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Since 1st March, 1999
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My month long holiday in Kasauli came to an end as usually as in past years with a visit from Munshi Mohan Lal. He is around 80 and much concerned about what he has achieved in life and whether or not it was worth the effort he had put in. “A man’s destiny is written out before he is born,” he maintains and reads out a poem he has composed in Urdu to the effect that some have their laps filled with roses, others have them filled with thorns; some are destined to be rich, others condemned to begging. Their ends are however the same. Nothing remains but a memory. I demur and quote Kabir’s lines (forgive me if I get some words wrong as my memory is no longer reliable):

Jab ham aai jagat mein

Jag hassa ham roey;

Aisee karnee kar chalo

Jab ham jaen jagat say

Ham hassein jag roey

I translate the lines roughly:(When I came into the world,/ I was bawling/ My family and friends laughed and rejoiced/ I knew in my life I must do something/ That when the time comes for me to go,/ I leave the world smiling/ My family and friends are full of sorrow.)

Food for the stag party

Just about every poet of every language composed erotic poetry to be recited in strictly male company. Very little of this appears in anthologies of poetry, some was written down and printed for private circulation, a lot was memorized and became an oral tradition. It is a great pity that we imposed our puritanical ideas on what should and what should not be put in print. It is much the same with our corpus of humour. Much the best jokes doing rounds of all-male parties are bawdy, told with great zest but not published. The embargo was lifted in the Western world a long time ago. Today you can get anthologies of erotic poetry composed by Greeks, Romans, Chaucer, Shakespeare down to living poets in any bookstore. We have similar treasure houses of bawdy-erotica in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and all other Indian languages as well which likewise need to be brought out in the open for every adult to enjoy.

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) made a spirited defence in his poem “Bawdy can be sane”.

Bawdy can be sane and wholesome,

In fact a little bawdy is necessary in every life

To keep it sane and wholesome

And a little whoring can be sane and wholesome

In fact a little whoring is necessary in every life

To keep it sane and wholesome

Even sodomy can be sane and wholesome

Granted there is an exchange of genuine feeling.

Some of the most sensuous erotica came from the pen of John Donne (1572-1631). Ponder over these lines to his mistress:

Licence my roving hands, and let them go

Before, behind, between, above, below

O my America, my new found land,

My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,

My mine of precious stones, my empire,

How blessed am I in this discovering thee!

To enter in these bonds is to be free;

Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Full nakedness, all joys are due to thee.

As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,

To taste whole joys.

A few bits of erotica are found in poems with two meanings (double entendre) as in Gael Turnbull (b.1928) on a girl riding in a park:

Thighs gripping

Moving in pace — her face

Suffused — each breath

Short and quick

Through spread lips,

She is possessed

And lost in the act.

alas, trotting

Her horse down the lane.

As one would expect, a large section of any anthology on erotica are contributions from unknown poets under the caption Anon. This one has an approximate date (1940) but no author:

Busts and bosoms have I known

Of various shapes and sizes

From grievous disappointments

To jubilant surprises.

A writer in uniform

You need not go through the mill of acquiring a degree or diploma in journalism and work you way up from being a cub reporter, to correspondent, and if you are lucky, becoming an editor. Continue in the job you are doing and start with writing letters to the editor. Editors have big egos; so pick up a singularly bad editorial and write a few lines praising it. It will be published. After a few letters appearing in the papers, move on to writing middles. This needs more skill and a touch of humour. Middles are more widely read than articles or editorials. Once you have established yourself as the master of light, witty pieces, the chances of your being taken on the staff of the paper at a higher level become brighter.

This is roughly the course pursued by my young friend, Rajbir Deswal (46) from village Anta in Jind district of Haryana. He has an MA in English literature and has no trouble with the language. He is in the Indian police service and is currently assistant director of research and development. The itch for writing never left him. Being a police officer, he could not indulge in writing letters to the editor. He skipped that ladder and went straight on to writing middles. He has set up a record of sorts: over 400 middles in different national dailies. Also book reviews, short stories and travelogues. In between, he produced books on Wit and Humour of Haryana; Culture Bright and Dark. He is a strappingly handsome six-footer Haryanvi Jat who could well have become a matinee idol. He prefers to remain a police officer and a man of letters.

Uplifting experience

Banta wanted to see what it was like to stay in a five-star hotel. He paid a huge sum at the booking counter and was given the key to his room. As the lift doors opened he withdrew and said angrily, “I am not going to stay in this poky little cell for what I have paid.” You think because I am a villager, you can take me for a ride'”

“Don’t be angry Sardarji. This is not your room, it is only the elevator.”

(Contributed by Shivtar Singh Dalla, Ludhiana)

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