Tuesday, December 18, 2007

aaj jaa kar vote de (Poem in Hindi: Go vote today)

आज जा कर वोट दे
शाषण को गुप्त चोट दे

प्रजातंत्र में तेरा कर्म यही
कि रहें तेरे प्रतिनिधि सही
जिस समुदाय ने नेता
गुणवत्ता के लिए चुना नहीं
जाती धर्म की फ़ुट डालकर
जो चुनाव में उतरा आदमी
वो क्यों कल न भेद अभेद में
भुला देगा भूखे कृषक खेत में
वो क्यों न अपनी कमाई के लिए
बनाएगा बाँध सेतु बस रेत से

आज जा कर वोट दे
शाषण को गुप्त चोट दे

पाँच साल के राज में जिसने
न कोई प्रगति का काम किया
अपने उस दोषी प्रतिनिधि को
क्यों तूने पल में माफ़ किया
और अगर तूने चुनाव के दिन
था कोई और काम ज़रूरी समझा
तू भुगता है, भुगतेगा अपनी खामोशी
तूने हमेशा अपने वोट है जाने क्यों तुत्छ समझा
क्या जानता नहीं कि वृक्ष गिरता है निरंतर चोट से?
बदल जाता है देश का दुःख रुख सुख मुख एक वोट से!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

BPO Idea: Sir, I'll sleep for you

"Sir, for five dollars per hour only, I'll sleep for you. I don't need to know what you do with your extra waking hours sir, and I will keep my sleep secret," says a yawning Ram to a caller from Unites States.

Ram opened his sleep BPO in the sleepy nineties. People who laughed at him back them, were caught napping when the Y2K boom came. Ram had hired a team of five hundred sleepers by then. The company has grown like Kumbhkaran by now, and is voted as the best company to work for by the entire employee world.

"It wasn't easy to find the right people for the job. Most of the sleep deprived customers demand that their consolation sleep must be peaceful and natural. No sedatives, no drugs must be used. Plus, I need to ensure that the sleep starts and ends at the designated hours. To have the sleepers report at the right time requires a team of fifty strong men, assisted by fifty women who have the best irritating high pitch voice that can be found in the whole of our state."

The software boom and doom came and went, and the whole sleep business continued to flourish. The company went public in early 2003, and the initial responses were very sluggish. Yet by the end of 2003, Ram had become one of the youngest sleeping billionaires of the world.

"The nature of my business is such that I cannot worry too much about how markets are behaving. Our product is unusual, but it is the demand of our time to have a collaboration between sleepers and non-sleepers to take the world economy forward."

Ram has set high standards in the business. He still keeps at least twelve hours of sleep for himself, making sixty dollars a day from his own naps.

"My best employees work up to one hundred and fifty hours a week. I don't allow them to go beyond the magical figure of seven hundred and fifty dollars per week. These employees wake and sleep as required and eat in intermissions that last anywhere between twenty to thirty minutes."

Ram chuckles when I ask him about his Sleep Research Institute.

"We call it the Awake Section of our company. The scientists were hired from some of the best universities of the world. Cheng-Fu is a Complexity and Synchronization PhD from MIT, and models the influence of Dollars versus Euro on sleep patterns. John is a biologist, who is interning with us, and he has taken a year off from his doctoral studies at Harvard. He has been buying our sleep for last ten years. When he was selected for internship, we agreed to give him a lifetime sleeping partner in return. Lee is a social anthropology graduate from Columbia and is here to examine sleep in his pursuit of the complete understanding of "The Sleeping Races: Historical perspective, regional influences and patterns of slumber evolution". His book with be published by my flagship company, "Neend" (Hindi word for Sleep) and the company is owned and managed by my daughter of the same name. Last year our Sleep Research Institute issued ten patents, and published hundred articles in world renowned journals in science, arts and mathematics. Neend published five best sellers, all written to ensure that half a page is enough to induce a nap."

There is a huge team of support staff that manages cleanliness, food, health and sound respectively.

"I personally slept through auditions of over five hundred lullaby singers, before hiring our current team of twenty. We have an American Idol finalist and an Indian idol winners in our team, and their salaries match the record deals most companies condescendingly offered to them.

The sound team has worked very hard to ensure that lullabies reach the person in question. We eventually helped Apple to develop I-headphones, which are a rage in world market now. Also our sound engineers have developed a device to convert the snores of our on-duty sleepers into a hum that is mixed with harmonies from the classics written by Mozart (in his sleep), and recycled into the sleeping quarters.

Doctors conduct routine check-up to monitor all ailments that keep sleep away. Our doctors are resident experts on insomnia and earn extra bucks in consultancy.

Since we are a socially conscious company, we have ensured that our employees are between age of twenty one and sixty-one. For just two dollar per hour surcharge, we can match sleeping partners by age or sex, if the need be. "

When I ask him about food that is offered to his employees, he insists that all the food is home-cooked, low on oil and fat, and induces good sleep as it is "very very very tasty".

"We cannot compromise on two things: sleep and food. I think the modern age has turned eating into an act similar to filling in gas or petrol. We seek the old ideal in sleeping and eating. This is our contribution to the mankind. Our company has been recognized by the WHO, the UNESCO, the Indian Government as well as the World Yawn Sleep Yawn Sleep Council for our attempts at keeping the world average of sleep at levels comparable to the happiest times in the world history. The fact that there was hardly a time like that ever, means my small but dedicated team has kept the average going. We are of course helped by scores of people around the world who take sleeping as seriously as we do. The only difference being that we are paid to sleep."

After finishing the interview, I am offered the most exotic, yet simple diet of home-cooked Indian food. A huge glass of buttermilk, lassi, is placed before me as an appetizer. I eat with relish and after the sumptuous meal, I am offered a very relaxing massage. Thereafter, I am lulled into repose by a melodious, sensuous voice that fills my ear with darkness and peace. When I wake up ten hours later, ginger tea is served to get me going. I leave with five books from Neend publishers, twenty CDs with lullabies in every major language, and a Gift card worth three hundred hours of sleep . I came in with a smirk, for the idea of Sleep BPO seems so ridiculous at first. My interview opened my eyes to the wonderful world of Sleep Studies, Sleep Sociology as well as economic benefits of sleep.


I leave Ram's headquarters on a tip-toe.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is it the Best Blogger (writer) contest? No, it is the most popular blogger contest. What is the difference? (About Sulekha)

I suppose we should make a distinction between the most popular blogger (which is what a populist sulekha contest would end up being) vs the best poet or a writer on the forum. The best writer or poet would invariably be the one who can be considered publishable, and compose articles or poems or short stories that will stand the test of time. The best writer will possess the hallmark virtues of his or her craft: painstaking research, correct grammar, inspired thoughts and ideas, creative diction and honest voice. The most popular blogger can simply be a person who convinces enough people to cast vote, can bribe them into it, or use flattery or some other appeal to garner votes, and need not know how to even write one paragraph of material than can pass as artistic.

Let us just call the contest "the most popular blogger of sulekha". I know we live in a democracy, but greatness in science and arts can be never measured by mere popularity index. Else we would have discarded the theory of evolution, Newton's laws, theory of relativity, James Joyce, Salman Rushdie, Keats, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Gurudutt's movies, Jaane bhi do Yaaro, Masoom, Satyajit Ray, Ravi Shankar, S. Chandrashekar, Premchand and Ghalib. (A Zauq was more popular than Ghalib.) Of course, they who swear by popularity index will disagree, though there was a time, not too long ago, when even democracy was an unpopular ideal.

I am adding more material copied from what I posted in the comments section.

The idea that everyone is awesome and equal is an old Marxist ideal. If I were to subscribe to it, there will be no difference between the man who drinks everything his wife earns and sleeps all day long, and a man who works extra shift at night to ensure his kids get the best education. Both men serve a purpose, and both are human beings. Yet there is both a subjective and objective differentiation. There is a clear demarkation between a painting by me and by Van Gogh. Everyone is not a Lata Mangeskar.

As long as we are singing in our own bathrooms, any song, be it out of tune, will work. If we get on the stage to sing, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that what we are singing qualifies as a song. We cannot give everyone the first prize, usually because everyone doesn't deserve the first prize. Similarly, we must not award a singer the first prize because his or her dress is the prettiest, or he or she is the most popular kid in the block.

What anyone writes is his problem. If I am expected to read something, served to me as "the best writing from an Indian blog site with maximum subscribers", and if I see it is a farce, a populist piece with no creativity in it, it becomes my problem.

The standard of excellence must be identified before calling something as brilliant: the idea is simple, yet most people don't value the difference between good, popular and great. In few rare cases, good is popular as well as great. Most of the time, they are three different things.

We have let the celebration of ordinary overwhelm our appreciation of extraordinary. There has not been a non-English writer of value in India for over a decade now. Even the English greats are either foreign educated or live outside the country (and hence were picked and showcased ny foreigner before we started to appreciate them). Do we know why?


I have always had problem with the concept - "Power in hand of people where it really belongs" - for this requires a big responsibility and sensibility on part of voters. Indian democracy (and American too) indicates that 1) people typically chose the "least bad" rather than "most good" from "politically correct, sometimes inept" candidates 2) most of the people never vote, and more than half of those who do, vote against the eventual winner (usually, not always). But you know this already.

Perhaps a look at blogging sites beyond sulekha will enable us to see what difference quality makes to the written word. I agree that sulekha always attracts a pool of exceptionally good writers. So there could be Kishore Kumars and Rafis (and even if you think they cannot be compared, remember that they both always competed for Filmfare and National Awards) , but my point is about distinguishing between Kishore Kumar, Bhimsen Joshi, Bathroom Singer and braying donkeys. I suppose some of us don't think blogging community offfers that range, but it is a human tendency. Our own selves and writings offer this range too, and I value an occasional piece you or I write which rises beyond our typical hogwash. I produce a lot of hogwosh, and so does everyone else, but unless we call "keechad: keechad" (mud as mud), we will not value the lotus that blooms there.

There might be a handful good movies made as opposed to hundred run of the mill. We do revisit those handful and remember them and are influenced by them. I hope to challenge people to remember that there is always that handful that must get a louder response and applause that the other hundred.

Yet maybe that handful doesn't need a loud applause. There are writers who write because they must. They strive, for they believe that becoming better is their duty. They write quite well, but it is mainly for their own satisfaction. They will perhaps only shake their heads and leave the room when the crowd becomes too loud.

(Since there have been a lot of comments, adding some more views I expressed in my responses)

I suppose if many of the sulekha bloggers who claim that there are no good or bad blogs are asked to pick a cricket team for India, they will have half a billion acceptable players, and maybe they will include a few players who don't know how to play, just to encourage them, and ensure no one feels left out. Such mentality is responsible for underperformance of an entire nation, and it is outrageous that equality of opportunity is confused with equality of reward by so many educated people. I hope my dissent against the people who wish to reduce everything and everyone to the lowest common denomitaor will be heard by more and more commentators. A healthy competition only produces better players and challenges us to give our best performances.

I respect the Sulekha Management for creating a forum, a network, rather than just a plotform (like blogger is), for writing. The ideal is "sulekha" and that ideal needs to be realized by they who write or comment on writings. The standard of writing in sulekha is as bad as in a classroom, and yet it also throws up very good pieces every now and then. It may not win a popularity contest, and it might be a reward in itself, yet if we see it, we should applaud it. Similarly grammar, word choices, and criticism are integral part of the belief system of good writers. Writers who care for "sulekha"!

The dream of becoming rich or famous is a curious one: for it requires more effort and sacrifices than a common man can afford. Yet people still dream and want the rewards, without worrying about the means.

My motivation or undercurrent of current piece was to stress the importance of scholarship (which requires hard work, enormous talent and solitude) in writing. No noble prize winning writer ever had the time or energy to sit and network with people. Yet we value their work for their writing, and if we wish to become better writers, we ought to value good writing, aspire for it, celebrate it and honor it. Similarly, we have to recognize that there are good and bad writers, and we have to continuously examine our own writing. It is patient and painstaking struggle. Are we up for it?

Edit Madhuri out of Aaja Nachle

What was Madhuri doing in Aaja Nachle? It might require more soul searching than NRI Madhuri Dixit can afford. I suppose the writer and director of the movie could answer the question. But had they, rather HE, had raised the question at the onset, Madhuri wouldn't have been there. She wouldn't have flown in to give interviews on Karan Johar Koffee show or judge and dance in Nach Baliye. Maybe after the movie was made, Madhuri could have been edited out.

If such a thing, I mean, editing was introduced, half of the movies in Indian cinema will require re-shoots. Their every reel could go into the recycle bins. Of the remaining half, most would end up as short movies: chopped to quarter of their intended lengths. A lot of people could loose their jobs. Item numbers, where scantily clad models, enter a village fair on buffalo, could become difficult to justify. Kid Roshan would have fewer scenes to cry. Salman Khan wouldn't waste time in wearing shirts that fly off within two minutes of his on-screen appearance. If editing was introduced, and most of the blogger space would become like a wasteland: where crops can't grow, for they require too much labor, and grass cannot exist, for it is uprooted like weed. In the interest of environment and unemployment issues, we must allow sloppy movies to exist. But that can be accomplished at lower costs. Why waste so much money over a Blue Sanwariya (that Dostoevsky has sued posthumously), have Madhuri in unedited version of Aaja Nachle, have Celina in Red when Mona Chopra can show more for less money in Red Swastik?

When I was a kid, I saw Ramleela in our village. It was entertaining . It installed local kids and men into a stage persona. The roles were well defined and the dialog was powerful. The audience fell awed, inspired, pious, happy and blissful. I guess it worked so well as they used a GOOD story written by Valmiki or Tulsidas, and modified it using their own interpretation and dialect. There were few props, local lighting schemes, and innovative intermissions. The Laila Majnu show enacted in Aaja Nachle is not worth the fake hair on the knitted tail of Ramleela's monkeys. What was Madhuri doing in it anyway? Did it appeal to her? Did she say to herself, "Wow! My comeback movie has an awesome climax." Did she think that she is the fairy Godmother of Cinderella fame? But then if she is the fairy, why is she the center of the movie? Hasn't she read the bedtime stories for her daughters? Maybe she didn't see the rational for making role of a fairy godmother fairly short.

In copying Rang De Basanti, the director forgot that in that movie, the audience invested interest in the "actors" of the re-enacted freedom struggle. While Aamir or Sidharth died, the role of the woman who inspired them was minimal (and she wasn't saying Ishq, Ishq and dancing). These directors irritate my sensibility the most. Even when they copy from a great example, they make so many mistakes, that they fail to get the "just pass" score. Even if they manage to "just pass" using frame by frame transliteration of an English movie or scene, I find it incredible that they claim to be geniuses. If they are geniuses, every photo-copier machine or man working on it, is an equally respectable genius.

Konkona Sen Sharma is an awesome actress, Kunal, Irfan and Divya are good presences, but why are they wasting their time? They should have signed up for the same movie, rewritten, with Madhuri out of the frame, director replaced and songs reduced to silence. To expect a logic, a flow is considered a sin for a Bollywood enthusiast. I am a Bollywood enthusiast, and if I am supposed to like Aaja Nachle or Neal n Nikki or KANK or Tara Rum Pum, I don't understand why I must not equally favor Mithun movies like Chandaal, Shapath or C-grade movies like Sparsh - The Touch? If I want to suspend disbelief, I will rather watch Rajnikant defy age, gravity, quantum and classical mechanics as well as laws that govern intelligence of chimpanzees, than cheer for a cast, a director that is an eyesore to me after all the lies they serve during the publicity.

Madhuri, no offense, but even your dance moves were cliched, as was the theme song of this movie. You actually looked very average as a heroine, and looked ridiculous in the play Laila Majnu. Perhaps you need to get back to theater and learn new tricks. You are pretty, but we have too many pretty dancers who can give you run for money now. Aunty Madhuri, you must learn to distinguish between good and bad scripts. We, who liked you once, pined for you when you left, but we have grown up, and we have grown out of it. Unfortunately, you need a role like Saagar, but if you plan to copy Saagar, you will need to do it right. Yes! You might have thought that all of India is dying to see you, but since you left, we have acquired better taste, actresses and directors. We almost have!

Would you please request the Director to edit you out of Aaja Nachle in the DVD release? The controversy will sell the DVD, and trust me neither the flow of the movie nor the story would be affected. If you expect us to give a standing ovation to the movie or Laila Majnu enacted in the movie or to your performance, Forget it! If you think we are too lazy to think while watching your movie, we are even lazier when it comes to Standing up and saying: What nonsense! or Applause, Applause!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Advice to Students (Written for My Himachal @

“परिश्रम तेरे बाएँ हाथ में, तो सफलता तेरे दायें हाथ में”

बात कहना आसान होता है, अंजाम देना मुश्किल. बात हिमाचली विद्यार्थियों की कर रहा हूँ, इसलिए अब सब सन्दर्भ, अब उदाहरण हमारे प्रदेश के अनुकूल ही दूंगा. यूं तो कोई भी पर्वत चढ़ना आसान नहीं, पर लक्ष्य अगर एवरेस्ट की चोटी हो, सर्वोपर्री हो, तो तैयारी से लेकर विजय तक परिश्रम भी सर्वाधिक करना पड़ता है. जिसने बचपन से जवानी तक, कभी पहाड़ देखे ही नहीं, उसके लिए पहाड़ चढ़ पाना बहुत मुश्किल होगा. कहने का तात्पर्य यह है कि जीवन में सफलता पाना पहाड़ चढ़ने की तरह एक मुश्किल काम है. न सिर्फ़ चाह चाहिए, बलकी वर्षों में परिश्रित परिश्रमी की लगन, और भरसक प्रयास चाहिए. सभी बहाने भुला के, सभी विपदाओं का शोर अनदेखा करके, अपनी कुछ तुत्छ इच्छायें दबा के, जब नित्य कुछ घँटे आप मेहनत करेंगे तो सफलता की सम्भावना है. संभावना है, क्यूंकि है निश्चित कुछ भी नहीं.

“तू कर यत्न भी तो मिल नहीं सकती सफलता, यह उदय होती लिए कुछ, ध्येय नयनों के निलय में”

हरिवँश राय बच्चन जी हिन्दी भाषा के प्रमुख कवियों में से एक है, और उल्लेखित पंक्ति उनकी कविता “बाट की पहचान” से ली गयी है. कविता की पहली दो पंक्तियों पर ध्यान दीजिये: “पूर्व चलने के बटोही, बाट की पहचान करले”. सफलता, चाहे वो इम्तिहान में हो, या अभियान में, उनके हाथ लगती है, जो सफलता के लिए ज़रूरी ज़ज्बा रखते हों. पहले चाह चाहिए, फ़िर राह चाहिए. एक बार ध्येय निश्चित कर लिया, तो जान लिया जाना कहाँ है. एक श्लोक है संस्कृत में, जो बुजुर्ग लोग अकसर कहा करते है: ” उद्यमेन ही सिद्धयन्ति, कार्याणि न मनोरथैः/ न ही सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य, प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगः” सो जान लीजिये, लक्ष्य निर्धारित करने के बाद, ९९ प्रतिशत समय परिश्रम में जाता है. रास्ते बहुत है, पर मंजिल पर वही पहुँचते है जो चलते चले जाते है. बच्चन जी ने “मधुशाला” में एक रुबाई कही है:

“मदिरालेय जाने को घर से, चलता है पीनेवाला
किस पथ जाऊँ असमंजस में सोच रहा भोलाभाला
अलग अलग पथ बतलाते सब, पर मैं बतलाता हूँ
राह पकड़ कर एक चला चल, पा जाएगा मधुशाला”

हमारे हिमाचल में शिक्षा और शिक्षक भारत के अनेकों प्रदेशों के मुकाबले बहुत उच्च कोटी के है. परन्तु फ़िर भी राष्ट्रीय स्तर कि सभी परीक्षाओं में हमारे विद्यार्थी दूसरे प्रदेशों के मुकाबले पिछडे हुए हैं. आखिर क्यों? मुख्यतः यह परिश्रम की कमी का ही नतीजा है. अगर किसी को समझाने बैठता हूँ, तो हजारों बहानों की लिस्ट सुनने को मिलती है. सच्चाई यह है की आई. आई. टी. या आई. ए. एस. या आई. आई. एम. के लिए डट कर, मिट कर, झपट के मेहनत और भरपूर ज़ज्बा, लगन, आत्मविश्वास और प्रेरणा चाहिए. एक स्तर के बाद, सभी सक्षम होते हैं. क्षमता हर इंसान में निहित है परन्तु सिर्फ़ तेज़ दिमाग होना किसी परीक्षा में सफलता कि गारेन्टी नहीं. यह बात हर स्तर पर, हर तरह के खेल, फन, कला, शिक्षा,राजनीति, व्यवसाय, हर क्षत्र में लागू होती है. अच्छा गला होना गायक नहीं बनाता, उसके लिए सालों रियाज़ करना पड़ता है, किसी गुरु के पास साधना करनी पड़ती है, एकाग्र होना पड़ता है. गांगुली-सा बैट्समैन बनना हो, तो बचपन से ही रोज़ प्रयास, रोज़ व्यायाम करने पड़ते है. टीम से निकले जाने पर भी हिम्मत खोये बिना दुबारा अपने होंसले और परिणामों के बलबूते पर टीम में वापिस आना होता है.

तेज़ दिमाग है मेरे भाई, तो फ़िर ६० प्रतिशत ही क्यों ला पाते हो? अच्छा खेलते हो, तो स्कूल टीम में क्यों नहीं? हिसाब अच्छा करते हो, पर कभी शत प्रतिशत लो ला नहीं पाये? ९० और १०० में क्या फरक होता है? बताता हूँ: ९० घर बैठता है, १०० अच्छी नौकरी पाता है. परिश्रम और उससे मिलने वाली सफलता सिर्फ़ अंकों से ज़ाहिर नहीं होते. यह एक आदत होती है, जिसको बचपन से डालना पड़ता है. जीवन में करिश्मे नहीं होते, सिर्फ़ फिल्मों में होते हैं, या कहानियो में. जितना गुड़ डालोगे, खीर उतनी ही मीठी होगी. आपने अगर रामधारी सिंह दिनकर जी कि रश्मिरथी नहीं पड़ी है, तो ढूँढ के उसका अध्ययन कीजिये. प्रेरणा का असीम सागर है वह. अगर आप आपने को ग्यानी कहते हैं, दार्शनिक समझते हैं, सफल गिनते हैं, और आपने अपने कवियों को नहीं जाना है, आप आपने देश-प्रदेश के इतिहास, रस्मों से वाकिफ नहीं, आपको राजनीति का ध्यान नहीं, आपको अपने धर्म में रूचि नहीं, और अगर आपको सही-ग़लत का पता नहीं, आपके मन में शंकाएँ नहीं, वहम नहीं, हृदय में स्वपन नहीं, मति में गति नहीं, यदि आप सोचते हैं कि आप किसी काबिल है, पर साहस नहीं, निश्चय नहीं, अगर आप में वन्वासों और युद्धों में लड़ कर अपने सिंघासन पाने कि क्षमता नहीं, तो आप उन अन्पढ, जाहिल लोगों से बदतर है, जिनके पास यह सब कर पाने का साधन नहीं. सीखने के लिए हर बड़ा, वृद्ध गुरु है, जिसने जीवन से सीखा है, उसकी सीख पुस्तकों की सीख से ज्यादा लाभकारी है. शिक्षित होना और पढ़ना आना अलग चीज़ें हैं. शिक्षित रहने के लिए आजीवन सीखते रहना पड़ता है.

“गति प्रबल पैरों में भरी,
फिर क्यों रहूँ में दर दर खड़ा,
जब मेरे सामने है आज,
रास्ता इतना पड़ा,
जब तक न मंजिल पा सकूं,
तब तक न मुझे विराम है,
चलना हमारा काम है.”

शिवमंगल सिंह सुमन की बहुत अच्छी कविता है, जिसमें प्रेरणा रस कूट कूट के भरा है. इससे भी याद करियेगा. साथ ही “करत करत अभ्यास के जड़मति होत सुजान,/ रसरी आवत जावत ते, सिल पर पड़त निशान” पर गौर फमाइयेगा. देखिये, मैं बहुत साल से अपने दोस्तों, पडोसियों, रिश्तेदारों से इन मुद्दों पर बात कर चुका हूँ. मुझसे पूछा जाता है की बेटा तुम बच्चों को सलाह दो. कहता हूँ, बेटा नित्य लगन से प्रयत्न करो. लोग समझते है कि मैं उनको उल्लू बना रहा हूँ. कहा जाता है, कि बेटा इनमें तुम जितना दिमाग नहीं है. माना सबकी मति एक जिनती कुशाग्र नहीं, परन्तु आपकी जो भी क्षमता है, उसका पूरा उपयोग भी तभी होगा न, अगर आप पूरी लगन से मेहनत करें. सभी लोग यह कह कर कि वह इतने विदुषी नहीं सरल राह अपनाते है, और आजीवन पछताते हैं. मैं हर दिन हजारों चीज़ें करने कि कोशिश करता हूँ, और इसीलिए कुछ-कुछ चीज़ें करने में सफल भी होता हूँ. सुबह जल्दी उठना पड़ता है, खेलने और टी वी देखने का समय नियंत्रित करना पड़ता है, अपनी कामनायों को वश में रखना पड़ता है, और साथ ही, चाहे स्तिथि परिस्तिथि कैसी भी हो, पूरी श्रद्धा और सच्चाई से परिश्रम करना पड़ता है. यही बातें एक ही सूक्ति में कही जा सकती थी; (अंत में आएगी) उसको याद रखिये, उसपर अमल करिये, और आपको आपकी हर कोशिश के लिए मेरी शुभकामनाएं, मेरा आशीष देते हुए, में इस लेख को यहीं समाप्त करता हूँ. (अंग्रेज़ी टाइपिंग में कुछ शब्द बहुत प्रयास के बाद भी ग़लत ही छपते हैं, उनके लिए क्षमाप्रार्थी हूँ).

“काक चेष्ठा, बको ध्यानम्, श्वान निन्द्रा तथैव च
अल्पहारी, गृहत्यागी, विद्यार्थी एतः पंच लक्षणम् ”

- विवेक शर्मा

विद्यार्थियों के प्रति
विवेक शर्मा

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A letter published in POETRY magazine

Dear friends,

I have started my professionally published career I believe, with the appearance of my letter in Poetry magazine. See December 2007 issue, or Read here

Vivek Sharma

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac

Lost Illusions by Balzac is one of the most famous novels out of the ninety two he wrote in his lifetime and maybe also among a million his admirers have written in 175 years since his first novel was published.

Balzac choses Lucien as a romantic, good-looking dreamy poet. We are first thrust into his provincial life, with details about his ordinary life and extraordinary ambitions that he has no means of realizing. Except patronage by an older woman! She leads him to Paris, only to abandon him to fight his way into the high society. How Lucien rises and falls in the glamorous, amorous, corrupt and vicious life as a journalist in Paris is picturized through a narrative that is bathed in realism, and yet proceeds through both suspense and wit, in the spirit of the pace at which Balzac could conjure up such novels.

In the provinces, Lucien has a friend, David, who likewise is somewhat lacking in social and economic acumen, and is a hard working inventor. David own father ruins him by extracting an unreasonable price for the printing press that he leaves or sells to his own son. Crafty competitors take advantage of David's credulous character. David endures both provincial small mindedness and economic setbacks suffered to keep Lucien afloat. Balzac displays his knowledge of these disparate characters with remarkable attention to detail. He weaves an undercurrent, of what could have passes as a dissertation, on the art and science of paper making.

Balzac creates in his one book, a saga that unravels friendship, love, jealousy, lust, ambition, vanity, greed and absurdity that lurk in our beings and in our relationships. By using two main pillars, Lucien and David, Balzac erects a bridge into the two worlds of poetry and science. He shuns hint of any romance of either worlds, and shows how much character, how many hardships and set-backs, how much devotion and labor are required for a man to become a known poet or a scientist.

I am quoting an example from this translation (carried out by Katharine Prescott Wormeley):

"No one can be a great man cheaply," said d'Arthez in his gentle voice. "Genius waters her work with tears.Talent is a moral being which, like all other beings, is subject to the maladies of childhood. Society rejects undeveloped talent just as nature removes her feeble or deformed creations. Whoever wishes to rise above his fellows must be prepared to struggle, and not recoil at difficulty. A great writer is a martyr who does not die - that's the whole of it!"

Besides the two pillars, the book has an interesting array of characters. Actresses, society women, editors and publishers, lawyers, struggling writers, dandies - all appear with their human failings and foibles as part of a drama that unfolds with an enrapturing narrative. Be it history, economics, alchemy, or psychology, or any topic under the sun, Balzac ushers in his great knowledge, suspending and supporting the story with able and apt pointers, tresses and metaphors.

Balzac's Lost Illusions is undoubtedly a classic everyone can enjoy and must read at some point in their lives. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Translation: Yeh Honsla from Dor

With a belief that one day my poems and songs will reach a wider audience, I present you with a translation of one of my favorite songs penned by Mir Ali Hussein. The movie Dor is a beautiful movie written and directed by Nagesh Kuknoor, and apart from the song I translate here, has Kesariya Balam (a classic melody) and Iman ka asar (a lilting tune, awesome lyric).

yeh honsla kaise ruke (How can this Belief yield?)

How can this belief yield?
How can this desire cease?
Its a stiff goal: so what?
Fogged is the shore: so what?
This hearts' alone: so what?

If thorn are strewn on path,
you still need to walk on,
The evening might cloak the sun,
but the night has to end as dawn.

This season will pass,
Your valor will bloom
Sunshines will resume

How can this belief yield?
How can this desire cease?
If good-will is granted to us,
The summer will pass in shade
I pray to God this way:
May our goals embrace us.

May there be darings hundred
And steep be getting accepted
Yet may all loves survive to end

How can this belief yield?
How can this desire cease?

यह हौन्सला कैसे झुके,
यह आरज़ू कैसे रुके

मंजिल मुश्किल तो क्या,
धुन्धला साहिल तो क्या,
तनहा ये दिल तो क्या
हो हो

राह पे कांटे बिखरे अगर,
उसपे तो फिर भी चलना ही है,
शाम छुपाले सूरज मगर,
रात को एक दिन ढलना ही है,

रुत ये टल जायेगी,
हिम्मत रंग लाएगी,
सुबह फिर आएगी

यह हौन्सला कैसे झुके,
यह आरज़ू कैसे रुके
होगी हमें जो रहमत अदा,
धूप कटेगी साए तले,
अपनी खुदा से है ये दुआ,
मंज़िल लगाले हमको गले

जुर्रत सौ बार रहे,
ऊँचा इकरार रहे,
जिंदा हर प्यार रहे

यह हौन्सला कैसे झुके,
यह आरज़ू कैसे रुके

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cries in the Drizzle by Yu Hua

Cries in the Drizzle is the most recently translated work of Chinese writer Yu Hua. His previously translated titles include To Live (winner of Italy's Premio Grinzane Award in 1998) and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant. He was awarded the James Joyce Foundation Award in 2002. To Live has sold over a half million copies in China and was also adapted into a movie by Zhang Yimou. While translations of these two books appeared in 2003, Cries in the Drizzle is a translation of the writer's earlier work, and is said to be less well known and perhaps less accomplished than the latter two. (My review is based upon the translation by Allan H. Barr. This is the first book of contemporary Chinese fiction that I have read, and so my review is based on my comparisons with classic and contemporary Indian and Western fiction.)

The novel is written in form of a narrative, unraveled in the voice of a child and a teenager growing up during the 1960s and 1970s. He is virtually ignored by his parents, and older and younger brothers, and is sent away at age six to spend five years with another family. He, Sun Guanglin, returns to his family when he is just at the threshold of adolescence, and the separation of five years distances him from the household even more. We peer into the lives of his father, grandfather, brothers and neighbors through his somewhat detached perspective. The novel works through a series of reminisces, and as we thread through memories, we find shards of information that we must pluck one by one and associate together to form a complete tale. One may call it a collection of stories in which time ebbs and flows, each "time" receding to leave more shells that the author picks and throws at us.

I have a distinct liking for novels which furnish a good story, and have a climactic ending. Coming of age novels like Of Human Bondage appeal as the reader learns from the experiences of the protagonist. Novels about adolescents seeing and understanding the world around them are made interesting by the use of this knowledge in some form at a later stage in life, such as in Great Expectations. At the opening of Cries, the novel promises much more than what it delivers in the final quarter of the story. The build-up raises an expectation about what Sun Guanglin would turn out as after a childhood wherein he is treated as a non-entity. Be it diversions into sexual or political references, somewhat Joyce-like at times, or the underplayed drama conveyed via a very contemporary style of writing, Yu Hua intermittently succeeds and fails in engaging my attention.

Perhaps just because I refuse to see it as a novel of growing up in the reign of Communist Mao, I find the allusions and metaphors of the story half-cooked. By a stretch of imagination, I can find an undercurrent in the story that shows "the changing dynamics of Chinese society under Communist rule" (quoting from the back cover). But to say so, I need to read too much into the life story of Yu Hua, for he grew up in such a society.

I think the mark of a great writer is to make his name inconsequential to his spoken or written word, and by that token, this book does not capture changes under communism even half as well as done famously and beautifully by Boris Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago. Part of the problem definitely lies in the fact that I am reading too "less" into the translated word. I am sure many connotations, many references, many word combinations could strike precise metaphors and parallels with evolution of the protagonist in contemporary China. Doctor Zhivago is great even as a translation, and that is partially because Russian literature and values can be easily transcribed in English. I know translating Hindi poetry and novels -- with their rhetoric, different value system, different syntax of language and three to four thousand years worth of allusions — is a very hard enterprise. Hence most of the Eastern novels usually remain untranslated. So I value translations for what they can and do map into English, and, concerning the issue-at-hand, for what Cries has to say — with hopes that its familial themes don't get lost in translation.

For me, then, the complexity of father-son relationships that dominates the undercurrent of the book makes Cries in the Drizzle worth pursuing. Yu Hua work captures the vulgar and irregular life of Sun Guanglin's father, who represents a despicable stereotype. The trifle issues that keep men and women busy with petty arguments and the glamor that city life has for villagers surface in the quite accurate portrayal of rural societies. Furthermore, in the treatment of Gaunglin's grandfather by his father, the older generation has to survive in spite of the humiliation he must endure from his own son. In addition, Guanglin's childhood friend Guoqing faces abandonment from his own father, whereas another little boy, Lulu, has only Guanglin to look up to as brother or father figure.

The exchanges between these different father-son duos (and the book has maybe six or more such duos) are described through the eyes of the narrator or through a montage of events. The love-hate, respect-disrespect, fear-awe, anger-cordiality contradistinctions are all suggested — as detectable as a cry in the drizzle — and illustrated in a manner which is both heartrending — and fascinating for the reader.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Googlies: The Misbah Song {Misbah-ul-Haq}

Tantalizingly Close, but Not There. Mis...Bah! I guess the problem is in his name. The ul-Haq helps him score runs, and dominate the bowling for some time. He gathers runs from every inconceivable stroke and rushes towards a victorious score. He punches, pushes, nudges, edges, pulls, loops, glances and clubs the bowlers. He gets his strike rate up and up and up, the required run rate down and down and down. And then, when he is finally there, so close to the goddess of victory, he is as helpless as a teenage lover, tongue-tied before his beloved, who needs that last expression, that last stroke before the dance of delight can begin. He hits hard, he runs fast, he steals fours, he finesses threes and then, when he is almost there, its a Mis...Bah!

I am inspired to write a poem about him, but I just parody a poem by T. S. Eliot. (original poem is Macavity: The Mystery Cat)

Misbah's a Mystery Bat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
For he's the crafty hitter who can defy Newton's every Law.
He's the bafflement of Twenty-two Yards, at the Death, Bowler's despair:
But when Pakis approach the victory line - Misbah's not there!

Misbah, Misbah, there's no one like Misbah,
He's broken every batting law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
But when Pakis reach the finishing line - Misbah's not there!
You may seek him in the replays, you may look up in the air -
But I tell you once and once again, Misbah's not there!

Misbah's a ginger bat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his helmet is highly domed;
His trousers dusty from neglect, his hair nicely combed.
You meet him in the forty ninth over, you may see him when score is square -
But the last hit, & there's the wonder of the thing!, Misbah's not there!

Misbah, Misbah, there's no one like Misbah,
There never was a Bat more devout follower of Allah!
He always has a stroke, and maybe one or two balls to spare:
But whenever the winning single was needed - MISBAH WASN'T THERE!
And they say among all the Bats whose last minute heroics are widely known
(I might mention Javed Miandad, I might mention Michael Bevan)
Were not half as remarkable as this Batsman of our the time
Who races Pakis to the edge: never across the finishing line!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Googlies: India-Pak Series, A Nervous Tendulkar and A Mis...Bah!

Tendulkar has missed six centuries in this year, after crossing the score of ninety. Today, it was another instance where a drinks break dented the set batsman's concentration. It was just enough for him to be out in the over that followed it. The jinx is in the drinks maybe. Tendulkar was playing beautifully today and also the other day, when he failed to cross the thresh hold. Tantalizingly close and yet not there! Maybe Yusuf regretted his watchfulness when he finished on 99 not out today. Maybe Tendulkar has an anxiety attack as soon as his score approaches 100. He has too many already. But we know, out friend waited for more than seventy one day matches before he got his first century. It is the circle of life then!

Dhoni and Yuvraj form a formidable combination on any day, against any team. But I guess they have a knack of doing it most often as partners against Pakistan. We have made a Butt of jokes about the Pakistani who score centuries only against India. Today he made a duck that was cheered more loudly than his score which has only an extra zero and a limp one in front of it. I have loved every moment of Kamran's batting in this series, for he has been the most insipid wicketkeeper ever from Pakistan. Moin Khan and Rashid Latif had given Pakistani wicketkeeping a vigor that got under the skin of batsmen, when they were behind stumps, and defied the most batting textbooks when they were wielding the willow. Akmal has been spot on, in India's favor.

Afridi took us out of the game in Mohali, but Pathan got him in last match. This time it was Ganguly, who scored his slowest century today. While he reached 100 wickets, Zaheer Khan crossed 200 mark. The bowling was quite good today, and Harbhajan was exceptional. Pakistan hasn't dominated in any game, and India has bounced back from difficult positions with the elasticity of tennis ball. I remember that as a child growing up in Himachal (Himalayas), any six, four or misfield meant that we lost the ball downhill somewhere. So the best balls were made out of sacks or socks and these showed uneven bounce at its best. When a bowler was under attack, he could just wet the ball, and it would die without a bounce. India cricket team under attack used to behave like those wet sack balls, but this new team is made of sterner stuff. When Bhajji was bowling, the bounce was quite uneven, and there was an instance or two, where the ball refused to get to one third of the expected bounce. I guess the dew factor helped us, else that bounce could have got us. Anyone remembers the India-Sri Lanka World Cup semifinal, where India was supposed to chase on such a dying, dusty, dead pitch. I thought that was a lesson enough for pitchmakers!

Lets return to the Tantalizingly Close, but Not There. Mis...Bah! I guess the problem is in his name. The ul-Haq helps him score runs, and dominate the bowling for some time. He gathers runs from every inconceivable stroke and rushes towards a victorious score. He punches, pushes, nudges, edges, pulls, loops, glances and clubs the bowlers. He gets his strike rate up and up and up, the required run rate down and down and down. And then, when he is finally there, so close to the goddess of victory, he is as helpless as a teenage lover, tongue-tied before his beloved, who needs that last expression, that last stroke before the dance of delight can begin. He hits hard, he runs fast, he steals fours, he finesses threes and then, when he is almost there, its a Mis....Bah!

I am inspired to write a poem about him, but I just parody a poem by T. S. Eliot. (original poem is Macavity: The Mystery Cat)

Misbah's a Mystery Bat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
For he's the crafty hitter who can defy Newton's every Law.
He's the bafflement of Twenty-two Yards, at the Death, Bowler's despair:
But when Pakis approach the victory line - Misbah's not there!

Misbah, Misbah, there's no one like Misbah,
He's broken every batting law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
But when Pakis reach the finishing line - Misbah's not there!
You may seek him in the replays, you may look up in the air -
But I tell you once and once again, Misbah's not there!

Misbah's a ginger bat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his helmet is highly domed;
His trousers dusty from neglect, his hair nicely combed.
You meet him in the forty ninth over, you may see him when score is square -
But the last hit, & there's the wonder of the thing!, Misbah's not there!

Misbah, Misbah, there's no one like Misbah,
There never was a Bat more devout follower of Allah!
He always has a stroke, and maybe one or two balls to spare:
But whenever the winning single was needed - MISBAH WASN'T THERE!
And they say among all the Bats whose last minute heroics are widely known
(I might mention Javed Miandad, I might mention Michael Bevan)
Were not half as remarkable as this Batsman of our the time
Who races Pakis to the edge: never across the finishing line!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

क्या हिमाचल में ईंट सीमेंट के घर ज़रूरी हैं?

आज से दस बीस बरस पहले तक हिमाचल में गिने चुने पक्के मकान हुआ करते थे. ईंटों से घर बनाना बड़ी बात मानी जाती थी. मेरा ग्राम मण्डी जिले में है. वहां तकरीबन सभी मकान मिट्टी से बने, गोबर से लिपे और सलेट की छत्तों से सजा करते थे. ज्यूँ ज्यूँ तरक्की का दौर चला, भाम्बला और बरमाना में सीमेंट के कारखाने लगे, हजारों ट्रक सड़कों पर उतर आए, और अब जहाँ देखो ईंट सीमेंट के घर नज़र आते हैं. इस दौड़ में हर कोई शामिल है. हर एक बड़ा और बेहतर कोठे वाला घर चाहता है. कोई यह नहीं सोचता की क्या ईंट पत्थर से बने कोठे वाले मकान हिमाचल के लिए अनुकूल है भी या नहीं.

दस साल पहले तक मैं मात्र एक किशोर छात्र था, और मेरे विचारों का कोई मोल नहीं था. मोल शायद अब भी कुछ ज्यादा नहीं बड़ा है, पर अब लोग बात सुन लिया करते है. मैंने अपनी दादी और रिश्तेदारों से कई दफा बहस की, और यह जानना चाहा की क्या वह पक्के मकान इसलिए चाहते है क्यूंकि वह रहने के लिए बेहतर होते हैं? हमेशा जवाब मिला की पड़ोस में क्या इज्ज़त रह जायेगी, हर एक का पक्का मकान है. किस्सी ने कहा लीपा पोती से छुटकारा मिलेगा. कहा सीमेंट के मकानों की शोभा निराली है. कहा उनको साफ रखना आसान है, कोठे पर बैठ के धुप सेकेंगे. कहीं दो मंजिल, कहीं तीन, और कई जगह चार पाँच मंजिल के मकान उग गए. दस साल पहले भी वही जावाब मिलता था, अब भी वही जवाब मिलते है. पर एक फरक है. अब लोगों को आठ दस साल उन घरों में रहने का तजुर्बा हो गया है. अब मैं भी बड़ा हो गया हूँ, देश विदेश घूम चुका हूँ, और मेरी बातें अब एक शिक्षित और समझदार पौत्र या बुद्धिजीवी व्यक्ति की मान ली जाती हैं. अब फ़िर वही बहस करने की कोशिश कर रहा हूँ.

किसी से पूछो तो खुल के नहीं कहते की पक्के मकानों से वह नाखुश हैं. सबने इतना पैसा खर्च करके यह माकन बनाये है. कोई यह कैसे कहे की उमर भर की कमाई एक भूल में लगा दी. सच यह है की वह पुराने मकान गर्मी और सर्दी दोनों मौसमों में हमारे प्रदेश के तापमान के अनुकूल थे. आप आग्रह करेंगे तो यही बात मैं किस्सी शोध अथवा विज्ञान से भी सिद्ध कर सकता हूँ. पर किसी भी ज्ञान विज्ञान से बड़ी चीज़ होता है तजुर्बा. जब से पक्के मकान बने है, सर्दी में हीटर और गर्मी में कूलर या पंखों के बिना गुजारा नहीं होता. चूल्हे पक्के मकानों के लिए कभी भी उपयुक्त थे हो पाएंगे. सर्दी में फर्श इतना ठंडा होता है, की पाँव ज़मीन पर नहीं धर सकते. गर्मी में भी इतना तपा होता है, की पाँव ज़मीन पड़े टे ही अच्छा है. अब चूल्हों की रोटी की आदत, नंगे पाँव फिरने की आदत तो जाने से रही. ऊपर से कमबख्त मौसम. बरखा में तो कोठे ताल बन जाते है. पर चाह कर भी कोई पुराने कच्चे घरों में वापिस नहीं जा पाता. सिर्फ़ वह घर सस्ते दाम में बनते है, उनसे बिजली की खपत कम होती थी, और वह हमारी ज़रूरतों के हिसाब से हमारे पुरखों के तजुर्बे के बाद हमें मिले थे.

यह कहकर कि मैं तरक्की नहीं चाहता आप मेरी कही हुई साधारण, पर सच बातों को ठुकरा सकते है. यह कह कर कि मैं ठहरा प्रवासी हिमाचली, आप मेरी बातों को अनसुना कर सकते है. पर अगर आप एक बार बैठ कर हिसाब लगाये, तो आप पाएंगे की हम हिमाचली लोगों को मूरख बनाया गया है. क्या आप बर्फ के दिनों में धोती या निक्कर पहन कर बहिर घुमते है? क्या आपके पास इतना पैसा है की आप पूरे घर को गरम रखने वाली विदेशी मशीनें खरीदें? जो चीज़ें जिस जगह के लिए उपयुक्त नहीं, उनका पाना, उनका होना किसी विलास कि निशानी नहीं. जहाँ लोग बड़े घरों को इज्ज़त का मापदंड बना लेते है, वहाँ चोरी डकैती रिश्वतखोरी से कमाया धन जायज लगने लगता है. अंधी होड़ कोई प्रगति का द्योतक नहीं.समय के साथ चलना अगर ज़रूरी है, तो अपनी स्तिथि परिस्तिथि के अनुसार जीना, पाँव फैलाना और फैसले करना भी समझदारी है,सही है. रोटी, कपड़ा और मकान हमारी तीन मुख्य ज़रूरतें है, थी और रहेंगी. हमने विदेशी भोजन या बिकिनी-नुमा वस्त्र अपनाएं है. पर मकानों में यह बेमतलब नक़ल क्यों?

Time and Materials by Robert Hass

Time and Materials: Poems, 1997-2005 by Robert Hass is his first collection of poems to emerge in past ten years. Hass is a familiar name in the contemporary world of poetry. He has been awarded National Book Critics Circle Award twice, and was the poet laureate of the US from 1995-1997. He is a professor at University of Berkeley and is presently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He has co-translated the work of Nobel-winner, Czeslaw Milosz. The present book has lapped up a National Book Awards nomination, and received rave reviews from the poets and journalists alike.

What is a poem? Is it a piece that must be interpreted on basis of what it contains, or based on who has written it? Is the identity of poet important? Do his past achievements bias us to read his poems more favorably? Great poets and artists, irrespective of their reputation during their lifetimes, manage to produce works that transcend time, space, language and meaning. The toolbox is words, workstation is a solitary, barely visible corner chair and table, and the audience is firstly the writer's innate desire to create, and then maybe, a slew of readers who open the book. For a poet with the credentials of Hass, the audience is ensured, and what I wish to examine is if his poems justify the applause for a reader like me. I wish to read his poems with a wonder and appreciation that reviewers have expressed everywhere.

Here is excerpt from one of the poems "State of the planet", and this is representative of typical lines in Hass poetry and the arguments I am about to make:

"Poetry should be able to comprehend the earth,
To set aside from time to time its natural idioms
Of ardor of revulsion, and say, in a style as sober
As the Latin of Lucretis, who reported to Venus
On the state of things two thousand years ago....."

In reading poems by Hass, I found myself at lines which gave me intense feelings: I ravish the first three lines in this example, and then I begin to wonder why does Hass need a mention of Lucretis. Throughout the book, I wonder why he needs to evoke so many names and places that unless it is an erudite reader and a world traveler, the references are entirely lost on the reader. We, as beginning poets, are often asked to write self-contained poems, where images and metaphors stand on their realization by readers. We, as beginner poets, are asked to shun the abstract words, and the mention of painters, philosophers, poets and mythical figures, for cameos contaminate attention. In the poems by Hass, these rules are set aside. We watch paintings by Vermeer, we hear of Czeslaw Milosz, Horace, Whitman, Stevens and Nietzsche. We are at times in Mexican desert, in Bangkok and then we are entirely in the world of Dostoevsky. While at times, I enjoy these interludes, I want to know how Hass or the critics would react to a Hass-like poem written by a poet without Hass-like reputation.

Time and Materials strikes to me as a fairly unusual set of poems, where my own sensibilities as a poet are set aside. I am thrust into long, winding sentences, abstract and quirky details, forty-fifty line poems without stanzas and ten-fifteen words before line-breaks. Here as an example, I quote a line from Hass (and I loved this line): "The human imagination does not do well with large numbers." In another poem, he says, "It must be a gift of evolution that humans/Can't sustain wonder." So given he expresses these sentiments in his poems, I cannot comprehend why he has chosen this style. But a poem "Bush War" (featured in Best American Poetry last year) contains some remarkable and honest reflections on past wars, and strikes me an example of how the Hass-poems can work in spite of their verbosity.

Hass has translated great Haiku masters in the past. His own poems carry many Haiku-like phrases - where an apt image illustrates an emotion and an idea tersely. There are poems where he lets me breathe, stop, gasp, repeat lines to myself. There are lines where I shake my head vigorously and cannot appreciate the idea, the wordplay, the metaphor. I judge him more harshly than I would judge most poets, for he is one of the foremost poets of the country. After Robert Frost, America has not produced a poet who can transcend borders and cultures, and perhaps his poems can provide us a notion of why. Overall, I would still ask you to read Time and Materials, savor the humane moments and the montage of experience plastered all over the poems. I will leave you with the opening poem of the book:


In the long winter nights, a farmer's dream are narrow.
Over and over, he enters the furrow.

(Also on

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Half-happy with India turning into a Trillion Dollar Economy (Revised)

When half of my nation sleeps
with half-filled bellies, under the half-roofs,
with half-hopes of a mouthful tomorrow,

when half of my nation grows up with half-rights
to education and employment,
with half-health produces babies, with a half-heart
chokes before the stoves that burn wood,
and cook half-water curries made with half-salt,

when half-length men walk the streets
half-naked, willing to work for half-wages,
half-grown women slip into beds at half-price,

when half-sane leaders pocket half-funds,
and divide the nation into halves that fight,
(haves and not-haves all half-fooled)
when half-castes organize into brigands,
and seek half-reservation for their half-intellect,

when half of the news is of rapes, riots, extortions,
half-nation worries about Naxalists, Maoists, terrorists,
half-resolved cases haunt the courts,
where victims of the crime wait half-lives
for half-compensations,

when half-history is distorted or concocted,
sacrifices of men like Gandhi half-known, half-respected,
when half-heritage is lying like wreckage, and half-religions
have pocketed half-faith and finished the better half,

when half-talented sportsmen cloud TV with ads,
half-naked woman talk of modernism with half-minds,
half-cultured men, hypocrites, type half-lies into their
tax returns, and half-acknowledge their sexual slights,

when half of my nation cannot even read or hear my voice,
and other half will ignore it by their own choice,
and half-close their eyes to see half-blessed dreams
of half-American lives.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lines of Grey, Suchitra Vijayan and Social Change through Photographs

Lines of Grey is a project of social change through photography conceptualized and cultivated by Suchitra Vijayan. The idea is to provide cameras to the children, enabling them to capture their world in pictures. The concept is similar to the award winning documentary film "Born in Brothels", where children of the red-light district in Calcutta recorded moments of their lives through cameras handed out to them. Using the donations from friends and volunteers around the world, Suchitra supplied disposable cameras them to the street children in Tanzania. Cameras in the hands of these children first flicker a smile on their lip. A dream flourishes when their camera captures what any eye merely glances over, never stops to see. The idea rests upon a slogan associated with the project, called "Every child is an artist."

Suchitra is a barrister by training and used to work for the UN. After schooling from Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan in Chennai, Suchitra moved to UK where she graduated with a LLB and European Law (Hons.) in 2004. Since then she has worked for UN War Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and UN War Tribunal for Rwanda. Suchitra is as young and relentless as she is passionate about her NGO effort. She epitomizes the modern Indian woman, who is global not only in her aspirations and achievements, but also in her pursuit of her dreams and ideals. Her own photography is quite fascinating, and she recently was awarded with the Nikon Imaging - Emerging Talent of the Year award. Suchitra is very well read, widely traveled, and immensely inspiring person, and I am sure this allows her to be an exemplary mentor.

I owe my friendship to Suchitra to our shared love for poetry and literature. Back in 2004, when she was still a student, we exchanged several emails, discussing authors, philosophers and poems. Even back then, I was amazed at her intensity, work ethic, and nature of her will to effect change. Many of us are able dreamers, capable but lazy poets or many times, well meaning mortals trapped in our daily circle of money, education, career, love, relationships, parties and movies. It requires a strong sense of purpose to go out there and try to organize something voluntarily, without a material gain in sight. Suchitra has been actively harvesting creativity in form of images from the children in Tanzania, and has managed to get to a point where some of these will be exhibited in Bay Area in US, and in Chennai, India.

While the intentions are noble, the effort is charged with single-minded devotion, the approach is based on aesthetic, the labor is of love, there are many hurdles in realization of real goals. Let us assume that such an effort can indeed empower kids to channelize their creativity. Yet to make a significant change, one needs volunteers around the globe to carry this effort. The whole issue of logistics is baffling one, and so far Suchitra has limited her scope to Arusha, Tanzania. One might argue that what the kids need most is education, clothing, housing and means to earn a livelihood. The photography seems like a distraction, as if, from those goals. Having worked with children in slums in Delhi, I figured that most children were motivated by play, by humor, by adventure. Poverty molds the scope of their imagination, but does not curtail it. The richest tales would surface through conversations with these children, and the only lesson I learned there was this: No amount of money or schooling distributed randomly to these children can help them as much as a personal attention, where both their angst and amazement at this world are interpreted, addressed and cultivated. Suchitra has been working to provide the flash of hope, a snapshot of creativity and joy to these children.

I shot few Questions to Suchitra and here they are:

  1. Why lines of grey?

To answer why “Lines of Grey “ I need to talk about my fascination with the colour grey. This goes back to my own love affair with black and white photography. Like all great love affairs, it started with this heady feeling of getting the winds knocked out of me and I was in an expedited hurry to learn and discover everything there was to know about this medium. In that process I came to understand this subtle but complexly layered colour called “Grey”. Grey is an achromatic colour between white and black that exist in the state of great lightness, caught between the lighter side of black and darker side of white. Grey is a shade of remarkable gradation, it is its own complement. Grey remains grey when its colour spectrum is inverted, and therefore has no opposite and alternately is its own opposite.

Lines of Grey represent the street children who are a part of this project; each shade with its complex mixture of shadows, highlights and mid-tones. They are the product of economic and social injustice that is rampant in this world. These children are prisoners of prejudice, social attitudes and numerous negative associations. Just like the shade grey, these children live on the marginalized edge of extremes. They are the existing reality and the beautiful abstraction.

2. How long do you plan to carry out this project? What happens when you move from your present appointment?

The photography project was designed to last for a period of six month. Then the process of compiling the children’s images, their stories and thoughts begins. This will culminate with the launch of our website and series of exhibitions. The money generated from this project will go back to these children. The website is also geared toward having individuals sponsors for addressing the education and other economical needs of these children. Since I no longer live in Africa, I am planning on getting my friends from that area and some of the older kids form the Project to co-ordinate and continue the project.

3. What is future of lines of grey?

Right now 24 hours of sleep doesn’t seem enough to accommodate the collective dreams and aspiration of everyone who is a part of LOG. Not surprising since most of us are dreamers first. Left to our devices we would conjure an imagine where LOG would solve all of the worlds problems. (Chuckles) . On a more serious note, there are plans underway to start similar projects in India. In June 2007, Lines of Grey was registered as an NGO in India, and plans are underway to launch the NGO in the United States. Right now the projects focus on photography as the medium. If every child is an artist, then art should also take different forms.

Honestly I am not sure what future lies for Lines of Grey. I am not sure if we can generate enough interest, enough momentum to sustain the NGO. I am not sure if it will make any sustainable change. But Lines of Grey is not just a project, it’s an idea. Everyone who is a part of this project decided to be a part of an experiment that seeks to make a difference at a personal level. The project runs on the inherent belief that individuals still possess the power to make that little difference that will one day become a part of the critical mass required to change this society and change it fundamentally.

4. Do you have plans of expansion outlined for your idea or project?

Expansion is a big word for the small acts we do. When I think in terms of expansion, I think about mainstream awareness about this kind of work. Every time I return back to India, I feel the phase at which the country is heading towards its intellectual death has been hastened. We have become a celebrity hungry society tuned only to the stories of rich and famous. We have become characters in soap opera in search of an author. Series of reality shows with “celebrities” shaking their legs to the latest bollywood number has become the nations pre-occupation. Urban India with its increasing disposable income has become deaf and indifferent to the stories of the “other” India and the underdogs of this world. If these stories do surface from time to time they become marketable commodity in a culture of sensationalism. True voices become buried and often do not have a platform. In this context Lines of Grey is a form of social documentary through the eyes of the “others”.

For instance, imagine giving cameras to the kids from various fishermen villages affected by the Tsunami. Imagine the powerful images these children would harvest from their reality. Their images have the power of self. If there is an expansion, that expansion to me is not kick starting more projects all over India and other parts of the world. But merely getting enough people interested to look and maybe think.

5. Have you noticed any change in lives of kids over last many months?

I wish I could say with brimming confidence that “yes I have”. But the harsh reality is not so. This project hasn’t altered their life drastically. But I can vouch for the happiness and joy that I witness every time I handed over the camera. I remember the immense pride, I felt when I saw the first set of pictures when it was developed. How they reacted when they saw their pictures. But these are not tangible and I am very aware of that. Inheritances of fond memories cannot be converted to currency. But they are nonetheless inheritance everyone should have a stake in and I can but only hope that LOG is contributing towards this in some measure.

On the more pragmatic side, in the great Indian art of self justification, I often tell my self the project just got over. When the website is done, when the exhibitions happen things will be different.

Here are few websites that provide images and information about Suchitra and Lines of Grey:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Rainmakers by Clark C. Spence

The Rainmakers by Clark C. Spence is a delightful read about the history of rainmaking in America. It is based on true stories from the days when charlatans and quacks, for profit or science, promised to cause rain at whim. There is whiff of science, but mostly this is a tale of deception. Grand claims, backed by coincidences made some people appear as successful rainmakers. Most ran out of luck, and vanished into obscurity after being in thick of action from weeks to years.

The newspaper reports mentioned in the book as well as the description of the tricks employed and the sales pitch adopted by Rainmakers are funny for a modern reader. Yet only a hundred years ago, there were farmers and senators, scientists and laymen in Kansas as well as Los Angeles who were being duped by tall claims for methods to make rain and remarkable coincidences which helped Rainmakers. Seen in the light of hoaxes practices and the amount of money scammed, the first artificial rain seems like a more momentous achievement than we credit it as.

Atmospheric science has made most progress in last hundred years and has been instrumental in last two hundred years for inspiring studies about a large number of interesting physics issues that involved great men like Clausius, Stokes, Langmuir, Aitken, Coulier, Rayleigh, Huygens, Newton, Einstein, and so on. Yet the history of rainmakers resembles the history of miracle curers and healers who have provided for hope in desperation and for rain or cure to people where natural course of events was going to end a drought or disease. History of Theories of Rain by Middleton on the other hand is more of a scientific history and a great read. The texts Cloud in a glass of beer by Bohren, and A short course in Cloud Physics by Rogers and Yau could be good resources for reading about our current understanding of rainfall. But when it comes to reading about deceit, conceit and deceptions, Rainmakers by Spencer is entertaining in its own right. The science part is minimal, so it can be read by anyone and everyone, as a history of how easily men are led to believe in miracles when they are faced with a difficulty.

While these tales seem fictional and funny now, it was only a few generations back that people wanted to fly pointed balloons, or use fuming fluid placed in close labs, or chimneys that released steam or charged carrying sand air-dropped into clouds to cause rain. To celebrate the geniuses of the day, requires us to know the other end of the spectrum, and this book manages to do it with tongue in cheek humor.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ganesha Goes to Lunch (Classics from Mystic India) by Kamla K. Kapur

Ganesha Goes to Lunch by Kamla K. Kapur is a collection of twenty four stories drawn from the oral tradition of mythical tales in India. The stories are retold in contemporary language, and maintain the essential structure and characteristics of the folklores. Kamla's choice of stories ranges from tales about why Ganesha has elephant's trunk, to the marriage of Shiv-Parvati to the creation of Brahma and universe. The story of the friendship of Sudama and Krishna is retold as is the tale of Vishwamitra-Vashisht rivalry.

The Bharatiya (Indian) tradition thrives on stories passed on from generation to generation. Each generation adds its own experience to knowledge and reinterprets the understanding passed to them. The Hindu myths by their very nature don't have absolutes. They represent Gods or men trapped in their vices, roused or limited by their virtues, acting in response to the demands that existence as humans on earth demands from us. The attempt is to create examples as prototypes to deal with contradictions and complexities that daily strife, be it in war, peace, family matters, need, greed, valor, and amorous desires lead us to. This had lead to several epics about avataars or incarnations, and as humans Gods lead exemplary lives, faulting at times, and suffering for them. In Kamla's collection, the gems from the boundless sea of folklore are picked, polished and repackaged to lure Western audiences as well as those Indian readers who have learned most from English education and English Literature.

The book has a number of pictures and illustrations, which allow a non-Indian reader to visualize the God or character in question. We Indians grow up with these tales, and somehow we imbibe their lessons into our being without realizing when or how. The modern age has brought a slew of stories and media into our household, and in these times, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the shallow characterizations and sensationalist serials. The demands of materialistic modern life, makes it even more important for us to connect to the spiritual wisdom of centuries, the philosophy both rich and humbling is present in highly entertaining form in these stories. Kamla Kapur's effort is commendable in both the spirit and the style of execution.

While most of these stories can be read out to children, a few characterizations are little more sensual than I would have hoped for. The discussion about Shiva and Shakti, the male and female powers, is done quite boldly, whereas my encounters with these stories as a child were in an understatement, and in euphemisms. Perhaps the retelling must respond to the contemporary world, where the Victorian writing, the euphemisms are considered trite and cliched. The tale from Ramayana, incorrectly mentions that Hanuman brought Sanjivini (or the hill with that herb on it) for reviving Ram (I am certain that it was needed for Laxman). Aside from these quips, most of the stories are brief and well written, and will form a good reading for people of all ages.

Myths by their very nature appeal to the heroic, and the virtuous elements of our being. Kamla's rendition ensures that the heroic and mystic elements are distilled into a reader's consciousness. The simplicity of language, the delightful imagery, the translation as if of whole oral tradition of myths into this eclectic collection speaks volumes about Kamla's craftsmanship and reverence for these tales. While the tales are derived from Hindu myths, the structure, the impact, the ideals, the virtues they inspire transcend time, space and religion. I enjoyed these, and so I hope you will too.


Too hot to handle (Short Story)

What she lacked in looks, she supplied with her taste. Bold like a mushroom growing on a garden track, she called for attention at places where none of her kind could venture. Spilling skin like cracked shells of peanut, she sashayed through the malls, the local trains and poorest sections of the city. Her boots cover more legs than her skirts. Her shirts tested the bulging ability of eyes that followed her like dogs wagging tongues and tails. She was protected by her own wantonness. Her beauty was not of a well-designed nose or a nicely chiseled body. It was something else, indefinite like her promises, unexplained like her smile.

When I first failed her, I was twenty year old confused intellectual. Raised to conservatism, that valued books over looks, veil over skin, meekness over boldness. She was like a thorn on a stem, and I, who valued no roses, was disturbed by the red drop that came out of my flesh. She made the room around her shrink, such that bodies whispered around her, dancing to her voice, steps around her fell into a rhythm where she was the centerpiece, the piano in the sonata of sensations that unfolded in the drumbeat hearts of the dancers who were numbed by their free fall around her perfume that was an aphrodisiac. I was a twenty year old confused self, who felt that the sensations grip me like a vice, and in stead of feeling exhilarated, I felt choked. The commotion in my mind cursed her as a witch, for wasn't it her witchcraft that was rapturing the crowd with a touch, without a lick, without a whisper?

Five years later, I was in a strange city, traveling in my designer suit, packaged to please the buyers and sellers, as I represented my company that overpaid me for my craft. My craft was in my words that pleased the men like a balm on their tired backs, and touched the women like wind on their necks. My craft was in talking through wit and nuance, unfolding in them a curiosity for what our company was to offer, and leading them into a decisive yes, mainly by intonation of my voice, the demeanour of my hands and body, always inviting and promising control, release and future. I was the cupid sales director as my co-workers called me, and my University of Chicago MBA found me inside doors that businessmen dare not enter.

In an evening party, dressed in a dazzling evening gown, she sauntered down the stairs,. I watched her drift into the consciousness of the crowd, with a smile in their eyes, hum of approval on their lips. As an aftertaste, she had fashioned into a respectability that glided with her; her husband, proud and powerful, carried her like a trophy, displaying his joy like a guild of gold. Years ago, she was a sonata, and now her personality oozed as if a melody from the flute of Himalayan tribals, so unadulterated in its rendering, flowing like a hill stream, surging force at a pace that makes your heartbeat hear itself trickle into peaceful delight.

This was the second time I failed her, for what I just said is what I understood after the night was over. Her entry into the room trembled like a memory that is not easy to shake off, and roused my five years of want into a pledge of making her some kind of offer. I was still in the spell that a twenty year old boy made appear even more surreal. Her picture to me was of the vice I wanted in my veins and all my recent successes made me even more tempted and assured and hungry. I approached her with a pride in my shoes, flash in my tie-pin, and gurgled my words before saying, "Hello." Her recognizing me made me hope. I splurged compliments, laden with metaphor and meaning. Her cheeks reddened, a color that encouraged me further, and then suddenly, her words, "Are you in your senses? Go home. You are drunk!" fell like a hammer on a glass-box, shattering the protected toy house shrine I had built for her.

It was only a chance that I went alone to the symphony. In ten years after that party, I had evolved from a world of pleasure to that of luxury. My pride has become a fine representation of my class, my words were now folded and pocketed like an advice from an expert and my social position made me watchful of my every sigh or smile at a body or a voice. My personal space was shared with a pretty wife and two kids. The two year old and five year old hunted from my back, told me their own stories so rich in dialogue, so flourishing in detail and yet words that came out like blossoms in the wild, standing up for their own pleasure and perhaps my own. It was only a chance that my wife was not accompanying me. And she, she of my youthful fancy and failings, was present, draped in a black, lace shawl. I saw her first, in a row behind me, as I sat down, to hear Pavarotti slam his youthful voice out of his decaying body, till music of eternity silenced every breath and movement.

Yet here I was sitting rather unsymmetrically, with a hand over my face, and my face eyeing her changed self. The music had faded into a drab hum, only her profile was ebbing and echoing. Like painting made softer over time, like childhood memories made more delightful by the effect of nostalgia, like a completed poem or picture or symphony, she sat there, ever so beautiful in her own distinguished way. The face lacked what it lacked fifteen years ago, the forms were still common, and yet like always, she carried an attraction for me, and maybe it was always so, maybe it was always for me that she carried an attraction so vigorous, and violent, that I was ready to risk my smile and sigh for her.

We talked of her deceased husband and my lovely wife in the intermission. The third time I failed her, was perhaps my last, was that day as she offered to meet me for dinner and tell me her story. I cited a promise I hadn't made to the kids to keep me away. A curiousity flashed like a momentary flinch at her brow, and a smile rushed to conceal it. She bid me farewell, leaving me gaping after her. She left with words, "A dinner with your wife and kids would have served for a lovely introduction."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Day in Spring by Ciril Kosmač

A Day in Spring is beautifully narrated tale by Ciril Kosmač, a Slovene poet, author. The book that first appeared in 1953 is a terse account of nostalgia and life of a writer who returns to his homeland after spending fifteen years away at wars. The story progresses through reminisces the writer has about his childhood. It yields, in a poignant and heartwarming detail, the development of narrator's personality through the two world wars in the backdrop. Essential to the story is the character of Kadetka, who the writer remembers lovingly as a child embedded with his nostalgia. His Auntie narrates some bits of the novel, and the contrast between the voices reveals what difference in insights experience, age, travel and education brings to us.

Several parallel tracks come together in this mature and modern novel. The affair of a Slovene girl with a Czech soldier, and years later another affair of her daughter with Italian soldier bring out the complexities and absurdities of war out in a very taut novel. The writer reveals his love for the mountainous country, the river Idrica and his people through descriptions that are lyrical and border on poetry. The personalities of the characters in the novel are revealed mostly through events, and the dialogues are kept to minimum. There are occasions in the novel when the reader feels sheer joy or compassion or love and in creating these occasions nearly a dozen times through the novel, Ciril Kosmač manages to arouse my whole hearted admiration, applause and appreciation. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to find this 169 page novel to be so aesthetically pleasing and rich in imagery and experience.

I have to quote the following extract from the book, for I think if it was relevant to Yugoslavians in 1950s, it is even more relevant to young nation of Slovenia now. It must be remarked that Slovenia is young nation in Eastern Alps, with population of two million. It is located close to Italy and Austria, and in the World War II, was the arena where partisans fought against Germans and Italians. Here is the quote, that is both a homage to his country and in some respect to his own terse novel:

"Yes,it seems to me that we small nations love our land more dearly than great ones do, or at least in a manner different from theirs. Our native land is small, and as we cannot sing of its greatness, we celebrate and sing of the details which are full of beauty. Because beauty is like truth. Truth does not require bulky tomes to make herself plain, nor does Beauty need a wide, boundless space wherein to unfold herself, to thrive and blossom. Let Expanse thunder forth its mighty song, true Beauty grows in silence. We know our country as we know our mother's face. Her lines and wrinkles are familiar to us, her expressions of joy and happiness, her furrows of grief and anxiety. We are always aware of the clasp of her hands, rough as a peasant's but kindly and warm; we cling to her and have defended her for a thousand years, often with simple means, yea, often with bare hands, but with success - because the chief sponsor of our victory is impassionate love, which does not calculate and therefore does not yield, even when faced with overwhelming odds."

(PS: I thank my friend Matija for this gift, which I enjoyed even more than Alamut, other novel translated from Slovene language, that I read last year.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Googlies: India beat Australia; Dhoni leads from the front; Randomspeak

India kept her nerve, and won by eight runs. This headline is enough for certain people. It shuts them down, and it lets you start your day with happy relief of having watched a tense and thrilling encounter, and reached the triumph in style. The drama is in the detail. Tendulkar, for example, batted either circumspectly, (we can say that in retrospect), or maybe batted in fear of losing his spot at the top order. So did Ganguly maybe, for he is thrown of out equation quite easily these days. Twelve half-centuries in this year, and string of good batting have kept Ganguly at crease, against all odds. To have Tendulkar on the other end, and to see him play a dot ball after dot ball, meant that the onus of scoring fell on Ganguly. He perished attempting a slog shot, but he had ensured by then that India had their first good start of the series. Even in the match where rain saved us, we had lost Tendulkar's wicket within the three overs that Australia bowled.

The approach was full of grit, patience and focus. When you see Tendulkar (and to some extent Ganguly) fight like that, you must praise the quality of bowling. But I write Googlies, and they turn into corners where they are not expected. So today when Tendulkar batted with that grit, the question that really bothered me was, till when my friend, till when? Like in most dramatic movies, the demise of better looking guy, or departure of the more obedient son, brings the other hero to stage, it was Ganguly's dismissal that helped Tendulkar realize that a batsman at crease is a mortal. He started showing signs of actually knowing where the ball is coming from, and where it is going, and piled on runs. Ganguly silenced his critics, and so did Tendulkar, and India won in the end. But the next ten matches will be perhaps best in terms of how Saurav and Sachin bat. They have the caliber, experience and skill to dictate terms and of course, filling their shoes is still a hard task. But till when my friend, till when?

Gambhir, in spite of his scores in Twenty20 and Sehwag, in spite of his occasional brilliance are the horses that I won't buy for a long haul. Dinesh Kartik has been good, but the bullock cart of Indian team requires a pair to pull it. Could Mr. Parthiv Patel, the man of 22, who has scored five consecutive centuries (four as part of India A team, and most recent 179 fighting knock in Iranian trophy) be that buddy? As a batsman, Patel should make the cut, given his string of scores. The baby boy has grown up, bats much better and like Kartik and Dhoni, can be in the team just on merit of his batting. Another friend who must return is Manoj Tiwari, the little dada from Bengal, who helped himself to another important knock of 130 in the Iranian trophy. Last time he was included in the team, an injury forced him out. His return is imminent, given how well he bats and how heavily he scores in all the important matches. But if he returns, who shall be replaced?

Dravid did not get the time to redeem himself today. He would have loved to blast off a few more fours, but he was trying to play to the galleries. Playing to galleries gets you roars of laughter and claps for sure, but if that is your criteria for success, then you are headed to doom. A great artist thrives not on the instant roar of laughter, but on a memory that his performances stamp on memories of those watching. Dravid is great for batting with a correctness that is hard to emulate, and pretty to watch. This requires patience, waiting for right balls before scything them, slices at cute angles and wrists of supple nature. For the moment, by giving up captaincy he has increased rather than reduce the pressure on himself, and I hope he will get out of the shell soon. We definitely will need his best form for Tests, but we will like to see our third God to battle and win as well.

The stars of the day were the young guns. Yuvraj had certainly become a commodity after Twenty20 World Cup. Batting at the home ground, he made boundaries look so easy. I realized how symbolic that display was. Ganguly, a left hander is replaced by another lefty in Yuvraj. Then even though Tendulkar is batting on the other end, everyone is expecting everything from Yuvraj and he looked more in control than his senior partner. When Uthappa walked in to replace Dravid, I had a similar relief, and I argued with myself for behaving like that. Yet both Dhoni, the new captain, and Uthappa only confirmed why my subconscious self thought of being pleased with their presence. Uthappa was brilliant once again, hitting a string of much needed fours. He just walks out of the crease like Hayden, and dumps the ball out of the boundary. Dhoni led from the front, with brilliant innings and a six on last ball to get his half century and then superb fielding to top it off. This was his first win as Captain, and it came with a Man of Match worth performance from him.

Lastly, India bowled well in last ten overs to achieve an unlikely victory. When India had 187/2 after 39 overs, predicting a final 291 seemed unreasonable, for the best bowlers of the innings had some overs left with them. When Australia were 190/4 only after 34 overs, Australian victory seemed likely. The opening spells of Indian bowlers had got them hammered and the situation was saved only by some good spin bowling. But again RP Singh bowled a remarkable 47th over to turn the tide in India's favor, and we won. The script, as I wrote it, doesn't do even a whit of justice to the bowlers, who put up a more improved performance than last four times. Hopefully they will bowl even better in the next match, and we will get to sing their praise.

Cheers and beers till then.