Writer's Blog

Transient Thoughts

Saturday, September 24, 2005

News. For the want of anything else...

The good news is I have achieved my ambition of don't-know-how-many-years by joining singing lessons. The bad news, for the ones in my neighbourhood with (discerning) ears, is that I have bought a harmonium to help me practise. More on this as (if) I make progress.

Meanwhile this is the song that at the moment I would most like to sing with proper sur and taal, and if possible to accompaniment:

A nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. An edited copy-paste from the net. A concentrated lesson in the figures of speech (metaphor, personification, transferred epithet...what not!).

dasht-e-tanhaa_ii me.n ae jaan-e-jahaa.N larzaa.N hai
terii aavaaz ke saaye tere ho.nTho.n ke saraab
dasht-e-tanhaa_ii me.n duurii ke Khas-o-Khaak tale
khil rahe hai.n tere pahaluu ke saman aur gulaab

(Dasht=desert, larzaan hai = are shimmering; saraab=mirages; khas-o-khaak= the leaves and gen debris to be found under trees in the woods; pahalu=thought; saman=flowers)

uTh rahii hai kahii.n, qurbat se, terii saa.Ns kii aa.Nch
apanii Khushbuu me.n sulagatii hu_ii, madham, madham
duur ufaq-paar chamakatii hu_ii, qatraa, qatraa
gir rahii hai terii dildaar nazar kii shabanam

(qurbat se= from close by; aanch=warmth; sulagatii hui= simmering; ufaq-paar=beyond the horizon; qatraa, qatraa=drop by drop; dildaar=generous; shabanam=dew)

is qadar pyaar se, ae jaan-e-jahaa.N rakkhaa hai
dil ke ruKhsaar pe is vaqt terii yaad ne haath
yuu.N gumaa.N hotaa hai garche hai abhii subah-e-firaaq
Dhal gayaa hijr kaa din aa bhii ga_ii vasl kii raat

(rukhsaar=cheek; gumaan=illusion; subah-e-firaaq = the morning (beginning) of separation; hijr=separation; vasl=meeting, union)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I am feeling Lucky

I had decided to take a long walk along the railway line but when I passed the station I saw a small crowd of people waiting for the train. Okay. If the train is going to come I will sit and wait for it. Let me watch it go past and then I will continue with my walk. I cross the station and then cross over to the other side where there is a small hillock/mound of porous rock. There is no one around here except for a few cattle grazing further up the hillock. And from here I will be able to see the train when it comes. I choose a rock to sit on. It is wet and mossy. I spread my kerchief to protect my jeans. There is silence everywhere. Except for the jingling of bells around the necks of the grazing cattle and the occasional motor bike/ rickety bicycle on the dirt road beyond the railway line. In the distance there are the western ghats. Mostly rock, now green with arbit small-time plants - upstarts encouraged by the monsoons. There is a patch of lush green to the left but it is not a meadow where I can go and sleep - it is a paddy field. I don't think there are any meadows in India. Paddy is more profitable than grass. All around me I can hear a murmuring sound which I am guessing is the water seeping down the porous rock. It had been raining just ten minutes ago. The sun is shining now but it can start to rain again any moment. I have an umbrella. Somehwere to the left is a brick buiding, looks like a factory of some kind.

Heaven knows how long I will have to wait for the train. But it is nice to know that I can stop waiting anytime and walk away. And it is nice to know that it is Monday morning and a good percentage of the world is working, while here I am, vacationing. In silence. And at peace.

Shortly I hear some clack-clang noise and realize that is the railway tracks being adjusted to let the train onto the right track - what is the technical term for this? Shortly I hear the horn-whistle and the engine sounds in the distance. But there is no train. Only an engine comes and goes. What is the fun in that? Hmm. Will have to wait some more.

Occasional arbit creatures are crawling on the rocky surface around me. Small green catterpillars. Colourful spider-like insects. Ants. A huge bee, 2 to 3 cm cubed, hovers around sucking nectar from a 10mm squared flower growing on a 3cm long plant. Only sometime ago I was thinking about the 4 billion or so people on this planet and feeling insignifcant. Remembering Gandhiji's words and trying to reconcile myself to them - Nothing that you do is really important but it is very important that you do it - or something like that. And now there are these multi-coloured insects living in their own parallel universe - perhaps unknown to even those humans whose job it is to study animal life - living in spite of humankind.

This whole life on earth thing is so stupefyingly mind-boggling that no one can continue thinking about it for long - atleast I can't. Its overwhelming. There is this huge huge ball of hydrogen with all the hydrogen atoms being so damn restless so as to colide with each other and generate indecent amounts of energy some of which is being used up to incite further unrest. Where did the hydrogen come in the first place? What started the first hydrogen-hydrogen collision? And there are billions and billions of such gas-balls all afire. Wow. What a set-up .

And there is this convenient little planet. There is lots of water. A decent amount of atmosphere. All the useful minerals - iron, silicon, uranium, gold too, to make the girls look all pretty. And lots of good things to eat including fish and garlic. Thank God there is fish and garlic. And reserves of oil and coal and natural gas...

Okay. Time out. This is getting a bit boring. But that day when I sat there in the sun I felt so umimaginably lucky to be part of this horribly complex, yet, elegant "set-up" that I thought it would be interesting to write it all in a post. Which is why this post is named as it is. I also felt lucky for how human society had adjusted itself - to its amazing inventions not to forget culinary accomplishments. But perhaps its more than just luck after all...

On a slightly related note, here's a Calvin and Hobbes joke I read the day before yesterday:

Calvin: I don't understand this business about death
Calvin: If we are all going to die what is the point in living
Hobbes:Well, there is seafood.
Calvin: I don't know why I even talk to you before dinner.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Apnapan", the almost-annual cultural get-together of TI-India happened yesterday, 2nd September. It was the best Apnapan I have ever seen. The highlight for me was the two old Hindi duets - Maang ke Saath Tumhara and Ankhon-hi-ankhon Mein sung by a guy and a girl from the same team. There were two Tamil duets too but I was only vaguely familiar with those songs.

Ah! Duets. The fantasy of every bathroom-singer... More on that later, maybe.

At Apnapan there were these artists who were doing caricatures of people. I have always suspected that I have a caricature-able face. So I decided to get mine made. After sitting for some five-ten minutes with people coming, looking at me, looking at the sketch and smiling-sniggering, the artist finally handed me his efforts. The sketch, though quite flattering :-), did'nt much look like me. Disappointed, I decided that I will attempt a self-portrait/ self-caricature in the immediate future.

That has'nt happened yet but another pending sketching attempt was completed this morning with reasonable success. The below is a sketch of Ghalib from his painting on the cover of a cassette album called 'Bazm-e-Ghalib'. See the original here . I have inscribed my favourite Ghazal from this album: 'Hui Taakhiir to'. Sumeet , you are going to like it. The Urdu transcription is my own so there might be lots of mistakes. The original sketch was with a blue-reynolds on bond paper. The dirty-orange backdrop (similar to the one on the cassette) is due to 'Image Magick' - quite a handy tool.

The English transcription and translations (mine) are at the end.


Hui taakhiir to kuch baais-e-taakhiir bhi tha,
Aap aate the magar koi anaagiir bhi tha.

Taakhiir=delay; baais-e-taakhiir = cause for delay; anaagiir=a person who controls the reins of a horse.
You are late, but has not someone caused your delay?
You do come, but has not someone dropped you here?

Tum se bezaa hai mujhe apni tabaahi ka gila,
Is mein kuch shaaib-e-khubhi-e-taqdeer bhi tha.

bezaa=without reason, gila=complaint, shaaib=hint
Sweetie, you are not entirely at fault for my downfall
Worthy Fate had a charming role to play too

Tu mujhe bhool gaya ho to pata batlaa-doon,
Kabhi fitraaq mein tere koi nakhcheer bhi tha.

fitraaq=hunter's bag; nakcheer=captured prey;
If you have forgotten me darling then let me remind you once more
Of the captured prey that once was in your hunter's bag

Rekhate ke tumhi ustaad nahi ho 'Ghalib',
Kehate hain agale zamaane mein koi 'Meer' bhi tha.

Rekhta=another name for Urdu
Oh 'Ghalib' you are not the only one who has a way with words
Have'nt you heard of the 'Meer' that once lived?

Ghalib's understated tribute to Meer Taqi Meer.
An example of a maqta which has nothing to do with the rest of the Ghazal.