything I have written in terms of poetry, are not even remotely autobiographical. They are not rooted in any personal feelings whatsoever. In fact, I would argue precisely to the contrary. They are utterly impersonal. They have no emotional context at all. They just came together in my brain by a process I do not fully comprehend. Poetry is a sovereign presence with a sovereign army of words. It marches into whichever territory it pleases and whenever it pleases.
* In a post on October 19, 2013 I had indicated that I started writing when I was 15 but it turns out it was 12 or 13. Hence the correction.