To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
The above lines of William Blake could be used to describe one of the functions of poetry as well. The poet makes us see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. She makes us feel the infinity in our limited body and experience the eternity in a moment.
Everyone comes across flashes of poetic truth at some point or other. Such moments do not last long. But an effective poet can captures these fleeting moments and clothe them with words to give us glimpses into his poetic truth and make us live those moments again and again.
The other day when I was reading the poem ‘The old Banyan Tree’ by Haldhar Nag, it made me re-live those moments of childhood in my native village. The Banyan Tree near my village pond was so much part of our daily routine.
Some of my readers might have already heard his name especially after he was honoured with the Padmashri in 2015. Still then, let me give a brief introduction about the poet.
Sri Haldhar Nag has written three epics and hundreds of poems so far. He writes in the western Odisha dialect known as Koshali or Sambalpuri. He has formal education only upto class three. Nevertheless, his works are going to be part of University syllabus and a number of students are writing doctorate thesis on his poetry.
He was born in a village called Ghens in the Bargarh district of western Odisha in the year 1950. He could not continue his studies due to the death of his parents and financial difficulties. He took up odd jobs like washing utensils and cooking to support himself and his family. Through all these difficulties he kept up with his love of poetry and worked for it.
In 1990 he submitted his first poem to a local magazine and it was accepted. There after he became active in local poetry events and became very popular in the region. A large number of people used to attend his poetry readings. To spread his message through his poetry he used to travel from place to place in his bicycle, attired in the simple villager’s dress – no shoes or shirt, only a dhoti and a thin towel to cover his upper body.
He still does that. At first glance, the staff at Ahsoka Hotel, New Delhi had a hard time believing that he was one of the persons authorised to stay in the hotel as a Padma Awardee.
By the way, the poem about the Banyan Tree that I mentioned earlier was the first poem of Haldhar Nag to be published. Here is a video of the poem being recited by him.
In this poem he portrays the Banyan Tree as a silent witness of all the drama that happens in the village through multiple generations. Sometimes marriage negotiations happen under its shade. Sometimes thieves come and sit under the tree to share their booty. The Banyan Tree stands there like a Yogi, not able to speak.
The Banyan tree also becomes a metaphor of the witness consciousness in us. To be established in ‘the witness consciousness’ without being perturbed by positive or negative things happening to us is the central message of The Bhagavat Gita.
Here is a short documentary in Hindi about him.
Here is an important take away from the life of Sri Haldhar Nag. In spite of lack of resources and a thousand other obstacles, if one has the passion and the perseverance, excellence cannot keep away for long.