बेख़ौफ़ निकल पड़ा हूँ आज इस लंबी सड़क पर
नंगे पाँव चल दिया हूँ एक अनजाने से सफर पर

न उम्मीद है दिल से कोई, न चाह किसी मंज़िल की
न सितारों की तमन्ना, न आरज़ू कुछ और पाने की

चाँद-सितारे सब, महफ़ूज़ हैं अपनी-अपनी जगह
ये सफ़र ही मंज़िल है, ये मान कर चल दिया हूँ

अंधेरों से दोस्ती की तो जाना
सन्नाटों की भी एक आवाज़ है
वादियों से बात की तो जाना
कई किस्से उन्हें भी याद है

देखा है इन सब ने ख़ामोश होकर,
कई शहरों का बसना और उजड़ना
कहीं हँसती गलियों का पल में शांत हो जाना,
कहीं शोर से भरी बाजारों का वीरानों में बदलना

सालों से इन यादों को
अपने भीतर समेटे हुए हैं ये रास्ते
फिर भी नये शहरों, नये किस्सों के लिए
बाहें फैलाये हुए हैं ये रास्ते

कुछ यादें है मेरे साथ भी,
जो तन्हा नहीं छोड़ेंगी मुझे
कुछ आँसू आज भी हैं गालों को भिगोते
कुछ हँसी आज भी इन कानों में है गूँजती

उन यादों का बोझ लेकर
चल पड़ा हूँ इस राह पर
उन चेहरों को पीछे छोड़कर
चला आया हूँ कहीं दूर मगर

साथ हमेशा रहेंगी, कुछ खट्टी-मीठी यादें

चल पड़ा हूँ पीछे छोड़कर, उनसे जुड़ी ख्वाहिशें
कुछ अनकहे क़िस्से, कुछ अधूरी उम्मीदें

– सौनक पाल


In The Talking Forest

DPP_21             Surrounded by the crowd of many known faces, he still felt alone in the city. He gazed around hoping to find at least one acknowledging glance or just a small smile somewhere. But having seen those empty eyes for days now, deep within he knew all he would get are few blank expressions and some judgemental stares. Even though he had been a part of this crowd for long; amidst all his acquaintances, he wasn’t able to find a single soul to confide into, share his views, free of the fear of being judged and expectations.

            Burdened with his thoughts he wandered aimlessly until he reached a distant land. Somehow, his feet had brought him to the edge of a forest, far away from the city. A cool breeze grazed his cheeks as if welcoming him in, the fresh smell of soil guided him across the gushing stream. A Whistling Thrush zoomed in from a near by tree, alarmed by his sudden presence. Intrigued he followed the melodious bird, thus moving deep into the woods. He remembered, he had thought of visiting this very forest quite a few times in the past. From the train window on his way to college, he would see the mist rising from the forest and the hill behind it and often imagine himself climbing towards the peak. Along with many of the other forgotten dreams of his youth, the picture of this forest had long vanished from his memory. Those childish fascinations, numerous imaginative adventures had somehow been lost during his journey in making a name, finding a place for himself in the ever busy crowd.

And yet, today he stood in that very same forest, feeling the grass between his toes; the very hill he thought of climbing someday, casting its shadow on him. As his mind looked into the archives of his old memories searching for references to this distant land, a Paradise Flycatcher came from nowhere and gracefully picked up an amazingly camouflaged grasshopper from a shrub. The green coloured grasshopper had learnt all its life to hide within lush green leaves, yet it could not fool the trained eye of the beautiful white hunter. Looking at his startled expression, the flycatcher spoke ‘Its quite simple actually, you see how much ever the grasshopper tries to look, behave like a plant, it will always remain what it is – A GRASSHOPPER!’. Amazed by this sudden turn of events, he moved ahead towards the mighty Fig tree. For a while he sat under its branches, admiring its hanging roots. On a closer look, he saw another tree that has been engulfed by the fig. The fig told him about its long journey, how once a Grey Hornbill had dropped some half eaten seeds while flying above this forest. One of those seeds stuck to a crevice of a then young, Jamun tree. Today, that seed has grown into this huge Fig and almost engulfed the Jamun in its attempt to reach the sunlight. The Fig pleased at the fascination of this new admirer, started telling him more and more about the forest. After all, it has been standing here for ages now and seen lots of stories unfold. It also showed him how he has been repaying the hornbill. Not only does it gives its fruits to the bird but today a Great Pied Hornbill uses one of the holes in the fig’s trunk, to make its nest. It knows, some day this very bird will carry its seeds and drop it somewhere far away thus giving rise to a new Fig.

As he sat at the roots of the mighty tree, wondering about the fig and hornbill he saw a small gecko crawling under the fallen leaves. The gecko told him about its plan of resting the entire day, hiding near the roots of the fig only to move out at night. From the corner of his eyes, he saw something white fluttering at a distance. A Malabar tree Nymph flew effortlessly for sometime in front of him and then moved towards the stream. The careless flight of this wonderful butterfly showed him how it is not at all bothered of the flycatcher or the hornbill sitting above. He went to the stream to quench his thirst and to get another glimpse of the tree nymph. As his lips touched the cold water he felt a soothing relief. He drank to his heart’s content and then sat by the stream with his his feet barely touching the cascading water. ‘This is the best water I have ever tasted’ he thought, wondering this thought is probably because of the fatigue. A soft breeze blew through his hair making him feel a bit lazy. He lay on the soft soil looking straight at the clear blue sky. His vision was partially obstructed by the fresh pink leaves of the Kusum tree standing next to him. The sunlight split into thin rays in shades of scarlet on passing through the leaf, as if a prism was held against it. The light painted a tattoo made up of shadows of leaves across his face. A Black Eagle circled in the sky looking down at the canopy in search of a heedless Giant Squirrel. It told him how far the forest spread, of similar forests in far away lands and also promised to see him, the next time when he goes trekking in the hills. From a distance came the tap-tap of a Woodpecker busy looking for insects inside a decaying wood. Listening to the rhythmic taps he dozed off at the very spot.

A sudden loud ‘hoo-hoo’ woke him up from his slumber and he realised the Fish Owl was getting ready. It was nearing dusk and the smart hunter was preparing for its night prowl. He realised it was almost time, he has to return back and with this, came another realisation. He was LOST!….Lost in the Wilderness!

In his unguided walk to move away from prying eyes, from the deafening crowd here he was lost in the wilderness. And along with him he had also lost all his pain, sorrow & suffering. Suddenly the burden of expectations was off his shoulders and he felt free, for the first time in years. Not a single word was spoken, yet somehow the forest heard him, spoke back to him, consoled him. Here no one judged him, no one asked his language, no one valued his clothes. Many frogs started croaking along the stream and crickets chirping from nearby bushes; in their cacophony he found solace. And then all of a sudden he knew, this is where he belonged. At last he had found his place.

Armed with a radiant smile on his face, he marched towards the path that would take him out. He was ready to face his demons, ready for the battle. Now he knows, he has found home and he can always come back.

                                                                                                                                             -Saunak Pal

आज़ाद हूँ क्या मैं..?

देखता हूँ चरों और जब मैं
कई रंग नज़र आते हैं
रंगों मैं ढले हुए
अलग अलग लोग नज़र आते है

आवाज़ें है कई आज भी
भीड़ से उठती इस शोर मैं
हर आवाज मैं छुपी हुई
अलग भाषा सुनाई देती है

इन रंगों में, भाषाओँ मैं
अपना रंग, अपनी अलग आवाज ढूंढता हूँ
इन एहसासों के ज़रिये ही
खुदको तुझसे अलग पहचानता हूँ

तेरी पहनावे से मैं तेरी, सीरत को परखता हूँ
एक मुस्कान से मैं तेरी, नीयत को तोलता हूँ

तू आती है मेरे शहर में
बदनाम तुझे करने का हख बनता है
तेरे नए लिबास, नए विचार आज भी
मेरे शहर को गन्दा करता है

आज़ाद हूँ क्या मैं, रंगों में लिपटी इन बंदिशों से?
आज़ाद हूँ क्या मैं जाती और रिवाजों से?

सूरज की किरणें खिड़की से आकार
जब मुझको हर सुबह जगाती है
कौनसा वो रंग है जो
उन किरणों को मुझतक लाती है?

हवा के झोंके जब
फूलों की खुशबु मुझतक लाती है
कौनसी वो बोली है जो
उसको मेरे घर का पता बताती है?

आज़ाद है वह सूरज, रंगों के पहचानों से
आज़ाद है ये हवाएँ, भाषाओँ के आवाजों से

आज इतने साल हुए मुझे
आज़ाद कहलाते हुए
फिरभी इन सवालों से
शायद अब भी मैं आज़ाद नहीं

बंधा हूँ आज भी मैं
अपने विचारों के बंदिशों से
कैद हूँ आज भी मैं
रंगों और भाषाओँ के जंज़ीरों से

                                            -सौनक पाल

In Search of the Distant Light

On the open road he ran
Towards a distant light
Leaving behind the days of youth
To achieve all that he might

Was advised
‘work hard, when you are young
To rejoice the days to come
To earn all the riches of the future
Buckle up, there’s no time for FUN’

Days went by and so did years
But still on the road he ran
Many cities went past and so did friends
He seldom stopped to turn

To the dazzling light he had to reach
Which still stayed far away
In search of the luminous unknown
Many candles flickered away

Now the dreams have long faded
and so has the yearning to achieve

Tired and broken he still runs
Coz now
That’s the only way he can

                                                                        Saunak Pal