Saturday, April 18, 2009

A day of gratitude
Khushwant SinghKhushwant Singh

Whosoever thought of making the first of April as the Fools’ Day must have been a very foolish person. And those who play pranks on that day as a legitimate pastime must be a bunch of bloody fools. It should be celebrated as the day of rejuvenation of life. In the northern hemisphere, it manifests itself in all its natural splendour. To quote Robert Browning’s exuberant outburst:

Oh, to be in England;

Now that April’s there;

And whoever wakes in England;

Sees some morning unaware;

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf;

Round the elm tree bole are in tiny leaf;

While the Chaffinch sings on the orchard bough;

In England now.

One reason why I fell in love with England was the many Aprils I spent there walking through Welwyn woods with rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom, and thrushes in full-throated song. T.S. Eliot described it as ‘the cruellest month breeding lilacs out of the head land’, because it reminds one of the dead past, and at the same time hopes of the future.

April has a special significance in India. It is the beginning of the New Year according to the Vikrami calender. Also, April 13 is the birth anniversary of the Khalsa Panth. It marks the end of our all-too-short-a-spring and the beginning of two-and-a-half-months of searing summer heat. So we celebrate Baisakhi as a day of gratitude for bountiful wheat harvest to be followed by a well-deserved couple of months of comparative ease.

Most Indian poets had more to say about the onset of the monsoon than Baisakhi. In his baramah (the 12 months), Guru Nanak briefly mentions nature, and goes on to man’s quest for union with God. In his case man is the bride, awaiting union with her chosen bridegroom. I give my translation of the verse, Baisakh bhala sakha ves karey:

In beauteous Vaisakh the bough adorns itself anew;

The wife awaits the coming of her Lord;

With her eyes fixed on the door;

My love, you alone can help me across;

The turbulent waters of life;

Come home, without you I am worthless as a broken shell; When you look upon me with favour;

And our eyes mingle;

Then I shall become priceless beyond compare.

Nanak asks, where seek you the Lord;

Whom are you awaiting?

You have not to go far to find Him;

He is with you, you are His mansion;

If your body and soul yearn for the Lord;

The Lord shall love you;

And Vaisakh will be beautiful.

Songs of sorrow

Maninder Kaur is an accomplished poet and painter
Maninder Kaur is an accomplished poet and painter

It will be generally accepted that poetry is the highest form of literary expression. Even the best of prose, be it fiction, biography or travelogue, thoroughly enjoyed when read for the first time, loses much of its appeal when read a second time. On the other hand, good poetry becomes more and more enjoyable when re-read. Many people memorise their favourite lines and repeat them in their minds. One does not have to be a scholar to write good poetry. Either you have it in you or you don’t. And far too often, it stays latent in the deep recesses of a person’s mind till some event like betrayal of trust or the death of one dear to you triggers it off.

The latest example I came across recently is Maninder Kaur Bains of Mohali (Punjab). She is a lovely looking young lady with a triple MA, creatively employed producing programmes for Punjab TV, acting, singing and teaching. She fell in love and married a man of her choice. He betrayed her trust and ditched her.

Maninder found solace in composing poetry and painting. Her collection has yet to be published. I have little doubt she will find a good publisher soon. I give an example of one of her poems entitled ‘Me’:

Night has set good and proper;

And I think as I walk towards momentary death of;

Confines of my four walls;

That I’m alone;

I look up to see;

Glimmers of stars and smile;

But, O Saturn, even stars don’t smile;

A soft, mild wind gently lifts;

Crumbs of earth;

And obscures the stars;

Thus enshrouding moon for us;

I return to me; To that which is within me;

To that which is may not be me;

To cries that reach;

Through the obscurity to me;

Is this all, or is there presence beyond ?

The stars, the moon, the night;

My room, my walls, myself;

My loneliness and me.

Deaf logic

I was teaching English to my son Ganga Deep. I asked him: "What do you call a man who cannot hear?" He replied: "You can call him anything. It will make no difference because he cannot hear".

(Contributed by JP Singh Kaka, Bhopal)