Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hazaaron khwahishein…

The immortality and the relevance of Ghalib (18th Century) even after so many years, generation after generation, are almost supernatural. His verses, also often referred to as sonnets, though written in Urdu (in the Persian script) speak a language that cut across all barriers. The meaning they convey appeals to the emotions and touches the lives of many, across all barriers of culture and linguistics.
“Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikle,
Bahot nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle.”

Bollywood introduced me to Ghalib at a very young age;
“Woh aaye ghar mein humaare khuda ki qudrat hai
Kabhi hum unko kabhi apne ghar ko dekhte hain”

But, that time, such shaayari only meant a fanciful set of urdu words put together to romanticize a seemingly mundane circumstance. I also associated Ghalib’s shaayari with lovers. A true lover should recite beautifully sounding couplets. (Though years later, when I did marry, the guy did not recite any such ghazals, and I did not remember that he had to!)
“Zindagi yun bhi guzar hi jati
Kyon tera rahguzar yad aya”

My first formal rendezvous with Ghalib happened in college, quite accidentally I must say. Searching for reference material on Chaucer in the college library, I chanced upon this old book with English translations of Ghalib’s selected ghazals. I soon found myself devouring each page. Each word so evocative, suddenly I could almost associate with the passion with which Ghalib had written.

“Khaamoshi mein nihaan khun gashta(h) laakhon arzuen hain
Chiragh-e murda(h) hun main be zaban, gor-e ghariban ka”
(Hidden in the silence are millions of desires that have been bled out;
I am just a silent, snuffed out lamp at the grave of a stranger)

In the fast paced tracks of studies, career and marital bliss, though Ghalib was pushed to the margins, he continued to dwell in a very special corner of my life.
“Meherbaan ho ke bulaa lo mujhe, chaaho jis waqt
Main gaya waqt nahin hun kih phir aa bhi na(h) sakun”

And Ghalib did return, where I would have expected the least. A fantastic library in Schaumburg, IL, chiseled wood shelves, second floor section on literary criticism and the book, “Love Sonnets of Ghalib: the first complete English translation, explication, lexicon, and transliteration of Ghalibs’s sonnets” by Dr. Sarfaraz K. Niazi. I was thrilled. Three weeks I spent immersed in his work. Each couplet so exquisitely crafted and drenched with varied sentiments that come alive in you as you read. Not a pro at Urdu, the English translation provided me with the tools to appreciate the poetry of Ghalib in much greater detail.

“Gardish-e rang-e tarab se dar hai
Gham-e mahrum’i javed nahin”
(I am afraid of the changing state of joy,
No fear there is for the despair of life)

The mystery and magic of his two line couplets remains unequaled as they range from spontaneous expression to extremely complex and convoluted poetic renderings. The nuances, the similes, the traps, archaic constructions, extrapolation of the humdrum of life to momentous events, the subtlety of expression and the profundity of thought make Ghalib one of the most fascinating and interesting poets of all ages.
“Us falak ke teer ka kya nishana tha
Jahan thee meri manzil wahin mera aashiyana tha
Bas pahunch hi rahi thi kashti saahil pe
Is toofan ko bhi abhi hi aana tha”

I could go on about Ghalib, but the fact is that the uniqueness and the sheer ingenuity of his creations leave a firm imprint in the heart and mind of his readers. Much has been written and said about his personal life as well which provides a sort of context for his writings but with or without context, Ghalib appeals to me in a way no other poet does. He remains an unsurpassed virtuoso who has enriched the world of literature immensely...his own couplet as a tribute to him…
“Jan di, di hui usi ki thi
Haq to yun hai kih haq adaa na(h) hua”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Autumn Hues...

I am simply in love with the changing colors of leaves in the fall. The exquisite beauty of the chromes, auburns, oranges, yellows, deep-reds leave me wonder struck. The charm of nature never stops seizing my heart so much so that a simple drive to the local grocery store during this time of the year amazes me.

I have spent many moments, consciously and unconsciously, trying to understand this unique phenomenon of nature. Not that I don't love spring; spring's supposed to be splendid, but the magnificence of the autumn hues mystifies me.

In my mind and heart, I associate the fall to the necessary decline and end of life to make way for new life. It's the rhythmic cycle of life; what is born must grow and reach its zenith, and then humbly take a bow on the stage of life. New life is born again. Thus, the trance of life and death continues, extending into each other, as if one was a part of the other. The exuberance of the leaves just before they become one with the ground they grew on is a miracle that I think teaches us a very important lesson. Exactly how the last song of the swan is the sweetest and how a flame burns the brightest just before extinguishing, you should live life to the fullest and not be scared of the end; live your prime always - spring, summer, autumn, because the winter is a necessary phase of the cycle followed by spring again. Let not your mind or heart fear of entering the winter of your life.

Each season of life brings with it renewed hope and belief. Effervescent spring gives way to cheerful summer that leads to the wonderful fall that brings the chilling winters and finally takes us to the elixir of spring again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Justice for Sowmya Viswanathan

The callousness and insensitivity of the law makers and law enforcers in the country (India) drive me insane.

A young girl on her way back from home late night/early morning is shot dead. Instead of focusing all effort towards nailing down the culprit, we are discussing whether women should go out in the night or not, whether they should get options to work from home or not. All these useless deliberations are disgusting to say the least. Dear CM, your city is not safe anytime of the day for person of any gender. It doesn't matter if it's 3 AM or 3 PM. Doesn't matter a man or a woman.

When a woman goes out to work and stays late to meet deadlines, she is not being "adventurous", she's being competitive in a world which is not lenient to her because of her gender and the threats it exposes her to. Sheila Dikshit's remarks simply expose the hypocrisy of the social mindset.

We want to so desperately prove ourselves to the rest of the world, we shout slogans on equality of men and women, we raise our daughters to take on the world like our sons do and then when the perverted miscreants strike, our disintegrated social thread slaps us on our faces and we are quick to recoil back into our narrow mindsets and try looking for easy answers. "We all know Delhi is unsafe - why work till late".

Yes, we also know a woman can be raped in broad daylight, we know a CEO can be lynched in front of a 100 people, we know a bomb can explode at 6:00 PM on Saturday evening before Diwali, we know we can be murdered sitting in the comfort of our house, we know we can be run over by a speeding bus or a drunk son of a business tycoon/politician. So what do we do with this knowledge repository? Just accept that we live in times of total anarchy and not work, not shop, not relax, not live life?
What makes the whole situation more hurtful is that this does not come from an ordinary not-so-educated house wife who is worried to death about the safety of her working daughter, but the Chief Minister of the capital of the country who has been elected and entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the citizens safe and punishing the criminals.

I pray to god that this time the government and the law surprise us by taking speedy action to provide justice to Sowmya because this is not about Sowmya alone, it is about Neha, Priyanka, Pooja, Yuvika, you, me and all citizens, man or woman alike.

When I step out of home I should not be worried about the uncle who is waiting to feel me up in the crowded DTC bus, I should not be tensed about eve-teasers and robbers on the 2 minute walk I might have to take alone from the bus stop to college, I should not panic when my classes or even movies get extended wondering what awaits me in the darkness of the night, I should not worry my self sick when my parents go out for diwali shopping, I should not be anxious if my daughter is held up at work in the wee hours. Is that too much to ask for Ms. Dikshit?


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