Monday, January 25, 2016

Africa.. ~ Sebastião Salgado

 I looked through a lens and ended up abandoning everything else.

 When I was just starting out, I met Cartier-Bresson. He wasn’t young in age but, in his mind, he was the youngest person I’d ever met. He told me it was necessary to trust my instincts, be inside my work, and set aside my ego. In the end, my photography turned out very different to his, but I believe we were coming from the same place.

 Roland Barthes, in his book Camera Lucida, stated that photography, rather than film or television, is the collective memory of the world. As I see it, he’s right about this. Photography immortalize a moment, which then becomes a symbol, a reference. Photography is universal language; it doesn’t need translation. Its collective memory is a mirror in which our society continually observes itself.

 I’m not an artist. An artist makes an object. Me, it’s not an object, I work in history, I’m a storyteller.

What I want is the world to remember the problems and the people I photograph. What I want is to create a discussion about what is happening around the world and to provoke some debate with these pictures. Nothing more than this. I don’t want people to look at them and appreciate the light and the palate of tones. I want them to look inside and see what the pictures represent, and the kind of people I photograph.
 You photograph with all your ideology.

 There comes a moment when it is no longer you who takes the photograph, but receives the way to do it quite naturally and fully. You need to be accepted by reality.

  The picture is not made by the photographer, the picture is more good or less good in function of the relationship that you have with the people you photograph.

If you take a picture of a human that does not make him or her noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things.

We are animals, born from the land with the other species. Since we’ve been living in cities, we’ve become more and more stupid, not smarter. What made us survive all these hundreds of thousands of years is our spirituality, the link to our land. In the end, the only heritage we have is our planet, and I have decided to go to the most pristine places on the planet and photograph them in the most honest way I know, with my point of view, and of course it is in black and white, because it is the only thing I know how to do.

 ~ Sebastião Salgado

Monday, December 21, 2015

To G.N.Balasubramaniam, The Love Of My Life.. ~ From M.S.Subbulakshmi


To the love of my life..
To my love who has taken over my life, body and soul..
To the person who had taken hold of my life and yet allowed me to languish..

All I want is to feast my eyes upon you. You on the other hand would not even raise your head to look at me. Can you fathom how this torments my mind? I simply wither away.

I hug your photograph and weep. Would that photograph speak to me, my kanna?

In my house there is no happiness for me. There are only problems … My mother is likely to be alive only for a few more years. My elder brother is my enemy. The younger sister is all right … I will not hide anything from you. I have not been happy so far. But I am alive because I am here. 

Kanna, to write all this I found some time only today … One thing is the absolute truth. Your happiness is mine, kanna … You may ask me what I was doing earlier. I suffered.

Even when the film is over,I will not get separated from you. Please do not unnecessarily test me. After the film is over, we will be together … The love I have for you will never change. After I die, you will realize that. My life from birth has been one of travails … Naan paavi.. I must have committed great sins to suffer like this. If I had stayed in Madurai, I would have died long ago … there is nobody to whom I can speak and cry out. I dream of you daily. Do you? … When you happen to touch me in the course of our acting together, I think to myself, ‘This is my Lord’ and then feel elated. I don't want anything else in life. I only want your love. 

If you are generally happy with me, that will give me the greatest pleasure. I do not know what people back at home would do to me. It was predicted by the astrologer that the immortal Pushpavanam would have a long life. Yet he died at a young age. I will go in the same manner. It is better that I am dead.

At least now, when the duet is picturised will you avoid the natural inclination of physical contact?

The kutchery was no good. No music other than yours gets into my ears. This is the unvarnished truth. I must sing exactly like you. Even after the film is over, I am sure you are going to continue to teach me music.

Henceforth even for a moment I will not be separated from you.

From Kunju, who worships you..
My love, my very life, I kiss your handwriting and your music..
I will never leave you, en Kanna..

~ M.S.Subbulakshmi

(Excerpted from the Appendix of the Book, “M.S. : A Life in Music” by T.J.S. George, published by HarperCollins, 2004) 

(G.N.Balasubramaniam was born in 1910 and died at the age of 55 in 1965.

M.S.Subbulakshmi was born in 1916 and died at the age of 88 in 2004.)

G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.S.Subbulakshmi in the movie "Shakuntalai" 
Directed by Ellis R.Dungan in 1940

Thursday, December 17, 2015

To Véra, With Love.. ~ From Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir with Véra in 1924

Prague, 13 August 1924

To  Véra..

My delightful, my love, my life,

I don’t understand anything: how can you not be with me? I’m so infinitely used to you that I now feel myself lost and empty: without you, my soul. You turn my life into something light, amazing, rainbowed—you put a glint of happiness on everything—always different: sometimes you can be smoky-pink, downy, sometimes dark, winged—and I don’t know when I love your eyes more—when they are open or shut. It’s eleven p.m. now: I’m trying with all the force of my soul to see you through space; my thoughts plead for a heavenly visa to Berlin via air . . . My sweet excitement . . .

Today I can’t write about anything except my longing for you. I’m gloomy and fearful: silly thoughts are swarming—that you’ll stumble as you jump out of a carriage in the underground, or that someone will bump into you in the street . . . I don’t know how I’ll survive the week.

My tenderness, my happiness, what words can I write for you? How strange that although my life’s work is moving a pen over paper, I don’t know how to tell you how I love, how I desire you. Such agitation—and such divine peace: melting clouds immersed in sunshine—mounds of happiness. And I am floating with you, in you, aflame and melting—and a whole life with you is like the movement of clouds, their airy, quiet falls, their lightness and smoothness, and the heavenly variety of outline and tint—my inexplicable love. I cannot express these cirrus-cumulus sensations.

When you and I were at the cemetery last time, I felt it so piercingly and clearly: you know it all, you know what will happen after death—you know it absolutely simply and calmly—as a bird knows that, fluttering from a branch, it will fly and not fall down . . . And that’s why I am so happy with you, my lovely, my little one. And here’s more: you and I are so special; the miracles we know, no one knows, and no one loves the way we love.

What are you doing now? For some reason I think you’re in the study: you’ve got up, walked to the door, you are pulling the door wings together and pausing for a moment—waiting to see if they’ll move apart again. I’m tired, I’m terribly tired, good night, my joy.

Tomorrow I’ll write you about all kinds of everyday things. My love.

~ Vladimir Nabokov

    Véra with Vladimir in 1968

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bulleh Shah : Enough of Learning, My Friend!

Bulleh Shah

Enough of Learning, My Friend!

Enough of learning, my friend!
An alphabet should do for you

To it there is never an end
An alphabet should do for you
It’s enough to help you friend
Enough of learning, my friend!

Enough of learning, my friend!

You’ve amassed much learning around
The Quran and its commentaries profound
There is darkness amidst lighted ground
Without the guide you remain unsound

Enough of learning, my friend!

Learning makes you Sheikh or his minion
And thus you create problem trillion
You exploit others who know not what
Misleading them with wild opinion

Enough of learning, my friend!

You meditate and you say your prayers
You go and shout at the top of the stairs
You cry reaching the high skies
It’s your avarice which ever belies

Enough of learning, my friend!

The day I learnt love’s lesson
I plunged into the river of divine passion
An overwhelming gale. I was confused and lost
When Shah Inayat cruised me across

Enough of learning, my friend!

~ Bulleh Shah Qadri 

(Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri : 1680 ~ 1757)

(Translated from Punjabi by Kartar Singh Duggal)

The Mausoleum of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah at Kasur, Pakistan

The Tomb of Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah

Ilmoun Bas Kari Oo Yaar :  Enough of Learning, My Friend!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Faiz Ahmad Faiz : A Letter of Love

Faiz Ahmad Faiz with Alys and their daughter Salima Hashmi

(Letter dated May 23, 1952, Faiz wrote from Hyderabad Jail to his wife Alys)


I am sorry I was not able to write last week. We were all rather busy as Manzoor Qadir was here and lots of things had to be gone into. It was nice to see him even though we could hardly exchange a word beyond legal discussion of the case. I could not even send my greetings to our friend Asghari and you can do it for me.

I am very much behind in my correspondence with you because I have had three letters from you but that leaves me feeling richer and happier although a trifle ashamed. I shall try to make myself even if I can. One reason for not writing, strange as it may seem, is the intense nostalgia that the present here inspires for things that one holds and has held dear. These nostalgic day dreams are so tender and pleasant and warm that one does not feel like disturbing their flow. You will say that this is my typically mean way of justifying laziness and self-indulgence and I know that you are right. I think I have written before that prison life does accentuate petty selfishness. I have never understood that psychology of purdah women as well as I do now. It is the normal psychology of a prisoner.

I understand the pettiness, the preoccupation with small grievances that seem to occupy the whole universe, the oblivion to larger impersonal issues, the selfishness and the self-pity, the spitefulness and the temper, the silliness and the servility, spells of paralysis and feverish activity – all this is the usual concomitant of suppressed and confined living and not very easy for free people to understand.

Life has its surprises, however, even here. The other evening I switched on the Radio to listen to some Indian music from Delhi (what our own Radio calls music is no more than a collection of amateur screechings because real talent like Rafiq, Pukhraj, and Anwar etc: seems to be banned) and do you know what I got? You can never guess. Yehudi Menuhin, perhaps the greatest violinist of all times, playing Bach and Pagannini in the auditorium of the Indian Film Festival. It made me angry and jealous and sad when I thought about it later. This country is now nearly five years old and in five years we have not given the people one real exhibition of anything of beauty, of culture, of ennobling pleasure. And yet there has been no dearth of ‘tamashas’. But all that we can think of is to collect some silly old grey-beards from all over the world, make them talk a lot of bilge that no one cares a damn farthing about, give a few people an opportunity for lots of eating and lots of shouting and then forget all about it. India may be a bigger country but culture is not a matter of size but of the ways of living and thinking, and why should the people of this country not be given a chance at least to look at culture even if they can’t live in it. Anyway it will all come some day perhaps and perhaps I shouldn’t be talking about it.

I was talking about surprises. Last week one of the youngsters with us whom we have been teasing for eating sweets in secret received ‘gajar ka halwa’ from his village which he had ordered in pique. Do you know how much it was – literally a cartload, 3 big canisters of about 20 seers each. Over a maund of ‘halwa’! Just think of it! And it must have taken many more maunds of carrots and sugar and ghee to make, for it is very condensed. We have been trying to imagine the scene of preparations in the village, wagons of carrots undulating, cauldrons of ghee, mountains of wood and the whole countryside astir! It will probably go down in history as a legend, perhaps songs and stories will be written about it, for never in the history of mankind has 1.5 maunds of ‘gajar ka halwa’ been made in one go and for no more than 15 people! So we eat in morning, noon and night.

It is again cloudy and windswept and cool. I hope it holds until you come because it is really pleasant, but for the regrets. But it is silly to regret what was and might have been. What was and might have been, might have been better or it might have been worse but it can be no different now by wishing. What is and will be can be different and better, depending on ourselves, and we shall make it so. Everything else being the same my astrologer and the old woman (who is she?) should not be far out. So let us wait for a few days more.

I am glad of the friendliness of my geisha girls (your accounts of them were a source of constant amusement here and I swagger about it a lot. The chaps here think you must be a hell of a guy to stand all this nonsense and not mind. I don’t put them wise because that will make both of us go down in their estimation a lot) and it is also good to find that there are at least one or two people like ‘the smile’ – besides one’s wife and children – to whom one’s presence or absence matters a little. It is surprising to find how few friends one really has but even one or two is a great wealth in times like the present. I am talking of purely personal friends, for of friends in general the whole world is full.

Janjua’s child is o.k. now. She had bronchial pneumonia but is quite recovered and the family has gone to Karachi for a few days. He has asked me to thank you for the enquiry which he will convey to his wife.

I have got the missing P.T. The audience here has a criticism of the children’s page in the last two issues: too much of the Commonwealth and too little of the rest of the world. I know the reason, of course – availability of material but I am forwarding the opinion to show you that people are interested in your doings. So you have met Mrs. FDR. I think the remark you quoted is a compliment to her, not to you. She certainly never managed to earn her living in a foreign land and her writing, from what I see of it in the Dawn, does not come within a hundred miles of yours. (I don’t think I intend letting you return to the dish washing now. I propose being ‘Mrs Sheikh Ahmed’s’ husband sort of thing for a change. I felt rather upset by the news of her return, by the way. If I have to see her in Lahore again it will take away half the pleasure of being back home).

So old Hashmi is going to the States. It is a pity I am in the jug or I could have given him some nice introductions. Incidentally Zelma Brandt is the nice old America woman who came to Lahore 3 or 4 years ago and I took her round the town. I think you met her because I brought her home for lunch. Please do write to her returning the ‘love’ and tell her I wouldn’t mind hearing from her if she cares to write. I hope your fears about old Steve are ill-founded. In fact this is precisely why I want to write to him – to see if he is still there. I thought of him because I was very upset to hear of the death, first of old Dickinson and then young Latif – such pleasant, good and loveable persons both of them.

Apart from the books I mentioned, if you can borrow I. A. Richards (any of his three books Principles of Criticism, Practical Criticism or Meaning of Meaning) and any book on Indian history, please being them along too. Otherwise it doesn’t matter. Re table-cloths, I meant ordinary small teapot covers. I don’t think there is anything else that I want except you and the pigeons. And I am now waiting for you happily and content.

I am glad Apa had the goodness not to mention your illness and you did not write about it until after. But my heart tells me now when something is wrong and I have begun to worry as much as you used to. Only I always pin my faith on the light beyond the dark. I know it is there and it will come and so one must wait, however hard the waiting.

My love and kiss and fondest thoughts.


P.S. Regarding the poem asked…Can’t you give them my love poem unless it has been disposed of? I haven’t seen it anywhere yet. I think here is…Ghazal in my manuscript with you which is unpublished. It begins yad ke jab zakhm bharnay lagay. I shall also try to send … something in my next letter. Faiz.

Courtesy : Two Lovers ~ Faiz’s Letters from Jail

                (Compiled by Salima Hashmi and Kyla Pasha)

Faiz and Alys