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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 6, New Delhi, January 23, 2021

Truth and Beauty | Sagari Chhabra

Friday 22 January 2021, by Sagari Chhabra

Beauty - artwork by Sagari Chhabra

In the deep forest
By the gushing stream
Two friends conversed,
While they traversed,
The woods.
‘It’s there in each flower,
In the heart of the nectar,
Within the pollen dust, unsaid;
At godhuli time,
This landscape of mine:
Trees, plants and flowers,
All turn divine’.
Stooping to stop by a flower,
Caressing her petals, he said,
‘Therein lies beauty, the fount of aesthetics!’
But the other turned and asked instead,
‘What about ethics?
Good old-fashioned truth is stellar,
It embodies beauty unvarnished,
Is forever untarnished,
Is so supreme;
Beauty is but a fleeting dream.
Both turned to work,
One with his charkha, spinning ahimsa,
The other with his pen and brush,
Cautioning against the lush,
Fury of nationalism.
They thirsted for freedom
But the poet said,
This ground soaked with the blood of martyrs
Can only but gnash the skin of this earth;
Borders confine, do not only define
Yourself, in terms so narrow;
Leave yourself free in the world,
Like to a bird, flight is in its feathers and marrow.
But today lies before me a task that is harrowed,
My people alas! are freezing and un-free;
Burning farm laws to the fires of Lohri.
The Empire in place does not listen,
It tells;
And with its axe, it fells.
The birds are dying,
The people are lying
In streets so cold,
But no one is told,
The truth;
In fact to tell you a secret,
The truth of our times is so ugly.
I shudder; then I take refuge
In ethics,
The mother of aesthetics,
I listen to the soul
That talked back to the Empire,
Telling his Sire;
Let a profusion of a thousand flowers bloom,
Do not put up fences of fear,
Lest you trample the moss,
Lichen and grass over here;
Listen not just to the mightiest and tallest
But to the smallest;
For we - the people - embody truth,
Within us lies all beauty,
And therein, lies your duty.

Sagari Chhabra
Lohri day, 13 January 2021

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