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Enigma Indica

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Item Code: NAN138
Author: Alexander Pereverzev
Publisher: Heritage Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788170263074
Pages: 271 (20 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 660 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

Alexander Pereverzev received his first post-gradate degree in Indo-Aryan Philology from the St. Petersburg University (Russia) in 1998. He went on to study Sanskrit in India obtaining his M.A. (2003) with specialization in Darshana, and Ph.D (2010) degrees from the university of Dehi.

His academic interestslie in the field of Indian philosophy, particularly the epistemology and metaphysics of the Advaita Vedanta.

He travelled extensively in the Indian subcontinent visiting places of historical and religious importance.


The book in your hands is a collection of writings (travelogues and poems) that I penned during my extended stay in India (1998-2011). I must confess that the word has never been my medium despite my long period of studies that require being articulate and expressive. In fact, I have always felt more inclined to pictorial expression that resulted in my indulgence in capacious drawing and even in amateur painting in my formative years. I believe this passion of mine that could never materialise as a regular occupation, let alone profession, left its imprint on my writing, including that in the present collection. I can be easily charged with an overindulgence in lengthy descriptions and offering images rather than delineating sentiments.

My drifting away from drawing and subsequent, almost immediate venture into writing happened during my student years in St. Petersburg in Russia. The necessity to express myself urged me to switch over to the medium not less powerful than paint but certainly less time-consuming. I was expectedly and understandably influenced by the literary tradition best known to me, that of the Russian classical poetry with its force and lucidity, elegance of form and profundity of meaning. Along with it I ventured into the literary areas less familiar to me but equally tempting. Having obtained closer recognition of the Far Eastern poetic tradition and Persian literary treasury (both, alas in translation), I attempted to improvise along these lines and started to imitate some of the meters developed a perfected in these regions (haiku, tanka, ruba'i) trying all the same to transplant specifically oriental themes and image to the Russian literary soil, although with a varied degree success.

With such a variegated juvenalia baggage, I arrived India. I resumed writing as soon as I got a breather of my first summer vacations - partly as a response to what I read (as a part of my Sanskrit language and literature course the University of Delhi or otherwise), partly as a response what I experienced in this country. It is my strong conviction that India is bound to elicit a response whoever and from whatever land the visitor might be. Positive or negative, the response is sure to come for the simple reason that India too unique, too striking to be unnoticed. Being not simply: country among many others, but a civilisation in itself, India offers an experience radically different from anything one might be used to and that can scarcely leave one unmoved: Even if one believes that one has found something long known and familiar here, one better take a closer look a make sure that, what for a moment appeared familiar is much mixed with local flavour that it might as well be taken for something new, strange and, therefore, unique and even alluring. India offers different experiences to different people a connection with the roots to a long-gone and overseas-settle Indian, an exotic tourist destination to a holidaying couple a dharma- or guru-land to someone who has embarked a search, a giant studio and a fountainhead of inspiration to an artist, a formidable challenge to a missionary. The 1ist can be extended endlessly. In short, India never ceases touch and amaze virtually everyone, be it in direct contact or at a distance.

The response to India being not long in coming, it is but natural to try to give it some more or less lasting form even if one as a half-baked amateur like the present writer.

I have had a peculiar problem throughout my writing "career". It was only in India that I came to grips with English literature, particularly poetry, in the original. With the Russian literary background weighing upon me, it is but natural that the Romantics and the Victorians fascinated me with their measured poetic pace and almost architectural perfection of form. I have always desired to follow suit, for better or for worse. The incontestable beauty of their style apart, it is obvious that such a manner of writing fails when it comes to expressing modern experience - sketchy, shredded, fragmented, at times confused and inconsistent, defying the inexorable rhythm and rhyme of the neo-classical strophe. I often felt this tension and was soon obliged to turn away, though not completely, from what I had long valued as an example worth imitating.

The offered collection pretends to be an attempt to record my response to certain incidents during my Indian life, various impressions of Indian reality and sentiments aroused by coming into close contact with some aspects of Indian culture.

In writing travelogues I have always tried, although not invariably successfully, to present not just the "what" of the place visited, the list of facts describing it fit to be published in Sunday coloured supplements to attract tourists, despite its being easier for someone of my temperament and calling, but rather what the place means and feels like, what someone like me might experience there.

The travelogues offered to your attention are quite old and it is very much possible that I would not feel the same were I to find myself in those places once again, not because of the changes wrought upon them by time, but probably because of the baggage of the Indian experience that I will invariably carry with me wherever I might go. But since these pieces of writing record my first sallies outside the (dis)comfort zone of Delhi into the Indian wild, the 'proper' India, and as such perhaps reflect my first impressions of the subcontinent outside the walls of the capital, I decided to include them here. Many more journeys followed, with different companions and without them, rougher than the ones described. My only regret is that despite the repeated requests of my well wishers, I could not manage sufficient time in the right moment to put on paper my memories and feelings that after a while disappeared, gave place to a train of new ones like ripples behind the stern of the ship and finally, consigned to irrevocable past, became almost irrelevant.

Coming to the poems, for the readers' convenience many of them have been grouped in three distinct cycles, each having a dominant theme. The Shiva cycle is dedicated to Shiva mainly in his destructive aspect. Swami Baneshananda (once the editor of the Vedanta Kesari, Madras where some of my Shiva cycle poems were published) was right to reprimand me for ignoring Shiva's creative and benevolent aspect. Undoubtedly to Nayanars or to Mahadevi Akka, Shiva was incomparably more than just a destroyer. Nevertheless, stereotypes apart, it is this aspect of Shiva that leaves perhaps the most lasting impression upon both a casual reader and a student of Hindu mythology. This consideration as well as personal disposition made me focus on Shiva as a destroyer.

The dominant sentiment of the Murugan cycle is a fiery passion for the divine. Murugan as an object of devotion and an exciter of spiritual fervour is an adequate response to Krishna in the Shaiva context. His image increases the aesthetic and emotional value of Shaivism and makes it bridge the gap with the Vaishnava tradition where it seemed to be lacking - devotion to and love for the personalised deity, God in the flesh. Murugan's is an extremely rich image, what with the contradictions he inherits from his divine father, his adolescent wilfulness and aloofness despite his physical charms. Like his father, he is a creature of extremes and as such, he makes the ones enamoured of him go to extremes, live perennially on the edge.

In the Vedic cycle, I wished to re-emphasize that the culture of Vedic Aryans was not all war, tasting cake and ale for one hundred years and producing a hundred heroic sons. I tried to demonstrate that the same very people who loved life and shrank not from the pleasures it had to offer, were not strangers to semi-philosophical speculation, to the sentiment of detachment and submission to the will higher than theirs. In future I would like to develop this idea and explore the ways in which the Vedic age ushered in the classical Indian culture more familiar to us. I would also try to enlarge the cycle, for the creative reworking of the Vedic literary heritage seems to be a little trodden path. While working on this cycle, I sometimes imitated the original Vedic prosodic meters that would give readers a fairly good idea of the rhythm and the very spirit of Vedic verse.

In several poems I have tried to grapple with the problem of change and impermanence. Impermanence has always been a source of philosophical inspiration in Indic culture and can be viewed as a root of our frustration, the crux of human predicament, which certainly justifies more than a fleeting attention paid to it in the present collection. However, the apparently endless lamentations about impermanence that one can easily come by in Indian literary tradition should not be taken as samples of pessimism or defeatism. Far from it, the continuous stress on the impermanence and un satisfactoriness of one's worldly existence makes sense only if one tries to hint at the possibility of something quite different. To show that change makes sense only in the background of non-change was precisely what I had in mind.

A number of poems in the collection are not directly related to Indian cultural milieu and may not be easily understandable to the Indian reader. I attempted to annotate them the best I could, but felt uneasy to make footnotes to my own verses. Indeed, the verse fails in its objective if the meaning does not shine from it immediately. But the immediate manifestation of the meaning may not be always possible in the case of intercultural communication, of which the present book is a sample. My sincere apologies to the reader if certain allusions in these poetic compositions appear vague: creating something dense and abstruse was never my intention. In an attempt to escape this predicament, I took cue from the Sanskrit literary tradition and supplied most of the non-Indian writings with short introductions and textual notes hoping to become clearer even at the risk of being onerous. The ultimate reason for including these poems in the collection is their being the vehicles of what is to me essentially Indian ideas despite their non-Indian imagery, which makes them of India, by India and ultimately for India.


Preface xi
The sites less known: Madan Kamadev 17
Something of Kerala 20
Where hills and plains meet 25
En route to Amarnath 31
Insight into impermanence 48
I know... 61
To the Nataraja of Chidambaram 65
Supplication at night 69
What Himavan's daughter said 73
"If you but say His name ... " 74
Mahakala 77
"When you are with Him ... " 78
"That russet-hued wild dancer. .. " 81
"O dancing Lord, pray, save me ... " 82
"Somewhere on the southern shore ... " 83
"O red-hued Lord who dances ... " 84
"The father stern, the gentle lover. .. " 84
"My heart is no more young ... " 85
"Madmen, chant the name of Rudra ... " 85
"Wind is squalling, so fierce and piercing ... " 89
The song of separation 91
"Take any guise that pleases you, Lord ... " 95
Unshared love 97
The song of the first meeting 99
"Poets sing of you heaping metaphors ... " 101
"Even today I remember ... " 102
"When you throw me a burning glance ... " 105
"Hark you, he is ever silent ... " 106
"When was it, oh how many centuries ago?" 107
"Lying in the garden of loneliness ... " 108
Upanishadic insight 110
Vedic insight 111
A morning prayer 112
Vedic battle chant 113
A prayer to Indra 115
On the Senari massacre of Bhumihars (March 18, 1999) 117
Kamarupa 119
I am Brahman 123
What Isis said 127
The Ultimate 130
Passing through the "Delhi School" 131
So many faces 132
Who am I? 134
The end of misery 135
Mother India 136
A leper of Vrindavan 137
The ballad of silvery sails 138
"They importune the tellers of fortune ... " 140
"Life after life ... " 141
Ode to King Tut 143
Vipassana verses 147
My path 148
Thus Spake Alexander 151
To Padmanabha Swami 159
At the party 161
The Buddhas of six receptacles 165
Life and death 168
"Friend, we are like fallen leaves ... " 169
"Rise, wayfarer, rise ... " 170
Lakshmi and Sarasvati 173
Patachara 177
Into the mist and back 179
Undoing the knots 182
Two smokes 183
Son 184
Flight from the city 185
Birthday thoughts 187
Slipping the noose 188
Nachiketas of modern times 189
On friend's death 191
"Search not for things where they are not ... " 191
Monsoon dance 192
The other shore 193
The warriors' burial ground in Shey 195
Love 196
"We left behind hecatombs of bodies ... " 197
Where is "I"? 198
Dogs 199
Dying to meet Yama 200
"Cause - effect, cause - effect ... " 200
Mind 201
"There was a dream ... " 202
''It is well past midnight ... " 203
The place I am going 205
The cycle of bloom 207
When I come back 208
A Mahasiddha 210
Markandeya's curse 211
Alien path 213
"For centuries I've been a mountain ... " 215
Taming the mind 217
Green tea 219
Magic castle 221
"Sister, dearest sister ... " 223
Souls daring 224
A swan hunt 226
When yogis meet 227
Homecoming after eleven years 228
Ladakh 229
Tango with Maya 230
Shankara 232
The damsel of Gaur 235
The first Ahom 257
A Siddha 259
Monsoon 260
Insomnia 260
"Show me a madman ... " 261
Emigration 261
Candle in the dark 262

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