Ajai R. Singh MD

Ajai R. Singh MD | Editor, Mens Sana Monographs [2003- ] | At PubMed, PMC, NLM, OCLC etc | Short Bio [For talks] | Monographs, Book and Book Chapters | Lectures, Awards, Orations | Music, 'Musical Embrace' & Ghalib | Music: About the artiste | Poetry | Life and Influences | Contact

Poems: Longing

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Ajai Singh

Longing is a collection of poems that contains both the anguish and turmoil of youth and the mellow distillate of middle age. It is a wide assortment but connected by a common thread – that of experiences which refused to evaporate with time. Some were penned as they happened, some hibernated for a while, some had to be excoriated from the archives of the past.
A select few of those will be uploaded on this page by and by.
Ajai Singh

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Preface

 

Is poetry condensed prose? Is prose expanded poetry?

I wonder if these are fair questions at all. Sometimes it appears what prose cannot express in reams poetry does in a page. Sometimes one feels poetry needs explanation which only prose can provide. Sometimes some poetry appears prose only using the poetic idiom. Sometimes we find some prose moving with the liquid grace of poetry.

For me, however, poetry is about pain and longing. Poetry is about introversion and contemplation. Poetry is about misting of the eyes and a tug at the heart. Poetry is about excavating the depths of consciousness and revealing the scalds there. Poetry is about the joys and vicissitudes of living.  Poetry is about perceptions woven into symbols and expressed through the elegance of language.  

Metre and rhyme have meaning only in so far as they facilitate these. They are embellishments to be used carefully. In an already beautiful lady the line where elegance transgresses into loudness is very thin. Too much ornamentation only jars.

I wonder if the prose medium can ever match the undulating grace and flow of poetry.

Having said all this, however, let us note that poetry is in no competition with anyone. Neither, I suppose, is prose.

Enough of this analysis for the present. A poet should make his point in a few words. And mine are coming to an end here. The few poems that follow should make the rest of them.  

 

Ajai Singh 

 

 ...........................................................................

 

 

14 Aug 2005

 

What is all this about

 

 

Some primordial stirrings

that

characterized

awakened

adolescence

tender and sprouting

and

some

frenzied outpourings

that italicized adulthood

strapping, but strangely vulnerable.

And both

stirred in the cauldron of time.

 

                    The grotesque weaves into the sublime

and flows

through greasy bye lanes

of

desire

and opens into

rivulets of

unrequited enchantment

shimmering through

the leaves of a memory tree.

 

                     The prism of middle age

refracts

and

deflects the outpourings

true,

but

allows them

to filter through

nonetheless.

 

Thank God for that.

 

Come,

rest in its lap, my friend

for a moment

just a moment.

 

Maybe it may stretch itself.

 

Maybe it may open its arms

and cuddle you to its racing heart.

 

Maybe.

Just maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 .............................................................................................

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Sometime in 1974

 

A Case of Identity

 

                             

                               

 

 

Tonight at a classical dance recital

symbolizing the eternal quest of the soul-force for God

I too raised for myself some questions

As I saw the dancer adopt body twisted

                                      beautifully gymnastic postures

like a question mark put before me

                                 - who am I?

 

         Am I the inquisitive streetwalker listening at pavements

         to snake charmers’ aphrodisiac calls,

         watching indolently as the fast cycling rogue

         whirling past, knocks her off, squeezes her breasts,

                                 makes off

         and leaves me to pacify her smothered adolescence.

 

Or am I the automaton

That hangs on to footboards and breezes past in fast trains

                                 every morning and evening

the only sensation left in me being in my hands

holding on for dear life, and in my lips

wolf whistling as I swirl past platforms.

 

           Or just the nimble fingers

            typing away at jet-speed,

            taking down bosses’ notes, thumbing

            across wads of money,

            hand shaking

                                with prospective customers.

 

Or just tongues, tongues and more tongues

 with mounds and mounds of sugar and ghee and adulterated oils

                               pouring it all into unknowing ears

                               furthering business prospects

feeding everyone around in slow poison doses

and fattening on pure ghee, purity of expression, conscience.

 

 

So that I can decorate my drawing room with costly paintings and upholstery

                                    watch expensive dance recitals

and answer question marks once in a while.       

 

(Published in MSM Poems, Mens Sana MonographsVol III-1, IV-1-4, Mar-Dec 2006, p208-209.)

 

...........................................................................................................................

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19-3-1974

 

Oft-repeated

 

It was the same grey impassivity of a telephone receiver

                                            and a fingerless fallen hand

that had clinched it for me before

and zoomed the heights of phantasmagoria.

The length of my fingers intertwined into nothingness

                                            as palm clung to palm

and the index finger sought every fibre of your body

                                            to be well imprinted,

                                           logically catalogued,

tearing and slashing, knifing through all the touch points

                                           lacerating bluntness with fingernails

                                            dripping blue blood

as it gushed through all your wounds.

 

Wonder the fate of the wayside pebble

small faced,

eager, impulsive, vibrant

Catapulted by trigger happy palms to sky-rocketing aspirations

tearing through the wide blue belly of the sky

to fall with a thud into the mire and muck

making a dent for itself in the groin of oblivion.

 

Therein lie the fruits, my salvation.

 

These same fingerless hands hung on

                    to the impassivity that stood between us

united us and yet separated us.

Taught us impersonal lovemaking, objective subjectivity

visionary sweet nothings, words torpedoing regards

and sinking them

                     in the quagmire of gesticulated arms to nonexistent audience.

 

Relishing this oft-repeated show of self-deception.

 

 

          

..........................................................................................     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30-8-2005

 

Silences

 

Indeed.

 

Silences

Allow whispers to

Travel long distances.

                 

                  And

 

Whispers

Make silences

Come to life.

 

And

 

Life itself

Is a

Whisper

Between

Two silences.

 

(Published in MSM Poems, Mens Sana Monographs, Vol III-4-5, Nov 2005-Feb 2006, p53.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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31-8-2005/6.30 a.m.

 

Perpetual

 

Some people

are

members

of a

perpetual opposition party.

 

Some others

remain perpetually close

to a

ruling one.

 

Only a few

in opposition of both

are party to

any ruling

that is truly perpetual.

 

Are you?

 

 

 

 .............................................................................................................

 

 

 

 

 

Sometime in 1991

 

A Modern Panchatantra Tale

 

(In the Panchtantra, three princes take their lessons in statecraft and pursuit of knowledge from a preceptor Vishnusharman by studying the behaviour of animals. A modern Panchtantra may or may not get written. But the animals are there all right. And being modern, it cannot do without the character, Man, in whom modernity and animality blend so perfectly.)

 

‘Yesterday

We diverted a little

talking or reincarnations and myths and

avatars

Narasimha-

Lord Vishnu, half man-half lion

and Prahlad, his bhakta

rescued from the vain father Hiranyakashipu.

That was mythology, prince.

Let’s come to brass-tacks today’.

 

And the teacher continued,

‘If you wish, prince

to have a lion in your circus

and the ambitious performer must have one-

at least  for advertisement’s sake-

you have to learn early

to tolerate his stalk and his ambush

his snarl,

his fierce looks

and his roar.

And you cannot domesticate the king-cat

by feeding it

on milk and bread.

Even the lowly cat cannot give up its snarl

where then is the question of His Lordship?

 

‘A circus must retain a lion

with his characteristics.

Awe and terror are mass entertainers.

But

the lion has to be trained

to become part

of a well orchestrated performance.

The trainer has to use

meat,

as much as the whip,

coaxing, as much as snubbing.

And tolerate

annoyance of his pets and protégés

as much as shield them from harm.

For, having once tasted blood,

the king-cat will not relent.

He will try to strike again and again.

 

‘Now, remember, prince,

if you cannot train a lion

or do not have one such in your entourage,

it would be prudent

to do without him right from the beginning.

Image building is all right

but what about the show?

An inept ringmaster with a fierce performer

can upset the circus

and maul the master himself.

And he

will use his paw, and reach,

as much as his teeth and nails.

Loyalty is a quality only in

Domesticated animals.’

 

‘So, prince’, continued the teacher,

‘beware of ambitions

and ideals

and the lion.

Have a circus without the lion.

You may lose some gate-money initially.

But there are other performers available

better,

and more manageable.

Start with the faithful dog

He will always wag his tail

Eat out of your hand,

and bark at the stranger.

Have the jackal

his slyness

will out manoeuvre the lion

and his antics

can be excellent entertainment.

The monkey is a fine acrobat

Children just love to see him perform.

The elephant is a big draw

he may be clumsy, but he is enormous

and he lays claims

to besting his lord-ship.

And, of course, the noble horse

what a stately trot he has, and so appealing.

Ever-ready to get ridden.

The parrot is so cute

he will imitate your voice

And the myena

will sing sweet tunes to you.

 

‘Make a troupe out of such as these.

 

‘So what some children

are displeased there is no lion.

Your other performers will amuse them.

Children today love Mickey and Donald, anyway,

and

my Panchatantra tales are only a comic.

 

‘Remember, prince,

children are soon placated.

They will forget the lion

The clamour will stop.

Their parents will feed them chocolates and

ice-creams

and lollipops.

 

‘The show will go on’.

 

(Published in New Quest, Vol 89, Sept-Oct 1991, p313-314.)

 ..........................................................................................................

 

 

 

5-9-2005

 

Formal frills

 

How stiff and formal

The ‘Dr. Ajai Singh’ appears.

Like a starched collar

It seems essential

To keep up appearances

But it hurts.

 

‘Ajai’

shorn of the frills

is a breezy T-shirt

and

another advantage

one without a collar

so

the neck is free

and

the informality of

the dress

has

at least a chance

to rub off on the psyche.

 

 

 

 

(Updated 26 Sept 2006)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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