Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday at the End of Summer

Don’t you just love this time of the year when the newly laundered earth with its starchy-white clouds come and wake you up in the morning with a warm hug? This morning I woke up and smelled the freshest air in a long time. It seemed that suddenly all the inquinated particles in the atmosphere have undergone an over-season metamorphosis and been transformed into full-bloomed red roses. The sun and its aureate rays cooked medium-rare seemed so good on the skin that I waived the idea of applying sunscreen as I went out for a morning stroll to enjoy this beautiful morning.

October is my favorite month, not because I celebrate my birthday in this month, but because it invokes the season of celebration. And for me the thought of impending joys always rubs-off the delinquent layers of sordid life-dust which gather on me layer after layer after each bad day that I face. This year I experience the pain of getting adjusted to academia, the pain of keeping up with youngsters, and the pain of walking away from writing.

In the last week I was under so much academic stress that the finale of our first minors made me go berserk. The celebration mood, nonetheless, was momentary because once I was done with the tension over the test, there came swooping in the abject tension of my performance in the skill-testing papers. I tell you, I am not good in devouring (academic) stuff created by other people; I prefer to make my own dish. However, devouring and processing stranger crafted academic abracadabra was a thing I had to do in the past week.  In the former week I felt caught up in a hysteresis loop wherein everyday exit lead to a return to the same place, the only place the following day . There were no centers, no real-exits; and I was caught in this snare like a bug unable to escape from under the heavy foot of a giant.

In the hypnopiasis of fatigue, I marched listlessly and continued marching losing all the leftover vibrancy I had in the process. And then came along this beautiful morning where directly I opened my eyes, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed.  It was like magic, a soft feather of miracle, and it made me feel like a phoenix gathering strength from her dead ashes brought to life by the alchemical touch of a bright autumn morning. What is there in Sarat, in this fallean charm of the season that it gets you relinquish all your tribulations? Is it the season of celebration it holds in its gowpen, or plainly that we have always associated this season as dearest one, the king’s favorite daughter?

Whatever it was the Sunday at the end of summer brought me so much calm that I almost rose to idylatry. In order to celebrate the spirituality I played (Mahisasur Mardini). The voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra communicated with my innate spirituality such that I almost experienced a momentary heirophany, the manifestation of the sacred before my eyes. The universe of reverberating sound waves, the solemn baritone, the chanting elevated me into a reality far above the miseries of mortal life.

Having finished my daily writing exercise, I went out to click some pictures of the beautiful day. Everything looked brighter, happier, and sunnier to my eyes. The hibiscus that blossomed in my garden seemed like a sudden flare of red, dipped in some divine blood-pot it flourished with so much glow that it made me stare at it for a moment in utter appreciation. I later analyzed that the change in perception was the result of the change of my point of view. Under the influence of the bright sunny morning that eradicated the remnant clouds of miserable downpours which harassed us in the past week, I felt new and ready for life once again.

Here are the pictures I took:

Sun and Shade

The flocculent clouds tangled up in the blue



Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering Fiaz Ahmed Fiaz: Thoughts on attending a seminar dedicated to the poet

What is Poetry? An arrangement of scenes, trivial or tragic, romantic or practical, viatic or static, homely or fantastic featuring more or less the plausible events (of life and dream) patched up with deliberate details. That is how poetry struck me when I sat a few days ago in the populated seminar hall of our institution while listening to eminent educationists and irrealists referring to the poetic work of the famous Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

The seminar, a gathering of intellectuals from the poetic cream of India, took place in the jorum of our contemporary designed school building. The building, however, acted as anachronism. Its brick-red facade, the glasses that some unknown mason glued to its body for modernist effect, the royal blue banner displayed next to the entrance declaring in bold yellow letters the university’s dictum that ragging in any form will be dealt as criminal offence by the institution, and the guards with thick bushy mustaches hardly exhaled poetry from me when I walked into the building around twelve in the afternoon. But all preconceived notions relating to un-poetic surroundings were dashed from my mind when the sweetly melodious voice of a singer reached me. On a stark Monday morning of abject life dear B, my friend, stood at the podium reliving the tunes of a dead poet: “Hum dekhenge, lazam hai ke hum bhi dekhenge ge.” I don’t know what she intended to see, but in her voice it was evident that she was frisking the depths of her own soul as she performed the act trying to search something, some aspect of her own self lost to her and the world about whose presence she had been enlightened by the poet’s lines.

The proceedings were already underway by the time I reached the destination. Hirsute intellectuals and young students from the school of humanities and social sciences which had organized the two-day seminar on Faiz Ahmed Faiz filled the room. I seated myself in one of the comfortable blue chairs and observed the chamber. It was a fairly sized seminar hall, well lit, the wooden desks showed no sign of wear or tear, the temperature in the room was comfortable too. As I placed myself on the settee I wondered would this room comfortable as it was evoke poetry in me. Apparently, it did not; however, as I listened to the canorous Urdu of Sheikh kaaf nizam, one of the dignitaries invited to the literary show, I realized that poetry doesn’t need a place, it needs time, time to burgeon in the mind, time to grow up from roots to shoots and saplings and then spread its massive green leaves outside the confines of all deep dark places of life that imprison us.

Poetry is all about freedom, mental freedom. I quite agree that most of the Urdu spoken by the dignitaries throughout the course of the day was lost on me mostly because of the lack of knowledge on that front, yet I somehow manage to derive subtle pleasure from the musicality of the language, the softness of the words. Urdu is indeed a gentleman’s zabaan, and Faiz had given it ample time to inflate and gradually fill-up him mind with words and expressions fit for his cause because his poetry is outstandingly musical and elite, if I may be pardoned for using the expression.

One of the things reiterated throughout the day was the constant urge to customize Faiz’s poetry to one’s own needs. Faiz has to be your own Faiz if you want to do justice to his poetry said the honorable Dean of our department. I took to his words immediately; the morsel of truth the expression held was that you can never learn to produce or appreciate good literature until you can customize it to your needs. Can poetry, or for that matter, any piece of literature be written if there is no independent mind behind the cause? Indeed this idea that one must think well and read well to write well has become universally apodictic.

The seminar continued for two days and as the first day gave way to the second the waves of poetry took shapes from winding currents of empty expressions issued in stylized Urdu to things that almost made some sense and then lost into nothingness. Like flavored smells of lavender incense sticks once burning and once exhausted they smoldered for some time and then leaving behind only a dust of ashes and a libanophorous room, they departed leaving me searching for clues to decipher their unheard codes.

There is a fine line between understanding and appreciating something, and I realized that even though I understood only a few sections of the two day discussion, I appreciated the tremendous efforts the poet paid to his art. I pictured him sitting at his desk, a wooden desk, a ledger with a coarse vermillion cover, a pen, an over-used fat bellied fountain pen with a dripping nib, and his figure, hunched up, his face with lumps of flesh pillowed under his chin grimly concentrating on poetic impulse. I see only one legible word on his papyrus: Faiz, his own name written and underlined several times. His euphuistic mind deliberating on silent musings that flutter about like lovely colored butterflies, just within reach but hard to lay hands on, while he sits there patient, stoic waiting for them to sit on his ink-dotted kurta. A massive green platter of green accessorized by the dry remains of a once-exotic temple stand like placid observers outside his open window silently reminding him of possibilities and despair, the dyadic  principles of human life.

It was this transitory image of the poet encased in my mind that made me go back and think about the seminar in a new light. Of course, I give you only a piecemeal of the two-day session, mostly a discussion of the first day mainly because it appealed to me more than the second day of the session in which the linguistically skilled instructors decided to relegate at lengths from Urdu to Hindi and English. Even though the Hindi that was spoken was as pure as the purest Hindi could be and the English as classic as it came, yet somehow I retain nothing of the discussions heard. It is only the first day impleached with reminiscent ramblings collected throughout that day that exist in the core.

As the clock strikes its way to the deep hours of night, let me leave you all with a poem of Faiz Ahmed Faiz that I translated. Although it lacks much of Fiaz’s musicality, it does bring to mind the flavor of his poetry-- a portmanteau of the altiloquent expressions mixed and dusty colloquialism--which I tried to retain.



Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Translated by Barnali Saha

Why blissful my heart is not
Why I keep remaining numb
O, leave the saga of my life
I am good the way I am

So what my heart is unhappy  
The whole world is woebegone
This sadness is neither thine nor mine
It is our beloved barony

Even if you become mine
The agonies of the world will remain the same
The knots of sin, the manacles of malice
Our words can never by riven

In any form pain is lethal
Be it somebody else’s or ours
Boohooing, enflaming the soul
That is also ours; that is also ours

Why not embrace the pains of the world
And later consider the debates
Later dream the happy reveries
And contrive on the dreamy arrangements.

Unperturbed rich and wealthy
Why on earth are they happy?
Let us apportion their happiness among us
They are after all akin to pain

May be we have declared conflict
Heads will be smashed, blood will flow
The pain too will afloat with the blood
I won’t be there, pain won’t be there

P.S. : Do not use translation without permission