01 January 1970

Poem: The Red Book

Weekend Reads

Poem: The Red Book

Satyarth Pandita writes a poem for Outlook.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A book arrived one fine morning,
Bound in red mystery.
No title, no name,
Sent by an anonymous sender,
Written by an anonymous author.

In an instant, I knew the book,
The one that frequented my dreams,
Time and again. Elusive yet familiar.
It contained the answers,
To the questions I chased,
Like a restless hound.

“Beware,” the initial leaflet whispered,
With no numerals to guide the way,
“The quest for answers is a double-edged sword.
To such an extent, you will savour the book,
But with equal measure, loathe it at its close.”

Curious to know,
The end from the very beginning,
I skipped to the last, but
The pages did not turn,
The book did not consent,
One answer at a time,
The book seemed to say.

I do not remember the day,
When I began reading it,
And I do not know what day it is today,
The days blurred, and time slipped my grasp.
It seems like, 
An eternity passed within those lines.
Each character read like an hour
Every word, a day
Every sentence a year, 
And every page, an entire lifetime,
Stretching time and reality.

I do not know,
Which of the two is true?
Am I a part of the book’s reality? 
Or is the book a part of my dream?
I wonder, but the thought does not trouble me,
For I do not wish the journey to end,
Knowing what awaits at its culmination.

With trembling hands, I neared the last page,
Bracing myself for the culmination of the journey,
Much to my surprise, 
The last page remained blank,
Bereft of any text or truth.

Leaving me with more questions than answers,
An incomplete void yearning to be filled.
And then,
A voice echoed, 
“Wake up, traveller. ‘Tis is but a dream.”
I awoke in my room, 
With the red-bound book, 
Clutched in my hands,
No title, no name, still uncertain:

Am I a part of the book’s reality?
Or is the book a part of my dream?

(Satyarth Pandita’s short stories, essays, articles, and poems have appeared in publications like Outlook, The Quint, Madras Courier, and Kitaab, among others.)