The Ghat of the Only World - a story where two hearts meet

Friendship is not to mean, but be. Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget. To the world Agha Shahid Ali might be just one person, but to one person, Amitav Ghosh, he might be the world.

The Ghat of the Only World by Amitav Ghosh is a touching tribute to his friend, Agha Shahid Ali – an illustration of drawn by a Hindu author in memory of a Muslim poet.

Since 25 April 2001 the imminent death of the eminent poet Agha Shahid Ali had been building up mute sufferings in his friend Amitav Ghosh. Still Ali’s talismanic smile and warm togetherness took him straight into the interior of Ghosh’s heart.

With the proof of malignance, the death bell began to sway and it was the binding occasion when Ali should be covered by the eternal siesta. On the verge of his permanent going away from life, Ali remained as constant as eternity; though his friend was much amazed at Ali’s treading along the footfalls of death.

The telephonic tête-à-tête, carousing at a luncheon, inexhaustible conviviality and soft pauses, “fierce and unforgiving art of language”, his wit and humour, love for ghazals and indifference to cricket, his dreams and overpowering sense of identity – teach us that human life seems to be a brief sojourn between the sunrise, birth and the sunset, death.

Ali was a poet of the first water. Through his poems, through his running pathos and pathetic couplet, melodious words and stunning sentences, he gave liberty to life to shake hands with death. He celebrated life that anybody could think he was defeating death day by day. But death builds no paradox. Knowing the fact very well that time was limited Ali opened his treasure-trove of enormous life force and tied Ghosh with the ropes of nostalgia. This sheer dynamism was his way of life till “the world’s last saffron” was gone. “Almost to the very end, even as his life was being consumed by his disease, he was the centre of a perpetual carnival, an endless mela of talk, laughter, food and of course, poetry.”

Shahid was suffering from cancer, some fourteen months at the beginning of the story. When he could see nothing, his words appeared to be a moving epitaph, “I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m dying...” And a few words later, his wish moved his friend too, “When it happens I hope you’ll write something about me.”

During this short period of their friendship Shahid had left some fabulous brushstrokes of an unambiguously different Kashmir. His words revealed the heat of the political lava during his stay in Kashmir. Even being a firm believer in the separation of politics and religious practice, he set apart the separatism, atrocities and violence that had already led the paradise to a paradise lost. He was no pharisaic at all, even at the time of his standing on the burning atlas of Kashmir. When his childhood loitered about in the room of Srinagar, he fervently placed a desire of desires to his parents. It was but to establish a small Hindu temple inside his room. With the passage of time, idols and other trappings were bought by his mother, and the innermost part of their house became a sanctum sanctorum. In this way, his house became a religious confluence of Hinduism and Muslimism.

On visiting the Valley of Kashmir, Jahangir, one of the Mughal emperors, is said to have exclaimed: “If there is paradise anywhere on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.” We see the repetition of the same utterance in one of his poems. He placed the glorious physiographical beauty of Kashmir beyond all – Kashmir, the paradise on Earth.

On reaching mellow fruitfulness, Ali dreamt he was at the ghat of the only world – the world of the gone. He was to bid adieu to the world of living. Having gone past pangs of life he was cradling “in supreme consolation”, that is, “I love to think that I’ll meet my mother in the afterlife, if there is an afterlife.”

“The loved one always leaves.” His soul left his body at 2 A.M. on December 8. An unbridgeable emptiness filled the author’s mind. “So brief a friendship” resulted in “so vast a void”. Both Sháhid and Shahid – “witness and martyr” – mingled and melted into eternity. He kept his promise, and opening into painful and tender memories with concealed skill, which hid his pain even from himself. Agha Shahid Ali was everything Amitav Ghosh lost and hence The Ghat of the Only World has been written to reincarnate him – to breathe life into their unbroken friendship.

“Shahid knew exactly how it would end and he was meticulous in saying his farewells, careful in crafting the envoy to the last verses of his own life.” His absence metamorphosed into an eternal presence and guided the author to become one with him.


hope and love said...

touching post..

Maria said...

i'm still at awe.. thanks for posting!

Gaurang Rao said...

very touching

Shopgirl said...
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Shopgirl said...
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Shopgirl said...

Your eloquence made words into art, and I long yet fear for a return visit from you to my error ridden blog posts, grammar so not my strength. Yet I know when I saw a kindred soul...

Anshuman said...

a memoir written in "fierce" language but celebrating the sombre and beautiful life of Shahid

sangeeta said...

Hi Dibakar...thanks for dropping by my blog as that's how i got the link to your well written and well kept blog .

Read the piece by Amitav Ghosh , i have been reading his books and loving them...this one was a sweet yet poignant remembereance . Thanks for the link of such fine piece..

Remya said...

Hey! Thanks for this one, man! :)
I had to write a research on it, the ideas helped me to a certian extent. Will reference it to you in the end
take care, keep writing :)

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