Inner reflections of a perpetually insane mind

Sujata Jha

On 6th evening, Professor Neshat Quaiser called to ask about how to record online classes in a better manner and whether mobile phone stands are available. However, he began with my online poetry recitations, that he had noticed.

I asked about my poetry, I had recently started writing, he said it was a bit emotional. I frowned, "Emotional in what sense, is that a bad thing?" And then he said: Raqeeq-ul-qalbi is Samm-e-qaatil for poetry (/fiction). He explained the term Raqeeq-ul-qalbi in this context as follows: “Uncontrollable liquefying of the heart’s emotional part, propelled and guided by the immediate”, and Samm-e-qaatil meaning deadly poison. On the whole, it means: “Overwhelming liquefying of the heart’s emotional part propelled and guided by the immediate is deadly poison for poetry”.

I still did not agree: how can any kind of emotion be poison for poetry?  

The conversation continued over to next day. He further explained, "Yesterday I was talking about emotion and poetry. I had used the term Raqeeq-ul-qalbi in a specific sense having wider connotations. To make it more intelligible I have earlier used the term Sick-Emotionalism, and which is not good for poetry”.  On my inquiry, he said in Urdu Sick-Emotionalism would roughly mean Beemaar Jazbatiyat.  He further said “Sick-Emotionalism is not only individual but also is produced, more significantly, by certain social conditions at a given time and place within which one is located. However, it can very well be individualised having significant theoretical implications”.  

How I loved this term: it sort of defined the way I think in daily life, perpetually sick, anxious, battling with every day idiosyncrasies and meaningless acts, beemar jazbatiyat defined me. Knowing fully well PhD deadline hangs on my head, I cling on to small joys of poetry, songs and sitar. Everyday sadness and some existential questions perpetually surrounded me. Yes beemar jazbatiyat...that must be me. I tell him, "I would also be in that category, I think ...perpetually bimaar (sick)."

In the attempt of consoling, he further troubled me: “May not necessarily be - the term refers to a state of mind and body when one is losing control of oneself - not able to put things in perspective; as a result one deeply thinks him/herself as victim (placed or misplaced) and seeks others’ uncritical attention, which in turn may lead to a state when one may begin relishing victimhood; and poetry written in this state of mind and body may suffer from Sick Emotionalism”.

I pondered, "This almost brings out a negative side if it, almost sick, in the vicious way..." Though internally I reflected: this does seem to be like me, am I deriving joy out of certain victimhood in my life? Has uncritical attention started defining me - this troubled me to the core.

He further added to my agony by adding, "This is all a general statement - may not necessarily be about your poetry."

Now I will wonder before I pen down poetry, or maybe not. Maybe poetry comes naturally, in a flow when it wants to... otherwise not, for days altogether. I used to write poetry, now and then, don't think I was good, even now I don't. Appreciation feels good, yet I am not convinced. But then, what is good poetry. Who becomes a good poet? Is a romantic poet always romantic or is he/she one who is good with words. Is he/she the one who has romanced or is he/she the one who craves?  For instance, love reflects deeply in Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi's poems and anyone who has followed their life knows that they lived in love, a complex love life though. Amrita writes (an extract from the poem, aag ki baat) :

Umr ki cigarette jal gayi,
Mere ishq ki mehek
Kuch tere sanson mein
Kuch hawa mein mil gayi

My life, like a cigarette has burned away
My love's aroma,
Partly lies in your breath
And partly blows away with the thin air.
(Translated by me)

Or one can just hope to capture words like tagore did when he wrote. On the personal front his wife died in 1902, he got married in 1883 ...Amartya Sen feels that Tagore's personal life was an unhappy one. This is debatable. Tagore shared a platonic attachment to the literature loving wife of his elder brother. In his tour of Argentina in 1924, he also came to know Victoria Ocampo, publisher of the literary magazine, Sur. The attraction between them was mutual, he even dedicated a book of poem, Purabi to her. In a letter he wrote to her: "When we were together, we mostly played with words and tried to laugh away our best opportunities to see each other clearly." (Source: Amartya Sen's the Argumentative Indian).

An extract of Tagore's poem:

Chai go Ami, tomay ami chai -
Ei kothati sadai mone
Bolte jeno pai.
Aar ja kichu basnate
Ghure berai din e raate
Mitha se shob mitha
Ogo tomai ami chai.

Translation by Tagore:
(That I want thee only thee - let my heart repeat without end. All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core.)

Maybe, words have meaning, after all. Maybe we can still believe words.

Sujata Jha is a PhD scholar in the Department of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

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Apr 11, 2020

Sujata Jha

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