Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Time for Parting

That evening was unusual.
There was a sense of loss and the joy of possession. They were drinking to keep there eyes open, their hearts wide awake. The cacophony of the night was music to ears. There wasn’t much sense in sentences nor was there a title to the talks. They were wandering, monk like- directionless but meaningful hoping to find an anchor in quicksand. It soon dawned that it was time to go.
It was a sad moment. A moment no one wanted. They all wanted to live on. But then who and what lives for ever.
The time for parting had come.
The glasses were laid to rest. Cigarette buts were thumbed and benumbed. There were no more embers as one could see.
The urges were going stronger .The embers had found spark elsewhere. It was too early for a cosmic union and probably too late for a quick one.
Disparaging thoughts and unfettered desires seldom make for good partners.
They said their goodbyes and made promises to meet again.Thus passed the evening leaving a void.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Bhagwaen Daed-The Poet we know not"

I wonder how many of us even know of a mystic poet called Bhagewaen Daed.

I would stay clear of a dry scholarly paper because that would defeat my idea of choosing her as the woman who would represent the Kashmiri kaleidoscope.She wasn’t in any sense a forlorn or estranged wife or even a disconsolate daughter in law that we generally associate with Kashmiri poetesses.

Krishan Joo Razdan,the great Kashmiri Leela poet would have found a match for his metaphor”basti manz sanyasi roz” in Bhagwaen Daed. Bhagwaen Daed lived amongst people like us and yet she was connected to her higher self. I will not bore anyone with mundane details but to understand her thought and poetry we need to know of the time and space that she lived in. To give you an idea of the space I will go to the following verses by Abdul Ahad Zargar,who in my opinion is one of the greatest mystic poets in not just his era but across timelines in Kashmiri literature.

Yas babe dodh choth,Daam dame sheer
Tas seet nikah chuy,Ba tadbeer

The above verse invited a fatwa from the Islamic clergy and clearly clipped the wings which Kashmiri poetry could have taken. So I guess you have an idea of the time. It was as Charles Dickens would have described it, ”It was the best of the times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of hope, it was the age of despair”. Under the Dogra rule Hindu revivalism was taking small strides and Sanskrit texts were being re-written or published after a long time. Krishanjoo Razdan had passed away leaving a rich legacy of bhakti poetry, so the leela had become a much stronger genre of poetry than it was ever in the past. It was in this time that Bhagwaen Daed appeared on the Kashmiri literary-spiritual firmament.

With that introduction let us now understand Bhagwaen Daed the poet and the seeker.
As I said in the beginning I will try not to be too pedantic or dry. I begin with an anecdote that my grandmother tells me about Bhagwaen Daed and believe me or not, this isn’t hagiography. Due to her spiritual penances she had attained a stage where she needed a Guru to lead her further. She was a restless wandering soul with abundant spiritual energy but in a state of entropy. In the process she wanted Ahad Zargar to be her Guru because Govind Kaul refused to take her as his disciple. Upon seeing her in a state of restlessness, Ahad Zargar put her on a tonga to Wanpoh and directed the coachman to take her to Govind Kaul of Wanpoh. Probably the message from Zargar made Govind Kaul take the young Bhagwaen as his disciple. The above anecdote can be testified by the following verses

Man phyoor Zars zaresey,man vot nish zargarasey
Zar-e-zare havyom prahuhas,man myon aantan kobohas
Govind-goo sware bhagwanene,laey gache paanay man ti pranay
Laey gache syam hamsoo has,man myon aantan koboohas

It seems these were still early days in her spiritual journey and when by her own account she still was like the proverbial parud (mercury) that is unstable. It was under the spiritual and poetic genius of Govind Kaul that Bhagwaen was chiselled.

Staying away from falling into the trap of how her poetic career took shape and how many phases her career had, I shall try and take a look at her stylistics as a poet, her thought and her diction, her idiom of expression and the rhyme in her poems. We will also try and look at her contribution towards furthering the Bhakti movement in Kashmir.

She is a poet who is immensely or shall I say singularly devoted to her preceptor. Her book of poems titled Manposh has 150 poems and there isn’t one where she hasn’t made mention of her guru. Most of the poems are dedicated in form or another to the grace and divine glory of her preceptor. The echo of Govind-goo in her songs is a direct manifestation of her love for her Guru. She anoints herself as the cuckoo who sings Govind-goo. Although the expression of goo and kukil isn’t new to Kashmiri poetry yet the poet presents them as her own expressions drawn out of her experiences and not merely as jugglery of words. I will stick out my neck to assert that there is a tinkle and a rhyme in her poetry which would do a Krishanjoo proud. The reader doesn’t simply read them; he sings them along in ecstasy.

Kukilay Govind goo karnaavtam
Hoo hoo karyo bhi
Bhagyewaene Baste seet daam dyavnamtam
Shaye shaye shiv chuy

Govind govind naam chuy aemusuy
Kukilay damsey manz wich tray
Dham heath dam rat mao praar tamesey
Chay mahramasay maene manz jay

In a way Bhagwaen Daed has not broken the old mould of spiritual poetry. Stylistically her poetry is very similar to that of many other Sufi poets. The influence of all these poets is clearly reflected in her language which remains Persianized to large extent.The metaphors, the symbols, and the similes are borrowed hugely from the Persian word-stock. But that’s where the analogy finishes. As a poet she has her own experiences to recount and those are the experiences of a Yogini. Her regular references to words like Agam, Shaktipaat, Shieshkal, Muladhar and various processes of Yoga are a testament to the fact that whatever might have been her medium of expression her thought was clearly rooted in the hoary religion of the land. One is reminded of poets like Shams Faqir or Prakash Ram as one reads Bhagwaen.

Shams Faqir

Hate oosum mwothehaar,gate manze gash trovnam
Kaal-e-shah su laal-e-bazzar,harmwokh vichu deedar

Bhagwaen Daed

Bhakti-bade vochumay shakti shahanay,Pwokhtekaar mwothkte dahanay aav
Mwotehaar vichumaey tamesund khanay,Gaash shabanay paanay aav

Bhagwaen’s Bhakti is of a type that is unheard of in the Kashmiri literature. Her yearning and love for her Guru manifests in various ways. At one point the guru is the divine consort while at the other he is a child who is to be cuddled and put to sleep. I find this unique because no other Kashmiri poet has taken Guru to a pedestal where love manifests itself in such roles.

Chaen lolan karenas bambereay,ghare ghare soo ham soo
Pan naveth saveth chey laare,ghare ghare soo ham soo

Garas haey Rophe Manzuluy,Baras Jigreke Lolay
Vichas vaen korkumuy,Mae Yaar vuch hane hane

As Bhagwaen moves a stage up from naiveté her verse changes, yet she feels she is still not there

Na bhi pwokhtay nab hi khamay
Mae kaem aaram nyumut vaseye

It is this stage of her spiritual quest when she feels the pangs of separation. It is here that she speaks of her un-sureness, her being neither complete nor incomplete.

But the stage of incompleteness is soon trounced. Her unison with her higher self is reflected in such poesy and ecstasy that one wonders what poetic genius springs from the cosmic union and oneness with the supreme

She sings it in the following verses

Vothaan,beyhaan,Shongnuuy,Manz Saad-e-Sangan Daey Vuchum
Rangarang Berangney,Lahas ti labas laey vuchum
Madham Murali Changeney,Manz kalwalaan mouy vichum

I hope this small write up on mine would persuade readers to read about this rather forgotten poet of ours. There is so much to write about her but I am afraid I don’t have the wherewithal to do so. A translation of some of her poems would be the least that we could do so that the younger generation may get to read some of her poems and then maybe they will delve into her poetry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Parallel Lines

The room was full of people. Men and women of all ages had come looking for someone. Someone they didn’t know. Someone they did not want to know. There are far fewer women and far more men. Men clamouring for a fleeting glimpse and a quick one. Women playing it hard to get.
After all earth girls aren’t so easy.
Women knew, men want sex, a surreal sex, an ethereal fleeting moment, a moment to let their testosterones out. Women weren’t exactly sure of what they want, at least not all of them wanted sex.
It was here that they met.
Their eyes met in a room full of people. They jostled to reach out to each other. She had charming smile with an aquiline nose, eyes like that of a deer, her long neck with prominent collar bones presided over her chiselled body. He was dreamy eyed, lost and poetic. Initially all he wanted was a moment of testosterone leak but gradually it all changed.
They liked each other. At least he thought so. Soon they met; ethereal, surreal and real. There wasn’t a day when they did not. She grew on him and he on her. They were too mature to be inseparable and too young to be separated. She was in a shell and he abound in abandon. He professed love and she appreciated but never reciprocated.
She was a mother and a wife, he a husband and father.
They had begun to enjoy each other’s company, in-fact yearned for it though she stayed reticent and he overt.
The love was there waiting outside a shell, an impregnable shell. Inside the shell was a throbbing waiting to be let out. A caged bird seldom gets to fly.
She was scared of pain and he loved the pleasure of pain. She had a past and he wanted a future. They were two parallel lines.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Nietzsche’s "Übermensch” Shiva?

To most of us Nietzsche immortalizes the atheistic right. It was he who first said, ”God is dead”. A literal interpretation of this statement should make one accept that Nietzsche did not believe in the concept of an overarching force that runs this universe and if at all there ever was one, Nietzsche just declared him dead. Could it be that it was the existing concept of God (in Nietzsche’s era and his geographical space) that Nietzsche did not conform to or believe in. Was Nietzsche simply anti-Christian or was he anti-God?

His criticism of Christianity was primarily on the grounds that it lay too much of emphasis on morality and he on the contrary praised the Greek Hyperborean and even Pre-Christian Paganism. His extolling of the Apollonian and Dionysian philosophies leads us to somehow believe that it was Abrahamic religions that he seemed to be against and not God. Am I being too simplistic in understanding Nietzsche or have I eaten the flesh and thrown the bones to the dogs.

In his pioneering work “Thus Spake Zarathustra” Nietzsche talks of the concept of Übermensch(translated as Superman or Overman or Superhuman).He describes human beings as a stage of transition from apes to Ubermensch. The metaphor or the symbol of the Ubermensch stems from the Nietzschean idea of self-overcoming. One of the passages where Zarathustra speaks to the Ubermensch reads like this,” "All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughing stock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape.”

In all these questions Nietzsche exhorts a human being to achieve what he/she is capable of becoming ie The Ubermensch. How similar is the concept of Ubermensch to the concept of Shiva (especially in Kashmir Saivism) or is there no connection whatsoever? I am tempted, maybe out of my ignorance or non-Saivahood or not being an Ubermensch, to believe that the concepts are similar. I will try and explain to myself.

According to Kashmir Saivism all of us have the capacity to become Siva. Depending upon what state and stage of consciousness any living form is, determines his distance from Shivahood (I am using this word for lack of a better word in my epistemological vocabulary).So we are somehow somewhere between the apes and the Siva. Are we? Are we in the process of attaining The Ubermensch. Are so much of us still a worm, a worm whose consciousness is limited? From what I understand of the concept of Ubermensch is the freedom to be or Swantatrya as we would call it in Kashmir Saivism. Only when one attains the state of Ubermensch can one claim to attain freedom from bondage. Am I getting it right?

Shiva as we know him today hasn’t been the same through the ages. Many scholars have compared Shiva to the Greek God Dionysus and not without reason. The early iconography and attributes of Rudra Shiva are in many ways similar to that of Dionysus. Both are Patron agricultural gods, have a certain sense of madness associated with them but it is the ecstasy factor that makes the resemblance quite striking. The bull, the serpent and the wine are iconographic similarities that are too hard to miss. Nietzsche has placed great virtue in Dionysian philosophy and its concepts of celebration of nature, intuitiveness, chaos and intoxication. Was Nietzsche’s Ubermensch a celebrant much like Abhinavgupt’s Bhairava(or Shiva) in Vypat Charachar Bhav Vishesam or am I intoxicated too much by Dionysus-Shiva?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Turncoat Loses

There are days when I am so full of kindness that my milk of it is over spilling its edges. Today is one such day. I want to help someone. I thought of so many people who may need money. Then suddenly I realised that our friend Sajjad Lone has just lost his security deposit of Rs 10000.00 because he polled less than 10% of the total number of votes in Barramulla constituency.
Would you believe it?
I had to pinch myself into believing that Sajjad Lone,the one and only Sajjad Lone-the darling of the Indian Media, a face we consistently see on our television screens as the “young voice of Kashmiris”,the Sajjad Lone who till the other day was a separatist, the Sajjad Lone who did not even have the courage to cry when his father was killed by the very separatists that he stood for all these years, the Sajjad Lone who barked during television debates during Amarnath agitation, the Sajjad Lone-the great betrayer of his own people and finally the Sajjad Lone who contested elections and sadly lost deposit, face and maybe political future too.
The day he took a U-turn, a Kashmiri Muslim friend of mine told me, mark my words”he will lose badly”. I did not quite believe him then and I had reasons enough. My friend is no political analyst. He isn’t a politician or a journalist either. Yet somehow his words were prophetic because he was an ordinary man on the street who did not base his comments on euphoria. He wasn’t like those journalists who wrote columns and centre pieces on Sajjad Lone. He wasn’t like the Editors’ of our English Dailies or News Channels who had already made Sajjad a house hold name among the Indian masses. In his loss I also see the loss of credibility of all those people who somehow want to make us believe that the separatists are some force by themselves. Sajjad Lone has just proved them wrong.
It gives me immense pleasure that people like Lone lose. They deserve to lose not because we want them to or that we dont want peace to return to the valley but because they are betrayers and betrayers deserve a kick on their ass. It is because of people like him that Kashmir is a festering wound. It is because we have no dearth of such people who changed sides because it suited them that way. I may never have liked Sajjad’s polity but would have respected him had he gone to grave as a separatist. But maybe I was expecting too much from a man in whose veins runs the blood of a turn-coat.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Invisible Exiles: Kashmiri Pandits (Published in Vijayvani)

The present crisis in Sri Lanka has once again brought to fore the issue of internally displaced people. Everyone from the United Nations to the European Union to the Foreign Ministers of Britain and France wants to visit the refugee camps of the Tamils, displaced by the war between LTTE and the Sri Lankan army.
The Indian Government seems so over-concerned about the safety, security and well-being of Lankan Tamils that it has sent two topmost secretaries to meet the Sri Lankan President. What is more, almost every now and then one senior functionary of the Government of India issues statements and puts pressure on Colombo to ensure the best relief and rehabilitation measures for the internally displaced Tamil refugees. This solicitude is utterly missing when it comes to India’s own displaced refugees - the Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits).
The complete post is here

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sajjad Lone's U-turn(Published in Vijayvani)

Che Kamyu Kareneay taveez pan
Yaaro van bale yaaro van

Who hath cast thy spell on thou?
Speak up my friend, speak up

Wahab Khar, the 18th century poet, probably had the power to see future. How else does one explain the above verse, unless he knew that Sajjad Lone, the most vociferous of the Kashmir separatists, would one day take a U-turn (strategic, not ideological, let us be clear) and join the election fray.
Intrigue has always been a part of Kashmir’s history, and Kashmir’s leaders have more often than not been treacherous and perfidious. Sajjad Lone can be no exception.
The complete post is at the link below

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This morning I woke up to a parable. Look Beyond. I tried but couldn’t. I tried once again and failed. Then I remembered that the parables aren’t to be taken literally. The meanings lie beyond. But beyond was beyond me.
There was a time when beyond wasn’t so beyond. I may not have reached it ,yet I could see it. It was like a far fetched dream, an imagination of sorts that would remain just that. Years have passed by and gnosis has waned and the theist in me is slowly fading if not dying. This too could be ethereal.
There was a time when a quartet of Omar Khyaam would lift my sagging spirits or when a mere verse of Shams Faqir or Ahmed Batwari would fill me with ecstasy. When I read them today I feel nothing, absolutely nothing. They lie there in my book rack alongside a Sydney Sheldon or as inconsequential.
The morning prayers are a ritual that I have steadfastly stuck to because I did not want to be the one to be blamed for breaking the tradition. Besides I love the sight of a wick in a temple, flowers in the holy water and the ever smiling tiger riding feminine deities. Aesthetics apart, atheism is striking roots in me. This morning I finished my ritual without uttering prayers.
A collection of short stories of Kafka replaced the Panchang.I drank deep from the words of one of my favourite melancholy pessimist writers.
Sadly even he could not decode the parable for me.I drove me to my office without looking beyond.Rashid Hafiz kept singing Wahab Khar.All I could hear was

Tull Lalle burkhay paaan Tawkeed korne sadras manz
Ath daereyavas chuyne saneruk naeb nishanay

Lalla shunned the shame of being into the waters of unknown
And came out singing, this river is bottomless

Friday, April 24, 2009

Twenty Years of Absence-in Greater Kashmir

Come Spring and small streams emanating out of Doodh Ganga would be full of water and the perennial brook near my home would be enticing small boys to its muddy banks. The willows will be in a new green hue while the solitary apple tree in my courtyard would be quietly awaiting the arrival of its fruits of labour.

Swarms of men and women would be ready for “thal” or sowing of the paddy saplings. People would dig small pipe like canals from the flowing streams to their fields. There would be minor quarrels among people as they jostle for water. But all that would be amicably settled. Chirping birds would fly down to pick insects from the freshly ploughed soil. Young girls would carry samovars full of hot salt tea and bagfuls of bread to their family members working in the fields. The teachers would have it easy though. A ready stock of students would be eager to work on their fields in hope of a mass promotion to the next grade. My village, would hear women sing in mesmerizing tones Rasul Mir’s “Hariye thavak na kan ti lolo”. The mild sun would shine over my small, non- descript village Kanipora.

I was seven when the elders of our house decided to sell our ancestral house at 10, Qutubdin Pora, Ali Kadal, Srinagar and move to a new location on the outskirts of the city. There was a deep sense of loss as the truck moved out of the narrow downtown lanes to the wider roads leading out of the city. I thought of Sallam the butcher, Kare Kon the local candy man, the flowing Vitasta ,the Batyaar Mandir, Rishi Peers Aastan and the avuncular saint Rahbab Saheb. I would miss them all, I thought. These were the by-lanes, the narrow by-lanes where we lived among Nawchis. Sultans, Patigaroo’s ,Dar’s, Hagar’s and Kaul’s. Then of course there was a man who seemed like a lunatic to all of us; someone who would have tea in a 5kg P-Mark Tin and share his Tale-vor (a local variety of Kashmiri bread) with dogs. He was called Hone-Rahman. No one knew where he came from. I was scared yet fond of him. It was him who I was to miss the most.

I was now a student of The New Cambridge Public School (later re-christened as Angels Garden) the only English medium school in the entire village. The school was housed in an old dilapidated building near the saw mill not very far from the main bus stand, not that there was any other bus stand in or around our village. Kanipora was a block in the Chadoora Tehsil of Budgam district of Kashmir subdivision of Jammu and Kashmir. It had a non working post office, a branch of State Bank of India, an Elaqaui Dehati Bank, a Boys High School, a Middle school for girls, a terrible primary healthcare centre and a very bad road connecting Kanipora to Kralpora-an equally small village on the main road to Char-e-Sharief .It was on this bad road that we had our new house-a palatial house compared to the concrete pigeon hole called a flat, that I live in now.

The new house was bereft of any living neighbours. The only other house around was a huge house across the small brook. The owners, we were told were too scared to live in that house. This is a haunted house they would say. One of their cousins, a short man with a beard would come to visit the house from time to time. His name was Khursheed and he was a probably a teacher in one of the Government schools in Srinagar. But Srinagar was far now, thirteen kilometres from the main bus stand and fourteen from our home.The new house had a brook for running water and toilets were still a luxury. Endless vast expanse of green surrounded us and some hundred meters behind us was a small cremation ground. That seemed to be the only companion and neighbour that we had till a Peer Sahib with his three sons started building a house near the grazing field. The village had walnut trees, chinars, poplars, willows and yes it grew some strawberries and saffron too.

The village Moqadam was a pious man called Rasul Daar. He was a man with a great sense of humour and would often laugh at his own self. It was his grandson who was to be my best pal, my alter ego in times to come. It has been long; I have seen Yaseen or heard from him. I write this in hope that he may read it and get in touch with me. We would attend tuitions together in Nawab Bazzar where my uncle would teach us Mathematics. Another of my friends Ashwani met me here in Delhi after a gap of seventeen years. It was a tearful re-union as we talked about our common past, the village swamp and our uncertain future. Two of them, me, Mushtaq, Shafiq, Ameen and my younger brother Rinku would play cricket on Motilal Khar’s land, the land he was planning to build a house on after his spinster brother’s death. Neither did Mohan Lal die in Kashmir nor did Moti Lal ever make a house.

There was a family of Thokur’s pronounced locally as Thukre who lived in a dark lane near the biggest apple orchard of the village. The families of two brothers lived in a wood house with freshly painted wooden stairs and a big courtyard. The house was a picture of prosperity in an otherwise no so rich village. One early morning the elder Thukre and his wife were seen leaving the village, their only belonging being the metal trunk painted light green overall with purple coloured leaves and flowers adorning its borders. His unceremonious departure was talked about in hushed tones in the village. None had a clue where he would head to and none ever knew where he went. After a few days of his exodus no one even mentioned a word about him. Ramzan Thukre’s son Farooq, my junior in my school was now the only inheritor to the property of Thukrs.

I am sure the village would have changed now. The Railway Line might have changed the fortunes of the people who owned some land in the vicinity of the rail tracks. I just hope they haven’t cut the chinars of the village. The three Chinars near the green coloured mosque where the rivulet and the road take a bend are keepers of my yesteryears’ secrets. The second of the three Chinars, yes the one in the centre was already beginning to show signs of hollowness in late eighties. Is it still alive?

Twenty years is a long time. Ghlam Nabi the tailor must have grown old and his brother Wosta Ali must have excelled further in the art of masonry. The three shops near the Pomegranate orchard must have become more now. Would they still be selling Thoole Mithae ,I wonder. There must be no Prabha School anymore. Incidentally I could not attend Prabhawati’s funeral in Jammu.Men and women would now be returning to their homes after a hard days’ work. They would soon fall asleep. The night sets in early at my village. Far away someone is singing….Mae Chu basan mae ma gache shaam vatey.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

J & K

Two of them had nothing in common but the desire to be seen as victims of persecution. Perceived sense of persecution! This perceived sense of collective victim hood was what brought them together.
J was thin as a rattle snake, had a long nose, two beautiful eyes and hair like that of a jute mat. Here he was, with a newfound sense of freedom, unbridled passion and love for his land. He was head and shoulders above his peers, was well versed with history, geography and politics and was always on right of his own self. Passion was his middle name; his biggest asset and his biggest liability.
K was a fat as a bean bag and had a balanced head over his distorted body. It was hard to describe him because he never behaved in a certain manner. Freud would have scratched his balls to decode K’s personality type. At different times in the same situations he would react so differently that you would keep wondering whether it is Dr.Jekyll now or was it Mr.Hyde then. His passion lasted shorter than his orgasm. He was always on his own side, left and right could fuck them-selves.
Yet destiny had brought them together. They met in an alien land where shoulders are so welcome. The sign of 10 that they made looked wonderful when they walked together. They fitted the Watson - Crick Model of Lock and Key and made a perfect enzyme structure for themselves. An Ardhnareshwara of sorts……
An all male version of Ardhnareshwara……..

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Futile Search

I search for an address
My permanent address
The one they write on our passports
And ration cards
Yet again, I am to vote
Without an address, a post office, a home

I search for my source
In distant lands
In faces that look fairer, in noses which are pointed
In houses that have land and a permanent roof
Yet again, I am without one
The only one that I had
Is lost now

I search for my roots, in flower pots

Monday, March 30, 2009

Induced Hallucination

Jim Morisson lay pasted on his wall. It was one of those centre page posters from a magazine called Sun. This small room in the otherwise palatial house was “his only” space. It was a place where he could give vent to his idiosyncrasies, where he could think like Majorission (the inverted Jim Morisson), where he could be “creative” and most important where he could in letter and spirit, emulate his idol-Jim Morrison.
On a floor above his, was the Thokur Kuth or the God’s Room. The room for the God was almost as the same size as that of Jim Morrison’s. K seldom had anything to do with this room. He grew up in his own world in what was otherwise a very orthodox Brahmin Family. He was antithesis of everything that they stood for. He called his family members crazy and to them he epitomised madness.
When they sang,”Maat Pitta tum mere” he would be rocking his guitar and singing”O mother,I wanna fuck you,O Father I wanna Kill you”.
Soon all this was going to change.
One day his father brought a calendar: the ones that shopkeepers, halwais, newspaper agencies and the likes publish every-year to boost their sales. One more God, K thought. His father had a fetish for picking up and bringing home every image that even bore a brief resemblance to any of the myriad deities that Hindus have. There wasn’t a wall in the entire house but for K’s room where some god, demi-god or saint did not lay pasted or hung. K had resigned to this fetish of his father though more was in store for him. His father thought of upgrading the washrooms. New tiles were brought in to the replace the old ones. A white new commode with Hindustan written on it was to be the centrepiece of the new room. The changes in the washroom forced K to look for a new place to please himself. After all how could a man masturbate under the prying eyes of the gods?
The calendar had to be hung somewhere. In a house where gods occupied every square millimetre of wall space making house for another god was going to be as difficult as finding God himself. But K’s father was resolute.
Oh No,not in my room.K said.
When K was away,his father had a nail hammered into a wall in K’s room.Jim Morisson had an unusual neighbour in Bhagwan Gopinath-a chillum smoking and dreamy eyed Kashmiri saint.K was indignant. He wanted none of this but poor K .Poor K still wasn’t as Kafkaesque as his elder namesake. He did not have the courage to leave the comforts of his home and the protection of his mother. He had read enough not to be foolhardy. That night he did not play The Doors.He sung Yesterday instead.
He was curious about this new inhabitant. Bhagwan Gopinath- what kind of a name is that? K’s mother was a usual doting mom. She would do anything to please K as long as she did not invite her husband’s ire. She would placate him but that was no comfort. He needed a space to handle his cock without the ubiquitous overloading over. And it wasn’t just that, the very idea of an all pervading, all encompassing, giver of boons was repulsive to him. He could not reconcile with the thought that we must beg before someone whose existence himself was doubtful.
But Bhagwan Gopinath was still living. He could see him if he wanted. His mother said why don’t you go and meet Bhagwanji? What me and why would I want to meet a man who calls himself Bhagwan and yet smokes grass like any other rock star would. Is this Bhagwanji of yours a rock star of some kind, he taunted his mother. Trahe Trahe she said, and left the room. Despite her love for K, she hurled abuses and cursed him for being an atheist and a non-conformist.
He was happy she was gone. As soon as she left, K lit up a fag. He loved grass .He took a deep puff and let out a ring of smoke. The ring kept expanding and a halo was formed over his head. There were too many similarities, he thought. Both smoke grass, are high on life it seems, both have a cult icon image in the eyes of their followers, both have taken to unknown in their own ways. His fascination for this other Jim Morrison began to grow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One More Navreh

Different Navrehs bring with them different sets of emotions .Most of the time Navrehs in exile have been nostalgic. They bring back memories of my childhood. Of days, when the day begun with an obeisance to the mother goddess atop the Hari Parvat. As a kid, Sanskrit prayers would make no sense to me, yet there was this strange sense of achievement that I could recite them alongside my elders.
There are fond memories of collective recitations of various prayers but one prayer would stand apart. Whenever we sang “Maej Sharikay Kar Daya”(Oh Mother Sharika,be benign to us) it would move us all to tears: tears of communion with our higher selves; tears of joy, of being alive in a hostile Kashmir; Tears of her being our saviour and confidante.
Soon the action would move to the Devi Anagan where hundreds of revellers like us would lay their picnic paraphernalia. Over hot cups of Kahwa,the quintessential politician among us would uselessly discuss the situation in Iran,the diehard poet would bore us with one more of his Leelas’ but the day belonged to the children. The weather on most occasions would participate in the festival. Kids like butterflies were unstoppable. Festivity was in the air, in minds, in hearts and in souls of all those Brahmins who had been brutally murdered on this given day, many centuries before, by Islamic invaders. The Goddess would overlook it all.
The Badam Vaer’s (The Almond Orchard) bloom was divine to say the least. In Kashmiri folklore and poetry so much has been written about the bloom, yet so much is lost between what his eyes see and what his pen writes. The ephemeral nature of the Almond Bloom notwithstanding was a sight to behold and a divinity to be felt. Rides, toys, love, were abundant in the Vaer. Every child represented a free soul- fearless of present, unaware of the past and careless about the future. It was then that my grandfather would recite at the top of his voice-Abhinavgupt’s “Vyapt Charachar Bhav Vishesham”.
As I grow grey in Exile,Navrehs seem to carry different messages for me.Although I try to celebrate them with the same fervour as I would back home,I obviously cannot offer my daughter the luxury of a Badam Vaer or the Devi Angan.I rue the loss but am proud that I carry the legacy forward.A legacy of the people of the verge of extinction.Tomorrow as she sees the Thal(A ritual associated with the NavreH) she will in some way become the bearer of the ember of our existence that is fast turning to ashes.Will she be able to make fire(Reh) from it or will the embers turn to ashes is something we may not live to see.
Many years back in this Zaalim Vonth Ros Shaher(Cruel Endless City as my friend, a refugee from our land , Zahoor Zargar calls it) I was depressed on this day.I saw no hope,no fire,no refuge but my solitary words …..

Yi Kyuth Navreh,Kames chi reh
Na Che, ti ,na maey
Tale Kyuth Navreh

What Navreh is this
Inside whom do the embers glow
Not you,not me
Then What Navreh is this

It isn’t as if I have all these years been despondent and hopeless in exile but there have long periods when I saw no hope of return. But it wasn’t just about return. What depressed me more was our own hollowness or crumbling of our hope.

The message last year though was one of hope.
My solitary words did not fail me in the moment of hope and I sang…..

Ye chu nov Navreh,
vich prazlaan chay na chaney reh
chuy chane rahey,rang rotumut maey
chakh aash baneth vaen aamech chey,
kad valenje maenae,yus chuy vaeh
Aakash ti pataal sar kar aaz
chey prarran panchalech ,che divay
haeth pagahuk gaash,che aayak aaz
bar-e-chirninaev kin mae chaye divay
vanvas me mokelaav mahsoosas
aaz kaluk ravan karetan khay

Wonder what message this Navreh has for me….

Nonetheless Happy Navreh!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Vain Soul

Once with him,I was here...Valley of Flowers

Poets are vain. Scholars are even vainer. Now, imagine one who is a bit of both.

Vanity personified.

He was one of those”vanity personified types”. He had answers to all questions or at-least he claimed to have answers. He selected his audiences carefully; he always made sure they are ignoramuses compared to him. He quoted verses out of thin air, even thick mist sometimes. His understanding of history,languages,poetry,aesthetics,art,drama and literature seemed too vast to be true. To me it looked as if he had perfected the art of lying. In my opinion, that probably was the only art that he had. Almost nonchalantly he dismissed and even rubbished everyone else’s knowledge.He had grudging admirers by the day who turned knife sharpening foes by the fall of dusk.They all hated him and he knew it.In a way he enjoyed being hated.

And then his travels....

His travels had often taken him far and wide,he would tell me. He would often reminisce about his travels to the other Himalyas, to villages where ordinary tourists do not go, to saints who lived in caves and to ghosts of his own making.It was strange that he was never eaten by a beast nor did he fall prey to a mermaid who enticed him to make love to her.But that he had been an avid traveller was known to me,since I did sometimes travel with him.His experiences were strange almost alien to us city bred uncultured and ignorant chatterati.That is how he described people like us.

Somehow every once in a while he managed to get an audience of rag-tag youngsters and old assholes to hear him. He hated them all for their ignorance yet he loved them because they were his only audience.He would tell me ,It wasn’t as if I don’t have audiences elsewhere, but what I knew as a matter of fact was that they were his only audience for what he called his favourite subjects.

It would hurt him immensely if someone ever laughed or even slighted his vanity.After all how could a vain be insulted for the only trait that he has.

In the height of his vanity he would quote Ghalib’s heights of vanity,partly as a cover up for his lesser vice and partly to justify his own.

hotaa hai nihaaN gard men seharaa mere hote

ghisataa hai jabiin Khaak pe dariyaa mere aage

aashiq hoon mashooq farebi hain mera kaam
majnoon ko bhi bura kehte hain laila meray aage

A bird this morning came to my house to inform me about the death of this vain.

Someone had insulted his vanity so much that he had apparently tried to shed away his vanity and his soul slipped too. The dead body started evaporating. As the cloud of his body went up, someone was heard singing

huee muddat ke ‘GHalib’ mar gaya par yaad aata hai

wo har ek baat pe kehana, ke yooN hota to kya hota ?

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..