Monday, December 14, 2015



Puts you in a spot
Then pulls you in a vacuum
You stay put
With a tilt of your head
Till the eye of the cam
Glares at you with all it’s might
Squeezing the life out of you
Freezing you in a molten frame
And all this while
All this while a wanderer passing by
Looks at you in wonder
His hands holing a rose
Close in more carefully around the stem
Till a maiden adorns them in her hair
A hurt pigeon breathes its last
A shooting star crumbles into dust
A flower blooms
An orchard resonates
With the humming of honeybees
A tree drops a leaf
Gently , silently, in a whisper
Like a prayer from the lips of that old old monk
Who lives on that hill yonder
The sun melts the sky in all shades of fire

And the eye holds you captive
A plastic form
A cold piece of flesh
Frozen veins
Thunderous applause
Of the click
And the shutter closes on you
Shutting you in a catacomb

Till you exhale and live 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I do

The Universe asked me..
‘I do wonder, Ghazala, how some people, who upon seeing gorgeous, billowing cumulus clouds floating effortlessly overhead, don't just want to explode with joy.
Or who, upon seeing a mighty old oak tree, don't run right up to it wildly screaming, "I love you!"
Or who, upon being caught in the rain, don't blush as each drop gently kisses their skin.
Or who, upon gazing at a star-filled night, aren't paralyzed with awe.
Or who, upon seeing their reflection in a pond, don't cry the happiest of tears.
Do you know what I mean?’’
And I said, ‘I do’.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Aakhri Paher Ki Dastak

Aakhri Paher Ki Dastak
Akhri Paher ki Dastak


Akhri paher ki Dastak-I know how personal this book is to my father who has never ever, as far as I can trust the portals of my memory, expressed his feelings overtly before us. He has been a man of few words when it came to familial or social interactions .Words had to be prized out of him but when he did speak, we listened. We had no choice. I didnt want to have a choice. His words always left their mark on my mind.
I have fond memories of my childhood when he would make me recite Jaadu tha sapna tha kyatha ..maine tujh mein kya dekha tha.At the time when children my age were into Brother Grimms Fairy Tales and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes,I was reciting Iqbal and Nasir Kazmi.Not that he deliberately kept us away from the fashionable language learning devices but there was a kind of an aloofness , a beneyazi, that made him say words that were there in his mind. I mirrored them. I think I have inherited this aloofness from him.
I never learnt Urdu in school because I studied in public schools that did not have Urdu as a subject.Whatever little Urdu I know is because of him.Payam-e-taleem and khilona were our childhood companions besides Archie comics and ReadersDigest. When I was in  Kindergarten I was an audience to his play Mitti ka Bulawa which was dramatized at Kennedy Hall, Aligarh .For months I had been witness to innumerable dramatis personae visiting our place,trying out sound effects, dialogue delivery and I saw how passionately my father would give shape and expressions to his words. I can give the effect of horses galloping by strumming my fingers on the walnut engraved table in our living room.He showed me how to do it.
We had a large number of visitors at our place and the sound of teaspoons and aroma of green label tea is still fresh in my mind.When he was with people, he was very vocal.However it was his quietude and passivity that I saw at home with  him sitting on his takht  , writing or reading. He never used a writing table. Another inheritance from him..I always study with my books scattered about me either on the carpet or on my bed.
I had questions I never asked,perhaps I never will.His silence spoke volumes.I dont need answers. I need his presence which is far more enriching than all the treasures one  finds in an encyclopedia or a thesaurus.He rarely expressed excitement or regret over issues that were quick to excite or disappoint us.Restraint. This is what I learnt from him.
When I read two of his dramas-Mujhe Ghar yaad aata haiand Mitti ka Bulawa  , I knew he missed certain people and things in life. When this realization dawned on me I looked at him as a son of my grandparents, as a brother to his siblings and a friend to innumerable people who were closed to him. I think we all pass through this stage of realization.To a child, a father is just a father. He cant be anyone other than this.It's much later in life that one sees other facets of a persons identity.
Yesterday,Rekhta launched his first ever compilation of ghazals-Aakhri Paher ki Dastak. This title was disturbing . Perhaps mirroring his trait of hiding emotions, I did the same. I did not question him.For the last six months he has been struggling with Cancer. I have been with him through all the sessions of chemotherapy, his treatment, innumerable visits to the hospitals and  a thousand pricks of needles in his veins. But never once did I see him flinch or express his anguish to anyone. For that matter no one at home did .We are made of sterner stuff I guess! Lying on the hospital bed,with the drips ,monitors and machines he would tell me tales of his childhood, his student days and his friends whom he missed. It was as if his  life was  reflected in tiny broken pieces of glass and I desperately tried to collect those pieces and fix them up like a jigsaw puzzle,wiping the dust of bygone days that had blurred some of the images and what emerged was the picture of a man who was my hero, my idol and a meaning for life.I would walk with him in the corridors of the hospital and I found myself holding on to his hands as a toddler when he guided my very first steps. Such were his words to me.I learnt from every step, at every step.
His ghazals speak of darkness and shadows, colours fading into dusk, heavy eyelids and sorrows but never ever of detachment .He is very much a part of the emotional landscape that he paints through his words.He is very much an insider, a part of the painting, a subject that thinks and feels but does not revel in nostalgia. Nostalgia is often arrogant and melodramatic bordering on abstractions.His nostalgia is concrete and tangible. He sees through stones. I saw the tenderness of the stone.

Sooraj dheere dheere pighla
Phir taaron mein dhalne laga
Mere andar ka sannata
Jag ke aankhein malne laga
Neele surkh safed sunehre
Ek ek karke doob gaye
Samton ki har pagdandi pe
Kaala rang pighalne laga..

These lines remind me of  Vincent Van Goghs painting Starry Night . He was one artist who expressed his emotions through the harsh ,well defined strokes of his brush. Shamim Hanfi paints his words in deep dark colours. One needs to swim into the depths to understand his thoughts.
I am really thankful to Mr. Sanjiv Saraf , Zamarrud  Mughal  and the entire Rekhta team who made it possible for us to see Shamim Hanfi as poet. The critical intellect of a great writer of critique has always been there before us. His creativity comes alive through this publication. Thank you very much. Akhri Paher ki Dastak is a new beginning.

9thJune, 2015


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jaadu ttha , sapna thha, kyaa thha

Jaadu ttha sapna ttha kya thha
Maine tujhmein kya dekha thha
Aankhein bhi aankhon jaisi tthin
Maatha bhii maatha jaisa ttha
jis mitti pe naaz ttha tujhko 
main bhi ussi mitti ka banaa thaa

Jaadu thha
sapna ttha
kya ttha

This is a poem my father taught me to recite when I could hardly enunciate words clearly.I was fascinated by the sound of words perhaps.A little courtyard, a bit of the blue sky, a handful of cool breeze and an ocean of bliss. And I would reach out to the bubbles that floated in the sky and put them in his lap.Today I realize they were specks in my own eyes.The best part of childhood is that you see things far away,high up .and watch them come closer to.Sometimes you get to cocoon them in your palms. As adults we tend to see things in darkness.The ocean leaves traces of salt.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


An embossed painting like this confuses me. I can’t think of thick sunshine or murky waters in shades so light. Never would I want to walk into the waves because of the fear of losing out on my fluidity. I may end up as a still life or become as still as the wave there. Only night is thick, hiding in its depths secrets of the heart. The heart that is impalpable, never ceasing to venture into the unknown. The blood thickens with the onset of darkness and becomes as black as the night itself. The thickness of the night is the thickness of one’s soul.

Only Vincent Van Gogh  could have done justice to this palette. His thick strokes are never static. They are alive ,breathing in every subtle mood of the moment and manifesting  themselves on the hard course canvass of life in a way that makes you want to be a stroke of his brush. Just a powerful stroke. (if anyone knows who the artist of this painting is please let me know!)

Monday, February 9, 2015


If there's emptiness,you want to fill it up.You don't have to.Cherish the empty spaces.Even a comma will tempt you to hand a scarf on the clothes peg.

Sketches in literature

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