Long long ago when we were sitting in a café, chatting, sipping on a delicious cup of coffee / hot chocolate, we realized how much we liked it all. To visit local coffee shop when time permitted during the weekends. To soak in the artistic ambiance the place had to offer. To spend few hours together discussing the happenings in our lives. What better way to relax every once in a while, we thought. And, so we decided to make it a tradition.
With time, we got to observe other people in the cafes we went to, and saw how some of them had a particular thing that they did while they were there – be it people playing scrabble or getting together with friends or reading or writing or even just plain getting comfortable on the couch and taking a short nap. And that made us wonder if we should add some flavor to the time we spent there.
“How about we discuss a book we recently read?” came forth a suggestion. As much as I liked that, we didn’t go forward with it because it was unlikely for both of us to have read the same book within a specific timeframe, out of which my mind tends to lose focus of the nitty-gritty points necessary to carry on a decent discussion. “Then how about we buy a book of poems. We can read and discuss some over our cup of coffee” another idea was proposed. And there was no reason for me to say no. I was more than excited to accommodate this as our new ritual.
Weeks later, I was given a book that had a collection of poems by Rudyard Kipling. To say that I was thrilled to own my very first book of poetry would be understating what I felt as I held it in my hands. And yes, I was a little tense too. Given that I haven’t actually dedicated time to reading any poetry other than what I had to during school / college years, I was afraid how much of this form of art my mind can comprehend.
Would I be able to understand the depth of the poet’s words? Would I be able to appreciate the beauty it carried? Would I be able to grasp the knowledge it presents, at least a bit if not all? What if I fail miserably trying to do all that? What if reading poetry is not my forte? Too many questions, all of which had to wait for time to reveal the answers.
As the sun set that evening, and as the cold weather took its true form, we concluded our hike and started our search for a local café. We kept calling one place after the other to see which was open and where we could go until we finally found one. We drove to the coffee shop, went in, placed our order of a coffee and a hot chocolate, and settled down on the couch to mark the beginning of a beautiful custom.
To begin with, we read “If” by Rudyard Kipling –
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
What wonderful verses! So much wisdom in each and every sentence!
Here’s one more that stood out of all the poems I read that evening – “My Boy Jack” by Rudyard Kipling.
“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
I read that Kipling wrote this poem after his son went missing while in a war. I am no parent; I might not fully understand how it must feel to lose a child. But reading those lines made me misty eyed for a second. Such brilliant use of language is enough to evoke strong emotions in anyone who reads it. Simply superb, don’t you think?
After that we went on to read some more poems by Kipling, Wordsworth, Emerson in the few hours we spent at the café. And, needless to say, each one of those works of art was exceptional in its own ways.
So, how did I feel at the end of it all? While I was able to appreciate the poets for their genius work, while I was able to take away some wisdom after that endeavor, I can’t quite say that I fully understood the deep meaning of everything we read. And I doubt if I will ever get to that point. All I can do is try, which I will most definitely do. Also, when I have for company a person who will take the time and make the effort to explain to me patiently everything I may not have followed, what more could I ask for?
All in all, it was an evening well spent – I can’t wait to continue this journey that we have embarked upon. And I hope we carry on with this tradition for years to come.