Shilpi – Who Saw and Sang

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Editor’s note: We are happy to welcome Gayatri Majumdar in our Renaissance team of writers. She has long association with Sri Aurobindo Society, and is an established poet and editor. For her first contribution to Renaissance, she pens a poem that evokes a range of subtle emotions that make up most of our human relations. And yet there is always that gentle reminder, a call even to transcend the bondage of those emotions toward an inner freedom which alone can be the true basis for any relationship.


There was no mistaking –
the name distinct in sindoor-red

            শিল্পী নিকেতন . . .

As his voice crescendoed with bhakti
and sank with the sweet rasas of those swaras,
the tabla’s rhythm stringing divinity
with moments upon moments of inner cognizance.

The audience cramming his silence
sat dutiful enraptured – the air
conditioning hearts, now warmer.

The shilpi’s life organized neat his measured gait,
blue Camlin Ink on decades-old now-brittle pages,
torn-edged covers of yellow notebooks; things absent –
not visible to the eye – inched closer
around him, and not at a very great distance
sat lamps in corners resting in their own sepia chit . . .

The stillness mixed with the descent – palpable
to all, mostly to those who could be absent.
His voice now tremored with gratitude
and total surrender; his expanding heart
opening floodgates to all those
who invariably return
bearing fruits, of course,
of loss, grief, hurt, pain, partings
and other many hues he knows as love.

His breath quickened as he took a while
to locate the next song –
investigating pages and lifetimes, half-anxious,
certain it was there somewhere,

The harmonium shifted ebonies and whites
– sobbing – with despair, delight,
in tune with a childhood Kutchi folksong
lifting to space – light.

The basement teared up
flooding green and maroon cushions,
someone’s silver hair and sockless fables,
some books lining shelves incredibly named,
Growing Within, Living Within and Pain, the Hammer of God.

In the timelessness of half-remembrance
and total dissolution,
the tiny room sloughed to cosmic talas
lost – not intent on ever finding its way back.

About the poet:

Gayatri Majumdar is editor, publisher and founder of the critically acclaimed Indian literary journal The Brown Critique (1995–2015). Gayatri began her career as a journalist in the Press Trust of India and The Independent in Mumbai. Her published and upcoming books include A Song for Bela (a novel), poetry collections Shout, I Know You Are Here (Red River, New Delhi), The Dream Pod (Copper Coin, New Delhi), non-fiction The lotus of the heart and The Brown Critique Home Anthology (both Brown Critique Boks) which she co-edited.

Her poems and articles have been published in numerous Indian and international journals and anthologies. Gayatri is co-founder of ‘Pondicherry Poets’ and has been co-curating the annual Pondicherry/Auroville Poetry Festival and several other poetry/music events. Based in Pondicherry, she is associated with Sri Aurobindo Society.


By pain and joy, the bright and tenebrous twins,
The inanimate world perceived its sentient soul,
Else had the Inconscient never suffered change.

Pain is the hammer of the Gods to break
A dead resistance in the mortal’s heart,
His slow inertia as of living stone.

~ Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, CWSA, Vol. 34, p. 443

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~ Design: Beloo Mehra

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