|Saturday, July 19, 2003||
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.
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:
moving in pace ó her face
suffused ó each breath
short and quick
through spread lips,
She is possessed
And lost in the act.
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.
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