Despite the status of the global economy, most struggling artists are still struggling. Even in the best of times, most people are slow to invest in art, which obviously makes it tough for artists who make a living from selling their creations.
However, for one poet in New Delhi, India, the recent sale of one of his poems has left him feeling quite optimistic about the business side of his artistic endeavor. Within the last few weeks, Amit Dahiyabadshah has finalized the sale of a poem to a Mumbai media company for 10 lakh rupees, which is equal to about 22,000 US dollars.
Dahiyabadshah is a working poet and though he makes a decent living from the hundreds of his poems that are published in numerous volumes in India and abroad, this is the first time that a single poem of his has attracted such attention, and paid such dividends.
The poem in question is entitled “The Last Will And Testament Of The Tiger” (see full poem below), and it is written from the perspective of a proud tiger that has just been shot down by a hunter. It is a great poem, but most will argue that it is far greater when Dahiyabadshah himself performs it. When he reads the poem in public he becomes the tiger and, in his resonating bass voice, he growls at the beginning and end, leaving the listeners in awe of the beast. The performance leaves audiences feeling the tragedy of a species on the brink of extinction. Apparently, the media company that bought the global rights to the poem did so with the impending extinction in mind. They obviously feel that when the tiger is no more, the heartfelt Tiger Poem will likely escalate in value and become an effective means of memorial.
Dahiyabadshah has become quite well known for this poem in certain circles of Delhi residents, but especially in the circle that Dahiyabadshah himself has formed, a movement that he founded some four years ago called Delhi Poetree. The movement is itself a phenomenal achievement and is a living testimony to Dahiyabadshah’s passion for poetry. He not only loves this literary art, he believes in it with all his heart; he has put his hope in the healing and humanizing effect of poetic discourse. Some have said that poetry is his religion, and it is no secret that Dahiyabadshah believes that poetry is the answer to most of the world’s problems, not to mention his city’s problems. His love for Delhi is readily apparent and he is proud to be able to proclaim that the National Capital Region is now being served by poetry readings in a wide variety of locations every day of every month. There is now a network of more than 500 poets in Delhi and special readings sometimes attract audiences in the thousands. It is all a part of his ambitious vision for Delhi Poetree, a vision that includes personal support and encouragement for the poets, whatever their age, experience, caste or creed. Many of these poets have been published for the first time through the efforts and sponsorship of Delhi Poetree. Dahiyabadshah is proud of is poets and takes a special interest in their lives, believing that poetry has the potential to unite them all and to motivate them to promote a peaceful society.
Whatever else Dahiyabadshah expects from poetry, he does expect it to be his livelihood, and it’s hard for him not to be optimistic these days after fetching his ten lakh for his Tiger Poem. The recent boon aside, Amit has been preaching for years that there is money in poetry, and that it is possible for many others also to make a living from it.
One thing is sure: Dahiyabadshah will not rest with his ten lakh rupees. His love for poetry is far too strong and his vision for Delhi Poetree is far too big. Even before he received the cheques from Mumbai, Dahiyabadshah was talking about investing the money in the building a permanent poetry theatre in Delhi, a project that would require far more money to complete. But he is committed. In fact, Dahiyabadshah’s vision is so big that it has recently been pushing him beyond Delhi into other parts of North India, into the lives of other poets who need to be nurtured in their craft.
So, if the 15 million people of Delhi are too few and the 10 lakh rupees is too little for the Tiger Poet, who knows what more he will accomplish during his lifetime. Maybe his breed is as rare as the tiger that he writes about.
The Last Will And Testament Of The Tiger
When you have stolen my skin from my entity
and removed the roar from my life
O hunter, wield that skinning knife
with some grace, a little skill
I too have hunted and killed many many times
but every kill
was a prayer in praise of the creator
My movements were always quick, clean, merciful
Such is the way of true believers
But do you now slice, slash and cut clean, O skinner?
I pray only that you leave no part of me behind
to be eaten by the jackal and the hyena
For I have ruled this forest on behalf of the creator himself
and there is no honour in a king becoming carrion
So send the sacred colour from my coat
back to the maker of sunsets
Send the darkness of my stripe
back to the shadows of the undergrowth
for that is where it was obtained
Send the white from the fur of my belly
back to a new ice age
that it return to avenge me
Send my roar back to my maker
that he fill the heavens with my rage
at the shabby end
For a true king ordained by God himself
Send my claws to the young of the highborn
to save them from their own nightmares
Send my teeth to Tibet that their aspirations
for freedom find new teeth
Send my bones to China so they find a cure
for the fear that builds such great walls
Send my fat to Singapore that they learn
to make a balm that is mine not only in name
Send my shit to the alchemists
for this is the only substance
they have not yet tried
Give my entrails to whoever shall have them
But hang on to my eyes, you puny murderer
that your tribe might know
that you did not fell a creature beneath you
that I looked in the eye and did not flinch
when you shot me
Instead I am turned away
from the cancer of your footprint
On A Personal Note:
For those who read my blog regularly, you have heard about Amit before. In earlier entries, I have written about how I have gotten to know him during the past year. I heard about Delhi Poetree late in 2008 and began to attend the readings occasionally at Jamia Millia Islamia. When the venue at the university became unavailable last summer, I offered my living room as a site for the readings. Amit was thrilled and asked if we could do the readings weekly rather than bi-weekly. Since then, I have enjoyed the regular contact with Amit and with the other poets. I appreciate the friendship that has grown between us. Through Delhi Poetree and the direct influence of Amit, I have not only been inspired to write more poetry but have ventured out for the first time in my life to read my poetry in public. Thank you, Amit.