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Member Spotlight for the Month of December 2003 - Ashok Sharda

Ashok ShardaAshok Sharda was born in India, and there could not be a more fitting homeland. India, the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism, a country enmeshed and entwined with spirituality and marvel. This wonderment has permeated Ashok since his childhood, when the timeless questions of life, death and meaning first began to swirl in his head. He sought answers in books and delved through countless libraries searching for answers, for comprehension: Books on every subject – mysticism, philosophy, physics, an endless river of pages and words. Instead of sating his curiousity, it broadened it. Instead of satisfying with an answer, it presented more questions. Now, he believes that it is questions that guide us, not conclusions.

Ashok is a traveller, a sojourner. He carries his possessions with him wherever he goes – in his startlingly keen perceptions and in the ink of his poetry. When you view him, you will see a simple nomad. When you look closer, you will realize that the simplicity of your first view was a mirage, a semblance. The true pith of him goes much deeper. Ashok refuses to be what he calls an "ant" – a human that has been forced into tight strictures, a once complex creature reduced to nothing but a mindless drone. He finds comfort in knowing that while he might be a cog in the machine, he will never become a machine. He will always walk the stages dividing one moment and the next, discovering intricacies no drone or clone could handle. He calls no religion or creed his own. Rather, he sets out to blaze his own trail in the cosmic layers of humanity.

He describes life as an eternal conflict between those layers, between the past and the evolution. In this life, we are all embryos with swords, clinging to our old values while desperately trying to embrace the new. In Ashok's words, "The conflict is inevitable...You can see your mind as a stage where conflicting and contradictory selves appears, drawing energy and taking cue from the impressions from without, one after the other and fight each other to take charge. The situation is serious. The surrender can either take you back to the old belief system; old values, old illusions or you may become a neurotic case." To Ashok, this fight is the fulcrum upon which the private universe of every human being pivots. The unending war between the old and the new, the shock, denial and inevitable disillusion that comes when you step from one layer of awareness and one set of values and the next. When you find that what you previously held dear has become nothing but a sham and a pretense to you. Ashok Sharda faces these epic clashes every day without surrender, because he believes that to surrender is to die inside. To give up is to lose the soul. Only through continual metamorphosis can we grasp life.

Where does one find solace in all this conflict? Where would you go to find your peace? In writing, of course. "In between, you see the glimpses of life. Glimpses of what is. Glimpses of the knowable. This is what keeps me alive. Writing is seeing for me," he says. He believes that humans on a whole are basically sleep-walking and rarely come to epiphanies, but when he does, he commits them to paper. His writing is a reflection of what he views in the cracks in the chaos, and he mirrors those revelations to us in a way that is unmatched. Each of his poems appear deceptively simple at the beginning – but as you begin to read further, you will find that every line holds impossible depth, each a rung on a ladder of philosophical truth. He finds that the more he surrenders to static and stubborn beliefs, the less he is willing to mold to change, the harder it is to write, but the more precious it is when he does. He will always turn to words and poetry to give him hope and shield him from cynicism. Ashok writes because it helps him to remember that he is alive and still budding, rather than fading in entropy.

He says that the first step in writing one of his astoundingly perceptive poems is having a "scene" or question form in his mind. Then, he writes that impression down. He has gotten all of his favorite poems done in the first try, but he's not averse to making many different drafts of a poem before he considers it finished. Ashok says that despite the fact that all revelations and awarenesses are subjective, he tries to generalize every poem so that it will feel natural to every reader, a question that any person could ask at any point in their life. The scene may not be his or a memory of his. They are general experiences that every human could have. He himself hardly ever looks back on his poems after writing it. The comprehension comes in the inscribing of it, not the rereading.

He hasn't read much poetry from well-known authors, but among his favorite poets he lists Rilke, Borges and Neruda. Poetry that presents itself as both inventive and surrealistic appeal to him.

When asked about which of his poems are his favorite, he says that "A Tragic Piece: You have to BE to SEE" best reflects his approach to life. "They know K is not K" and "There is a room inside every rooms" are among his favorites as well.

Ashok has published several stories and books. He says of being published: "Apart from my few short Hindi Stories that appeared in various literary magazines, I have to my credit a collection of short stories in my mother tongue Hindi – ‘Bagair Kursi Ka Kamara’ (A Room without a Chair) published six years ago by Samayika Prakashan (contemporary Publisher), New Delhi. Two anthologies of my English Poems – ‘There is a room inside every room’ and ‘An ascending experience’ published by Vishwa Bharti Prakashan, Nagpur. One more collection of my philosophical stories is likely to go to press shortly. The title is “M.G. Road."

Nowadays, he says that most of the things he reads are in English. He still devours books on spirituality, philosophy and literature. And, lucky for Pathetic, he's still giving us illuminating, intelligent and superbly written poetry and offering us insights on our own poems. We're immensely fortunate to have this uniquely phenomenal man gracing our pages.

The following is a list of the highlights of Ashok Sharda's poetry:

Author:

The member spotlighted in this month's "Member Spotlight" is chosen by the pathetic.org Spotlight committee, which is made up of a small group of site patrons and administrators. Each month a member is selected for this privilege based upon contributions to pathetic.org and the quality of work.

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