Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Mr and Mrs Kamath

Mr and Mrs Kamath. How nice that sounds.

Those of you who have quickly jumped to the conclusion that I am getting married please climb back up. I am not getting married. I am not even sure I would like to be married. I haven't thought all those things through. But some train of thought led to Mr and Mrs Iyer and I suddenly thought why not Mr and Mrs Kamath. How nice that sounds.

Mr and Mrs Kamath. Ah! How nice that sounds. Though Dr and Mrs Kamath would sound nicer and Mr and Dr Mrs Kamath would sound nicer still. But back to Mr and Mrs Kamath. How nice that sounds.

The winter-spring transition is glorious in Bangalore. The sun is just right. The lighting is just bright. Walking about in the toasty sunshine all you want to do is stretch and smile happily. I was telling Vivek today how lucky he was, in this weather, to be married.

There are lots of things to this Mr and Mrs thing. It means breakfast together and newspapers and lots of kids and walks in the evening. It also means lots of other things which I am not thinking about right now. No no, not those things. Those things I am thinking about. But those other things, those other things are what I am not thinking about.

Mr and Mrs Kamath. Ah! How nice that sounds.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

One of my favourite movie songs:

I like to start with Anthras, because there is some kind of an ending of a suspense, a homecoming of a sort, when the Mukhda turns up after the Anthra...

Sharma ke mooh na pher nazar ke sawal par..
Laati hai is makaam par kismat kabhie kabhiee.
Hoti hai dilbaron ki inayat kabhie kabhiee..
Milti hai zindagi mein mohabbat kabhie kabhiee.

Tanha na kat sakenge jawaani ke raaste..
Pesh aayegi kisi ki zaroorat kabhie kabhiee.

khulte nahi hain roz dareeche bahar ke... (dareeche=windows, dar=door)
aati hai jaan-e-man ye qayaamat kabhie kbhiee.

phir kho na jaayein ham duniya ki bheed mein..
milti hai paas aane ki mohalat kabhie kabhiee..

Milti hai zindagi mein mohabbat kabhie kabhiee..
Hoti hai dilbaron ki inayat kabhie kabhiee..

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Ghazal

Part Three.

...Which is why writing about your favourite ghazal is so much more convenient. You can almost point an arrow, as if to a diagram, and say, "Hey! Is'nt this clever?"...

Still, reading a Ghazal is not the same thing as listening to it. The sense of rhythm and balance that goes into a good sher may not always be apparent when you read it. One needs some kind of a musical toe-hold on every Ghazal. Listen to a Ghazal first and you'll like it much more when you read it.

The Ghazal is in general a conversation, of a kind. Between the poet and himself, between the poet and God, between the poet and society in general, between the poet and his lover, between the poet and the person he loves, between the poet and the (imaginary) person he would like to love...In each case the poet contributes to the character and personality of his addressee too. So the conversation is between the poet and the God and the poet , between the poet and his lover and the poet and so on. The intelligence and sophistication of the poet and the object of his Ghazal make for an interesting study. No not study, for this is not a studious essay. They make for interesting casual observations. For example the poet could be talking about someone very sweet and pretty and adolescent or about someone very intelligent and mature. He might resort to charm through words or to resigned admonitions. The poets (resilient) ego is prominent in most Ghazals.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Ghazal

Part Two.

....There are good shers and not-so-great shers in a ghazal. The good shers are the ones that make you sing, memorize, or listen to the ghazal. The not-so-great shers are there to add bulk and consistency to the Ghazal. To give you the general drift of what is going on in the Ghazal. The good shers and the not-so-great shers have a symbiotic relationship. The good shers climb on top of the not-so-great shers in the word-ly pyramid and the not-so-great shers aquire meaning and radiance in the reflected glow of the good shers. Sometimes you will like a Ghazal and it's not-so-great shers even for half a good sher, more likely the second half....

Often you are trying to show off your favourite Ghazals to others. You might play it to them from a cassette or recite it or (heaven forbid) sing it out aloud. In any case it is somewhat difficult to pass through the not-so-great shers when your audience gives you the 'what's-so-great about this not-so-great sher' look. You want to say, "Wait. wait. The best part is yet to come. Wait, wait, you'll like it yet. Wait." When the ghazal is playing on the music system, as the good shers arrive and waft past, you sit still, and almost stop breathing. And you hope your audience will stop chattering for those few seconds and listen!

Which is why writing about your favourite ghazal is so much more convenient. You can almost point an arrow, as if to a diagram, and say, "Hey! Is'nt this clever?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Raghuvamsam and Abhijnanashakuntalam translations are from 'Kalidasa: The loom of Time' by Dr. Chandra Rajan. The Malavikagnimitram translation is from a textbook whose author's name I have forgotten. Will mention it again sometime.

Some time ago, actually quite some time ago, I had posted invocations from two of Kalidasa's plays. Here's one from a third. It is small and simple but full of mysticism, and romance of a kind. It is from the play, Raghuvamsham.

Kalidasa says:

May the Parents of the Universe,
Parvati and the Supreme Lord,
Eternally conjoined as Word and Meaning,
Grant Fittest Utterance to my Thoughts,

Here are the other two for completeness:

From Abhijnanashakuntalam

That First Creation of the Creator *;
That Bearer of Oblations offered with Holy Rites;
That One who utters the Holy Chants;
Those two that order Time;
That which extends, World-Pervading in which sound flows impinging on the ear;
That which is proclaimed the Universal Womb of Seeds;
That which fills all forms that breathe with the Breath of Life.
May the Supreme Lord of the Universe who stands revealed in these eight forms perceptible preserve you.

(*respectively Water, Fire, Priest, Sun and Moon, Space, Earth and Air)

From Malavikagnimitram

May the Lord who,
Though enjoying obsolute sovereignty
From which result many blessings to his votaries,
Yet himself wears an elephant hide;
Who although united in body with his beloved,
Yet excels the ascetics whose minds are free from (pleasures of) sense;
In whom there is no pride,
Although with his eight-fold forms he sustains the universe
- may He remove your state of ignorance
That you may behold the right way.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Ghazal - An essay through observation (as opposed to through research) in three or more parts

Part One.

The physical structure of the Ghazal is perhaps well known to the reader. It consists of several sub divisions called 'shers' similar to the dohas - two liners - of Sufi and Bhakti poetry. The shers of a Ghazal share the common property of having the same last few 'punch'-words in the second line - except for the first sher which has the punch words at the end of the first as well as the second line . The last sher is called the 'maqta' and contains the poet's name in it.

There are no definite lines/flows of thought in a Ghazal. The shers of a ghazal might convey the same mood or tone but sometimes even that does'nt happen. The shers of a ghazal are separate witticisms, independant creative entities bound together only by the slender ties of the same last few sounds. Further the same punch words may carry different meanings in different shers - puns of some kind. Tied at but one point, the different shers flutter about in differnet directions. The more varied and unlikely the directions of the flutter, the greater is glory of the ghazal, the more is the enjoyment of the reader/listener.

The maqta. The last sher. I am cutting and pasting here my thoughts about the maqta as they stood a couple of months ago:

...If I gave up trying to remember the missing sher and did sing the last verse and then remembered the verse that I had forgotten, it wouldn't be any good to sing it. It would be like eating the misplaced roti after dessert.

The last verse, I don't know if there is a technical term for it, is the ultimate thing in the Ghazal. It's the dessert, it's the climax, it's the summing up, the signature, it is so many things. To a singer, rather, to the person who is singing, it gives the maximum pleasure. One can almost feel the near orgasmic, unabashedly Freudian pleasure with which the poet had forged his name amongst beautiful words. Sometimes I don't like poetry when the Poet does not put his name in it....

Though I still agree with most of the above two paragraphs, I no longer think that the maqta is any kind of summing up. For sometime I wondered if it could serve as some kind of a counterpoint, posing an idea different in meaning and tone to the rest of the Ghazal. Now I think it is any random sher with the poet's name in it. But it has to be a special sher, a clever sher, a sher worthy enough to have the poet's name in it. But it need not be apropos to what has been said before in the Ghazal. The maqta perhaps talks more about the poet than about the rest of his Ghazal.

The structure of the Ghazal is ingenious and quite different from the other styles of writing - normal poetry, short story or the Novel (quite an obvious observation, what?). After all what does a literary creator want to do? He wants to display his command over the language, his wit, his sensitivity of thought, his understanding of human nature, his good/bad humour, his powers of observation, his empathy with his fellowmen, his depth of personality. He wants to appeal to be understood, to explain himself, to make himself lovable, prove himself worthy, to communicate. He wants besides to create something unique and artful and aesthetic.

The Ghazal allows the creator to do all these things without also creating a whole lot of supporting structure - characters and settings and plots and descriptions and dates and names and flow of thought. There is supporting structure in Ghazal too, as we will see later, but what I am saying is that the concentration of literary niceties is very high in a Ghazal.

Similarly, for a reader/listener, the Ghazal is more rewarding. One might remember by heart several whole Ghazals by Ghalib but what remains in the memory of Oliver Twist is just a few lines "...If that's what the law thinks, then the law is an ass, a fool." The simple structure of the Ghazal and the high concentration of niceties makes for memorization and for enjoyment.

While the Ghazal poet has his task cut out (I am not sure what 'task cut out' exactly means. If you know the text book meaning of the idom please tell me also), while he has to only create one sher at a time and not bother about incidentalitites, his job is by no means an easy one. Writing shers demands an absolute command over the language and a lot of ingenuity. The barrier to entry is pretty high. For the averagely intelligent person, it is easier to start writing stories and novels but much more difficult to start writing shers and Ghazals. Try both and you will know :-). In Ghazal writing, I am beginning to think, you either have it or you don't, but I hope this is not true.

There are good shers and not-so-great shers in a ghazal. The good shers are the ones that make you sing, memorize, or listen to the ghazal. The not-so-great shers are there to add bulk and consistency to the Ghazal. To give you the general drift of what is going on in the Ghazal. The good shers and the not-so-great shers have a symbiotic relationship. The good shers climb on top of the not-so-great shers in the word-ly pyramid and the not-so-great shers aquire meaning and radiance in the reflected glow of the good shers. Sometimes you will like a Ghazal and it's not-so-great shers even for half a good sher, more likely the second half.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The post before last is a scanned version of one of my stories published in TINKLE about 3-4 years back. I zeroxed the original and scanned the zerox. Didn't want to bring the original to Bangalore - there's a scanning machine at office - from my native place. Orignials of my published work are some of the few things I am really really attached to and I don't cart them around.

I have published some seven stories in TINKLE all more or less of the same quality ;-) as the 'LUCK PLAYS DETECTIVE'. Besides I have published two funny stories in the Women's Era (Don't judge me, I don't know any other magazine that publish longish stories almost unedited), two stories in a children's monthly called Gokulam, one story in The Hindu's Children's section and one in the Youth Express. I propose to put the scans of these one by one on my blog. Or maybe I will create a link where I'll put all my published stuff. Some time ago, I found one of my stories in a TINKLE in a second hand shop. I have that book here in Bangalore. That one story I will scan in colour.

When you send a story to TINKLE, they script it to their own needs. So not more than of your orignial words or dialogues come out in print, which is a bit disheartening. The illustrations are interesting though. Its nice to see the characters you imagined in your mind suddenly come out in colour. The fact that someone else took your work and gave it some kind of flesh and blood is really exciting. Maybe its how a playright feels when someone produces his play. But the playright has more control, ofcourse: the characters say the same things that he writes. Perhaps its more like a movie being made out of a book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Mid-Summer's Day Dream (contd...)

Chapter 3

The secret meeting convened. In TV's room, under the clandestine light of a forty watt bulb. Three glasses were poured. The falling booze-level in the bottle of Scotch borrowed from Dilli's dad was commented upon with regret. The glasses were raised and quickly emptied. "Best before 60 seconds" was inscribed on each glass, the enthusiastic effort of a Saturday some time ago.

They would have liked to linger over the whisky of course, on the familiar wing cot or under the terrace moonlight. But that risk could not be taken. Everywhere, in the shadows, thirsty throats lurked.


TV looked unenthusiastically at his plate - bland cholas with oily, 'unbreakable' bhaturas. More to come were sickly sambaar and boring buttermilk, if you excluded the rainy rasam.

Sitting with him making chompingly sloshy noises, however, were Mannu and Chammo.

Mannu was tearing away at his bhaturas enthusiastically, dipping them gingerly in his chicken gravy. He pinched away stingily from his chicken, wanting the one leg piece to last the entire meal - longer if that were somehow possible.

Chammo had made a nice, big, white, heap of hot, steaming rice. At the summit of this mount perched his chicken leg. Hot, thick, gravy trickled down the slopes. A snow covered volcano had just thrown up a plate of masala-chicken. Chammo dug in carefully and sighed his satisfaction with every mouthful.

TV longed for a nice gult meal with pickle, papad, dal-powder, thick dal-fry, curd and three kinds of vegetables each having taste. This dream meal was just a few minutes walk away, in the gult mess just outside campus, where they would have all gone if today were'nt Thursday.

TV wondered at how the mess cooks screwed up everything in sight. Yet, presumably, they cooked excellent chicken.


They sat drinking on the terrace. This time cheaper stuff and paid for out of their own pockets.

Mannu drank faster than the other two. So he was the least sober.

Chammo winked mischievously at TV. TV winked mischievously back.

"Eh TV! Sometimes Rani looks sexy, right?" Chammo asked TV conversationally. Rani was one of the sweepers employed in the hostel. TV smiled and did not say anything. The question was not meant for him.

"All the time man. All the time" Mannu said. It was easy to get Mannu to talk when he was drunk. "What a complexion, man. What a complexion. Purest Black. Purest Black. The naturally curling hair that she ties in a plait as thick as my arm...as thick as my arm. And those large gold-plated jhumkas of hers. Oh God. She wears them all the time. I don't know why all those posh ladies are not following her fashion example. And the paayal, too. God. And she goes around with that intense unyieldingly belligerent look complete with that dark lipped pout! That dark lipped pout. Can you imagine how it would be to try and seduce her. Can you imagine..."

He took a large gulp and fell silent.

"And her..er..bust..." TV prompted, using the word that Mannu liked to use.

"Her bust. Her bust. The shape her bust makes her dupatta take..." Mannu stopped suddenly. Another train of thought had arrived at his Junction. "I know what you guys are thinking," he said stoically, " Mannu spills everything when he's drunk. Not true. Not true. The drink is only an excuse. I say what I say because I want to - I need to say it...I say it to you because I need to say it to someone "

Chammo was stunned, escpecially at the tones of the 'you' and the 'someone'. His face showed his hurt. TV chuckled good naturedly and took another sip.


Chapter 4

Dilli was lying on the swing in the garden, under the shade of the Mango trees, approaching the end of The Fountainhead with increasing pleasure and relief. He could see no way the book was going to change his life, or for that matter Chammo's even.

When only fifteen pages were remaining, a steady honking started at the gate. Dilli had read a couple of pages inspite of the din when the honking suddenly stopped, the front gate was thrown open and a very attractive girl walked in straight to Dilli.

"Are you deaf as well as heartless?" she asked Dilli. Dilli was sorry and mildly irritated at the same time. "Shhh..I have only thirteen pages left. Sit down, let me finish and then we can talk the whole day."

He had not even looked up from his book though they were meeting after two months. Divya, for that was her name (changed, ofcourse, for confidentiality:-), sat down on the lawn. For the next ten minutes she caused vicious damage to the grass with her right heel.

At last Dilli put the book down, looked at her, smiled, "Okay. I am done. Where do you want to go?"

"Shopping. I need the services of your excellent taste"

"Sure. Anytime. If I am not close to finishing a book that is."

They went out. Dilli got into the passenger seat.

"When are going to learn to drive?" Divya asked "I am dying to have you drive me around."

"Last time I tried there was disaster. The trauma of that accident has'nt worn out yet."

"What trauma. It was just a fracture. Be a man!"

"It is'nt the hurt. I could'nt play for a month. That means a lot to me." He regretted saying it even as he said it. He preferred not to say serious things when something frivolous would do just as well, or better. But what were these 'regrets' he was feeling these days? He was'nt used to regrets. What is happening to me!

"Besides," he said, as if to compensate for the seriousness, "I like being driven around by a girl. There is some kind of hen-peckedness to it that I really enjoy."

"Ha ha ha" Divya half-pretended to laugh, "Hen-pecked? you? Ha ha ha."

They joined the main road.

"Lots of new releases" Dilli said as they passed a cinema hall.

"All crap" Divya said.

"I am glad you think so." Dilli said. He really was glad. He thought they were crap too. He noticed that his approval had made Divya's lips twist in slight smile of pleasure.

"I heard that Chennai girls are ugly" Divya said suddenly with feeling. The traffic light had just gone from red to green, waving some flag, as it were, in Divya's subconscious.

Dilli wondered at this malicious turn to the conversation. "That is not true," he said lightly, "Besides I don't care for looks. Or I would'nt have gone around with you." He always managed to say smooth stuff without sounding too smooth.

Divya laughed.

They arrived shortly but Divya announced she did'nt feel like shopping anymore. "Lets have coffee first."

Divya unendingly stirred her coffee, not looking up from her cup. Dilli became aware of the stirring of strong sentiments.

At last the words were out. "I heard you have a girlfriend in college. Yeah. I found out. Never mind how." It was Dilli's turn at the coffee stirring "I know Sandy (Dilli's original name is Sandeep) that I am not..not worthy of you..whatever that means. I am not as clever as you and I don't even care if I never finish the books I read. I have spent my life doing nothing but having a good time...But I lo..like you Sandy. I have liked you for three years. I just wanted to remind you...to tell you that.

"I am going now. I would have left the car behind for you, but you don't know how to drive."

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Luck Plays Detective
(best viewed with my Netscape Settings ;-)








(Courtesy : TINKLE, India Book House, Mumbai)