Above: Professor Inderjit Nirdosh has written poetry since childhood, though few at Lakehead knew until he became an overnight sensation in India
How many engineers-slash-poets do you know? If you went to Lakehead University sometime in the last 30 years, you may know at least one.
Inderjit Nirdosh, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Lakehead, has seven mining-related patents to his name. He is the co-recipient of Lakehead University's inaugural Distinguished Researcher Award, and various prestigious teaching awards such as the Leadership in Faculty Teaching (LIFT) Award from the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities; a Distinguished Instructor Award from Lakehead University; an Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Teaching Award; and a 3M National Teaching Fellowship.
And, as it turns out, Professor Nirdosh has also written three books of poetry. Eight of his poems were put to music for Shankar Mahadevan's latest album, Teri Hee Parchhaiyan, which loosely translates to "Your Reflection: Oh' God", released in July 2011.
What you may not know is that Mahadevan is one of India's most popular singers and Bollywood stars; it would be as if Michael Jackson had stumbled upon his book of poetry and put it to music during the height of his popularity.
"Overnight, my lyrics were all over India," Nirdosh said. "It's an honour that he sings these."
Until recently, his students and even most of his colleagues had no idea that Nirdosh wrote poetry, never mind that he was now famous in India.
"It wasn't designed to be a secret, it's just that the topic never came up," he said. "I write for my own pleasure."
Nirdosh writes what are called ghazals. The ghazal is an ancient form of poem or lyric with its roots in Persian culture that is popular today in India and Pakistan. It is usually comprised of five or more rhyming couplets. Although the meter can vary from ghazal to ghazal, it is consistent within the lyric.
Each couplet tells a complete "story" in itself, and together they support each other to tell a larger story. It is, as Nirdosh describes it, a delicate poem about romantic love and ultimately how that love simply reflects love of God.
Nirdosh writes his ghazals in Urdu, but using the Hindi alphabet. He has plans to learn Urdu script during his retirement.
Although the average person may believe that chemical engineering and poetry are completely different, Nirdosh said that any inspiration comes from the same source.
"These are just messages from God," Nirdosh said. "Sometimes you are in tune and you get that message, that inspiration, and you scribble it down. That could be a lyric or it could be a mining process."
Nirdosh's life as a lyricist may have just come to light, but his love of music is certainly no secret. He and his wife Usha started the Raag-Rung Music Circle shortly after they moved to Thunder Bay, along with the Naimpally family. It's an opportunity to share classical Indian music and dance with the community.
There is some talk already of another album featuring Nirdosh's lyrics. But he has no thoughts of becoming a full-time lyricist. Both chemical engineering and poetry are passions of his that he loves.
"All of these are blessings," Nirdosh said. "Art is the expression of something worthwhile in a very delicate way, in a very pleasing way."
"On Cloud Nine"Written and Translated by Inderjit Nirdosh
Your lips are like flower petals, winds become fragrant touching them
Your intoxicating eyes, so deep, that the depths of lakes drown in them
When a beautiful flower-bearing branch supples and bends with elegance
You seem gracefully stretching and twisting, and I feel your presence
The dark clouds and the fragrant flowers and this place, this space
Have refreshed your bewitching beauty in my memory, giving solace
O' God! Please grant me with a sight so blessed and divine
That I see your reflection everywhere, and be on cloud nine
Listen to one of the songs, Khoon Ke Ashk, on YouTube.