Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dil Hi To hai - Ye Tera Bayaan Ghalib - My Internpretation

दिल ही तो है न संग-ओ -खिश्त , दर्द से भर ना आए क्यों 
रोएंगे हम हज़ार बार, कोई हमें सताए  क्यों। 

दैर नहीं, हरम नहीं, दर नहीं आस्ताँ नहीं 
बैठे हैं रहगुज़र पे हम , कोई हमें उठाये क्यों।

क़ैद ऐ हयात, बंद ऐ ग़म , अस्ल में दोनों एक हैं 
मौत से पहले आदमी, ग़म से निज़ात पाये क्यों।

हाँ वह नहीं ख़ुदा -परस्त, जाओ वो बेवफ़ा सही 
जिसको हो दीन ओ दिल अजीज़ उसकी गली में जाये क्यों 

ग़ालिब ऐ ख़स्ता के बगैर कौन से काम बंद हैं 
रोईए जार जार क्या, कीजिये हाय हाय क्यों। 
(Meaning:
संग-ओ -खिश्त: Brick and Stone 
दैर: Temple हरम : Mosque
दर: Doorstep आस्ताँ : House
क़ैद ऐ हयात: Captivity of Life बंद ऐ ग़म: Prison of Pain
दीन ओ दिल अजीज़: One who loves God and Heart)

Literal Translation

Why, wouldn't this heart of mine fill with pain, it isn't some concrete
I will cry a thousand cries, whenever I get beaten and face mistreat:

I am not at a temple or a mosque, not at your home, nor at doorstep, 
I am sitting at the public street, who are you to pick me up:

The prison of life, the captivity of pain, are in truth, one and the same,
To wish freedom from grief, before death, is a desire so lame:

True she is not god-fearing, true she is not loyal,
but then if you cared for God and self, why long for her at all:

Without Ghalib, the world moves unperturbed, unrepentant,
Cease my friend, these meaningless tears, this useless rant.

Explanations:

Couplet 1:

Never be ashamed of your sorrows, your pain. The pain that I feel, the grief that wrenches my heart, is the sign that I am alive. Cherish your pain, your sensitivity. It is the sign that my heart is in the right place, and it is a feeling, beating heart, not a piece of stone, incapable of empathy, compassion and love. Do not resist it, surrender to it, bask in the glory of love. That is the nature of love, and that is the nature of true heart. As Khalil Gibran would say, "Love will gather you unto itself, it will sift you free from all your confinements, it will grind you to whiteness, it will knead you until you are pliant and then it will assign you to sacred fire, so that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast."  The pain, the Sorrow, the test is only to refine you and ready you for love. Bask in its glory, though painful it might seem. Cry if you must, but don't resist love, be love. 

Couplet 2:

Religion has divided the whole world. The world is split between mosques and temples (and churches). The land and the people are owned by them. A soul which is emancipated, does not belong to the mob and therefore stands alone. It refuses to follow the religion as beyond evaluation.  It comes with solitude, which Ghalib refers to as there is no house where he is guest, not even the doorstep. But by earning an existence independent of anyone, he earns an independence of mind. That is the price of liberty that you have little place to call your own, which is no more than street-side. Still the ground on which a liberated soul stands is his (or her) own. He doesn't borrow from stale wisdom, he has his own mind to think for him. Even if that little piece, the tiny free space be devoid of the charming buildings, it is the space where free soul breathes to the new lights, it is the space which one can call one's own. Even if that be a street-side, it is a free air, beyond presumptions and prejudice. In political sense, it is the audacious space of a mugwump. All glory of mankind in the history has arisen from this irreverence of the street corner, the no-man's land of individual liberty. Truth is often resigned to streets, while dogmas are placed on high pedestals in places of worship and honorable courts of mighty kings. Einstein, much later warned us on this when he wrote, "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth" and Emerson, urged for the same unyielding soul, when he wrote, "best lighting rod for your protection is your spine". Ghalib, of course, was the poet king of free-thinkers of the world. Mind of one must not surrender the collective mind of many. 

Couplet 3:

Pain is an integral part of life. Life grows through grief. There is no way out of it. The search for a life, a future, without pain, sorrow and sadness is a search for utopia. Life and pain are intertwined. Lets not try to escape sorrow, let us celebrate it. Why do we see so many young people getting into drugs and even killing themselves early in the life? They are in search of something which does not exist. Till we live, pain will keep coming back. We will escape it, but it will keep coming back. We escape it truly when we accept it. The captivity of life, and the prison of pain are both same. It is not only impossible, rather incorrect to want to escape one without escaping another. Ghalib's life was an example of immense pain- unrecognized talent, an sensitive mind, loss of progeny, still his story was not of doom, his story, his poetry is always a testimony of a soaring spirit, flying high like an eagle, because, Ghalib, never surrendered to sorrows, he celebrated it. John Keats wrote in a letter, "Do you not see how necessary a world of pain and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?". That is so close to what Ghalib wrote here. 

Couplet 4

Love is not measured on the scales of social correctness, and is not tied to conventions. A love which is too prudent, too calculative is anything but love. Even if the object of your love is not religious, even if it is not loving you back, you must love, anyways. Love is not always returned, but then, love doesn't insist of being returned. Love never binds, love liberates. Love's ways are steep and difficult and it might not lead. CS Lewis mentioned this in The Four Loves, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possible broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one..."

Couplet 5

Biggest problem in our lives is false sense of self-significance. We are plagued by it. We believe the world would stop once we are gone. It doesn't. We know it will not, and that further aggravates our sorrow. Our present is hounded by the thoughts of a future without us. We destroy any possible trace of greatness which might be in our legacy, in search of a legacy. Ghalib refers to the ephemeral nature of human life when he says that nothing would stop when he is gone. Make no mistake, that Ghalib considers himself insignificant. Ghalib is one of the most self-respecting intellectual of all times, fully aware of his immense talent. But he says this. He accepts this. He almost laughs at it. The same recurrent thought we find in Somerset Maugham, when he writes in Of Human Bondage,"There was no meaning in life, and a man by living served, no end. It was immaterial whether he was born or not born, whether he lived or ceased to live. Life was insignificant and death without consequence." Thinks the protagonist Philips and Maugham writes, that when Philips thinks thus, "he exulted, it seemed to him that the last burden of responsibility was taken from him; and for the first time he was utterly free..his insignificance was turned to power, and he felt himself suddenly equal with the cruel fate which had seemed to persecute him; for if life was meaningless, the world was robbed of its cruelty." The thought liberates Philip and in the ecstasy of emancipation, he cries out, "Oh Life, where is thy sting?". 

There is another couplet of Ghalib which is around this thought, but that is for another time. For now, it is all to the modesty of thought, willingness to surrender to the immense power of love, a love which is reason unto itself, a commitment to uncompromising intellect, refusal  of the intellect to surrender to the social pressure and religious dogmas, and readiness to be human, all too human, without shame and pretense.   

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Excerpts of Imaginary Meeting in 10 JP on Agusta Westland- A Satire


There has been storm on the television studio, ever since the Waterloo of NDTV and team happened with JNU episode. In fact, everyone involved in the JNU episode, came out as a winner, except for journalists, deal-makers who have contributed to the nation-building in earlier regime by getting people of impeccable bearing like Mr. A Raja appointed to the cabinet. Media, post-JNU broke a clear divide of tolerant and intolerant. Since that day of great churn in media world, things were different. Lines were drawn and TRP sources were defined. So Ishrat Jahan is one day, Samjhauta Twist the other, NIT Srinagar yet another day. In the middle of all this, suddenly Agusta Westland Chopper scam comes back. A meeting was hurriedly called up at the residence of topmost Congress leader as Notice was given for debate on the bribery in the Rajya Sabha. Here are the excerpts from that meeting on this summer day at Janpath in Delhi:

Supreme Leader: What is this nonsense? The day after this man reaches the RS, this thing comes up. Rahul Baba called up in the morning after tea with Comrade Budha and told me there was some Television Serial on this man, Swamy. You people never told me about him, even when I met him for that tea party with Supreme Leader of South India.

The Lawyer-leader, Nirbal ( We will call him La-Le, for short) with merged eyebrow looked up: He is not the same man from Swamy and his friend. Baba is watching too much TV, even old serials. Although this Swamy is as naughty and mischievous, he is not the same man. I have thought a way. We can say that as a nominated member, he cannot raise matter of public Interest.

Mr. Rakhtpaat Stands up: Madam, you need not worry. This is good idea. We will see to it he stays restricted to matter of no interest to public. Our Twitter team can run polls every day for three topics of interest and given the one with zero vote for debate in RS by nominated members. If he still raises the matter, we can make this north vs. south issue and threaten bloodshed.

Supreme leader looked at the aroused structure of Rakhtpaat, standing to his full height, eyes bloodshot. These natives never fail to amuse her, ready to kill one another to prove their loyalty, much like Sicilians back home. 

La-Le quickly checked his diary. All he could find was unpaid dues towards appearance made for that JNU student’s bail, who off late was making more waves than Baba and some poems for his new book. The money Nitish promised did not come. Anyways, Baba is talking too much and exposing his stupidity. He surmised that Baba sure needs to make another trip for introspection. Good that he wasn’t there. Baba, Semi-supreme leader was prone to come out with odd statements like, “This morning I got up in the night, and then I found there was a beehive. Later I realized it was South Block. And they had all Indians in there, who were all born in India.”
 He suddenly felt a bead of sweat appearing on his prosperous legal forehead.

No Madam, our Aiyyar ji has created a precedence. We can’t avoid the debate.

Rakhtpaat ji took deep breath and settled down. Timely intervention prevented him from turning into their hulk.
Madam was furious. She looked around for Aiyyar. The man was turning into an embarrassment. The man even doesn’t know what to speak where. Last she had sent her to Pakistan to get help in removing this government, he ended up talking about it on the stage. What moron? 

Dinde stood up. Even in this troubled time, Madam smiled. He still stood like a constable, erect frame and compromised soul.

I have an idea. Why don’t we call our Ms. Palatt and tell her this Agusta Westland is actually a brahminical construct. It was originally conceived by Muni Agastya and eventually Acharya Vatsayana bought stake in it. Just like our Saffron terror idea, we can call it Saffron corruption and put two more charges on the Colonal in the jail.

Dinde, this is not our government and this is about Airforce not Army.

Dinde looked down and wanted to shrink into the earth like Sita in saffron mythology.

The phone rang. “InSofarAs” Tewari picked the phone.

Madam, It is our NAC –ara child. He says people are pushing him on twitter.  He has already reviewed Nil Bate Sannata. He needs to say something. What should he do?

What a moron? He can’t even become a good TV journalist. He is always worried about what people will think. Tell him to review “The Jungle Book”.

She continued thinking.

“And you, ‘Insofar’ what is your suggestion?”

“Madam, while it is true that some acts of moral impropriety might have occurred due to commission or omission, in so far as Congress’ link with such acts are to be concerned, no such links can be established. It is an attempt by the BJP to obfuscate, complicate and trivialize the issue, which in so far as my opinion is concerned, is anyways trivial.”

Madam exhaled. Tewari always left her exasperated. It was his strength when they were in power. Natives were getting impatient. How time changes things.

She looked towards Sherlock Singh. He was man of great theories, though she felt he was fast slipping ever since he got re-married to a news anchor. He was her adviser. She was also her son’s adviser. Baba always loved his stories.

Sherlock, it is all your fault. You natives have no sense of decency. I am an epitome of self-sacrifice. How can you blame me?”

The NDTV journalist tried to be helpful.

Madam, I can drop on the floor and start crying No, no no, if anyone in the debate blames you. It has worked even when I was a child.

You are no longer a child, Ridhi-Sidhi. We have a serious problem.

The investigative journalist with her ideas more crooked than her hair, smiled at the TV anchor being scolded. There is a difference between an investigative journalist and an ordinary TV anchor, she concluded and smiled to herself in secret satisfaction of her intellectual superiority.

We must isolate madam from this.

Madam was charmed. This has worked all the time, in 2G, in CWG, in Coalgate. Raja, Sheila and even the PM were collateral damage, native sacrifice to white skinned goddess. She was sure there will be no alternative reading for this Goddess who brought modernity to this country of snake charmers and horrible looking men like Sherlock Singh. He was really bad to look at but had his utility. He can really come out with outrageous theories. His RSS spin on 26/11 was simply marvelous. They waited for Sherlock Singh to speak. Sherlock kept busy with his iPhone. He was looking at his wedding pictures.

Sherlock” Shouted the Madam in panick, “Stop looking at your wedding pictures. This is not the first time you got married.”

Madam, We can say you never knew about it. It was government decision. Party had nothing to do.

Ahmad Peti loved this theory. This exonerated both Madam and him in one swift stroke.

Sissy Truer shook his head full of gorgeous hair. What a pity, Sherlock has a new wife, while such a handsome man, has none, in spite of four attempts, thought Madam.

It is a horrendous idea full of cataclysmic proportion of buffoonery.  Every one saw the somersault of the whole party including Makhan on the Ordinance affair, Crediting the Semi-supreme one with Dimples for withdrawal of ordinance approved by the cabinet. It would be an astounding stupidity to believe that people will be naive to believe that Supreme leader had nothing to do with the government.

Madam felt exasperated. This man’s English always tired her. She felt he was always working on his new book. His complex words sat heavy on her tired soul.

The investigative journalist, Nana Khub spoke, “There is no question on line of avoidance. Only matter to be decided is the manner of it. Let us go brazen and shrill about it. Strong words. Pimps and agents in 10 JP did this. Not the Supreme leader. We could have blamed the driver of Salman Khan, but Bhai has already moved into Modi camp. Supreme leaders must get rid of these power peddlers and pimps who get the innocent lady such a bad name.”

Suddenly everyone turned towards the journo and looked at her in silence. She broke into apologetic laughter, "No, no. Don't look at me like that; I am not resigning.

Supreme leader got up. Her mind was made up. It was as clear as it was on the day when she came to know that she cannot become the prime minister and came out with the masterstroke of sacrifice.

I agree with her. Let her polish this line. You may add that I am an innocent person. I was made to believe by those, as she calls it, pimps, that offering to a white-skinned goddess was some sort of religious belief for the brown, unwashed natives. It was innocence at best, lack of understanding of the local custom at worst. Even the guy who benefited, the Verma guy in spy tangle, is the son of Hindi teacher to our family. We can say we supported him because we love Hindi. This whole scam speaks about the love of the Supreme leader for the culture and tradition of the country, and support for the national language.


She was tired. She was old enough to see this routine posturing. She knew this shall pass. She felt optimistic again. She can make alliance with some fundamentalist parties and win couple of election again. And then she will show this man who talks of uprooting him about Saffron terror, saffron corruption, saffron lies and all that bloody saffron. They were ready for the day. The grand old party was ready to face the world. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Responsibility of A Writer- As per Ghalib

Kahte hain, jab rahi na mujhe taqat-e-sukhan

Janoon kisi ke dil ki main kyunkar, kahe bagair

This is one of the lesser known couplet by Ghalib. Loosely translated it means-

“If it is said, that I no longer hold the power of writing

Why should I be told the affairs of someone’s heart, without asking?”

Being a writer is a rare privilege. It allows one to reach out deeper into human hearts, offers rare empathy to pain, happiness and ambitions of fellow human beings. When I say writing here, I am not referring to writers driven solely by commercial necessities, writing as per market-mechanization.

Writers, like doctors, have the ability and authority to look into our hearts and find the treasures which we never know, we possessed. This also puts a great responsibility on the writers. A writer searches the truth, not only for himself, but also for those about him and for the generations after him.

Not everyone is blessed with a writer’s sensitivity and the vastness of vision. Therefore, it is not always an easy life, but being a writer is a privilege. It needs to be earned. A writer often faces trauma, tragedy and terror on account of his writing in his private thoughts or public life. But he needs to keep at it. This only gives him a right to be a friend to many. It is not unusual for people to walk up to a writer and share with him or her feelings which they would otherwise not confide to best of their friends. Sometimes, it is an expectation of answers or sometimes it is merely trust and empathy that a writer offers. He needs to earn this privilege of universal brotherhood and he needs to keep being worthy of it. 

In today’s world where columns are brought by vested interests, this couplet of Ghalib is a reminder to people who write, whether as literary writers or journalists. We, the word-worshipers, owe it to ourselves. We need to celebrate our rare gift, which though might be difficult to pursue at time. Our writings need to have a purpose, offer a meaning to the aching hearts. Writers are like scientists and philosophers, searching the truth for those who are not able to search it for themselves
Which would mean that unless I am committed to reflect with sensitivity of people around me, whose feelings I can know being a writer, without being told, by interpretation and extrapolation as we often do, why should have this ability to delve into other people’s heart and affairs. This couplet may also be translated to mean

“If it is said, that I no longer hold the power of writing

Why should I know the affairs of someone’s heart, without being told?”

(I have planned a series trying to interpret one couplet of Ghalib in each post. This is a part of that initiative)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

What I Meant When Suggesting Early Reading?

Image Courtesy - Getty Images
I had last week written on why reading is essential for getting in a rounded personality (Why Early Reading for Kids Makes Sense?). One of the interesting revert was that while books are good to make one ‘successful’, too much emphasis on the books will make a person 'bookish'. 

Two errors of judgment lie in here, in my opinion.
Primary issue is the assumption that I am advocating reading from the view of making a successful person, intonation being a successful person from the practical parameters. That was not the premise when I wrote that. I do not think success in a worldly sense has some written formula or recipe. Luck or fortune plays a great role there. We use some phrases every day, something to do with American world view that we do not realize the deeper significance of it. In an interesting writing by Alain De Botton, a contemporary philosopher refers to this. He posits that in an ancient world, when we came across a poor and thus ‘unsuccessful’ person, we would call him ‘unfortunate’. Now a days, we bring our kids up with the philosophy that they can be anything they want to. Which is an erroneous idea, and a dangerous one. What we could actually become is defined by our circumstances, our inherent capabilities and our fate, which might for all rational reasons might be quite accidental. Even Napoleon, the self-made Hero of the modern world wore a ring inscribed “To Destiny.” However, this incorrect world-view makes us believe that the person who is not able to be successful as a failure. This not only puts so much of pressure on people, it is factually inaccurate and also unkind.

So, I agree with the line of thinking that fortune or luck has a great deal to do with worldly success. Reading cannot ensure that. In fact, nothing can. What reading can ensure is that one has the heart in the right place and has a mind mature enough to protect it.

It is ill-conceived to believe that writers are away from the real world. In truth, writers are able to trace the world and its inner working more clearly than the most. They have a unique vantage point provided by the ability to put themselves out of the world around them, and then look at it from the outside. It would be of interest to know that the greatest of the writers had very active lives, oftentimes, military or otherwise. Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby while on Military duty, Maugham’s writing career began as an army doctor, Joseph Conrad was a sailor and Anthony Trollope, surveyor for British Post. Hemingway for that matter, was so many thing that he can beat any action oriented man, any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as the say. He wrote on war, even as a celebrated writer, right from the front.


Even if we look at the successful leaders who are able to break out of the set trajectory of success as we know it, as non-writers, they are all avid readers. Reading gives them a rare eye to evaluate the world around them and their own place in it, objectively, dispassionately. Reading is not counter-purpose to practicality, if anything it bolsters human insight and creates a sound analytical engine in the human mind to act on what we call gut feeling. When you look at books as a threat to your way of life, and take to reading as a necessary thing to do, it will stifle you. But when you take to reading as an integral part of becoming a person, it will enhance you, expand you and provide you great subtlety and sophistication to encounter the world without losing your inherent humane values. Even course books when not taken as necessary, rather taken as important, will be read not to clear exams, rather to know things. Clearing exams will happen as a sub-plot, without you knowing it. Read a poem for the sheer beauty of human emotions, read a novel to understand the infinite possibilities of human heart and mind, not to earn as social tool. That you will get a social tool of sophistication, will be an upside, which you will not need to work for. It will give you friends who are truer and life which is more meaningful. Success can mean many things to many people. But most importantly success is the ability to handle life without the necessity to deceive oneself. Reading offers that stiffness of spine and softness of soul.