Looking for Kabir in our lives

An evening in which Vipul Rikhi’s songs and verses rescued us from relentless chatter, ringtones and weariness and took us to a place of stillness

February 28, 2018 03:37 pm | Updated 03:37 pm IST

Poet and singer Vipul Rikhi

Poet and singer Vipul Rikhi

One could tell where Vipul Rikhi’s poems came from. They sounded Kabiresque. Introspective, stark, no mincing of words and bursting with imagery. He read at an event called ‘Bleed: An Evening of Poetry’ hosted by Ranjana Singhal of On The Go and moderated by another poet Shobana Kumar.

Bleed is a collection of Rikhi’s poems brought out by his friends on the occasion of his 40th birthday, he explained.

He had a lonely childhood and his greatest source of solace were books, says Rikhi. That is when a lot of time coupled with imagination and words led him to writing. Asked to introduce himself, he quotes from his own poem:

People ask me, “What do

you do?”, but

I have no words to de

scribe it

“Nothing” almost fits the


Then a poem comes to

spoil the fun.

There is a lot of silence in Rikhi’s poems. As he reads out his verse, the stillness, the quietude, the silence and the aloneness seeps out. Suddenly, there is a ripple of movement, a burst of sound and may be some pain too. Some poems come alive with their imagery and one can see the picture so clearly.

Two chairs in a garden

and two cups of tea

this is my idea of bliss

two cup-fulls of slurp and

then a kiss...

The poems are easy on the ear, almost melodious yet nudging you to think. There is no ambiguity in his words. It is right there for everyone to see, read and hear.

Sometimes confronting oneself is the most difficult thing, says Rikhi. But once you do and take in the warts and all, there is beauty beneath. That is what the quest inwards is all about. Rikhi says that there are times when he feels like a small closed window in a large castle and is on the journey to open that window and let the light in.

Something stirs within when listening to Rikhi read out his poems and then sings. There is brevity of words, stripped-down emotions, no frills, no bling ... so reminiscent of Kabir.

The evening winds up to Rikhi plucking on his old tanpura , lovingly restored and presented to him after being used by many other minstrels. “I don’t own the tanpura . It owns me,” he smiles as he launches into Kabir’s ‘Mo ko kahan dhoondd re bande’.

The Kabir Project

Vipul Rikhi is a vital part of the Kabir Project as a writer and a translator. He said the team was just wrapping up work on the digital archive Ajab Shahar.

Ajab Shahar is an online archive with the songs, poetry and ideas of Kabir and other mystic poets drawn from travels and research into the oral traditions of the Indian region and thereabouts over the last 13 years.

There is a repository of over 500 songs, stories and reflections that have been painstakingly researched, translated and annotated. They are uploaded on a dedicated YouTube Video Channel www.youtube.com/user/Kabirproject

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