Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Olympian Heart

After he turned thirty, without a breakthrough
or a clue to a Nobel-worthy scientific discovery,
without a bestseller book, a Booker or a Pulitzer,
without even a proper job, with uncertainty
as his daily wake-up call and nightmare,
he began to respect the millions: the also-rans,
the have-beens and the almost-theres, the faceless
ants, and the termites in foreign sweatshops.

He spent an entire week making paper planes
from his unpublished research articles
and poems. Mass circulation of his ideas
using aerodynamics cleared his desk,
ever so cluttered like his mind. Imagine
hundreds of equations and verbs swirling
down to earth like his ideas about science,
art and self! Humbled by the sadhu time,

he grumbled first about the lost rhyme
and reason of his curious, lyrical self.
To this day, he had considered delayed
gratification a virtue. Now a voice,
his own, classed him as a bygone dream.
Not every fermentation ends up as wine.
He consoled himself with a serpentine logic
that mediocrity, after a sustained effort

at glory, is thermodynamically the most
favored outcome. He finally forgave
his grandma for saying that grazing goats
educates better than his pricy school's
English rhymes, and tie & coats.
After a half-life of borrowed idioms,
he began seeing his unoriginal affairs
as a destiny of desires forged

by an overhyped education. His toolbox
contains every artifact of acquired fact
and abstract training. Tentatively he prods
on, blowing a longhorn of dote learning,
but now he knows -- creativity is a jackfruit
dessert that not everyone who plants a sapling
gets to taste. To pack his bags and leave
would be an admission of grief or lack of belief

in his talents and the establishment. No,
he must persist, for existence is an act,
and he resents an exact estimation of his self.
He is a mass of clay-dust like everyone else,
and immortality is earned by getting churned
in the random eddies of life. Whoever yearns
and stakes his elemental self into the kiln
called life, burns... but only a fraction return

as gold or God, which the mirror suggests
might not be his fate. After he turned forty,
he learned that forgiving faults and failings
helps in retaining self-respect. Outcomes
reveal neither neglect nor unworthiness, not
always. Disillusioned by persistent biases
that favor white or black sheep in a flock,
egg-laying hens to an egoistic fighter cock,

he forged for himself a featureless dream-bowl,
then threw it away. To beg or canvass for votes,
or use family connections or political ploys he felt
would destroy his last caricatures of self-respect.
But if every man were to forgo his dreams, live on facts,
we would regress into a song-less, unchanging universe.
He knows he must persist, for all existence is an act,
we are merely players and before the hero/villain is revealed,

all actors on stage (and some backstage) are suspect.
One breakthrough it takes to light a lamp or an epigram,
one breakthrough! He could be but one step away from the finish.
They who don't ask will never know if the answer is yes or no.
He refines his act, but he is circumspect. Victors revise
biographies; wipe out the salt of doubts from their cheeks.
Since he knows he could yet write himself into a myth,
he braves the daily grindstones, and hopes, and persists.


First published in Muse India, Vol1, Jan-Feb, 2014. 
Version 1, Nov 25-28, 2011; V2: July 2012...

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