On Another’s Grief

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?
– William Blake

No matter what words I use it is beyond my capabilities as a writer to capture the poignancy of the event I am describing so I shall stick to sterile facts: one of my co-passengers on the train, a young girl around my age, learned while she was in the train returning home that her father who had been  admitted in the hospital was no more. I don’t know this girl, and I will never see her again, but even as a complete stranger what was difficult for me to watch was the way she broke down. It takes unimaginable proportions of grief that I shudder to imagine to forget all societal conventions and weep copiously in front of strangers.
The entire compartment was stunned into silence. She was separated from us by her grief, and there was nothing that we could do or say that would mitigate her pain.
What I felt at that moment was a weird conflagration of conflicting emotions: empathy and sympathy for sure, but there was also an emotion of relieved gratitude that it wasn’t me, and an acute realization that someday in the future it could be me instead of her, and that is a terrifying thought. Indeed so terrifying that I had an ardent desire to call up my father, but my rational mind snapped at me to not be a sentimental fool and disturb him.
In the end I would just like to conclude that I sincerely hope that girl gets the strength and courage to face her loss. My prayers shall be with her and her family.

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Revenge and Solace

He could see the terror in the eyes of the twelve-year old. It reminded him of his niece, Sakina, killed by a stray bullet.

Sakina. Her name meant peace, serenity – that elusive dream he had been hunting for three years now.

Have patience” they told him. “We will extract our revenge“.

This was his moment. His moment to take vengeance for her death and the deaths of all children who had died like her.

He uttered the name of his God for forgiveness and courage, and shot the girl at point-blank range. The bullet hit her right in the centre of the forehead. Her eyes glazed over. All the life, laughter, mischief and innocence in them died. She lay extremely still, one more body in the sea of blood in the deathly-silent auditorium.

He waited for peace, for the serenity he had been waiting for, once the anger and rage in him burnt out.

All he felt was grief.

Revenge was easy to get. Redemption was harder. 

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. An innocent death for another innocent death is just the massacre of humanity. 

Abstract Poems

In today’s class, our creative writing teacher had us writing poems on abstract nouns. Here are the ones I came up with:

Fear glides in the Dark,
Draped in voluminous robes of horrific blackness.
He whispers in your ear, and cackle as you shiver.

Beauty strutters in the glided halls
Dressed in shimmering gold
She looks out of the window, and pales in terror of all that she beholds.

Humanity wails in the desolate battlefield
Bathed in the blood of innocence
He weeps and weeps – a ceaseless sound beating against dead ears.

Love drowned with the Titanic.
Love bled in the graveyard with Juliet.
Love dies everyday…and lives forever.

Things You See On Mumbai Locals #2

image

Today while returning from a friend’s birthday lunch (on Mumbai’s lifeline of course – what else would I use?!) I had a sudden moment of epiphany about Life. As I watched the blue sky dappled with sunlight and the green trees wet from the last shower, flash by, I realized Life isn’t so different from a moving train ride.
We board the train at birth, and can only alight it after Death. All that lies in between is a magnificent journey. There are beautiful sights sometimes, like sprawling green meadows and rambling silver brooks which make me feel happy, and ugly sights like a garbage dump which makes me sad or angry.  But they both are transitory. I can’t stop and gaze at them. One second is all I get, to be jubilant or dejected in, before the train moves on, and all that is left is a memory.
Our friends and family are like our co-passengers. They get on the train at some point, and for some time we travel together, but soon their stop comes, and they get down, while I must go on. I can try holding onto their hands, till momentum tears us asunder; I can try craning my neck, craving  that one last look, but no matter how hard I try to hold on to the moment, it’s gonna fly away on the wings of nostalgia.
The train however moves on……..

1st March 2014: Tryst With Edgar Allan Poe

Today, by chance, I happened to find myself in the college library, with quite a considerable amount of time on my hand. While browsing through the literature section for books to read, I came across a fat volume titled: The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Now I had of course previously heard of Edgar Allan Poe, vaguely, as a writer of Gothic Romanticism, of macabre tales and dark poems. But this was the first time I had read (apart from a short story I had previously read for class – and which pretty much fell into the established and commonly accepted norm of his stories) any of his works. And was I fascinated!! Here are some of the poems I read and loved by Edgar Allan Poe:

To Octavia

5211782unrequited_love_by_captain_curly_d31j2u1When wit, and wine, and friends have met
And laughter crowns the festive hour
In vain I struggle to forget
Still does my heart confess thy power
And fondly turn to thee!

But Octavia, do not strive to rob
My heart of all that soothes its pain
The mournful hope that every throb
Will make it break for thee!

It took me a minute to understand the last two lines, but when I did I was kept marveling at the sheer beauty of them. The original poem was written to Octavia Walton, daughter of George Walton, Secretary of West Florida under Governor William P. Duval. The poem manages to convey despite its brevity, a deluge of emotions. The narrator says how even in the most lively company of friends, and no matter how entertaining the conversation, his thoughts only turn to her, to Octavia, the girl he loves. He is fighting a losing battle with his heart, as he struggles to forget his Lady Love (who though it is not explicitly stated in the poem, must have turned down his proposal). The only hope the poet has is someday his heart will break, as he will realize that she is unattainable. It is only after this realization – no matter how painful – that he can never have her, strikes him, that he will be able to continue with his life. Because till then, he hopes (though he knows it to be in vain) that she will someday return his love, and that keeps him tied to her and her memories.

Lost and/or unattainable Love is a common theme in many of his poems. Here are two more that struck my fancy. The first one is only of two lines, and yet the couplet is one of my personal favorites.

Deep In Earth

1328790080_Love GraveDeep in earth my love is lying
    And I must weep alone.

Poe wrote this poem, I later learnt, courtesy of Google, in 1847 – the year of his wife’s death. In the poem he talks about the loneliness and grief he feels at her death.

The other poem, is not autobiographical, but the theme it discusses is similar to the previous poem – the loss of a loved one. It is one of the few poems written by Poe in a woman’s voice.

Bridal Ballad

beautiful-chinese-bride-white-wedding-dressThe ring is on my hand,
 And the wreath is on my brow;
Satins and jewels grand
Are all at my command,
 And I am happy now.

And my lord he loves me well;
 But, when first he breathed his vow
I felt my bosom swell—
For the words rang as a knell,
And the voice seemed his who fell
In the battle down the dell,
 And who is happy now.

But he spoke to re-assure me,
 And he kissed my pallid brow
While a reverie came o’er me,
And to the church-yard bore me,
And I sighed to him before me,
Thinking him dead D’Elormie,
 “Oh, I am happy now!”

And thus the words were spoken,
 And this the plighted vow,
And, though my faith be broken,
And, though my heart be broken
Behold the golden token
 That proves me happy now!

Would God I could awaken!
 For I dream I know not now,
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,—
Lest the dead who is forsaken
 May not be happy now.

The poem is narrated by a newly-married bride, whose first love died in a battle. Her husband loves him, but she is unable to forget her earlier lover. He is rich and showers her with jewels and silk garments. And she tries to be happy and grateful for these gifts, explicitly crying out And I am happy now. However the very fact that she has to clarify on this point, repeatedly state it shows that she is not. She is just trying to fool the readers, and herself, into believing that she is happy. She confesses, that the only reason she accepted her husband’s proposal is because his voice reminded her of ‘dead D’Elormie’ her first love. She manages to partly convince herself that D’Elormie is happy now, and at peace; and thus in a stupor she goes through the marriage rituals. But even when she is taking her wedding vows, it is dead D’Elormie whom she imagines to be standing in front of her, and in this way she gets married. After the marriage when she returns to reality her heart is broken. But that is not what bothers her. What bothers her is that she has broken her promise to both men. She broke her promise to D’Elormie to love him forever, and she broke her wedding vows to her husband. But again she points to her golden wedding ring, and declares herself to be evidence of her happiness, since newly-wed brides are happy on their marriage day. The poem ends with a dream (or nightmare) of the bride, which shakes her soul, as she is made to consider the possibility that her dead lover may be unhappy by her betrayal to him, and thus he cannot rest in peace. The guilt and inner turmoil of the bride’s conflicting emotions underline most of the poem.I will conclude this post with a stanza from Poe’s poem ‘Alone’:

Sunset_Alone_by_ibadurrahman1From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —

The poem simply describes the lonely childhood of the poet, as he was different from all his peers, in his thoughts, feelings and passions. Yet at the same time it celebrates his own individuality and uniqueness. And isn’t that what Life is all about – being one with the crowd, while maintaining our own uniqueness. We are just one strand of colour in the rainbow of society. Not alike to anyone around us, yet made beautiful by their presence.

Images taken from Google