I met a man today and that meeting will remain with me for a long time. His name was Ricky, but that’s not his full name. He told me his full name but it was a rhythmic flow of syllables strange to my ear and too hard for me to grasp and remember. Ricky is from India and as well as being my taxi driver, I discovered he was a poet. And not just an ordinary poet, if there is such a thing. He is a Punjabi poet, a man of the Punjab in the far northern part of his country who expresses his deepest feelings in that ancient language of the subcontinent from which so much wisdom and strife and fine writing has flowed through thousands of years of human history.
It was while he was at school that Ricky started writing, at home, privately, in secret. He could not bring himself to tell anyone apart from a few close and trusted friends. As he got older, he became less inhibited and is now about to publish his first book. When I told him I was finishing a novel it seemed to bond us in a warm and personal way.
In answer to my questions, he explained there were no particular rules in the poetry of his language. It was what we would call in English, free verse. And there was no limit on subject matter, so he had written on everything from nature to politics and relationships. As we made our way through Brisbane’s busy morning traffic, we reached a point where it seemed Ricky had no wish to go on talking about his poetry. His English was fine but it still took second place to Punjabi and I felt he was struggling and frustrated, trying to explain in a second language the sweep and passion of his mother tongue. But he remained warm and friendly and was happy to talk about the difficulties of staying connected with family when he was in another country. He asked about the reason for my visit to the hospital and I gave him a brief outline of my medical drama.
As my journey came to an end, he handed me his card and number to call him when I needed to go home. On the return journey I had questions that had come to me in the hours in between. His answers were polite but brief. The writers he admired in his language were the ones who chose to support positive values; to support the good and honest people in the eternal struggle against the bad and dishonest ones. On that we had another point of bonding. We also discovered that for both of us, writing was a necessity of life; it was something we just had to do. It was a gift we had been given by God. We agreed it was a source of endless pleasure and as necessary as breathing. Before I got out of his cab, I thanked him for his kindness and told him it had been a great privilege to have been driven to and from my appointment by a Punjabi poet. He offered me a smile that was full of appreciation and completely free of ego. We both hoped we would meet again.
25th October 2019
RUSS AT WORK ON DECK
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Russ' Writings from the Wet Tropics
The wet tropics of Far North Queensland is a place of enormous natural beauty with World Heritage listed rain forests sweeping down to meet the sea. And it embraces one of the great wonders of the world -- the Great Barrier Reef.
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