Poetry begins with a lump in the throat’, American poet Robert Frost had said years ago. But the sentiment holds true even today. Bhatnagar’s thoughts scamper around uncomfortably looking for a place to be parked.
In poetry, they find a home. Of Dreams and Mermaids by a former sailor and currently, the managing director of Whole Foods India, 63-year-old Devendra Bhatnagar, puts together 99 poems that present the golden moments from his time at the sea.
He started writing when he was in the seventh grade. At that time, it was all about long sentences that rhymed. Now it’s about small sentences that rhyme with an emotional pose.
“I have always found poetry to be cathartic. The first sentence starts on its own, never by force. During my sailing days, I would always keep a pen and paper to make notes of the sudden thoughts that came, but later I started carrying a dictaphone to record the fleeting ideas. Finally, my smartphone did the job for me,” says Bhatnagar.
A sea of emotions is contained within this new book. The sea has also been a mentor which unfolded life lessons for him, with patience being the most crucial.
“You sometimes have long hours at your end while on the ship, when you’re conducting surveillance on the watch desk. Time stands still. There is silence and darkness and you. You haven’t spoken to your family in days because the only mode of communication then was the radio with sporadic connectivity. Your mind races, there is a lot of brooding, which germinates in the form of poetry for me,” he says.
Besides the calm observations of the sea, some of the pieces specifically describe its formidable might, the things he experienced while on choppy waters, how he kept his emotions in check, in addition to poems about his father, mother and wife and nature notwithstanding human nature and behaviour.
“I use to think of myself as powerful and mighty until 28 years of sailing as part of Scindia Steam Navigation, Barber Ship Management (Wilh Wilhelmsen Group), Seaboard Marine and others, humbled me. I can easily say the sea shaped me,” adds the author.
According to him, going around the world as a sailor drew new horizons closer to his heart and broadened his mind. The vast open expanse of sea and foreign lands enriched his life with new experiences, customs, behaviour.
Bhatnagar, who more than a poet, likes to call himself a wordsmith, already has material for another book ready. Of the 380 poems he has written in 28 months, many are still tucked away in his personal diary.
He says, “When you write a book, you need to be pragmatic. One needs to access if people are enjoying what you’ve created. While the first book is getting appreciation, it’s still too new to say anything. But I hope there will be a place for another one. I sure do have an ocean of thoughts to share.”