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।

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ten Modern Provocative Films

Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we’d be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.
(Franz Kakfa, 1904)

Cinematic arts show little sign of stagnation. It is the greatest of all times for a film lover.

All these films were released in the last ten years.

In no particular order:
  • The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, 2011)
  • The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)
  • Miss Lovely (Ashim Ahluwalia, 2012)
  • The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
  • Nymphomaniac I and II (Lars von Trier, 2013)
  • Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011)
  • Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
  • Incendies (Dennis Villenueve, 2010)
  • Julia (Erich Zonka, 2008)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Dharnas, Bandhs, and the State

Exhibit A

From The Tribune
“Today she was standing in the queue since morning. There was a huge rush outside the bank. The bank guard allegedly pushed her when she tried to enter the bank. She fell down near the main door of the bank and fell unconscious,” Parvinder said.
He said that all family members immediately reached the spot and rushed her to a nearby private hospital where doctors refused to admit her, citing her serious condition. She was later rushed to the CMC Hospital where doctors declared her brought dead.
Following her death, her kin brought her body back outside the bank and blocked the Shingar cinema road.
Protest was on outside the bank for over two hours.
I used to consider such public protests a nuisance.  And they are.  In many cases, the demands are unjust and the costs are imposed on unsuspecting, innocent third parties.  If the road is blocked, or if there is a Bandh (a city shut-down), suffering is inflicted on many who had nothing to do with the initial provocation.  Sometimes, they are little different from a blackmail.

But if we consider the lack of effective institutions and processes in India to redress a grievance, these protests are more understandable.  If the police and the judiciary acted quickly and efficiently against an unjust act, and if there were effective mechanisms to resolve disputes between two parties, people would feel much less inclined to take to the road to voice their frustration.

During the so-called freedom struggle, Gandhi was well-known to go on hunger-strikes against the British or against a rioting populace.  He claimed it was a penance and not a blackmail, but obviously a penance could (and should) have been done in private without it becoming a public show.  It was a coercive gesture against a regime which was considered unjust and cruel, or against a circumstance which was too hard to address through law or debate.

I fear that though India is supposedly free from the British, our judiciary and police is still essentially of a colonial nature.  It is inaccessible to the common individual.  The police routinely regard a common man and his grievance as a nuisance rather than a call to duty.  The judiciary is impenetrable and takes ages to make any decision which can be easily and routinely reversed in a higher court.

In short, the common individual has little recourse when there is a severe injustice.  For common injustices and humiliations, Indians just take it in their stride.  It is not that we are genetically servile, but our institutions are designed for servility.  We are supposed to beg for favors rather than be assured of a process that works.  That is also why Indians are so loath to pay taxes.

The fundamental, essential duty of a modern state is to dispense safety and justice between disarmed individuals.  Other public services like roads, infrastructure, healthcare, are important but secondary to the primary objective of providing law-enforcement fairly and effectively.  If that is absent, citizens lose faith in the state and we drift toward anarchy.  If there is no faith in the state, there is thereby little motivation to contribute one's fair share in the form of taxes.

Tax-evasion is breaking a law.  But when all other laws are being broken, how and why can you expect a citizen to follow the tax laws specifically?  As a country, we must strengthen the law-making and the law-enforcement mechanisms in general.  Any specific strengthening (the promulgation of a draconian new law) is only going to be a further injustice.  Selective law-enforcement is synonymous with injustice.

Hence, these protests and public blockades are an expression of the frustration boiling over.  It is when the ordinary humiliations give way to extraordinary ones that people take to the road and start screaming and crying.  If the relatives of the dead woman were assured that the law was on their side, they would not resort to exhibiting the dead body in the middle of the road.

As it is, they were subjected to at least three severe injustices, all in the course of a day:
  1. The draconian demonetization of 86% of Indian currency in circulation, and the necessity of standing in a queue for days to get one's own hard-earned money.
  2. The alleged manhandling by the bank's guard and lack of immediate medical attention.
  3. The refusal of the hospital to treat the woman.
I can imagine their anguish.  In a failed state, nothing is off the table.

Exhibit B

From the "Enforcing Contracts" statistics on World Bank's Ease of Doing Business  around the world:
Average length time to enforce a contract in the CAPITAL of India is 1420 days: almost 4 years.
One can imagine the plight of people in a town or village.  And these are for civil wrongs.  One can imagine the glacial pace of correcting a criminal wrong.  In my estimation, criminal cases drag along usually for two decades.

One can either wait for two decades, or take to the streets.  What would you do?