Sunday, October 14, 2007

Haq-e-bandagi ham adaa kar chale

Mir Taqi Mir is among the best Urdu poets that ever lived. More prolific than Ghalib, it is often a topic of much debate even as the urdu literary world tries to pitch one against the other and decide who is better.For a neophyte like me ,of course, one infinity is as big as the other :)

What is interesting in this comparison however, is the difference in their styles. Both penned Ghazals but while Ghalib's style seems more reflective and notes-to-self type, Mir's style is more conversational and in many ways resembles that of Neruda ( the man has to be named in every post :) )

Anyhoo, without further ado , here is one of Mir's ghazals with the as-usual-terrible translation by yours truly. This ghazal, in true sufi style, portrays a love that is hurting but a love that has surrendered to that hurt and in that surrender finds it difficult to give the love or the hurt up.

faqiraana aaye sadaa kar chale
miyaa.N Khush raho ham duaa kar chale

I call out like the beggar on the street,
I wish you all happiness oh Master!

jo tujh bin na jiine ko kahate the ham
so is ahd ko ab wafaa kar chale

I had said life is not worth living without you,
I fulfil that promise today.

koii naa-ummiidaana karate nigaah
so tum ham se muu.Nh bhii chhipaa kar chale

Lest your eyes betray your hopelessness,
You hide even your face from me.

dikhaaii diye yuu.N ki beKhud kiyaa
hame.n aap se bhii judaa kar chale

I see you and forget myself,
I lose my senses so, that it separates me from you.

jabii.n sajadaa karate hii karate gaii
haq-e-ba.ndagii ham adaa kar chale

I pay obeisance and can't seem to stop,
I justify my devotion thus.

kahe.n kyaa jo puuchhe koii ham se "Meer"
jahaa.N me.n tum aaye the, kyaa kar chale

What do I say when someone asks me,
What I have done with my time in this world?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Love from the heights of Machu Picchu

In a blog that has been around for over 2 years now it is very very surprising that not a single post is dedicated to Pablo Neruda. Neruda is one of my favorite poets and it is my firm belief that his poetry can inspire those warm fuzzy feelings of love in the most unfeeling brute.

Suffice to say I don't think the readable length of a blog post will ever do any justice to the peans I wish to sing for this man and hence I shall refrain from making any such attempt. Instead, here are four lines from his first compilation of poems "Twenty love poems and a song of despair" , that, incidentally, he wrote when he was 20.

The love poems are earthy and full of passion and express love in a such a direct way that it makes one glow just thinking of a love like that. However, since I am the melancholy-loving kind, my favorite in the collection is the one "song of despair".

Is it weird that I wish someday I am able to love someone so much that the thought of not being with them brings me despair such as the poem describes?

Anyway , moving on. The full poem can be found in a here

The most poignant four lines are these:

In you the wars and the flights accumulated
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

I am not going to spoil it by interpreting in horrible sounding words of my own :)

God bless Neruda's trabslators

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Five years of college in a popular city college ensured that I marked my attendance more regularly at the cinema multiplex close by. While I could blame this truancy on coursework that neither demanded any effort nor inspired to learn any more than required, I think it is a very usual and widespread college-goer tendency. Anyway, this Thursday afternoon , I found myself outside the multiplex with A, staring at the posters while we decided which movie to watch. We had been there 3 times already since the Friday past and that meant we had already seen every movie that was worth watching. Victims of media sensationalism and prey to the controversy that was created for this very purpose, we decided to watch Mallika Sherawat's "Murder" making sure Mahesh Bhatt recovered at least some of the money he had spent on raking up all the hullabaloo. We bought the tickets and seated ourselves on the parapet wall nearby while we waited for the previous showing to get done so we could go in.

So we sat there, establishing whose idea it really was so that jibes and looks of disbelief from others when we confessed what movie we had seen could be directed to the rightful party. There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to see a Murugan, 8 years old as he later informed us, and a beggar. However, a beggar unlike other beggar kids. He was clean and did not have the sing song "Amma" tone that , unfortunately, drives even the most charitable ,away from these people nowadays. Very lucidly he proceeded to tell us that he had not eaten all day and that his little sister also needed food so we should go around to the restaurant nearby and please buy him food.

A and I exchanged glances and instantly knew we were going to help the kid only because we are both curious about people in general and something out of the stereotype, such as this kid , was most interesting. Our conversation with him for the rest of the 20 minutes we did spend with him went something like this:

A: So where is your sister?
M: She is outside the restaurant saar. I left her there so I could find someone to buy us food.
A: How old are you both?
M: I am 8 and she is 6. Our mother died last year because she got sick. I have been trying to get a job since but some days, like today , I can't find anything to do and we have to go hungry.
A: (Opening mouth to say something, even as M continues)
M: Its not safe you know, leaving a young girl like her alone around here all day. I want her to go to school but that also needs some money.

(A and I have grins on our faces by now not knowing how much of this right-out-of-a-movie-story to believe but we liked his spunk.)

M: What movie are you going to watch Sir?
A : Oh we are here for "Murder" that hindi movie.
M: The one with that woman sitting showing her back? ( Promotional posters of Murder had a back shot of Mallika in a backless swimsuit).
We grinned in agreement.
I: Why Madam you are letting Sir take you to such movies? ( MUAHAHAHA! I like stereotypes when they help you establish whose idea the movie could have been!)

We reach the restaurant and sure enough there is a small girl , looking as clean as Murugan standing there. She sees Murugan and flashes a really cute smile and suddenly this little white woman with the halo over the head appears on my right shoulder and chides me for doubting Murugan's story even if for just a minute. We go in and the restaurant owner greets Murugan warmly, like he would, a daily customer. Murugan informs us that the man lets him and his sister wash up in the restaurant everyday so they can look as clean as they do.

Murugan orders the meal and A offers to buy him dinner too, but Murugan declines. The take out parcels arrive , we pay for them, hand them over to Murugan and say our goodbyes. It's time for the movie.

That makes-you-feel-good-on-the-inside feeling that comes out of having done a good deed is very special and adds the proverbial spring to one's step. Urban India, unfortunately, makes one so cynical that 20 paces later, as we entered the movie hall we knew we had been had. The spring giving way to stomping and the kicking oneself for letting an 8 year old take you for a ride. Murugan was probably returning the food parcel and making his money, giving that "sister" of his her share. Fortunately the movie was about to start and the excitement of being in a theatre to watch Murder of all movies took over quickly. The movie was , to put it charitably, a big disappointment in every way but did make us laugh a lot ( least of all when it was trying to be funny) and forget Murugan for 2 hours.

As we walked out toward the bike parked by the parapet, our blame-game now raised to a shout match, two little hands waved at us from the corner and in a picture perfect shot we saw two big smiles on two small but very happy faces.

Friends in Small Places

Summer is a good time to start doing all that you have been procrastinating because you run out of inane excuses relating to coursework and research. Finding myself in that position right now , I start here something I have been meaning to do for over 6 months now.

My admiration for Ruskin Bond stems not only from the fact that I think his prose has an easy style that I would myself like to emulate but also from the often O. Henryesque depiction of very Indian characters. My favorite collection of his writings is a small book called Friends in Small Places. It is a collection of essays of snippets about the various cameos in his other books and in the 2 pages they each claim, they take you along on a very endearing journey of a slice of their lives. Their likeness to a lot of people I have personally known makes it closer to my heart even as all the warm, fuzzy, sometimes not-so-nice but always real feelings I relate with them emerge everytime I pick up the book and read an essay.

That said, with this post I start putting forth my own set of short essays on people I have known..peppered of course with a lot of fiction driven by my constant useless daydreaming of what could have been :) . I am also thrilled with my recently acquired knowledge of adding labels to my posts ( STOP! before you go on about what a primitive art it is and suchlike blah.... ve are like this only!) so posts in this series shall henceforth be under the FISP label.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


My blogging glands (yes we are the glandy biologist-types) suddenly become active only when I am in a time crunch and should be doing something else! Well, that is the story of every procrastinator that ever lived.

Having recently watched Woody Allen's Annie Hall, I was reminded of two lines of one of my favorite Hindi movie songs.

A side thought: Indian film music doesn't give much emphasis to lyrics. Given that the dominant style in Indian music is the vocal style, this is a rather surprising state of affairs but as it is and has been, Indian music specially film music sorely lacks aesthetics in terms of lyrical quality often falling into predictable traps of the "dil-vil-pyar-vyar" variety.

Anyway, the song in questions is, a love song that has intrigued me for as long as I can remember , from this movie Aandhi, with lyrics by Gulzar. Directed by Gulzar incidentally, a rather boring movie with a i-get-paid-for-looking-like-a-moron Suchitra Sen. To me the only draw to the movie was Sanjeev Kumar. Having chosen career over family and blah, Suchitra Sen , a politician , runs into hotel manager husband Sanjeev Kumar after ages. Old feelings emerge and blah and they sing this song:

Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa nahin,
Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi nahin.

(shikva= regret/ misgiving/ complain , zindagi= life)

While the rest of the song is typical Gulzar and IMHO nothing spectacular, I love how these two lines capture the relationship of the lead pair so concisely.

Loosely translated these lines would go:

Life would be perfect without you in it ,
Life would, however, not be life without you in it.

(G (not Gulzar) is going to disagree with this translation. We have argued over this for as long as we have known each other but oh well, my blog so .....:) )

Notice how there are times when the fact that ten million people care fades in front of the seeming nonchalance of one person. Times when say on a birthday, the fact that that one wish did not come irks more than the hundred others that did come. Times when every achievement seems a little less happy because the everyone who is happy for you does not include that one person. Times when you are left wondering if it is all in fact a trade off for an otherwise full life.

But melancholy and over-dramatization is, of course, the essence of life! Everybody needs a "shikva" character in their lives and till the real shikva character does show up, we shift this burden from one relationship to another looking for the perfect shikva. For, how else are you supposed to know that you have found "true love" , unless shikva obligingly acts as the yard stick?


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Of "Boardroom pinup girls", "global ponds" and women's day

On the occasion of Women's Day on March 8th, The Economic Times marked its "observance" of the day by inviting Padma Ravichander, Managing director Perot Systems, to write something up about the participation of women in higher management in industry. The original article can be found here.

Let me start by saying that I was hugely disappointed by the content and general writing of the article. I am in fact, so traumatized by the whole experience that I am going to proceed to dissect the article and tell you why I hated it so much. This is going to be a bit of an exhaustive ripping apart seeing that almost every line seems to bother me. Words in bold and with quotes around them are straight out of the article. Those that have quotes around them but are not in bold need you to imagine me making air quotes if I were saying all this out :)

I am really hoping I totally missed a big point here and that my whole understanding of the "message" is warped, because my trauma will continue if that is not the case .:)

So she writes this article and she decides to use for a title, "Boardroom pin-up girls making waves" . While it doesn't make any immediate sense to me, I am sure if I were top-brass management of a Fortune500 company, I would not want to be referred to as a "boardroom pin-up girl" whether or not I am "making waves". Even to just catch the reader's eye, this , I thought, was a rather poor choice of words.

It starts out painfully like a high school essay stating how women "hold seats on corporate boards, run major companies and are regularly featured on the covers of business magazines as prominent leaders and power brokers." and with the naivete of a high school essayist she asks "Who could have imagined this even half a century ago?" . Why do I get the feeling she thinks "half a century" amounts to 500 years back?

We are then treated to a whole bunch of illuminating statistics about how the percentage of women at the "top of the corporate ladder" is very low. She goes on to say that in IT however, " The demand for IT jobs particularly in India have ensured a greater population of women in the workplace than ever before ". Of course, if we had only half the jobs they would all go to men and women are just making up numbers here. Notice also, how a demand "have" ensured The Economic Times no less!!! ( I am not going to be charitable to grammatical errors. With my not-so-admirable grammar skills , if I can catch such mistakes,come on, those editors are paid for correcting them!)

" Information Technology, world over is a relatively new industry and hence has enjoyed the luxury of greater gender neutrality than other industries where the organisational values, definitions of competencies and leadership are still predicated on traits that are stereotypically as-sociated with men tough, aggressive and decisive."

This long sentence left me in a fix. While the poor language and paucity of punctuations are besides the point (or may be the reason for the dilemma), I am not really able to make up my mind what it is trying to convey:
a) Gender neutrality is a luxury.
b) IT owes its gender neutrality ( even while the rest of the article shrieks about even IT not having enough women ) to the fact that it being a relatively new industry, helps it "concede" that women may in fact also be "tough aggresive and decisive".
c) The problem is somehow, more that concepts of competency and leadership are associated with traits such as "tough, aggressive and decisive" and less that they are infact "sterotypically male" .

While most women in IT, she observes, are at "entry-level" jobs, there is a "definitive trend" that they "can" become global leaders because IT jobs demand " for employees to work across countries and cultures and reach out to people across continents. " What about world peace?? This is the kind of writing (BS,if I may) I subscribe to when my answer to a question that demands a 500 word answer ends in about 50 and I need to fill up the space provided.

I gather the courage to read on. The next paragraph starts off promisingly with the question " So can women in IT make good global leaders and what is holding them back?" and I go "phew! May be she will redeem herself." But Alas! that was not to be. Ravichander is of the opinion that "Leadership is an inborn trait in women, whether they lead global teams across ponds or manage households discreetly by always ensuring that every member of the family or team is well nurtured and attended to. It is a quality that is fairly unique, yet very much a part of the DNA of a woman."

While I don't quite understand why someone would want to lead a "global team" across a "pond", it could be some IT jargon that I am unaware of. However, "inborn traits" such as "leadership" don't seem to ensure that every family in the world with a woman in it is well nurtured and I am not really sure how many times the household management is discreet or that every member is "attended to". A quality so "unique", a little less than half the world's population has it as "part of its DNA". ( why oh why can people not stop this abusive use of the concept of the DNA?!!) Is she also not putting in question the ability/involvement of a man as a caregiver or/and "discreet manager" of his household ?

She goes on to talk about the work culture in IT that leaves no minute unconnected and demands a "24/7 online-culture" of employees. How is the woman supposed to take care or her family and work? The solution according her is that " Both men and women need to join hands" and "look closely at our current management practices around meetings, deliverables, timings, work styles, success metrics, performance evaluation criteria and decide how we can change some of these practices across the organisation that would cater to needs of a gender diverse population collectively. "

Why is it a work-home balance struggle only for the woman? Not once does she consider suggesting that men share or should share the responsibility of the household. While evaluation of general work culture will help no doubt, how much impetus is going to come from a consumer-driven industry if it affects deliverables and time lines? How much good are sweeping statements in the vein of "re-evaluate work culture" going to do?

Like I said in the beginning, the way it was written and the fact that,despite the style and content, it got published was a big disappointment. Successful women like Padma Ravichander should be able ,in the least, to not consider themselves "pin-up girls". It is most unfortunate that she should give an impression that

a) A happy family and a successful career are involved in a trade-off
b) The happiness of a family is solely the woman's responsibility
c) There is no part or involvement of the husband in the success of a woman's career.
d) Men in industry need to be understanding to their women colleagues because these poor women do not get the support from the very same men in their roles as husbands.

Maybe the next time they will find someone better to ghost-write ( yes I am the optimist and still want to believe she doesn't really think this way.) the article for her and definitely someone better to edit it.

As a side thought, I wonder if IT big shots hire publicists and if this is in fact the light in which she wants to be seen by the "global" market, because otherwise, that is one more job that needs to be filled in by someone new :)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Himmat karne waalon ki haar nahin hoti

In all this discussion about different languages, I have neglected the one kind of poetry that I grew up reading. There is something very different about hindi poetry and somehow inspirational thoughts always come out sounding most emphatic in hindi. Of course, rhyme and meter are two very important aspects and to me, hindi free verse, is a little lame :)
So to me, while urdu is the language to fall in love in, Hindi is the language to get out of the dumps, to feel determined to achieve and such like happy thoughts. Not that hindi poetry in other genres is not good, just that hindi poetry of this genre makes sense most in hindi (again a cultural thing I am guessing :))

Anyway, the point to that rather lame introduction was to write about this awesome poem that I first had to memorise for a poetry recitation competition in Class 2. It is one poem I remember to this day. I am not exactly sure who the poet is. Two not-so-different versions exist with one being credited to Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' and the other to Harivansh Rai Bachchan. My version may in fact be a mixture of both but this is the most popular version of the poem.
So here it is (trumpets blaring with celebratory drum roll.....)

P.S. I tried a translation but it was so eeyeeeeeeeww that i couldn't bear to put it up :)
I am just going to take the safe route for now and put up meanings of words instead .
But, the himmat is on and some day when I do succeed, the translation will be up!

lehron se dar kar nauka paar nahi hoti
himmat karne walon ki haar nahi hoti

(lehron=waves, dar=fear, nauka= boat, paar=cross, nahi= not,
himmat karne waale= courageous people, haar= defeat)

nanhi chinti jab dana lekar chalti hai
chadti deewaron par sau baar fisalti hai
mann ka vishwas ragon mein sahas banta hai
chad kar girna, gir kar chadna na akharta hai
akhir uski mehnat bekar nahi hoti
koshish karne waalon ki haar nahi hoti....

(nanhi chinti = small ant, dana=grain, chalti = walks, chadti deewar = climbs the wall, sau baar= hundered times, fisalti= slips,
mann ka vishwas= belief / determination, ragon = veins/ nerves, sahas= bravery/courage, banta= becomes, girna= fall, akharta= discourage,
akhir= finally, mehnat= hard work, bekar= useless,
koshish= attempt)

dubkiyan sindu mein gota khor lagaata hai
ja ja kar khali haath laut aata hai
milte na sehej hi moti pani mein
behta duna utsah issi heiraani mein
mutthi uski khali har baar nahi hoti
himmat karne walon ki haar nahi hoti....

(dubkiyan = dive, sindu = indus river, gota khor= person looking for pearls, khaali haath= empty handed, laut = return,
milte = get, sehaj = easily, moti= pearls, pani = water, behta = flows, duna= twice over/ double, utsah= enthusiasm ,
mutthi= fist, uski= his, khaali = empty, har baar= everytime)

asaflta ek chunati hai sweekar karo
kya kami reh gayi dekho aur sudhaar karo
jab tak na safal ho neend chain ki tyago tum
sangharshon ka maidaan chhod mat bhago tum
kuch kiye bina hi jai jai kaar nahi hoti
himmat karne walon ki haar nahi hoti....

Failure is a challenge, accept it,
See what went wrong and improve on it,
Don't rest till you succeed,
Don't give up your efforts,
Praise doesn't come free,
Courageous people never fail.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

One Trick Pony

iPods or other devices that let you store so many songs that you can't remember how many , shuffle and play them at random are terrific inventions :) Let me hasten to make my point, lest I start sounding like an iPod peddler. I had forgotten I had this song on the iPod and was pleasantly surprised when it started to play. It also brought back thoughts from when I first heard it and how much sense the words made then.

A lot of things decide who we are, where we think we are going , the choices we make. A great many other things have secondary influence in terms of how they bias our thinking and prepare us for the decisions we ultimately make. Something we heard, something we thought up or something we read. To me this song has been a secondary influence at different points for the past 5 or so years, since I first heard it.

I like his description of the one trick pony and the wistfulness with which he describes his own complicated style of dealing with seemingly mundane things. The last two lines sum up, to me, why sometimes when I am tearing my hair out and wondering why I voluntarily introduce complications in my life, this little guy in my head starts singing this very song.

One Trick Pony

He's a one trick pony
One trick is all that horse can do
He does one trick only
It's the principal source of his revenue
And when he steps into the spotlight
You can feel the heat of his heart
Come rising through

See how he dances
See how he loops from side to side
See how he prances
The way his hooves just seem to glide
He's just a one trick pony (that's all he is)
But he turns that trick with pride

He makes it look so easy
He looks so clean
He moves like God's
Immaculate machine
He makes me think about
All of these extra movements I make
And all of this herky-jerky motion
And the bag of tricks it takes
To get me through my working day
One-trick pony

He's a one trick pony
He either fails or he succeeds
He gives his testimony
Then he relaxes in the weeds
He's got one trick to last a lifetime
But that's all a pony needs

--Paul Simon

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Of the mystics....

Zaahid sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar
Ya woh jagah bata de jahan par Khuda na ho

(Let me drink alcohol in the mosque/ place of worship, or show me one place where God does not exist.)

The Sufi movement came to India from the middle east at a time when the bhakti movement also became prevalent among Hindus in India. Huge parallels can be drawn among both movements in their ideologies, in talking of God as the unmanifest energy that is universal, the yearning of the mortal soul (atman) for union with this eternal , omnipresent God (paramatman) and the use of analogies of separated lovers to highlight the relationship between the atman and the paramatman. Both movements emphasised that love alone was the path to salvation.

Legacy these movements have left are the two forms of classical music we have in India today.Besides the basic structures and technicalities these art forms follow, the biggest contribution of the mystic movements has been that of lyric. The sher at the beginning of this post, is by Mirza Ghalib ( credited elsewhere to Daagh Dehelvi, so I am not really sure) and sums concisely the philosophy even as it highlights the influence the philosophy had on generations hence.

The lyrics and the vein in which a bhajan or a sufi qawwali, ghazal or nazm is performed, are marked with a deep love. A love that transports the lover to a plane that has only them and their love (God). A love so extreme, it abandons all wordly concerns.An abandon that brings with it such joy that life becomes a celebration.This celebration is evident in bhajans by Meera, Kabir and many others as well as qawwalis by various Sufi saints.

This posts highlights a qawwali by Amir Khusrau which is, IMHO, very representative of this genre. And yes, you still have to endure my , no better than before, translations :)

Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay

You have snatched my beauty and my identity,
with merely a look

Prem bhatee ka madhva pilaikay
Matvali kar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay

You intoxicate me with the nectar of love
even as I lose myself, in merely a look

Gori gori bayyan, hari hari churiyan
Bayyan pakar dhar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay

My fair hands and green bangles are,
as if, held bound by merely a look

Bal bal jaaon mein toray rang rajwa
Apni see kar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay

I give my life for you, Oh colorful one,
even as you dye me in your color, with merely a look

Khusrau Nijaam kay bal bal jayyiye
Mohay Suhaagan keeni ray mosay naina milaikay

Khusrau gives his life for the Nijam*
even as you wed me, with merely a look

(*) Khusrau's devotion to his spiritual guru, the great Nizam-ud-din auliya , a sufi saint, often surfaces in his works , with the latter being refered to as "nijam", like in the one above.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi......

Nostalgia is a strange thing. One thought, and the brain immediately re-connects every node in the network and with this emerging network emerges every feeling that you associated with that thought, person, incident.

In the emergence of one such nostalgic network in my head, a few days back, emerged as a node, this poem by Mirza Ghalib . The first half-line having been popularised by a movie that came out two years back and became immensely popular with anyone who wanted to prove they can watch and enjoy meaningful Indian cinema ( despite bollywood) :)

Ghalib's is regarded as one of the most intricate styles in urdu poetry. In something akin to Blake's Tiger, there is a new (possibly deeper) interpretation on every successive reading. What makes it more interesting is how short a sher (couplet) is and how much he manages to pack in. This makes any literal translation, most inadequate and sometimes rather morbid, as will be evident from the lines below!

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a ghazal. There are rules to the composition of a ghazal but most importantly, it is made up purely of shers. All shers follow one meter, called beher. The last words of the second line of each sher are the same , this is called radif and the essential rhyme that words before the radif must have and is called kaafiya. With that very techinical, and possibly unnecessary description, here's one of the best Ghazals of all time!

Here the radif is simply the word 'nikle' and its easy to see how the kaafiya is maintained with words kam, dam, ham, jam, sitam etc.So here it is, most of it atleast. As usual, it comes with a crude line by line translation, in blank verse ( nostalgic marker no. 2!! sigh , oh well!) Also, comes with commentary on my favorite lines.

The opening sher is my favorite in the whole ghazal. Manages to kindle every nostalgia network that has a marker for something unfulfilled. I don't know about you, gentle reader, but that tends to clutter my head with way too many networks. ( we are greedy like this only!)
The fourth sher here is next in line of my favorites. Much literature exists, in every language known to man, on this dichotomy that love seems to present. Here it is as pithy as it gets :)

1. hazaaroN KHwahishaiN 'eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin fir bhee kam nikle

A thousand desires, each seeming to take a lifetime to realise.
Try as I might, they don't seem to want to become real . ( like I said, my translation sucks!)

2. nikalna KHuld se aadam ka sunte aayaiN haiN lekin
bohot be_aabru hokar tere kooche se ham nikle

I had heard of Adam being ousted from paradise (khuld),
I find my way out of your street, in big (ger) disgrace.

3. huee jinse tavaqqo KHastagee kee daad paane kee
wo hamse bhee ziyaada KHasta-e-teGH-e-sitam nikle

He, from whom I expect justice for such weakness,
is more injured by the sword of sorrow than I.

4. mohabbat meiN naheeN hai farq jeene aur marne kaa
usee ko dekh kar jeete haiN jis kaafir pe dam nikle

In love, there isn't a difference between living and dying,
I draw life from looking at the traitor I die for.

5. zara kar jor seene par ki teer-e-pursitam nikle
jo wo nikle to dil nikle, jo dil nikle to dam nikle

Try hard to get this arrow of sorrow out of my heart,
It will come out taking my heart with it, my heart will take my life with it.

6. KHuda ke waaste parda na kaabe se uThaa zaalim
kaheeN 'eisa na ho yaaN bhee wohee kaafir sanam nikle

For God's sake, don't remove the veil off of the Kaaba ( religious stone representative of God in Islam)
What if my deceitful lover hides behind it?
( Also representative of a ston hearted lover perhaps!)

A great rendition of the ghazal by Shubha Mudgal can be heard here .

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Suttum Vizhi Sudar, Bharatiyar and love.

Like most Indian languages, Tamil too lends itself beautifully to metaphors that give vernacular Indian poetry that ethereal quality. Not that I am an expert on vernacular languages, poetry of any kind or English but IMHO some very profound expressions come out sounding much better in the vernacular. But then it could be because my mother tongue ( so to speak ) is not English.

Bharathiyar's style has always fascinated me. It is simplistic, so even tamil duds like me can, not only understand but fully appreciate it, even while being filled with the most beautiful of metaphors ( now cliched , thanks to unimaginative tamil movie lyricists) . What sets it apart, however, is the consistent passion and optimism. While known most for his patriotic poems, I think his poems on social issues ( such as manathil urudhi vendum ) and the ones on various Hindu gods and God in general (ettanai kodi inbam) are really well done. Of all kinds, however, I like his love poems the best . ( I can see all the eye rolls so cut it :) )

This post chooses to elaborate on one of my two favorites, Suttum vizhi Sudar, the other one being Chinnanjiru kiliye. Kannamma is a recurrent theme in these poems, sometimes lover, sometimes child, sometimes companion.

This poem illustrates passion so unabashedly, it makes one want to fall that much in love with someone. I was of the thought that Indian culture and how it conditions us, keeps us from expressing fully how we feel about someone. While we have no issues expressing feelings of hatred we almost never vocalise or even accept to ourselves how much we love someone. I have found, half way around the world, that this seems true in America too.
What keeps us from expressing that passion? Are we afraid? Conditioned ? or simply incapable?

Analysis apart, here's a crude line to line translation of the poem. I just wish my poetry skills were a little better , to do a little justice to , what according to me is one of the greatest love poems ever. ( yeah, better than neruda even :))

Suttum vizhi sudar than Kannamma
Suriye chandiraro?
Vattakkariye vizhi - Kannamma!
Vanakkarumai kollo?

Your gaze has the brightness of the sun and moon
Your eyes reflect (*) the darkness of the skies

Pattu karuneela - pudavai
Padhittha nalviram
Natta nadunisiyil - Therium

The diamonds on your dark silk saree,
show me the stars in broad daylight. (*)

Solai malaroliyo -Unathu
Sundarapunnagai than?
Neela kadalalaiye - Unathu
Nenjin alaigaladi !
Kolak kuyil oosai - Unathu
Kuralin inimaiyadi!
Valai kumariyadi - Kannamma
Maruvak kadhal kondain.

Your smile is the bloom of the garden,
Your heart, the waves of the sea,
Your voice , sweet like the koel's
My love longs for union, Kannamma

Sathiram pesugirai - Kannamma
Sathiram yedhukkadi?
Athiram kondavarke - Kannamma
Sathiram undodi!

You talk of Rules, Kannamma
What rules do paramours (*) follow?

Moothavar sammadhiyil - Vadhuvai
Muraigal pinbhu saivom
Kathiruppenodi! - Ithupar

Elders , marriage and rituals can wait,
Can I ? Come now,

Kannatthu muttham ondru!

Let me kiss you.

changed after expert opinion although the expert disagrees with the translation to paramour, and thinks it should have been rational people , reflecting on Bharatiyar's call for rage/ anger/ passion in almost all his poems. Anger / Rage in the positive sense of bringing about change and opposing meaningless traditions , superstitious beliefs and of course, oppression.