Poem| Ishan Marvel and HN Sanyal

Fragments from Winter

HN Sanyal
Credits: Soumya Shankar

On the Death of a Thinking Man

He survives through you, she said, his students
perhaps he deserved better, I thought, and recalled his presence. nights soaked in the essential loneliness, stewed and simmering for years. rancid bile, half-frozen, from a lifetime of stubborn choice, terrible pride and secret cowardice. and bad luck
but back then I could not understand. I was too young, and I felt helpless. to see a man who could have won the world, but ended up in a sordid ghaziabad flat. alone, half-rotting with a mind clawing upon itself. to see all that potential, genius and labour become things of pity and gossip

I was afraid I would become him
besides, he wanted to be a father without any effort, like every other prick past forty. I already had a father, and I was sick of him. always the ungrateful bastard.
but back then I could not understand. that hypochondriac woe and paranoid delirium. a certain quality of wretchedness that could make dostoyevsky proud. I owe him the russians—and baudelaire, blake, rimbaud and sahir. lined across one-and-a-half rooms of the two room flat, sharing the professor’s self-wrought misery.
mcdowells platinum, roast chicken, grass and myriad tobacco. beethoven, mozart, bhimsen, ghalib, ginsberg and tagore. bleak blue walls and white lights. a young woman at an open half door and sundry van goghs. midnight lectures on mahabharat and the awful tons of poetry stored in the otherwise amnesiac, half-grey head. and the secret night-long muttering: bitch, bitch, bitch . . . I shouldn’t have, no, I’ll never. I shouldn’t have . . .

so, I walked away.
time happened, and I forgot.
like you, eternal teacher who forgot he must also be student.
you, of the strange innocence and tobacco-stained smile at the sight of a gulabjamun.
you, unknown to yourself taught me the greatest lesson:
do not become you.

And so, sir, that day when she—remember her?
There’d have been no her if it hadn’t been for you. remember her? we touched your feet at the station once. she did it and I followed. we felt blessed. but later you judged us, and we replied.
Last week, she told me you were dead, but I did not feel sad. not even that clichéd sadness of not feeling sad. a little regret for not saying goodbye, but no sadness.
Because sir, you are finally free! no more HN Sanyal, english professor and fulbright scholar. no more Agnimitro who wrote exquisite matchstick poems, lit off the deepest strands within.
And now, I imagine you, sir—in a possible afterlife or merged in the great wave, living through it again, the good parts: with ma. with shobha. rabindra sangeet. oxford spires, and autumns in central delhi. walking the inner circle in long coat. or typing a fresh poem at the standard . . . simply because you could do it

Agape by HN Sanyal (Agnimitro)

HN Sanyal reads Agape (2011)

Come love, let us be innocent together
we have known too much of idle things that have callused our hearts
turned our hair grey long before the accursed time

Let us hide each other in a twilight forest
among numberless trees brushing against the sky
a bird call, a rustle in the leaves mate with our even heartbeats

We do not speak a word
what is there for a man and a woman to say
while the light changes in the woods, and silence brings a memory
of all that has been lasting, true, and beautiful

We leave behind agony and remorse
look fully in each other’s eyes, no longer with the eagerness of passion
but the knowledge that nothing else is1

[1] The Sun Rising, John Donne.

1 comment:

  1. Hauntingly real account of a teacher whom many of his students cannot forget. Ishan - your obituary has indeed revived sir - at least for me - and I thank you for the piece!
    A. John