She came home from school, tossed her bag on the couch and casually mentioned, ‘ We read a poem in school today. It was nice.’
My ears were only half-listening at this point and I replied with, ‘That’s good to hear.’
‘It was ‘Ozymandias’. Have you heard of it?’
At the sound of that name, my ears perked up, my disinterest vanished and I sat up straight. ‘Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. ‘Here lies Ozymandias, King of Kings. . .’ My voice trailed off, as the memories fluttered beneath my hazy brain, trying to remember the words of the poem from 2 decades ago.
‘Oh so you’ve heard of it?’
‘Heard of it?! I studied it thrice. Once in school, once in under-grad and again in post-grad. It’s one of my favourite poems.’
So saying, I turned to Google and typed in the name of the poem and waited for the results to pop up. Oh, how I loved that poem. I had it memorised down to the last word. It was always at the top of my mind.
Yes, it was, whispered a voice inside me. Now you can’t even remember it fully, can you? You, who could rattle off entire poems without blinking an eye. You’ve forgotten it, haven’t you?
I really didn’t want this to be true, but as the years pass and information overwhelm hits me from every side, I am forced to concede that I may be forgetting the things that used to give me immense joy.
Did you know that I had a tattered, cherished copy of Palgraves’ Golden Treasury for over 7 years? It was given away in one of our numerous moves. I still miss it dearly.
Did you know that I would go to the college library on those hot afternoons when we didn’t have a class and I’d pore over the verses of poets who made me feel completely at home?
You probably wouldn’t know that even today, given a choice, I would go back to sitting for 6 hours in a classroom, listening to a professor talk animatedly about the magic of Walt Whitman or the genius of e.e.cummings.
There are days when I sit in silence and give myself over to wondering what life would have been like, if I’d walked down a different path. The truth is, I almost did.
Around the time that I was finishing up my post-graduation, I was looking at the possibility of taking up a PhD: marrying myself to the world of the written word, to the exclusion of all else.
There was no question about what I’d do either. It would have been Literature, pure and simple.
If I had done that, I might have been teaching the language that I love, to students that loved it as fervently as I do.
Had I become a teacher, my days would be so very different now; meeting eager young minds, challenging them to think beyond the literal meaning of the text, urging them to analyze the words and find the depth in what the writer had to say.
I’d be poring over books in the library again, losing myself in the cool confines of a silent literary haven- the introvert’s paradise.
But, Life had other plans. It would involve taking a step away from studying and choosing reality, marriage, a child, a job (close to teaching, but not quite) and lead to writing, blogging and where I am today.
I rarely have regrets when it comes to my experiences. I truly believe that every path has meaning and we are exactly where we are meant to be.
Every once in a while, though, I pick up my thesis on e.e.cummings and remember how I enjoyed the long days and nights, spent knee-deep in poetry.
I close my eyes and imagine reading Ozymandias to a class of wide-eyed students, opening their minds to the immense possibilities that lie in the world of language and watching them revel in the marvel of one of the finest minds the world has ever known.
In that moment, away from everything the world deems important, I find myself again, living the alternate life I might have lived.