Poetry as Sanctuary – A column where we explore poetry as a means of expression for voices of the South Asian Diaspora.
(Featured Image: Lalit Kumar skydiving)
I am fascinated with adventure sports and I happen to like poetry. While adventure sports push us out of our comfort zone to experience the euphoria that lies beyond fear, poetry helps us to explore the world in a more vivid way.
Adventure sports provide personal growth and renewal through physical energy.
Poetry is a mental work-out, rejuvenating the soul to provide an enhanced capacity to experience all the beauty in this world.
The famous mountaineer, Edmund Hillary said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
This rings true. When exerting oneself for any endurance sports like mountaineering or long-distance running, the first battle one fights is in his or her own mind. Despite the pain or fatigue, if one decides to press on, the physical challenges of distances or mountains are not impossible to be conquered. I feel that mental courage and fortitude can be easily cultivated by reading and writing positive/affirmative poetry that gives wings to your dreams, power to your vision, and courage to your mission.
Reading and writing poetry has provided me with numerous hours of pure joy and the right ambience for self-contemplation. A poem can capture the most complex emotions and distill them down to few words that are pleasing to the auditory senses, apart from being appealing to the ‘thinking’ brain. I have been scribbling verses in English from my high school days. After spending more than a decade in the Bay Area and outside India, I find myself equally drawn to the inexorable charm of my mother tongue, Hindi.
During this ‘lockdown’ period, I found myself gorging upon the books and the writings of Hindi stalwarts. In the process, stumbled upon the beauty of Urdu ghazals and sensibilities (‘janib’). I was drawn towards the natural imagery and auditory pleasure of Urdu words, especially when reading or hearing ghazal and shayari. It seems that the Urdu language is meant for writing and reciting poetry. As an Indian / South Asian immigrant, perhaps I have found my sanctuary in reading, writing, and hearing Hindi/Urdu poetry after losing touch for almost a decade. English comes naturally to me, but I realized that poetry in other Indian languages leaves an equally profound impression on my mind. And this feeling snowballed into a love…
In a moment of creative burst, I find myself unwittingly scribbling in Hindi, like:
आरज़ू थी, ज़िंदगानी रहे
जीएं तो शौक से।
ज़िंदादिली मिली , हम बदले
अब जीएं तो बेखौफ्फ़ से।
(Translated in English)
I used to wish, to live a life of luxury
I met my passion and I changed,
Now I wish to live a life of fearlessness.
Perhaps, it has a tinge of my new-found passion for adventure sports, who can tell!
This love for both poetry and adventure found its outlet in a creative verse that I penned a couple of months back, called, ‘The Second Mountain.’ We all want to be successful and happen to get into the career rat race with the hope of reaching some mythic destination and we start climbing that mountain – probably for most of us, our first mountain. But when we get there, we don’t find happiness and fulfillment to the extent that we dreamed about. So we look for the second mountain, which is symbolic of climbing the mountain of a ‘Cause’ that is larger than the self, the irony is that until we get to the top of the first mountain, we usually don’t realize that.
Metaphorically speaking, while climbing the mountain was a calling for my ‘adventure seeking’ soul, penning down this idea in relation to finding my ‘Cause’ was a calling for my ‘poetry loving’ soul.
The Second Mountain
Driven, ambitious and passionate
He had ascended the mountain peak
Striving relentlessly, with a singular obsession
To climb, to strive and to reach to the top.
The panorama was striking from his vantage point
He felt like the conqueror who defeated all
The wave of happiness swept like the breeze,
Invincible he felt, superior he thought in his mind.
As the breeze calmed down, he felt an eerie silence
Loneliness gnawed at his heart, the emptiness echoed in his viscera.
What was the point of it all? He thought to himself
His singular achievement meant so little to others.
Contemplating to himself, he narrowed his gaze
And saw the second mountain across the valley.
And lo and behold, it was teeming with people all around
He hurriedly climbed down and trekked across the valley.
As he approached nearer, he saw people helping each other ascend the mountain
Together they climbed and took the tumble together, negotiating the sharp bents on the way
He soon realized, it’s not what you achieve individually
But joy is in how you give away your energy in the pursuit of affecting a positive change.
Joy is in helping, in giving, in supporting
The Cause that deeply moves you
And making it larger than
Just your individual self.
So climb the first mountain, if you must
To check your fitness on the way …
But remember, it’s the second mountain
Where your impact will pave the others’ way.
The language of poetry can touch one’s soul and spark a sense of creativity. I advocate for everyone to read and write poetry. You are invited to join the group called Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley, which hosts a weekly poetry reading.
Lalit Kumar works in the Technology sector but retains an artist’s heart. He likes to read and write poetry, apart from indulging in adventure sports from time to time. Recently, he started curating famous works of poetry (and occasionally his own).