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“A thing of beauty is joy forever.”
When I first read that line, I was 12 years old and was amazed at its beauty. It was a beautiful thing to say and said in a beautiful way. However, I thought long and hard to understand what it meant – is it always true? Can a beautiful thing always make you happy?
I wrote down a list of things I thought are beautiful to me, a list I remember vaguely now. I certainly put these down
– mom’s hands, cupcakes, roses, box of colours, big clouds on blue sky, rain, a green floral – fruity dress I saw on TV, books! – I pondered over each one and it was true – these things will always bring me joy, that I was sure of. (Tell you a secret – that green dress on TV, I still love it!) So this man’s a genius! He could tell things like he knew people, he knew life, like he knew me.
I liked the poem but more than that, I was interested in the life of John Keats. Also I thought his name was beautiful and I knew his name will bring me joy whenever I hear it, for it’s a thing of beauty.
I wasn’t wrong there. I was the happiest girl on earth when I saw that plaque and entered the house where this man once lived, breathed, ate, laughed, maybe cried. He walked this garden where I walk today. Only time separates us but this beautiful poet who is the reason I first fell in love with the word ‘poetry’ is right here.
I imagined erasing the time boundary between us. It was a quiet day, like any other I would guess but it was also pleasant with a slight drizzle. If only I could erase the time boundary, John Keats would be sitting there – on that bench, well dressed and looking good. I wouldn’t want to be the reason an ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ was never written so I choose a day after the poem’s written.
I imagine Keats distracted by the sound of footsteps approaching him from the entrance to the house. I see that he sees an Indian girl enter this house – 10 Keats Grove today. Would he be amazed at an Indian girl entering this house? Would he be curious? What questions would he ask me? Does he want to know things about India? Has he met anyone from India before, in his lifetime? If I told him stories about India, would he want to visit it? Would he believe me if I said I was from 200 years later and was at the house only for him and him alone? Would he believe me if I told him that he’s the first person to open my mind to beauty and link it with joy? And he’s the reason I have always smiled at beautiful things like flowers and birds and trees and presents and friends and laughter?
Would there have been a long conversation? Or would he have just ignored this strange looking foreigner? Would there have been a ‘On Meeting a Woman from India’?
I like imagining, things sometimes seem so true even when imagined and then there’s deja vu when it comes true. I once imagined I’d walk around this house and it came true. I hope, that my meeting with him happens soon too – it’s a silly dream, but that’s how dreams are meant to be.
If anyone asks me what is the one thing I know for sure – it is that ‘a thing of beauty is joy forever” And this day, the 14th of July was a beautiful, beautiful day.