Zindagi….ik paheli (Life…an enigma)

जो उलझी थी कभी आदम के हाथों,
वो गुत्थी आज तक सुलझा रहा हूँ|
(that which got entangled by the hands of Adam, even today I am trying to unravel that knot) Indeed Firaq Gorakhpuri said it rightly. From times immemorial, life has truly been an intractable puzzle. Generations before me, and people certainly much smarter than me, have tried to understand life and it’s conundrums. But the jury is still out. None are able to make sense of the constant twists and turns. While the What & the How are somewhat intelligible, the Why still eludes us and we are all the time wondering how to play the cards Life has dealt us.

The constant refrain is of wonder….wonder Why this is happening??? And Why is this happening to me???? The questions continue. Over a period we see the answers to the same question changes. Very similar to a roving spotlight that reveals more and more of the object as the spotlight moves. But try as we will, we never get to understand the whole picture, see the entire object, understand life in toto and what it entails!!!!

The whole experience is akin to the words of Adeem Hashmi who sings वो के ख़ुशबू की तरह फैला था मेरे चार सू,
मैं उसे महसूस कर सकता था छू सकता न था|
(It was like a perfume that spread all around me; I could feel it but I could not touch it) That truly is the beauty of life. We are in the fish bowl. We are surrounded by the water. We sense and feel the water and all that it envelopes. We see the other fish…swimming, struggling, moving all around us. But we can only “spectate”. The “साक्षी भIव sakshi bhav” propounded by Hindu & Buddhist scriptures as the ideal mindset to be in, while in the world.

See everything as a spectator, do not involve, do not entangle. Much like the glob of mercury which changes shape even as you touch it, you can never hold the mercurial Life, as it will always shy away, transmute and tease you as you go closer. Grasping never lets you hold the sand of life. The particles are too thin. You must keep an open palm, not try to hold or grasp, but rather keep your self open to experience the sands of time and the grains of Life. They are free agents and will not be molded even as they shape you.

हम किस को दिखIते हैं शब-ए-फुरकत की उदासी

सब ख्वाब में थे रात को बेदार हम ही थे (To whom could I show the sadness of the night of separation? All were deep in their dreams and I alone was disturbed in the night). (Taashshuq Lakhnavi) Travails of the Life you face are indeed so personal that try as you will, you may never be able to get others to understand and live your pain. Possibly that is why Voltaire averred,:” Man is a social animal, but everywhere he is in chains”.

The chains, the walls around us, the constraints, the loneliness, the pain….all are real and tangible. To you. You are confined only by the walls you build yourself. And all this is creating & shaping your Life/experience. A signature experience. Living together, having the same roof, traversing the same path, experiencing the same friends…still we all lead very different lives. Even couples are independent logs floating down the same river, parallelly, but independently; together yet separate. So the faster we understand Firaq Gorakhpuri who tells the Powers that Be भरम तेरे सितम का खुल चुका है,
मैं तुझसे आज क्यों शर्मा रहा हूँ|
We must quickly see through the irony, the mischievousness, the sheer tyranny of Life and living in the garb of joke, to be able to maintain our keel and dignity amidst buffeting storms and towering waves of the perfect storm that we call Life.

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood…” begins the famous poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W H Auden.
Some of you may know the poem by Auden, inspired by the painting by Breughel, of Icarus falling from the sky into the green water to his death. Poets and painters understand suffering, and the related phenomena: how others shy away, pretend not to notice, like the ploughman working his field, and the passengers aboard the delicate ship that sails calmly on. When a stupendous flight of Icarus to the Sun goes unnoticed, who indeed are we mere mortals?

What makes understanding & living Life difficult is our very human-ness. Being human we soon become enmeshed in all that surrounds us. We talk of My family, My child, My house, My Friends, My Company, and so on. As Firaq Gorakhpuri observes मुहब्बत अब मुहब्बत हो चली है,
तुझे कुछ भूलता-सा जा रहा हूँ|
Being too close to the problem, our independent identity ceases. We soon become a part of the problem and so cannot find a solution, as we are as much a part of the problem, as we are a part of the solution. Identity fuses together. Try a simple experiment to understand what I am saying. Move a chair while standing independent of it. Easy? Now sit on the chair. Firmly, with both your feet on the ground. Can you move the chair now? The same chair is impossible to move now. Because you are too close to it. Only distance will help you take an objective stance. मुहब्बत हो चली है then independent POV is impossible. It is natural then that तुझे कुछ भूलता-सा जा रहा हूँ| The human condition and its dilemma is well captured by Adeem Hashmi’s couplet ये भी सब वीरानियाँ उस के जुदा होने से थीं, आँख धुँधलाई हुई थी, शहर धुँधलाया न था| (All the barrenness has come after separating from her; my eyes have got clouded but the city still surrounds me). However much you try, the situational reality remains the same and continues to haunt you.

Given this background and the negativity all around, I take heart in the words of Napoleon,” I am driven towards an end that I do not know. As I reach it, as I become unnecessary, an atom shall suffice to shatter me. Until then, all forces of humankind can do nothing to stop me”. Remember, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!!

सितारों से उलझता जा रहा हूँ,
शब-ए-फ़ुरक़त बहुत घबरा रहा हूँ|
…...विकास

( I am fighting with the stars, as the night of separation comes close, I am afraid….vikas)

PS : Gratefully acknowledge Shri Krishna Sharmaji’s blog https://samaysakshi.in/blog which has been an inspiration for many of the sher quoted here