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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  ( 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

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 about 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) 
 
                                                Read In Hindi
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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

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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.

 

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Faraz’s song of longing for Democracy

jaise tujhe aate hain na aane ke bahane

As you make up excuses for your absence

aise hi kisi roz na jane ke liye aa

Come one day never to leave again....

...

The literal meaning of the word ghazal is – ‘conversation between lovers’, an ode to love and longing .The word love owns all its meaning to the people engaged in it. It is up to them to elevate it to newer heights , rise it to a place of reverence , expand its horizon . Ofcourse, it is also up to them to constrict and degrade it . Whatever base allegations we hear against love, they are only of the lovers participating in it, not of love itself. 

Ahmad Faraz was a legendary poet who loved his pen to such an end that he only verse dedicated to truth through it . A revolutionary poet from Pakistan , we can feel the turmoils, fights and pain of the common people in his words. Even if you aren’t aware of Faraz as a poet , it is quite probable that you have heard his extremely popular ghazal -‘ranjish hī sahī dil hī dukhāne ke liye aa ,aa phir se mujhe chhoḌ ke jaane ke liye aa’. It has encaptured the pangs of a broken heart like nothing could, for a whole subcontinent for over a decade. But Faraz was a true lover of ghazal, and therefore his ghazals have roots in the ground and they sprout and reach for the skies. It is still an ode to love and longing but with the roles of the lovers changed.

Ahmad Faraz

In the anthology – Aaj ke prasiddh Shayar, Kanhaiyalal Nandan , a reputed poet and editor talks about this ghazal. He says-

Separation from one’s homeland , the remembrance and pain of staying away from one’s loved ones form a major theme in Faraz’s works.

His most famous ghazal Ranjish hi Sahi is a cry voicing the same pain though people often see it just as a spiritual homage to love. According to Faraz, he wrote it in anguish addressed to the democracy which kept on leaving his beloved nation, Pakistan . 

It is just another example of how Faraz was a people’s poet first, swayed by their sighs and sorrows more than anything else. What is more important is that he shows that ghazal , can also be used to talk about humanitarian and social issues while using its vocabulary of love and separation, lover and beloved, longing and desire. It is his voice which keeps on reminding us that art can never be separated from the things happening on the streets , the common human and her life.   

Please read this ghazal again , now we know what it stands for . Feel the embers that are kept alight in all our hearts against injustice..

ranjish hī sahī dil hī dukhāne ke liye aa

It is immaterial if you bear me ill-will, cause me anguish

aa phir se mujhe chhoḌ ke jaane ke liye aa

Please come to me, if only to leave me bereaved again

 

kuchh to mire pindār-e-mohabbat kā bharam rakh

Please keep up the illusion of my pride on my love

tū bhī to kabhī mujh ko manāne ke liye aa

You too come sometime to placate me as well..

 

pahle se marāsim na sahī phir bhī kabhī to

Granted that we are no longer on the intimate terms as before

rasm-o-rah-e-duniyā hī nibhāne ke liye aa

Come just for the sake of propriety ..

 

kis kis ko batā.eñge judā.ī kā sabab ham

To how many will I explain the reason for us being apart

tū mujh se ḳhafā hai to zamāne ke liye aa

You are displeased with me then come atleast for the world..

 

ik umr se huuñ lazzat-e-girya se bhī mahrūm

It’s been ages since I have had the relief of crying unabashedly  

ai rāhat-e-jāñ mujh ko rulāne ke liye aa

Come ! The balm of my soul! Come to make me cry..

 

ab tak dil-e-ḳhush-fahm ko tujh se haiñ ummīdeñ

My naive heart still has hopes from you 

ye āḳhirī sham.eñ bhī bujhāne ke liye aa

Come to vanquish this last of glimmer of hope

 

mana ki muhabbat ka chhupana hai muhabbat

It is customary to keep your love veiled

chupke se kisi roz jatane ke liye aa

But come once clandestinely  to own it ..

 

jaise tujhe aate hain na aane ke bahane

As you make up excuses for your absence

aise hi kisi roz na jane ke liye aa

Come one day never to leave again….

 

The most masterful rendition of this ghazal has been in the voice of the Ghazal King, Mehdi Hassan Saheb…
 
 

But since , the ghazal today demanded to be read with new eyes, it is only befitting that it is heard in a new voice too. Check out this elegant rendition by Ali Sethi.. 

 

(Faraz's ghazal translated from original to English by Shubhangie Mishra )
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