Journey

The Matrix, Our Home and The Second Option

Article

Have You Ever Had A Dream, Neo, That You Were So Sure Was Real?

Morpheus (The Matrix, 1999)

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The ‘sci’ route.
[Source – Pixabay]

Our world, our home, this table, that apple forms our reality… what we experience is the reality and déjà vu is déjà vu… or is it?

What if the funky sci-fi stories are correct? What if we are living in a simulation?

Taking just the ‘sci’ route for now, we move ahead.

Definition says – “A simulation imitates the operation of real world processes or systems with the use of models. The model represents the key behaviours and characteristics of the selected process or system while the simulation represents how the model evolves under different conditions over time.”


Nick Bostrom, a contemporary philosopher, in his seminal paper ‘Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?’ published in Philosophy Quarterly (2003) argues that at least one of the following propositions is true –

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

This galvanizing thought, also explored in literature, reached the masses, in leather-overcoat-black-shades defining manner, via the 1999 blockbuster film, The Matrix.

In a cyberpunk style, The Matrix, fantastically paints a futuristic grim image of us all ignorantly trapped/living in a simulation. But this world fluctuates as there is a ‘Neo’ hero and an ‘Agent’ villain and also a Polestar named Morpheus; while the villain manipulates, dulls and destroys, the hero trusts the revolution and liberates.

A journey with a final destination, the film knows where to end.

A hypothesis doesn’t worry about endings, it is simply and honestly a hypothesis; like one shared by Nick Bostrom, a straightforward, happy philosopher.

He states –

Proposition (1) doesn’t by itself imply that we are likely to go extinct soon, only that we are unlikely to reach a posthuman stage. This possibility is compatible with us remaining at, or somewhat above, our current level of technological development for a long time before going extinct. Another way for (1) to be true is if it is likely that technological civilization will collapse. Primitive human societies might then remain on Earth indefinitely.

There are many ways in which humanity could become extinct before reaching posthumanity. Perhaps the most natural interpretation of (1) is that we are likely to go extinct as a result of the development of some powerful but dangerous technology…

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Converging naturally.
[Source – Pixabay]

The second alternative in the simulation argument’s conclusion is that the fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor‐ simulation is negligibly small. In order for (2) to be true, there must be a strong convergence among the courses of advanced civilizations…

What force could bring about such convergence? One can speculate that advanced civilizations all develop along a trajectory that leads to the recognition of an ethical prohibition against running ancestor‐simulations because of the suffering that is inflicted on the inhabitants of the simulation…

Another possible convergence point is that almost all individual posthumans in virtually all posthuman civilizations develop in a direction where they lose their desires to run ancestor‐simulations.

This would require significant changes to the motivations driving their human predecessors, for there are certainly many humans who would like to run ancestor‐simulations if they could afford to do so. But perhaps many of our human desires will be regarded as silly by anyone who becomes a posthuman…

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Palpable and true…?
[Source – Pixabay]

The possibility expressed by alternative (3) is the conceptually most intriguing one. If we are living in a simulation, then the cosmos that we are observing is just a tiny piece of the totality of physical existence. The physics in the universe where the computer is situated that is running the simulation may or may not resemble the physics of the world that we observe. While the world we see is in some sense “real”, it is not located at the fundamental level of reality. It may be possible for simulated civilizations to become posthuman. They may then run their own ancestor‐simulations on powerful computers they build in their simulated universe.

Such computers would be “virtual machines”, a familiar concept in computer science. (Java script web‐applets, for instance, run on a virtual machine – a simulated computer – inside your desktop.) Virtual machines can be stacked: it’s possible to simulate a machine simulating another machine, and so on, in arbitrarily many steps of iteration.

If we do go on to create our own ancestor‐simulations, this would be strong evidence against (1) and (2), and we would therefore have to conclude that we live in a simulation. Moreover, we would have to suspect that the posthumans running our simulation are themselves simulated beings; and their creators, in turn, may also be simulated beings. Reality may thus contain many levels…

In the dark forest of our current ignorance, it seems sensible to apportion one’s credence roughly evenly between (1), (2), and (3).


Talking about the second option, how wonderfully sublime, explicit yet indefinite it is? “Ethics”, Nick Bostrom, matter-of-factly, talks about ethics. That the post-human civilisation may find it ethically wrong or simply may not be interested in undertaking such “ancestor-simulations” is superbly intriguing.

Flood-gates of what is bright and reverberating distinctly, incessantly somewhere, suddenly leaves us with a promise – its nature and terms we know not as yet for we are too far away.

But this gratifying simple thought present as the second option balances and bridges the other two, quite possible, extremes, as if it knows the truth, as if it is the truth … while we wait and work our way towards…

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Fate, It Seems, Is Not Without A Sense Of Irony.

Morpheus  (The Matrix, 1999)

Download and read Nick Bostrom’s complete simulation argument now –

Are You Living In A Computer Simulation?

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Read a comprehensive article about the simulation theory here.


Also, listen to Stephan West’s coverage of Nick Bostrom’s simulation argument.


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Ancient Dusky Rivers

The river… sketching its way ahead…
[Source – Pixabay]
The Negro Speaks of Rivers

by Langston Hughes

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I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

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I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

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I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


Rivers – streams, creeks, brooks or rivulets – love to flow; flowing towards a sea, lake, an ocean or another river, and at times also drying out. Rivers love to flow just like life.

Most of the earlier civilisations prospered when they settled around rivers, channelizing the same love when drinking its fresh water.

And when mankind sat in a circle around the fire and created stories – of the sun, the moon, the thunder and the wind – they fostered their imaginations and decided to pass on the love running in their blood to a lovely supreme one.

Different supreme ones took the centre stage at different places and myriad dramas unfolded that the rivers watched quietly, flowing, gushing with joy every moment.

Resisting neither the rocks nor filth, accepting the dead and plastic bottles alike, it continues to flow… for now.


Still like a mirror, moving like a reflection…
[Source – Pixabay]

Langston Hughes in his poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers connects the human soul with the world’s ancient rivers; the hands that cupped to drink water, the feet that crossed the river, whatever race it belonged to, felt the same damp calmness every single time they drank water and crossed the river.

Written during the early twentieth century when African Americans struggled to achieve equality and justice, Hughes, presenting a powerful historical perspective in this poem, emphasises the link between his ancestors, the ancient rivers and the rest of the human civilisation.

The Euphrates, often believed to be the birthplace of human civilisation, the Congo, powerful and mysterious, that saw the rise of many great African kingdoms, the magical Nile that carries with poise the secrets of the great Egyptian pyramids, the folklorist Mississippi that shared here the tales of Abraham Lincoln and American slavery – shows how rivers carry the past in its depth, carrying it always with love.

And the one who sees with love can sense the connection between rivers and souls, between them and us; we all started this journey together, the rivers are a testimony.


“I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

Experience and history, though often oppressive, have not extinguished but rather emboldened the development of a soul, the birth of an immortal self, the proud ‘I’ that now speaks to all who will listen.

Christopher C. De Santis

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Shakespeare’s Sonnet 107 and Timelessness

Coverage

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Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rime,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.


The idea of timelessness, eternity, immortality must be true as we wish, look and aim for it in some way or the other. Imagining living continuously, building and creating happy ways of life, chiselling and shaping the continuous source of happiness, we forgetfully live with the idea of forever.

The decisive time gone by, the melting present and the secret future, though definite, knows the indefinite. And one is lured, naturally, to know and identify with the indefinite. Why? For the indefinite is the absolute. So? The absolute appears to be complete, eternal, beyond the cyclic drama and free. Then? We may be a part of it or we too may want to be complete. And so? I don’t know, I am living forgetfully with the idea of forever, remember.

Shakespeare, the greatest and most famous playwright ever, via his works, attained immortality and this is what he celebrated in Sonnet 107. Full of creative splendour, he announced his lead on rusty cenotaphs and statues of the rulers.


The Battle at Gavelines and Elizabeth I at Tilbury (Pastiche).
The painting presents a stylized account of the battle of Gravelines between the Spanish Armada and the English fleet, including the beacons, Elizabeth’s address at Tilbury, and the battle itself in a single montage on three jointed pieces of fine tabby-weave linen. 
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

“The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured”

That the grand, rock-hard, grave and lovely moon too continues its finite journey, eroding gradually, black red white, suggests that the moon knows well the infinite’s will. Or else why will it so humbly accept its role? This long journey, then, is no less than a quiet meditation. The deep circular craters are the timekeepers and the moon knows it.

One of William Shakespeare’s renowned 154 Sonnets, Sonnet 107 is often linked with the contemporary events of the time: the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), Queen Elizabeth’s death (in 1603), the Long Turkish War (1593-1606); the Armada charged in a crescent formation, Queen Elizabeth was also called Cynthia (name of the Greek moon goddess), the Ottoman Empire’s flag boasted the crescent moon symbol.

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Elizabeth I of England.
The portrait was made to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (depicted in the background).
[Source – Wikipedia]

In times so precarious, one would want to hold on to a secure thought or remember the limits of mortality, mocking unabashedly the warmongers and peace-lovers alike, or even hope to create something timeless.


Read the wonderfully crisp commentary on Sonnet 107, here.

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First image from Pixabay


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Moony Clay

Moon’s cloudy carpet.
[Image by Jagriti Rumi]

Now a clear dot… now hazy… mixing with the clouds through and through, then beaming alone gloriously. Splattering moony clay, then rubbing it, greasing with it the deep dark sky.

Mirroring all the romantics and dream-talkers, the moony clay moulds itself to fit into the beholder’s eyes and patient hearts. It listens, nods and registers its reply with the artist.

Moony clay – an assiduous storyteller, slowly moving away – happily builds the wavy waves and like a sand clock shows the slipping time its way.

Singing joyously, dancing leisurely, the moony clay creates and fills the heart with hope, lost in splendour.

See how it re-shapes, re-writes its journey, certain of uncertainty in knowing… in knowing it all. 


Images by Jagriti Rumi


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Travelling Through Time to Meet the Hindi Poets

Feature Article
Silent stories.
[Image by ashish choudhary from Pixabay]

The Hindi language is a treasury that stores precious jewels gained from different languages like the ancient Indian languages – Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Apabhramsha and others like Dravidian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese and English. Gathering from such enriching sources and reforming itself continuously, the Hindi language aimed both for simplicity and profundity, to be an easy guide for its user.

While every form of Hindi literature has only helped in fulfilling this goal, nothing matched the influence of Hindi Poetry. The word Hindi and/ or Hindavi, meaning Indian (the inhabitants of the Indus) in classical Persian, was understood to be the language of India and was taken up by many great poets like the Sufi poet and musician Amir Khusrow (1253 – 1325) for his poems.

Until the printing technique was invented, handwritten books and social gatherings were the only medium to spread literary and cultural ideas; it also meant that very few could afford handwritten books and reading was only for the scholars. Thus, it was poems that reached the masses in the form of songs, stories, folklore, fables and pure poetry; the most famous being the two epic poems of India – The Mahabharata and Ramayana.


The Hindi poems as well as other literary forms catered to and evolved with the time, changing styles and themes accordingly. With the records available, we find Hindi poems taking a firm position when the poets found patrons in the kings in the 11th to 14th Century, thus, beginning the Vir-Gatha Kaal or the AdiKaal. As this period saw many invasions and battles, it influenced Hindi poetry immensely; the poems were mostly about the valiant warriors of the time, adding fictitious encounters to please the King.

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Prithviraj Chauhan and Sanyogita.
[Source – museumsofindia.gov]

With Hindi speaking majority being in the North, the poems of this era also came from this region – Delhi, Kannauj, Ajmer, ranging up to central India. Prithviraj Raso, an epic poem, dedicated to the ruler of Delhi and Ajmer, Prithviraj Chauhan, by his court poet, Chand Bardai, is considered to be the most famous work of this period; though not historically reliable, it gives insights into society under a Hindu ruler. The poem celebrates Prithviraj Chauhan as a ruler; the widely known part of the poem being the King’s love life – how he fell for Sanyogita, his enemy’s daughter, who too wanted to marry him as Prithviraj Chauhan’s success wasn’t a secret, and how he barged in with an army on the day of Sanyogita’s sawayamvar and eloped with her. It is majorly because of this epic poem, that even today we see Prithviraj Chauhan’s love story being enacted on different platforms.

Other works by royal poets include Naishdhiya Charitra by Harsha, Khuman Raso by Dalpativijay, Bisaldev Raso by Narpati Nalha and Parmal Raso by Jagnayak, most of these being a lively rendition of battles and their consequences. Unfortunately, many of these poems were destroyed by the army of Muhammad of Ghor, thus, only a few manuscripts are available today.

Other poetic works include devotional works of the Siddhas (belonged to Vajrayana – a Buddhist cult), Nathpanthis (yogis who practised the Hatha yoga) and Jains. Gorakhnath, a Nathpanthi poet, wrote in styles like Doha (couplet) and Chaupai (quartet) and on themes that laid emphasis on moral values and scorned racial favouritism.

In the Deccan region in South India, Dakkhini or Hindavi was used. It flourished under the Delhi Sultanate and later under the Nizams of Hyderabad. The first Deccan poet was Nizami, his most famous poetical work is Panj Ganj (Persian for – Five Treasures).


By the end of the 14th century devotional poems took the centre stage and maintained its hold till the 18thcentury and came to be known as the Bhakti Kaal. New verse patterns like Doha, Sortha (Chhand/ verse), Chaupainya (four liners), Shringara Rasa, etc. were added to Hindi poetry styles. Also, fresh dialects like Avadhi, Brij Bhasha and Bundeli gave fervour to these new styles. The main works in Avadhi are Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat and Tulsidas’s Ramacharitamanas and in Braj dialect are Tulsidas’s Vinaya Patrika and Surdas’s Sur Sagar.

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The poet Jayadeva bows to Lord Vishnu.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Kabir, the great mystic poet and saint, is said to use a mixture of many dialects (especially Khaddi Boli) in his poetry and Dohas – 

माला फेरत जुग भया, फिरा न मन का फेर,
कर का मनका डार दे, मन का मनका फेर।

Translation – Kabir says, you spent your life turning the beads of a rosary, but could not turn/ change your own heart. Leave the rosary, try and change the evil in your heart.

In the Bhakti Kaal, two schools of thought were formed – Nirguna School (the believers of a formless God) and the Saguna school (the worshippers of Vishnu’s incarnations). Known as the Bhakti Movement, both these schools worked to transform the orthodox and biased ways of the society and offered every individual an alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s caste or gender.

Kabir and Guru Nanak belonged to the Nirguna School; they were truly secular and thus, had a large number of followers irrespective of caste or religion; in fact, Guru Nanak became the founder of a monotheistic religion – Sikhism. The Saguna School was represented by mainly Vaishnava poets like Surdas, Tulsidas, Ramananda, Mira Bai, Tukaram and others.

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Mira Bai, the Bhakti saint, the mystic poet.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

This was also the age of tremendous integration between the Hindu and the Islamic elements in the Arts with the advent of many Muslim Bhakti poets like Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana who was a court poet to Mughal emperor Akbar and was a great devotee of Krishna.

जे गरीब पर हित करैं, हे रहीम बड़ लोग।

कहा सुदामा बापुरो, कृष्ण मिताई जोग॥

Translation – People who work for the poor are great ones. Poor Sudama says that Krishna’s friendship is like worshipping the supreme; Rahim means that one who helps the poor becomes worthy of getting divine love.


The 18th and 20th century saw the unfolding of Riti-Kavya Kaal, the age where the focus shifted from emotions to ‘riti’ which means procedure and to poetic theory and its elements like Alankrit Kaal, Shringar Kaal, Alankaar Kaal, Kala Kaal; euphoria, beauty, heroism and fancy became the major aspects of poetry in this era.

Riti Kaal’s poets lived in the shelter of kings and nobles. The literature written in such an environment was mostly decorative and artistic; thus, the poems also became distant from the general public.

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Krishna and Radha dancing the Rasalila.
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Most of the Riti works were related to Krishna Bhakti, with emphasis mainly on the Rasic (joyful, passionate, playful) and Shringar (physical love and beauty) elements – Krishna Leela, his pranks with the Gopis in Braj, and the description of the physical beauty of Krishna and Radha (Krishna’s consort). The poems of Bihari (Bihari Satsai), Keshavdas (Rasikpriya), Chintamani (Pingal) and Matiram (Rasraj) are well-known works of this period; their poems were a collection of Dohas, dealing with Bhakti (devotion), Neeti (moral policies) and majorly Shringar (physical beauty).

The shift from Sanskrit to a simpler language, even for the royal courts, had long ushered the change that kept on evolving Hindi language and that finally resulted in the formation of Devanagari script in the end; the first two books in Devanagari script, the year 1795, were by Heera Lal, which was a treatise on Ain-i-Akbari and by Rewa Mharaja – a treatise on Kabir.


From the 19th century onwards, started the Adhunik Kaal (modern literature); with the British East India Company establishing a complete hold on the country, Hindi poetry became the catalyst for the chain of revolutions in India. This period is divided into four phases – Bharatendu Yug, Dwivedi Yug, Chhayavad Yug (1918–1937) and the Contemporary Period (1937–present).

Bhartendu Harishchandra(1850-1885), known as the father of modern Hindi literature as well as Hindi theatre, used new media like reports, publications, letters to the editor, translations and literary works to shape public opinion.

Writing under the pen name “Rasa”, Harishchandra represented the agonies of the people, the country’s poverty, dependency, inhuman exploitation, the unrest of the middle class and the urge for the progress of the country. He was an influential Hindu “traditionalist”, using Vaishnava “devotionalism” to define a coherent Hindu religion.

निज भाषा उन्नति अहै, सब उन्नति को मूल।
बिन निज भाषा-ज्ञान के, मिटत न हिय को सूल।।
विविध कला शिक्षा अमित, ज्ञान अनेक प्रकार।
सब देसन से लै करहू, भाषा माहि प्रचार।।

Translation – Progress is made in one’s own language, as it is the foundation of all progress. Without the knowledge of the mother tongue, there is no cure for the pain of the heart. Knowledge is boundless, we should take new ideas from different cultures, but these new ideas should then be proliferated in our own language.

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The freedom struggle and fighting with the mighty pen.
[Image by Ashutosh Kaushik from Pixabay]

Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi (1864 – 1938) was a Hindi writer and editor who played a major role in establishing the modern Hindi language in poetry and broadening the acceptable subjects of Hindi poetry from the traditional ones of religion and romantic love; he encouraged poetry in Hindi dedicated to nationalism and social reform.

One of the most prominent poems of the period was Maithili Sharan Gupt’s Bharat-Bharati, which evokes the past glory of India. Shridhar Prathak’s Bharat-git is another renowned poem of the period.


Chhayavaadi Yug refers to the era of Neo-romanticism in Hindi literature, particularly Hindi poetry, 1922–1938, and was marked by an upsurge of romantic and humanist content, by a renewed sense of the self and personal expression, visible in the writings of the time.

The great literary figures belonging to this school are known as Chhayavaadi poets –Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Mahadevi Varma and Sumitranandan Pant. These four representative poets of this era embody the best in Hindi Poetry. A unique feature of this period is the emotional (and sometimes active) attachment of poets with the national freedom struggle, their effort to understand and imbibe the vast spirit of a magnificent ancient culture and their towering genius which grossly overshadowed all the literary ‘talked about’ of next seven decades.

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The grand Himalayas (the Annapurna Sanctuary).
[Source – Wikimedia Commons]

Himadri Tung Shring Se is a patriotic poem by Jaishankar Prasad; though a short one, the poem holds the capability of encouraging a whole generation and is often sung as an anthem –

हिमाद्रि तुंग श्रृंग से
प्रबुद्ध शुद्ध भारती —
स्वयं प्रभा समुज्ज्वला
स्वतंत्रता पुकारती —

अमर्त्य वीरपुत्र हो, दृढ प्रतिज्ञ सोच लो,
प्रशस्त पुण्य पंथ है — बढे चलो,बढे चलो

असंख्य कीर्ति-रश्मियाँ ,
विकीर्ण दिव्य दाह-सी 
सपूत मातृभूमि के —
रुको न शूर साहसी

अराति सैन्य सिंधु में, सुवाड़वाग्नि-से जलो,
प्रवीर हो जयी बनो — बढे चलो, बढे चलो !

[Translation – the poem tells every Indian to be as strong as the Himalayas, to be a gallant son of this land and to take a firm vow to continue walking on the path of virtue (i.e. to continue serving the country). Endless glories await the ones who are patriotic. Not to stop, but to burn like pure fire, to keep on walking ahead until you achieve your goal.]

The other prominent poets who also used Chayavaadi elements in their poetry include names like Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Makhanlal Chaturvedi and Pandit Narendra Sharma.


After India’s independence, the core socio-economic, political and cultural aspect went through a whirlpool of changes and so did the Modern Hindi literature. It entered Pragativaad  (progressivist-socialist), Prayogavaad (experimentalist) tendencies culminating in new poetry and further labels like contemporary poetry and reflective poetry.

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Toota Pahiya – the broken wheel, a poem by Dharamvir Bharati.
[Source – newspuran]

Some of the famous poets of the Contemporary Period include – Bhawani Prasad Mishra (Buni Hui Rassi), Gulab Khandelwal (Usha, Alokvritt), Kedarnath Singh (Akaal Mein Saras), Nagarjun (Bādal kō Ghiratē Dēkhā hai), Sudama Pandey Dhoomil (Sansad se Sarak Tak), Padma Sachdev (Meri Kavita Mere Geet), Dharamvir Bharati (Toota Pahiya), Geet Chaturvedi (Ubhaychar).

A section of poets also wrote for cinema and television; poets became lyricists and screenwriters, moulding this literary form further. Some of the known lyricists are – Anand Bakshi, Shailendra, Saroj Mohini Nayyar, Sahir Ludhianvi, Amrita Pritam, Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Prasson Joshi, Jaideep Sahni and Irshad Kamil.

O life, embrace me… a song from the Hindi film Sadma (1983), lyrics by Gulzar.
[Source – Pinterest, for English translation click here.]

It has been a long journey for the Hindi Poets, forever evolving along with the Hindi language. The ability of the Hindi language to sanction and its power to absorb new ideas has given Hindi literature a colourful past. While we compartmentalize the eras for it is then easier to approach the bulk of literature produced, it many times overshadow the individuality of a poet for poets are not of one era, they are of every era.

Poets, by nature of their profession, see what is beyond their times, see what is invisible to others, and this is what makes every honest poem unique.  The 21st century Hindi poets, like their ancestors, present an image of the world around, and also give us a peek into a deeper world, the inner world.

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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.