Across Love Currents

a poem by Ram Chopra

On one excursion trip to Rishikesh the holy city
I trekked the mountains alone and the sights so pretty
And one evening at the twilight hour before the darkness descended
I came across on the banks of Ganges a mendicant whose call so candid
Attracted me to his presence reluctantly hypnotised
And I sat the few hours to hear his discourse mesmerised
A tale he recounted of his youth and glory
So much extinguished rage and dismantled fury
In a voice constant, a testimony without regrets, no sorrows
After all he meant I am alive today but not tomorrow

He was the only son in a family of seven daughters
A handsome lad with silver spoon brought up and much sought after
A joy to behold and talk of the town
Days of exuberance from dawn to sundown
Each day constituted only song dance and pleasure
There was all to consume, no search for buried treasure
What then is life without hindrance and perspiration
Lacking beauty, duty and inspiration
Was it for that Sidhartha left his wife and child
The fasting, the pain self-inflicted and the wandering that he tried
To find that elusive answer to daily effort and endurance
And to discover in void the mergence of all perseverance
What makes you then the world to renounce
Your own kin, blood and material wealth to denounce
That distant, mysterious ever chiming call
No words said, no thoughts exchanged but a bottomless fall
On this bank he said for twenty years he had survived
With alms he never asked for, and with heavy remorse he incessantly meditated and cried

Then in his own words he recounted
No extravagance expressed, no incident flaunted
For the dancing girls of brothels I beat up my father
Took the treasure keys and plundered his accumulation like soap lather
My old man expired a penniless destitute
For I was infatuated heart and soul after virgin prostitutes
Those young girls maddeningly lovely at sixteen and seventeen
Trapped in brothels for men vicious and mean
My own wife and child I left them in the nights
To while away, drunk in love, alcohol and engaged in many fights

Not unforeseen that one flushing kitten crushed me with her innocence
Raced my heart and enflamed my soul in unfathomable vehemence
As a virgin maid she was not allowed with customers to sleep
Kissing cuddling, cooing and her fingers in my hair running deep
My head in her lap and my brains on fire
She was soulmate every evening I did hire
The nights in brothel playing cards and dice
Exterminating inherited wealth and living in vice
One midnight hour one feudal lord with me gambled
My kitten saw me loosing all and in fear she trembled
You have nothing more to offer the feudal lord me booed
Your clothes I do not want but your wife shall do
If I fail this round I said you can have her too
I did fail again and my kitten besides me horrified
You stupid fool she cried how could you
Perplexed by it all I just lost my senses
My mind’s landscape was bare having eliminated integral fences
This kitten is what I want and will by her out
How much is she worth I did shout
With four hundred thousand we make a deal
The brothel madame retorted, her lips then were sealed

I could not pay that much I was in disbelief
As I panicked from the door in the monsoon rain
I pulled at my kitten’s arm and she resisted in pain
No no she responded I will not go
You have no money and you are too low

I implored her no more and rushed to the streets
Ran home to home to my seven sisters to meet
Give me your jewelry, your money I begged for the sake of their love
I am your only brother much fallen but spiritually above
Their pity, kindness, credit sense whatever I cannot define
Made them generous however they meant is this the last time
After giving up the world I still had my kitten won
Who cares for honour when the deal is done.

We rented a room in the hotel for several nights
Euphoric I kicked around with a bottle and she wept at my sight
I fell on the pavements and got cuts all over
I was beaten up in boisterous way side fights
Though I was deeply in love I was a failed lover

That final night eternally drunk I called her name
Absolute silence was the response for no answer came
Deserted, forgotten, looted and much booted
I was someone in unwashable vice sooted

Desperate, drowned in grief I ran in my pyjamas
I hurried to the brothel for the last part of the drama
Indeed she was there, taking salute form partying customers
She held back from me and refused my overtures
Then what took upon me I can never comprehend
Is this love that makes you an enemy out of a friend
I grabbed her by the hair and jilted her neck
Then with both hands clutched her pressing her throat
Her screams stifled, her breath restricted
The eyeballs hardened, air in her lungs suffocated
In a few seconds was over, I myself could loath
A man in love, a killer I became
To live or die for me was all the same

To the judge in court let me die I said
What kindness smothered him when the verdict he read
Ten years in prison for this lovers homicide
Had a death sentence helped me from my reflection to hide

With these words had the mendicant his account related
His body I noted was hungered and depleted
Sixty five days of fasting he had by now accomplished
Refusing all alms, offerings for the body, his mind subjugated in love worship
His body though erect, his voice outpouring
He spoke so sadly in a defeated tone ever enduring
I left him there as eventually in a crushing silence he fell
There was nothing more for him to tell

Next day, the morning walk, I passed the junction by
A corpse of a saint they announced is lying here dry
Take your blessing they urged for soon he will be cremated
What makes them see in this fellow a saint, someone so ill fated

So many paradoxes we cannot logically fathom
Life is a dance with steps at random
Have you ever gotten what you really deserve
Why hang we on then, so lecherously ourselves to preserve.