Friday, November 20, 2009

शुक्र है शुक्रवार है, यूँ लगता है, त्यौहार है

छींकने तक की फुर्सत किसे, कहाँ आजकल,
पल पल फोन, इ-मेल, है भगदड़ आजकल,
चाहे कोई कितना भी कमाए धन,
चाहे कितना भी सराहा जाये तेरा प्रयत्न,
सब पाया-गवाया यहीं जाएगा,
धुआं-रख होने का तेरा भी दिन आएगा,
या तेरे अपने जिनसे प्रीत, जिनपर मान तुझे,
ऐसी दौड़-भाग में जायेंगे कब पहचान तुझे,
कब उनको तो दुलार दे पायेगा,
कब उनका संसार बन पायेगा?

सफलता क्या है, किस चीज़ का है मान तुझे?
आ चल, संग-संग बैठें-सोचें ये गुत्थी सुलझे |
सोने, खाने, जीने के लिए काफी है छोटा घर,
कुछ अनाज, फल, कुछ उपास, ऊन, एक प्रियवर,
पिता को यश, माँ को शायद शांति-सुख का सामान चाहिए,
पुरुष को पुरुषार्थ, पितृ-पुत्र धर्मं, निभाने का प्रावधान चाहिए,
नारी को भी संतुलन कर्म का, और मातृत्व का वरदान चाहिए,
हर प्रीति, हर सुखानुभूति के लिए दोस्त संतुलित इंसान चाहिए,
संचय में सर्वदा कोई तुझसे आगे रहेगा,
सोचेगा इतना और, इतना और, तो भागे रहेगा,

इस होड़ में, नयेपन के कोड़ में, बहता चलेगा,
तो इसे ही बेहतर, जीवनदर्शन कहता चलेगा,
संशय नहीं अभी, जवानी है, जिंदगानी है सामने तेरे,
शायद थिरकन पाओं में, हृदय में हैं सिर्फ स्वपन सुहाने तेरे,
फ़िक्र किसकी नहीं, कोई हिचकी नहीं, आज है बस तेरा निलय,
अभी अकेला है, हर रस, रंग, रति को तूने चखा, चाहा है,
तेरे पास कुछ कर गुजरने, कुछ बन जाने का निश्चय बेतहाशा है,
फ़िक्र किसकी नहीं, कोई हिचकी नहीं, आज है बस तेरा निलय,
पर कब तब रहेगा वसंत, क्या कुछ भी है अनंत?
जान, होड़ में होश कैसा? नियति क्या नहीं वो अंध?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random, eclectic thoughts and links: September-November, 2009

Latest offering: The Cortland Review features my poem, with audio: (My father retired on 31 October, and the poem is a tribute to him; )

"India put all her emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual ad the universal." // "Man must realize the wholeness of his existence, his place in the infinite... Deprived of the background of the whole, his poverty loses its one great quality, which is simplicity, and it becomes squalid and shamefaced.... His wealth is no longer magnanimous; it grows merely extravagant." Tagore in Sadhana

My Sunday morning thoughts (Nov 6): Damn this politics, religion, East, West, ignorance :) Life is beautiful when कवि (the poet) wakes up and remembers that the essential thing is

(मैंने तुझे माँगा तुझे पाया है / आगे हमें, जो भी मिले, या न मिले, गिला नहीं... I prayed for y...ou, received you/ You prayed for me, received you / Whatever future brings us, or does not bring, No discontent) (As an aside, Deewar is one of the finest movies of 70s, Salim-Javed weave memorable dialogues into excellent performances by Amitabh and Co, directed by Yash Chopra)

Myths are myths, why seek a historical, archaelogical or scientific proof, to say that fiction, even religious fiction is factual? I always read things about Ramayana, where people question why we have no archaeological evidence for it. Campbell's Occidental Mythology tells me Bible myths are no different from Eastern ...myths. Here is an interesting article discussing how the archaeological evidence defies some of the most important beliefs of Israelites about their history:

I went to dinner with Andrew Parker, an evolutionary biologist from Oxford, who has written a book titled: "The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate" (see fro example)... (Needless to add that I had a very intriguing conversation with him; intriguing as it ventures into a possibility that even creationists cannot reconcile with. See here:

To complete cycle of myths:

Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell (A Hero with a thousand faces)

This excellent video from 1932 contains rare footage about Bombay (now renamed Mumbai)

'insaano ki izzat jab na jhoote sikko mein toli jaayegi / wo subah kabhi to aayegi' - Sahir (When the reputation of men won't be weighed in terms of fake coins / that dawn might arrive someday) The power of this line, the song is lost in translation. It is said that the movie, Phir Subah Hogi, is based on Crime and Pu...nishment, and our lyricist-poet, Sahir urged the director to find a music director who had read Dostoevsky & the book. Hence Khayyam got the coveted movie. Later Khayyam was to make as famous songs as Kabhie Kabhie mere dil mein (another Sahir song, his most popular song, but maybe not his best lyric) . The socialist in Sahir, in Phir Subah Hogi:

If we were to judge epics by impact they have had on human existence, Illiad fades in comparison to both Mahabharata and Ramayana. In rewriting Tulsidas, he created a work that helped us to reunderstand humanity (as one third of it lived in India then)... Here is a famous verse, in Lata's voice, with a tepid translation

Friday evening & beer

Beer was invented by a God! :) Soma must have been great... & we know wine is divine... we know Punjab & Scotland was riased on whiskey, and many praise rum.. Russians love vodka, Japanese Sake, Indians Tharra .. but beer, ah, is universal, is full of bubbles, evanescent like human life, intoxicating like whatever is b...est and worst in humanity.. Read Bachchan, read Omar Khayyam or drink a good, old glass of beer!

The most unexpected (and detailed) feature of the MIT newsletter... Sex @ MIT (Viewer discretion advised; adult content)

Thoughts of a Saturday morning, (14 Nov)

Rain, बारिश, हजारों ख्वाइशें ऐसी, A Thousand desires such as these, Farida Khanum singing: (सारी दुनिया के रंज-ओ-गम दे कर/ मुस्कुराने की बात करते हो; After giving the sorrows and pain of the whole world/ you talk of smiling; हमको अपनी खबर नहीं यारो/ तुम ज़माने की बात करते हो; We have no news of our own self/ you talk of the world), और मैं, एक अधूरी कविता, and me, an unfinished poem...

'ek nahin do do matra / nar se bhaari hai naari' -- Maithalisharan Gupt in 'Dwapar' ('Not one, but two vowels / Woman has more substance than Man')

A pretty good open letter about faculty hiring in IITs:
(Loved the quote: If you pay peanuts, you can get only monkeys')

'The curator smiled at the mixture of old-world piety and modern progress that is the note of India today'. Kim (1901), by Rudyard Kipling (Did he mean progress can be identified with lack of piety in the new world?)

Finished reading or close to finishing: Black Swan (Taleb), Diaries of a Young Poet (Rilke), Guerrillas (Naipaul), A Tree Within (Octavio Paz), Representative Men (Emerson), Kim (Kipling), Occidental Mythology (Campbell), Illiad (Homer, trans. by Fawles),  Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze, Dwapar (Maithalisharan Gupt), Meri Priya Kahaniyan (Yashpal), Germinal by Zola, & King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan (A. Chopra).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lost in Translation: Hothon par Sachai rehti hai (Jis desh mein Ganga behti hai)

By the very nature of our cultural and spiritual heritage, without realizing it, we tend to treat rivers, especially Ganga, as mothers and goddesses, and similarly we treat Earth as a goddess, who suffers on our behalf. In English literature, we find few characters who live their life honestly and simply, say we would see these in old British novels (Lorna Doone or Far from the Madding Crowd), but typically every human is a sinner (by very nature of Western myths and culture, you have to be). On the other hand, Indian sensibility allows for existence of sinless hearts... this goes hand in hand with the corrupt society that exists all around the simple souls.

RK Narayan wrote about such heroes, who look quite Victorian and simple in their motives and lifestyle, and unless we let go of our expectation of seeing a tainted personality, so stereotypical of the twentieth century fiction of the West, we cannot appreciate this quality of human nature, captured quite nicely in Narayan's Swami and his friends, and Waiting for the Mahatma. In other words, it is quite hard for a novelist writing in English to present characters like Rama or Hanuman, though Krishna and Arjuna quite fill the bill. But it is important to not lose sight of good-old Indian simplicity and honesty.

Now we return to the song, that was sung by Mukesh, penned by Shailendra and the music is by Shankar Jaikishen. The movie has some heart wrenching songs, and memorable scenes. Padmini, the famed dancer, plays the female lead, and Pran essays the role of a villain. The movie won Filmfare for Best Movie and Best Actor, and even though the song was nominated in two categories, it lost out in the end. 

In the linked video (see send of the post), three minutes of fantastic percussion saves the hero (Raj Kapoor).

Then the hero sings:

Where truth abides on lips, where hearts are guileless,
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....

We value our guests over our lives,
we don't greed for more, we sustain on less,
where from centuries, the mother earth suffers quietly for her children....
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....
Some people who know more, know less about humanity,
This is the East, the Eastern folks know worth of each life,
Live together and love each other, it is the only thing that stays... 
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....

What we were yesterday, what we are today, isn't the only thing we are proud of,
We have to progress on this path, we are also cognizant of that.
Who has ever stemmed this flow, can it ever stay bound...
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows.... 

Where truth abides on lips, where hearts are guileless,
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....

Whatever anyone offered, we learned, we even assimilated strangers,
We were never blinded by selfishness, we did not worship the worldly needs,
Now not only we, but the whole world, says to the whole world...
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....

Where truth abides on lips, where hearts are guileless,
We are the citizens of that country where Ganga flows....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Joy, killjoy of thesis, antithesis: Waterless urinals and water crisis

New 'waterless' urinals installed in some of the restrooms in MIT and Harvard proclaim that by installing these approximately 40,000 gallons of fresh water will be saved every year. If we say that India needs to install around 25 million urinals to prevent people from watering the roadside grass and trees, then by not installing those 25 million urinals, we are saving a trillion gallons of water every year.

If we account for the amount of irrigation water and organic manure that is provided by this roadside act of  'free giving', as well as account for cost of having old urinals constructed and buying new ones at a formidable price, as well as the cost of maintaining the buildings, and so on, we must have saved over 100 billion dollars in last two decades (10% of Indian GDP in 2008). This is the money that we have saved from going down the drain, if you wish.

If you knew Marcel Duschamp's work, and if you knew that such saving requires one to have the fountain of knowledge, you will know that by not having the 'fountain', we have shown a genius, that goes beyond the realm of conceptual art. I am often reminded of his art, as we were born on the same day, separated by space, time and thought process; while he calls that physical object a fountain, I am pleased to refer to its absence as 'fountain of life'.

I think everything in this world happens first as a farce, then as a tragedy. I can explain my arguments, but I think it is better to give the reader a whiff of the idea, and if they wish, they can read books and wikipedia to understand that I happily and angrily argue from the both sides. The rage for progress has brought us to this page, but by the time you will turn it, you will yearn for the absence of it. Or maybe not.

The per capita water consumption in United States (and many European nations) is at least twenty times higher than per capita water consumption in India. Water used for bathing is minimal if you get a bucket (15 -20 liters) on your turn, as opposed to a shower or bath-tub. Our ancestors preferred a dip in the holy rivers and holy lakes, and let me remind you, all Indian lakes, rivers, streams, rainfall, all water-bodies are sacrosanct. Since no man steps into a river twice, through a dip in the river at the dawn, our ancestors were led into a habit of cleanliness as well as a realization of evanescence of human existence. Returning to question of water consumption (the holy dip was necessary to cleanse my mind of extraneous thoughts), Indians consume less water, and if they stop aping the West, they would consume less water in coming centuries as well, and run a lower risk of undergoing the imminent water crisis. We know that water will be next oil, and even though finding water on the moon is a step in the right direction for India, formidable transportation costs will limit its availability only to politicians. Meanwhile, the common man, general public must learn to not forget their ways, and teach their kids the importance of holy rivers as well as the concept of "gagar mein sagar" (ocean in an earthen pot).

Ghada (घड़ा) (earthen pot) was one of the greatest discoveries ever made by human beings. To shape a container for water using a wooden wheel, a chakra, out of mother earth, requires a metaphorical, spiritual act that is both of scientific and engineering value to humanity. By replacing ghada with refrigerator, we have become more dependent on electricity than ever, and we eat more stale food than our ancestors were ever able to. The unhealthy way, the way of fridge, involves drinking water with ice, and by making extra effort to drink water at those inhuman temperatures, we are merely making power producing companies richer, cough syrup producing companies (that serve alcohol and sedatives to non-drinkers) richer. By not buying refrigerators, 50% of India, implying at least 100 million households, have saved another 100 billion dollars, if not more. Plus they have been drinking cool water, cooled by evaporative cooling, and they have been drinking water, conditioned by the mother earth herself.

Many, many years ago, before the time of Arundhati Roy and Medha Patekar, before engineers and scientists learned that dams cause irreversible damage to local flora, fauna and folklore, apart from displacing people like their cattle and other calamities, when the first dams were constructed in India, the farmers in Punjab refused to drink and use water from canals. Their argument was that the government is trying to dupe them by providing them "powerless water", as its shakti (शक्ति) (power) was extracted by government in form of electricity already. It took a lot of convincing: world bank grants, field trips by the scientists of green revolution era, multimillion dollar corporate sponsorship, NGO work, government subsidy, brainwashing and wallpaper campaigns to convince these farmers that canal water was 'good' and God-sent, high yield seeds that require more water for irrigation were good, that changing their water tables and water habits was "good". In past ten years, two million of those farmers have committed suicide, due to a water crisis that is affecting at least two hundred million farmers in India. The reason is that the 'rain gods' were not consulted before corporations that supply single-crop yielding seeds, were brought into the system, and 'low water use, low fertilizer' local varieties were discarded for providing the greatest profit to greatest number of people. Some people are still profiting, but our seedless, waterless farmers, must be wondering, why did everyone laugh at their grandparents who believed that by supplying them this canal water, the government is giving them 'powerless' water.