Author: Ramin Jahanbegloo
"The Long Shadows of Life" | Of light and darkness
The collection’s poetic blend with philosophy peels off the mysteries of life and death and presents a candid depiction of beauty, love and truth
The Long Shadows of Life is a collection of seventy-one poems of, an Iranian-Canadian philosopher, writer and poet based in Toronto and Sonepat. His skills present a fusion of poetry and philosophy in his poems. The poems in the book on anvil have been composed by him during the last four years at different places namely— Toronto, Mumbai, Delhi and Madrid. He is a philosophical poet who instills philosophy into poetry and makes his poetic words sublime. The book of verses opens with ‘Darkness’, that has the tendency to penetrate into the recesses of time and space till infinity.
It reaches everywhere and is more pervasive than light, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel for which one has to wait patiently. The Iranian philosophy of Dualism is explained as an eternal conflict between light and darkness in the poem. The period of darkness is no doubt longer than light but ultimately, light prevails over darkness. The dialectics have, time and again, proven that the infinite darkness surfaces slowly and steadily to occupy its space infinitely. However, an optimist still sees a silver lining in the dark cloud. Ramin is that optimist who braves the dark times of his life at home and abroad. The rhythmic language of the poet ‘in the silence of the night’ draws a sharp parallel with the poetic language of William Blake, where he says:
Tiger Tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night
In his poems, beauty, love and truth have been musically and beautifully conveyed to the readers. The poet has exposed the din and bustles of metropolitan cities for which a man makes endeavours and pursuits in the poem ‘Roads’. He is enamoured by the so called new Roads of success which do not lead him to any paradise. The Roads of beauty, love and truth enshrined in old faith leading to a paradise are out of his sight and mind. Thus, he ultimately lands nowhere.
‘Freedom’, composed in February 2017 in Toronto, conveys an universal idea that has been grabbled with by Ramin’s predecessor, Tagore. The latter considers freedom as a heaven in which man speaks from the depth of truth, and where his tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, and the clear stream of reason has not been sapped and soaked by the dreary desert sand of dead habit. Ramin’s freedom is like his lady love with whom he wants to make love in a strip of herbage and feel the gentle sensation of liberty.
‘The Old Philosopher’ is indeed the pick of his poems in ‘The Long Shadow of Life’. He speaks like the sage of Persia — Omar Khayyam. Life and death are more philosophical subjects than poetic. But philosophy couched in poetry appeals more to heart than to mind. ‘The Old Philosopher’ makes it loud and clear that life and death are the logical conclusion of one another — the Rose that once has bloomed forever dies. There is no eternal fame for man in the mundane world, however clever he might be. Therefore he should not misappropriate his due share of fame because ultimately death reduces him — to dust, into dust, and under dust — to lie.
The one and seventy poems of Ramin are his Persian Haiku, full of imprisoned dreams, that have not been translated into reality and they are yet to come true. Every philosopher poet has thoughts like Ramin. The poet laureate of Akbar the Great — Faizi — has conceptualized the idea like Ramin:
I am treading the path, my steps are unknown to it
I am speaking in the tune to which my breath is unknown
Tehran, the hometown of the poet, where he was born and brought up, is nostalgically penned by the poet in his collection of poems. Like all good souls, he fondly remembers his hometown, where he has learned to walk and talk. It is indeed an ode to Tehran, its magnificent Mount Damavand, and the civic-social life which characterises the city—grandmother reading bed time stories to grandchildren — regaling them with the stories from the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and lulling them to sleep. All has been beautifully recollected by Ramin in his tranquillity at Delhi.
The most relevant poem to today, in the collection is, ‘The Drunken Women’. Here, the poet is sympathetically feminist and has the empathy to understand the plight and pathos of a single woman. Her dreams and desires have been left unfulfilled by the irony of fate, and hence, she has taken refuge in wine. Nonetheless, she deserves respect and dignity in our civil society. Even Mirza Ghalib justifies this bacchanalian habit in these words:
Who is cursed, one who seeks pleasure from wine?
I need a moment of forgetfulness in day and night.