An Interview with Predrag Čikarić PDF Print E-mail

by Saša Važić

 

SV:  When I received your haiku submission for Haiku Reality/stvarnost, together with your biography, I immediately thought that there is much one can learn about life from you and what you share with others. In your bio, you speak, openly and without any bitterness, about 40 years of your "fight for life and with life:" the complete paralysis of all extremities and permanent immovability, due to a serous injury of the cervical vertebrae after a jump into the river when you were less than 18 years old . . .  and afterwards, a complete blindness in the last 20 years . . .

I don’t know you, but I know that those who suffer serious injuries most often fall into despair, isolate themselves, languish, and don’t really “live.” It’s, of course, understandable, but how to explain your mindset, living by yourself, where you live, as you say, from your work, and not only that, but that you're also very active in many fields. How?

PČ:  A poet, dreamer and wanderer, former and present man, and a little bit to blame for all that has happened to him on this planet . . . I was born in August, on its seventeenth day, in ’53, in the last century, in a small Rasina village. I love to love, and to encourage others to love, to fight, to persist. I want to help everyone to last in the beauty experienced in a moment of the present, gathering strength for all future life challenges. My carefree youth was cut off by a life fiasco when I was less than 18 years old. During a leisure bathing, a jump into the water of my beloved Rasina River, near Kruševac. Eight minutes underwater (Guinness . . . !???), a serious injury of the cervical vertebrae. I survived – a miracle . . . !?  Complete paralysis, but here I am, still alive - an even greater miracle . . . !??? How? Just the way the rare live in a position similar to mine – by no means vegetating, but meaningfully, sometimes even, it may sound impossible to many, considering my circumstances, more meaningfully than the so-called “normal people.” Initially hard with a full sense of the lack of any perspective, with alcohol and all that goes with it. In such a state, zero is an enormous number, and I was about a thousand below zero. I had to first reach zero. I firmly embraced it, and I moved on from it, putting bigger and bigger numbers in front of it in an attempt to improve the quality of my life under the circumstances. In order to survive, all my life activities became part of my will and all my thoughts, willing constructions to give meaning and imperative in the desire for survival under the exceptional circumstances, which means I had to awaken all my hidden potentials, whereas and in a good measure, the very life gave its share, independent of my will . . . !? This only justifies the thesis that if there is will and motivation, no matter the given life, one gains strength and the desire to succeed. And my successes are those which make me such as I am in all activities I am involved in, that are part of myself, and with which I fight for life and . . . with life.

SV:  Where and how, Predrag, have you found the strength and will to accept your situation and, what’s more, to even turn to helping others (for 12 years you have been President of  “The Paraplegic Association”  for the Rasina district, President of  “The Center for Independent Living of Disabled Persons" of the Kruševac branch, recipient of the Golden Emblem from “The Serbian Union of the Blind” and engaged in a theater as a guide for young disabled persons)? 

PČ:  When I began to engage myself in helping people as a bioenergetic and the one who has the power by his will, which is evident now, I became a “transmitter” with a positive effect on the human body as a very complex cybernetic system . . . ! More and more I felt the need to help people with disabilities as their co-sufferer, aware of their problems, beginning with difficult social conditions to an extremely poor quality of family life. So far, there are no adequate facilities to accommodate severely disabled persons in our country. Here, I primarily mean, paraplegics, people with spine injuries, and it’s no better with other population groups with different diagnosis of serous and terrible forms of disability. In my yard, I have built some premises and fully equipped them by all standards regarding accessibility – access to a wheelchair, an escalator, trails . . . ! At the beginning I was a great enthusiast in that vein, but over time, I came into conflict with political structures because I was not politically polarized. I am still apolitic, and I think I will remain to be . . . I’d prefer not to go into more details with this. Clearly and responsibly, I want to say that line ministries and those who pursue politics in the disability movement in our country have, in my opinion, a lot of authorities they sometimes do not quite focus on adequate protection of persons with disabilities . . . !??? I have not been able to fit into it for some time . . . ! And thus my activities in this direction have recently almost ceased. My engagements in all areas concerning disabled people have been and will always be motivated by the desire to help them. A few years ago, in the Kruševac theater I organized, with the help of my friends, a solemn academy on the occasion of the Third of December: the Day of Persons with Disabilities. In the scope of that program and in the crowded theater I performed my poem ”The Man from a Wheelchair.” Other representatives of disability organizations gave their full contribution with their creative potentials. I am primarily referring to the blind, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and others . . .  All of these activities in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities were recorded by on-line and off-line media. 

SV:  You say that you go in for quantum medicine and that you are a radio-amateur. How come you are interested in these fields? Have you completed any special education? What can you tell us about your work and achievements gained in these areas?

PČ:  The desire for life, the desire for knowledge . . . and when one comes face to face with him/herself in a terribly harsh reality, with all life challenges, he or she either fails or gets supernatural powers. Luckily, power occurred to me – but . . . how? . . . To be honest, the question is always open. I can offer an answer, but I am not sure it would be precise, having in mind all the circumstances in these past 40 years. All I know is that I had to study, to read, to conceive. I have not completed any college education, which does not mean I did not want to, but the overall situation has shown, as evidenced by lives of many people, that school and education do not have to go along. Even if I wished, I was not able to combine these two things due to the given circumstances. I’ll mention a few certificates the very life has created in my struggle for survival: an amateur radio operator certificate for work with all countries of the world – “YU 1 XF,” a honorary member certificate of the unique radio club for the blind - “Luj Braj,” Zagreb - of ex Yugoslavia, Golden Emblem “Filip Višnjić” of the Union of the Blind of our country, a diploma and a certificate for quantum medicine, as well as a honorary member certificate from the same international organization, for the promotion and development of quantum medicine . . . The most important recognition - DIPLOMA OF LIFE – signed by Rector of the Cosmos with possibility for “further doctorating” in the struggle for survival. And what to say, save that haiku is part of my life philosophy, a “mesopotamia” of all read and memorized so far!

In the early nineties I completely lost my eyesight. I had to continue to work in order to survive. In myself I discovered energy with positive effect on the human body. I began to treat and cure people, and to engage myself in quantum medicine. Recently, my energy has been “measured” by a well-known and recognized expert in the field, a biophysicist and Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy from Belgrade, Mr. Ljubomir Ristovski. An Institute for bioenergy is to be founded in our country, where certificates in this field will be given only to those whose ability is recognized by a special “pip camera” used by the reputable Professor.

As for the amateur radio activity, it started less than thirty years ago when the Japanese company from Tokyo, “Yaesu,'' gave an amateur radio station. Japan and haiku again (is it accidentally . . .?!). At the same time, I was given a special phone by the Slovenians – a technological wonder at the time. You did not have to pick up the receiver . . . !? My greatest problem was isolation - complete solitude and loneliness. To solve the problem of communication with the outside world, I started to seek solutions. In 1987, the daily “Politika” published an article under the title ''Traveling Salesman Who Does Not Travel.'' At that time I was able to see with one eye. With a stick between my teeth I dialed phone numbers. To businessmen I was one “small telephone switchboard;“ I knew more than a thousand phone numbers by heart. During the war, I used my amateur radio station and the phone to connect refugees, their families, and all those separated by the war whirlwind. Their religion and nationality were of no importance to me. I helped everyone since I am an altruist and a cosmopolitan by soul, birth and conviction. 

SV:  In addition, you are a bohemian and musician! Well, this is much even for those who alienate themselves in the world of today. Again, how? Would you tell us something particularly, regarding your interest and engagement in music?

PČ:  When it comes to Bohemia, we are all witnesses that it has long since lost all those poetic and tavern smoke-covered attributes under the onslaught of electronics, distorted values, and all that goes with the Internet and cyber tones taking more and more priority at the expense of socializing at taverns. Those bohemians who we admired and, accidentally or intentionally, resembled, are no more.

I am flattering myself, but my friends have recently confirmed that I am right when saying that we resembled the real ones . . . Some small health obstacles incurred, causing me to avoid pubs more and more, and find myself more and more in the mountains, mountain passes – “where  wolves and robbers are frightened!” The beauty of those pure mountain spaces can be described only by haiku with its concise form. As for music, it’s a field I am always active in. I have been engaged in music as far as my memory reaches. I’ve played the harmonica for many years. Before my severe injury, I sang in a cultural and artistic union, and later, wrote lyrics and music for my friends. 

SV:  And besides all that, and perhaps because, or in spite of all that – haiku. Where and how were you introduced to haiku poetry and what is that attracted you to it?

PČ:  It seems to me, and I think the feeling does not deceive me, that I felt haiku---it may seem I am exaggerating---in the earliest days of my youth before my life fiasco. At that time, I went in for martial arts, judo and karate, and I like them a lot. I was one of the first students of these schools in my town Kruševac. At that time, my only wish was to visit Japan, a cradle of martial arts. Even today I still hear deep inside me the words of my then coach about the philosophy of these martial disciplines. He compared it with young plants that, under the onslaught of windstorm, lay on the ground, and when the squall weather abates, they straighten themselves and live their lives. Which means, one should know how to amortize the blows of life and martial arts, which in turn reminds of the beauty of haiku, which is brief, effective, momentary, un-binding, and whose purpose is but to depict the beauty of a moment in a bit of eternity which lasts and reminds us there is something wonderful and, according to unwritten rules, always too short in duration. Is it a coincidence or a response to your question? Is it a coincidence that the Japanese from Tokyo gave me the amateur radio station as a gift, so that I got out of my long isolation? I DON’T THINK SO!

SV:  Where and how do you find inspiration for writing haiku, and how often do you do that?

PČ:  I find inspiration everywhere in every bit of my spatial-temporal reality, which reminds me of the beauty of duration in a brief, pretty, written or oral, form of expression. Deep in myself I feel the beauty of words, the “mesopotamia,” and not just in poetry, but sometimes even in a difficult life prosaic. They say it is typical of us, blind persons.

SV:  Who are your role models regarding haiku poetry?

PČ:  I couldn’t single out any prominent author. Haiku can be written by a beginner, and overwhelm me with the beauty of the moment. I don’t know how others experience this; it is like this with me.

SV:  How and where do you find haiku literature, and what sources do you consider the most important and valuable?

PČ:  As for literature, in recent years mainly my friends have downloaded it from the Internet for me, while all this time I have heard and read a lot in magazines and books for the blind.

SV:  Images in your haiku are the fruits of your imagination or you really "see" them as, for example, in the following haiku?

Ispred oluje                                     Before the storm
proleće, dečak i pas                      spring, a boy and a dog
beže od kiše.                                   run from the rain.

PČ:  I see and feel all images in my own way, characteristic of the blind who were previously able to see. Many will not believe me, but when one loses one’s eyesight, colors and spiritual perceptions become much stronger. As Njegoš said, “Sight interferes with thought and language”. . . I am a big fan of dogs. Before my misfortune, I used to often run with some of my pets along a river . . . so, together with spring and my pets, I flee before the storm and rain right into “haiku reality.”

SV:  This haiku is particularly interesting:

Zeleni vetar                                 

uzglavljem mlade vrbe                

klanja nad vodom

                       

green wind

a willow sapling praying

above water

What is "green wind" to you and how do you see it?

PČ:  The pillow of a willow sapling cracked in my suffering on the river and still prays as a warning. Green wind paints all that is beautiful; the shore and river permanently bear association with youth. The wind sets everything in motion, with no direction or course, creating a magic in the word play that sometimes hurts as a memory of the future, past reality and present existence.

 

SV:  As well as this one:

 

Dvorogi  mesec                           Two-horned moon

opet presreće ponoć                  intercepts again the midnight

iznad izvora.                                  above the well.

 

What is "two-horned moon" to you and how does it "intercept the midnight?"

Where did you "see" this beautiful image?

PČ:  All that I saw somewhere in myself . . . two-horned moon, new moon rising behind the hill, a thin semicircle of its tips can be seen. Both tips symbolize an eternal duality, midnight where day ends and begins . . . and the spring springs and sinks into infinity and duration as an undeniable inevitability, again in flowing away, again in time, in life as the main ingredient of all existence.

 

SV:  Finally, tell us something about your future plans, especially the ones related to haiku poetry.  

 

PČ:  What to say and what to plan after all experienced and already said, but to continue to be in harmony with the cosmos and its cause-effect realities, to live and help, first of all my co-sufferers and all those I can help in a manner justified by God's blessing and the joy of those who need help. Regarding haiku, I wish to, as much as possible, transfer and offer as a gift all those moments of sublime beauty I often feel in myself to all those concerned with haiku variations on the topic of the beauty of a moment. I’d also love to give my share with a small haiku collection and thus join you, experienced and proven authors.

 

SV:  Thank you, Predrag, for finding the time to answer the above questions. I wish for you to continue to fight for such a decent life from which all of us can indeed learn very much.

 

PČ:  I must criticize you a little. You have not asked me the main question. Intentionally or accidentally, you have forgotten love—shame on you . . . !???

Respectfully,

Pera Čikarić aka Don Pero Chikarlone

SV:  Thrilled, stunned and ashamed, I fell silent thinking very loudly: Yes, shame on me! Excuse me! All my previous questions, life, yours and mine, of all of us is meaningless without that single most important, elusive, never reached, indescribable, abstract, and yet, such a pervasive, all-encompassing idea "touchable" only by the soul! 

PČ:  You have said almost everything on the topic, perhaps subconsciously wanting to hear my answer that would, for a nuance, brighten our haiku gathering, to get some more answers that will, in their ultimate inevitability, again ask an eternal question about love, too difficult and painfully simple in finding answers, thus confirming the magic of understatement, despite all vanities. Why “in vain” when love returns everything multiplied? You have asked me questions and I have given you answers; guess then why love, if it is true, cannot be unrequited.

 

Predrag Pera Čikarić
Accidentally or intentionally, I was born twice. The first time when I was really begotten, and the second time, after the life fiasco caused by a jump into the water resulting in serious injuries of my spine on July 8, 1971. An enormous desire to live, despite complete paralysis and blindness. An incredible resistance to all life’s horrors. Where do I find so much strength to jump over the threshold of the impossible and to fight in the ongoing rhythm with life and for life? The only leitmotif: survival at any cost, to brighten life for myself and for others so that everything can be endured more easily . . . !?