Indian Culture · Indian Religion · Inner View · Mother India · Spirituality beyond Religion

Diwali with a Modern Indian Poet and a Legendary Indian Musician

Diwali spirit continues….
An alternative title to this post could have been:
How to have an Enlightening Diwali – in Three Easy Steps
Step 1: 

Light a diya or a candle in a quiet spot.

Diwali, my home, 2012


Step 2: 

Light up the mind with a poem titled Diwali by Vikram Seth. So what if it is a long one? But it makes you keenly aware of the anguish and conflict of a mind struggling to integrate diverse cultural influences, including those resulting from the colonial history of India, and doing all this in the backdrop of what “home” means to a heart, especially around Diwali – a festival of love, light, home, family and all such good things in life.

Three years of neurotic 
Guy Fawkes Days-I recall 
That lonely hankering- 
But I am home after all. 

Home. These walls, this sky 
Splintered with wakes of light 
These mud-lamps beaded round 
The eaves, this festive night, 

These streets, these voices…yet 
The old insensate dread, 
Abeyant as that love, 
Once more shifts in my head. 

Five? Six? generations ago 
Somewhere in the Punjab 
My father’s family,farmers, 
Perhaps had a small shop 

And two generations later 
Could send a son to a school 
To gain the conqueror’s 
Authoritarian seal: 

English! Six-armed god, 
Key to a job, to power, 
Snobbery, the good life, 
This separateness, this fear. 

English: beloved language 
of Jonson, Wordsworth’s tongue- 
These my “meridian names” 
Whose grooves I crawl along. 

The Moghuls fought and ruled 
And settled. Even while 
They hungered for musk-melon, 
Rose, peach, nightingale, 

The land assumed their love. 
At sixty they could not 
Retire westwards. The British 
Made us the Orient. 

How could an Englishman say 
About the divan-e-khas 
“If there is heaven on earth 
It is this; it is this; it is this.”? 

Macaulay the prophet of learning 
Chewed at his pen: one taste 
Of Western wisdom “surpasses 
All the books of the East,” 

And Kalidas, Shankaracharya, 
Panini, Bhaskar, Kabir, 
Surdas sank, and we welcomed 
The reign of Shakespeare. 

The undigested Hobbes, 
The Mill who later ground 
(Through talk of liberty) 
The Raj out of the land … 

O happy breed of Babus, 
I march on with your purpose; 
We will have railways, common law 
And a good postal service- 

And I twist along 
Those grooves from image to image, 
Violet, elm-tree, swan, 
Pork-pie, gable, scrimmage 

And as we title our memoirs 
“Roses in December” 
Though we all know that here 
Roses *grow* in December 

And we import songs 
Composed in the U.S 
For Vietnam (not even 
Our local horrors grip us) 

And as, over gin at the Club, 
I note that egregious member 
Strut just perceptibly more 
When with a foreigner, 

I know that the whole world 
Means exile of our breed 
Who are not home at home 
And are abroad abroad, 

Huddled in towns, while around: 
“He died last week. My boys 
Are starving. Daily we dig 
The ground for sweet potatoes.” 

“The landlord’s hirelings broke 
My husband’s ribs-and I 
Grow blind in the smoke of the hearth.” 
“Who will take care of me 

When I am old? No-one 
Is left.” So it goes on, 
The cyclic shadow-play 
Under the sinister sun; 

That sun that, were there water, 
Could bless the dispirited land, 
Coaxing three crops a year 
From this same yieldless ground. 

Yet would these parched wraiths still 
Starve in their ruins, while 
“Silkworms around them grow 
Into fat cocoons?”, Sad soil, 

This may as well be my home. 
Because no other nation 
Moves me thus? What of that? 
Cause for congratulation? 

This could well be my home; 
I am too used to the flavor 
Of tenous fixity; 
I have been brought to savour 

Its phases: the winter wheat- 
The flowers of Har-ki-Doon – 
The sal forests – the hills 
Inflamed with rhododendron – 

The first smell of the Rains 
On the baked earth-the peaks 
Snow-drowned in permanence– 
The single mountain lakes. 

What if my tongue is warped? 
I need no words to gaze 
At Ajanta, those flaked caves, 
Or at the tomb of Mumtaz; 

And when an alap of Marwa 
Swims on slow flute-notes over 
The neighbours’ roofs at sunset 
Wordlessly like a lover 

It holds me-till the strain 
Of exile, here or there, 
Subverts the trance, the fear 
Of fear found everywhere. 

“But freedom?” the notes would sing… 
Parole is enough. Tonight 
Below the fire-crossed sky 
Of the Festival of Light. 

Give your soul leave to feel 
What distilled peace it can; 
In lieu of joy, at least 
This lapsing anodyne. 

“The world is a bridge. Pass over it, 
Building no house upon it.” 
Acceptance may come with time; 
Rest, then disquieted heart.
Step 3: 

Light up the inner being listening to Deep Ki Jyot Jale by Pandit Kumar Gandharva. After all that intellectual exercise understanding the long poem, all that one needs is a quieting down. And this soulful rendition provides just that…and more. Experience the silence!



Response? Reaction? Thought? Question? Criticism? Let me know.

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