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Saraswati Mela

Muriel Rukseyer’s scientific poem about the sustenance of genius

...

The ancient Greeks and Romans talked of a genius loci which was the guardian deity of a place. It was the entity which gave the place its distinctive atmosphere or spirit. I find it pretty amusing that the word genius found a place in this expression. And interestingly the word genius also finds its roots in Latin gignere which means to give birth to. Isn’t it true that it is genius which gives birth to us , even though we believe its the other way round? We all are given birth by a thousand different things at once .It is both exhilarating and terrifying to understand that we are  made of uncountable different pieces coming together. 

We simultaneously inhabit a microcosm and a macrocosm. The macrocosm of the city we dwell in, the trees that give us breathes , the roads , the pavements and the streetlights ; microcosm of the houses we inhabit, the thoughts and discussions that make up our breathe air, the chairs, tables and the warmth of coffee shared. The microcosms impact us more strongly than the macrocosm, and is made up entirely of people. Family, friends, acquaintances, mentors, partners, muse, inspirations, favourite artists and all those shades of love and human connection that can’t be put labels on. 

Muriel Rukseyer was an American poet of the twentieth century who refused to give up any part of herself to be called a poet.So she brought to poetry beauty and expressions that were hitherto unknown. She wrote about myths and science, social circumstances and romance – all in the same vein.

Muriel Rukseyer

Here is a very simplistic poem of hers . In the whirlwind of life it is often easy to find ourselves in a place that is disorienting. Where the flame keeping us ablaze ( and warm ) is  very near to be extinguished. It is then when when we need to find our way back to our preferred microcosm for recuperation. Amidst books of our choice, amidst the heady fragrance of poetry or amidst the human company that is nourishing – we must do everything to save our souls.Like everything in nature, we owe our strength to a thousand different things. Like everything in nature it is very easy to lose that strength. And like everything in nature, it is possible to regain that strength. To accept it, is humbling and also spirit-strengthening because if we just pause to look around- all of us have a whole caravan working alongside us, in this journey of becoming ourselves. It is sometimes sunshine, sometimes shade – but it is there nonetheless.

Illustration courtesy Olaf Hajek

It is amazing to see how through a very basic scientific principle , a poet like Rukseyer can illustrate the loveliness of a mighty human condition.

Read on and rejoice for in the magic-show of life, science and arts both perform equally well ( and sometimes together ) for our delight…

A Simple Experiment

When a magnet is

struck by a hammer

the magnetism spills out of 

the iron.

 

The molecules

are jarred,

they are a mob going 

in all directions

 

The magnet is 

shocked back

it is no magnet but

simple iron.

 

There is no more 

of its former 

kind of accord

or force.

 

But if you take 

another magnet 

and stroke the iron

with this,

 

it can be 

remagnetized

if you stroke it 

and stroke it 

stroke it

stroke it,

the molecules

can be given 

their tending grace 

 

by a strong magnet 

stroking stroking

always in the same direction,

of course.

For more meaningful intersection of the sciences and poetry read this revolutionary poem by Neil Gaman about the early scientists and womanhood.

BP

Emerson on giving all to love – and attaining life

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;..
..Though her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive;
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,   
The gods arrive...

...

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion–
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
and I could die for that.
– John Keats
Keats or Ghalib, it does not matter where the poet is from , in what language does the fountain of poetry erupt through him or what era he inhabits. Dying for love is sacrosanct in every verse, in every corner of the world. But what speaks to me more strongly and resolutely through these verses is the sacred obligation , promise and ambition to live for love. It asks for more of our strength and courage – turning over our everything to this pull of the soul, this sacred verse that magnifies our existence. Beyond the union of two bodies there is the union of souls- a union where our meager souls seek out higher souls, grand and austere ideas which nourish them , merging with whom magnifies them . Every profession, every endeavour , very act of courage and resilience – both to bring about and resist change – all of these are deeply acts of love . The magnetic pull which can make us lose our head in passion, which makes us seek beauty and create beauty – all of these are acts of love – amorous and spiritual, romantic and transcendental.

Art by Michael Leunig


Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist and poet of the past century. He heralded the American Romantic Movement. Writing beautiful poems of profound beauty and idealism, Emerson also wrote beautifully of nature. Below is a poem of his in the anthology – Love Poems an illustrated compendium of choicest love poems accompanied by gorgeous classical paintings.
Reminiscent of the poem ‘Moments’ by Mary Oliver , Emerson implores us to give all for love. ‘Obey thy heart’ – the supreme dictum to navigate one’s life. But here obeying the heart is not a call to abandon logic and give yourself away to senseless frivolities. It is wrestling away logic from all the small and mean connotations that one’s times, society and fear gives it . It is an obeisance to the logic of the highest kind – the one that is hummed persistently in our ears each moment , drummed into our very existence- one which our heart whispers loudly each time it beats.
But perhaps what elevates this poem to a stature of being one of Emerson’s writings is when he speaks in favour of protecting the sovereignty and freedom of both the lover and the beloved.Not trying to grasp the hem of her dress or trying to retain a keepsake of lost love. ( Free be she,fancy-free,do not thou detain a hem, Nor the palest rose she flung ,From her summer diadem).

On the other hand, it is also a poem where Emerson tries to deal with the loss of his wife. Bereaved and shattered, he turns to poetry to gather the courage to let go of something which now is only a pale imitation of life. However hard we may try to hold onto to a departed person, it is impossible to do so. The more desperately we clench onto it – memories and memorabilia, the deeper cuts and gashes we suffer. Our blinding grief and stubbornness to not accept what is now etched in the unforgiving chest of time , hampers and proves a dead end for our capacity to experience life too. In this respect , the lines quoted above take on a very different meaning. 

Illustration from the book – Titania’s Awakening by Charles Sim (1896)

But what of love if it is not returned? What of dreams if they aren’t fulfilled? What of passion if all it does is leave us with a gaping wound? Well true lovers and dreamers would reply to these questions with a question of their own – What of it ? Emerson goes a step beyond and offers us a poetic consolation. It was never about the beloved, it was all about love. It was never about winning, it was about wagering  everything for love, for the thing which makes our heart sing, no matter the odds. Because however trite the adage may sound it really is about the journey and not the destination. The real treasure is not the gold, but undergoing the alchemy ourselves.

After all, what is God , if not a human being believing that she can hold the cosmos in her palms, for love? And what is Divine Will, if not this – that as God looks on with a knowing smile, while in love, the human actually manages to do just that- hold the cosmos in her palms ?

Nourish your spirit by this magnificence of a poem

Give all to love;

Obey thy heart;

Friends, kindred, days,

Estate, good-fame,

Plans, credit and the Muse,—

Nothing refuse.

 

’T is a brave master;

Let it have scope:

Follow it utterly,

Hope beyond hope:

High and more high

It dives into noon,

With wing unspent,

Untold intent:

But it is a god,

Knows its own path

And the outlets of the sky.

 

It was never for the mean;

It requireth courage stout.

Souls above doubt,

Valor unbending,

It will reward,—

They shall return

More than they were,

And ever ascending.

 

Leave all for love;

Yet, hear me, yet,

One word more thy heart behoved,

One pulse more of firm endeavor,—

Keep thee to-day,

To-morrow, forever,

Free as an Arab

Of thy beloved.

 

Cling with life to the maid;

But when the surprise,

First vague shadow of surmise

Flits across her bosom young,

Of a joy apart from thee,

Free be she, fancy-free;

Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,

Nor the palest rose she flung

From her summer diadem.

 

Though thou loved her as thyself,

As a self of purer clay,

Though her parting dims the day,

Stealing grace from all alive;

Heartily know,

When half-gods go,   

The gods arrive.

 
Complement with the most beautiful words on love and human intimacy ever, written by Kahlil Gibran which coincidentally are also a part of this
 
(Special thanks to Prof. Neeta Pandey for her insights on the poem and Emerson) 
 
                                               
BP

A song of old time love – Sindoori

Maati-Baani - true to its name is the voice of the soil. The soil which is beyond ancient but is still fertile.

...

Beloved, don’t believe for a second that I am not in agony without you 

The lamp needs night to burn ,but what of the heart that burns day and night..

The language of love and the agony of separation has remained the same from the times of Amir Khusro to now . What strings these together is the perennial stream of  music which has remained unbroken . In Hindustani Classical Music it is believed that a good singer can transverse easily through three octaves -from the mid of the lower octave ( pa of mandra saptak) , going through the middle octave to the mid of the higher octave ( pa of taar saptak). For me it is a beautiful allegory of how an artist, living and creating in her times , should be half buried in the past while reaching for the future. Because what do deep roots stand for if the buds and blossoms don’t cover the skies?

Maati -Baani is an endeavour by singer Nirali Kartik and musician Kartik Shah. A platform that makes Indian fusion music, they seamlessly combine traditional elements while making them contemporary and art that is progressive.  They have collaborated from artists from all over the world and often experiment with rare instruments and different languages . Their projects have taken us all over the world, from  New York sub-way stations to the roads of Berlin . Listening to Maati -Baani you can’t help but be affected by their infectious joie-de-vivre of a creative undertaking.

Amidst the Covid-19  pandemic, they have come up with a song titled Sindoori. Unfurling like a bandish of a chhota khayalit is composed in Raag Shahana. It’s soul is made up of the same essence which made Khusro writhe in agony of separation ..

‘Monsoon’ – Indian Medieval Miniature Painting

Coming together with Sarod player Jordi Prats and Odissi danseuse  Patricia Salgado from Spain,  Cellist  Martina Bertoni from Germany- Nirali and Kartik proved that the love to create something beautiful can never wither down in any lockdown..

The lyrics too are written as an ode to traditional compositions –

Sindoori

sindoori dhali saanjh ri

The evening is a hue of vermillion as it gives way to the night..

ratiya bhayi biraha bhari 

The nights are heavy with longing , burdened by agony 

tere naam ki lagi aas ri 

The heart finds consolation in longing for you..

sindoori dhali sanjh ri 

The evening is a hue of vermillion as it gives way to the night..

chunri bhi dhani ang lagaye

My light-green coloured çhunari embraces me

bichhiya bhi anguli mein das -das jaye 

My toe- ring and the anguish stings my toes 

( Bichhiya are toe-rings traditionally worn by Indian married women . They are an ornament symbolizing marital bliss and fulfillment )

 

kali- neeli chudiyon se baiyan sanwari 

I have adorned my wrists with bangles multi-hued

baandhu main panwa mein meethi supari

And I wrap a sweet betel nut in a betel leaf

(Betel leaves make up an important part of Indian concept of sringar or romance)

phulwa mangawo koi gajra lagawo

Somebody please get me some flowers to wear in my hair

maathe pe chaandan ki bindiya sajawo 

Fetch me the moon to adorn my forehead

nachu aaj ri!

I dance in abandon!

jhir-mir jhir-mir barse raag yaman

As the skies shower Raag Yaman

chhoke surmayi hho gyi aaj pawan 

Touching me, even the wind has turned melodious 

sindoori dhali sanjh ri .. 

The evening is a hue of vermilion as it gives way to the night..

Listen and savour..

 

As some of you might have recognized , these are the same artistes whose rendition of Karpur Gauram , recorded during lockdown and featuring artists from 9 countries, gained great popularity.

Maati-Baani – true to its name is the voice of the soil. The soil which is beyond ancient but is still fertile. To understand this same soil better, please have a stroll in the gardens of Maati – Baani ,which is blossoming with a wide variety of musical compositions. 

Their poetic ode to the essence of love – Dhai Aakhar Naam ; love letter addressed to the monsoons – Boondan- Boondan ; a joyful song to placate one’s sweetheart ( in Hindi and French ) Balma and the incredibly Sufi Rang Rangiya – listen to all these and see how for art and love , all borders and limitations cease to exist.  

(Sindoori lyrics translated to English by Shubhangie Mishra)

Read In Hindi

BP

A boy, a fox, a mole and a horse- their friendship and their bid to save the world

"What do you want to be when you grow up ?

"Kind", said the boy.

...

‘The Sun is a little soiled

Let’s wash it under a running stream 

And then hang it  up to dry ..

..It seems as if 

This world of ours 

Passed down from generations 

All of ours in unison 

Has gotten a little old

Is in need of a repair ..

                                    – Nida Fazli 

As we grow up and leave the Eden of our childhoods, we begin to see the world for what it is – place with cracks and bruises, ripped at the corners, with faded colours. It is as if the light of the world has slowly drained away to give us this grimy reality. But the consolation is that  ,it is from childhood itself  that we get the hope and strength to take on changing this world. From the magical place of our lives where we still trust the colours . Lest we forget , all of us too, are people with cracks and bruises and jagged corners – very much like the world we inhabit  (and make ). So saving the world , invariably has to start from saving ourselves . As we plan to save the world with love and faith , we must plan to save ourselves too , albeit with a little more of the two. 

Charlie Mackesy is a wonderful illustrator and artist who, in his decades long career has worked for major publications and newspapers. He recently came up with his book dedicated to most popular of his characters , titled  ‘ The Boy , the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’. As the title suggest, it is the tale of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse ( which could fly !) who meet by luck and embark on adventures together.  With this starts a journey basking in human warmth and friendships touching loneliness, success, love , not giving up  and everything in between. Somewhere amidst all this , Mackesy gently leads us by the hand and effortlessly makes us students of these life lessons. 

These beautiful illustrations and sketches will come out from the pages and walk with you, without you even knowing about it..

 

Illustrations from the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

“Being Kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses”, said the mole.

Illustrations from the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

“What do you want to be when you grow up ?

“Kind”, said the boy.

Modern psychology believe that there is an Inner Child inside all of us who needs comforting and reassurance. It is scared, more often than not  , something which we adults have a hard time accepting. This unaddressed fear creeps in all avenues of our lives, slowly pushing us away from all things that matter..

Illustrations from the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”

“Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid.

Mackesy believes that there is only one way to brave this darkness of the world- our friends and their love.

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“Sometimes , I feel lost”, said the boy.

“Me too”, said the mole ,”but we love you , and love brings you home.”

 

Illustrations from the book  ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“Everyone is a bit scared”, said the horse.

“But we are less scared together.”

While walking with these same friends , there come points we realize we can no longer carry on. We need the support and help of our friends to get up and move ahead. It is not as simple as it seems though – this means swallowing our pride and hurt ego, accepting that we need help. Often it is more difficult for us adults than children and these are the ways children prove,in the way of life , they are better than us.

Illustrations from the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

“What is the bravest thing you have ever said ?”asked the boy.

“Help”, said the horse.

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“Asking for help isn’t giving up”, said the horse.

“It’s refusing to give up.”

And just like Mackesy said  perhaps the most beautiful thing, I have come across in all my life.

This is the loveliness of this book. It delivers meaning and truth in child-like, simple ways, filled with innocence.  The power of this book is that though it has given paramount importance to friends, it doesn’t put them above ourselves. Kahlil Gibran said that I despised my soul when I saw it limping before the crippled. The next illustration by Mackesy captures all the pain and sorrow we have felt , all of those times when we constricted ourselves to put our friends at ease.When we were surrounded by cynics instead of celebrators..

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“There’s something i haven’t told you”, said the horse.

“What’s that?”said the boy

“I can fly. But i stopped because it made other horses jealous.”

Mackesy has filled these lines with light but also with truth . Perhaps that is the reason they are tender yet alive..

But the most important thing it  can boast of is a remedy to heal broken hearts.

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

“What do we do when our hearts hurt ? ” asked the boy.

“We wrap them in friendship, shared tears and time”, till they wake up hopeful and happy again.” 

With such sturdy arrangements to save oneself in place , it is  the reason I feel this book calls on to save the world. But what is filling up of one heart with hope and joy if not filling up a small part of the world with hope and joy? It is a lessening of the  world’s darkness and hopelessness..

So the next time, you get tired saving yourself ( and the world), and feel like something coming to an end, stop ;and  just like me , heed Mackesy’s advice and look back..

Illustrations from the book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

The End

Look how far we’ve come..

To become a part of Charlie Mackesy’s lovely universe follow him on Instagram , here Charlie Mackesy Instagram.

 

BP