Discovering Poet Kalidas and My Love of Language

It has been a long time since I had written a post and I must agree that it was a forced silence on my part. I am an over-emotional person who tends to over emote more than to intellectualize things. I needed that space from my writing, so that I don’t blurt write insensitively with a fatalistic mentality. These few days of lockdown is no different from the rest of my days. I like to isolate myself and spend more time in inner reflection.

In these few days, I so wished to renounce this world and take up monkhood. Yet my intellectual mind tells me that the challenge of life lies in the acceptance of it in the mortal plane. This has been a huge debate within me.

To Run Away or To Stay Steady in a Challenge

Life has innumerable challenges, how we react to it is dependent on our emotion and practical application of our consolidated wisdom gathered over the many years of our past. One of my recent challenge is to whether write the Sanskrit exam when it happens or whether not to write? My search for this language started in 2003 rather as a pleasant surprise.

In 2002, I encountered the works of Mahakavi Kalidas and in translation he was so wonderful to read that I felt a great desire to read the work in its original language. Two of his works were the most influential in bringing about this change in me.

Meghadutham and Ritusamharam – yeah, I know it is filled with romantic implications but then, here was a record of the region through which the messenger cloud passes through before it reaches its destination. Likewise, I found the description of the various flora and fauna from our past leave behind a streak of national pride for being amidst the very land which once had these rare breeds of plants and life forms.

Seventeen Year of My Search

I sometimes feel that some Rishi from the previous births has cursed me for an error which he would have deemed that I need to amend and to learn from it. So, I get sidetracked quiet often that I forget my main desire to learn something new. Sanskrit has been evading me, but the call of the language never was far away from my heart center. The further I went away from it, then the inner calling got me closer to the language.

I was not emotionally connected with Sanskrit which is the origin of my identity and my roots. I come from a Yajur Veda branch of brahmin community. All these years I have been with the language in some way or the other. In the chant of the mantra’s during the death anniversary rituals gave me such heart-felt joy and happiness that the family tradition was practiced without a break in the chain.

Even though the Vedas and especially the Rudram and Chamakam used to draw me closer to its magical quality and sense of balance in them. I keep fluctuating between Shiva and Vishnu avatars, but then I also often think of Sathyanarayana (an avatar of Vishnu) and Parthasarthy Perumal in Triplicane is my all time favorite. Parthasarthy perumal as a sculpture is beyond impressive and his moustache gets my undivided attention. How very mortal a thought?!

Upswing and Downswing of My Passion for the Sanskrit Language

During my internship at Chandamama I was fascinated with everything in my life. I was in my dream job and it made me the person that I am today in many ways.  

Under the shade of mango trees
Filled with the songs of the koel
A copy of the Complete works of Kalidas
Resting on my lap as I sat on the floor
The company’s library my refuge
While outside the summer’s rain bearing clouds
Gather around increasing the heat within,
I am like the peacock waiting to spread my tail
Joyous of the first drop and the fresh smells
As the soil meets the heaven’s shower
Opening her arms as a sign of welcome.

A Dreamer Unparalleled by Reality

I have always been a dreamer and I would escape even today amidst a group of people since life in my dream is much more exciting then the reality that I face. I could be labelled as an escapist, but I don’t mind it. The dreamscapes are far more exciting and thrilling experience for me. Some of the hardest task of my life was to remain in the present and be mindful. I could never do that.

When left to my devise I would escape into the solitude much like the Nightingale and the Koel who hides from the sight of human vision. All that is heard is her sweet string of yesteryears songs rehashed and rearranged for present day audience.

The day I discovered Kalidas’ work my heart never knew peace for a long time. It was a strange tune that kept playing much like the serenading mermaids leading the unaware ships to their certain end on the sharp rocks. There was a mesmerizing quality to the work that kept my desire alive even to this very day.

Aim Was Not to Pass a Test | The Aim Was Much More

Even back then I knew a few letters in Hindi and I tried reading which resulted in a huge headache. I would often keep memorizing little alphabets in the hope that I would read the language without any hinderance. In 2015 I decided to seriously consider learning the language. My aim was Vishnu Sharma’s stories and actual Ancient Indian Literature. But to get there, basic Sanskrit was essential.

In the hope of learning the language I joined Samskritha Bharati postal course but even during that period I was not able to understand anything because the books didn’t make sense and I could not progress beyond the first few pages of the book I of Pravesha.  

Invariably my search for my roots have been an on-going process. It is not that I am trying to become some kind of an extremist saying my community is the best and others don’t stand a chance. No, I merely feel such elation in knowing there are multiple ways of living and I just want to know this present way of life, that I am born into in this lifetime.

There was this search to mentally create the life and way of life of the ancient past. To bring into focus that aspect of my past which is deep-seated and is a silent witness to all that passes around her. That inner connection that defies to be described or to be explained in straight forward words.

Some Quests in Life Are God Driven

I have a strong faith in the Divinity of human life. If I call that Divinity by the name ‘Lord Vishnu’ then it is mere chance from the cards dealt for me in this lifetime. So, sometimes, I just let my life drift in the direction that is shown by the Divine. Around 2019 I met a person who was interested in the work of my Elderest Uncle and the visitor inspired me to take the Certificate course from Madras Sanskrit College, Mylapore. I was overjoyed and inspired. It was waiting to happen since my job as a proofreader of ancient Indian literature in translation from Sanskrit to English, aided in increasing my desire to move ahead with learning it over the weekends.

The result of this choice is that today I can read and write in Sanskrit and the aim for which I had joined the course has been completed and now the balance task is to explore the language on my own. Much like the Korean, Mandarin and Traditional Chinese languages that I kept exploring during the various stages of my life.

Highlight of My South-Asian Experience

During the duration of my stay in Singapore I worked as a Project Coordinator with Akroo’s sister concern HRA where I got to explore the entire range of languages in the South-Eastern section. How each text looked like and where even one stroke can completely change the word’s meaning. I was in ninth heaven even though life was challenging enough to be beyond my skillset levels.

The stories never stopped, and the call of the Language was a sweet inner strain that’s kept me mesmerized like a music of the invisible flute player. I shake like the cobra in front of the snake charmer, not gleaning the tune but that the piper’s note hits the core of my being.

I have yet to learn to write sentences in Sanskrit and I am sure I will get there at my own pace. For now, the task of learning the alphabets and being able to read the text is not a small feat by itself. The inspiration of language’s charm will remain in my being forever. I am grateful for all the grace in my life. Maybe I will write that exam or maybe not! I will never know!

Image Source: Pexels.com