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Archive for March, 2008

“Radha
immortal lover girl,
Survivor in love’s hustings,
against all odds,
I like to think
that on some days at least
you felt above it all.
Seeing in his many loves
only myriad reflections
of your own mystic
feminine power.”

– Poet Manjul Bajaj, poem Radha:
  Book: Here and Now, Volume I Pg. 410-411

Veiled. Hidden. Secret. Mysterious.

Radha, symbol of the feminine energy, silent, yet speaking volumes. Always behind the purdah, yet so very conspicuous.

What is so unique about this?

Poet after poet has spoken of the mysterious engagement we have with the feminine energy, because it is shy, concealed, we seek it. Because it is silent, we want to hear its voice, because it is behind the purdah, we are anxious to reveal it to ourselves.

Radha, the feminine energy, exists forever. She is primordial. She haunts us perpetually.

She attracts the opposite, the masculine energy, purusha, which is drawn irresistibly to her from its position of detached observation, pure Awareness.

But tarry, the true meaning of the poem, or its ultimate transcendence over all other thoughts on Radha, lies in the fact that while for centuries we have believed that it is Radha, the feminine energy, which entices the stationary, detached purusha to herself, like Parvati, dancing in front of Shiva, which stirred him out of his trance, in fact, the truth is that she is only being herself; it is the active energy in purusha, which is drawn to her, because it needs an anchor in her. Why else, would purusha, believed to be so self-contained, detached, resting in pure Awareness, find the need to move at all?

We are in the habit of thinking that purusha is still, when the opposite is the fact.

And inevitably, Radha, knows in her heart, the fine art of luring: she casts her magic wand around the stationary, unmoving masculine energy, thereby weaving a mysterious web around him, an enchantment that sets him in motion. He moves, unable to hold himself back. His stationery position is long lost as he unwittingly enmeshes himself in her.

He will never be the same again. He will then move in time, trying to re-discover his own identity all over again, in his rebellious ways –

He will break free. He will chase many. He will conquer many too. However, he will never be able to shake off Radha’s hangover. Perpetually moving from one to the other, again and again finding himself, caught in the perennial web of Radha, the feminine energy.

For ages the fallacy has continued…. Purusha is what one must seek, strive for. Purusha, the detached Aloneness, is the goal of life. The secret lies with Radha – purusha himself is striving hard to set himself free from the bondage of Radha.

On and on, time after time, thus striving for ages, seeking freedom from one Radha, to find yet another, on and on, determined to set free, but bound yet again with Radha.

The genius of the poem lies in the fact that it highlights the opposite of what we believe, it challenges the thought we are have developed our comfort zone around. And so it brings out the rebel in us.

We may fight the newness of thought – that, it is the feminine energy, which is stationery, the still, the undisturbed – only till we accept the failure of what we believed before.

It is after all purusha, who is in movement, at one time caught in her web of mystery and then chasing Radha in her many forms in others as well. It is purusha who has to rest and find his stillness. But alas! This is not to be. The world cannot cease. It must go on, and hence purusha will forever, move from one Radha to another, never resting, forever moving, moving, moving. Finding in every newness, the old.

Why then must Radha drop a tear –

“Seeing in his many loves
only myriad reflections
of your own mystic
feminine power.”

The wired mesh holds fish from the sea struggling to return to the water. But the ferryman knows that the struggle will at some point cease as the fish resigns to its destiny. It will rest forever. In Radha, the feminine energy.

Radha

Tell me Radha
were you really above it all?
Did not thoughts of Rukmini and Satyabhama
irk you
or twist your insides out?
Did not the gaggle of giggling gopis
around your Kanha
rent a tear
in the skin just above your heart?
Did not sniveling Draupadi’s
damsel-in-distress calls
to one who was supposedly your knight
in shining aura
make you jealously wonder
about what he meant to her
or she to him?
And did you not once wish that
that maudlin Meera-come-lately
would shut up and go away
taking her bleating bhajans with her?

 

 

Radha,

immortal lover girl,

survivor in love’s hustings,

against all odds,

I like to think

that on some days at least

you felt above it all:

seeing in his many loves

only myriad reflections

of your own mystic

feminine power.

I like to think of you

laughing to yourself-

a quiet, gentle laugh-

about that idiot man of yours

who thought himself a God.

 

 Other poems by Manjul Bajaj: http://manjulbajaj.blogspot.com/

To read more of Manjul Bajaj, google search Manjul Bajaj

Listen to her on YouTube LIVE!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWZ0MtuY_wg

 

Note: The thoughts expressed here are entirely the author’s. The poet’s verse is an instrument of inspiration. The poet herself is in no way responsible for the author’s interpretation of the poem. 

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Gayatri lay out the table on the floor. She was expecting a visitor who had been frequenting her studio apartment at Ganeshkhind Road, in the Deccan Gymkhana, Pune. But today, for the first time, he was coming for lunch. She had decided to do an original Bengali lunch, carefully choosing the vegetables and fruits from the Mandi the evening before.

“ Kidney beans, leun ghe ”, Shanta Maushi, the lady vegetable vendor had suggested. “Changla aahe!”

Kidney beans, fruits, green salad, grapes from Nasik, besanladdoos – she had already started to plan what she would make for lunch. But her guest made her promise she would have to wait till he came. They would cook the lunch together.

Cases of this nature are unknown to Bengali hospitality. A meal without fish is in itself unthinkable. Have you fed the guest at all, if there is no fish?

Times had changed for Gayatri. In the last two years she had become a complete vegetarian. That was one of the demands of her Guru, in order that along with yoga, she could cultivate a life that was moderate, disciplined with not too many moments of extreme happiness or sadness, too much excitement or lack of it. A life that was measured and smooth. These years had to be years of sadhana and not of just learning yoga. Yoga was a way of life, not just a practice of some back-breaking acrobatics.

For Gayatri this was an experience of sorts. M oderation, for her was for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It was for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. She lacked the sustainable theories of using everything in a moderate way. In fact, it was her husband who encouraged her to come to Pune for three years to learn a way to do just that under a Guru. She would not only learn the theory but also the practice of a balanced life. No doubt, Gayatri had just begun to feel the difference.

There was a gentle knock at the door. She opened the door to find a small bunch of mogra flowers carefully wrapped in the folds of green leaves greeting her.

“Come in Andre!” she smiled taking the flowers from his hands.

“I did not know what to get for you….”

“Thanks for the mogra and your presence. Both are very well appreciated,” Gayatri said placing the mogras in a bowl of water at the feet of a large picture of Krishna and Radha. She put her hands together in a namaste. Andre followed to do so too.

“Lunch ready? I am hungry”

“In a bit. You said it was going to be a joint venture…” Gayatri smiled. She went to the kitchen basin and turned the tap on over the kidney beans lying in a flat plate at the floor of the basin. The gentle fragrance of mogras filled the air as she began to peal the cover away from the beans. Andre came and stood behind her.

“May I help” he said placing his hands over hers on the wash basin.

Gayatri hailed from a small town called Aurangabad, just about four hours journey by bus from Pune. Andre had lived many years in Auroville, near Pondicherry. He had travelled to India for the first time in the 80s on holiday. In Pondy, quite by chance he was introduced to Shefali, a Bengali devotee of Aurobindo Ashram. They fell in love and married. Two years ago he came to Pune to learn yoga and here he met Gayatri. As it happens to many people, since both of them were from out of town, they grew close.

Andre had dreams of starting his own yoga school in Madagascar from where he hailed. And teach yoga in Auroville for six months of the year. Gayatri came on the behest of her husband, but was already desirous of including yoga in her medical practice in Aurangabad, after she returned.

Andre and Gayatri were both aware that there was a thread of attraction between them. Gayatri was naturally surprised at herself for feeling this way. So was Andre. Tall, blonde and thin, with deep blue eyes, Andre was fond of her, especially because they shared a common Guru as well.

After the yoga classes, they always broke one rule. They met at PhiloCafe and indulged their senses with a thick coffee with cream. Although their strict schedule and diet made coffee a no-no product, the Philoppuccino they shared together was their only excuse to keep meeting over a large cup of philosophy.

“What could be the reason, why a person born in another country, takes a trip to India and continues to live here forgetting his own country….”

“It is his search, his search for meaning in life”

Andre recalled the day he met his wife Shefali. She wore on her neck a necklace of tulsi beads. Her hair was long and black and she had a chandan tikka on her forehead. He found her reclusive and withdrawn. In fact that is why he was drawn to her. She had a dark complexion, a very dark shade of brown. She also had very steady black eyes. Lying on a background of white, carefully protected by long lashes, her eyes had looked at him without batting an eyelid. He was transfixed. They had looked on at each other for a long time without speaking. The communication was complete without saying a word. In a week they were married. It is Shefali who drew him to Sri Aurobindo. They walked together on the spiritual path, she half following Sri Aurobindo and half her own religion from rural Bengal. She sang Baul songs with such devotion, Andre, always saw a little Krishna sitting beside her when she gave voice to her longing to see Him. Andre thought perhaps he had married Radha incarnate. In Shefali his life’s search came to an end.

But there is a time for everything. Even his dedication to her, ripened and the fruit fell. A new thirst, bigger that ever started to gnaw at his soul. His feet found the road again. They carried him to Pune, this time to learn Yoga. Shefali did not accompany him. They spoke quite often to each other. But her world was Pondy. It was her Kasi too. She would never leave that little quintessential town to be anywhere else. Last year on Janmasthami day, she told him she was going to spend five days at the temple complex just outside the only Krishna temple in Pondicherry. This year, she went without telling him anything.

“She too has grown far away from me”, Andre had confided in Gayatri.

“How do you know?”

“Because, she thought I was her very own at one time, she always told me everything before she did it. But this time she has not told me anything. She has gone without even telling me she would be away for these many days. Clearly, she has grown apart from me. She does not feel I am a part of her life….” he concluded in a matter-of-fact manner.

The quest for meaning in life goes on. It is the same quest which had now brought him to the gates of Gayatri’s house.

“May I help” he said placing his hands over hers at the wash basin. Gayatri’s hand movement slowed down, as Andre’s increased. He rubbed the inside of her palm still holding her from behind. Gayatri had recently bought a brick red kurta with long sleeves from FabIndia. As the sleeves began to roll up, pushed up by Andre, she felt the gentle surge of warm blood filling her underbelly. Her mind prompted her to stop, but her body relaxed.

“All I want, he whispered “is your brick red kurta…”

Andre’s hand travelled up and just as she thought it was going to cup…..a quick, sudden movement from him and he had pulled her kurta off her body. She swirled around hastily covering her naked body with the front of his. The fragrance of his body mingled with the mogras filled her. His warm breath lay behind her ear….she could not help but let go.

Black and white. A photographer’s dream frame. Black and white, Gayatri’s dark brown body, naked from head to waist pressed against Andre’s white kurta. Black and white, like day and night, at once their exposed emotions and yet, the words that were never spoken. Black and white, like Krishna and Radha locked in their eternal flow of love song. Black and white, the conscious and the subconscious, the journey of life we are aware of and that we are not. Black and white, like his face pressed against hers, his pale blonde hair, wet at the side with the flowing sweat, juxtaposed against her jet black hair, flowing down to her back yet not covering it or hiding it from his eyes. There is indeed no shame to guard against, no guilt to dodge, just two flames of desire burning as one, their bodies pressed against each other, two colours, black and white, in a dance of ecstasy.

Normally this is not the diet for a first time guest at a Bengali home. There are other exotic recipes a Bengali woman can spread out on the table called sorse maach. In fact, the best sorse maach is made from Ilish maach. It leaves a strong taste both in your tongue and your nostrils. The aroma of the curry stays with you even after you have finished your lunch. It stays in your mind for an even longer time. The soft flesh, between your fingers, the tender bones you lick and put away, the mouthful of a flesh with an exquisite taste, so unique you can never ever forget it. You want to taste it again and again. Relish its refined taste. You will always return to shorshe ilish macch, as long as you live for even when you place your fingers at your nose, you will always smell the fragrance of that days delicious lunch, although today it is flat kidney beans mixed with the exquisite fragrance of the mogras….

In his mind, Andre imagined it was Shefali’s sorse ilish. It is the true Bengali flavour he could never forget – Ever!

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” May I share the table with you” I asked the lady sitting on the only table with an empty chair.

” Of course” she said ” Please”!

Prem’s Restaurant was jam-packed. A favourite among the people, who live in Pune, a city in Maharashtra, India, Prem’s is famous for its Chicken tandoori. I was in Pune for that one evening only. I was terribly distraught and knew I had to get my teeth into some chicken to ease the hungry pain in my heart.

I settled on the chair opposite her and looked up. She was a foreigner. I smiled and introduced myself.

In response she said in a very British accent” Hel – lo! I am Dhyan Sagar” She read the question in my eyes. ” If you are wondering about my name, it is not my legal name. Peggy O’ Hara. I am Irish”. Ah- huh! I thought. That explains the lovely far-away looks….it had to be from Enya’s country.

” What brings you to India?” I asked looking around for the waiter.

” Love. ” she said simply. ” Love of the land – and a man”. I smiled again. Oh! Didn’t I know that feeling?

Strangely, when the waiter came to take the order, we both ordered chicken tandoori.

” It’s one of those days, ” she continued with a ringing British laughter ” I need to get my teeth into some meat. Other wise I am a vegetarian”.

This was beginning to sound like a déjà vu. We chatted while our orders were being prepared. Dhyan Sagar was a teacher in Liverpool and sang in the Pub in the night. Around seven years ago she met a man while she was visiting India for the first time. She had broken off from a long live-in relationship five years prior to that and had taken a decision to not fall in love for a long time. She had shut herself out from the world, coming out only in the evenings to the Pub on Saturdays. She sang from her heart and even as we spoke, I could imagine her music. Her voice was alive. It had a “soul”.

” I can’t say what took over me. I was hit from the back I think. I couldn’t get him off my mind. We were travelling together to Ladakh. Suddenly all my mind could think of was him. Day and night, I wanted to be close to him. We stuck to each other like glue. No! That is a lie. I stuck to him like glue….”

I loved her honesty and it rang a certain note of familiarity in me. I thought of Ramesh. How I had met him on my first job as a Time- Life Bookseller and after that, my sales calls began and ended at his office! Thank God it was a vacation job!

” I know that feeling” I began ” I have experienced it myself….”

” Oh! Have you? He did not reveal himself to me quite clearly for a few days. Then one day, we were alone together and I reached up to him and began to kiss him. Can you believe, we had not even kissed for over three days after we met, even though it was quite evident that we both fancied each other?”

I nodded and was about to say my piece when she continued with hers.

” He stopped me. I was so dismayed! How insulting I thought. Then he revealed to me, he was married and had a baby girl. I was perplexed. So why did he not say that before, I thought. It was very hard for me”. Sagar stopped and took a sip from her glass of water and a bite of the chicken leg. I cleared my throat.

” Ramesh was similar…he too was …..”

” What did you say? Was he married? Oh yes, of course that is what he said to me”.

I got it this time. I decided to let her do the talking.

” Don’t you think” she questioned me, looking deep into my eyes, he could have told me he was married, at least on the second day of our meeting? He knew he was not going to play game!”

” Perhaps, he meant to tell you but….” I was interrupted again.

” I know it was his love that kept him from telling me….he had begun to love me, you know….I could feel it”.

I cleared my throat again and was preparing to fill in the gap. However, it was not necessary.

” He said to me one day on the trip, I don’t want you to feel I have not responded to your love. I can feel how you feel about me…and he put his arms around me and gave me a long hug. Somehow, the tears came to my eyes and although I tried to stop them, he saw them running down my cheeks”.

” Oh! Darling!” he said, ” I don’t mean to hurt you”.

Sagar was crying again. I stared at her. Would it be appropriate to gently touch someone’s hand lying on the table? Even, if I wanted to show my empathy? To reassure her?

As quickly as she began to cry, that quickly, she wiped her tears away.

” I am sorry! Didn’t mean to. Let’s change the subject”.

“Yes, I said ” Lets!”

” But just one more thing…..do you think he loves me? He has refused my erotic advances, but never my love…”

” I can’t really say, but I ….” My theory remained unheard.

” I know he does. My heart tells me so. And that is why I have been coming back to this beautiful land over and over again. Because of him, and my love for him, everything seems so much more beautiful!”

I loved the genuine ray of love that emitted from her eyes as she said these lines to me. It spread across the room covering it with a gentle hue, warmth you could touch only if you were looking into her eyes at that moment.

” As I was saying, I had a similar experience with someone. But you know what? After two years, I had to cut the relation off….I had to move on……” I said.

” I can’t do that Samasti, because I know he loves me. I need to wait for him”. She looked stubborn.

” But what about you? You are not getting anything out of this love are you?”

” Does not matter! One loves for the pure joy of loving.”

” And hope that he will love you back in the same way some day?” I said without thinking too deeply on it.

I had made a mistake. Suddenly, Sagar began to look quite cold…chilling in fact.

” I believe in the power of love, Samasti. I know if you love someone so dearly, you can hold the torch for him or her for as long as it takes them to come to you. ”

” Yes! You can. But time and tide waits for no man. Opportunity to move on in life reduces with every passing day. So does our will. These are the reasons why I moved on from Ramesh. ”

She was quick and caustic.

” You did not believe in your love. You had never known loss of love. If you did, you would not have given up the second time. You would have clung on and fought your lonely battle and even if you did not win at the end, you would have lived with the fact that you had not lost, because you held on to that love “.

The impact of the words left me speechless. An arrow plunged into my heart. I did not need to hear the rest of her story. I knew it is not love she was seeking; not this man either. He was merely a catalyst. Someone, who could instill in her, her own individual self worth, by precisely, not responding in the way she desired him to. And by so doing she inadvertently proved to herself that she could love eternally, no matter what. It was her power statement to herself.

Hats off! I said to myself, pensively wiping my lips with the super white laundered napkin. We rose from our table together and walked to the exit. Outside the doorway, we turned briefly to one another. We looked at each other very deeply and made connection for the first time that evening.

” It’s been a delightful evening. We must do this again”. She said.

” Yes! ” I agreed. ” We must”!

Then we both went our ways not exchanging business cards. I knew there was nothing for her to meet me again. She had told me her story and now she must find a new pair of ears to tell the same story to. She had to affirm her love worthiness. Again and again.

It was her obsession.

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