Sunday, July 16, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Lantana

Two minute tales over a cup of tea
The Lantana

The train was rather congested and smelled of rust and sweat. It was one of the hottest days of the month when the birds were soundless with open beaks, the tree tops dusty and brown, the roads and lips parched and cracked. Sujata and I sat side by side, our lips moisturized and our bottles full of water. “I had no idea we would not be served anything on this train!” “Don’t worry; I have packed some paratha and tikki.” She was always prepared unlike me who woke up to realities a little after they struck me. Though I did carry sandwiches but not because I knew we would not get anything on the train but because munching was the best to kill time while travelling.

Janshatabdi was pregnant with people and baggage. Indians travel with every weight possible. A colourful array of bags over our heads and equally vibrant display of colours on human forms soon blurred when the train started and people dozed into their monochromatic dream world.

I am awake. The dull sound of the engine doesn’t lull my senses. Outside the window the world turns green and gold, the azure blue with scattered wisps of white. “No scarecrows anymore- isn’t it Sujata? The birds have vanished and the scarecrows have been out of jobs for long. Poor chaps!” She laughs and says- “The orchards , not sugarcane attract the winged variety” True. Then we sight the most vibrant weed lined along long stretches of fields. “That’s Lantana,”she tells me. “Lantana Camara an exotic weed originally from Sri lanka has taken over the terrains of the Indian soil by a storm. It was introduced in this country in the nineteenth century as an ornamental hedge. It has the capacity to regenerate itself quickly even after burning r cutting it”

Now I have vivid memories of this weed as a hedge in almost every other house in Aligarh. The smell still lingers in my senses. The leaves are dry and spiky and often pierce your fingers with the tiny slivers that are invisible to the eye but make their presence obvious by evoking a deep sting when you rub your fingers gently. “I matter!” The weed seems to make a point. The surface is slightly velvety but sans the softness of velvet. Can the softness be separated from texture? Isn’t softness the characteristic of its texture? The leaf of lantana says this loud and clear. You can sense dryness even in softness. It is not always moist. Human nature is just the same- as the leaf of this weed .It can be dry in its softness and soft in its dryness. That’s the beauty of multi-dimensions of human nature. But not many people understand all the dimensions.

Coming back to Lantana- A process of delantana has started in India to help soil absorb more nutrients as this weed sucks in more than what is meant for it thereby depriving other plants of their share of the basic elements of survival. You cut it off it pops up again. That’s how it has spread itself within. What a world of sizzling simmering thriving life exists under the earth we walk on! Chop off the head but what about the roots!

The sun is at an angle now and we are inching towards Dehradun. The jungles are thick and green. The train is one and a half hour late. The shadows stretch diagonally on the earth. The thickness of the jungle absorbs many shadows. At this moment the shadows seem to be more alive than the forms that hold them . No mortal effort can wipe off the depth of existence that lies beyond the surface of the soil. The jungles silently spell it out . What is without is within-richer, , more satiated, in control of nature.The roots of the trees connect with boundless bonhomie the invisible bonds underground.Above the soil they sway in gay abundance and play Chinese - whispers. It’s  just we who keep moisturizing our lips with gloss and glycerine. We can never be familiar with the dastoor of the jungles. Suna jhai jungalon ka bhi koi dsatoor hota hai..resonates on YouTube over my phone.

The smell of lantana was thick and pungent. It wafted in through the sealed windows of the train. The Ac was cooling well despite a hundred warm blooded bodies . I peered over my finger as I rubbed it feeling the invisible sting. My hair was cropped in a neat cut across my forehead, with two untidy pig-tails, and I the pink lace frock that I got as a gift for my sixth birthday was a day old. “I’ll put some antiseptic over it! Don’t fuss!” I heard Amma say affectiontely.
The shadow of my memories stretched out like fresh laundry over the bush of lantana before my eyes.
I rubbed my index finger gently.

-Ghazala 1.30 pm. 18/6/17

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I am home

I am home

She never left
Not for a day
Not  when she was in those faraway lands
She never left
When the birds returned with myriad downs
And roses and honey and the china silks
She walked away
From the shocking shades of the sunset
Her sun was crimson
And fire, her moon
She walked away
Where the distance of a whisper did not matter
Where the fragrance from the oven would waft in
Never to surprise her
Because she was there they said
You are here
Her eyes would look at a mirage
She would see herself in her lands
Among her abstractions
Beading a string of her moments
Her passions
Her escapes
Her spaces
Now the string in her hands
 And steps ahead
Loosening the memories
That lie embedded in the stones
 Scattering them
Each drop echoes
A story in her heart
Of  familiar lands
one bead on every step
till the last one leaves the threads
All stories merge into the dipping sun
No vestiges no traces
Just an empty cup
On the black table,
a toast pops up
Slightly burnt at the edges

I am home

                                                                                      Ghazal…5.6.17  over a cup of tea

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Poems of Shamim Hanfi
In the dark times will there also be singing?
Yes there will also be singing.
About the dark times.
-Bertolt Brecht
And this is what we witnessed in the three- day Poetry Festival from 7 to 9 April, 2017 at Triveni kala Sangam. Expressions of dissent, acknowledgement, bonhomie, emotions in all forms-raw, naked, subtle and razor sharp.
Here was a microcosm of The India that every true Indian heart yearns for. The three- day celebration –Vak: The Raza Biennale of Indian Poetry 2017, organized by Raza Foundation was a respite from all the mayhem that one has been reading, witnessing morass and hearing on TV channels, in the newspapers and at every drawing room conversation. The festival was a realization that not all is lost. Some sense of morality, freedom and conscience does exist even today amid this morass. Eminent and budding poets from all over the country came together under the banner of Raza Foundation to share their expressions and voice their opinions. What was indeed noteworthy was that the gathering in that auditorium comprised poets from different parts of the country and not once did anyone feel a sense of isolation, alienation or marginalization in any way. It was heartening to listen to the voices from different cultures and regions as a collective whole. A number of myths were shattered. A number of myths were reborn in refreshing avatars. There were poets belonging to different religions who presented poems in languages we don’t generally associate them with.  Rajathi Salma the celebrated Tamil writer, whose debut novel The Hours Past Midnight has been listed for the Man Asian Booker Prize presented her poetry in Tamil Language. Hers is one of the first novels by a Tamil Muslim woman. Abhishek Shukla was one of the several esteemed poets who presented his poems in Urdu. A number of panel discussions took place ranging from Poetry as Memory, Poetry Freedom and Poetry as Conscience . It was overwhelming to hear the voices of dissent, of anger, of disturbances, of conflict and collective resonance in these times. However there were a few voices that echoed the sentiments contrary to what the popular voices in the panel discussions spoke about. A noted sociologist said-Poetry should only be read for the sake of entertainment.It is not capable of arousing a sense of morality.
The translations of poems helped in understanding the nuances and subtleties of other native languages along with the rhythmic charm of listening to the intonations and music of the native languages themselves. I am thankful to VAK for giving me the opportunity to present the translations of the ghazals of Shamim Hanfi.  I shall always cherish the memories of meeting such poets like Sachidananda, Manglesh Dabral, Keki Daruwala , Salma and many more who made the three days truly memorable. I am sure the voices will reach out far and wide and bring about a definite positive change in society one day. A day will come when we shall transcend all barriers of religion, Languages, cultures, popular myths that tie us and cripple us at times, prejudices and be born again with a sense of a collective conscience that we belong to one country yet we have our individual differences we are so proud of-our individuality.
Admission into time and space of a poetic sensibility requires a belief in one’s sense of judgment creating an awareness of the self. These reawakening and stirring of the soul lead us to believe that we  are so incomplete. Yet, far from indicating that we flawed, they fill us with desire, ignite our emotions, fuel our passions, and catapult us out into a new world where journeys are begun, connections are made, and  our divine sense of incompleteness persists.

It is events like these that can help in writing a better history of our times.  

Love is all there is, three cheers to VAK! 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Red Shadow

Red Shadow

August 28, 2015 at 4:14pm
If I had acolourful shadow
I would wear
the darkest cloak
just to see
how much colour I could bleed
through the thickness of the night.
That lay in saturation within the folds of my destiny

The earth
would suck the colours
and give them away
to the maple trees
All lined up along the trench
And from my piece of earth
I would watch the black leaves,
The black trunk
And the black sun.
Sprinkling a plethora of myriad colours all around
White and gold

The only thing alive
Would be the dust
In hands all grey and charred
From cooking up stories in black and white

Each crack would fill up with golden dust
‘kintsugi heals’,I heard them say
and wisdom comes when maples bleed

unfolding mysteries in my fist
I’ll show you love
in a handful of life

-Ghazal 28.8.2015

A tribute to Intezar Husain

Dedicated to Intezar Husain-The legend who lives on in our hearts forever.

You promised you would visit my home
For last time was too busy
And we couldn’t go to the bird sanctuary
Or the by lanes of old Delhi
Or meet Bittu who has an eatery just round the corner
You promised you would come...
I remember a long time ago
A marigold in your hand
You found amid the trimmed hedges at my place
How tenderly you had picked it up and cupped it in your hands.
The sun had so subtly borrowed some yellows
from the sunshine in your palms
And as you walked ahead
With me , a little girl , trying to match your steps
My tiny steps
Struggling to keep pace with you and Papa
You stopped and smiled and matched your pace with mine
And at the Okhla Barage
Under the big banyan tree
As you paused to take a look around
The monkey with the long tail
Cautiously climbed down
And snatched the flower from your hand
How you smiled!
The notes of the orchestra coudnt be sweeter.
“Kahaniyon ki jade bohot gehri hoti hain lekin nazmein
...nazmein to awaara hoti hain..’’

Your words still ring in my ears
And today
As I watch the sunset
The yellows are a shade quieter
A story in my heart
will live on forever in quietude
The paper is wet
The ink-
(Rest in peace Intezar Husain)


Sketches in literature

Sketches in literature : Shamim Hanafi writes definitive profiles of writers, evaluating their contribution