Posts by randhir

My experiences in McLeod Ganj and later in Ladakh were like those of a pilgrim. They were journeys to the very soul of the great mountains of the north where I savoured the sacred places and  spaces. These poems were born from that experience.

INTO THE BLUE BEYOND


I Sit Facing The Mountains

I sit facing the mountains

Carved white out of blue foam,

Birdsong pines up to their knees,

Day tossing swallows into the air,

Magpies trailing tails over rooftops,

I breathe in morning heavy with voices.

 

Last night, tired of bloodstained stories

Of the city crouched in the plains –

Neck-deep in nectar,

Tired of legends and forgetfulness,

I followed the mountain road

Dusty with cloud-song.

 

All dark, the wind and rain

Slammed windows, hissed at doors,

Left me dreaming of the broken plains

And how my life has been a circled path –

Each footprint growing, merging,

Till there’s one and I don’t seem to move.

 

Hauling myself along the sticky web,

I know the spider watched me

While I swung,

Loose skinned jowls dripped with age,

I watched the moment when the thread

Snapped and let me float away.

 

I sit facing the mountains and I know

That this was meant to be –

This journey from the belly of the storm

Across the broken plains, up from the sea;

And all the journeys that we make

Merge into one and rest –

The warmth of one print in the quilted snow.

 

I Want

I want to empty the bowl of the sky

Drink the blue deep,

Quench my thirst for constellations,

The great void.

 

Every particle of me belongs to another

Every breath, every word, every thought,

Every feeling, every dream,

Every victory, every defeat, everything.

 

I want to empty the bowl of the sky,

Lose my ‘I’ ness

Become.

 

 Dawn

Dawn with its sack of bells

Lumbers over the mountains

Sun in hand,

Whistles a freedom song,

Tip-toing over chains.

 

Stay

Stay with the moment, stay,

Shed snake-skin time,

Breathe in the sun-drenched day,

A blue unfettered song

Light on your lips;

Believe there’s nothing more beyond

This now,

Stay with the moment, stay.


Somewhere

Somewhere beyond the mountains

Winter waits

A snow leopard stretching itself

On cool grey rock

Sniffs the blue air;

I can hear its breath

When homes fall asleep

And hours curl into each other’s arms

And dreams open mooneyes.

 

Leaves fall, crackle, crumble,

Turn to dust –

Move with the wind’s sway,

The leopard shivers,

Rises, stalks the town

Fragrant with old fur

And the wheezing of sleepers.

 

Beyond the mountains,

Winter waits.

 

 

In The Presence Of The Master

 I

 Here

Where the world collects

And dissolves

In the effulgence of light-

Names, faces, lives,

Pasts, presents, futures

Do not exist;

Just the voice

Rising and falling,

Circling, gliding,

Settling;

In the presence of the Master

The devout bend like rainbows.

 II

 It’s not the meaning

Of the words

That move me

But the sound,

Not their manner of saying

But their reverberation,

Not the speaker

But the presence,

Not the moment

But the flow of time,

Not the tangible

But the breath –

Like wind never still,

Flowing

In great cycles of rebirth –

Forever;

At the feet of the Master

Echoes gather in pools

Crystal with truth.

 III

 I am the seed,

The root, the leaf;

I am the stem,

The trunk, the fruit;

I am the cycle

In the dark,

I am the silence,

I, the spark.

 

I am your pulse,

Your breath,

Your yearning,

I, your dream,

Your reason, song,

I am the way

You choose to walk on,

 I am your act,

Your right, your wrong.

Up From The Dark Belly

Heaved up from the dark belly

Of the ocean,

 Floating on time

Soaked in salt

And the freedom cry of the wind –

These fields of sand

Speak in a language I do not understand,

Grains flow hissing and sighing,

Waves wash mani walls

Sacred with waiting.

 

I stand here

Occupying this space, this time,

Waiting –

To be finally released,

Set free –

A puff of grey dust

Along the soulbank of the Indus

On its journey to forever

In the still light of the afternoon.

 

Spring Walking

I walk with the wind

Through apricot orchards in bloom –

Petals in my hair

The foretaste of harvests on my lips,

Wild irises about my feet

And young mother spring

Birthing her newborns

From the furrows of stone.

 

Freedom Song

Blue-white mountains surround me,

Snow skinned granite

Breathes sunlight rising in plumes,

Streams string through morning land

Beading boulders

And this desert rejoices with magpies

And redstarts –

Filling my lungs with peace-dust

And freedom breath.

Even though night will bring snow dreams

And cold lipped wind,

Even though the dark will shower comets,

Even though I know this too will pass –

I savour the circle of blue-white mountains,

Plumes of sunlight

And singing streams,

Filling my lungs with peace-dust,

Chanting my freedom song.

 

 At Hemis

 At Hemis

Where the sky rests on rock blades

Of mountains

Flags flap like wings of rising birds,

Earth and sky blend into one,

Memory’s a window to the dark.

 

Stagsang Raschen, you who saw

The vision of eighty mahasiddhas,

Became a rainbow body;

Spirit who laid these stones,

Building chambers, passageways –

Honeycombed with secrets,

Where are you now?

 

My soles, soft on the hard cold floors

Follow from dark to light to dark –

Space into space, beyond, within,

Unknowing of the brick it tramples on;

Smoke, old oil,

Monk murmurs, prayer wheels,

Land outside yielding

To hands and dreams of men,

New homes, chortens and worship shells,

Paved paths eating mountain sides.

 

At Hemis,

Five hundred souls persist,

Holding flesh and bone about them,

Cloaked in breath,

Filled with blood of life,

Smeared with the dust of death.

 

 Mountain Dreams

 Willow and poplar

Woven thatched and beamed,

This roof holds out the snow,

The sun, the rain,

The mountain’s breath of frost,

The burning wind;

It is our shelter

From the ancient sky.

 

At dusk I watch

The groves of willow and poplar

Still in the dogbark air

Wait for the night,

Their roots deep in the earth

Drinking mountain dreams

Their branches sift the dusty air

For light, pure light.

 

Tonight I lie awake and feel

This room alive with mountain dreams

And light.

 

Padmasambhava

Padmasambhava,

Father of the dark truth,

Translator, transformer,

Map maker of soul continents

Within and beyond,

I feel your presence

In this desert land –

Fire and ice,

Silence and chant,

Rock and river,

Hoarse whispers of the wind.

 

Padmasambhava,

Blood song spirals,

Heartbeat mysteries –

I dance your eight selves

This Monkey Year;

I dance for you, teacher

Of the dark truth,

I dance the sacred dance

Beyond myself –

Spinning a spiral

To the centre of my being.

 

Lamayuru

Bowl of the great lake,

Lamayuru,

Dried by the prophecy of Arhat Nyimagung,

You offered the last drop to the thirsty sky,

Blue tongues licking you dry,

Warm breath blowing out

Crevasses and caves,

Sand ripples and hungry bowls,

Fingers etching paths  along mountain bodies,

Scooping new wombs –

Baring them to the elements

Birthing nectar words.

 

Lamayuru,

The sun explodes and scatters light,

Sucking out ochre, smoothening it dry,

And habitations of the past

Crumble, powder, dust and fly.

 

And somewhere in this burning light

Hovers the spirit of Naropa the woodseller,

Devotee of Tillipa, Teacher of Marpa –

Father of the Kargynds,

Master of Milarapa –

The journeyman from the power of dark

To the purity of light

Forging simple words,

Songs of the inner life.

 

I see you holy ones in the eyes of children

And the aged bent with wood bundles

Of willow,

I hear you in the voices of morning

And the whispers of evening,

I feel you in the solemn quiet

Of your sacred spaces in forms of clay,

In the fragrance of butter,

In the glow of candles

And the footfalls of the past.

 

Lamayuru,

Life bowl of mutating earth and stone,

Home of the past, present, future,

Lamayuru,

Mountains clothe your world

As I recede.

 

Meeting

Where the Indus and the Zanskar meet

Two worlds merge,

Dissolve, mingle, colour with colour,

History with history,

Legend with legend,

Memory with memory,

Pebbles, sand, fish, moss –

One with the other,

Until the new river widens its hips –

Flowing out among villages and towns,

Fields, homes and every day cares

Creased in wrinkles of time.

 

Into The Blue Beyond

Into the mountains,

Weaving between snow banks,

Past pasturelands of wild ass

And winter homes of marmots,

Rising from sleep –

Blinking into the blue light

Freckled with cloud shade,

Swept by wings of Lammergeyers

And a staggering wind

Still coloured by night.

 

Beyond, eastwards,

Where streams crinkle down to wetlands

Flocks pull at fresh grass

Among feeding pheasants and rocks

Thick-skinned with lichen –

The wind flat on its back,

Drowsy with birdsong.

 

Here, lost in the blue,

Trailing this path between snow banks

To worlds beyond worlds,

I know –

This is all there is,

Nothing more –

Just elemental change –

One to another and another,

Self generating, becoming,

Fearful, beautiful,

Eternal.

 

 

 

Thirty eight years ago, I began my journey as a teacher, teaching six periods a day, each period with a different class, each class alive with approximately sixty-five students. That meant interacting with  three hundred and ninety lively individuals in a day.I began each day with a feeling of fortitude and ended it like a squashed tomato. Then a time came when I began each day like a squashed tomato and ended it with a feeling of fortitude.I learned on the job moving like a trapeze artiste, from one end of the day to the other. Today, much older but not much wiser, I am still a teacher, after having made innumerable detours, getting lost and finding myself again, learning to take each day as it comes, each moment as it comes, each breath as it comes, each feeling as it comes…with the uncertainty of a newborn. And this is my prayer that I share with you.

A TEACHER’S PRAYER

 
May I always be open to the immense possibilities of my students and encourage them to rise to their best.

May I never allow appearance, name, caste, creed, nationality, ethnic identity or inability to come in the way of my students getting the opportunity to feel equal, learn and become who they truly are.

May I respect the now-ness of every classroom encounter and be tuned to the experience in such a manner that nothing else is of any consequence at that moment in time.

May I always be prepared with all that I need to share with my students.

May I never be repetitive or mundane in the way I share experience, information and skills but may I be inventive, entertaining and stimulating.

May I share only what I know to be true, aware that a half truth is no different from a lie. So may I admit what I do not know so that I am honest with my students.

May I free myself from playing prosecutor because forgiveness liberates.

May I be a student – always.

May I always use the opportunity to nurture the whole beings of my students and not merely their knowledge and skills.

May I see my most troublesome student as my wisest teacher.

With peace
Randhir Khare

 

I wrote Walking Through Fire because I had a story to tell. Not my story but a story. I am a story-teller and a story-teller constantly writes stories in his head, struggling with characters, ideas, feelings, situations – like trying to create a Big Bang so that a universe may be born. The universe that is the story. But from where did these characters, ideas, feelings and situations come? From deep within my own life and all that I have seen and felt.

People, events, experiences, feelings had gathered up inside and over time mutated into vibrant source material, waiting to be drawn upon and shaped into a novel. This source material gathered in layers. When I felt that there was enough in there to tell a story I dug deep through all the layers down to the very core and scooped out  segments of many layers, one mingling with the other.  Writing this novel was a challenge – it forced me to rise out of the circumstances of my own life, transcend it and tell a story out of it – transforming the material of my life into pure fiction. I believe that it has been as much an act of heroism as the skill of a story-teller.

Is this novel autobiographical? No, it is not. My life is my life with its struggles and triumphs, its moments of glory, moments of disaster and moments of absolute tenderness. But it is my life and concerns no one else but me and those who are close to me. This novel grew inside me, out of my life, and when it was ready it burst out into the world and was held up by its legs and bawled its slimy lungs out.  Today, complete, it has its own identity, its own reason for being and I let it go to walk its way into the world.

The idea of Walking Through Fire  arrived when I was having a chat over breakfast with the travel writer Jake Bullough, in  a quaint resort in South Goa, whilst dolphins bobbed close to the shore and sandpipers skated along the glass-like water’s edge.  The air around was licked fresh by a salt wind and I felt good to be alive. Anyway, as I was saying, we got talking about books and films and I found myself saying that the film I’d like to make, if I was a film maker, would be about a young man of hybrid parentage in post Independence India. I went on to describe the difficult circumstances of his childhood and youth and how that planted in him a powerful feeling of violence, a sort of inner rebellion (against his lot in life). And while this inner violence grew, the violence  in his family persisted… and outside the country around him was going through its own fair share of violence…the Naxalbari bloodbath in West Bengal, the Bangladesh War of Liberation, insurgency, terrorism. And as he grew up into manhood, he could feel his inner violence rapidly surfacing….until that single apocalyptical moment when his own hidden violence burst out and joined the violence raging about him.  That became his ultimate act of liberation.

The story for the supposed film emerged almost effortlessly and when it had spent itself, the conversation meandered off in different directions and silence then took over. In the days and months and years that followed the story stayed with me, somewhere deep inside, and in time I began to regard it as the storyline of a potential novel.  Then I started taking it seriously, turning it over and over, upside down and inside out. A story of that nature couldn’t possibly be linear in its narrative. The sheer complexity of its driving preoccupation, demanded that it transcend the straight forward passageways of time and become more organic – moving from time zone to time zone, back and forth. And not just that, the complexity of the central preoccupation also demanded that I begin representing various dimensions of reality. And as the story took on the form of a living breathing organism, I began enlivening it with felt, seen and experienced narratives from my own life picked out and placed in such a way that they were divested of their original context and took on a new meaning. Something like the transmigration of a soul.

When I finally plunged into the narrative, hidden worlds revealed themselves. Some of them seemed like my own but they were not. The central character resisted my writerly manipulations and rapidly evolved, tracing his own steps and swinging back and forth through his own time and space.

Each  book that I have written is a step beyond the one before. I think it is important to keep pushing the borders of theme and plot, character and action and to go beyond, moulding newer forms of narrative. I am concerned with what lies within and its response to what lies outside the individual and the conflict between the individual and the circumstances he or she is in.

Walking Through Fire is a step beyond all the fiction that I have written and published so far. I had kept the creative source of my earlier fiction pretty much away from myself and drew upon other people but in the case of this novel, I drew upon myself and my own life. Familiar ground made me bolder and my style more muscularly engaging.  It also offered me infinite possibilities as I moved with the character backwards and forwards through time. By doing this, I managed to create a separate reality, a new reality, the reality which belonged exclusively to the character and his story and not to me.

 

Randhir Khare

September 2012