‘A Chilling Fire’
by Adil Jusswalla
(Gentleman. April, 2000)
Entrance to Festival of Tibet
The Tibetan Festival kindles the desire to re-discover a few old poems
The Festival of Tibet held in Mumbai between March 12 and 17 threw
up strange fires which gradually grew familier. It was though one
had known them once, had forgotten them, and had found them blazing
It's not just that the Tibetan colours of deep red and burnt saffron
— the colours of some kind of fire — were seen in places where
they weren't normally found — parking lots, public halls and
shopping arcades — but sudden ignitions, eruptions and a certain
smell indicated that something was burning. It took me some time
to realise that it was my flesh.
It wasn't a hallucinogen, the Buddha's fire sermon or the many
cups of Tibetan tea I had that brought me face to face with what
was happening. Nor a film on the Tibetan Book of the Dead which
sometimes made my skin crawl. The film may have helped but some
point in the festival — I can't recall exactly when —
I was freshly aware of something crawling beneath the skin,
a chilling fire. And that got me reading some poems again:
Now is the globe shrunk tight
Round the mouse's dulled wintering heart
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass,
Move through an outer darkness
Not in their right minds
With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends,
Brutal as the stars of the month,
Her pale head heavy as metal.
There is an evening coming up
Across the fields, one never seen befor
That lights no lamps.
Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.
Where has the tree gone, that locked
Earth to the sky? What is under my hands,
That I cannot feel?
What loads my hands down?
From The Mountain
Don't rob me
Of my shadow
I want to rest in it Sun
Don't take my breath away
I want to hide
My song beneath
Enter my spirit
I have withered away
But haven't yet