Friday, June 11, 2010


Something that has been bothering me for 15 years has finally been resolved today.

In 8th or 9th grade, I had come across a poem a girl in my batch had written. This poem, along with creative work by other students, had been displayed for a while on a public chartboard for all to see. The chartboard would be updated regularly, like once a month or once a week, I can't remember exactly how often. I do remember when I was asked to update this chartboard by the teachers who were in charge of it, to take down its old collection and put up newer student submissions in its place. Regarding the work that had just been taken down, not every student had come back to claim their work, and the teachers certainly didn't want to keep unnecessary papers, so the leftover stuff remained with me. The poem in question was part of the leftovers.

The poem was wonderful, and I was stunned that that girl had come up with something like that. Everytime I came across that bunch of papers over the years, the same thought would occur to me. I felt terrible for feeling that way - was I jealous? No, I know what jealousy feels like, this wasn't it. Maybe I was resentful that it wasn't something I could come up with? I felt so guilty for thinking this way, I hated myself. I went over the poem so many times that day in that sweaty corridor - I could not keep my eyes off that page - that I'd committed it to memory. How could anyone not? It was so fluid, so run-a-long, so perfect, how could that girl have written that poem? How could I have not?? I was the lauded writer of my class, my batch, of the world!

These feelings bothered me for many years. They would crop up at odd moments in those spaces between my thoughts, the spaces where your real self lurks in the shadows of the daytime sun, the nighttime spaces that yawn into wakefulness and swallow the pretenses of civilised, safe, monitored thoughts. I hated myself for feeling this way, and I hated myself for not having written that poem first.

Until today, when Amitabh Bachchan, whom I follow on Twitter, tweeted a line from that poem. I balked. I googled. Turns out the poem is a famous one of anonymous origins.

The Cautious Man

There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played.
He never risked, he never tried,
He never sang or prayed.

And when he one day passed away,
His insurance was denied.
For since he never really lived,
They claimed he never died.

The disembodied whispers that had tormented me in moments unlived by all but myself have found their peace. The sun and the moon are divorced no more, the sky is one.


Ravi said...

Nice poem, this reminds me of something.
a dozen years back when i was just around 23, had started career as a s/w guy and it felt logical that performance appraisals meant hikes once went up to my grey old parsi manager

Ravi : When will you do my performance appraisal ?
Kasad : First you should perform.

Khadija Ejaz said...