Sunday, January 29, 2012

Volunteer Our Story

In every bazaar, in various avatars, I see, I hear our story.
They sell, enact in streets & houses everywhere our story.

I have long forgotten the specific words you said.
But in gossip, in surreal phrasings I volunteer our story.

A spicy beginning, raunchy moments with musical interludes;
even to the climax, Bollywoodish seemed our affair, our story.

Quite a pang I feel when people talk about broken-hearts.
Just for variety’s sake, could have been singular our story.

‘No resemblance to living or dead’, I claim, my dearest.
On the page, I let my impartial memory steer our story.

Promise of secrecy was sacrosanct, my idol I worshipped you!
But it was my silent veneer that let the society infer our story.

Does the time travel on a Hindu bicycle: birth, rebirth, birth, rebirth?
Don’t you get bored, O Ishwar, repeating each year, our story?

Maugham’s Mildred, Dicken’s Estella, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina -
How come all the writers know the heroines insincere, our story?

Are even nations like men who make friends, foes, are born to die?
Are even nations cursed, ordained to share our fate severe, our story?

As a detached outsider, it is easy to see my voyage was doomed.
Looking back, I myself wonder, why did I engineer our story?

No disasters, animosities, no catacombs, bastards lurk in our story.
Why is Vivek writing ghazals? Has he begun to revere our story?

The poem first appeared in Indian Review, Jan 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Naked Translated World

Your body flows over mine, like the Ganga over the Himalayas.
Your splash against the roots of my precepts,
and erode my pristine ego, to have your own way.

The vistas of your flesh are like the fields of freshly harvested corn.
The remnant stalks curse my every step,
and when I tread over you, I move, as if, on a maze of thorns.

As I bite, every apple in your tissue moans.
My hunger hunts for the exotic animals
that run wild in your voluptuous terrains.

You urge me on like Krishna, rousing,
driving me to battles where the Pandavas of desire
chase the Kauravas of custom into endless duels.

Your bones turn into embers. I encounter a fire
that smolders me. Your embraced body
crumbles like ash. I wake up anointed by your smell.

Naked, you are like acres of sarson blossoms on the banks of Beas.
Naked, you are like Santoor symphonies motioned by Sharma's caresses.
Naked, you are like Leh and Spiti, valleys and hills, raw beauty, untouched.

Notes: * Pandavas and Kaurava’s were the brothers at war in the epic Mahabharata. Krishna was an avatar of Vishnu. In Bhagavada Gita, he explains the importance of action (karma) and duty (dharma) to Arjuna (one of the Pandavas). By doing to, he motivates Arjuna to go to the war, and do his duty, even it involves the death of his own kin, friends and teachers. Sarson refers to mustard flowers,  Beas is a river in Punjab. Shiv Kumar Sharma plays the instrument Santoor.

First published in Nefarious Ballerina (Print edition).

Monday, January 02, 2012

Books read in 2012

Read in 2012 (107 = 60 + 47; NF 24) 

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS -- FICTION (13): Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, Brand by Ibsen, The Golden Ass by Apuleius (translated by P. G. Walsh), The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, The Appointment by Herta Muller, After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima (translated by Donald Keene), Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Cook and other stories by Anton Chekov (translated by Constance Garnett), The Kreurzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Isai Kamen), All the Names by Jose Saramago, The Non-Existent Knight and The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino, Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa (translated by Khushwant Singh and M. A. Husaini).

NOVEL / FICTION IN ENGLISH (19): Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Seize the Day by Saul Bellow, Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome, Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley, The Conjure Woman and The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line by Charles W. Chestnutt, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, A London Life by Henry James, Selected Short Stories by E. M. Forster, White Fang by Jack London, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt, Tinkers by Paul Harding, Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, English, August by Upmanyu Chatterjee, The Genius and the Goddess by Aldous Huxley, The Guide by R. K. Narayan. 

NON-FICTION (12): The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor by Babur (translated by W. M. Thackston Jr.), Illuminations by Walter Benjamin (translated by Harry Zohn), The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs: Conversations and Reflections on 20th Century American Poets by Chard DeNiord, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and Imagination by Wallace Stevens, Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie, The Hair of Dogma by Francis O'Brien, Ake: The Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka, Encounters by Milan Kundera, Paul Gaugin.

ENGLISH POETRY (38): A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat by Arthur Rimbaud (translated from French by Louis Varese),  The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar (translated from Persian / Farsi by Dick Davis and Afkam Darbandi), Hagar before the Occupation, Hagar after the Occupation by Amal Al-Jubouri (translated from Arabic by Rebecca Gayle Howell & Husam Qaisi), Nobody, Son of Nobody by Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir (translated from Persian by Vraje Abramian), No Surrender by Ai, Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye, See me Improving by Travis Nichols, Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam (translated by Christian Wiman), Postcards from the Interior by Wyn Cooper, Selected Poems by Osip Mandelstam (translated by James Greene), The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam (translated by Clarence Brown and W. S. Merwin), The Long Trail: Selected Poems by Rudyard Kipling, Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda (translated by Ferris Cook), The Burial at Thebes: A version of Sophocles' Antigone by Seamus Heaney, Winter Poems by Keki N. Daruwala, Our Lady of the Ruins by Traci Brimhall, The Mother/Child Papers by Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Work and Days and Theogony by Hesoid (translated by Stanley Lombardo), What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems by Ruth Stone, The Art of Stepping through Time by H. E. Sayeh (translated by Chad Sweeney and Mojdeh Marashi), Last Verses by Jules Laforgue (translated by Donald Revell), The Norton Introduction to Poetry by J. Paul Hunter (sixth ed.), The Winding Stair and Other Poems by W. B. Yeats, A Boy's Will by Robert Frost, Reality Sandwiches by Allen Ginsberg, North of Boston by Robert Frost, Prometheus Unbound by Shelley, The Dance Most of All by Jack Gilbert, Mountain Interval, New Hampshire, and West-Running Brook by Robert Frost, Star in the Eye by James Shea, The Foundling Wheel by Blas Falconer, Bewilderment by David Ferry, Second Sight by A. K. Ramanujan, Child Made of Sand by Thomas Lux.

Hindi / Urdu / Punjabi (11 = 4+6; 1)Abhishapt by Yashpal, Ek Chaadar Maili si by Rajendra Singh BediMeghadoot by Kalidasa, Chitralekha by Bhagvati Charan Verma, Need ka Nirman Phir by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Pratinidhi Kahaniyan by Phanishwernath Renu,

Badlon ka Salaam Leta Hun by Gopaldas Neeraj, Yashodhra by Maithalisharan Gupt, Surdas, Pratinidhi Kavitaein by Nagarjuna, Saket by Maithalisharan Gupt, Geet-Govind (Hindi Translation),

अभिशप्त - यशपाल, एक चादर मैली सी -- राजेंद्र सिंह बेदी, मेघदूत -- कालिदास, चित्रलेखा -- भगवती चरण वर्मा, नीड़ का निर्माण फिर -- हरिवंश राय बच्चन    

बादलों का सलाम लेता हूँ -- गोपालदास नीरज, यशोधरा -- मैथलीशरण गुप्त, सूरदास, प्रतिनिधि कवितायेँ -- नागार्जुन,

Sanskrit (0+3): Chanakyaneeti, Meghadootam, Geet-Govind
चानाक्यनीति, मेघदूतम -- कालिदास 

PHILOSOPHY / RELIGION / MYTHOLOGY  (0+1): Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein.

MAHABHARATA (by Mahrishi Ved Vyas; tr. by Kisari Mohun Ganguly) (0/18): 

POPULAR SCIENCE / ECONOMICS (10): Flow by Phillip Ball, The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson, (The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin), Fireflies, Honey, and Silk by Gilbert Waldbauer, Longitude by Dava Sobel, Scaling: Why Animal Size is so Important by Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Uncorked: The Science of Champagne by Gerard Liger-Belair, Fizzics: The Science of Bubbles, Droplets and Foams by F. Ronald Young.

 Favorite reads of the year (Fiction / Novels /Short Stories/ Non-Fiction)
1) The Conference of the Birds by Attar (translated from Persian / Farsi by Dick Davis and Afkam Darbandi): A sufi masterpiece from twelfth century Iran that has inspired many a poets and many more commoners over the past eight hundred years. The book is a fable, full of aphorisms and witticisms, and is enchanting description of  the journey of birds to reach their king Simorgh, and what they would learn about themselves and everything else as they undertake this difficult journey.
2)  The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line by Charles W. Chestnutt: Set in late nineteenth century South in the USA, the stories focus on the large number of colored people, who are educated, have light skin-tones and wish to distinguish themselves from other African-Americans. As Chris Rock jokingly describes it, there is, as if, a distinction between a black man and a negro: the stories included by Chestnutt explore those differences and their consequences on the social life centered around them.
3) Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye: Poignant poems.
4) Winter Poems by Keki N. Daruwala: Daruwala's poems are full of grief and great clarity, phrases and metaphors that are striking in their originality and this book written in 1970s definitely deserves a much greater recognition in the world of English poetry.
5) Ek Chaadar Maili si by Rajendra Singh Bedi: The language, characters, the story itself, the smells, the music, and the descriptions place in among the best Hindi novels ever written.
6) Need ka Nirman Phir by Harivansh Rai Bachchan: The autobiography is a great narrative that explores not only the life and work of a great poet in his own words, but also provides an excellent synopsis of political and economic changes that took place in India in the 1940s.
7) Pratinidhi Kahaniyan by Phanishwernath Renu: Renu is by far one of the most accomplished writer to explore themes related to village life. This collection contains Teesri Kasam or Maare Gaye Gulfam as one of the stories. I place Renu on the highest pedestal, sharing honors with Munsi Premchand and Yashpal.
8) The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor by Babur (translated by W. M. Thackston Jr.): The world of Babar, before he reached India and established the Mughal Empire, is described with all sorts of interesting anecdotes about battles between different chiefs, their loves and kith and kin, their cities and their brutal sacking of villages, poetry and wine.  
9)  Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan: You must read this one to appreciate this phenomena of a book, magical realism at its best. 
10) The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes: Describes how Herschel, Jospeh Banks, Mungo Park, Humphrey Davy and Coleridge all participated in a series of adventures in realms related to astronomy, anthropology, chemistry, poetry, biology and every known scientific discipline to put the British science on firm footing, leading later to industrial revolution and transformation of mankind into a more curious race, aware of secrets that span mind-boggling length scales from quark to black holes and nearly immeasurable time scales. 
11)  Pratinidhi Kavitaein by Nagarjuna: Voice of common people, themes that are socially relevant and conscious of the dreams, desires, failings and hardships of common people. A wonderful and unforgettable poet.
12) Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley: A mid-twentieth century satire by a British author at the height of his powers; explores complex themes including sexuality, fidelity, creativity, fascism, and science, politics, religion and art.