GOLD AND CHARCOAL

Memories old and new

Rekindling the forgotten moments.

Faces keep streaming by

With the turn of every page.

Her face lights up on seeing itself,

Her soul, pure and innocent

Searches itself in that face.

“Look, gold and charcoal.”

Everyone laughs.

Two heads close together.

One blonde and one black.

Memories, painful and sore

Rekindling the arduous moments.

Faces keep streaming by

With the turn of every page.

Faces, animated on seeing themselves.

And her soul, afflicted and adulterated

Searches itself in others’ faces.

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Illuminate the abyss

“Long time have human ignorance and guilt

Detained us, on what spectacles of woe

Compelled to look, and inwardly oppressed

With sorrow, disappointment, vexing thoughts,

Confusion of judgment, zeal decayed,

And, lastly, utter loss of hope itself

And things to hope for!”

These verses open the Book Twelfth of William Wordsworth’s long poem The Prelude. The title of this book Imagination and Taste, How Impaired and Restored essentially suggests it is about restoration. A closer look at the above verses makes it clear Wordsworth is talking about a nervous breakdown he had suffered or what we call Depression in popular perception. What is the cause of this depression? 

Wordsworth had struggled on behalf of the revolutionaries during French Revolution. An enthusiast earlier, he became disillusioned with the revolution after witnessing the violence and its aftermath. Therefore, it was the despair that led to this rupture. Now, though the times have changed but the feelings of sorrow, disappointment, confusion and despair which eventually lead to a depressed soul are still prevalent. There are people who are not even aware that they suffer from Depression. Our lives have become so mechanistic that we have normalized these feelings and “utter loss of hope itself” governs today’s world. There is this constant tussle between our material self and our sentimental self where our emotions are being subjugated by our materialistic desires.

Wordsworth is extremely honest in talking about his depression. He goes on to say that natural graciousness of his mind “Gave way to overpressure from the times/ And their disastrous issues.” The situation was such that he was not able to write anything for a period of time. It is not really uncommon for us, as these days almost everybody is loaded with overpressure of times and the disappointment of not being able to bear this pressure leads one to despair.

How did Wordsworth overcome this path of sorrow and disappointment? No matter how difficult the problem is, the answer usually lies in simple things. Wordsworth says,
“Through these distracted times; in Nature still

Glorying, I found a counterpoise in her,

Which, when the spirit of evil reached its height,

Maintained for me a secret happiness.”

And later he adds,

“Go to the Poets; they will speak to thee

More perfectly of purer creatures”

        

         
For Wordsworth, the ‘Book of Nature’ is the renovating book. It is because of his contact with nature he is able to write the poetry of restoration. Writing becomes a therapy for self in this case. Choosing a medium to express oneself is the best therapy for depressed souls. One should read anything that gives him/her the inner peace; it can be a poem, a fictional or a non fictional book or even the holy books of different religions. Writing one’s heart out in any form can help to free the mind of all those thoughts which otherwise keep lurking in the back of our mind. Any form of expression, be it art, music, dance is necessary to get things out. Moreover talk to any person you can express your feelings to. Wordsworth returned to his self with the help of two women: his sister and future wife. It is very important to not let yourself be caged by the overpressure of the society. Many successful people have experienced difficulties in their lives and people like Wordsworth who now have been immortalized by their work also suffered at different moments in their lives. Suffering is important to bring out the best in you but it is necessary to overcome that suffering and not let it end your life. 

“To God, Who thus corrected my desires;

And, afterwards, the wind and sleety rain,

And all the business of the elements,

The single sheep, and the one blasted tree,

And the bleak music of that old stone wall,

The noise of wood and water, and the mist

All these were kindered spectacles and sounds

To which I oft repaired.”
     

JHELUM

        “This is the way the world ends,                     Not with a bang but a whimper.”                                                      T.S Eliot                                                           Hollow Men


She could see each ripple swelling into a wave while she kept staring at it through the deep sea of agony in her eyes. The pain was over, her bones had softened. It was time. The two bodies merged into each other; ‘Jhelum’ was ‘her’ now.

She was free; free from the chains of despondency and misery, no more to be ravished by those vile and contemptible beasts. She was nobody’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. She had awakened to a solitary self.

The waves of her freedom consumed everything that came in their way. It was a flood of emotions that washed away the boundaries of  confinement. The ranging storm in her heart exorcised the air of its wretchedness.

Everything was over. It was time to rest!                                                     

BALLS

“Zeb, the answer to this question is Giraffe. You see Elephant is the biggest animal on land but you have been asked about the tallest animal which is Giraffe,” the teacher secretly passed this information to her during the examination. While narrating the incident at home, Zeb said that she did not change the answer. “That would be cheating!” For a seven year old this was the ultimate act of deception one could perform. She lived in her own world where ‘cheating’, ‘trickery’, ‘deceit’ and ‘betrayal’ did not exist. She was a carefree soul who perceived the whole world as a perfect fairyland where nothing could go wrong. She was her Mummy’s Zeb and the world was her Zeb, ‘the gift of the Lord.’

After every paper during her examination she used to run eagerly to the candy shop near her school and wait for her parents. It was exam time and school was off earlier than usual. Zeb loved to look at the candies as she was fascinated by the variety of colours they came in. She adored candies and wanted to taste each one of them. She used to get a treat when her parents finally arrived. This routine had become much likable to her. When others prayed for the examination to end soon, she wished it could last longer. The pure joy and exultation those candies gave her was incomparable. She felt ecstatic observing those candies and arduously waited for her parents. She imagined it to be her ‘Neverland’ and herself to be its ‘Tinkerbell.’

One day her parents got late and Zeb started getting restless. She was anxiously waiting for her treat but a delay in her parents’ arrival meant a delay in having the candy. She could not resist any longer and went up to the Candy Uncle and asked him if she could have a candy when she had no money. At first, he gave her a disconcerting look, then smirked and told her, “Yes, sure you can have a candy but you have to do something for me and it is going to be our little secret.” She felt enthralled and was ready to do anything and expected to be asked to sing, dance or recite something, like always, to earn a candy. Of course she would tell her parents about it and pay the man later. For the time being it did not seem a bad idea so she agreed to it. “Come and give me a peck on my cheek,” he told her. She did so and put her hand out for the candy, delighted to get it so easily. She was elated when he put it in her hand and felt enormously happy on her achievement. He told her if she wanted more she had to do something else. Perceiving it as another easy chance to earn a candy, she agreed. He lowered his face to her ears and whispered, “You like playing with balls. Don’t you? Let us play with some balls and I will give you what you want.”  

              In the attic of her house,

              the depth of her heart

               rests an old closet.

               She dare not open them.

              The deadened wailing reveals

               More than she could know.

 

“GOOD JOB!” IS WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY


I usually ask people what is the biggest lesson of their life so far. The idea is that someone else’s life lesson can be a big help in times of distress. All of us undergo a process of learning throughout our lives and what better way than to learn from each other’s experiences.

Although I have got some remarkable responses but one of the most important ones came from my friend and roommate. She said her life lesson was that ‘we should acknowledge a person before it is too late.’

“We value virtue but do not discuss it. The honest bookkeeper, the faithful wife, the earnest scholar get little of our attention compared to the embezzler, the tramp, the cheat.” 

                                              John Steinbeck

If we think about it, we complain about various things very often and some of them are minor issues. It is easy to complain but a certain conviction is required to acknowledge a person. How many of us just go out there and tell a person, ‘Good job!’ On the surface, it does not seem worth to vex ourselves over such a trivial matter but think about it in your own context. When you try very hard to do something but are not cut out for it, the only thing you want is for someone to encourage you to keep going and acknowledge you for giving it your best shot. Alternately, when you receive the affirmation you deserve for your work, it adds to your self-confidence and most importantly adds to your happiness. Recognition is the best motivation a person can get.

In under graduation, I was the Mess Secretary of my hostel. I still remember that the first thing our warden told me was, “You have every right to complain if the food is not good, but also remember to go and thank the cooks when the food is good.” So, I started doing that and they were extremely happy. They had always felt to be at the receiving end of the indifference of students as nobody used to hail them for their work which was really important to them. Just a simple ‘thanks’ made a lot of difference.

If we talk about it on personal level, it is very important to acknowledge yourself. There will be times when there is no one to encourage and applaud you; you have to be your own admirer. It is very important to learn to love yourself before you expect others to love you. You should never stop loving yourself because of some momentary setbacks; instead recognize yourself for emerging through the worst times. Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal has said that the terror of a sea does not give anyone security and no one can escape from it except the self preserving shell. The way to self love and self preservation is through self gratification, therefore, always have faith in yourself and acknowledge yourself in whatever you do.
P.S- I would love to have some life lessons in the comments below.

NOONCHAI

(Noonchai is traditional Kashmiri tea. It is made from special tea leaves, milk and salt. It is taken two to three times a day by Kashmiri people.)

‘Do not jump the gun like last time. Take time to observe how to respond. You do not want to repeat your mistakes.’ These thoughts were constantly running through my mind while travelling to Jammu to take an entrance exam. I was feeling nervous and these anxious thoughts kept coming back. Even though a road trip from Kashmir to Jammu is every traveller’s heaven and you cannot keep your eyes off the scenic beauty for a moment, I was ignorant of all the nature’s creativity around me. The bird’s eye view from the high mountains is truly mesmerizing but I was in a totally different world altogether.

I was not dreading my exams, I never have. I was dreading the moment of meeting new people. We were going to stay at my father’s best friend’s place and my experience in a somewhat similar situation had been abominable. Rewind to three years before and I am sitting at a family friend’s place in Delhi. His sister enters the room; I get up and walk to her expecting an embrace like we, in Kashmir, welcome our guests and she walks past me smiling. That was one of the most embarrassing situations of my life. Coming back to the present, I had made up my mind to maintain a safe distance.

We reached Jammu and finally the moment arrived. Abu entered before me and just I was about to enter, what I witnessed was pure magic. All his family members came upon us, embracing and welcoming us like we were just in another Kashmiri house and it could have been true if not for the fateful night of 20 January 1990. His father addressed Abu as ‘my son’ and his mother could not help asking me about everyone back at home. The house felt like a home to me and it was amazing how they had kept their ‘Kashmiriyat’ still alive. I felt ecstatic at that moment. I am awful at first time conversations but it was entirely different this time. Within no time I was talking like I knew everyone of them from childhood. Finally, it was tea time and to my utter surprise I was drinking the best noonchai I have ever tasted. 
By that dazzling light

we see men removing statues from temples.

We beg them, “Who will protect us if you leave?”

They don’t answer, they just disappear

On the road to the plains, clutching the gods. 

                                           Agha Shahid Ali

               I See Kashmir from New Delhi at                         Midnight

The Kashmiri Pandit exodus was an unfortunate incident. Due the despicable actions of some extremist forces, the humanity had to suffer in general. Living in an exile from your motherland is a heart wrenching experience and beyond comprehension for those who have not experienced it. The past has been horrifying and disheartening, the present is turbulent and we have to take steps to streamline our future and bring back hope to the people living in Kashmir and our brothers and sisters waiting to come back to their motherland.

Walo ha bagwano nav bahaaruk shaan paida kar

Pholan gul gath karan bulbul, tithuy samaan paida kar

Chaman varaan, wadaan shabnum tchatith jamae, pareshan gul

Gulan tay bul gulan andar, dubaray jaan paida kar

                                                               

Trans

Come forth gardener, create the magnificence of a new spring

The flowers would bloom, with songbirds circling around them, create these things

The garden is desolate, the dew weeps, and with torn robes the flowers are distraught

Inside those lifeless flowers and songbirds, create a new life again 

                                                Mehjoor

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