English CBSE Class 11 NCERT Snapshot Chapter 6 The Ghat of the Only World – Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words
THE GHAT OF THE ONLY WORLD
Author – Amitav Ghosh
|Approaching||Nearing, Coming soon|
On 25th April 2001, Agha Shahid Khan had spoken to me that he might die soon. It was for the first time that he had spoken about his death. It was a general discussion.
I had made a call to him to remind that we were to go to friend’s house for lunch. I told him that I would pick him up from his flat.
|Still standing on his feet||Remained fit|
|Lucid||Sharp, One who can think clearly|
He was taking treatment for cancer since last fourteen months. In spite of that Shahid was fit and could think clearly. Though sometimes he used to lose his memory.
|Thumbing through||Turning pages|
|Engagement book||Daily work diary, Book of appointment|
Once while turning pages of his diary of works, he suddenly said that he could not see anything. Then he stopped for some time. Then he said that he hoped he was not about to die.
|Talked a great deal||Talked a lot|
|Touched on the subject of death||Talked about death|
Shahid and I had talked a lot during last weeks. But he had not talked about death earlier.
|Completely at odds||Totally opposite|
|Light to the point of jocularity||Something said as joke or not seriously|
|Mumbled||Whispered, Told in low voice|
I did not know how to give a reply. He had not said it seriously though he was talking about a serious aspect. Innocently I told him in low voice that he will certainly not die. Everything will be OK.
|Cut me short||Started speaking before I had stopped speaking|
He started speaking before I had stopped speaking. His voice was full of a puzzle. He had felt some problem. He directly asked me to write something about him after his death.
|Bring myself to say||Had the courage to speak|
I was shocked and remained silent for a long time. Gradually I had the courage to say something which people say on such occasions. I told Shahid that he will be fine and he needed to be strong.
|Blackout||To become unconscious|
From window of my study room, I could see a corner of the building in which he lived. That building was eight house away from my house. Only a few months ago he had shifted in that building. Earlier he was living in Manhattan which is a few mile away for this place. He had suddenly become sick in February 2000. He had become unconscious.
|Malignant tumour||Tumour of cancer|
Through test it was disclosed that he had cancer tumour in brain. Then he decided to shift to Brooklyn to live with his younger sister. His sister was a teacher at Pratt Institute. It was a few buildings away from the street on which my house was situated.
|Reassurances||Comforting, Consolation, Solace|
|Dead serious||Very serious|
Shahid neglected my advice of consolation. He started laughing. Then I understood that he was very serious about what he had said.
I understood that he was giving a specific responsibility to me to do a work. He did not want me to remember him through dialogues between friends or in my memory. He wanted me to write about him so that people remembered him.
|Resistance||Opposition, Not in favour of|
Shahid knew it very well that some writers want to write only about reality or factual situations. Such writers do not want to write about loss or sorrow.
|Instincts||Inner feelings, Natural habits|
He was aware that my natural habit would have guided me to give an excuse to not to write about his death. I would have told him that I was not a poet. I would have told him that we became friends only recently. Many other people know about him more that I know. Hence they will be able to write about him in a better manner.
Shahid had thought about all such probable excuses. He had decided not to accept any excuses I could think of till this time. He again told me that I must write about him.
It was clear to me that this order would have to be accepted. But I could not say anything. I could not find words to promise him that I would write about him after his death. Finally I told him that I would make my best effort.
At the end of the discussion I knew exactly what I had to do. I picked up my pen and noted down all the details of discussion I could recall.
I continued to write our discussions for next couple of months. Through this record of discussion I was able to fulfill the promise I had made to him on that day. I was aware about the writing of Shahid even before I had met him.
|Lyrical||Like a song, Poetic|
|Deeply inward||Thinking about self|
I was strongly impressed by his book ‘The Country Without a Post Office’. This was published in 1997. I had never heard a voice similar to his. Sometimes his voice was poetic and greatly disciplined. On some occasions his voice was impressive and he appeared to be talking with his innermost feelings.
|Mock-casual||Falsely normal, Artificially normal|
|Contemporary||Of this era, Belonging to present time|
|Bardic||Person who writes poems of warriors|
|Bardic register||A poetic style|
His voice did not look artificially normal similar to somebody reading a poem in the style of reading a prose. He was not ashamed to recite poem in a bardic register style. I could not even think of someone who could write – ‘Mad heart, be brave.’ Shahid was the only person who could speak and write in such fashion.
|Touched briefly||Mentioned briefly, Mentioned few words|
In 1998 I gave a short reference from the book ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ in an article written by me. At that time I knew that Shahid was from Srinagar and had studied in Delhi. I did not know anything more about him.
|Put me in touch||Introduced me|
I had also studied in Delhi. For a short time we both were simultaneously in Delhi. But we never met each other. Some of our friends were common to us. One such friend introduced me to Shahid.
|Acquaintances||Known but not friends,|
In 1998 and 1999 we had talked many times on phone. We had also met a few times. Though we knew each other, we were not friends. We became friends after he had moved to Brooklyn next year.
|Impede||Hinder, Prevent, Obstruct|
After becoming neighbour we occasionally started having our food together. Soon we found out that we had many things in common. By this time Shahid was seriously ill. But his sickness did not prevent our friendship from growing.
We found that we had several common friends living in America, India and at other places. We found that we both liked to eat rogan josh. We liked to listen to songs of Roshanara Begum and Kishore Kumar. We did not like cricket. We both liked old Hindi movies.
|Trivial||Very small, Minute|
|In this instance||In this case, In this situation|
Condition of Shahid was really serious. So even the smallest discussion was important and urgent. The discussion with Shahid about food and people who were almost forgotten should have been avoided because he was dying. This sorrow or pain increased a lot because Shahid was a poet. He had achieved a greatness that only I could realise as friend. Shahid was probably not talking to anybody else.
|Adda||A meeting place|
A writer Suketu Mehta also used to live in Brooklyn. One afternoon we all had lunch together. We planned to create a meeting place. The meetings will not have any agenda. It will be a meeting for social gathering and for fun.
|In the least bit||Not at all|
Shahid was very keen about these meetings and we started meeting regularly. Other writers used to join us occasionally. Once a team from television with camera reached our meeting place. Shahid was not at all upset. Without any hesitation he accepted that he liked being photographed.
|Mundane||Worldly, Pertaining to this world|
Shahid was capable of changing the aspects of this world into some form of magic. Once I had gone with his brother Iqbal and her sister Hena to the hospital. We had gone there to bring Shahid from hospital to home.
The date was 21st May. Before this date several operations on him were unsuccessful. We had once again gone to the hospital for one more surgery. This was planned to reduce pressure on his brain.
|Escort||Helper, Person who accompanies|
All the hair from his head were removed. The shape of the tumour was now clearly visible on his naked head. We could also see stiches around the tumour. At the time of leaving the hospital ward, a person from hospital came with wheelchair. He was wearing blue uniform.
Shahid signaled the person to go away. He declared that he was quite strong and he would walk out of the hospital without any help. But he was weaker than he had imagined. His knees bent after a few steps. He was about to fall down.
Iqbal ran to bring a wheel chair. We all were standing in the corridor. We were holding Shahid so that he did not fall on the ground. Shahid had taken support of the wall. At that moment a happiness came to Shahid.
|Beaming smile||A broad smile|
|Lorca||A poet of Spain|
When peon of the hospital came back with wheel chair, Shahid gave him a broad smile. Shahid asked from he was. He replied that he belonged to the country Ecuador. Shahid happily clapped and loudly said that he wanted to learn Spanish language. He wanted to read works of Lorca.
|Gregariousness||Habit of being with people, Sociability|
Shahid liked to be among people. He was very social person. Every evening there was a party in his living room. He once told me that he liked very much when people were in his house.
I like it when people come to my house and I have food for them. I like the feeling of celebrations. This ensures that I do not become sad.
|Spacious||Big, having lot of space|
|Cavernous||Huge, Very big|
His flat was big. It had floors at many levels in it. It was on the seventh floor of a reconditioned building. The top floor had a very big study room. The terrace was very wide. One could see a beautiful view of sky of Manhattan city across both banks of the East River.
|Waterfront||Area near a waterbody|
Shahid liked the view of the Brooklyn city along the water bodies. It looked like a ghat on the East River under the shining lights of Manhattan.
|Oddly||Different, Special, Weird|
Distance from the entrance of his house to the door of the building was very long. Author has equated this to travel between two continents of the world. While going to the building the sweet smell of organ josh and haak dishes would travel upto the dull and grey coloured interiors of the lift. Sound of songs and other voices used to always come from his apartment. The sound of the bell of his apartment was different and sounded musical.
|Flinging open||Open with a jerk|
|Frosty||Very cold, As cold as frost|
Suddenly Shahid would open the door of his flat with a jerk. Smell of heeng would come from his house into the cold air of New York. He would clap and welcome me into his house.
|Invariably||Always, without any variation|
|Perpetual||Permanent, occurring everyday|
Inside his house, six or more people would always be present. They were students, writers or relatives. In the kitchen someone would be either cooking or making tea. He was slowly dying because of his death. But till the end of his life, there used to be a gathering of people in his house. They laughed, discussed, had food and listened & recited poetry.
|Distracted||Divert the attention|
|Loose the track of||To become unaware of|
Though there used to be many people in his house, he never diverted his attention from cooking of dinner. From time to time, he would stop his discussion with his guests to give instructions for cooking, It could even be an advise to add curd.
|Eyesight was falling||Eyesight was getting weak|
When his eyesight became week, he used to judge cooking from its fragrance. If the fragrance was good he would exclaim, ‘What a fragrance the food has.’
|Legendary||Great personality, Expert|
Shahid had a great expertise about cooking. Meaning that he had vast knowledge about cooking. Many times he used to spend several days in planning and preparation of a dinner party.
|Metrical patterns||A style of poetry|
In one of such parties at Arizona, Shahid met a poet James Merrill. After this meeting Shahid completely changed his style of poetry. Now he adopted the metrical patters and verse form of poetry.
|Envoy||Messenger, Delegate, Ambassador|
James Merrill had the highest influence on Shahid’s poetry. In one of the poems, Shahid had imagined about his death. In that poem James Merrill was a messenger who talked to him about death. In that poem James conveyed the message that good people always leave this world.
|Placed great store||Emphasized, Had a firm belief|
|Had pity||To show sympathy or mercy|
Shahid firmly believed in adopting correct methods for cooking and then accurately following these. He did not accept any deviation from traditional recipes. He showed mercy at those people who did not follow this approach. He had a special attachment to food of his region. He called it ‘Kashmiri food in the Pandit style’.
I once asked him the reason for his passion about this style of food. He said that he had repeatedly seen the dream that all Pandits had disappeared from Kashmir. They stopped living in Kashmir.
|Haunted him||Troubled him|
This was a fear to him and it troubled him again and again. Many times he talked about it and even wrote poetry about it. One of his such poetry is indicated below –
Shahid is talking about Pandits of Kashmir. At certain point of time I became unaware about you. That time you needed me. You wanted me to protect you. But I did not support you so you thought I was your enemy. I can very well remember that you used to live with us. But I lost your faith. I am your enemy. I very well remember that you used to live with me.
I have not done anything good for you, so you will not forgive me. I was sad because you were in trouble. But I did not disclose my pain to you. The pain was within me. If we were living together as friends, we could have achieved everything in this world.
Once Shahid told me that he loved Bengali food. I objected and told him that he had never been to Calcutta. Nowadays Calcutta is known as Kolkata.
Shahid replied that he had never been to Kolkata. But he had some friends who used to bring Bengali food. When I ate that food, I understood many things that were not known across the country.
|Cuisine||Type of cooking food|
|Make a space||Create a situation|
This is why Shahid used to tell that we should be happy with style of cooking and style of clothes and other wonderful things. He stopped for a while and again spoke. He said that here we have created a situation so that we all can be together as we talk about good things.
One of the many good things that he liked was music of Begum Akhtar. He had met this great ghazal singer when we was a boy. A friend had introduced him to her. Her music was a necessary part in his life. He was influenced by her music.
|Repartee||Talks full of satire, Witty talks, Banter|
|To board a plane||To get into an aeroplane|
Shahid knew many stories about her talks that were full of satire. Shahid himself could talk wittily. Once famous incident had occurred at the airport of Barcelona. A security guard stopped him while he was about to get into an aeroplane.
The guard was a woman. She asked him what was his profession. Shahid replied that he was a poet. The guard asked him what did he do in Spain. Shahid said he writes poetry.
Whatever be the question, Shahid answered in his poetic style. At last the woman guard got irritated. She asked if he was carrying anything dangerous for other passengers. Shahid touched his chest with his palm and said he was carrying his heart.
|Wildean moments||Witty incidents|
This was his one of the best witty incident. He wrote the poem ‘Barcelona Airport’ on this incident. He remembered such moments. He once told me that he liked when people gave him an opportunity to answer questions.
On 7th May 2000 I was with him when one such opportunity came. That day Shahid was teaching at the Baruch College at Manhattan during semester of spring season. This was to be his class of the semester. Eventually it turned out be last class of his life.
This class was scheduled for a short duration because he had to go to the hospital after the class. I had heard a lot about fantastic method of teaching of Shahid. But this was the first and the last class I had witnessed his teaching.
|Adored||Liked too much|
|Not in the least||Not at all|
|Subdued||Depressed, Dejected, Sad|
The moment I entered the class I understood that students liked Shahid too much. They had printed a magazine and it was dedicated to him. Shahid was not at all depressed that it was his last class.
|Diva||A famous person|
|Incarnate||Taking another form|
From the start to the end of the class he looked like a famous person, a shining star who was full of laughter and ‘nakhra’. An Indian student arrived late in the class. He said that a person from my subcontinent has arrived.
|Behold||See, Observe, View|
He joined his hands and pretended to show affection to her. He said that he had the feeling of patriotism whenever he saw a person from South Asia.
He recalls that his stay at Penn State was full of happiness. There he grew as a reader, poet and a lover. there he liked company of many energetic students . Many students were from India. Shahid used to often say that it was the happiest time of his life.
After sometime Shahid shifted to Arizona. He wanted to take a degree in creative writing. He did job in various colleges and universities. Finally he was appointed a professor in University of Utah in Salt lake in 1999.
He had taken a leave for some time from Utah University to do job at New York University. During this period he had the first attack of unconsciousness in February 2000.
In 1975, Shahid had shifted to Pennsylvania. Since then he lived in America most of the time. His brother had already shifted to America and later his two sisters also came there.
But parents of Shahid lived in Srinagar. It was his routine to go to Srinagar during summer month of every year. He used to say that he used to always think about poor countries.
|Mounting violence||Increasing violence|
Since he used to go to Srinagar, he was an irregular but a direct witness of the increasing violence in that region. The violence had increased after 1980.
In 1989 signs of change started becoming very clear. Kashmir would soon be practically burning.
The political situation in Kashmir continuously worsened. The violence and measure to control violence both increased. These had a great effect on Shahid. After some time the situation of Kashmir became the main theme of his poetry. In fact he wrote his best poems about Kashmir.
But Shahid did not have any desire to become a poet who wrote about politics. Once he said that if anyone was from a place full of difficulties and that was the only topic to write then one should stop writing. One must respect art and culture of one’s own country. These are also as important as writing about that place.
|Resolutely||With firm determination|
|Embrace||Accept, Take up|
Shahid was unhappy about the likely future situation of Kashmir. Shahid firmly refused to accept the role of a victim of situation of Kashmir though he could have easily done that. If had accepted such role, he could have been a regular person on talk shows and news channels.
|His calling||His choice|
But Shahid was sure about his choice. He was a poet and he wanted to remain a poet. This field of language is strongly competitive and does not forgive any mistake. He had respect towards his religion. But he believed that religion and politics should be considered separately.
|Ecumenical||Involving all religion|
|Upbringing||Education during childhood by parents|
Thoughts of Shahid were not political. Thus they could not be included in a policy nor could be a solution. In a wider perspectives, his thinking was to have an overall view and included all religions. He attributed such thoughts to the teachings and education he had received from his parents during his childhood.
Many times he narrated that during his childhood he wanted to construct a small Hindu temple in his room in Srinagar. Initially he hesitated to tell his parents. But when he told his parents about it, they also agreed for it. Their enthusiasm was equal to that of Shahid’s.
|Accouterments||Other things needed for an activity|
|Assiduous||Taking great care, Careful, Diligent|
His mother brought idols and other things required for a temple. For some time he was very careful in doing puja at his temple. This was his favourite story. Whenever people talked about extremism of Muslims, Shahid used to narrate this story. He used to tell that his mother had helped him in making a temple in his room.
|Shot back||Replied quickly|
|Nationalist||Person favouring his own nation or region|
I once told Shahid that he could become national poet of Kashmir. He replied that he wanted to be a national poet (poet of India) but he did not want to be poet of a part of Kashmir. In the main poem of his book ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ he has described a person who comes back to Kashmir. He becomes caretaker of a broken minaret.
He had further narrated that nothing will survive, everything will be destroyed. These are the pious words. You will read what I am writing and I will read what you are writing. Oh my son, please come and open the envelops that contain our letters. This is an old poem of Shahid. I have read remaining part of this poem. Expressions in this poem are very nicely narrated.
|Prefigured||Be an early indication of something|
In this understanding of his homeland, he himself became a representative of the situation prevailing in Kashimr – a witness as well as a martyr. His destiny is linked with Kashmir as a witness and as a martyr. One does not know which role came first.
The ‘Safron Sun’ and the ‘Times of Rain’ are two poems written by Shahid. In one of the poems he had expressed his desire to die in Kashmir.
|Put off||Deferred, Postponed, Stopped|
I had recorded a telephonic discussion of 5th May in my notes. The previous day, on 4th May, he had gone to the hospital for getting a scan done. This report was expected to disclose the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Every other treatment had been stopped till receipt of this report.
The scan was to start at 2:30 in the afternoon. I called his number many times in the late afternoon. I called him in the evening also. But he did not pick up the phone. I called him in the morning of next day. This time he answered my call.
We did not have any preliminary talk. He directly informed about the scan. He said that the news was not good. They will stop all medicines including chemotherapy. They think I will die within one year.
|Dazed||Surprised, Unable to think|
They have a doubt that medicines are not having desired effect on my body. After sometime they will give me radiation. But they do not hope that it will cause major improvement. I was not able to think anything. I just kept looking at my table. I asked Shahid what he will do now.
|Will||Legal document about one’s property|
|Leave a mess||Become trouble|
|Siblings||Brothers and sisters|
Shahid said that he wanted to go to Kashmir. He wanted to die there. He did not appear to be disturbed. I want to write my will and do other similar works. I do not want that my brothers or sisters should have any trouble after my death. After completing these works I want to go to Kashmir.
|Feudal system||A system in which family is given priority|
Shahid said that even now people in Kashmir respect family bonding so lot of support is available. And his father also lived there. He did not want his brothers and sisters to travel to USA on his death. He had to travel to India when his mother had died.
|Logistics||Detailed arrangement about an event or travel|
|Laid to rest||Cremated|
|Vicinity||Close to, Near to|
Afterwards he changed his plan of going to Kashmir because a detailed plan could not be worked out. There could have been other reasons also. He was satisfied to be cremated in Northampton. It is a town close to Amherst. He considered Amherst a sacred town because another poet Emily Dickinson had lived there. Shahid admired her poetry too much.
|Inseparable||That cannot be separated|
I do not think it was a matter of chance that Shahid started thinking about Kashmir when he was about to die. In one of his poems ‘death, Kashmir and Shahid’ always appeared together. It was just like an old photograph dissolved in rain. it was not possible to separate these three.
Following is a part of his poem –
Shahid through above poem has picturized his death. His death will mean setting of sun. from this world he will be shifted to a grave that is about two yard long. People will be talking about my death. But I will remember the famous lines about Kashmir – If there is a paradise on earth it is in Kashmir .
I met Shahid for the last time on 27th October. We met at the house of his brother in Amherst. He was not able to talk continuously. Most of the time we repeated the discussion we had already had in the past.
Since a long time he knew that his death would be coming soon. He had understood this fact. There was no sign of pain or discord in him. His family and friends were with him. He looked calm, satisfied and peaceful person.
He liked to think that after his death he would be meeting his mother, somewhere in the other world. I realised that during his last days of his life, he was quite satisfied. On 8th December at 2 AM he peacefully died in his sleep.
Now he is no more with us. It is a matter of surprise that such a short friendship has created such a big emptiness within me. Many times I recall his presence in my living room. I particularly remember the night when he had read a poem about his departure from this world.