(written on 20th November 2015, the 30th death anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a poet much loved in Pakistan and India)
(Picture by Sunil Janah)
21 November 1984. Faiz Ahmed Faiz came to me in an obituary in the newspaper, The Tribune, when I was a curious high school student preparing for a general knowledge quiz.
1987. Faiz reappeared in a communist march, with his tarana, “Hum mehnatkash jagwalon se jab apna hissa maangeygain,” the equivalent of the Internationale in Hindustani – on my lips.
Faiz came to me a year later, in a small booklet published by some radical outfit that is long gone.
Faiz came to me in his collected poems, “Saare Sukhan Hamare” (“All words are ours”). I made a long trip to old Delhi’s Daryaganj in DTC buses to Raj Kamal Prakashan to procure the newly-published book at the then royal price of Rs 100. It was that difficult and that expensive to buy it. The book still accompanies me, along with the “Diwan-e-Ghalib”, a quarter of a century later.
Faiz’s quatrain, “Raat yoon teri khoyi hui yaad aayi” (“And in such ways your lost memories came as night fell”) became my first painting that I created inspired by a poem.
“Raat yun dil mein teri khoyi hui yaad aayi,
Jaise viraane mein chupke se bahaar aa jaye,
Jaise sehraaon mein haule se chale baad-e-naseem,
Jaise beemaar ko be-wajhe qaraar aa jaaye.” Continue reading “And in such myriad ways your memories come to me, as night falls”
A treasure trove of 80 poems by Paash, rendered superbly into English by poet and translator Hari Singh Mohi is now available online. Here is one short poem from the collection.
If security of the country means only this
That conscientiousness should become
A condition for life,
The presence of any other word than ‘yes’ in the
Pupil of the eye should be obscene,
And mind should keep prostrate before evil moments,
Then the security of the country is a danger to us.
read more poems from PAASH: AN ANTHOLOGY
A few vignettes from a memorial function for Paash held on 10th July at Sunnyvale, California.There is a slightly longer version here.
See also this excellent blog on the leading poet of the ‘jujharu’ tradition in recent Punjabi poetry.
For no reason at all, I was reminded of this poem by Bertolt Brecht. After so many years.
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.
What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
Hopefully, this blog will be activer soon. Meanwhile, read some more poems by Brecht.
We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders.
– anonymous Vietnamese poem
Quoted in The Country Under my Skin: A memoir of love and war, by Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli
Enemy by Mahmud Darwish (RIP)
I was there a month ago
I was there a year ago
I was there always, as if I had never been anywhere else
In the year ’82 of the last century something happened to us, somewhat like
what is happening to us now. We were besieged, we were killed
Continue reading “‘Each Martyr has a Name’”
rahiye ab aisi jagah chal kar jahan koi na ho
humsukahn koi na ho aur humzubaan koi na ho (Mirza Ghalib)
(Let us go to a place now, where no one lives
There is no one to talk to, and no one who understands my words.)
In life, one has to take a decision and choose one’s path at some point. One can take either the road or the rainbow bridge.
I took the dusty road, my friend RK took the bridge and wandered over the heaven on earth- in Ladakh and Kashmir. I do not know, as yet, where the road leads to, but where the bridge leads to is a wonderful place, as the amazing pictures show.
For Vincent Van Gogh
Sunflowers truly are
The self- expression of your
You’ve forgotten to paint
One of the colours of the sun!
– Namdeo Dhasal from The Soul Doesn’t Find Peace in This Regime (1995)
Translated by Dilip Chitre
in Namdeo Dhasal: Poet of the Underworld
published last year. A great book with some fine translations and an introduction to Dhasal and his works. The stunning pictures by Henning Stegmuller provide a visual introduction to Dhasal’s world. My only disconcert with the book is that Chitre entirely washes out Dhasal’s later shift to Hindutva politics. This poem can also be read as an expression of that disconcert.
Related Post: Namdeo Dhasal and the Fall of the Dalit Panther Movement
Technorati Tags: Namdeo Dhasal, Dilip Chitre, Poetry, Dalit, India
Roberto Bolano in his recently translated novel Nazi Literature in the Americas
weaves an entire literary universe filled with imaginary writers and their writings.Not all writers were,however, fans of Hitler or other Nazi leaders or even their ideology. Bolano’s biographies of these imaginary writers, inspired in a way by Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings
, are short- the longest runs into a few pages, the shortest about a page in length. Marked by shar
ply etched portraits of the writers and of their equally imaginary writings, the novel reads like a racy potboiler, except that there is no evident plot in the novel. Only the last story (which readers of Bolano’s novel Distant Star
will be familiar with because it is a summary of the same novel) is somewhat longer and has Bolano himself speaking in the first person and somewhat gives the clues to the underlying impulses behind the novel.
In this he recounts the story of Ramirez Hoffman, a Chilean air plane pilot who seemingly heralded a ‘new era’ in Chilean arts after the coup against Salvador Allende’s socialist government and the establishment of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Hoffman’s poetry is written in the sky using smokes from his air plane thus announcing the new blend of technology and arts as Chile was ‘recovering its manhood’ under a military dispensation.Some of Hoffman’s poems, all one liners written on the skies, read as follows:
“GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE IN DEATH”
“LEARN FROM FIRE”
“Death is friendship”
“Death is Chile”
“Death is responsibility”
“Death is growth”
“Death is communion”
“Death is cleansing” and so on till “Death is resurrection” and the generals themselves realize that something is amiss. It is, however, something far more macabre that leads to his downfall.
Bolano’s prose is marked by the alacrity of flash fiction (which to me is one of the most important developments in literature in the internet age), but nevertheless carries forward the tradition of the serious novel. The absence of an explicit plot in the story does not mean that there is no plot- as a post- modern reading would suggest. Instead, the plot is hidden below the surface, like an underground river.
The point that he makes is that Nazi- like brutality has a long lineage, and it resides perceptibly and imperceptibly in literature as well. Literature is, therefore, a battlefield in the recovery of humanity and is not outside the realm of politics, and neither is politics outside the realm of poetry and literature.
Reading the novel, I could not but relate very much to India where, interestingly, it is rather normal to have politicians, in the tradition of rulers of the past like Bahadur Shah Zafar and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, to double up as poets and writers. It is therefore not unusual that two major contemporary politicians- Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister and a present Chief Minister of Gujarat respectively, belonging to what is easily the closest we have to a fascist political movement, the Bharatiya Janata Party, have some claim to being poets.
To look for Nazi literature in India, one does not need biographies of imaginary writers. In India, they live among us, in our times. The question of literature and politics being separate also does not arise. They are so intricately tied up that both are the same. The nightmare and the muse.
Related Posts on Roberto Bolano
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Technorati Tags: India, Latin America, Literature, Latin American Literature, Bolano, Chile
Sudarshan Faakir, poet and lyricist whose ghazals and some nazms were sung by Begum Akhtar in her last phase and Jagjit Singh in his early phase in the 1970s and 1980s died on 19 Feb in Jalandhar. He will be remembered as one of the significant though minor poets of the language. In context of the language issue, it needs to be remarked that he belonged to the small and diminishing tribe of non- Muslim Urdu poets from East Punjab. Krishna Adeeb, who passed away couple of years back and Joginder Lal (known by his nome de plume Naqsh Lyallpuri) are others that come to mind. His compositions may not have been prolific, but each is remarkable for its profundity and perfection.
Pretty much a recluse, this is one of the very few interviews that one can find on the internet. I have heard that he was associated with the left- progressive circle around NK Joshi in the early 1970s in Jalandhar.
Newsreport about his passing away
One of my own favourites is a film song by Faakir Zindagi main jab tumhare gham nahin the. Another is the one by Begum Akhtar below.
Another ghazal sung by Mohammad Rafi:
This is a popular Jagjit Singh item Kagaz ki Kashti:
You can listen to a good collection here too.
Romanized text of some of Faakir’s poetry at Urdupoetry.
Death, even of dreaded criminals like Suharto
who died today, comes as a shock. It is also a reminder of events- in this case, the slaughter of at least a million Indonesians in the 1960s- mostly communists in a predominantly Muslim country. Outside the officially communist countries, Indonesia had the largest communist party in the world before Suharto brutally decimated it. (news report at npr
Closer home, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Modi- he brought ‘economic development’ and ‘stability’ to the country.
Here is a poem by the great Indonesian poet, WS Rendra written during the 1998 student demonstrations that brought down Suharto.
Because we have to eat roots
while grain piles up in your storeroom…
Because we live crowded together
and you have more space than you need…
Therefore we are not on the same side.Because we’re all creased and crumpled
and you’re immaculate…
Because we’re crowded and stifled
and you lock the door…
Therefore we are suspicious of you.
Because we’re abandoned in the street
and you own all the shelter…
Because we’re caught in floods
while you have parties on pleasure craft…
Therefore we do not like you.
Because we are silenced
and you never shut up…
Because we are threatened
and you impose your will by force…
therefore we say NO to you.
Because we are not allowed to choose
and you can do what you like…
Because we wear only sandals
and you use your rifles freely…
Because we have to be polite
and you have the prisons…
therefore NO and NO to you.
Because we are like a flowing river
and you are a stone without a heart
the water will wear away the stone.
As to the barbaric political repression under the former general, Tariq Ali quotes the Indonesian writer Pripit Rochijat:
Usually the corpses were no longer recognisable as human. Headless. Stomachs torn open. The smell was unimaginable. To make sure they didn’t sink, the carcasses were deliberately tied to, or impaled upon, bamboo stakes. And the departure of the corpses from the Kediri region down the Brantas achieved its golden age when bodies were stacked together on rafts over which the PKI [Indonesian Communist Party] banner grandly flew . . . Once the purge of Communist elements got under way, clients stopped coming for sexual satisfaction. The reason: most clients–and prostitutes–were too frightened, for, hanging up in front of the whorehouses, there were a lot of male Communist genitals–like bananas hung out for sale.’
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Technorati Tags: Suharto, Politics, Indonesia
I am over at Pak Tea House
today, talking of an old
, eternal and beloved topic- the poetry of Mirza Ghalib.
Thanks to Raza for having me there- the tea house is a home of sorts having spent some of my best days during college in similar abodes. The Pak Tea House, of course, is in a different league altogether!
Technorati Tags: Urdu, Poetry
Roberto Bolano’s posthumous onslaught on the US literary scene continues. Boston Review has published a poem My Life in the Tubes of Survival
That the saucer and I had finished our ridiculous dance,
Our humble critique of Reality, in a painless, anonymous
Crash in one of the planet’s deserts. Death
That brought me no peace, so after my flesh had rotted
I still went on dreaming.read the full poem
The New Yorker has a superb short story about a fictitious Argentinian author:Álvaro Rousselot’s Journey.
It has all the elements of a Roberto Bolano story- fast paced sequences written in exquisite prose and an ending with a dramatic twist. A short extract from the story:
But the action of that sinister and eminently sardonic character Time has prompted a reconsideration of Rousselot’s apparent simplicity. Perhaps he was complicated. By which I mean more complicated than we had imagined. Or, there is an alternative explanation: perhaps he was simply another victim of chance.
Such cases are not unusual among lovers of literature like Rousselot. In fact, they are not unusual among lovers of anything. read the full story (about 10 pages long)
Related posts on Roberto Bolano on this blog.
Technorati Tags: Chile, Argentina, Short Story, Latin American Literarure, Literature, Short Story, , Poetry