‘ Mujhse pehle kitne shaayar aaye aur aakar chale gaye,
Kuch aahein bharkar laut gaye, kuch nagme gaakar chale gaye,
Who bhi ek pal ka kissa thei, main bhi ek pal ka kissa hun,
Kal tumse juda ho jaunga, lo aaj tumhara hissa hun…’ *
The ‘pal do pal ka shaayar’ has enticed me for long. The urge to create, to adorn innumerable books with words has always got the better of writers. They need not be mainstream. They may just be lone weavers of words, chanting their personal memoirs in private journals. A lot of this writing is cathartic. But more than that, I say, it is the irresistable charm of words; the magical pull that is hard to forgo. The moment a word nosedives into a piece of paper, it tows several others to drift along. And thus, are born millions of poetries and stories. Some of them perish without ever having been read. They gather dust in huge libraries or at the best find a home in poetry salons. Few are savoured by a handful, fewer by many.
And yet, the shayar, the poet, is unable to counter this hunger to create. Even after convincing themselves several times of the futility of it all, they sneak back to their writing desks, spilling their hearts out. Namratha Vardhrajan asks poets about this chronic obsession in her beautiful rendition, ‘At the Funeral of the Poet’s Dream’.
I remember a quaint conversation that I once had with someone about writing. Reading Namratha’s poem took me back to that strange conversation I had over a cup of tea. My acquaintance, sipping from her cup, asked me if I made more money by writing or through my regular job. With all the best-sellers making so much noise and with public knowledge of some authors having enviable stacks of cash swished off in their bank accounts, it somehow seemed natural for her to ask. I told her my writing catered for a very meagre portion of my earnings, which of course is the truth. She didn’t look surprised as I had so expected. Instead, she left me confounded with her response, “Well, I’m not surprised. Writers are mostly stony broke!”
Before I could talk of opulence in terms of its figurative existence in the lives of writers, my acquaintance came up with a successive question, “So, why do you write?”
Tell me, writer, what makes you wield the pen? Is writing the stardust you hope to sprinkle on the world for its possible purgation? Or, is it because the world is too much for you? Is writing the taste of life you would rather have linger on in your mouth, when all of reality has made it bitter? Or, is it simply an untold story you’d rather get rid of?
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
Even when you know that your words perish sooner than a fish out of water. Even when you know many a folk pass by your words without even batting an eyelid. Even when you know that a lot of your poems write their own obituaries. Which reminds me of a well-meaning suggestion I’ve often been given. Poetry is not good for business. Tell me, writer, do you write for business? Or, do you write because you must?
You do know that sooner or later your writing shenanigans will be put aside to make way for others. Library shelves will make space for other dilettantes… maybe for the more stellar performers. And yet, you get back to your writing desk tossing the lone penny in your pocket that you made with a piece from your pen.
As I wait for you to tell me why you write, I leave you with fleeting thoughts from the second-half of the evergreen number ‘Main pal do pal ka shayar hun...’
‘Kal aur aayenge nagmo ki khilti kaliyaan chunne waale
Mujhse behtar kehne waale tumse behtar sunne waale
Kyu koi mujhko yaad kare
Mashroof zamaana mere liye kyu waqt apna barbaad kare…’*
I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
*[For my English readers, the lines in Hindi are from a popular song. To paraphrase them in simple words, the poet says that his essence as a poet is nothing more than a fleeting thought. Several poets have lived before him and several others will follow him. He might be a part of your existence today but he shall perish soon to make way for others, just like his predecessors did. ]