temple spire

Transformations inevitably take place within us as we travel and live in other lands. The influences chip away at our settled beliefs. The core becomes affected. We begin to metamorphose, chrysalis to caterpillar to butterfly. Those who have never travelled get affected by the tales and thoughts of great travellers like Xuangzang, Fa Hian, Marco Polo and  Ibn Batuta. People need to travel to become whole, more tolerant, open minded and broad-minded. In India, pilgrimages have served to acquaint its people with their varied cultures and mannerisms, uniting a diverse land. International tourism like pilgrimage helps in uniting the world. My career necessitated constant travel and living in alien lands. In the process my two children are today what I call ‘International Persons’.

When I left India for the first time I was one thing. When I lived in the Gulf, whose culture was diametrically different, I became another. When I returned to India, readjusting my thoughts from the new experiences with those of the original, I became yet another. Now the original looked so different. As the great philosopher of dialectics Hegel put it, Thesis, Antithesis, synthesis.

My poem seeks to bring this out:

 

                       E X P A T R I A T E

 

Where Neem trees do not grow

To spread their cleansing shade,

The cheeky bulbul no longer

Chuckles in the bush , red vented,

Nor leisurely cows are

Occasional mothers revered,

No monkeys of epic proportions

Hold court on the roofs of Collectorates,

Nor Mynas with slipping black plumes

Like the Brahmin’s pigtails

Tread within reach at a hair’s breadth,

Where rivers are not Gangetic

In their legendary flows;

There are no rivers.

 

No bullock-carts lull

At midnight with their bells,

Or coloured bangles sold

In rows at fairs,

No temple spires, no wicker lamps,

No garlands of marigold,

No curries stirring with onion

And leaven bread,

No rainbow colours thrown at festivals,

Women without vermillion on their foreheads.

 

gulf manNow the song and language change,

His rhythms rearrange,

Cows and colours are strange and alien,

Even the birds are plane

Poor copies, foreign

As this sun arising in another land,

This alien moon casting its novel spell

Set in another frame

Of crescents and restraint

By another culture in which he trains.

 

Then he returns home

With second thoughts

From the eye of concentric circles,

In a dual vision caught

And sees again the unchanging plot

Of cows and monkeys and dots

Upon the forehead.

 

mosqueBut now he finds in juxtapose

No more the immaculate

Drip fed hedges,

The manicured landscape,

No more the perfect law

Of the Book,

The exquisite highways,

Nor the stately gilded domes of mosques

And friday prayers,

The unerring call,

The month-long fasts and festivals,

The fragrance of Frankincense

arab ladyOr billowing robes of white and black

Heavy with musk and rose,

Or dates upon a plate,

Nor ritual coffee in crucibles with jelly cake;

 

As the expatriate

Repatriates between two worlds

He has lost

And gained

His third.

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