Here is how one arrives at some thoughts that are meant to cross one’s life –
A reference to Home, Kamila Shamsie’s book led to Agha Shahid Ali. His poetry filled my life a couple of years back. Words strung so beautifully that every string led to a hitherto unknown space, new worlds. Even as I think of his poetry it is hard to recall the author of an essay wherein Shahid’s life and mannerisms were admirably observed. Was it Amitav Ghosh? The description of his apartment and the evening with him is clear in the head. The name escapes.
Begum Akhtar enters the context, as Shahid admired her ghazhals. Then this thought appears, which seems to have gripped this evening and wouldn’t easen its hold on me tonight –
“sorrow has no finer mask than a studied lightness of manner”
Amitav Ghosh writes this remembering their relationship.
But Begum Akhtar was not all wit and nakhra: indeed the strongest bond between Shahid and her was, I suspect, the idea that sorrow has no finer mask than a studied lightness of manner.
With that thought about sorrow’s finer mask, I remain tonight.