I was at the launch of the book of poems The Eastern Boroughs by John Welch at his place in Hackney. John introduced me to Libby Hall, a friend of John Berger, saying that I was the greatest fan of him. I could not agree and said- there must be many admirers like me. Unlike other gatherings I felt at ease and talked with Libby about John. She mentioned a recent unpublished essay of his about his father. I had never read any such essay on his father. Lost in my thoughts I picked up some words uttered by Libby like John whispering to the faded ink of his father's writing. It was too moving. I left early. On my way to Rectory Road Station the above poem was taking shape. I sat on the bench and started scribbling. While writing I was wondering why I was talking to my father in English? Maybe because Berger had inspired it; maybe because there were some words and images founded on my father's skills in photography that may have sounded bizarre in Punjabi. I was breaking bread with the dead as Auden said about writing.
I sent the poem to Berger. He wrote back: I find your poem so beautiful- like an avenue in a city I was wanting to reach. Thank you for it. And tell your father I thank him.
Reading these words from my murshid spiritual guide, I felt reassured that it had worked in English- the akhand sphota- undivided intuitive perception of the whole meaning- as postulated by Bhartrhari, the great Sanskrit linguist of 5-6 century AD.
[Modern Poetry in Translation, Third Series Number Four, 2005