Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Trysts with Poetry -- Part 2 (not concluded yet ;)

Between that squally afternoon and the fateful day that saw the poetic door slammed decisively on my face, eight years’ worth of swirling water had flown down our local river during the passage of which I grew from a wonderstruck boy of eight to an even more wonderstruck adolescent of sixteen. The objects of wonder, naturally, had shifted quite a bit in the meantime.

There is never any dearth of objects or incidents to engage the mind of a boy in his formative years, more so if that mind is overactive with imagination. In the first part of those eight years -- the part that was spent in school -- of the many things that occupied my life, a considerable ripple was generated when some teachers of our vernacular school suddenly felt the need of bringing out a yearly magazine under the combined tutelage of Bimalbabu and Prasunbabu -- our Bengali teachers -- apparently without any provocation. To dispel any misgivings that my previous sentence may create, I’d rather state here that I don’t bear any ill will towards the aforesaid teachers – after all Bimalbabu was not only a writer of considerable fame in the local literally circle and hence coveted, he was also the very person who carefully chose each and every book that I received at the annual school prize events. The cause of my consternation stems from another fact which will come out from the next few lines.

Since any school magazine worth its salt requires, besides a suitable name, also an Editor, that too from the student community, I was soon cajoled and coerced into the unenviable job, in a manner quite akin to taking an unwilling horse to water. But would it yield to drink, would it bite the bait? Well, terms and conditions apply. In my case, the terms were more or less in this line: I’d remain the Editor more or less on paper; the selection of write-ups that would finally find place on the pages of the magazine would be carried out by B’babu, whereas the printing part would be looked after by P’babu; my only contribution would be to write an article/poem/story, and also the Editorial if I so desired – otherwise that too would be ghost-written by… who else?

Meanwhile our school closed for the annual summer vacation, which used to span for a whole month in those happy times. As was customary with us, we left for Shillong, to spend the holidays at our grandfather’s place in the cool climes of the hills. The mornings filled with the scent of pine needles while I explored the forest nearby, the sights and sounds of water-falls and meandering streams which we visited on the weekends, the hustle ad bustle of Police Bazaar where we spent the evenings, the taste-buds constantly satiated with Hilsa and other assorted fishes cooked divinely by the Mother’s sisters, the nights under the quilts with extra warmth emanating from the cats slumbering heavily on our chests while a strong wind moaned through the tall eucalyptus and pine trees outside for the whole night – and you get a general idea of the idle contentment that pervaded our lives. Add to it the whiff of burnt petrol that occasionally seeped into the rain-washed, crisp air of the hills, and the picture of heavenly bliss gets complete. Amidst such contentment, how can a story or poem be churned out? I did not even try it. Creativity, after all, spurts out of a blockage, of a sense of un-fulfillment, and not from the opposite of it. Furthermore, the floor, though wooden, was too cool to roll on, an activity considered essential in any writer’s life.

I needed all the cold floors of the world to roll on when we eventually returned home at the end of the vacation, as I was yet to perform my only remaining duty towards the magazine (the Editorial piece had also been ghost-written by that time) – that of submitting my piece – and time was fast running out. However, though my rolls on the floor created a pool of considerable size on the floor with sweat, it did not help me at all to come out with a story. Not even a ghost story – the easiest of the lot. Finally, I settled for poetry. For a suitable topic, I looked around.

A framed, full-length, dhoti-clad picture of Subhas Chandra Bose hung nearby. Inspiration struck my struggling self like lightning. People in that era still talked and wrote about heroes outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. Those names and their heroic deeds still sent shivers down the spine of children and a sense of missing something ran through their idealistic hearts for not being born in the pre-independence era. But I digress. To sum it up, with just a few rolls on the floor and with very little acts of chewing the end of the pencil, I managed to accomplish the seemingly unassailable task of producing a poem – sort of a sonnet written in praise of Netaji.
The days drew into months, the months into years. In the meantime inches had been added to our stature, and while B had reached the eleventh standard and moved to college, I too reached my tenth, close on his heels, being junior just by a year. Not just friends from the same neighbourhood who were temperamentally very close, we both wore glasses and were so similar in appearances that on innumerable occasions I got earfuls from his nearsighted grandmother for commission of acts undesirable in her eyes (like fishing out a dirty ball of the gutter with bare hands) that were actually committed by him, and vice versa. B was a very good student, who by that time also got heavily into poetry. My interests lay more in prose and by then I could discern the writer of a particular piece just by reading a few lines from any place at random.  But since B followed poetry, I too tried my best to inculcate some of poetry into my system. B used to get his lessons from the renowned poets of the town while I mostly learnt second-hand from him. Sometimes I also visited Bimalbabu of whom I have already mentioned.


(Too long already… more next time)

1 comment:

vaidegi j said...

Keep them coming. Loving it.