Journey

Devendra Satyarthi – The Wanderer Sage

Jubilant stream meandering modestly…
Image by Layers from Pixabay

Gatherings under the giant Mahogany tree in the evenings, the jubilant stream meandering modestly and maybe also a talkative Koel’s parleys encouraged the wanderer… and the love stories, happy and incomplete ones, beaded in a melody and sung by folks for generations… it touched his soul.

Time failed to bind him as he travelled back and forth in the past and present to collect these melodies for posterity.

Nicknamed as Ghumakkad (wanderer) and Darvesh (saintly), Devendra Satyarthi (1908-2003) was a folklorist, poet, essayist, novelist and translator who wrote in Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi and English; he is famously known for his pioneering work, Giddha, an anthology of folk songs.

Travelling during the British Raj in an undivided India he met farmers, traders, tribals, mendicants and learnt from them their stories, listened to their songs and sang along.

Accumulating a treasure of around three thousand folk songs in fifty different languages, a beautiful feat in itself, he gifted it to the public for free; when All India Radio decided to pay him royalties for the folk songs, he refused it saying that the copyrights were vested in the motherland.

Rabindranath Tagore, who shared Devendra Satyarthi’s passion for folklores and folk songs, urged him to explore the world of folk literature throughout the country and also suggested him to write predominantly in his mother tongue i.e. Punjabi. Satyarthi obeyed him like a true disciple.

Folklores – the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth – certainly are a repository of knowledge that has an answer for the one who is astounded by life and its candour.

No doubt Devendra Satyarthi lived like a gipsy, he had to astound the norms so as to grasp our folklore heritage in a single lifetime.

‘मेरी प्रेयसी हीर नहीं है

न ही मैं रांझा

मैं पथिक पैर में चक्कर

मेरी प्रेयसी पथ की अभ्यस्त

चल पड़ती है उधर

जिधर मैं हो लेता हूं

न हंसकर, रोकर

नयनों में प्रिय नयन पिरोकर.’

(Translation – Neither is my beloved Heer*/ Nor am I Ranjha*/ I am a traveller/ And my beloved is habitual of the travelling life/ She walks along with me/ Wherever I leave for/ without a smile or tear/ with just love in her eyes.)

Devendra Satyarthi and his wife.
[Source – Devendra Satyarthi Smriti]

Living a life of a roamer, on the mercy of the others, travelling on almost no budget, this became impossible for Devendra Satyarthi’s wife after they had their first child.

Taking the responsibility of running the house, his wife started sewing work; for a while he too stayed back, working as an editor of a Hindi newspaper, but not for long.

His free-spirited folklorist’s soul made him embark on his next journey to different cities and villages.

I confess that it was the sewing machine which saved the family, I just scribbled on paper,” Satyarthi said so as an old man. His poems, novels, short stories, essays, folk song anthologies, his contemporaries and the readers speak differently though; he continues to be a wanderer sage for them.

Hazari Prasad Dwivedi, the famous Hindi novelist, historian, critic and scholar, wrote a poem praising Devandra Satyarthi in which he compared Satyarthi’s loner lifestyle with that of the sun and the moon in the sky, as he too walked alone, spreading brightness through his words.

One of his many noteable works.
[Source – JSKS]

Devindra Satyarthi fought for independence with songs of freedom, love, devotion, brotherhood and unity.

He gathered this harmonious spirit and shared it with the countrymen; leaders like Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru appreciated his work and so did the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Many were foresighted in those times of the Raj and talked about the importance of recording the country’s cultural diversity, but few had the courage to step out of the cushioned life and do it. It required a lifetime, and Satyarthi dedicated his.”

Nahar Singh, a folklore expert

Awarded with accolades like the Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award, Devindra Satyarthi continued working in his late eighties and passed away at ninety four.

In his rigorous journey, it was his passion for folk songs and folk tales and the unflinching support of his wife that made him a jovial philosopher-poet.

The wanderer sage.
[Source – Devendra Satyarthi Smriti]

A khadi kurta-pyjama, long white beard and hair, thick spectacles, a rough jhola-bag and a few notebooks clenched close to the chest, one might have called Devindra Satyarthi a strange, poor old man, unaware about his legacy and treasures.

A happy folklorist.
[Source – Devendra Satyarthi Smriti]

[Footnote* – Heer Ranjha is a tragic romantic folk story from Punjab.]


References –

Short Documentaries – Punjabi Academy Delhi; Sahitya Academy

Documentary – Main Hun Khanabadosh (I am a nomad/gipsy).

Hindi article – A tribute to Devendra Satyarthi

English article – Footloose sage Satyarthi, the man who walked, talked, gathered, wrote our stories


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Bach’s Seagull meets Shelley’s Skylark

Jonathan Livingston Seagull and his students.
Image from Pixabay.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.

Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.

An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.

On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.

Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.

“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.

Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.

“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.

The fable. [Source – Wikipedia]

Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.

He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.

Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?

And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?

Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from Heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

*

Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

*

The invisible bird.
Image from Unsplash.

‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.

The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.

Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.

Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.

What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

*

Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

*

Like a high-born maiden

In a palace-tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

*

Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aëreal hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:

*

Like a rose embower’d

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflower’d,

Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

*

Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awaken’d flowers,

All that ever was

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.

*

Rain-awaken’d flowers.
Image from Pixabay.

The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.

We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.

The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?

It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.

Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.  

Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.

Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.

*

Fly high and well.
Image from Pixabay.

Read P. B Shelley’s full poem To a Skylark here.

Listen to the Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s audio book version here.


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“A Story Always Tells Another Story, You Know…”

I believe in the story!
Image from Pixabay.

And you will never know, I will never show, what I feel, what I need from you, no.

The salmon coloured light is bright in me and still, you cannot see. This colour is all over the space and at night the salmon coloured moon shines to tell you the same, but still, you cannot hear.

Oh no, I am not upset, I am saying it out loud for I know the story now. I love this story now.

Raphael took his bow and arrow that day and went to the jungle to hunt, like any other day. Raphael you saw that hare and you readied yourself, you shot and missed it.

What happened, why did you smile then? Ah, the hare was of salmon colour too, right? You smiled and ran your fingers through your hair, I know.

And you will never know, I will never show, what I feel, what I need from you, no.

Stop shying away… you from me and me from you. Cannot you feel the salmon coloured road on which we are walking? Miles apart and years away, destined to meet along the way.

The journey began long back, neither I nor you remember when. But it is sweeter that way, for there is a mystery and scope for the unexpected.

Raphael when the heart breaks, it takes not a moment to bring it all to an end. Raphael the tears only wish for love.

Fighting in the battle when you took a step ahead, so did I, struggling against the mean voices and terrible lies. The salmon coloured sky reached out to both of us then, I know because I believe in the story.

And you will never know, I will never show, what I feel, what I need from you, no.

We will hold hands and dance and clap and sing together, painting the walls around in salmon colour.

I am not afraid of forever, are you? Tell me this and more when we meet.    

*

Post inspired by Imany’s beautiful, soulful song “You will never know.”

Check out the official video here.

Read about Imany here.


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The Dragon, Dandelions And The Twist In The Story

The dragon thought she was dreaming.
Image by Lilawind from Pixabay

While walking through the green pastures, the valley of colourful flowers, the dragon suddenly found herself in the desert where the scorching sun stroked her, burnt the sand, splashed mirages everywhere…

… when a strong stroke of warm air tossed the dragon off the ground reminding her that she has wings, which she then fluttered, crossing a gush of gold dust, she closed her eyes for a wink of a second and the world around her changed…

… as she saw the sky-scraping waterfall in front of her, amazed she thought am I dreaming, but did not wait for the answer and plunged towards the waterfall, shouting in joy and adding to its rhythm.

Oh, dragon you are so lucky, here the winters never seem to end and when it does, it is followed by another winter.

Who is asking for the spring? It will be a blessing if I see autumn.

Oh, autumn! The ocean of orange leaves crumple and swirl in my mind all the time, but what I see is the dry hypnotised land, grey and white, and dark and mossy.

Why cannot I be the witness of a twist in my story?

The dragon soared into the air; neither the hail nor the lightening could stumble her once, and crossed the clouds, the drumming music muffled soon as the lush rainbow appeared in full gusto.

You have got wings dragon, probably that is why you can bring twists in your story.

Ah! I have been walking since that cloud burst forced me to leave my hideout and I am still walking. The path I took glistened with frost and I fell twice.

Rough stairs took me up the mountain and just where I stopped to rest, I saw some dandelions dancing, happy about something.

When I smiled with them I was reminded of a wish and at the same time, the rising wind whispered a message, overwhelmed I resumed my journey, my story.

Happy, dancing dandelions.
Image by DaphoGo from Pixabay

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Shared Moment

I stopped then on the road, don’t know why exactly, my mind blank and my eyes fixed on the ground. I couldn’t move.
What was I hoping for? To see a rainbow? By looking down?

The wind swam past me and I heard it quickly whisper something, I didn’t get the message. Split seconds passed, then I finally looked up and straight.

Before I could realise, I had crossed the road and now was walking on an old worn out footpath. Grey surroundings didn’t overwhelm me, how could it? But a marigold did, how couldn’t it?

Marigold standing alone with yellow, orange, red coloured joys looked real. I became the part of the background and the marigold became the centre.

I was jealous, why did I take this journey?

The sun rays fell on the chosen one and the Marigold shone bright, beamed its joy. It communicated to me, but how… why?

I smiled for no reason. Marigold nodded at me and I foolishly raised my hand to say ‘hello’.

Fool I made of myself, and still I liked that feeling. In that shared moment I changed.

The Little Prince

After crossing the vast desert, sailing through the green ocean, the Little Prince reached another desert. Golden sand waves welcomed him or so he thought.  

The Little Prince walked alone. And the narrator’s voice followed him, sometimes foretelling and sometimes sharing.  

“But this is not possible, for I cannot hear this voice”, says the Little Prince.

“Still, you can feel it”, replies the narrator.

The Little Prince inquires, “Feel the voice?”“Yes, you can feel what the voice says, the emotions, the connections, the ideas, the realisations… this, you can surely feel”, says the narrator.  

The Little Prince sat on the sand cross-legged and pondered over this thought. The desert wind tried to disturb him, but he stayed still, allowing the wind to settle in his golden hair.  

“Yes, I surely feel… and I am glad I do… then what you speak is true”, says the Little Prince as if reciting a haiku.

“True for you and true for me… true for those who can hear me”, replies the narrator in a cheerful tone.  

This made the Little Prince laugh loudly. The narrator and the desert wind joined him.  

“Hey voice, yours is a pleasant sound… keep following me, keep foretelling and sharing, for I am on a long journey”, standing up says the Little Prince.

“I will, I will… for every journey needs a narrator”, says the narrator.  

The Little Prince nodded and started walking, allowing his feet to sink a little and then rise, allowing the wind to tease him, holding his gaze up at the sky, waiting for the stars to show up.

For he knew a star that would lead him to his destination, he felt it deep in his heart. He felt it!  

Prince with his friend, Fox.
Image from Pixabay.

(This post is dedicated to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of the novella The Little Prince.

[Source – Wikipedia]

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In This Moment

I am complete in this moment. Not in parts, the picture is clear now, the puzzle is solved. I breathe in quietness and the quietness decides to stay. Nothing binds me, I stay stationary, yet I flow in space. The cacophony dies smoothly and turns into a wave of delight. I hold this wave and throw it on the ground breaking it into a rainbow.

Towards the light I walk and the light walks towards me. We will meet one day, the journey begins in this moment.

My Sunglasses

A journey by air, by road, by rail to reach the ocean started with me sitting cross-legged, looking through the window, and thinking about myriad things.

While the world around me appeared to be the same – it smiled when I did, it passed a dull nod when I did – it was secretly weaving a plot.

I got to know about it when I wore my sunglasses.  

The unbiased tracks.
Image – Jagriti Rumi
Live wave-like.
Image – Jagriti Rumi

Everything then moved in a wave, including me.

Immersed in one colour, we were all attuned to do the Samba, and Samba we did.

When the ocean wind joined us, it enthralled us, we chased the beats faster to match its incessant flow.

A heavy old bridge tried the same, corroding swiftly, meeting the ocean wind in rhythm.  

Standing steel solid until…
Image – Jagriti Rumi

I saw the iron steel heavy ocean wind, dancing, through my sunglasses.

The fishermen left their boats, swung their nets, and summoned all the others to sing and dance, to be one with the wave.  

Rowing is knowing life.
Image – Jagriti Rumi

 I hopped and tapped along and beamed, my smile touching my sunglasses.  

At night or was it at dawn, what did the quaint temple said to me? It spoke of its time, the artisans ritual of worshiping their tools, shared an epic tale and sang good old folk songs.

What they say about its static avatar is not true, for the temple sways with wind and sings and adds to the music.

Luckily to see this, you do not have to stand at the ticket counter or wait for hours in serpentine lines.    

The alive architecture.
Image – Jagriti Rumi
Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai.
Image – Jagriti Rumi
The grand parade, Rameshwaram.
Image – Jagriti Rumi

In my company no one did, but I saw a monkey, no, a langur, happy at the top of the temple, playing with the waves… all thanks to my sunglasses.  

Back from the journey, lying upside down on the bed, staring at the funny trees outside the window, I think about Time in general and yawn.

But before those lazy dilemmas hit me, I get up, yes, I sit up straight and plunge forward to look for my sunglasses.  

Namaste!
Image – Jagriti Rumi

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Only a few arrive at nothing, because the way is long – Antonio Porchia

To keep walking is hard. Repeatedly dying on the way is a normal occurrence, but not less significant.

What breaks the heart often is not the crude world or a passer-by, but the heart itself. It allows itself to be crushed. And as funny as it may sound, the truth doesn’t change that the heart also heals itself.

Let us keep aside the magical part for it blindfolds the ones with sightless minds and talk about reason and logic. Oh! But that is already done – heart breaks itself and heals itself… very straightforward indeed. Brain, heart, brain, heart… and this is the journey.

Carrying on kills, but so does not-carrying on; carrying on also gives you a chance to live and to experience the universe. It is a long, long, long journey and then you reach nothing.

At nothing, you become everything.

You Stardust!

Tarantula Nebula.
Image – Pixabay.

Step out you stardust, the door is wide open!    

Why? Aren’t you ready? That table is your trunk, you packed it long back, ask the thick grime your feet are resting on.

Lurking on the wall is a spider, is he your friend or not, don’t bother I tell you, he is on his own journey.

For now, the lamp is cold and dead, for now, the darkness is not a thing unfamiliar, for now, you have mourned too long, so just get up.

Don’t you see the ants working? You sulk and cough and spit and drink thinking life will just pass, but it will not, not so easily.

Get up, step out, it has been so long since you heard the sound of your own footsteps… deep resonance… connect once again to the earth.

Shout or cry, dare or try and always happily fall… fall down for then you’ll learn to wake up… getup-getup.

You turn away from the light, no-no it is not laughing at you, walk with it a mile, you’ll smile and shine too.

The hands you’re resting, the head you’re swaying, the air you’re breathing knows better than you.

Don’t worry for smoothly it will all come back to you, the sun rises and sets, the moon shines and hides, the wind plays and takes, the river nurtures and leaves, the sky stays yours forever – see up, get up.

Witness, for the truth is waiting. Witness, for the Time is calling. Witness, for your life is yours to rule.

Aye! Aye! It is hard, bone-screeching, don’t listen to the stubborn emptiness, all it does is preaching.

See, you’re up, take a step forward, one at a time. Push away the hindrances, let the mirror fall and break into umpteenth pieces, for you’re about to change into an image that the mirror cannot behold.

Aye! Rub your eyes for now you’ll see the world beyond. Keep walking!  

Step out you stardust, the door is wide open!    

Wizard Nebula. Image – Pixabay.

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