Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 ke liye navkamnayen (Hindi Poem: New wishes for a new year)

२००९ के लिए नवकामनाएं
डॉ विवेक शर्मा

आने वाले वर्ष में तेरी राहें सरल न हों,
वह जाम ही क्या जिसमें सुधा-मिश्रित गरल न हो?

यूँ हो की ठोकरें लगती रहें, तृष्णा तीखी रहे,
तुझे हर पल संघर्षरत होने की अनुभूति रहे |
कब सरल जीवन में मनुष्य उत्कर्ष पाता है?
किसी रण से, भीष्म प्रण से, सुयश आता है |
तू क्यूँ अनाम रहे? क्यूँ तुझे आलस, आराम रहे?
मैं चाहता हूँ तुझे निरंतर कुछ कर गुजरने का अरमान रहे |

वह पिता जो पुत्र की सम्पूर्ण उन्नति चाहता है,
वह दशरथ अपने राम को राज्यहीन, दरिद्र छोड़ जाता है,
देता है उसे बस संकल्प, संस्कार, सुशिक्षा, स्वपन,
उसके धर्मं-कर्म में नहीं बाधा बनाता है |
इसलिए पूँजी नहीं, तुझे केवल कठोर प्रशिक्षण दूँगा,
वनवासों से निकलने, निखरने हेतु बल-बुद्धि विलक्षण दूंगा |

माँ का असली दुलार पुत्र को प्रतिबिम्ब दिखाने में है,
मोहनदास में धर्मात्मा, शिवाजी में जननेता जगाने में है,
विपत्ति में न दुलार, न विलास, न लक्ष्मी, न रति साथ निभाते हैं,
पर सुदामा-मीरा सा कृषण प्रेम, विद्याधन, संचित सुकर्म पथ दिखलाते हैं,
इसलिए प्रातः शास्त्रार्थ, दोपहर विज्ञान, सांझ साहित्य का चिंतन दूंगा,
तुझे अपने चित्त की सीमाओं को जानने, लाँघने का निमंत्रण दूंगा |

और शुभकामनाएं दूंगा यही, कि आने वाले वर्ष में.
तेरा पल-पल बीते स्वविश्लेशन में, संघर्ष में |

Books read in 2009

Read in 2009 (105 = 62 + P 43; NF 24) 

TRANSLATIONS (17): Pierre et Jean and Horla by Guy de Maupassant (translated by Julie Mead) Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Constance Garnett), Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac (Trans. by A. J. Krailsheimer), (Love in Two Languages by Abdelkebir Khatibi), The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarralled with Ivan Nikiforovich by Nikolai Gogol, (Sketches from a Hunter's album: The Complete Edition by Ivan Turgenev, trans. by R. Freeborn), The Nun by Denis Diderot, Respected Sir by Naguib Mahfouz, The Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta, The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, Germinal by Emile Zola, Nobody Writes to the Colonel and other stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Afloat by Guy de Maupassant, Utopia by Thomas More.

NOVELS (19): Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore, Burmese Days and Animal Farm by George Orwell, A Room with a View by E. M. Forster, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, (The Sound and The Fury by Faulkner), The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, A Golden Age by Tahmina Anam, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Delhi by Khushwant Singh, Geurrillas by V. S. Naipaul, A Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Kim by Rudyard Kipling, War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Awakening by Kate Choplin, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya.

NON-FICTION (9): The Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Letters Between a Father and Son by V. S. Naipaul, The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen, A Collection of Essays by George Orwell, The Open Mind by Robert J. Oppenheimer, Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks, Representative Men by Emerson, King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema by Anupama Chopra.

ENGLISH POETRY (34+4): The Book for my Brother by Tomaz Salamun, Mystery, So Long by Stephen Dobyns, Sources and The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 by Adrienne Cecile Rich, Rose and Books of my Nights by Li-Young Lee, Poems by Anna Akhmatova, New Hampshire by Robert Frost, Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems and Opened Closed Open by Yehuda Amichai, An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems by Eavan Boland, Gunga Din and other favorite poems by Rudyard Kipling, The Painted Veil by Agha Shahid Ali, The Second Night of the Spirit by Bhisham Bhewani, As I Walked out one Evening: Songs, Ballads, Limericks and Light Verse by W. H. Auden, The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poetry ed. by Jeet Thayil, (Selected Poems by Chaucer), Jersey Rain by Robert Pinsky, Canvas by Adam Zagajewski, That Little Something by Charles Simic, (The Porcupine's Kisses by Stephen Dobyns), Beowulf (Trans. by Seamus Heaney), The Angel Knocking on a Heaven's Door: Thirty Poems of Hafez by Hafez (Translated by Robert Bly), A Season in Granda by Federico Garcia Lorca (trans. by Christopher Maurer), Tears and Laughter by Khalil Gibran, Illiad by Homer (trans. by Robert Fagles), A Tree Within and A Draft of Shadows by Octovio Paz, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze, Li Po & Tu Fu: Poems Selected and translated with and introduction and notes by A. Cooper, Li Po and Tu Fu, The History of Forgetting by Lawrence Raab, Erotic Poems (trans. by David Luke) and Roman Elegies and other poems and epigrams (trans by Michael Hamburger) by Goethe, The Burden of Speech by Travis Wayne Denton.

Diaries of a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke, (The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland), This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges, The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks by Charles Simic.

Hindi / Urdu / Sanskrit/ Punjabi (9 +2): Kamayani by Jaishankar Prasad , Rashmirathi and Kurushetra by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, ((Pratinidhi Kavitayen by Harivansh Rai Bachchan), Kathopnishad, Diwan-i-Ghalib by Mirza Ghalib, Saaye mein Dhoop by Dushyant Kumar, Aangan ke Paar Dvaar and Meri Priya Kahaniyan by Ageya, Dwapar by Maithalisharan Gupta, Meri Priya Kahaniyan by Yashpal

कामायनी - जयशंकर प्रसाद, रश्मिरथी व कुरुषेत्र - रामधारी सिंह दिनकर, (प्रतिनिधि कवितायें - हरिवंश राय बच्चन), साए में धूप - दुष्यंत कुमार, कठोपनिषद, आँगन के पार द्वार मेरी प्रिय कहानियाँ - अज्ञेय, द्वापर  - मैथलीशरण गुप्त, मेरी प्रिय कहानियाँ -यशपाल

PHILOSOPHY/RELIGION (7): The Vedanta Philosophy by Swami Vivekananda, The Upanishads trans. by Eknath Easwaran, (Upanishads trans. by Patrick Olivelle), Masks of God: The Occidental Mythology by Joseph Campbell, Sadhana by Rabindranath TagoreHinduism by K. M Sen, (The Birth of Tragedy by Neitzsche).

POPULAR SCIENCE (4): A Study of Splashes by A. M. Worthington, Moments of Vision and Stopping Time by Edgerton, Rheology: An Historical Perspective by R. I. Tanner and K. Walters.

Favorite reads of the year (Fiction / Novels /Short Stories)
1. Pierre et Jean and Afloat by Guy de Maupassant (French): Short novels, which are constructed with a lot of insight and intensity.
2. Respected Sir by Naquib Mahfouz (Arabic): A poor man educates himself and works tirelessly, somewhat devilishly and deviously at time, sacrificing love and friendship, to rise through the rank. Short book.
3. The Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish): Western paintings and Eastern colors, Eastern painting and infidel styles of the West; a discourse on art and religion, buried within a love story and murder mystery set in sixteenth century Istanbul. (I have decided to call the novelist my friend, and address him on a first name basis. Orhan, I must tell you that I enjoyed your lectures in Harvard this year).
4. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish): In Borges, I find erudition, invention, citation, scholarship, mystery, myth, Eastern and Western cultures and skill with imagination, words and ideas woven into a labyrinth that engages every element of your self. I will read everything by him.
5. Germinal by Emile Zola (French): The book abounds in unforgettable coalmine & crowd scenes, dark and  insightful sections on socialism and class struggle, and shockingly sensuous paragraphs where wild  desire and free sex continue in spite of the turn of events in the background. Heroism, romance, coming of age, sexuality, and humanity are all invoked by this writer and evoked by this novel.
6. Burmese Days, Animal Farm & Collection of Essays  by Orwell (English): Twentieth century is chronicled and critiqued best by this author, whose every essay is both educational and inspiring. Burmese days is recommended to anyone who wishes to familiarize himself with India under colonial rule; Animal Farm is a parable that shows how communism is destroyed by its practitioners.
7. Delhi by Khushwant Singh (English): The novel is a mixed-bag of riches, quite like the city. Narratives set in Aurangzeb's time, Mir's life, Zafar's time and in twentieth century alone should make this a book worth celebrating. (I have posted a longer review elsewhere).
8. Kim by Rudyard Kipling (English): An adventure story, set in North India. Full of maxims and one liners that capture daily conversations of Indians too well. It has an unforgettable cast of characters, and must be used as an instruction manual by writers who want to see India from within.
9. A Room with a View by EM Forster (English): A classic that takes you through the touristy town of Florence, the stuffiness of British higher society, a love story with odd-ball hero and confused heroine and more in one short and pleasant novel.
10. Meri Priya Kahaniyan by Yashpal (Hindi): Chekov, Maugham,  HH Munro,  O Henry, Manto, Maupussant, Zola, DH Lawrence coexist as one writer in Yashpal. I plan to read everything he wrote, implying many novels and many collections of short stories.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weekly Random Thoughts (22Dec08-28Dec08)

Vivek --

thinks George Orwell deserves as much praise and glory for writing Burmese days as he has received for 1984 or Animal Farm!

wonders how many years of missed festivals does it take for a person to decide to return to his motherland?

wonders why Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Mahadevi Verma, Dharamveer Bharati, (all great Hindi poets) are virtually unknown to the world...

(I guess it is apt to save these musings for some later investigation!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is White Tiger by Aravind Adiga at best a Paper Tiger?

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga has already won the Man Booker Prize, and it is being hailed universally by the critics for its virtues in presenting a narrative quite different from the Bollywood capers and the modern Indian English fiction. In the wake of some well-deserved praise, my biased review might appear like an afterthought, examining a foregone conclusion. My bias rises from my familiarity with characters like Balram Halwai, and from my reverence for uncelebrated works of Indian fiction that present the alternative reality of present day India. Reading the novel left me quite dissatisfied, and this is an exposition of the reason why.

The basic storyline of the novel can be summarized as follows. Balram Halwai grows up in a poor and remote village and ends up working as the driver for America returned Ashok. Incidentally Ashok is from the family of landlords who run or ruin the life of Balram's fellow villagers. Even though Ashok treats the Balram quite well compared to how servants and drivers are treated by other people, Balram siezes an opportunity to murder his master and run-off with money to become a rich businessmen. The story of Balram's journey from a village to city, the murder and his transformation into a entrepreneur is retold in form of letters that Balram writes in a course of seven nights. The letters are addressed to Chinese Premier and are laced with a dark wit and provocative confessions.

The novel succeeds in chartering into a territory unfamiliar and hence exotic for Western audiences, for Adiga chooses a character from lower classes and makes him into a success story. But likewise, the novel fails in providing a deep or authentic representation of his protagonists to anyone who is remotely familiar with the cultural-, social-, caste- & religion- based daily chaos of India. In fact, the parable is replete with the cliched dialogues, observations and methods which are synonymous with most Indian movies. These too describe the rise of a virtual nobody from village or slums to riches. The only thing missing here is a romance angle, song and dance situations and the victory of good over evil in the final scene. Further, except maybe for Balram, most characters are caricatures, two-dimensional beings, who perform their parts again like the underdeveloped, underused casts in desi movies.

The fact that Adiga creates this alternate universe quite cleverly is clear from the outset, but if his representation actually captures injustices or corrupt world ,can be judged best by us who have risen from it. Unfortunately, my assertion that most of the celebrated Indian writers never lived in real India or in the villages, towns and slums (where the poor and middle classes live), applies equally well to Aravind. For me, White Tiger is a black and white, blurred montage of shots from a distant observer. These are accompanied by a narrative that in spite of its comic and creative content, fails to describe what is actually happening. But I am convinced now that to somebody who has access only to this montage, the description provides a wonder and entertainment characteristic of Marco Polo's adventures.

The question "if not "White Tiger" than what" is not a difficult one to answer. Premchand, Yashpal, Renu, Mahashweta Devi, Dharamveer Bharati, Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan, Vijayan, Sadat Hasan Manto, Tagore, etc form a long list of writers who have explored the fervent and follies of Indian psyche, philosophy, politics and religion. I thought of the "shrub" in Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, each time I saw Balram's region denoted as "Darkness", and I thought it unusual that two divers in Delhi run into each other at every possible parking lot (It requires a suspension of disbelief matched by similar plots in many Bollywood movies) . I agree with the book stub that calls it "amoral, irreverent", but I cannot agree with its being called "deeply endearing" for I still preserve my sensibility that shocking and irreverent is not a sure sign of being extraordinary. The manifold of contradictions that exist in India requires a canvass with more elements than are present in White Tiger, and to make it palatable is indeed a task that requires more than a paper tiger!

Incidentally most of the entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and politicians in current India do rise from very ordinary families. While some may have followed the path exemplified by Balram, there is a significant fraction who escaped through education. While Naipaul did not grow up in India, his House for Mr Biswas contains characters and circumstances that are surprisingly accurate their portrayal of daily life of a large majority of Indians, and there too the escape occurs through education. Rushdie manages to use metaphor and magical realism to assimilate the commotion of Indian existence, but his descriptions do not usually touch the ordinary man.

While White Tiger manages to reveal the dark matter in the cosmos of Indian reality, its exposition, extent and complexity requires the understanding, humanity, attachment and maturity absent in this novel. To win a prize or write a popular book (for Western audiences) is one thing, to create a masterpiece worth universal respect quite another. No wonder most Indians bashed the book in their reviews in amazon and elsewhere, while the Westerners embraced it. For me the scary thing is that an equivalent imaginary novel, which would win similar acclaim in many developing countries (especially in the Middle East), will portray a driver Balram Halwai in United States, making it big (in spite of racial/religious/imperialist insults) by use of similar murder of a Christian, White guy: only the names of the cities and characters need to be changed. Of course, Balram Halwai, of US will also type it as a series of letters to the Chinese Premier. Perhaps that will make for an entertaining read, though I doubt if it will win a Man Booker Prize or such acclaim in the West. My apologies, I won't venture to compare author of White Tiger or the similar, imaginary novel, to Gorky, Gogol or Dostoevsky!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye's collection contains sixty poems about Palestinians and Middle East, about love and longing for lost and imaginary homelands. The poems are fragrant with spices of the Middle-East, flavors of figs and olives, and served with a tenderness of a grandmother talking to a grandchild, a five year old to his mother, an aged man to his beloved he unites with after a lifetime. In the world torn by religious and political conflicts, these poems represent an oasis of hope. It is the humanity of these verses, that leaps from the page like the memory of nineteen varieties of gazelle described in the title poem.

The poems assume special significance in the context of post-September 11 world, for they contain a platter of understanding and taste served to assuage our need to be comforted. The solace is brought in by the mint green language of a poet born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Perhaps the unique identity of Nye offers her perspectives about the Arab East and American West which her creativity has shaped into a narrative that offers respite from the reactionary rhetoric that dominates our daily thinking and actions.

As an Indian residing in America, I sense a brotherhood with Nye's characters, who chase the voices, flavors, visions, music and familiarity that maps their nostalgic world. As a poet with Indian heart and Americanized mind, I find Nye, like Agha Shahid Ali, present our cultural and emotional duality in a lyric that is both powerful and poignant. The tapestry of inheritance of the East is laced with tales quite unknown in the West, and this wealth can nourish many a chasms that exist between the material and spiritual. It is voices like Amichai's and Nye's that remind us that the transcendental humanity within us can help us to outlive the wounds inflicted by the fanatic forces everywhere.

Karnak Cafe' by Naquib Mahfouz

Karnak Cafe by Naquib Mahfouz is a hundred page socio-political thriller. Mahfouz's characters gather together in Karnak Cafe, run by a former belly dancer. The regular customers include old men like the narrator, who remember Egypt before 1952 revolution and remember the belly dancer in her prime. The regular customers also include three university students, who are rooted in the present, without a bittersweet nostalgia for past that old people carry within them. Together the cast converses about religion, love, politics and forms the family of Karnak Cafe.

Then one day the students disappear, and when they return, their selves are transformed irreversibly. While the government throws them into prison again and again, their outside world is transformed by the 1967 war. Many years later, the narrator reconstructs the background stories of the three students, who loose their idealism, innocence and zest for life in face of harsh tortures inflicted on them. In a chilling climax, the torturer of these students joins the community of Karnak Cafe, and presents his own disillusionment with the system.

The complexity of times is captured brilliantly in the narrative that follows the personal stories of the protagonists. By presenting social, political and economic tragedies through prism of personalities, Mahfouz creates a compelling and unforgettable novella. The nightmarish Karnak Cafe is a must read, contemporary novel which for me ranks along with Blindness by Saramago and Toni Morrison novels.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Books read in 2008

Read in 2008 (105= 57+ P 4 8; NF 24):
TRANSLATIONS (18) Torrents in Spring and First Love by Ivan Turgenev, The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. by Constance Garnett), Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (trans. by Douglas Charmee), Slowness by Milan Kundera, Chitra by Rabindranath Tagore (One Act Play), Swann’s Way by M. Proust, The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk, The Trolley by Claude Simon (trans. by Richard Howard), Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari (based on texts by Valmiki, Kamban and Tulsidas), Mahabharata by C. Rajagopalachari (based on Sanskrit original by Ved Vyas), The Key Witnesses: the Younger Slovene Prose at the Turn of the Millennia by Various, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami, Diary of a Madman and other stories by Nikolai Gogol, Seven Novels by Anton Chekov, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Satre, Karnak Cafe by Naquib Mahfouz

NOVELS (20): Witches by Roald Dahl, Through the looking glass by Lewis Carroll, I, Claudius by Robert Grave, The Painted Veil by W. S. Maugham, Men without Women by Ernest Hemmingway, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, O Pioneers by Willa Cather, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Human Comedy by William Saroyan, Fury and The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, Lord Jim by Joseph Conard, Buddha by Deepak Chopra, River Sutra by Geeta Mehta, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, Chrome Yellow by Alduos Huxley, Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur, White Tiger by Arvind Adiga, Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile, Waiting for Mahatma by R. K. Narayan.

NON-FICTION (7): The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, My experiments with truth by Mahatma Gandhi, Letter to a Hindu and (The Kingdom of God is Within You) by Leo Tolstoy, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Plato's Republic, Essays on Literature by W. S. Maugham,

ENGLISH POETRY (39+5): God Particles by Thomas Lux, Rilke on Love and other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations by Ranier Maria Rilke and John M. L. Wood, Sixty Poems by Charles Simic, Valentines by Ted Kooser, The Complete Poems of Cavafy by C. P. Cavafy (trans. by Rae Dalven), Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire (Trans. by Louise Varese), Like This by Rumi (Trans. by Coleman Barks), Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English edited by Agha Shahid Ali and Sarah Suleri Goodyear, Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop,!!! Faust by Goethe (Trans. By Kauffmann), Selected Poems by Francis Ponge, The Girl with Bees in her Hair by Elenor Rand Wilner, Velocities by Stephen Dobyns, 19 Varieties of gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye, Save the Last Dance: Poems by Gerald Stern, Dig Safe by Stuart Dischell, The Gift Poems by Hafiz (Trans. by Daniel Ladinsky), Hafiz of Shiraz: Selections from his poems (Trans. by Hermam Bicknell, in 1875), Poems of Akhmatova: Izbrannye Stikhi (Trans. by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward), The Fourtieth Day by Kazim Ali, What Narcissism means to Me Tony Hoagland, Sin by Forugh Farrokzad (Trans. by Sholeh Wolpe), Poem of the Deep Song by Federica Garcia Lorca (Tans by Ralph Angel), Bye for now by Lorraine Mariner, Travels and Tranquilities: Questions and Answers by Yehuda Amichai, Half-Inch Himalayas, Rooms are Never Finished, Call me Ishmael Tonight, The Country without Post office, Nostalgists Map of America and Rebel's Silhouette (Translations of verses by Faiz Ahmed Faiz) by Agha Shahid Ali, Kabir by Robert Bly

Elements of Poetry by Robert Scholes, Primer for Poets by Karl Shapiro, Poetry and Mathematics by S. Buchanan, The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser, Best Words, Best Order by Stephen Dobyns,

Dhammapada by Thomas Byrom, The Bhagavad Gita by Maharishi Ved Vyas (1) trans. by Eknath Easwaran, 2) Barbara Stoler Miller 3) A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada), Upanishads written by Anonymous Indian Poets (trans. by Juan Muscaro)

Hindi / Urdu / Sanskrit/ Punjabi (4): (Kamayani) by Jaishankar Prasad, Kurushetra by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Bhagavad Gita by Maharishi Ved Vyas, Pardesan by Purnima Gupta

PHILOSOPHY (5): Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig, The Vedanta Philosophy and Lectures from Colombo to Almora by Swami Vivekananda, (The Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy by Friedrich Max Muller), (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) by Friedrich Nietzsche

POPULAR SCIENCE (7): A History of Hindu Chemistry (From earliest times to the middle of sixteen century A. D.) by Praphulla Chandra Ray, Molecular Reality (A Perspective on the Scientific Work of Jean Perrin) by Mary Jo Nye, Universal Foam: Exploring the Science of Nature’s Most Mysterious Form by Sidney Perkowitz, Patterns in Nature by Peter S. Stevens, On Growth and Form by D’Arcy Thompson (abridged by J. T. Bonner), Atoms by Jean Perrin, Cohesion: A Scientific History of Intermolecular Forces by J. S. Rowlinson

Read in 2007

Read in 2007 (108=57+51; NF 25):

TRANSLATIONS (11): The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Candide by Voltaire, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostovesky, The Book of Laugher and Forgetting and by Milan Kundera, The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, A Day in Spring by Ciril Kosmac, Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac, Cries in the Drizzle by Yu Hua, Snow by Orhan Pamuk

The Art of Novel by Milan Kundera, A Stranger in the Land: Jewish Identity beyond Nationalism by Daniel Cil Brecher

NOVELS (30): An Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Catalina and Husband and Wives by W. Somerset Maugham, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Vanity Fair by W. M. Thackerey, Swami and Friends and Malgudi Landscapes by R. K. Narayan, Where Angels Fear to Tread and Howards End by E. M. Forster,!!! Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Daisy Miller and Washington Square by Henry James, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man by James Weldon Johnson, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, As I Lay Dying by W. Faulkner, Ganesha Goes to Lunch by Kamala K. Kapur!!!!, The End of an Affair by Graham Greene, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farookhi, The Third Policeman by Frank O’Brian, Little Woman by Lousie Mary Alcott,

Arms and the Man and Man and Superman by G. B. Shaw*, Much Ado About Nothing and Tempest by William Shakespeare,*

NON-FICTION (5): Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster, The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, Becoming Jane: The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen by Anne Newgarden, In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry III, The End of Education by Neil Postman

ENGLISH POETRY (44=38+6): Night Mowing by Chard deNiord, The Love Poems of Rumi ed. by Deepak Chopra, Odes to Common Things * (trans. by Ken Krabbenhoft), Winter Garden (trans. by W. O’ Daly) and Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (trans. by Williams) by Pablo Neruda**, Street of Clocks, Split Horizon, Greatest Hits, The Blind Swimmer and New and Selected Poems by Thomas Lux, !!!!The 64 Sonnets by John Keats, The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam trans. by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs, The Captain’s Verses (trans. Donald D. Walsh) by Pablo Neruda, Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda trans. by Margaret S. Peden, Collected Poems by Philip Larkin, Sonnets to Orpheus by Ranier Maria Rilke, You and Yours by Naomi Shihab Nye, Selected Poems: WB Yeats, Selected Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Selected Poems of Ranier Maria Rilke ed. & trans. by Robert Bly,!!! The Poetry of Pablo Neruda by Pablo Neruda and Ilan Stavans, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Marie Macy, Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, 100 Great Poems of the Twentieth Century ed. by Mark Strand, My Noiseless Entourage: Poems and The Voice at 3:00 A. M.: Selected Late and New Poems by Charles Simic, Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova, The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology (Dover) by Faubian Bowers, Lyrical Ballads by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, Found in Translation (Hewbrew Poems) ed. by Richard Friend, Time and Materials by Robert Hass, A Poet to his Beloved by W. B. Yeats, The Essential Rilke by Ranier Maria Rilke (trans. by Galway Kinnel and Hannah Liebmann), The 100 best poems of all time ed. by Leslie Pockell, Selected Poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (trans. by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi, S. J.), Selected Poems by Robert Frost, In Search of Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca, Norman Thomas Di Giovanni and Christopher Maurer, Essay on Rime: with Trial of a Poet (Poets on Poetry) by Karl Shapiro and Robert Phillips

Best Words, Best Order by Stephen Dobyns, The Sounds of Poetry by Robert Pinsky, Poetry and commitment by Adrienne Rich, Three Indian Poets - Second Edition – Nissim Ezekiel, Dom Moraes and A. K. Ramanujam by Bruce King, Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke (trans. by Stephen Mitchell), The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, 3rd Ed. by Lewis Turco.

Hindi / Urdu / Sanskrit/ Punjabi (1+7): Gunahon ka Devta by Dharamveer Bharati
Bulley Shah by Harbhajan Singh and Shoeb Nadvi, Sandhini by Mahadevi Verma, Rashmirathi, Sanchaytaa and Kurushetra by Randhari Singh Dinkar, Pratinidhi Kavitayen by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Anthology of Urdu Ghazals by KC Kanda,

POPULAR SCIENCE (10): History of Theories of Rain by W. E. Knowles Middleton, Self Made Tapestry by P. Ball, I am OK, you are OK by Thomas Harris, Sky in a bottle by Peter Pesic, Investigations on the Theory of Brownian Motion by Albert Einstein, Clouds in a Glass of Beer and What Light through Yonder Window Breaks by Craig F. Bohren, Optics made Clear by William L. Wolfe, Rainmakers: American “Pluviculture” to World War II by Clark C. Spence, Visualized Flow Ed. by Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers!!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Videshi kya jaante hain Himachal Pradesh ke baare mein?

विदेशी क्या जानते हैं हिमाचल प्रदेश के बारे में?
- डॉ. विवेक शर्मा

दोस्तों! पिछले सात वर्षों में मैं अमरीकी, फ्रेंच, चीनी, तुर्क, ईरानी, स्वीड, जर्मन, रूसी, डच, कोरियन, अफ्रीकी और अर्जेंटीनी नागरिकों का साथ उठता-बैठता रहा हूँ | जब उनसे पहली बार मिलते हुए जब अपना परिचय देता हूँ, तो वे अकसर पूछते हैं कि यह हिमाचल है कहाँ? फ़िर शुरू होता है सिलसिला भारत का नक्षा चित्रिक करके कश्मीर, तिब्बत, पंजाब और दिल्ली के दक्षिण, पश्चिम, पूर्व और उत्तर में हिमाचल दिखाने का | अगर कहूँ कि हिमाचल हिमालय में है, तो उनको माउंट अवेरेस्ट और नेपाल दिखाई देता है | पर अगर कहूँ यह वह प्रदेश है जहाँ दलाई लामा ने शरण ली है, तो कई लोग कह उठते हैं: अच्छा "धरमशाला" के पास | फ़िर सिलसिला चलता है उनको पहाडों की ऊंचाई, नदियों और बंधों के नाम गिनाने का, और यह बताने का कि हिमाचल देवभूमि है | बात निकलती है तो बर्फ का, पर्यटन का जिक्र होता है | फसलों और फासलों का ज़िक्र होता है | हमारी प्रगति और पिछडेपन का ज़िक्र होता है | ऐसी अनेकों वार्तालापों का निचोड़ आपके समक्ष प्रस्तुत कर रहा हूँ, यह सोच कर कि इस सवाल-जवाब से मैंने जो समझा-सीखा वो शायद हमारे प्रदेश की प्रगति के प्रति उठाये जाने वाले कदमों का मार्गदर्शक बनेगा |

हम कहते हैं कि हिमाचल भारत का स्विट्जरलैंड है | यह कहाँ तक सच है? अगर प्राकृतिक सौंदर्य की बात कि जाए, तो हिमालय की भव्यता की तुलना किसी भी पहाडी इलाके से नहीं की जा सकती | परन्तु जिस प्रकार खान से निकला हुआ हीरा जोहरी की कोशिश के बिना बेकार पत्थर-सा, बेनाम रहता है, जैसे बिना आभूषण, वस्त्र, संवारने-संवारने के बिना किसी स्त्री का रूप अदृश्य रहता है, बिना सही व्यवस्था और कोशिश के हिमाचल का स्विट्जरलैंड सा बन पाना लगभग असंभव है |

स्विस लोग समय के बहुत पाबन्द होते हैं | बस अगर पाँच बज कर बारह मिनट पे आएगी कहा हो, तो ज़्यादा से ज़्यादा २0-३० सैकिंड ही लेट होती है | सड़कें हर साल ध्वस्त नहीं होती, पुल नदी के साथ नहीं बहते, और लोग यहाँ-तहां कूड़ा नहीं फैंकते | जगह-जगह शौचालय और मूत्रालय बने होते हैं | आप इसे एक बुरा नज़रियाँ या उदाहरण कह सकते हैं, पर यह शौलाचय सड़क किनारे बने तकरीबन सभी डाभों से ज्यादा साफ़ सुथरे होते हैं | कभी भी बस लठयानी, घुमारवीं, भराडीघाट, संवारा, भोटा, स्वारघाट में रूकती है, हमारी अदूरदर्शिता एक के बाद एक दुकानों-मकानों की ओट में बिखरी नज़र आती है | अमरीका में हर रेस्तरां, हर "ढाबे", हर बस स्टाप पर साफ़ सुथरे मूत्रालय बने होते हैं | माना बीस-तीस साल पहले पहाडों में शौचालय होते ही नहीं थे, पर अब हम प्रगति के मुकाम चड़ने की बात करते हैं, परन्तु मूलभूत ज़रूरतों को अनदेखा कर देते हैं | यूँ तो कानून बना कर हर ढाबे, हर रेस्तरां में व्यवस्था करवाई जा सकती है, परन्तु हमें ख़ुद ऐसी समस्याओं को पहचान कर उनका समाधान ढूँढना चाहिए |

कभी कभार मुझे भारत और हिमाचल में घूमे हुए विदेशियों से मिलकर पता चलता है कि वो हमारे देश में हमसे ज्यादा घूम चुके हैं | यहाँ संस्कृत में रूचि लेने वाले बुद्धिजीवियों कि कमी नहीं | महाभारत, रामायण, कालिदास के पद्य, कबीर के दोहे, भगवद गीता के अनुवाद, गांधीजी कि आत्मकथा, रश्दी के नावेल, योग से ले कर तिबेत्तियों के ऊपर हुए चीनी अत्याचारों से अवगत लोगों से जब मैं बात करता हूँ, तो सोचता हूँ कि हमरे देश-प्रदेश में आदि ग्रंथों से ले कर समकालीन साहित्य के प्रति कितनी अरुचि, कितना अनादर है | मेरे विदेशी मित्र पूछते हैं कि हमारे प्रदेश में विश्वविद्यालय तो है, परन्तु विश्व पटल पर छाप छोड़ने वाला शोध यहाँ क्यूँ नहीं होता, कोई साहित्यकार, कलाकार, खिलाड़ी रास्ट्रीय और अंतर्राष्ट्रीय मंचों पर नज़र क्यूँ नहीं आते ? किसी भी संस्थान के विश्व प्रसिद्ध बनने के लिए आवश्यक है कि प्राध्यापक और विद्यार्थी दोनों सहयोग से, निष्ठा से प्रतिदिन, प्रतिवर्ष महनत करें | मेरे विदेशी मित्रों के अनुसार हिमाचल की शान्ति और रोज़मर्रा की गति शिक्षा और शोध संस्थानों के लिए उपयुक्त है | मेरा मानना है कि शायद हमारे आत्मविश्वास की कमीं है, कुछ प्रयास की कमीं है, कि देश के सबसे ज्यादा पड़े-लिखे लोग जहाँ बसते हैं, वह देश में ज्ञानियों का कर्मस्थल नहीं माना जाता | कहाँ हमारे सभी पूर्वज सत्य और साधना के लिए हिमालय चडा करते थे, कहाँ हम हिमालय कि गोद में बैठे, अपनी ही संभावनाओं से अपरिचित हैं |

देखा जाए तो हिमाचल में फल-फूल, कन्द-मूल, जडी-बूटियों का भण्डार है | पर हम न इन्हें अच्छी तरह पहचान पाये हैं, न इनका पूरा फ़ायदा उठा पाये हैं | सरकार ने भार्यसक प्रयास किया है, और पर्यटन, परिवहन और किसानों के लिए काफ़ी सुविधाएँ उपलब्ध भी करवाई हैं | परन्तु प्रयटक स्थलों कि सफाई, रेस्तराओं में खाने का स्वाद, पगडंडियों की मरमत, मंदिरों का रख-रखाव, संस्थानों में शोध, कला-विज्ञान-खेल में अभिरुचि और अभिव्यक्ति, समय की पाबन्दी, सुलभ शौचालयों और कूड़ाघरों का प्रयोजन, इतियादी हम नागरिकों के निश्चय और प्रयत्न के बिना असाध्य लक्ष्य ही रहेंगे | शायद बंदरों के बड़ते प्रकोप का इलाज़ बंदरों के संघार में है, और यदि आप रामायण पड़ चुके हैं, तो याद कीजिये कि कैसे उसमें श्रीराम भी आतंकी वानरों, जानवरों को मारने से पीछे नहीं हटते थे | नैना देवी जैसे हादसे रोकना, और ऐसा हादसा हो सकता है सोच पाना हम सबके लिए एक चुनौती है | कोई बाहर से आकर क्यूँ हमारी स्तिथि का जायजा ले हमें बताये कि क्या और कैसे करना चाहिए? हम क्यूँ न स्वविश्लेशन करके, स्वार्थों को भुला कर, स्वालंबी बन कर, स्वयमेव ही समस्याएँ सुलझा लें? मेरा हमीरपुर (और अन्य) इन्जिनीरिंग कालेज, हिमाचल प्रदेश विश्वविद्यालय के सभी विद्यार्थियों, शिक्षकों, समाज सेवकों, पञ्च-प्रधानों से निवेधन यही है की वो आस और प्रयास समितियां बनायें, जो हमारे गावों, कस्बों, विद्यालयों, मंदिरों में परिवर्तन लायें |

शायद अपने प्रदेश से बहिर निकल कर में अपने प्रदेश को ज्यादा समझ पाया हूँ | हमारे राज्य में सुख है, शान्ति है, और असीम सौंदर्य है | यादों के झुरमुट में मद्रे का स्वाद, बंदरों की छेड़-छाड़, सेबों का रंग, चूल्हे की रोटी, बटुरु, चिलरू, मंदिरों की घंटियाँ, नदियों का ठंडा पानी, झूलती चील की शाखें, सडकों के अनगिनत मोड़ हैं | यादों के झुरमुट में बसे पहाडी भाई-बहन हैं, जिनका परिश्रम, सादगी, श्रधा, इमानदारी मेरे जैसे सभी प्रवासी हिमाचलियों के लिए निरंतर एक मिठास, एक संतोष, एक प्रेरणा का साधन रहती है | जब यही बातें मैं हिमाचल में घूमे हुए विदेशियों से कहता हूँ तो वह मुस्करा कर कहते हैं कि जो सुकून उन्हें हिमाचलियों के चहरों पर नज़र आया, वो उनको शायद कहीं भी देखने को नहीं मिला | पर जैसे अपने सबसे प्रिय पुत्र से पिता सदैव सर्वोच्च प्रदर्शन की उम्मीद करता है, ठीक वैसे ही अपने घर-ग्राम-प्रदेश की ओर नज़र दौडाता हूँ, तो काफ़ी-कुछ बदलना चाहता हूँ | जानता हूँ छोटी-बड़ी मुश्किलें हैं, मुसीबतें हैं, जिनका हल करना शायद मुश्किल नहीं | परन्तु "उद्यमेन ही सिध्यन्ति, कार्याणि न मनोरथैः " | इसलिए पहले समस्याओं को पहचान कर, उनको समझ कर, हमें वो कदम उठाने होंगे जिससे हमारे प्रदेश से निकला हर युवक-युवती जब कहे की वह हिमाचली है, तो देखने वाले को सादा और इमानदार व्यक्ति ही नहीं, बल्कि एक प्रगतिशील, प्रतिभाशाली समुदाय नज़र आए |

डॉ. विवेक शर्मा एम आई टी, अमेरिका में शोध कर रहे हैं और हिन्दी-अंग्रेज़ी में कवितायें-लेख लिखते हैं |

Monday, December 01, 2008

nahin chalta hai, nahin chalta hai, nahin chalta hai

नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है
- डॉ. विवेक शर्मा

गर्जन दे, मुझे वह सामूहिक गर्जन दे,
जो गोली की हर गूँज को दहला दे,
फूटते बमों की वहशत को ठुकरा दे,
जो रिसते घावों की, आहों की,
तर्जन को हमलावरों का हाहाकार बना दे,
गर्जन दे, मुझे वह सामूहिक गर्जन दे |

कह नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है,
जब मेरा घर, मेरा देश जलता है, नहीं चलता है,
नहीं भूलता है, जब भय गलियों में पलता है,
नहीं टलता है प्रचंड जब समूह का क्रोध उभरता है,
दे दर्शन मुझे, अस्वार्थी इक लय, इक हुंकार का,
कह नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है |

जब तलक गन्दा लहू बहता हैं, घाव पकता है,
कुछ कैंसरों को सिर्फ़ काट के गुजारा चलता है,
जब तलक कांटे हैं राहों में, पाँव छिलते रहेंगे,
भीरु हिरण भेड़ियों के हाथों मिटते रहेंगे,
परशुराम की प्रतिज्ञा दे, दे चन्द्रगुप्त-चाणक्य का साहस दे,
हर वीर को अर्जुन-भीम, कृशन-बलराम के बल का अट्टहास दे |

सिसकता है योधा नहीं माँ की बाहों में,
झिझकता नहीं है चन्द्रशेकर खतरों की छावों में,
इक मत हो, इक हित हो, इक लक्ष्य भी,
यहाँ आनंद मठ हो, शान्तिनिकेतन भी, रणबांकुरों का आश्रय भी,
मिट्टी से उठे हूंक, हर लक्ष्मीबाई, भगत सिंह, महाराणा जाग उठे,
टीपू-तांत्या की तलवार, शिवाजी का प्रतिशोध, सत्तावन का हलाहल जाग उठे |

कह नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है,
घूंस खाता है, फूट फैलाता है, समूह का हिस्सा चुराता है,
बारूद और वर्दी को जो दुश्मनों को बेच खाता है,
भूल जाता है ऊँची इमारतों में बाहरी ग्रीष्म ग्लानियां, मानसूनी भूखमारियाँ,
भूल जाता है गावों, फुटपाथों, बसों में बेकाबू हसरतें, हिमाकतें, बइमानियाँ,
जो टलता है, मजबूरन या बेहिचक गुनाह करता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है |

आज गर्जन दे, मुझे वह सामूहिक गर्जन दे,
वंदे मातरम में फ़िर वही दंभ, वही तर्जन दे,
बंद मुठी में सरफरोशी की तमन्ना का तराना दे,
इन असुरों के खात्मे के हर तरीके का बयाना दे,
दे इक मत, इक हित, इक लक्ष्य; दे साहस, प्रतिज्ञा, गर्जन,
कर, कह - नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है, नहीं चलता है |