Tuesday, March 31, 2009
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
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
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
Poets are vain. Scholars are even vainer. Now, imagine one who is a bit of both.
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 ?