Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Change or Accept

I had a somewhat interesting conversation with a friend today morning.

The conversation centered on whether one should accept oneself (to "be"), or whether one should attempt to "become".  "Being" is generally associated with peace and happiness, while "becoming" is associated with desire and frustration and suffering.

This is a nuanced topic, and while spirituality advocates a wholesale "being", many forces in the world relentlessly try to coerce, inspire, influence or shape an individual: to "become".  Some of these forces are probably with good intentions (parents, teachers, etc.) while others (advertisers, peer pressure) are often vicious in their intent.

Which features or characteristics of a human should be accepted as innate?

Which features or patterns of a human should be attempted to be changed in order to live a better life?

And lastly, at what point should one attempt to transform the circumstances instead of oneself?

To make the question more specific, let us consider three hypothetical individuals:

1. James likes to live large.  He has a busy corporate life, and out of office he likes to drink, party, and spend money.  He likes to buy new gadgets and show off flashy possessions.  He has some credit card debt.  His parents are old but he rarely calls them.  He meets many women but none of them are found suitable by him for getting married.  Maybe he doesn't want to get tied down.  He likes to live "in the present" and not think too much about "life".  He sleeps well but is sometimes stressed about the possibility of losing his job.

2. Matthew is an introvert.  He likes to work from home.  His parents are chronically unwell and he grudgingly takes care of them.  In his leisure time, he plays video games and eat simple food.  He doesn't like to meet women (or men, for that matter).  He is mildly overweight and he tries intermittently to exercise without much effect.  His needs are few and he has no significant ambition.  Of late he has become interested in existential philosophy.  People would consider him sober and mild-mannered.

3. Leah is driven, and very focused on self-improvement.  She is extremely fit, quite ambitious but emotionally vacuous.  She earns a lot of money as a Vice President but is often lonely.  She focused on her career in her twenties and early thirties and given her age, motherhood is no longer an option.  She is a vegan by choice, likes to volunteer to help the poor, and likes to travel to exotic places.  She never wants to retire but has a nagging feeling of emptiness and purposelessness.  She ensures that she sends birthday and anniversary cards to her parents every year.

In each of these three individuals, one can see shades of self-acceptance as well as self-doubt, "being" as well as "becoming", contentment as well as discontent.

If James, Matthew and Leah come to you for advice on whether they should continue to be the way they are or whether they should change themselves, or their circumstances, what will be the way you begin to form your response?

Complete acceptance of oneself and the world might be sub-optimal, but so might advocating a change which is in conflict with one's "nature".

Is it important to investigate the kind of discontent that one has, and after due consideration, to advocate: (a) accept the situation, (b) try and change yourself, or (c) try and change your situation?  Or a mixture of all three?

(to be continued)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Three Poems, Three Poets, Three Fathers

1. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Dylan Thomas)

"It has been suggested that it was written for Thomas' dying father, although he did not die until just before Christmas 1952." (Wikipedia)

2. एक गली का अँधेरा (Kumar Vikal)

(Explicitly dedicated to his late father)

3. तुम्हारी कब्र पर (Nida Fazli)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Ghazal by Zafar

A beautiful Ghazal of Bahadur Shah Zafar, who lived in the times of Ghalib, partly rendered by Bhupinder with almost no music.

या मुझे अफसर-ए-शाहाना बनाया होता
या मेरा ताज गदायाना बनाया होता।

(अफसर-ए-शाहाना = king of kings, गदायाना = that of a beggar/hermit)

अपना दीवाना बनाया होता तू ने
क्यों ख़िरद-मंद बनाया? ना बनाया होता।

(ख़िरद-मंद = wise)

ख़ाक़सारी के लिए गरचे बनाया था मुझे
काश संगे-दरे-जानाना बनाया होता।

(ख़ाक़सारी = to be humiliated as dust, गरचे = if, संगे-दरे-जानाना = next to the door of my beloved)

नशा-ए-इश्क़ का गर ज़र्फ़ दिया था मुझको
उम्र का तंग न पैमाना बनाया होता।

(गर = अगर/if, ज़र्फ़ = ability to bear)

दिले-सद-चक बनाया तो बला से लेकिन
ज़ुल्फ़-ए-मुश्किन का तेरे शाना बनाया होता।

(दिले-सद-चक = a heart torn a hundred times, ज़ुल्फ़-ए-मुश्किन = fragrant hair, शाना = shoulder)

सूफियों के ना था लायक-ए-सोहबत तो मुझे
क़ाबिले-जलसा-ए-रिन्दाना बनाया होता।

(क़ाबिले-जलसा-ए-रिन्दाना = able to enjoy drunken orgies)

था जलाना ही अगर दूरी-ए-साक़ी से मुझे
तो चराग़े-दर-ए-मयख़ाना बनाया होता।

रोज़ मामूरा-ए-दुनिया में खराबी है 'ज़फर'
ऐसी बस्ती से तो वीराना बनाया होता।

(मामूरा = mundane, मामूरा-ए-दुनिया = day-to-day life)

या मुझे अफसर-ए-शाहाना बनाया होता
या मेरा ताज गदायाना बनाया होता।

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Ghazal by Mir Taqi Mir

This Ghazal was partially rendered by the legendary Lata Mangeshkar in the film Bazaar:

Written by Mir Taqi Mir (18th century), the full Ghazal follows:

फ़कीराना आए सदा कर चले
मियाँ खुश रहो हम दुआ कर चले
Mendicant like i came and part
Praying that you be blessed.
जो तुझ बिन न जीने को कहते थे हम
सो इस अहद को अब वफ़ा कर चले
Without you i would not live,
Behold, this pledge i now redeem.
कोई ना-उम्मीदाना करते निगाह
सो तुम हम से मुँह भी छिपा कर चले
A hopeless glance I could have cast,
But you even hid your face walking past me.
बहुत आरज़ू थी गली की तेरी
सो याँ से लहू में नहा कर चले
I longed to come your way
And I started from here (याँ से) bathed in blood.
दिखाई दिए यूं कि बेखुद किया
हमें आप से भी जुदा कर चले
With just a glimpse, you left me entranced,
estranged from self, i have been since.
जबीं सजदा करते ही करते गई
हक-ऐ-बंदगी हम अदा कर चले
A long obeisance was my life,
My debt of homage i have paid.
परस्तिश की याँ तैं कि ऐ बुत तुझे
नज़र में सबों की खुदा कर चले
I worshiped you so deeply as a body,
That people took you for a god.
गई उम्र दर बंद-ऐ-फिक्र-ऐ-ग़ज़ल
सो इस फ़न को ऐसा बड़ा कर चले
A life spent in verses, stanzas and poems
Thus have I nourished this passion.
कहें क्या जो पूछे कोई हम से “मीर”
जहाँ में तुम आए थे, क्या कर चले
What shall I say if someone asks
"Mir", you were born, but to what avail?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Ghazal in two parts

This magnificent Ghazal apparently is in two parts.  Both parts have been sung by Jagjit Singh, on separate occasions.

Part 1, written by Aziz Qaisi

आप को देख कर देखता रह गया
क्या कहूँ और कहने को क्या रह गया।

उन के आँखों में कैसे छलकने लगा
मेरे होंठों पे जो माजरा रह गया।

ऐसे बिछड़े सभी राह के मोड़ पर
आखरी हमसफ़र रास्ता रह गया।

सोच कर आओ कू-ए-तमन्ना है ये (कू-ए-तमन्ना = Way of Desire)
जानेमन जो यहां रह गया रह गया।

आप को देख कर देखता रह गया
क्या कहूँ और कहने को क्या रह गया।

Part 2, written by Wasim Barelvi

आप को देख कर देखता रह गया
क्या कहूँ और कहने को क्या रह गया।

आते-आते मेरा नाम-सा रह गया
उसके होंठों पे कुछ कांपता रह गया।

वो मेरे सामने ही गया और मैं
रास्ते की तरह देखता रह गया।

झूठ वाले कहीं से कहीं बढ़ गये
और मैं था कि सच बोलता रह गया।

आँधियों के इरादे तो अच्छे न थे
ये दिया कैसे जलता हुआ रह गया।

आप को देख कर देखता रह गया
क्या कहूँ और कहने को क्या रह गया।