Today, I’m talking about a book, The Heart Listens to No One: It Hums Its Own Song. It’s a collection of 35 Love Poems, written and compiled by Purba Chakraborty.
It’s my third book of Purba. In her first book Walking in the Street of Love and Destiny, she asked, “Is excess of love also bad? Could a person fall in real love with two different persons simultaneously? What is the difference between life-partner and soul-mate?”
In her second book The Hidden Letters, she put a question in context of love, “Is returning of partner after separation the criterion of true love?”
In her third book, she asked, “Is Separation a tragedy?”
Cover of the Book
The cover of the book is very symbolic. It depicts the scene of night. Night or darkness represents mystery. Love is the greatest mystery. Love is God.
It’s not only night but a night in forest. Love grows in forest. There’s no place of love in society. Society doesn’t approve love but marriage. Society is about rules and regulations. And love doesn’t follow any rules. Love cannot be bound in any regulations, as the title of the book says, “The Heart Listens to No One: It Hums Its Own Song.”
Love is a free bird
Love is a free bird—a wild one, like the wild canary, which is sitting on the violin in the cover of the book. Canary is also known as the songbird. Among their breed, only male canary birds have the ability to sing. Generally, domestic canaries carry colours like yellow, orange, red, brown, white and black. While on the other hand, the wild canary bird has been found in yellow only. Also, the phrase ‘yellow bird’ is used to convey the meaning of true love in English language.
Love is drunkenness
Love is about drunkenness—a kind of madness. Statistical data show that the amount of madness in the world increases, as the day of the full moon approaches. In fact, another term for madness is lunatic. In the context romance, the word ‘moonstruck’ is often used. If intoxicant like bhang is used in context of love, as Sufi use wine, moonlit could be understand as sugar, which enhances the inebriation effect of bhang.
I guess, we are all familiar with Sufi love story of Majnu and Laila. Majnu in Arabic literally means ‘mad’ and Laila means ‘night.’ Krishna’s Raasleela also used to happen at night, away from village, in forest.
Love is the biggest death
Love is wild. The word ‘wild’ often carries negative connotation because of our fear. Wild simply means the natural state—the state as it is given by nature without any modification. The natural state is uncertain, insecure. Uncertainty, insecurity frightens us. We feel safe when things are certain, predictable, familiar. Driven by this fear of uncertainty, we form culture, in which things are made certain and predictable by forming rules and regulations. Culture, society is all about domestication by invoking fear in members of society—fear of punishment, if someone breaks the rule.
Love is freedom. Love cannot be domesticated. Love doesn’t obey any rule. Love is fearlessness. It’s a Sufi saying:
Fire is a play for moths
Everybody isn’t afraid of consequences
Dark or night also represents death. Moths get attracted to fire and destroy themselves in it. Love is annihilation. Love is the biggest death. There’s a term for it in Sufism. Sufis call it ‘Fana.’
The dark night of the soul
But before the state of Fana, there comes a state of great doubt. It’s the state of utter shock for lovers. It’s the state in which lovers find that there is no way to reach and nowhere to reach and nobody to reach. They have tried and tested, their level best, each & every available methods to be with their beloveds but nothing worked. They are now in the state of great doubt. They don’t know what to do. Either they fall back because of fear and involve themselves in finding some other beloved, or remain in the state of doubt helpless, lost, seeing no meaning in life and seeing no future. If this courage is there, they enter into the state of Fana. Suddenly, out of this great doubt, and the pain of longing, they become awakened. Christian mystics call this state of great doubt as ‘The Dark Night of the Soul.’
Love of Bauls
Love is a very daring affair. It takes lots of courage to enter into dark forest at night with a musical instrument to play music on it. And some other moonstruck gutsy come to enjoy music in such conditions, like Gopis of Vrindavan or Bauls of Bengal. When the full moon is in the sky in the night, the Bauls dance the whole night, because for them the moon is a symbol of their Beloved—Adhar Manush.
Bauls don’t use superficial terms like, ‘God.’ They use the terms related to human. Human body is their temple and what they call as God, The Adhar Manush—The Essence of Man—The Essential Man resides within it and could be found in the essence of loving. Bauls don’t follow any scriptures, or rituals. They don’t belong to any religion, caste, community, or nation. They live in society but as outcast. They are like sense with insanity. They are called ‘Bauls’ because they’re considered as ‘mad.’ The word ‘Baul’ has its etymological origin in the words ‘Vatula’ meaning ‘madcap’ or ‘Vyakula’ meaning ‘restless’ and used for someone who is ‘possessed’ or ‘crazy.’
Bauls are distinguished by their Ektara, a one-stringed musical instrument and Duggi, small hand-held earthen drum. Their songs aren’t for entertaining others but overflowing of their love. They dance and sing the songs of their beloved. That’s all Love is about—Singing and Dancing.
Singing and dancing of faceless love
Even Queen Meera and Scholar Chaitanya Mahaprabhu couldn’t stop themselves singing & dancing on streets, like lunatics. It’s the love that made Rumi to dance on street, when he heard rhythmic hammering of a goldsmith in market and the tradition of Whirling Dervish came into existence. He started dancing because he heard the melody of love in it. He heard ‘La ilaha illallah’ in that rhythmic beating, which means ‘there is no God but God.’ In Sufism, God is Love.
To me, the Cover Girl appears as a Baul—a moonstruck, having violin. There’s a connection between love and violin. In the movie, 3 Idiot, there’s a statement made by Amir in which he said that in true love, one could hear music of violin in the background. In the same fashion, there’s a line in the poem, ‘Let’s dance the night away,’
Can’t you hear the violins amid the silence?
June Masters Bacher compared love with violin in his statement, “Love is like a violin. The music may stop now and then, but the strings remain forever.”
Love is beyond reasons. Love is unconditional. It doesn’t depend on anything, not even on the face of beloved. It’s a famous saying that Laila was ugly. This fact is beautifully depicted by Purba on the cover of the book by showing the back of the girl instead of her face.
Style of Writing
Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Purba explained the profundity of love and relationship in a very easy to understand language. Her poems are childlike.
Note there’s a difference between childlike and childish. Jesus famously said, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
You could get the glimpse of Khusro, Meera, Rumi and Jaydeva in some lines of various poems in the book.
She writes in free verse. Her metaphors and simile are also of good quality. Her poetries are like the Ghazals of Jagjit Singh, who simplified the Ghazal without compromising its essence. Purba did the same with English poetry. Her poems could be understood from sixteen years old to above sixty years without any difficulty.
Purba categorized the love poems into five categories: Unconditional Love, Longing, Romance, Fond Reminisces, and Separation. Each category has 7 poems.
Mostly, people say that love is unconditional but when some of their friends have break-ups, they console the friend that the person isn’t worthy of their friend’s love. If love is unconditional, how can someone be worthy or unworthy of it?
Most of the contemporary authors who are writing on Draupadi condemn polyandry. One of my friends argues, “Couldn’t Draupadi have the right to love one person?” But the argument can be applied from other side also, “Couldn’t Draupadi have the right to love five persons?”
Same was the opinion of Vivekanada until he met a family of Tibetan race, who practiced polyandry. He was the guest of a family of six brothers, who shared the same wife. In his neophytic zeal, he tried to show them their immorality but it was they, who taught him lessons on unconditional love and the relativity of virtues. They taught him to broaden his moral conception when he judged of good & evil in a race or in an age, according to the standards of that race or that age. They asked him, “What selfishness to wish to keep the love of a woman all to oneself?”
Let it understand with the help of Sufi concepts. In Sufism, one’s Master is Beloved and God is Love. One seeks the master to taste the nectar of love. Like beloved, it’s the master who shows the path of love. Khusro said regarding his master Nizamuddin Auliya,
Mohe suhaagan kinhi mohse naina milaike
As understood by most of the people that the words ‘Suhaag’ and ‘Suhaagan’ are related to marriage. They have nothing to do with the concept of marriage. They are related to blessedness. Khusro was saying that he was blessed because he was accepted by his master.
A disciple can have many masters simultaneously or over a period of time. In the same way, a person can have many beloveds simultaneously or over a period of time. There’s a difference between a beloved and love. Love is the essence not beloved. You need beloved to get the blessings of love until you learn to fetch it from within yourself. Beloveds help you in learning this art. Stick to love not beloveds.
Love is not about ‘Right’ but ‘Surrender.’ The concept of right is related to mind while the concept of surrender is related to heart. Purba rightly said that only the mind is capable of making conditions, deals and pacts. The heart knows only to love unconditionally and irrevocably. A heart wants nothing more than to love the other person.
The ecstasy of surrender is beautifully stated by poetess through these lines,
Never did I know before,
A loss can be so enticing!
Hues of love that I never saw before,
Sparkled brightly in my heart
I couldn’t help but surrender to my artist.
Love is about vulnerability and it is a great daring, because when you love somebody you start losing yourself. To love somebody is to lose the ego; to love somebody is to be lost; to love somebody is to give power to somebody over you; to love somebody is to be possessed. To love somebody means surrendering; surrendering means dying. In the words of poetess,
It torments me, kills me
Yet makes me feel whole and transcendent
Sufis call the killing part as Fana and the transcendence part as Baqa. These could also be understood in context of Jesus’ Crucifixion & Resurrection.
Longing is a deep yearning for the beloved. It’s state of restlessness and intense suffering. It’s often compared with the feeling of burning. In Neerja Guleri’s TV series Chandrakanta, the state of Chandrakanta’s longing was often shown by a scene in which she was locked within a burning cage.
In spiritual context, longing has great importance. It’s considered as a kind of burning which makes one pure, as burning of gold ensures its purity. Longing purifies the love. In my opinion, the Agni Pariksha mentioned in Indian mythology is nothing but a test of longing for one’s beloved.
Sufis also compare longing with thirst. They say not to seek for water but to invoke a great thirst within. The thirst of yours will lead you to the location of water. Greater is the intensity of thirst, higher is the chance of meeting water.
In the beginning of longing section, Purba said, “The heart listens to no one. It keeps longing for its loved one. Every beat of the heart whispers a name, relentlessly. The yearning to be with that special person is sometimes even more than that of the yearning to live.”
For me, if whispering of name summons a pain within, then it’s longing, otherwise not. Most of the poems in the longing section don’t fulfill the criterion of longing as per my standards. The poems are good but they don’t convey the emotions of longing. For example, the poem ‘A long winter night’ is indeed very close to my heart, but for me, it conveys the emotion of fond reminiscence instead of longing.
There are some lines in the poem ‘The Wait,’ which conveys intense longing,
The wait is making me, impetuous
My lashes now, know not how to blink
How did I wait for thee a thousand days?
But the entire poem isn’t dedicated to the theme of longing alone. It’s indeed a complete dedication to Shringar Ras, conveying both Virah and Milan.
In Bhakti and Sufi tradition, we have two distinct terms for whispering beloved’s name and yearning for beloved; in bhakti, they are Sumiran and Virah; in Sufism, they are Zikr and Shawq.
Napoleon Hill says, in his book Think and Grow Rich, “Love, alone, will not bring happiness, nor will sex alone….When the emotion of romance is added to those of love and sex, the obstructions between the finite mind of man and Infinite Intelligence are removed. Then a genius has been born!”
Romance is the bridge that connects sex with love. Sex is the lower form of divinity while love is the higher form of divinity. One could reach from lower form of divinity to higher form through romance.
On sexual or physical plane, the governing principle of one’s life would be Survival of the Fittest. It’s the plane of absolute ego. One would only think and care about oneself. The coitus with other sex is done only for one’s own pleasure without considering other’s pleasure or pain. It’s the plane of using others for one’s own benefits.
Romance broadens the awareness of a person to higher level of consciousness. Romance makes one to care about other’s feelings also. It’s the plane of courtesy. On romantic or emotional plane, one pleads instead of using others. It’s about wooing and courting. Historically, the term ‘Romance’ originates with the medieval ideal of chivalry as set out in its chivalric romance literature. The conception of romantic love was popularized in Western culture by the concept of courtly love. In terms of courtly love, lovers did not necessarily refer to those engaging in sexual acts, but rather, to the act of caring and to emotional intimacy.
On spiritual plane, romance is interplay of Purusha (Unchanging Part of Existence) and Prakriti (Changing part of Existence), as depicted by the concept of Raasleela. Romance is cause of creativity in Existence. The creation of Universe is outcome of the romantic play of Purusha and Prakriti. Neither alone is capable of creation.
Poems in this category deal with emotional and spiritual plane of romance. The poem ‘Satin Paradise’ has all the elements of intercourse, starting from going under the blanket to orgasm, including other minute things that happen in between. But the poetess didn’t give chance for readers to interpret it on physical level. It’s written in such a way that you get emotional meaning first. Also, it’s easy to interpret it on spiritual plane than physical plane.
Poetess beautifully states how presence of beloved makes everything pleasant and his absence everything unpleasant through these lines,
How could the monsoon look rosy?
Why did the touch of rain feel like rose petals?
He kissed her without rhyme or reason
And she got all her answers.
Purba’s poem also talks on how one could go beyond time through love in these lines,
Look into my eyes, which are settled on yours
Can’t you feel time bowing down before us?
When Einstein came up with his theory of Special Relativity, which stated the ‘Relative Nature of Time’ for the first time, very few people were capable of understanding it; it was highly mathematical. For layman’s understanding, he explained it by saying, “An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”
It’s a classic example of how time is affected by love. Nolan also spoke of transcendence of time through love in his movie Interstellar. According to my understanding of the movie, Nolan communicated that gravity and love are capable of transcending the dimensions of time and space.
Fond reminiscence is about remembering one’s beloved; one could either break or feel delighted by remembering. The section has poems for both positive as well as negative side of remembering. I felt some poems could be exchanged from the longing section of the book, like ‘Watering the memories’ and ‘Once more.’
Fond reminiscence is also about Sumiran or Zikr. Remembering is praised in Bhakti and Sufism; one could attain Enlightenment through it, but not by mere repetition of name on some rosary. It happens when every beat of the heart whispers a name relentlessly, as Meera says,
Sanson Ki Mala Pe Simroon Main Pi Ka Naam
Love starts with separation and ends with separation. Have you ever observed why every great love stories end with separation, whether it’s the story of Krishna and Radha or Ram and Sita or Majnu and Laila?
Permanent union is not possible with external beloved. It’s only possible with internal beloved—Adhar Manush. When one’s heart remembers one’s beloved in longing, the heart itself transform into the heart of one’s beloved. Khusro says,
Khusro, rain suhaag ki, jo main jaagi pi ke sang,
Tan mora man piya ka, jo dono ek hi rang.
Khusro is saying that in the night of blessedness, when he awakes, he finds himself with his beloved. Here, Khusro is talking about spiritual awakening. He’s further saying that the body is his but the heart beating inside his body is of his beloved. He’s referring to the state of egolessness. He’s saying that there isn’t any difference between him and his beloved. Khusro’s beloved was his Master, Nizamuddin Auliya. He’s saying that he has also attained what the master already attained.
Love starts with separation and ends with separation, as minute-hand of clock starts with the position 12 and ends with it. Nothing changes on the surface after a complete cycle of minute-hand, but something changes somewhere else. Time has passed by 1 hr.
The same is the condition with love cycle. It starts with separation and ends with separation, but something changes within you with every cycle. The cycle continues until an awakening arises within and you transformed completely.
No union is possible with external beloved because whatever you feel in the presence of external beloved is the reflection of your soul only. Let it understand this way. It’s like seeing your reflection in a mirror and searching for the person. You cannot find that person externally. Your search ends with the realization that whoever you have been searching is yourself only.
The physical body or gross body is nothing more than cloth. The soul or the causal body is same for all the beings. It’s the mind or subtle body which makes us believe in the individuality of beings because of illusory idea of ego. In love, your ego dissolves and you see that there isn’t any difference between you and your beloved. You find that you have merged with your beloved; that you have transformed into your beloved. Meera says,
Prem Ke Raang Mein Aisi Doobi Ban Gaya Ek Hi Roop
Prem Ki Mala Japte Japte Aap Bani Main Shyam
Meera is saying, she has realized that soul is same and one for all beings through love. By remembrance, she herself has transformed into her beloved.
The same feeling is conveyed by these lines of Purba,
Friend! Separation won’t make me grieve
As long as your gifts are with me;
Delectable memories, occult wisdom
And profound conversations that changed me.
The section also contains poem on scars of separation. As I see, love is a foolproof way to attain Enlightenment; it either breaks your ego or makes you realize the oneness of Existence. ‘Egolessness’ and ‘Awareness of Oneness’ are the only ways to attain Enlightenment.
Jesus said, “Those who have will be given more, and those who have not, even that which they have will be taken away from them.”