The Strong, Brown God

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This piece was published in the ‘Speaking Tree’ Column of ‘Times of India’ on 28th June 2012 written by Kumar Vikram, the son of AKS, on his father.

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On the banks of the Ganga at Triveni Ghat, Rishikesh, we await the start of the evening special aarti on Ekadashi in early November. At twilight a huge crowd watches as the brimming Ganga swirls by, hastening towards Haridwar on her journey to the great Gangetic plain of northern India. The priests arrive and begin invocation to the Ganga as night falls. Holding in their hands multi-mouthed brass diyas, the priests and host families sing paeans to the river, gods and goddesses to the accompaniment of cymbals and drums. It is a magical moment, with people poised with earthen diyas in their hands, waiting to offer them to the holy river. But something disturbs my father, who brought us all here. Quite unlike his general rational disposition, that morning we had taken a bath in the Ganga near the Ram Jhula, for the first time. A religious man, but with no faith in religiosity, this trip was rather unusual for him as well as for us. “This seems a glamourised form of a conservative faith,” he muses to me. I wondered if he would walk away, once his rationalist side took over. But he went through the motions till the very end; perhaps his composure came from the very rationalism that we thought would pull him away. Back at the guest house, now at ease with himself, he said once again that he found an element of vanity in the entire affair. He, like all of us, did not know that the aartis were hosted by particular families—indeed along with the invocation to the deities, the priests had also praised and wished for the well-being of the host families. Utilising his long and sustained teaching to us for the Buddhist golden mean—the Middle Path—and his love for all life and nature, I rationalised that the choreographed aarti should be seen as homage and thanksgiving by human beings for natural forces like the Ganga, a life-giver. I thought this perspective would appeal to my father as his favourite festivals were Holi and Chhath—both outside mainstream Hindu festivals, completely secular, celebrating life and exalting Nature, without show of wealth and privilege and with no mythical gods and goddesses strictly at the centre of it all. It was Ekadashi, which he had been observing for many decades devoid of all its religious paraphernalia and more as a desire to skip meals twice a month for general benefit. Eating fruits to break his fast, he said, ‘You are right. In ‘Four Quartets’, Eliot called the river ‘a strong, brown God.’ He said this calmly, with a composure coming from the insight he’d gained from, among others, teaching literature for four decades and also annotating and critiquing that long, philosophical poem a few years back. The next day, we proceeded to Haridwar. As is the usual practice, I bought two plastic cans to fill them with ‘Ganga Jal’ as souvenirs of a tourist destination. My father waited for me as I bent down to fill them with the ‘holy’ water at the Har-ki-Pauri. He carried one of the cans to Patna, and the other can was left with us at Delhi. The Patna can that he carried would come handy for his last rites three weeks later—droplets of the life-giving brown God silently sprinkled their blessings on his still frame — devoid of all sounds and invocations, perhaps the way he would have liked it to be.

The writer is an editor with National Book Trust, India

Courtesy: http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-articles/faith-and-rituals/the-strong-brown-god

कहाँ शुरू, कहाँ ख़त्म

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बात वर्ष १९६९ के उन दिनों कि है जब मैं हायर सेकेंडरी की परीक्षा पास कर इंजीनियर कालेज में दाखिले का इंतजार कर रहा था ! मेरा नाम चूंकि प्रतीक्षा सूची में था, अतः मैं कुछ दिनों के लिए मोतिहारी जाकर एम. एस. कॉलेज में क्लास करने लगा ! मैं अपने मामू प्रो अरुण कुमार सिन्हा के यहाँ ही रहकर क्लास कर रहा था और इस दरमियान मुझे उनका दो – तीन अंग्रेजी का क्लास करने का अवसर प्राप्त हुआ मुझे उनकी बुलंद आवाज जो कि क्लास के आखिरी बेंच तक सुनाई देती थी, अभी भी मेरे कानों में गूंज जाती है ! छे वर्ष बाद जब मेरे पापा का ट्रान्सफर मुजफ्फरपुर हो गया तो मैं मकान खोजने के सिलसिले में हमेशा उनके संपर्क में रहा, चूँकि अब वे मोतिहारी से मुजफ्फरपुर के लंगट सिंह कॉलेज में स्थानांतरित हो गए थे. किस्मत से मुझे मकान भी उनके घर के समीप में मिल गया ! तब शुरू हुआ उनसे दोस्ती का सिलसिला– दोस्ती इसलिए कि अक्सर होली के मौके पर हमलोग एक दूसरे के दोस्त के यहाँ जाते थे और उनका कहा हुआ यह वाक्य के “घर में नहीं खाओ तो अंत तक खाते रहोगे” हमेशा मुझे होली में उनकी याद ताजा कर देता है !

उनका यह कथन कि ‘ देवानंद की फ़िल्म देखने के बाद मैं अपने आपको दस साल छोटा समझने लगता हूँ ‘ बरबस मेरे चेहरे पर मुस्कान ला देती है ! मुझे याद है कि तब १९७७ का चुनाव आ चुका था, और प्रो. सिन्हा जॉर्ज फर्नान्डिस के निकटतम राजनितिक कर्मियों में से एक थे. उनके पोस्टर को दिवार पर चिपकाने के लिए रात रात भर जागरण करना पड़ता था ! उनका सन्देश आम लोगों तक पहुँचाने के लिए उन्ही के कथनानुसार बस स्टैंड, रेलवे का प्रतिक्षारूम, कुछ ख़ास चौराहा, जहाँ आम आदमी की बहुतायत  होती है, बांटा करता था !

एक और घटना मुझे याद आ रही है, उस समय मेरी बहन की शादी मुजफ्फरपुर में ही तय हो गयी थी ! रोशनी बाजे का इंतजाम मेरे जिम्मे था ! हमलोग उस समय के मशहूर मच्छन बेंड के पास गये थे !प्रोफ. सिन्हा का विनोदपूर्ण मिज़ाज़ था और उनकी बात-चित से ही प्रभावित होकर उस बेंड मास्टर ने ५०००/- कि जगह सिर्फ ५००/- में ही बंद देने की हामी भर दी. एक और वाक्या है.  जब मैं पटना में था और मेरी छोटी बहन की शादी की बात मुजफ्फरपुर में चल रही थी ! उस समय बहन को दिखाने के लिए एक करीबी रिश्तेदार की लाल बत्ती वाली गाडी मुझे मिल गयी थी.  उस समय उन्होंने मुझे कहा था कि अगर लड़के वाले तुम्हारे गाडी में बैठ गये तो समझो कि पहला सेट तुमने जीत लिया ! उनका यह कहना बिलकुल सच साबित हुआ ! लड़के वाले ने गाडी में बैठने से इंकार कर दिया और शादी वहाँ तय नहीं हो पायी.

यह इसे संयोग ही कहिये कि हमलोग ने पटना में अपना गृह – प्रवेश एक ही दिन रखा ! इन्होने समस्या का हल भी ढूंढ लिया ! दिन का खाना अपने यहाँ रखा एवं रात का खाना मेरे यहाँ तय हुआ ! सन २००८ में मेरा जब ट्रान्सफर दिल्ली हुआ और मुझे द्वारिका में रहने का सुअवसर प्राप्त हुआ तो फिर करीब होने एंव मुलाकातों का सिलसिला चल पड़ा ! जिस दिन मैं अपना किराए का मकान फाइनल कर रहा था, उस दिन से लेकर आर. के . पुरम. में क्वार्टर में रहने तक कई बातें हैं जिन्हें मैं कुछ शेयर करना चाहता हूँ ! छठ के समय घात का चुनाव हमेशा उन्हें तनाव में रखता था.

और अंत में उनकी अंतिम इच्छा जो थी हरिद्वार, ऋषिकेश जाने की, उसमे उनका साथ मेरे लिए अविश्वनीय है ! चाहे छोटी वाले के यहाँ खाना हो या गंगा स्नान या गंगा की आरती सभी में हमलोग साथ साथ रहे ! उनके चेहरे पर जो मैंने संतोष की झलक देखी वह हमेशा मुझे याद रहेगा ! नियती का भी कैसा विधान है जिस गंगा जल को उन्होंने हर की पौड़ी पर लिया वहीँ गंगा जल उनकी मुक्ति के वक़्त उपयोग में आया. ! विशवास ही नहीं होता है कि जो अपने अंतिम रात में दोस्तों के साथ भावी योजनाओं को अमल में लाने की बाद करता है वो चंद घंटों के बाद बिना किसी को आवाज दिए उस यात्रा पर निकल जाता है जहां से लौट कर कोई नहीं आया ! सिर्फ आती है उनकी यादें ! यादें ना जाए उनके साथ बिताये पलों कि, दिल क्यों रुलाये ! यह सिलसिला अभी ख़त्म नहीं हुआ है, पता नहीं कहाँ ख़त्म होगा ! शायद अंतिम क्षणो तक यह साथ रहेगा !

सितम्बर, २०१३

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अमल कुमार सिन्हा

श्री अमल कुमार सिन्हा केंद्रीय जल आयोग, नयी दिल्ली से हाल ही में वरिष्ठ अधीक्षक अभियंता के पद से सेवा-निवृत हुए हैं

ENLIGHTENED GUARDIANSHIP—A WRITE-UP BY PROF. HIMANSHU RANJAN

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Special Posts on the Second Death Anniversary of AKS Falling Today, 28th November 2013

 We are grateful to Prof. Himanshu Ranjan for sending us this write-up on AKS coinciding with the Second Anniversary Special Posts–AKS Centre

Once when I was about to light a cigarette, held between my lips, at a cigarette shop at Aghoriabazar Chowk, Muzaffarpur, AKS suddenly came up close from behind and asked the shopkeeper for a stick of Panama. The sound of his voice and his reflection in the mirror in the shop made me go numb from head to toe. He casually lit up his cigarette and moved ahead towards Kalyani.

I came home trembling all over and went to sleep under a blanket. About an hour later AKS returned, called out my name and asked if I had fifty paisa change for giving to the rickshawalla. I gave the same to him with downcast eyes and got busy with my studies. We even took our dinner together sometime later like any other day. Between then, when I was just a graduation student, staying with him and under his tutelage, and the time just before he breathed his last, he never mentioned the matter to me or to anybody else to the best of my knowledge. Why didn’t he do so, I often asked myself. He had all the liberty, authority and right to give me a dressing down. But his soft, understanding and large hearted approach to the issue engendered an enduring profound respect for him in my heart.

Conscientiousness

Once I came home from the movie ‘Bullet’ produced by Dev Anand. The time was of the infamous Emergency and the historic Sampurna Kranti agitations. I found AKS pacing up and down in the verandah in an obviously disturbed state of mind. As soon as he saw me, he asked, “where are you coming from?” I said I had gone to watch the movie ‘Bullet’. He said with a profoundly painful expression, “you know only too well what the condition of the country is, and yet you had the frivolity to go and see a movie like ‘Bullet’—clearly a worthless one?” It was a revelation to me that a private, simple person could be affected by the general state of his country. Later, he told me he wanted to discuss some of his ideas and feelings with me and was disturbed to find me absent. I was flabbergasted to realize that he wanted to share something with me—a mere graduation student! Needless to say, the small incident did wonders to my self-esteem.

Sense of Humour

Once AKS and myself were walking to Aghoriabazaaar Chowk. I was pulling along his bicycle by my side. Being busy in conversation with him, I did not notice a motorcycle coming from the opposite side. At a particularly narrow point near a big pothole, the motorcycle screeched to a halt right in front of me. The rider shouted at me in anger: “Couldn’t you see a ‘Bullet’ coming towards you? Are you not scared of being hit?” AKS thought something over in a flash and responded with a disarming smile: “Bhai Sahab, how can an army be scared of just one bullet?” Both the rider and myself gave uncomprehending looks towards him. Then AKS slowly pointed towards the brand logo on the front portion of the frame of the bicycle: it was ‘Army’. All of us suddenly burst into a fit of laughter before going our ways.

Various compulsions relating to my job in Sikkim did not allow me to complete my Ph.D on Matthew Arnold under his supervision. I failed him, could not give him the satisfaction of shaping me up in a much more desirable way, especially because I know he doted on me and had certain expectations from me. But then, life is a complex play which hardly ever takes a pre-judged path. AKS is there behind whatever, whatsoever I am.

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Himanshu Ranjan (second from right) in the front row.

Prof. Himanshu Ranjan,  a senior Associate Professor in English at SHEDA, Deorali, Sikkim,  did his Graduation with English Honours from Bihar University, Muzaffarpur (batch 1976-78), and his Post-Graduation in English Literature from Patna University (batch 1978-80). He was one of the closest students of AKS., besides being a family member.

LOVE POEMS BY AKS-III

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Special Posts on the Second Death Anniversary of AKS Falling Today, 28th November 2013

 

AKS wrote very few poems, and never sort of bothered to get them published. We are reproducing today as separate posts three love poems that we have been able to locate. While two poems are written back-to-back on  a piece of paper and are simply titled as ‘Poem (1)’ and ‘Poem (2)’. The third poem is just untitled. The dates of composition have been mentioned, which are being reproduced here below the each poem. It is, however, possible that one or two of these love poems, had got published in a journal ‘KAVITA INDIA’, which used to brought out by the late Prof. A C Sahay of Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, one of the senior colleagues of AKS at Langat Singh College, Muzaffarpur–AKSCENTRE

UNTITLED

I want to love you like an animal,

But when I sit with you, talk to you

You make me feel like an angel,

And I become useless.

 

I know you want to remain pure,

My coming to you, unto you, will be

Perhaps, an act of infamy,

Then I feel kicking,

Your, mine, the whole world’s angelic face;

Then all resurrections appear pointless.

 

Thought itself is soul-satisfying—

Thoughts of stars born and unborn,

Thoughts of times passing and yet to be,

of songs waiting to be mouthed.

Of you, and me cautious and you careless.

(Composed on 22-23 August, ’94)

 

–Arun Kumar Sinha

LOVE POEMS BY AKS-II

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Special Posts on the Second Death Anniversary of AKS Falling Today, 28th November 2013

AKS wrote very few poems, and never sort of bothered to get them published. We are reproducing today as separate posts three love poems that we have been able to locate. While two poems are written back-to-back on  a piece of paper and are simply titled as ‘Poem (1)’ and ‘Poem (2)’. The third poem is just untitled. The dates of composition have been mentioned, which are being reproduced here below the each poem. It is, however, possible that one or two of these love poems, had got published in a journal ‘KAVITA INDIA’, which used to brought out by the late Prof. A C Sahay of Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, one of the senior colleagues of AKS at Langat Singh College, Muzaffarpur–AKSCENTRE

Poem

(2)

Yes, it is love because it can’t be anything less

Because it was immeasurably full and simple;

Neither the eyes bled with tears

Nor were there reminders of age-old fears.

 

If it was not love, the way we walked

Between trees and through thoroughfares,

Touching by not touching, wayward as wind,

If it was not love, what else could it be?

The quizzical heightening of the eyebrows,

The busymen’s stare and the priests chanting,

The olies of the scholars, the pride of the rich–

I have suffered them all and seen them thinning

Like so many falsenesses into the air.

 

Love, help me believe it were you.

 

(Composed, 6 June ’89)

 

–Arun Kumar Sinha

 

LOVE POEMS BY AKS-I

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Special Posts on the Second Death Anniversary of AKS Falling Today, 28th November 2013

AKS wrote very few poems, and never sort of bothered to get them published. We are reproducing today as separate posts three love poems that we have been able to locate. While two poems are written back-to-back on  a piece of paper and are simply titled as ‘Poem (1)’ and ‘Poem (2)’. The third poem is just untitled. The dates of composition have been mentioned, which are being reproduced here below the each poem. It is, however, possible that one or two of these love poems, had got published in a journal ‘KAVITA INDIA’, which used to brought out by the late Prof. A C Sahay of Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, one of the senior colleagues of AKS at Langat Singh College, Muzaffarpur–AKSCENTRE

Poem

(1)

Crowning glory of life it was

To have found you come like a dream

Into the parlour of my desire,

To have filled it and furnished it.

To have to be at only one place,

To wish to be there when one has to be here,

The compulsion to be noble and honourable,

The daily business of living and the still,

Regular chiming of the time,

The frozen angels on the mantlepiece–

Endless are the waiting hours, endless

The tasks and responsibilities

Before I could attend to you wholly

In the parlour of my desire.

(Composed on 6 June ’89)

-Arun Kumar Sinha

A Poem for Bhutto–Written by AKS on the Very Next Day of Bhutto’s Execution on 4th April 1979

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Special Posts on the Second Death Anniversary of AKS

Today, 28th November 2013, falls the Second Anniversary of the demise of AKS. To mark the occasion, we are privileged to share four poems of AKS–three are love poems, while the fourth one is on the hanging of the Pakistani leader and former Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (5 January 1928 – 4 April 1979) by the Military ruler General Zia-ul-Haque–which was widely seen as rather unjust end of a popular democratic leader. This poem on Bhutto has, as far as we know, remained unpublished. It was written the very next day of Bhutto’s execution on 4th April 1979, and thus carries the powerful sentiment for the tragedy of the democratic leader among the intelligentsia and democratic activists in India and elsewhere. Bringing it before the reading public nearly 34 years after the poem was composed by AKS, who himself passed away two years back, gives us mixed feelings.–AKSCENTRE  

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

A POEM FOR BHUTTO

Remembering you after you are no more

Seems to be a sin

I can’t help.

For I see my doom

Coming to take me from my bed—

Oh Lord, hold the sky,

It’s toppling all over the place,

While my father eats off my flesh

And does not say sorry.

 

Lord wherever and whoever you are

Take care of me

And

My man in heaven

Arun Kumar Sinha

Composed on 5th April, ‘79