Pariksith Singh is, first of all, a poet and a philosopher, though not of any academic mould. He has evolved, and is still evolving, his own philosophy of life and work which he has been articulating in terms of his very personalized poetry and equally personalized medical practice.
Whether healing a patient, running a business or writing haiku, Pariksith Singh is always looking for that “perfect expression of the spirit in matter” – and this is P. Singh’s unique and consistent signature in all his works.
P. Singh’s literature is the articulation of this “inner quest” for the spirit’s perfection in matter, and therefore an expression of the eternal struggle of form (matter) to attain the supreme fluidity of content (spirit) and content to attain the perfect expression in form.
Thus, you will find in P. Singh’s writings — his poetry, stories, literary critiques, and his prolific translations (from the Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu) — a strikingly original and creative interplay of form and content, technique and narrative, style and substance. And equally, you will find an utterly contradictory, puzzling and sometimes comic juxtaposition of the sublimely poetic and the ridiculously mundane. But then, that is P. Singh for you!
In terms of content, P. Singh’s span is amazing – from the esoteric ancient Indian Yoga and Chinese Tao to contemporary Zen, from quantum physics to medical science, he effortlessly weaves a tapestry of meanings and non-meanings!
P. Singh’s forms sweep blithely from conventional sonnets to free verse, from creative haiku to koan-like two-liners, from structured narrative to neo-modern stream-of-consciousness quasi-poetic prose in a wide arch of nose-thumbing experimentation.
P. Singh is a poet of the future. His time will come soon enough.
For Rene Magritte
Is to be
The infinite space
The vast opens as I
My love of transparence
Fills me now
To flesh and marrow
The journey upon my breast
Enters each cell
As the journey within
My new home
Where stillness is flight
And skin porous as space
The seeking of flesh
To be light
A bird of thought
Behind each background
The gyre of each dream
To the Great Bird
Can each bird
Winging through my pen
Escape the tyranny of word?
The expanse of flight
A secret winging
And space too
Is turned into
The thought of a bird
A rainbow streaming through the body
Arches up against the sky
A prism of transparence
Breaks the rays into spectrum
The landscape of body
Where time and space merge
Into the sense of my-ness
An iridescence of I
And these colors only felt
Until they project outward
Into space corresponding
If not in pigment in joy
And mind too
As one string in the bow
A vibgyor of self
Violet and indigo
In powdered light
Where each point is Sun
The heart throbbing blue
With subliminal green and yellow
And oceans that brim
With life red and orange
All merge in body
And its golden glow
Of sense and action
The rainbow fades
Into the Sun that outshines
By growing dim
Last night, Einstein came to me in a dream. He was very happy.
“I have finally discovered the Unified Field Theory,” he said.
“Show me, “I said, ever the skeptic.
He walked me through a mindboggling array of amazing theorems, concepts, mathematical formulae and calculations, until it was all proven and clear. I understood everything. I had a couple of questions, which he answered immediately.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“Brilliant! You must be very proud,” I remarked.
“Now I need your help.”
“For you, anything!”
“Since I no longer have a physical body, I can no longer demonstrate this to anyone else. The world should know this. You must disseminate this for me.”
At that point, I realized I was in a dream for such things can happen only in a dream.
“Look,” I said, measuring my words, “I would love to help you but I cannot.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“For one, you have made a mistake. I am a physician, not a physicist.”
“But you are the only scientist I could find who listens to his dreams and takes them seriously.”
“That does not help since I do not know math. Heck, I do not even remember calculus and what each symbol means.”
“Can you not re-learn it? It will come back if you put in time and effort.”
“Albert, I am a doctor. I am not even in an academic setting any more. Who will listen to me?”
“You must try.”
“I will forget all this by the time I am awake. How will I remember even your basic axioms?”
He did not say a word, but floated back and forth in my room, thinking. He was unkempt as his pictures suggest, but thinner. Weight loss always pleases my medical instincts. He sat down on my chair, gloomy as a ghost. I felt sorry for him. This is the man I admired in my school-days.
“Listen! If it is any consolation, there are hundreds of great minds working on this. Let them discover this. It would be better for them and for humanity,” I said.
“Because they do not have the unified view of things. Unless one acquires that, one cannot see what I see.”
“How is one to acquire this unified view?”
“By stepping out.”
“Stepping out, you mean…”
“Yes, I mean, by dying.”
“Well, that solves nothing.”
“Besides, more and more, they believe that a Unified Field Theory is not possible. I fought skeptics all my life, but now, who can take my place?”
“I do not know if one must die to unify the Universe. Isn’t that what advanced math is for? I thought mathematics is free of individual perspectives.”
“Yes, but until you SEE it unified, you cannot unify it. It is a mind over mathematics thing.”
“That can be argued.”
“What can be argued can’t unify.”
Even in a dream, I knew that this was a strange argument. The issues were complex, true, but here I was arguing not with the demons of my mind, but Einstein himself. The greatest mind of 20th century versus a lowly non-mind. But that is what nights are for. To dream the impossible.
We both sat in silence.
I tried once more, “Will they have the vision of unity, if they receive this, your present knowledge?”
“What does that mean?”
“They will not see with their eyes what I see. Most will not even understand it. But it will give them a model that will work with any and all conditions in the Universe.”
“It will only create a model, did you say?”
“Yes. Having a unified vision of the Universe is more than a formula. It is to clear up one’s mind of all limitations. That is a very difficult achievement for a mind that is in the world.”
“But this will only help create a model,” I persisted.
“So it is not the Truth?”
“What is the Truth?
“Well, you tell me, Einstein! You are the one who has SEEN the Unity of the world, have you not?”
“Truth is difficult to describe in words. In fact, it cannot be described, unless you use a special language, like poetry or mathematics.”
“So then, what is the point? If what you can give us is not the Truth, why worry about it?”
He lightened up suddenly and almost hit the ceiling. I thought he would have been upset being one-upped by a ninnie like me. But he smiled. “You are right,” he said. “It was just an old habit, I suppose, to get my findings published and known to everyone.”
“How long did it take you to put it all together?”
“Well, I have been travelling the Universe since I stepped out or died as you guys like to say. I went to different places and saw everything that I needed to. But how long did it take? You know that Time is a relative thing,” he chuckled as if at a private joke.
“Did you go inside a black hole?”
“I thought I did for a long time until I realized I had shut myself in a basement closet. I did not need to. In fact, black holes are not black holes, at least not the way you think of them. As you say, what you have is only models.”
So here I was, having defeated the greatest mind of last century. It felt good, even if I was only dreaming it.
“Don’t be smug,” he read my mind. “You haven’t defeated Einstein.”
“Well…at least I showed you that your Unified Field Theory is not the Truth,” I stammered.
“The model you used to show me that I cannot disseminate the Truth is not the Truth either.”
“It is obvious that logic and words too are only a model and no model can be the Truth.”
“Can we ever find the Truth then?”
“The word Truth is part of the model you have so happily discredited. No word can describe the Truth. Even the word Truth is not the Truth.”
“I do not understand.”
“Let us do a thought experiment. Imagine you are a 3-year old who is living happily and has not yet gotten hold of the concept Truth. For the child, this so-called Truth does not exist. As he grows up and starts living in words, he will learn the word Truth with a capital T and then he will start looking for it.”
“You mean, we have created a concept by creating a word and then we spend our lives searching for it?”
He looked back at me, wordlessly, with a twinkle in his eyes for a long time. Then he spoke as if from a great depth, “If we eliminate the word Truth from your vocabulary and all its associations from your mind, what happens?”
I looked at him and, suddenly, I could not speak. I tried to gesture with my hands, almost ready to explode with puffed cheeks, my eyes popping. I tried to communicate without using words again and failed once more. He laughed at my silly expressions and I joined the laughter, sheepishly. He laughed and laughed until he laughed so much that he vanished.
When I woke up in the morning, none of his equations remained in my memory. Only the laughter.
Her smile was sky
Her touch was earth
And everywhere I turned
With eyes of blood
I saw her face
And I saw in her eyes
A nightful of stars
And the forehead of moon
And I longed to hold
The limbs of space
As I heard in her laughter
A giggle of waves
And I saw in each face
Of the innumerable men
That toiled lonely
In quarries of Sun
The hidden assurance
Of a mother’s gaze
And I felt the tears
Of countless children
That welled in my throat
And dried in my eyes
And I held them as my own
In the widening stillness
As I cried alone
In close embrace
And I see her smile even now
With waves of gold
And huts of neem
With floors of clay
And I feel her presence
In the sparkling grain
As my heart is replaced
By a silent throb
And I see her now
Smiling as I
And her globe of glow
In her lover’s place
And I tear no more
Breathing in her temple
The sandal’s incense
The lotus’ fragrance
I know her play
There was a girl I loved once
“And on a single point/ Of her star I turned,” says the gifted poet about his mystery muse.
Who is she? An all too human, true, but now lost lady-love of flesh and blood from the past? Or the sorrowing, toiling, typical, everyday woman of India, still retaining her child-like hope and innocence, despite a life of hard struggle? Or the primal Mother Goddess, Prakriti or Magna Mater, endlessly creative and terrifyingly destructive? Or the secret and coiled inner force of spiritual awakening and realisation inherent in each one of us, traditionally known as Kundalini?
Or the Rose of God, the Supreme Shakti, the agency of transformation and realisation, the Mother of Delight, Consciousness, and Power? None or all of these?
In his deeply moving, lilting, and inspiring compositions, the poet traverses effortlessly through these possibilities, integrating with song-like cadence and chant-like intonation, the personal, social, political, and philosophical dimensions and symbolic possibilities of his subject.
He spirals up through layers of consciousness and experience like an artist divinely impassioned, then plunges down into the depths of human suffering and pain into the worlds of darkness, pain, violence, and nescience. Ranging from familiar rhythms of pop music, to the sonorous mantras of ancient incantations, these songs of the spirit play upon both known and unheard chords of our being, shifting us out of the mundane and mediocre into the enchanting and extraordinary only as significant art can or aspires to.
The full and fulfilling play of rasas—the rich textures and flavours of life, from compassion (karuna) to piety (bhakti), romantic, even erotic love (sringara) to violent fear (bhayanaka) or revulsion (bibhatsa), and, finally, from searing pain and anger (raudra) to the utterly marvellous or wondrous (adbhuta)—make these poems stand out from ordinary, with their sincerity of feeling and purity of expression.
A successful doctor, medical entrepreneur-businessman, karma yogi and social worker of the highest order, it is clear, has “turned” on the single point of a star, as his poetic persona says. Reading his song-offerings, tender blossoms of his innermost spirit, we, his readers, are sure to turn too, strummed and tuned with similar sentiments and sympathies.
Makarand R. Paranjape
Poet, Critic and Professor of English,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi