Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Take on HRW Report

Human Rights Watch has published a scathing report titled "India: Stop Treating Critics As Criminals" (Click to read) on the the ways, it posits India handles dissent. When I objected to it on Twitter, Ms. Meenakshi Ganguly from HRW told me that this refers to the colonial laws and not to the current political dispensation and also is not particular about India but such reports are prepared for other countries (particularly colonial countries as she would say). I asked her that by the definition of colonial it would also include US and Pakistan and asked her links to report on these two countries, which is awaited. 

For some reason, there has been a tendency to broad-brush India as such of late. I saw particularly scathing, and largely unsubstantiated articles in newspapers like Guardian when Indian PM Narendra Modi was to travel to the UK. They would innocently appear when Modi was to interact with the west in International papers, and when there was an election in Indian media. Modi was asked in London about 2002 riots, which sad though it was, looking at deaths on either side of the divide unlike 1984, wasn't blatantly state supported. Still, what made the question to the visiting head of nation conspiratorial was the fact that a fortnight prior to Modi's visit, Chinese premier had visited UK and no one asked any question on human rights to him. It is just coincidental that Modi is to travel to US and address the US Congress soon (7th of June, if I am not wrong). 

I try to look at the article purely on merit, which I intend to do as a common Indian. Journalists who have a hegemony over the space of mass communication, have conceded now that news is subjective and are generally garrulous with their customer, the reader or news watchers, when objective reports are sought, and subjective interpretation is asked to be justified. 

The article begins with a generalized statement "The Indian authorities routinely use vaguely worded, overly broad laws as political tool to silence and harass critics." The Article quotes, don't smile with disdain, its own report. This is one interesting trend I observe in articles being put out in public domain. Quoting yourself as a proof of authenticity of your position. I have read one Sunday editorial by eminent historian, Ramchandra Guha, where he substantiated his position by quoting a paragraph from a book. Written by Ramchandra Guha. I don't know how many have read Nietzsche, but one gets a feeling he somehow saw intellectuals of today when he wrote, When they give themselves out as wise, then do their petty sayings and truths chill me: in their wisdom there is often an odour as if it came from the swamp; and verily, I have even heard the frog croak in it!

Coming back to this article, the premise if built at the beginning of the article. It does not deduce, it posits in the beginning and builds up to it. Ms. Meenakshi Ganguly writes then "India's abusive laws are the hallmark of repressive society, not a vibrant democracy." Thus she makes another assertion. India is not a vibrant democracy. It is somehow of small minds, with lesser intellect who contends that India is a vibrant democracy. I wonder, if she has seen a group of intellectuals and opposition parties shouting at the top of their lungs calling names to democratically elected head of state names and attributing shameful motives to appointment of ministers on national television in Indian channels. The laws we have truly are overly broad, unlike the concise, scathing provisions of Patriot Act of the US. US Patriot act happily covers terror attacks on mass transport (like Mumbai Local). It is hard to imagine an overgrown child of a film actor, settled for holding weapons to bring mass destruction in Mumbai, walking out and even being invited to an even of intellectual deliberation in US as he was in India. Probably such laws allow the US, the land of the free, where John Dayals of the country to complaining there own country, to details people endlessly and has resulted in highest number of the prisoners in the world. But then Patriot Act is Anti-terrorism act, equivalence to which was in POTA, which was repealed in India.

Let us look at Sedition act and treason for now. A quick search on Google tells us, as per historical data, the highest number of people charged under treason was from the US, around eleven with India having one person convicted for treason Ayyub Thakur. The article strangely also cites the case of Supreme Court upholding the charges of defamation law as a hindrance to Freedom of Expression. I beg to differ there. I would rather say this is actually supportive of the person wrongly charged of being anti-national. Although wrongly will be the key here. The article quotes the case of Kanhaiya Kumar, mentioning that the government acted on complaints of rival student faction. I do not know if such factual error could be on account of subjective or objective reporting of news. It ignores the fact that action against Kanhaiya was initiated on formal police compliant by a Member of Parliament. 

The article subsequently laments that the Home minister of the country warned that those who challenged India's sovereignty and integrity will not be tolerated.  I am not sure if the human rights body wanted the Home minister of a nation to make statement to the contrary, something like those who challenge the sovereignty and integrity of the nation shall be rewarded. The purpose of the state is to create a collective concept which should be able to defend the weakest who cannot defend themselves. A state which cannot defend itself cannot do its job. Citizens need the state to assure them that the state which collect taxes and obeisance from them is capable of providing not only food and basic necessity of life, but also security and a stable framework. A state which cannot guard its own sovereignty and is too willing to define and re-define its existence to satisfy a handful of people is not very assuring and is a ready ground for civil strife. In the situation of Civil Strife, I do not know which side Human Rights watch would stand. 

She writes that the Supreme court overturned the decision to hold those charged with treason in prison and interim bail was granted. The way the matter was handled and interim decision was given actually stands testimony to a free state, not a repressive one. She misses to see that Judiciary which bailed out Kanhaiya and comrades was a wing of state, not a body external to democracy of India. The fact that not only Judiciary, rather a whole spectrum of people from media and thinking elite came forward to defend Kanhaiya and Leftist comrades, who called for breaking the nation with the power of gun (okay, two of the videos were doctored, four weren't as per government forensic lab), without any clampdown of the state evidences that the gloomy picture painted in the beginning of the article is incorrect. Scores of pages were written, unsparing editorials flooded the newspapers. The truth is that the outrage on leftist, arsonist students getting beaten up without any serious injury was more than the horrifying murder of poor young man in Kerala. The government of the day is unabashedly right, but still could not move the media to move the opinion for the killed boy in kerala also proves that the demonic stature that the article tends to put the Indian government into and Indian people into, is grossly incorrect, if not devious. 

I respect her right to see India the way she looks at it. What is disturbing is the article in which she quotes her own study, will be quoted by vested interests. Those are the political parties who will gleefully accept this broad-brushing of India, their own nation as a hostile nation, without detailing and substantiation, because they look the nation equated with the government in power and take glee in the national pride going down. The article ends with simplistic solutions.

- Repeal or amend laws that criminalize peaceful expressions. - There are no such laws. Most laws come into force when public security and peace is impacted. Calling people to war against nation is not peaceful expression, calling for vulcanization of India is not peaceful expression. To my mind, no law exists in India preventing freedom of expression. If your view is not to respect the law of the land, you can't be left free to express it. It is juvenile approach. You can't indulge in shoplifting since you hate capitalist who runs the showroom and call it your freedom of expression.

- Withdraw investigation against those facing persecution for right to freedom of expression. -  Since there is no such law, I suppose there is no such legal action. Unless we are talking about a man who is rotting in the jail in UP for expressing his view, something similar to what media anchor called 'alternative reading'. I am sure HRW is not talking about that man, also not about the people in prison on Malegaon attack without chargesheets.

- Train the police- Police reform is very important and on this one point I totally agree. This will take away a big grudge from elite people who have spent their youth well protected in rich environments of metro cities, exploiting the state and use this leverage to use the young people are cannon fodder.

Here is my banal response to a banal article. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Brief Sketch of Ghalib- Greatest Urdu Poet of All Times

I am not a history scholar, not even an Urdu scholar. I have been running this blog writing on all things which come to my mind. Couple of months back, it occurred to me that while in a world of Whatsapp and Twitter, Urdu poetry has suddenly become popular, it still suffers with little attention. The tragedy of any language is to link it to a religious faith and elevate it to such a level, where it becomes obsolete. Every language is like a lovely butterfly, which needs to play, dance, float and fly in an open garden. Once it gets appropriated by elite, it loses its gait, its charm and eventually its life. This happened to Sanskrit, to Persian and now Urdu faces the same challenge. 

With this in my mind, I created a fresh page on my blog, dedicated to the work of greatest poet of Urdu, Ghalib (Ghalib himself disagreed when he wrote, referring to another stalwart of his times, Meer

रेख़ते के तुम्हीं नहीं हो उस्ताद ग़ालिब 
कहते हैं अगले ज़माने में कोई मीर भी था। 

You are not the only master of poetry Ghalib,
Some say there was much better Meer, in lost days.)

and try my humble attempts at translating and interpreting it. One can say, it is too audacious to be taken seriously; but then, that is the pleasure of leisure writing. I couldn't care much. Two posts went in. Strange reverts came, especially from overseas friends who although now share different origin, came from the same larger Hindustaniyat. A lovely young friend, quite creative in art and literature, quite active in cultural roots of Bangladesh, where she hails from asked me who was the poet for those lines. I replied 'Ghalib' and expected nothing beyond would be needed, and was surprised at the next question, "Is he a famous poet?" 

While the root of this question could be in the national boundaries re-drawn between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh when British left India, I wanted to do my bit. We can not afford our heritage like Ghalib to fade away in the oblivion. Noted historian Rana Safvi (Her Blog: On Indian History and Culture)advised me to read Biography of Ghalib, by Pavan K. Verma. I dutifully did and I am forever indebted to her for directing me there. 

I read Ghalib first as engineering student, like all young people used to in those days of early 90s. I read many others, mostly writing in diary the couplets which stuck in my mind. While Sahir also stayed with me for long time, but Sahir and other poets were like the loving worshiper of Urdu, Ghalib was like one of the Gods of Urdu poetry. The sense of being ancient, the mysticism of poetry and the man himself and his life, gave him this stature to my young mind. 

Ghalib, Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan was born in 27th of December, 1797 in Agra. Most genius minds are plagued with there own insecurities and uncertainties of their own talent. Ghalib was very unlike them. He was at all times, very much aware of his own station in life. Although most of his life, he spent chasing the government, earlier, Mughals and later, the British for what he believed was his due, mostly on account his martial and aristocratic background, he was very much conscious of his literary and philosophical position.He presumed his position to hold in British view as respectable a position as it was to Mughal. However, Mughal sultanate was on a decline and the Emperor himself was a pensioner. In 1805, Akbar Shah II was committed a pension of INR 1500000 later, the company rescinded and reduced it to 1200000. The protests made by the Emperor to the court of director, did not yield any result.
Same fate came to Ghalib's request for justice on distribution of his father's pension. A timid soul, unsure of his talent could not have written couplet like:

हैं और भी दुनिया में सुख़नवर बहुत अच्छे 
 कहते हैं कि ग़ालिब का है अंदाज़-ए-बयाँ और|

(There are and will be great poets and writers,
They say the way Ghalib converses is different from anyone else)

His father a soldier, came to India in search of employment during the time of Mughal King Shah Aalam II, which was also the time when British obtained the decree for collection of taxes, still ostensibly under the Empire of Mughals. He worked with Alwar King, Nawab of Lucknow and eventually in Agra. Ghalib, however, was orphaned at a young age of five. He started writing by the age of Eight (Eight, my kid is eight and cannot speak with clearer diction). His biographer Hali writes that someone called Kanhaiyyalal had preserved a Masnavi (collection of 6 books) he wrote at the age of Nine. He initially wrote in Persian considering Urdu to be beneath him. He was a prolific writer. Hali writes that Ghalib often composed while drinking in the evening. Sitting alone, his fingers playing with a long sash, he would tie a knot, whenever he finished a verse. In the morning, he would untie the knots, recall the verses and write them down. 

He married at the age of 13 to Umrao Begam, a fanatically religious and pious woman, for a long life of companionship. Ghalib's sharp intellect stood at odds with religious dogmas and caused very interesting interaction between the husband and wife. Ghalib writes in a letter to friend Mirza Tufta, while expressing his inability to write introduction to a friend's collection of poem- "God has exempted me from Namaz and Roza (Fasting during Ramzaan), can't you exempt me of writing a Preface." He further says, I do observe Roza, but I keep Roza in good humour, a sip of water here, a smoke, a bite of bread (रोज़ा रखता हूँ लेकिन रोज़ा बहलाए रहता हूँ ). There is an interesting episode with Emperor Zafar, a pious, practicing Muslim. When asked by His Majesty if Ghalib was observing Roza, he responds, Not one Roza observed (which could be read as one not observer, or not one observed out of all the days). He further adds 

जिस पास रोज़ा खोल के खाने को कुछ न हो 
रोज़ा अगर न खाये तो नाचार क्या करे। 

(The poor who has nothing to eat for breaking the fast,
what would he do rather eat through the fasting)

He writes to his friend, that the emperor could do nothing but laugh at his quick wit and plain-speak. 

However, when he eventually moved to Delhi for prospects and recognition in Mughal courts, he began writing in Urdu. BahadurShah Zafar was Mughal Emperor and the anti-British revolt of 1857 was yet to happen. The emperor already had Zauq as his Ustaad or master of literature. His was the fate of any talented migrant. The talented poet had no one to vouch for him, no support system in the largely disinterested city, going through the period of political turmoil. The Emperor did not acknowledge Ghalib till 1850 when he was eventually offered the title of Nazmud-daula, Dabir ul-mulk, Nizam Zang (Star of the Realm, Scribe of the state, Marshal of war). Mughal Emperor was the ruler for namesake, while the real political power rested with the Governor General. Ghalib had an acute appreciation of his own aristocratic lineage and his own genius, which probably made him respond to disinterested Delhi with :

वोह हमसे पूछते हैं, ग़ालिब कौन है 
कोई हमें बतलाए के हम बतलाएँ क्या। 

(The ask me who Ghalib is,
Pray, someone tell me, what should I tell them)

Ghalib watched the politics and religious beliefs being put to test, and was one of the most progressive and liberal minds of his time. Writers and poets of those time were far ahead of our times in terms of challenging religious dictum, whether it be Ghalib's writing,

ईमाँ मुझे रोके है जो खींचे है मुझे कुफ़्र 
काबा मेरे पीछे है तो कलीसा मेरे आगे 

(My faith holds me back, while evil tempts me forward,
Ka'aba is behind me and the church is in front of me)

Or it be Momin, writing

उम्र गुज़री है तमाम इश्क़ ए बुतँ में मोमिन 
अब आखरी वक़्त में खाक़ मुसलमाँ होंगे। 

(Spent all my life worshiping idols, Momin
What purpose would becoming a pious muslim in the end serve?)

These were brave, illuminated souls, free in spirit. Ghalib attacked the hypocrisy mercilessly when he wrote couplets like 

कहाँ मयखाने का दरवाज़ा ग़ालिब और कहाँ वाइज़ 
पर इतना जानते हैं कल वो जाता था कि हम निकले। 

(How could the learned be near the tavern, Ghalib
But all I know, is that I saw him on the way in, as I departed)

Ghalib loved his drink, mostly french wine in the evening, which he always had in moderation, much to the annoyance of his wife. He was a man of joyous disposition and ready wit, but he was eaten away by the feeling that the world did not treat him with justice. His pension was withheld for long, and all his effort, to his king, the light of the world, and to the Governor General and the Queen, did nothing to increase his salary. While his biography mentions that he took it into stride as he wrote quasida (Panegyric) praising the Nawabs, Emperor and even the British while seeking the restoration of rightful pension, I would feel his conscience did not much agree with what he had to write. In fact, in his collection of Persian verses he wrote in the preface that he regretted that half his life was wasted in praising fools. I feel this reflected in 

हुआ  है शाह का नौकर फिरे है इतराता 
वगरना शहर में ग़ालिब की आबरू क्या है। 

(He roams around parading is false pride, being King's servant,
Else scant is Ghalib's respect among the citizens)

He is not sparing even with himself. 

I would even stick out my neck to say that while the city offered all it could in those times to Ghalib, with the empire breathing its last and impending failed rebellion which would see the definitive collapse of old days of living, with grace, poetry and literature, he was for a long time disenchanted soul. Recognition came late, respect even later as he wrote, 

हरेक बात पे कहते हो  तुम कि तू क्या है 
तुम्ही कहो की ये अंदाज़-ए-गुफ़्तगू  है। 

(You ask on every question, who are you?
Tell me what kind of graceful conversion this is.)
Although in 1850, he reached the royal court and eventually, was after the death of Zauq, became the Ustaad of emperor Zafar and eventually of his son, as he was last left in the triumvirate of poetic genius of Momin, Zauq and Ghalib. Ghalib was 57 by then and was not given Zauq's title of Malikush-Shuara (Poet Laureate)

Ghalib was told many times that his writings were quite complex and he should dilute his writing to make the comprehension easier. He refused to do so famously writing,"

ना सताइश की तमन्ना ना सिले की परवाह 
गर नहीं हैं मेरे अशआर  में मानी  सही। 

"Neither am I looking for praise, nor prize,
If there isn't any meaning in my verse, let there not be."

सताइश- Praise; अशआर - Verses मानी  - Meaning

An irreverent, audacious poet who refuses to bend down to commercial demands, but that is not all that is there to Ghalib. His deep intellectualism, Sufism in his verses, makes him some kind of visionary, a saint in his own right. 

Probably Ghalib was also aware of his spiritual position and understanding, when he wrote,

ये मसाएले तसव्वुफ़  ये  तेरा बयान ग़ालिब 
तुझे हम वली समझते जो ना बादा ख्वार होता  

(These complex matters of spirituality, and your explanation Ghalib,
We would have considered you a saint, had you not been a drunkard).

तसव्वुफ़- Spirituality; वली- Saint; बादा ख्वार- Alcohalic

He was not aloof and disinterested in getting his work read. He eventually started writing in Urdu publishing his first Urdu Diwan (Collection of poems) in 1821. Before publishing this, Ghalib did edit his work with a vengeance at the advise of Fazl-e-haq, discarding around two-third of all he had written. In a letter, he even confessed in his old age that most of his writing during the age of 15 to 25 was rubbish. He then torn off the Diwan, retaining merely 15 -20 of the verses. In 1828, he published a combined selection of Urdu and Persian verses- Gul-i-Rana. His Urdu Diwan was published in 1841 and sold out. It was republished in 1847. His collection of Persian verse was published in 1845.

I welcome you to the world of Ghalib. Ghalib, often terms as Eliot of East, is a source of inspiration not only to his readers, but also to other writers. In his life and reflections, I personally find him closer to Oscar Wilde. His life is an example of unyielding spirit of a true artist. Ghalib continuously had brushes with authority in spite of being court poet and a noble. He even ended up being jailed for three months, in spite of the intervention by the Emperor, His Majesty, The shadow of God. This was a rude shock to Ghalib, in terms of his own estimation of his worth as a noble and as a poet, and also in terms of the authority of the last Mughal (this was much before 1857, when the pretense was still alive). He always had friends among the British who were appreciative of his literary prowess, but it never helped him. As early as 1842, he was offered the job of Persian teacher in Delhi College. He went for the interview but declined as his interviewer, secretary to the Government of India, Thomson did not come out of his office to receive the poet. Ghalib took that as an affront and refused the job. This was customary in old ways of Delhi, and little did Ghalib know at that time that those days were just couple of decades away from end. Ghalib suffered much in long life, obscurity, ridicule and infamy, although he was for most of his long life a poet of masses. He probably referred to this aspect when he wrote

होगा कोई ऐसा भी कि ग़ालिब को ना जाने 
शायर तो वह अच्छा है पे बदनाम बहुत है। 

(Would there be anyone who would not know Ghalib,
He is a good poet, but is so very infamous.)

In his private life, he was always in debt, and lost all his kids. His brother died in the aftermath of 1857, when the whole city of Delhi was destroyed. Ghalib lived to see the city limping to life, but never regaining its earlier glory, before finally departing on 15th February 1869. He wrote his last Urdu verse in 1866 and last Persian ghazal in 1865. Before his death he saw the whole way of living destroyed, with Quila-e-Mualla (The red fort) converted to barracks, Mughal emperor exiled to Rangoon. The world of literature and poetry and art, gave way to marching soldiers on the streets of Delhi. He who counted Raja Bansidhar, Mushi Hargopal Tufta and such his friend and was so secular in his views, would have also seen with some sadness the changes as beef ban imposed by the Mughals being lifted by the British with little understanding of India, triggering first communal riot  in modern times. His wife died exactly one year after him.

(I hope you will enjoy reading my posts on Ghalib's poetry. I am no scholar, but am trying and therefore will appreciate your feedback and corrections. In words, we rise). 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Book Review: India's Broken Tryst - by Taveleen Singh

Published : 12th of April, 2016, Harper Collins
On a pleasant August Night, in 1947, India’s First Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, declared India as Sovereign Independent nation, with a fervent speech talking about the India’s Tryst with destiny. The speech became a hallmark of Indian Polity on post-independence world. Tavleen Singh, noted writer and political commentator, who like most of us, borne post-independence, three years after the Independence of India, in her book “India’s Broken Tryst’ refers to the sixty-years of mis-governance which peeled off whatever hope and pretense of glory we had in us.

This is not a voyeuristic insider report, which I had expected when I picked the book. To be honest, I expected some first person account of the mechanization of 10 Janpath, which are increasingly becoming visible with the defense scams coming to fore with every passing day. This book actually cuts too close, too near the author. It opens with the Raid of Enforcement Directorate, the house of her partner, Ajit Gulabchand, the man behind Lavasa.

A writer’s nearness to the narrative which is too close to the author can cut both ways. The same nearness which brought immense credibility to Emergency by Coomi Kapoor, in this case, somehow makes on fearful about prejudices interfering with the writer’s account. As a partner of Infrastructure tycoon, wronged by a vengeful government which would not hesitate to adversely impact the larger population’s interest, she seems to find key solution to all the ills in infrastructure. She mentions infrastructure and urban development as a panacea to all ills at many places in the book. This seems too simplistic and too naive, more so, because the subject appears to be too close to her life to be considered impartial view. Congress stalled the Lavasa project, conducted raids at Tavleen’s house, got her column discontinued in Indian Express by putting pressure on Shekhar Gupta. Going by the ways Governments work under the guise of the custodian of democracy, her insinuations might be all true. However, they are never more than implications and hearsay. Friends meet in cozy, five-star lobbies and disclose the conspiracy. The state as autocratic agent of dictatorial tendency was very obvious in Emergency. One need not have friends in highest echelons of power to notice the vengeful face of power. It was in your face, as Coomi Kapoor’s husband was thrown into the Jail for upsetting Ambika Soni (I could no longer see her with seriousness when she came on TV talking about the danger to democracy in Modi's Rule vis-à-vis Uttarankhand and otherwise), Raid on Subramanium Swamy’s house, the torture of George Fernandes during emergency. It was not so-and-so told so-and-so when they met in a lavish marriage in a farmhouse. The facts did not need the intentions of the writer for the proof of their authenticity. This is not the case here. One wanders into the search for intentions, for instance when Sonia Gandhi confronts the writer for hating her. 

Even the emergency of the 70s, which in my opinion was the darkest path that India as a democracy has traversed, is merely a fleeting mention. Possibly a privileged background and an affluent Lutyen’s address left Tavleen rather unscathed during the 70s, emergency did not impact her as much as Lavasa did. Even with this sore miss, which to me was the biggest broken tryst, the book stands out for truth. Tavleen not for a moment pretends to be what she is not. She is honest enough to mention that she did not go to get the kid from the street picked by the Police released as it was too late at Ten-thirty, without taking, well, poetic liberty on how she tossed in the bed thinking about the poor boy. She doesn’t hide that she stays in Taj during election coverage in Agra, and that Maurya in Patna offends her sensibility. This makes the reading real and interesting.

The book is lucid and captivating. Uncomforting truths linger in the background in a subtle silence, without dramatic turns. Tavleen talks about Nashta for street-kids, about soullessness of the rich in India (read the Vijay Mallya episode), the humane stories. She boldly mentions how India itself was in a way responsible for the broken tryst, lack of healthcare, infrastructure, education. We never as a nation demanded these building blocks for a civilized nation. She narrates the Rajasthan story when villagers said their lives are still as horrible at independence, with hospitals miles away, schools sub-standard. Still when asked who was best PM, they say, Indira Gandhi, because- She knew how to rule. Thus, the slavish obeisance made us love our leaders for crushing us and keeping us in perennial poverty. She is right in this respect. In a democracy, we as citizens cannot escape our responsibilities. We kept on voting for wrong people and even adored those who kicked us with their royal boots. We had no dreams and little demands.

The book is captivating and bold. It is the book one should not read while walking in a hallway as one might hit the wall on the nose. I finished it in two night which stretched till almost the morning. This is the book which may wake us out of our slavish slumber. As we look back at sixty six years of mis-governance with leaders who treat the country as fiefdom with no accountability as they gave themselves one after another Bharat Ratna, without being questioned, we find we as citizens, voting wrong people, early as loyal subjects in awe of royalties, and later for color TV and now for free Wifi, we are as much to be blamed for the lost sixty years of sluggish growth, as those who ruled over us. We had lost our ability to dream, to aspire. Every nation gets the kind of government it deserves.

My verdict: Read it to solidify your commitment to nation, to understand our errors of the past, so we are not doomed to repeat them. Read it for the captivating read it is and read it to understand how at individual level we can still contribute to the society through small initiatives. I rate it 4/5 because some places it looked prejudiced and I hoped more details on media. Many secrets are told as coming from sources which cannot be named. 

Buy it on Amazon

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। 
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.


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.