‘A Chilling Fire’
by Adil Jusswalla
(Gentleman. April, 2000)

Entrance to Festival of Tibet

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 strongly again.

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.
(Ted Hughes)

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?
(Philip Larkin)

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
(Dilip Chitre)