Don’t shy away this time.
Sometimes one has to wander all corners in search of one’s lost muse, with or without success. And now is my turn. Just the other day I tried to fathom the depth of my descent in the ladder of creativity, as if it would be enough to assure myself that the rock bottom had not reached. Howsoever I thought of all those soul-stirring scenes that once made my pen agile, I felt I was drifting away from her, god only knew how long and where. The craggy shores of the Andamans or the golden sands of Chandrabhaga, the emerald carpet of Valparai tea estates or the undulating wheat fields along the Bagmati, the snow-capped serene peaks of the Himalayas or the sibilant waves of Yerada beach, the deafening silence of the jungles of Malkanagiri or the fruit-filled mango orchards of Darbhanga, the blinding monsoon of Kerala or the golden cascade of Hogenakkal, the smiling buds of Shalimar Bag or the vibrant sweep of the Flames of Forest of Chotnagpur Plateau, the sparkling snow of Gulmarg or the sliding iceberg of Gangotri—none could come alive to cheer me up, to fire my creative hearth. I thought I should go somewhere—maybe I would bump into my muse as I stepped out.
And I reached Valparai.
En route I met, for the first time in my life, a person who said that he had eaten in his childhood rice cooked on a fire made out of the sandalwood. It should have been sufficient to fire my imagination. In our childhood we used to hear all such cock and bull stories, say for example, the illustrious father of our late PM used to make tea burning currency notes so that his British guests could be impressed. So rich was he! I could not develop a story out of such a lead. The smoke of the sandal wood did not waft across to me, crossing the time boundary of fifty years or so to induce me to imagine something interesting, something readable and something out of the blue.
And I saw a lion-tailed macaque in his natural habitat. So photogenic an animal he was! In fact, he was as photogenic as obedient, unmindful of my car whose engine was yet to die, and gave a perfect pose, something even Rajnikant would love to emulate. I took its photograph and wondered what made him so unmindful of human beings that have thought only of his destruction. Is a monkey ugly or is he beautiful? Then why do we call somebody a monkey? Aha! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
And what about the elephants? Incidentally I stayed in the guest house of Anamalai Tea Estate where wild elephants had come some three days ago to destroy its glass pans and loot its rice and sugar. Even I was told to hurriedly finish my evening walk that I was so thoroughly enjoying sauntering along the bridle paths of the tea estate. I could take some photographs. Well, picture speaks a thousand words. At least they are, in a way, some compensation for the loss of my muse.
Elephants do not graze tea leaves. Probably they know it as much as the humans do: Tea is neither a necessity nor a luxury, but just a socially accepted form of wastage. It is a willing acceptance of a false propaganda: Tea is a refreshing beverage. It is refreshing but how? Look, even if one takes a glass of hot concoction made of a some grass growing in the wilderness of one’s backyard, and of sugar and milk, he or she would find after a couple of months that he or she has been addicted to that beverage. Right at the appointed moment, his tounge would start to salivate like those dogs of Pavlov. Then he would need that beverage when he gets up, when he is tired, when he wants to facilitate his bowel movement. He would need tea to entertain his friends, build up sessions of small talk, when he is bored with ennui, when he is happy and wants that the mood of happiness sinks in delightfully.... So, what is there in tea? Elephants are not so hypocrite like humans that they will graze tea bushes!
The moon in the sky accentuated that darkness would soon wear in. There would be a whole night to think and scribble, scribble and edit, and edit and reject. There would be another night of wordlessness to drift my muse a little further, a way bit unapproachable. The darkness would come but not the dream.
The monkey, the elephant and the moon, neither jointly nor severally, could stir my pen into its wakefulness. It seems my agonizing wait is not over.
A. N. Nanda