Saturday, July 19, 2003
T H I S  A B O V E  A L L

Khushwant Singh
When nothing but memory remains
Khushwant Singh

MY month-long holiday in Kasauli came to an end as usual, as in past years, with a visit from Munshi Mohan Lal. He is around 80 and much concerned about what he has achieved in life and whether or not it was worthwhile the effort he had put in. "A manís destiny is written out before he is born," he maintains and reads out a poem he has composed in Urdu to the effect that some have their laps filled with roses, others have them filled with thorns; some are destined to be rich, others condemned to begging. Their ends are, however, the same. Nothing remains but a memory. I demur and quote Kabirís lines (forgive me if I get some words wrong as my memory is no longer reliable):

Jab ham aai jagat mein

Jag hassa ham roey;

Aisee karnee kar chalo

Jab ham jaen jagat say

Ham hassein jag roey

I translate the lines roughly:

When I came into the world,

I was bawling

My family and friends laughed and rejoiced

I knew in my life I must do something

That when comes time for me to go,

I leave the world smiling

My family and friends are full of sorrow.

EARLIER COLUMNS
A strange way of healing
July 12, 2003
Codes of conduct that received a royal ignore
July 5, 2003
Fear is lifeís only real opponent
June 28, 2003
Gambling has religious sanction
June 21, 2003
What would you choose: security or freedom?
June 14, 2003
The hullabaloo over conversions
June 7, 2003
The treadmill of Indo-Pak relations
May, 31, 2003
Why Indians turn into achievers abroad
May, 10, 2003
The Naked Triangle fetched him more foes than friends
May, 3, 2003
When will the Arabs rise from medieval slumber?
April, 26, 2003
Lies in the guise of war reports
April, 19, 2003


Erotic poetry

Just about every poet of every language composed erotic poetry to be recited in strictly male company. Very little of this appears in anthologies of poetry, some was written down and printed for private circulation, a lot was memorised and became an oral tradition. It is a great pity that we imposed our puritanical ideas on what should and what should not be put in print. It is much the same with our corpus of humour. Much the best jokes doing rounds of all-male parties are bawdy, told with great zest but not published. The embargo was lifted in the western world a long time ago. Today you can get anthologies of erotic poetry composed by Greeks, Romans, Chaucer, Shakespeare down to living poets in any bookstore. We have similar treasure houses of bawdy-erotica in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and all other Indian languages as well which likewise need to be brought out in the open for every adult to enjoy.

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) made a spirited defence in his poem Bawdy Can be Sane:

Bawdy can be sane and wholesome,

in fact a little bawdy is necessary in every life

to keep it sane and wholesome

Some of the most sensuous erotica came from the pen of John Donne (1572-1631). Ponder over these lines to his mistress:

Licence my roving hands, and let them go

Before, behind, between, above, below

O my America, my new found land,

My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,

My mine of precious stones, my empery,

How blessed am I in this discovering thee!

To enter in these bonds is to be free;

Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Full nakedness, all joys are due to thee.

As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,

To taste whole joys.

A few bit of the erotica is in poems with two meanings, (double entendre) as by Gael Turnbull (b.1928) on a girl riding in a park:

Thighs gripping

moving in pace ó her face

suffused ó each breath

short and quick

through spread lips,

She is possessed

And lost in the act.

alas, trotting

her horse down the lane.

As one would expect a large section of any anthology on the erotica are contributions from unknown poets under the caption Anon.

Backdoor entry to journalism

You need not go through the mill of acquiring a degree or diploma in journalism and work your way up from being a cub reporter, to correspondent, and if you are lucky, becoming an editor. Continue in the job you are doing and start with writing letters to the editor. Editors have big egos; so pick up a singularly bad editorial and write a few lines praising it. It will be published. After a few letters appearing in the papers, move on to writing middles. This needs more skill and a touch of humour. Middles are more read than articles or editorials. Once you have established yourself as the master of light, witty pieces, the chances of your being taken on the staff of the paper at a higher level become brighter.

This is roughly the course pursued by my young friend Rajbir Deswal (46) from Anta village in Jind district of Haryana. He has an MA degree in English and has no trouble with the language. He is in the Indian Police Service and is currently Assistant Director of Research and Development. The itch for writing never left him. Being a police officer, he could not indulge in writing letters to the editor. He skipped that ladder and went straight to writing middles. He has set up a record of sorts: over 400 middles in different national dailies. Also book reviews, short stories and travelogues. In between he produced Wit and Humour of Haryana and Culture Bright and Dark. He is a strappingly handsome six-footer Haryanvi Jat who could well have become a matinee idol. He, however, prefers to remain a police officer and a man of letters.

Uplifting experience

Banta wanted to see what it was to stay in a five-star hotel. He paid a huge sum at the booking counter and was given the key to his room. As the lift doors opened, he withdrew and said angrily: "I am not going to stay in this poky little cell for what I have paid." You think because I am a villager, you can take me for a ride?"

"Donít be angry sardarji. This is not your room. It is only the elevator."

(Contributed by Shivtar Singh Dalla, Ludhiana)

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