Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Intoxication , philosophy and a candid life....

मिट्टी का तन, मस्ती का मन, क्षण भर जीवन, मेरा परिचय

(A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life - that is me).

This is how Harivansh Rai Bachchan introduced himself . He was born exactly 100 years back on this day . Though today's generation will know him as father of superstar Amitabh Bachchan and grandfather of Abhishek Bachchan , he attained the fame which very few poets in Hindi can boast of. He lived a candid life and the reflections of his sorrows, achievements and joys are found in his poems.
जो छुपाना जानता तो जग मुझे साधू समझता
शत्रु बन मेरा गया है छल रहित व्यवहार मेरा "
His poems are so real, so close to life that they are still recited in literary societies, in students' hostels and even in mainstream movies. His great collection 'Madhushala (मधुशाला)' is perhaps the most quoted book of modern Hindi poetry . While thousands know about him and his 'Madhushala' most are not sure about his place in literature. Till about 1975, he was a phenomenon to reckon with, but after that he was ostracised as belonging to a non-literary world (perhaps because of the rising glory of his son in the Bollywood) and no attempt was made to seriously evaluate him as a poet.In Harivansh Rai, the neglect caused a side-effect. He learnt to depend for his inspiration more upon his readers and committed audiences and built an unprecedented relationship with them. .
Reacting to critics' prejudices, Bachchan had in 1973 declared his retirement from poetry. He had announced it formally in his address to his readers in the last volume of his poem titled Jaal sameta where he wrote
जाल समेटा करने में भी वक्त लगा करता है मांझी ,
मोह मछलियों का अब तो तो छोड़ ...

"It takes time in closing the day(arranging the net) O fisherman, leave your desire for more fishes now"

He also promised to his readers in a different medium such as prose. By that time, Bachchan's first two volumes of the autobiography were already published and his reputation as a prose-writer was established. After some years, when the other two volumes were published, even his worst critics could not ignore him. Yet for most of them he was a better prose-writer than a poet. As against the belief that he was a poet of private pain, he was indeed a poet of joy. And 'joy' was indeed the nickname that he had given to his first wife 'Shyama'. Even his poems of sorrow collected in 'Ekant Sangeet' and 'Nisha Nimantran' have an intimation of joy and beauty, and by the time the poems of 'Milan Yamini were published, in which the lovers meet and meet, the joys of life can be seen as real and palpable. Harivansh Rai Bachchan cannot be dismissed simply as a popular poet. Talking like a common man, he was really a serious-minded poet. Of all his writings, his 'Madhushala' is the most misunderstood. This is no celebration of wine, which Bachchan never touched. It was in fact a comment of the social hypocracies and behaviour by taking wine as a metaphor . Listen to a part of it here . As a salut to this great poet and writer I want to share these beautiful lines from his pen:

मैं कितना ही भूलूँ, भटकूँ या भरमाऊँ,
ही एक कहीं मंजिल जो मुझे बुलाती ही,
कितने ही मेरे पाँव पड़े ऊंचे-नीचे,
प्रतिपल वह मेरे पास चली ही आती ही,
मुझ पर विधि का आभार बहुत-सी बातों का।
पर मैं क्र्ताजं उसका इस पर सबसे ज्यादा -
नभ ओले बरसाए, धरती शोले उगले,
समय की चक्की चलती जाती ही,
मैं जहाँ खडा था कल उस थल पर आज नहीं,
कल इसी जगह पर आना मुझको मुश्किल है,
ले मापदंड जिसको परिवर्तित कर देतीं
केवल छूकर ही देश-काल की सीमाएँ
दे मुझपर फैसला उसे जैसा भाए
लेकिन मैं तो बेरोक सफ़र में जीवन
इस एक और पहलू से होकर निकल चला।
जीवन की आपाधापी में कब वक़्त मिला
कुछ देर कहीं पर बैठ कभी यह सोच सकूँ
किया, कहा, माना उसमें क्या बुरा भला।

Monday, November 26, 2007

Being girlish and loving it...

This Saturday I read an interesting article in The Telegraph titled “ What’s Girlie Still” .In the age of unisex salons and a metrosexual man , this article was talking about few things which still remain stubbornly girlish...pink drinks,giggling and the like . Though a proud owner of a Pink Blog…I must confess that all things girlie are seemingly under serious threat in today’s world. Crying, giggling blushing, fainting and cribbing does not come very naturally to most of us anymore. However much we wow at Audrey Hepburn and Scarlet O’Hara, Madhubala and Saira Banos in our weekend matinees ,we no longer want to look like them. It’s the age of powerpuff girls. So from the celluloid divas to the girls next doors, no one cares for looking/sounding girlish anymore. There was a time when my elder sister had to face several critical glances and raised eyebrows for wearing jeans and flaunting boy cut hairstyle all the time . Then women like her were called tomboyish. And now everyday I watch more and more twenty somethings walking carelessly in blue jeans and white shirts , talking in very matter of fact tone , comfortable in talking about all topics from stock market to dirty jokes , sitting casually in roadside joints and looking more and more similar to boys of similar age. So Sania mirza was just representing her generation of girls when her T shirt declared that “Well behaved women seldom make history”. What is even more interesting is that the whole world is getting so used to this idea that no one is missing the coy , girlish damsels . So much so we find more and more moms and aunts are also equally comfortable in similar attire and attitude.

Being part of this generation W, I take pride in their attitude and style .I admire them for their ability to exist and succeed even in typically very male domain of things .But hold a sec, look carefully and you’ll find the same girls equally at ease while flaunting strawberry pink chiffon and chandelier earrings. Jane Austen is still a favorite with most of us and so are all things pink. We still give a second glance to the dress every other lady is wearing in the room and yes, shopping is a great amusement for us. Some of us may be hopping from one relationship to other with equal ease like the males of our species , we still expect our men to be courteous and caring . Though many of choose to be curt and formal at workplace , we can be very charming and witty when we want to be so. So should we conclude that men are still from mars and women form venus .
Nay…I guess it is much more than that kind of simple logic .My conclusion is that women in last few decades have evolved much more than men .They now excel in many new areas of life and are still capable of being very feminine..very true to their stereotypical role in the society. Though many find true expression of themselves in not being so woman-like all the time . In a nutshell, we have gathered more good traits from men than they have learnt from us. Their changes are still very cosmetic.... Well, to be fair on the other sex I must confess that they are also trying the things typically marked 'women-only'. O yes, many men are now very comfortable in household chores and some even watch those teary soap-operas , husbands are not what they used to be and a good percentage of men do try to appear metrosexual.Even market has acknowledge this change. The ‘Because You’re Worth It Too’ anti-wrinkle campaign by L’Oreal is a fantastic example. It shows a man in his thirties, the camera zooms in on his face and the voice over says: ‘What you think are great lines, she thinks is premature aging!’ Whack ! There goes your self-image. You’re not aging well. You’re no Sean Connery or George Clooney. You’re ugly or at least on your way there. But not to fear, once your self-esteem is destroyed, you can buy the new Men’s Expert by L’Oreal Paris line of products to rebuild it...so while your fairness cream for men will do wonders the antiwrinkle cream will make you a decade younger . Hello brother...welcome to the she-domain of things .

But despite all these, I still agree with what I read on a coffee mug in a gift shop—“Behind every successful woman there is a very surprised man” . Stereotypes are breaking- very slowly but every clearly. Men also gossip. they also shop …they also dress up and some of the daring ones even have pink pyjamas . But all said and done, most of them are finding it a hard task to deal with the powerpuff girls of today. The old mantras of red roses and teddy bear may not work for many of them ..... And Nike shoes and T shirts still sound strange for valentine gifts.
So is the time ripe for writing obituaries for all things girlish . Well, I for one, am very optimistic about how things are going and as its my dream to own a lovely pink car very soon , I will also expect my male friends and colleagues ( even my husband) to see me driving my car and say “ Sooooo cute” .

Friday, November 16, 2007

As I walked out one evening

This is a poem by W.H.Auden which I found thanks to my hubby dear , who read out this poem to me last evening. Do you wonder at times what can be those "things of beauty" which are "joy for ever" in our day to day life . If I start counting "few of my favorite things" some feel good books, some old snaps , some melodious songs and poems like these will top the list . They are truly joy forever. I think of these writers and poets ...singers and composers ., and I want to cry. With admiration and with inspiration. I think of the purity of passion and absolute sincerity to their conscience with which they composed these 'beauties', and I feel so tall with happiness , courage and energy. Here it goes.....

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.'

I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.'

In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.'

Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.'

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.

'It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Calcutta :Lost and Found

For last three years I was searching for the Calcutta I had read about . The city with a heart- the city with a soul and the cultural capital of India. Unfortunately it was nowhere to be seen . Not that there was any dearth of the 'bhadralok' look-alikes with that quintessential Jhola, unshaven look and the typical interest in anything political. And of course you will find so many activities around you like drama , dance, exhibitions and protests to keep this city busy and buzzing ... but something was missing…..these were just dummies of the real things and people. There was very little soul in these hapenings . At the individual level you may meet several known and unknown faces who can inspire you with their simplicity, their knowledge , their childlike believe in the world and their idealism…but as a group or a community these feelings, those ideals were missing. It was only a show off , an excuse to make 'connections', a mask to ‘appear’ intellectual /idealistic …an attempt to improve their CV to get a recommendation for an US university .
Even the much hyped adda was not all that comforting for my foreign ears . Most of it was just talk with some preconceived ideas/images of greatness of the city and its people which was just not there anymore . . E.g. I found nothing great in the protest that one or the group/party was staging against issues as vague as “globalization”, 'capitalism' etc. They talk like parrots about Marxism, about class struggle , about how CPM is the greatest thing happened to them and also how other states are far backward than their own . I found nothing impressive in broken roads and ugly tea shops which I was told are the hub of activities . In reality one finds that even these big mouths are as selfish as their much abused enemies “the bourgeois”...their party is as opportunistic as the fanatic rightist political parties and their work culture far worse than many other states condemned by them . I was almost prepared with an elegy for the lost world of Calcutta –the city of intellectuals . I expressed my anguish at the forced strikes and the culture of Bandhs few days back in a previous post and as I was telling in the beginning of that post….. life chose that precise moment to outsmarted me once again. So when I was lamenting the lost idea of “city with a soul” ….Nandigram happened…and to my surprise, the city changed its colour almost overnight .
It started in the usual way – the bandh…the protest….burning of effigies and I thought it will die its natural death and everybody will sit in the neighborhood tea shop in front of party office claiming victory .But no….the game had just begun this time. Many known film personalities boycotted the Calcutta Film Festival and so did many ordinary film buffs, students and workers – something which was unthinkable in this city. They were going against the government and more importantly THE PARTY . In a place where everything related to your existence depends at the mercy of the party and its pet goons – it was just unimaginable. The people taking out silent march and being beaten by the police were not of any political party…they were very common very ordinary people like us. Celebrities were there of course-risking their career and prospects but more touching was the participation of students and teachers, shopkeepers and artists . In this city so far I had only seen the George bush philosophy being applied by the left parties- either you are with us or against us . But yesterday the old Calcutta rose from its ashes and gave a tight slap on the face of its masters of three decades. The monopoly of political parties over the masses was broken yesterday when thousands poured into the heart of Calcutta to condemn the manner in which CPM cadres recaptured Nandigram. Everyone I know from this city was there in the march - my friends from research Institutes, lecturers from colleges and even housewives. Read about this people’s protest here - Clarion call of conscience heard in silent march through city heart
I have no idea if it was just a short-lived wave of sympathy or a new era ushering in this god forsaken land of Bengal …but it was very touching to see the good old face of Kolkata I had visualised from the history books – the city of thinking individuals.