Friday, February 26, 2010

Kamaal Mustafa, My Friend Who Introduced Persian Poetry ..

One of the most beautiful languages in the civilisation of mankind would be Persian. Though i don't understand a word in Persian, i used to listen to my friend Kamaal Mustafa Ansari from the Centre for Persian Studies in the School of Languages at JNU, recite a few ghazals from the poetry in Persian langauge. It used to be sonorous and rhythmic. In fact, the cadence of all the classical languages makes you feel that the conversation of human beings at some point of time in the history of human civilisation would have reverberated in the atmosphere with musical tonality. It is only after the advent of post-modernity that human communication has become a collective cacophony.

It was my dear friend Kamaal who gave me the basic introduction to the rich tradition of Persian poetry. Hailing from Ranchi & staying at Periyar Hostel in JNU, he used to be give me some of the English translations of Hafez. It was from him that i came to know for the first time about my eternal muse ~ Jalaluddin Rumi. When i visited JNU a few months ago, before this recent visit, i stayed as usual with Shanaa in Brahmaputra Hostel. After having a couple of rounds of Black Dog with Suresh and Shanaa, i read a few translations which Megha and me have been attempting of Rumi from English to Tamil. It was then that i suddenly got this urge to speak to Kamaal.

In life, you miss out some wonderful friends with whom you would have spent the most memorable times in the prime of your youth. Some can be traced out thanks to the social networking sites of the internet. Some will suddenly pat on your back at a totally unexpected locale. Some will trace out your mobile number and will ask you to identify the voice, much to your embarassment. With some others, you feel that you should not have met, for the memories of him or her were much better than the agonising reality of what that person would have become. It is only with a few friends, you start off the conversation from where you had left years and years ago.

That evening with Suresh and Shanaa was beautiful. It was more b'coz of getting drunk with friendship and poetry than out of any stupor created by the Black Dog. Shanaa had put the CD Abida Kafian which his Pakistani artist friend has gifted him and which he does not even allow to touch, forget lending! Abida Parveen was singing Rabba Mere Haal Da from the 16th century Urdu poetry of Hazrat Shah Hussain. And it was then that I impulsively wanted to renew that snapped conversation with Kamaal and rang up Rahman to know about his whereabouts. I thought he must be teaching with all his eloquence and brilliance somewhere in Delhi after completing his Ph.D. and he will be quite happy to meet me after more than a decade.

Rahman said that he was sorry that he had forgotten to inform me that Kamaal had passed away a couple of years back. It seems Kamaal was travelling in a train to Ranchi from Delhi in the peak winter of 2006 without wearing adequate wollen clothes and he died of severe chillness and cold in the train itself... My hands tremble while typing this now..

How shall i ever meet Kamaal again? When shall i thank him for having introduced to the splendour of Persian poetry? What curse had made me to lose touch with him? And why should he wilt away in such an unbelievable manner?

The breath of so many intimate persons have been inhaled by our lungs which contribute to whatever we choose to do and whatever we continue to become. Its all a complex chain in the kaala-chakra. There are plays within plays that you cannot see. We can't do anything but only what Aristotle says in his Nicomachean Ethics ~

Let us meditate for our lost friends..

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Poetry Of Khwaja Muhammad Hafez-e Sirazi

Do Not Sink Into Sadness..

The grieving chest will find honey;

Do not let the heart rot.

The manic hysterical head will find peace;

Do not sink into sadness.

If the way the Milky Way revolves,

ignores your desires for one or two times,

do not sink into sadness :

all turning goes as it will.

Do not sink into sadness,

even though the mysteries of the other world

slip past you entirely.

There are plays within plays

that you cannot see.

When you are lost in the desert,

full of longing for the Kaaba,

and the Arabian thornbush pierces your feet,

do not sink into sadness.

Although the way station you want to reach

is dangerous

and the goal distant,

do not sink into sadness :

All roads do have an answer.

~ Hafez (1315 ~ 1390)

( Will write in detail about the poetry of Hafez a little later.. Not in a mood now..)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Art Of Listening : The Paris Review Interviews

"I have known many poets here who have written well - very fine stuff - with delicate moods and so on - but if you talk with them, the only thing they tell you is smutty stories or they speak of politics in a way that everybody does, so that really their writing turns out to be a kind of sideshow. They had learned writing in the way that a man might learn to play chess or to play bridge. They were really not poets or writers at all. It was a trick they had learned, and they had learned it thoroughly. They had the whole thing at their finger ends. But most of them - except four or five, I should say - seemed to think of life as having nothing poetic or mysterious about it. They take things for granted.."
~ Jorge Luis Borges
in his interview to Ronald Christ in 1967 (from 'The Paris Review Interviews' Volume I, 2006, Picador, New York)
It is very difficult to take an Interview of anyone. More so if the other person is a writer, an artist, a singer or a dancer. It requires tremendous intelligence and a lot of hard work to study the body of work of the person being interviewed. And above all, one must cultivate the art of listening.
The art of listening has become a rare feat these days, that one is really scared whether the human ear is very soon going to become a completely vestigial organ of the body. May be as a sign of this degenerative evolution, the pinna has already become static. Just imagine, how cute it will be to look at, if the pinna of the human ear starts moving everytime we listen keenly to the other person!
All animals must be keen to listen to each other. Have you observed how the ears of a dog will swirl, even if they are sleeping, the moment they hear a hiss? They will never open their eyes first. It is the folly of the human mind to think that the most beautiful creature of this Universe - the Elephant - keeps on moving its ears to avoid ants from entering into them. How reductive. The Elephant actually wants to listen to everything every organism in this world thinks and feels. And bless them. Just b'coz we are deaf to this, there is so much sadness in the eyes of all the tamed elephants. It makes me cry.
'The Paris Review Interviews' are a rare collection of interviews which were published in the world's most respected literary magazine The Paris Review. The Paris Review is being published quarterly from New York (not Paris!) since 1953. They have so far brought out 4 volumes of 16 interviews each. Each interview is elaborate and detailed that one gets a comprehensive slice of the persona of our cherised literary masters.
I've bought only the first three Volumes @ Landmark, my favourite place to hang-out in Infiniti Mall, Andheri West, Mumbai and have placed the order for the fourth one which is yet to be delivered.
Some of the most lovely interviews which i relished are that of T.S.Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Graham Greene, William Faulkner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez from the first two volumes. There are many names in the first two volumes about whom i have not even heard of. Am yet to read the third volume which has the interviews of William Carlos Williams, Harold Pinter, Raymond Carver, Chinua Achebe, Ted Hughes, Salman Rushdie and Norman Mailer to name a few. And am yet to know about the fourth volume.
They are not only the ideal models of how an interview must be taken and given. But they also throw light into the innumerable possibilities that can emerge out of a beautiful human conversation.
If only we are bestowed with those listening ears..

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Name Is Khan : A Propped Up Creative Flop

Its not good for the health of one's soul to dwell upon something which one does not appreciate. There is so much beauty and joy in this world to relish and savour. Bollywood Cinema has matured beyond comparison in the last ten years. The snobbishly regimented boundaries of art and commercial cinema, between parallel and pulp cinema have blurred. Only good and bad cinema remains.

A series of brilliantly fascinating movies have been made in Bollywood during the last few years. The calibre of Hindi movie directors and actors seem to be quite high when compared to that of Tamil cinema. If the average IQ level of the good Hindi movie directors can be taken to be 8 in a scale of 10, then the same for their Tamil brethren would not cross 4 for sure. There seems to be no redemption anywhere in sight from the pretentious trappings of the Tamil film world.

In recent times, marketing a film product before its release has reached dizzy heights as the money invested is huge and the probability of getting higher return is a risky business proposition. But nothing can beat the marketing strategy employed for "My Name Is Khan". After two successive flops, Shah Rukh Khan could ill afford another failure in the box office. And to his good luck, Bal Thackeray and his son, the electronic and the print media came to the rescue and propped up the sales of tickets everywhere.

I didn't like the movie a wee bit, except for some flashes of brilliance scarcely scattered here and there. Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan have been seriously infected with KamalHassan's Syndrome rather than Asperger's Syndrome as falsely claimed in the movie. I feel this movie as an insult to the already persecuted Muslim community and its self-esteem. Is there no other creative way to portray the complex problems faced by the members of Islam in the current global scenario? Why should the protagonist of a movie keep babbling at the drop of a hat that his name is Khan and he is not a terrorist? With a pathetic script and a mediocre storyline, the film fails miserably on all creative fronts. But it has been a commercial success and it is now good times for the Karan Johar-Shah Rukh couple!
That is no bad news afterall.
Rating : 3 out of 10

The Last Supper At JNU..

Can you jump into the same river twice?

Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philospher, says ~

"You could not step twice into the same river, for other waters are ever flowing on to you."

Heraclitus says change is the only constant guiding force of the cosmos and logos is the fundamental principle of knowledge and order of this universe. Both Plato and Aristotle keep going back to Heraclitus in their texts as an important referral point. And the Weeping Philospoher as he is called, had started weeping at the predicament of humanity as far back as 5th century BC, and became one of the founding fathers of Western philospohy.

Gurpreet Mahajan and Rajeev Bhargava's classes on Western Philosophy gave tremendous insights into the fundamental concepts without which no understanding is possible. My dabbling with the subject matter is shallow and frivolous. Nevertheless, it sowed within me certain seeds of curiosity which continue to remain dormant somewhere within my soul, however much i try to murder it ruthlessly with my bloodied hands.

I cannot think of JNU without the reasoned logic of Gurpreet Mahajan or the passionate voice of Avijit Pathak. Without the late nite protest marches and the library. Without the neelgais and the redwattled lapwings. Without Prathama Banerjee and the brutal murder of Chandu. Without the chilly meditative winters and the long walks on those serenading roads sorrounded by flowering shrubs and the sheltering trees. Without Jaya Shankar and the long tryst with Old Monk.

My visit to JNU and a 5 days' stay with Shanaa in Brahmaputra Hostel in this Winter of 2010 (how contrasting from the Summer of 1969, which of course i had never experienced but felt long after i was born) will most probably be my last visit to stay at my Alma Mater. It has changed. And how! Though i dont want to get into a nostalgic rant, the lack of students' politics and the emergence of the concrete jungle all around are the twin critical pointers which indicate an acute ill health of the beautiful institution. The post-modern predicament of JNU can be no different from the rest of the world. When dreams wither away, when ideals fade off, when activists become bureaucrats, when love and ceativity gets ossified, life metamorphosises into a Hobbesian Leviathan - solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Can i jump into the same JNU again?

Love Eternal : Nizamuddin Auliya & Amir Khusrau

This is what i felt when i visited, for the second time in my life, the Dargah of my beloveds ~ Amir Khusrau and Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi last Thursday evening : That it is only a single dargah even though the tombs of the poet Amir Khusrau and the Sufi saint of Chishti Order Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya are housed in two separate mausoleums within the same complex.

I felt an intense vibe around the tomb of Amir Khusrau housed in the dargah under the embracing branches of a Neem tree. And as it had happened last time, which still remains vivid in my memory, I was not able to feel much around the tomb of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya housed in a separate dargah which is just a little far away from that of Amir Khusrau's. I was wondering why i was feeling a heightened intensity of the kundalini inside the dargah of the disciple and not that of the Master's. Should it not be the other way round? Shanaa had also vouchsafed my discovery. It is not that the antenna of my kundalini is too acute to sniff out the extra-ordinary anywhere. But most of time, it never fails much to the chagrin of Devi and the Others!

It made me to intuitively realise that after the burial of Amir Khusrau, who died within a few months after the passing away of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Nizamuddin Auliya had secretly decided to shift base on a Moonlit Thursday night during the spring of 1325 AD. On a particular Full Moon night, the ruffling leaves of the Neem tree bursted into mellifluous songs of khayal and tarana so beautifully created by Amir Khusrau. It made the guards of both the dargahs to slowly enter into a trance and they gradually fell asleep one after the other. Nizamuddin Auliya waited till the last guard to fall asleep and then, he quietly got out of his dargah, looked up at the enchanting Moon and ran across to Amir Khusrau to hug him with love, dissolving the grief of separation from each other. Since then, both the master and his most beloved disciple are living in the same dargah of the disciple, continuing to bless the searching travellers with joy and bliss..

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Malavika Sarukkai : Gloria In Excelsis..

If On A Winter's Night A Traveller is one the interesting novels of Italo Calvino. Its about a reader who is in the process of trying to read a book called "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller".
I was somehow reminded of this novel as i spent one of the profound winter nights in Delhi last Friday. It has been more than a decade when I came to know about this wonder of a human being called Malavika Sarukkai. But unfortunately, I had been missing her on and on. Until life blessed me with this Winter's Night.
Malavika's Bharatnatyam dance recital took place at Triveni Garden Theatre. It was part of the efforts of the renowned art historian Professor B.N.Goswamy's project entitled "Between Heaven And Earth" where he had curated the paintings in watercolours by the late miniature artist Bireswar Sen whose works were on display at the Anant Art Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam. Two of the paintings need special mention here. One watercolour painting is entitled as 'Fulfillment' where the figure of a maiden in unrequited love is seeking solace in Nature among the mountain cliffs. The other painting is entitled 'Gloria In Excelsis' depicting the abstract implosion of joy and ecstasy after listening to that magnificent composition of Vivaldi.
Before embarking upon the dance recital, Malavika explained the long journey she had undertaken to discover the Himalayas. Her first glimpse of the magic mountain was on a foggy morning when she saw the mystery unravelled up above in the middle of the sky when the first rays of the Sun lit the cliff of the Himalayas at Dev Prayag. The mountain was magically floating amongst the clouds. She is constantly mesmerised by the confluence - the sangamam - of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers transcreating into the Ganga. Malavika traced the journey of the river to the journey of discovery of one's self which she choreographed with finesse and splendour. The mood of the Himalayas was already set with the recitation of an Urdu poem of Muhammad Iqbal along with a fine translation into English by Prof. B.N.Goswamy. It was heightened by the performance of Malavika Sarukkai.
The choreography of Malavika of both the Rivers and the Birds were astonishing. Malavika's dance movements - the hastas, the adavus and the eye movements - flow out of her sculpted body like an intimate conversation with the ethereal and the sensual. With her grace and aplomb, she elegantly transcended the boundaries of feminine mystique by creating unparalled universes in the inner self. Malavika seems to be the consummation of sensuality and ecstasy in the form of dance which one feels while listening to the passionately overpowering composition of 'Gloria In Excelsis' by Vivaldi. Long after the dance recital, one keeps on hearing the resonances of the scampering feet of Malavika deep inside the core of one's being..

Say What You Need To Say..

It is strange. I had never intended to blog. Tonite i was checking my mail box after an unsual break of almost 5 five days b'coz of my visit to Delhi and my stay at Brahmaputra Hostel in JNU with Shanaa. After checking the mails, i was casually surfing the Net when i came across this song "Say" of John Mayer, which i happened to listen for the first time in life. The song has opened up my inner doors to converse with myself. Then came the sudden impulse to create a blog and record my private musings randomly whatever and whenever i feel like. This is going to be a kind of soliloquy of sorts. A kind of an erratic diary which will be purely personal and also not so personal. Where i can discover myself and keep having a constant conversation with that anonymous Other..