Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Desert Soul or The poet.

my word was Zanit. i wrote this in the dead of the night in a wild fit of passion, do not expect Thrill and NEVER expect excellence.

Ishmael ibn Ziauddin Haq was a poet. Like the poets you see in the riverbanks watching sunset, like the poet you find in the intoxicated Mehfil of a Sufi singer. The poet you find in the eyes of a late-night visitor of a Kotha, he was the poet that you yourself want to be when the first monsoon catches you in the streets of a scorched city.

Ishmael was a poet who did not exist for the rest of the town. There was a statue of a poet in front of the town hall, a statue made of stone which has turned moss-green due to its age, it was worshipped by the rest of the town and all the poets followed his style to earn popularity. Ishmael was the only one who thought, discussed and talked about his own poems. Very soon Ishmael was ridiculed and taunted by the townsmen because he dared to call himself a poet without knowing Zanit. It was referred now and then in his poems, his lectures, manuscripts, paintings and other works. One such poem says-
“The wounds that I get do not heal,
The fires in my heart never die—
The desert is drunk and calls for Love!
I dance with my naked feet and whisper in thirst—
oh! drench me in sorrow and pain! My zanit!

Nobody knew about this poet’s life or where he came from, he also had a weird habit of not signing his name in the poems. Learned men always quarreled to prove their opinions, several people had several ideas—some said Zanit was thirst, some said melancholy, some said death and some of them said that it was celebration of life though each breath that one takes in. Ishmael said nothing, one morning he came home from his walks, took a sack of his belongings and set off for the desert. Poets sometimes take other poets very seriously and literally. Ishmael was one of them.

On his 3rd day of traveling, Ishmael realized that The Thar was not as easy as he had previously thought. Very soon he regretted his decision. The desert did not provide him Zanit. It provided him the adequate amount of devastation, melancholy and thirst. Ishmael lamented over his crazy idea of seeking Zanit in the desert, the desert where wolves sharpen their fangs at the end of the day and bones from long forgotten skeletons whistle in the wind. Ishmael was about to give up and head homewards when he saw a silhouette in the horizon. There was a man coming towards him from the wilderness.

Night fell, they met, the man from wilderness gave him water and dry dates. Ishmael narrated his story, his story of the quest for Zanit. Now, the problem with men from wilderness is that they have all the answers but somehow the wilderness does not allow him to give away something without checking the intensity and the passion of the seeker. The wilderness purges out their emotions, sympathies and pity, in the end, the man himself becomes the image of the wilderness. It seldom matters whether if the other person took a poet seriously, it hardly matters if they are the only two people sitting by the fire in the midst of the desert and it never matters that both of them are easy preys for the giant hunger of the night-time desert. The man from wilderness promised him that he would reveal Zanit to him if he does what he orders. Ishmael was ready for anything. Thus, he was ordered to write his name in the sand; two hands of width and three hands deep. The man also warned him about two things—firstly, he would write and move with the flow of the Urdu alphabets without ever looking back, secondly, he would not straighten up his head at any cost and break his concentration. Ishmael agreed to both of the clauses. Ishmael started writing, the sand felt cold and soft. The work became more and more stressful because of the giant area he had to cover. By the time he finished the work, the Sun was young on the horizon. Ishmael went up to a dune to observe his work. To his horror he saw the last alphabet fading out with the falling sand from its edges and sides, the rest was gone. There was no sign of the man from wilderness, not the date’s remains, the water casket, the ashes—nothing was there to prove the uncanny encounter of the previous night. The shock and the horror left a ghastly expression on his face. Suddenly his face contorted, eyes glazed and he broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Tears rolled out his eyes. Ishmael found it, he found Zanit. Ishmael had found out that Zanit is when you write a line so powerful, that the crudest desert is bound to remember it, by branding it with the sheer thrust of magnitude of creation. So that the desert remembers a name; even when Time erases it from the world.

This happened a long time ago but if you visit the town today, then you will find two statues in front of the town-hall. The two dead poets had a common habit, they never signed their names under their poems. One is Ishmael, the other, is the poet from the wilderness.

1 comment:

RBC said...

A well crafted fable. I absolutely love your construction of poetic inspiration and the whole business of the journey into the desert. The desert as audience is a good touch too.
One or two slight slip-ups with language though. the last line of the second last para is a little overdone.