On not being a poet

By: M.N. Sulehri
Few people know that I happen to be a poet. I think so because often during taking a bath, queer ideas occur to me. I blurt them out and think this is an excellent piece of poetry. But whenever I try to recite it before my friends, I find them reluctant to listen to me, except I have a reasonable amount of money (which seldom happens) to serve them some refreshments. Even then, in spite of appreciating me, their faces begin to turn red with anger. On such occasions, I have to run for my life.

One day, when they were talking about modern Urdu poetry in a cheerful mood. I took this opportunity for granted and babbled out one of my superb poems. They swoop over me like hungry tigers and torn my only shirt. This was a grave blow to my poverty. Alas! They have no literary taste. My anger knew no bounds and I cried, “isn’t it poetry, then what it is”? They replied, “this is a splendid poem but lacks some merits”. For instance, I asked. They opined, “it is devoid of meter, lacks rhyme scheme and has no profundity of thought, etc.” They might be right, anyhow, they left my room and I had a close check-up of my torn shirt. Then a superb idea sprang up into my mind. I thought that I should visit some public place where I could have plenty to observe i.e. people and nature as they might provide a lot of raw material to brood over, which is essential for a poet.

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To concretize my idea I begged a shirt from a friend and hurried towards the bus stop, stepped into a van, and went to the bus station that was, I thought a proper place for the purpose to sharpen one’s, imaginative faculties.
First of all, I planned to have a cup of coffee because Pope says that coffee sharpens one’s wits. I went to a tea shop, for coffee could go hard on the pocket, and ordered a cup of tea, enlightened a cigarette, and occupied a chair with my left hand pressing against my cheek. I tried to pose Sagar Sadique’s style and began to use the plate as an ashtray. Meanwhile, a huge man with a bulging belly and prosaic face was standing close and staring at me. It seemed as if he had an intense aversion for this poetic manner of using the plate for ash. I gulped the tea, paid for it, and sneaked away from this anti-literary atmosphere. When I came out, a kid of eight years old came to me and asked for some money. My poetic impulse aroused and I fished out three rupees (the only capital I had) from my pocket and handed him. Now my pocket was as empty as my head. Penniless and thoughtless, I stood there for a while and then decided to foot towards my abode. Soon my passion for generosity subdued rather changed into anger when I had to walk on foot from station to Islampura. Isn’t it an adventure in such scorching heat of the sun, capable enough of melting away any poetic stimulus?

The next day, I had a severe headache and a fever. My unkindly kind friends took me to the hospital. The doctor examined me carefully and declared me, the poor poet, as a patient of sunstroke. While I was lying on the bed I thought about those farmers who work under the hot sun and never have sunstroke. Though they have to endure financial “sun strokes” by their pseudo-intellectual sons who come to the cities for higher education. I also thought of those laborers who work under the parching heat of the sun and never encounter it. Maybe they face it but are not admitted to the hospitals, merely because they are not such budding poets as me.

While lying on the bed with parched lips, yellow face, and sunken eyes I decided to give someplace to the sad plight of these farmers and laborers in my poetry. I expressed this grand idea to Mr. N, a chum of mine, but the devil frowned and said pugnaciously, “Damn your muck”, slapped me on the foot, and rushed out of the room. I didn’t mind that, because he, in league with other friends, was frittering away his time and money on me, which I later came to know, he got by selling my books to an old book shop.

When I told them the real cause of my illness – the story of adventure and generosity, they cursed me a lot. I explained that charity, after all, had some importance. On listening to this poetic and philosophical discourse the gentlemen rebuked me in a way entirely against the dignity of a poet. Since that day I have sworn upon a pile of books that I would neither think to be a poet nor give even a thought to poetry.

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