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December 27, 2017 at 9:15 AMDec (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

I usually don’t remember my dreams. They evaporate before sleep divorces me. But on rare occasions I remember my dreams. In the recent past couple of times in my dreams I saw myself in the house we once occupied for over twenty years. Leaving that house, in the University quarters, was painful. But I must acknowledge that I did not miss that house much once we moved to our own house eleven years ago. So when in my recent dreams I saw myself in that house I felt quite strange and was naturally puzzled.

During my recent visit to Pune I sat for a class in the screenwriting department. The class was on subtext. When the teacher conducting the class, giving an example, said, “Like rosebud is not a rosebud in Citizen Kane,” I felt my dream, like rosebud, was just a longing for something lost

Home after all is not a structure but a feeling.

Explaining my existential depression to my psychiatrist once I had said, “I don’t feel at home with myself.” Is home supposed to be a state of peace, a state of harmony?

Some years ago when I came back home after a long time and after an experience which changed me greatly I felt distant from what I was at home before I embarked on that journey. I had changed and to come back to something that was still the same felt like a very alienating experience. When I had shared that experience with a friend I had received a reply which said, “Its the same with me too. Every time I go back home I feel more and more distant from home and home is not home anymore.”

“Home is too simple a concept for complicated people,” once said a friend elaborating on how those who divert from the ways of the family/ community kind of become homeless, especially when the diversion is in ideological terms.

In an ever changing world, ever changing landscape of life how is the ever changing self expected to find a home? I dont know.

A friend who grew up in different towns, cities and countries and says each of those spaces did shape her in some ways, at times feels homesick not knowing which home among all the homes she is longing for and feeling homesick for. Home is where the heart is, but which home is the heart desiring?

There is a friend who told me that once while holidaying with friends far from home the music player on shuffle played ‘madhurashtakam‘ between all the peppy songs they were playing, her friends were about to change the music and she stopped them. My friend who is an atheist now had heard, during her growing up years, her mother sing ‘madhurashtakam‘ in her evening prayers. Narrating this my friend told me that she did not even know that ‘madhurashtakam‘ was in her music folder and that some unknown part inside her felt calm listening to it. “For all the intellectuals shifts that as taken place in me,” she said, “Some things within me doesnt seem to have changed.” The very next day, my friend recollected, she saw some brahminical rituals being practiced around the place where she and her friends were holidaying and relaxing which irritated her.

If there are various sides to human existence can one feel completely at home with anything, any one thing? While one aspect of life feels at home, because of conditioning, with something another part of the self might feel totally not at home with that something. Can one actually feel completely at home ever?

A friend who came from the mountains would often tell how beautiful the mountains are and say how much she missed the mountains. Each time she spoke of the mountains her voice sounded like breeze flowing over the mountains. But interestingly I have never heard her say she misses home. Her narrations more than once made me ask myself do I miss the sea, a very prominent part of world I belong to like the mountains for my friend. Yes, when away from home for a long time I do miss the sea and I remember once during my Delhi days how I had tears in my eyes when I had held the conch to my ears and heard the sound of the waves in it.

During some of my phases of melancholia when I feel homeless within myself, I do go to the sea and while listening to the roaring of the waves punctuated by moments of silence, have felt comforted, have felt a bit at home with myself. But that is a very temporary feeling, felt only at that moment.

Recollecting these I have often wondered if home is what our spirit our temperament relates to, associates with? And if home is only a very temporary feeling?

Once while speaking to a friend about a lost love I was told that I was unnecessarily being stuck in a phase and that I had to “get over her,” and that this kind of “hangover” was unhealthy. The words like “Hangover” “Stuck” and “Get over” with regard to lost love and broken relationships have never appealed to me. So I tried to explain myself and words which I had not thought of took wings from my heart. I said, “I am not stuck. I feel homesick because of this lost love,” to mean I felt at home in the company of this particular someone and separation from that someone meant losing a feeling of home, a home a feeling I am missing now.

Is home a person we love? Is love home? Is home nothing but a sense of belonging?

Speaking of homesickness a friend used the word Hiraeth which means longing for a home you cannot return to. That echoed the inner space of what I felt of the lost love.

The saints of spirituality call the other world a home. That is where we have to reach and that is the place the heart longs for, through the spirit. A home is a place where we havent been but dream of.

May be we can read ‘home as a place to reach’ and ‘home as the other world’ as home is the place one needs to create and strive for. Does the ‘other world’ exist? One doesnt know.

Lost self, lost love, lost home. Accessed, possibly, only through dreams.

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A Tour in Nostalgia: Begamon Ka Bhopal

December 25, 2017 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Letter, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Begamon Ka Bhopal an experimental and experiential documentary directed by Rachita Gorowala was premiered on 09 Dec 2017 in the city of Bhopal, inside the structure of Taj Mahal.

I was fortunate to be a part of this memorable event and experience. That evening the beautiful Taj became a tour in nostalgia. This was designed by turning the structure of Taj into a canvas for light and shadow and through the several installations curated by Rachita Gorowala, Puloma and Farzeen Khan. All of these created an atmosphere for the film and also enhanced the experience of the film.

To be in tune with the experiential nature of the film, instead of writing a review I would like to reproduce a letter/ mail (with minor editing) I wrote to Rachita, trying to join the dots of my first impressions, soon after I watched the film Begamon Ka Bhopal in the month of September.

***

Hi Rachita

First of all accept my congratulations. Now accept my apologies for being late in viewing the film. After a month of you sending me the link, finally I watched the film today. But I am not delaying in writing to you my impressions about the film.

In the context of Begums and Bhopal this film is predominantly about Huzun, it appeared to me. This is made quite clear at the very beginning of the film and the interiority of the the feeling of nostalgia is felt throughout the film.

Nostalgia is not just remembrance but also longing with the knowledge that the longing for the remembered will be un-achieved which gives the happy recollection of past a shade of melancholy. When the word nostalgia first made an entry into human language it was considered a disease and it is said that during the civil war in America few soldiers actually died because of nostalgia. But eventually the world of psychology stopped viewing nostalgia as a disease and also started viewing it as a factor which can generate some kind of ease to fight the decay of life in the present. Like the meaning of nostalgia has conflicting and complementing meanings the history of how nostalgia was viewed by medical science is also conflicting and complementing.

Nostalgia in some sense is a rebel against death, it is a fight for life, even if in the form of a memory, and in a subliminal way a reminder of continuity of life, the presence of absence and the shadow of past on present.

Like a river time flows. Its the same river but not the same water. And as the famous Buddhist saying goes one cannot take dip in the same river twice because the river is ever flowing. But there is something interesting about the rivers especially in India, the physical river and mythical rivers are not the same. While the mythical river is the same forever the physical river is ever changing. But in the mindscape of this civilization the mythical and physical merge and become inseparable, like the past is ever present in the present in nostalgia.

Nostalgia is also a way of keeping the past alive. It is, in a strange way a non-tangible form of architecture, graves, writing, film, ornaments which freeze time in themselves and then slowly melt into meanings and stories when time slowly passes and sun shines on them.

In nostalgia the past shows the design to beautify and the present gives the threads and colors to beautify. Nostalgia is an effort towards beautifying life.

While nostalgia is a way of coping with the present for some, like those who lived the past, for some others, like the writer and you the filmmaker, it is a way of coping with the past.

The past gains significance in the present not because of nostalgia but the nostalgia exists because the past is of significance even in the present. Hence someone finds it important to write about it and someone finds it necessary to film it.

At a closer look there is no clear cut between past and present. The past flows seamlessly into the present, like the azaan echoing in the distance, grass growing on a tomb.

A collection of 8mm films shot in and around Bhopal during the years 1929-75 by Salahuddin Ahmed’s father and grandfather

When memory/ past is being turned into a memorial through institutes or by the state the memory is turned into a ritual without meaning like a hymn learnt through rote. Memories or past can be kept alive only through living, through body, through touch, through stories, through songs and not by making museum. But that doesnt deny the significance of institutions making memorials of memories. They are necessary and it requires great labor too but still is inadequate.

Because the longing for the past remains unfulfilled, nostalgia has a Sufiyana touch to it for the available but inaccessible quality of the subject/ object of longing/ desire/ love.

These are some of the quick thoughts that pass trough my mind. I am sorry for I have written this in a general way but all these general words are pointed to specific things in the film, which I am sure you are able to see.

Through this journey what we learn of the Begums of Bhopal is not much. But telling the story of Begums, I guess, is not the purpose or the intent of the film. The Begums like history live not through their details and documents but through the impact/ impression they leave on the times to come and generations to come and when the future lives them not by celebrating anniversaries but through living in daily lives.

You have captured the junction where past meets present, the youthful beauty of the wrinkles on the skin, the shine in the rings that are fading away.

A warm hug to you, Rachita.

~ Samvartha ‘Sahil’
19 Sep 2017

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Love & Poetry

November 12, 2017 at 9:15 AMNov (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A year ago I received an official mail asking me for an article on something I would love to write. The mail also broke my heart when I was referred to, in the mail, as “Dear Samvartha.”

Yes, of course it is my name and I have identified myself with that name all my life. But the person on the other end, who was writing the official mail, was someone I knew personally though silence and distance had come between us from some time. So it was strange at one level and beautiful at another level to receive an official mail from someone who had been a part of my very personal world and mindspace.

The person, never once before had referred to me as Samvartha. I was Sahil and just Sahil to this person. Sahil is a name I chose for myself and a name with which not just me but also my poetry in Hindustani/ Urdu got identified. But there was something special when this person called me by the name Sahil, a name I had heard several times earlier. It felt like someone breathed poetry into that name and breathed into me a life not known/ felt before. The way this person called me Sahil made me feel alive more than ever and it made me see myself as a person different than how I saw myself before. It made me realize what Gulzar felt like and what he meant while saying/ writing, “You called out to me, ‘Gulzar’/ It was as if a pearl emerged from its shell / I now had a meaning / Oh, this is a beautiful name / Call out to me again!”

Shakespeare needs to know that not just in name there is a lot in pseudonym too.

This person over a period of time and over a series of word exchange became so much a part of my life my emotional world that I declared the person to be Urdu in flesh and blood for me. So when the same person wrote to me, after a long time, its not just the formal tone of the mail and the formal nature of the mail being written by this person which made my heart ache silently but also not being called Sahil by this person. It felt like the part of me which weaved poetry had got disconnected with its language, with its Urdu. It felt like a name which breathed life into me had lost its meaning. I felt a part of me die within me, when that side of me that name of me went unidentified or unacknowledged by the same person who made that side of me that name of me more meaningful and more beautiful an experience.

When I look back at the 17 years of my poetic journey in Hindustani/ Urdu it is in the last one year that I have written the least. No, it is not a conscious decision I took following the above narrated incident to not write as a rebellion or as a depiction of some devdas syndrome. But somewhere poetry did distance itself from me. May be I took my pseudonym very seriously or may be I took this person concerned very seriously or the matter itself is a very serious matter. I dont know. But I know that I have written less in the last one year and the person who once breathed meaning and value to my pseudonym Sahil, is not responsible for it.

Like there can never be a convincing and clear answer for why one writes poetry there can never be a clear and convincing answer for why one reduces or stops writing poetry. Its the same with love too. Nobody knows why we love someone or why we cease to love someone.

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Manja

October 30, 2017 at 9:15 PMOct (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Uncategorized)

Few days after my book rooparoopagaLanu daaTi, in which 74 poems from various languages and cultures have been translated into Kannada by me, was released in June 2016, I met a friend who is one among the few schoolmates I have stayed in touch with. This friend very casually asked, after congratulating me for the book, “In school you were never interested in reading and writing. When did the enlightenment happen finally? And why were you not interested in reading and writing back then?” I just smiled saying, “May be something was wrong with the school.”

Why I was disinterested in reading and writing in school can have various reasons; the system of education, the environment at school, my own nature, my growing up atmosphere etc. I who was disinterested in reading and writing going on to become a writer is not a great feet actually. But then at one level it is a sort of small leap given the fact that I am a second generation educated OBC boy. Still, the world need not stop and assess itself and its order of things when presented by this story of my disinterest in reading and writing, being branded as a dull student who went on to become a writer, whatever the literary quality of the writing be. But the world certainly needs to look at itself in the mirror for how the life of Manjunath, a batch-mate of mine during school, spanned out.

The school where I studied had two sections, one where the medium of instruction was English and the other where the medium of instruction was Kannada. We, for no justifiable reason, felt we were superiors and looked down upon the students who were from the Kannada section. Some of the students there had earlier studied in the primary school (Government school where the medium of instruction was Kannada) where my mother used to teach and were her students, including Manjunath who was popular as Manja.

My first memory of Manja is from the football ground where Manja was known for his rough game. Though small in physique I have always been a head-strong fellow who would never be cautious and avoid Manja. As a result of this nature of mine I was injured several times, thanks to the forceful kicks of Manja. This went on for some time.

When we were in class ten for the first time the school organized an extempore poetry writing competition. I was surprised when I went for the competition and found Manja seated on the same bench allotted to me on the other end. The reason for my surprise was that it was difficult to imagine the rough and tough aggressive football player Manja holding the pen to write poetry. We were given patriotism as the topic for writing poetry, if I remember correctly. Also I remember seeing from the corner of my eyes Manja writing poem with great concentration and focus. Its only when the results of the poetry competition were announced that I got to know that the aggressive football player Manja is also a poet!

The poem written by Manja was published in the college magazine of that academic year which was handed over to us when we went to either take admission for class eleven or take a transfer certificate to migrate to another college for class eleven. I was mighty impressed by the poem written by Manja. When I looked for him to congratulate him for the poem I got to learn that he had failed in the 10th board exam.

I did not see Manja in college and also conveniently forgot him till he suddenly I met him one day in the college. When I met him and told him how much I liked his poem he thanked me and said he had cleared the board exams in the supplementary exam and would be joining college soon opting commerce as his stream. I had opted for Arts stream and Manja and I would be in the same class for Kannada language class for the next two years. Its during this course of time that we actually got to know each other better and became friends, though we dint speak much to each other in comparison to the conversations we used to have with others separately.

When we were in class 12 one day Manja came home in search of me and speaking to me about general matters very hesitantly told me that he had written a novel and asked me if I could read it and give him my feedback. On listening to me say, “Will be happy to read it,” Manja said he would quickly go home and bring the manuscript. I said he need not go home and come back again and suggested that he and I can go together and he can give me the manuscript. He immediately changed the plan and said he would give it to me the next day in college, which made me ask then why he couldn’t have spoken about this in college. “People might listen to our conversation and that would make me uncomfortable,” he said. “Wont people know when you handover the manuscript tomorrow?” I asked Manja to which his answer was, “No. They will think it’s just a note book.” I was not able to understand why he quickly changed his mind and pushed the matter to the next day and to college. But when he forgot to bring the manuscript the next and I insisted he takes me home and hands over the manuscript that I understood why he was trying to avoid taking me home.

Manja’s house was a small shack like structure. His sister was heating water in a corner. Taking out a 200 page long note book from an old trunk Manja said, “Come lets go out and talk.” When Manja handed the book, in which he had written the novel, to me I opened it and saw the title of novel written in bold letters in blue ink on the very first page. ‘Shaanta’- was the title of his novel. “It’s a story about a lady like my mother. While writing I could see my mother in the place of the protagonist, which made me cry profusely while writing it. You read and let me know what you think of it,” said Manja and when I was about to leave added, “Be careful with the book. I don’t have another copy of this work. Its impossible to sit and write all of it again.”

I couldn’t read the novel for a long time. But finally during vacations I picked it up from my shelf and read it. I have forgotten the details of the novel by Manja which appeared very autobiographical to me back then.

After the results of class 12 was announced I went to a different city, not very from Manipal, for higher studies. I used to come home every weekend. On one such weekend Manja came home and asked me if I had read the novel and if he could take it back. On telling him that I had read it and liked it he said, “Its an ordinary story based on the life of my own family. Nothing extra ordinary,” and asked if it is readable. I said it is and he was happy. Manja went home that evening after telling me that he was doing his BA in Manipal itself and had learnt from other common friends that I had joined a college in Mangalore.

On that evening Manja had asked me if anyone would publish his book. I knew no publisher back then and said I don’t know but also told him that I would inquire and find out. But I dint inquire anyone or made any effort in finding out. Not because I dint want to but because my access and circles were limited and also because I was trying to focus more on my own growth.

In the time that followed whenever I met someone from the same college as Manja’s I would ask them for updates about Manja. But slowly my world became more and more distant from the world which I belonged to earlier and the chances of me crossing paths with older friends decreased.

Over a year and half later once while driving back home I saw Manja having tea at a push-cart shop. I stopped my scooter and went to speak to Manja who was wearing a faded shirt and lungi. He had quit college and had started working a daily wage labourer at construction sites. “It was impossible for two members from the family to get educated. So I decided to drop out because she is very bright. If I shoulder her then probably she can cross this fence. If we both try to jump then the possibilities of both not being able to cross it is higher,” said Manja. I dint know what to say. Manja bought me a cup of tea. Sipping hot tea I asked him if he still continues to write. “I had bought a fresh note book because I had a new idea for a novel. But gave that note book to my sister for she would need it in school,” said Manja. When I was about to ask him about the novel he had already written Manja cut me short to say, “It is a matter of bygone days, an old story.”

New story was flowering in the life of his sister. Manja had scripted the story of his mother’s past taking pen into his hand. To script the story of his sister’s future he had dropped the pen.

That was the last time I met Manja. I guess he left not just Manipal but also coastal Karnataka long ago. Later on when doing my masters in journalism I had written about Manja for the fortnightly magazine we had to bring out as a part of our course. Reading my piece on Manja the faculty in-charge for the fortnightly had said that the article had no story value and also went on to suggest that if it was a story about success against all odds then it could have been considered for the fortnightly.

The world which likes only success stories and “inspirational stories,” cant ever pull the courage to look at itself in the mirror of the lives of people like Manja who have been defeated by the structure of system and order of things.

Once while speaking to my mother I had asked her if she remembers Manja. She said she cant. I tried reminding of him by narrating his story. My mother who served as a teacher in Govt school for 24 years listening to the story of Manja said, “That is the story of most of my students. If they had the right atmosphere, right encouragement and right facilities they would have done so much better in life. But most of them couldn’t even complete their primary education.”

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Is there an Indian way of reporting?

September 25, 2017 at 9:15 PMSep (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life)

Indian media seems quite thrilled and joyful on spotting the mistake of Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

Speaking at the UNGA after the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech where she referred to Pakistan as Terroristan, Ms. Lodhi showed a photo of a war victim saying it was of a Kashmiri injured by pellets shot by the Indian Army. With the photo in her hand she said, “This is the face of Indian democracy.” But the photo that she held in her hand was not from Kashmir but from Gaza. A photo of Rawia Abu Joma clicked in the year 2014 by Heidi Levine.

While the lack of homework on the part of Ms. Lodhi is quite embarrassing for Pakistan and also a matter of irresponsibility though not as shameful and irresponsible as the atrocity of the Indian army in Kashmir about which Ms. Lodhi mentioned and of which the UN is already aware of.

The focus of Indian media on a goof up by the Pakistan’s Ambassador while ignoring the fact mentioned in a way shows the Indian way of reporting when it comes to the issue of Kashmir, where the violence on the people of Kashmir is never reported or highlighted. Even if the matter comes at the UNGA the media choosing to highlight a goof up shows its way of reporting the issue of Kashmir.

On the 24th of June, 2017 a prestigious national newspaper The Indian Express on its front page carried two disturbing news coming from India and India occupied Kashmir on two ends. But the way the two news were worded and presented was quite disturbing and revealed a certain kind of bias.

On the left end was the report on 15 year old Junaid being beaten to death in Haryana while he was travelling back home by train from Delhi after a heated debate on train turned violent where Junaid and his brothers were called “beef-eaters.” On the right end was the news from the summer capital of India occupied Kashmir of Mohammad Ayoub Pandith (DySP) was beaten to death by a mod outside Jamia Masjid, Srinagar after he loitered around the Masjid while thousands were observing Shab and was apprehended for his suspicious presence by people which lead him to fire at the mob which left three injured and the mob angered.

The earlier incident was reported under the headline, ’15 year old killed, brother says were called beef eaters’ and the latter under the headline, ‘J&K police officer lynched in Srinagar, body dumped in drain.’

While the latter headline was published in bold letters the earlier wasn’t, drawing the attention to the earlier with urgency and also making it appear more significant through highlighting it with bold letters. If the earlier incident became an act of ‘killing’ the latter was an incident of ‘lynching’, making the latter incident sound more gory, barbaric, inhumane and cruel.

A year ago following the assassination of Burhan Wani, I visited J&K. It was already two months since the valley had turned violent when I started from home and more than 50 Kashmiri civilians had died in the hands of Indian army and hundreds injured and blinded because of pellets. Everyday, during my JK visit, my mother would call me to ask how I am, how my work is progressing and if I am eating properly and eating at time.

But the day after the Uri attack took place I started receiving several calls from friends and extended family asking me if I was safe and fine!

That night I wondered why all those friends and relatives felt I was in an unsafe zone only when 18 soldiers were killed and not when over 50 Kashmiri people were killed and hundreds of them injured with pellets! The answer was clear, the media which all my friends and relatives consume, had not reported the deaths of Kashmiri people in the hands of Indian army but had reported the attack of Uri in an amplified manner depicting a war situation and created an atmosphere of panic!

The day after the Uri attack the national newspapers carried the Uri attack in bold letters on the front page with the image of the children of the dead soldiers now orphaned. And the local newspapers though carried news of the Uri attack on the front page their main news was of a teenager dying because of cardiac arrest caused by teargas hurled by the Indian army. If the editorials of the national media spoke of terrorism and Pakistan the editorials of the local newspapers while speaking of Uri attack invoked the memory of Chattisinghpura.

So if the Indian media chooses to see and highlight only a goof up ignoring what was said by Ms. Lodhi, a fact which has not even covered properly by the media, then it isn’t surprising because that is the Indian way of reporting Kashmir, like it has done always.

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Gauri Lankesh’s unfulfilled Kashmir dream

September 19, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

One night in April 2017, my phone rang. It was the middle of the night and my heart skipped a beat when the phone rang at that ungodly hour but on seeing Gauri Lankesh’s name flashed across the screen, I settled down. Gauri was the one who always burned the midnight oil and I knew it wasn’t odd for her to call me at this hour.

“Thank you so much,” Captain blurted out when I answered the call. Her voice was filled with immense gratitude. I wondered why she was thanking me while she continued, “I just finished reading Curfewed Night. Thanks for recommending it,” she said and added, “It is so sad that I hadn’t read this book for so long.”

Captain then went on to tell me how the work of her weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, her activism and the cases against her – a strategy of her opponents to exhaust and harass her – leave her with very less time to read good books. She told me that she had taken an oath to read at least three books a month. When I heard about her oath, I suggested she read Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora? in the month of May. By the end of May, she had read the book.

It all began on the 9th of October when Captain was in Udupi, close to my home town Manipal, for the historical Chalo Udupi rally. I had just returned home after a brief but intense visit to Kashmir. So when Captain and I met at the rally she insisted I be with her and share with her my Kashmir experience.

That noon, when we were finishing lunch, Captain asked me if I would be ready to go to Kashmir with Shivasunder (another comrade of ours) to do a series of reports for her weekly. I immediately agreed.

That noon Captain told me how she has been trying to argue from over a decade about Jagmohan being the orchestrator of the Pandit exodus but nobody cares to listen. She also told me about her one interview with Syed Ali Geelani. When I told her about the people displaced from the other side of Kashmir living in Jammu she honestly said, “I did not know about this,” and added, “Actually, neither the state nor the media wants us to know.”

Gauri was willing to listen to what the state and the media did not want us to listen and she was willing to speak that which the state and the media did not want us to speak.

Since that day in October 2016 the conversation between me and Captain was majorly about Kashmir.

After some weeks when I reminded her about the plan Captain said, “Shivasunder seems to have other commitments. We both can go together.”

I did not hear from Captain about our Kashmir visit plan for the next few months and I started doubting if it was ever going to happen. Though I never doubted her concern about Kashmir and her longing to give her readers a true picture of Kashmir, I was becoming quite impatient because of the delay.

Later when Captain called me in April 2017 saying she had read Basharat Peer’s book and followed it up with reading the spine chilling book on Kunan Poshpora, I knew the plan was still on. By then I had learnt from a common friend and a senior activist that demonetization had hit the circulation of Captain’s weekly and she was in a financial crunch. The information made me realize why the Kashmir plan was not materializing and I stopped asking her about it.

Captain herself spoke of the financial crunch when in August 2017 she called me to say how a particular article by someone in Kashmir thrilled her and how badly she wanted to meet the writer. When I said, “We can meet the author when we go there,” Captain, who by then had taken loans to run her weekly, explained the economic crunch and said, “Let me recover a bit and then we can go.”

Now Captain is no more with us and I fear with her unfortunate killing – the weekly also will breathe its last. After this calamity, I am afraid that neither the visit to Kashmir nor reporting on Kashmir for the readers of weekly will ever happen.

On that April night when Captain called to tell me she had read Curfewed Night she had asked me if I could translate the book and assured me that she will publish it. I told her that during my interaction with the author Basharat Peer I had asked him if I could do the translation and he had verbally permitted me to do so. She took his email address from me saying, “Then let me write to him as a publisher and avail rights for publishing the translation.” I don’t know if she ever wrote to Basharat Peer. But this too, like our Kashmir visit and writing about Kashmir for the readers of her weekly, remains unfulfilled.

I recollect these interactions, our jointly made but unfulfilled plans while writing this because I believe I am bound by responsibility for letting the friends from Kashmir know that Captain, who stood in solidarity with every struggle across the globe, of the right against the might, understood the struggle of occupied Kashmiris and also longed to meet them and hear their stories and chronicle them for Kannada readers.

I am writing this story of Captain and our plan of Kashmir also because it speaks of how a person is perpetually chained at various levels by the order of things from fighting the system and yet how some determined people like Captain were continuously making efforts to make the world stand on its legs and change this order of things.

(Originally published in Wande Magazine on 11 Sep 2017)

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Clips of the Same Chain

September 18, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Cinema, Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The board outside the Main Theater (MT) at my Alma mater Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) serves the purpose of announcing the daily screening at MT and National Film Archives of India, which is associated to the Institute. On happy occasions like some alumni winning a prestigious award or on sad occasion of some alumni’s demise the board speaks of it.

Few days ago the board carried the name of Gauri Lankesh. The announcement said a condolence meeting was being held at the Wisdom Tree that evening.

Under that very tree around 4 years ago we had gathered to pay tribute to Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered just a couple of kilometers away from the campus.

A day after Dabholkar’s murder when some members of the Akhila Bharateeya Vidyarthi Parishad attacked Kabir Kala Manch members and students of FTII, I had got a call from Gauri, who I fondly called Captain, asking for details. She had expressed her solidarity with all her heart.

Later when FTII went on strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan by the new Government at the center, Captain had spoken to me a couple of times regarding the same with great concern.

It was during the same time that M.M. Kalburgi was murdered in Dharwad and Captain was one of the leading voices to protest against this and demand justice. She drew connection between all these incidents.

Now I see in photographs  Captain’s name in that very campus and on that board.

I recollect all these because all these incidents scattered over time and spaces are all, as I see, clips of the same chain.

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All Has Turned Red: Remembering Gauri Lankesh

September 12, 2017 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It was the monsoon of 2004. Handful of journalists had entered the ‘naxal infested forest’ in Karnataka to meet the Naxalites and do ground reporting after being invited for a meeting as such by the then leader. Gauri Lankesh was one among the few journalists from different media houses.

In the following issue of Lankesh Patrike (she had not yet started her own weekly then) in her editorial and report Gauri spoke of Comrade Prem, who was spearheading the naxalite movement in Karnataka, being her senior in college years before he moved into armed rebellion. Gauri had interviewed him and in her editorial (kempaadavo ella kempaadavo | All has turned red ) quoted a poem by Comrade Prem. A poem penned in 1995, where Prem is responding to the judicial murder of the human rights activist of Nigeria- Ken Saro Viwa saying, “It was a lesson you learned too late. Your pen playwright should have been backed by the gun alright?”

Ken who was fighting for the Ogoni tribe and against the multi-national Shell oil company was hanged to death by the the then Nigerian regime.

The lines of Comrade Prem sounded so convincing to me back then when I was a naive teenager.

But then in 2005 when Comrade Prem was hunted and gunned by the star machinery I was shocked to learn that Comrade Prem was Saket Rajan, an author of two volumes of Karnataka History titled Making History and also a gold medalist from IIMC, Delhi.

Those days when the Naxalite movement of Karnataka and especially Saket Rajan was being discussed by the media and public, I kept recollecting his poem fondly and juxtaposed it with what I read in newspapers: Saket Rajan being killed in an encounter and how next to his body was a gun that he was carrying. I told myself that Saket Rajan was proven wrong by history.

So when Gauri initiated and toiled to bring naxalites to mainstream years later in Karnataka, I was not just proud of her I also did express my solidarity with her.

Now in 2017 after seeing Gauri being killed I wonder what is Saket going to tell her if at all there is an afterlife and if the two good old friends are to meet in a world beyond this world? Will he say what he had told Ken Saro Viwa: “it was a lesson you learned too late. Your pen should have been backed by the gun alright!”?? To be honest, I dont know what he would say, what Gauri would respond to it and to begin with I dont even know if there is an afterlife or not. But I know for sure that those who sweat and toil to make the world stand on its legs will be crushed and smashed by the state by the system and it doesn’t matter if they are backed by the gun or not!

But then when Ken’s murder did not stop or silence Saket and Saket’s murder did not stop or silence Gauri, we shouldn’t be stopped or silenced by the murder of Gauri. Because with or without the gun what all these three fighters, rebels forming a diverse yet connected and continuous history are propagating through their lives is to keep fighting and keep speaking to make the world stand on its legs.

Numbed by the murder of a comrade of concern and an understanding friend, trying to digest the fact that she is no more physically, I recollect a line of Pablo Neruda: “True life is without silence. Only death remains dumb” from his poem titled Communication from the collection Isla Negra. I also recollect a graffiti that I used to cross every day during my days at JNU. The graffiti read: “Let life be dead, but death must not be allowed to live,” a quote attributed to Karl Marx.

People like Gauri are not silent even in their death and even in death they fight death and ensure death will not be allowed to live.

(Originally published in Kashmir Times dated 12 September 2017)

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Everything Okay?

August 10, 2017 at 9:15 AMAug (Friends, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Over a year ago, I cant remember when exactly, during one more phase of severe depression the sense of heaviness inside was so unbearable that I started contemplating suicide.

As much as I have always, during such phases, wanted to kill myself I have also had the desire to taste life in its all colours and shades at the same time, making me struggle between the urge to die and the longing to live. Such conflicts have, many a times, pushed me away from suicidal thoughts as and when the desire to taste life once, at least, before calling it quits, gained that one extra point to tilt the balance on its side.

But this time the extra point went on the side of the urge to die and the urge became quite strong.

Nearly a decade ago when I seriously attempted to kill myself and failed at it, the whole experience of having to face the world, especially parents, was so horrible that this time I couldn’t afford to fail.

Death is never a problem, dying is. People who do not understand that state of mind where the urge to die is battling against the fear of dying or call it the process of it, might dismiss that urge as an attention seeking performance but that battle of urge to die versus fear of dying is real.

So, I started to search for a way to die that was less painful, cursing myself for having learnt how to swim. I googled and googled and only found answers of all kind contradicting each other. I had just started, some months ago, using Tumblr and I thought I possibly could find some ways there.

After I spent a while there on Tumblr with all combination of words to search for a proper answer, Tumblr paused and a card appeared on the screen, generated by Tumblr, which read, “Everything Okay?” in bold alphabets.

I read it and just broke down as if I was waiting to someone ask me that. I wept till I felt a bit light inside me again. I felt very tired after that and I cant well remember if I went to sleep or just took a bath or just lied down there staring at the patterns created by the ceiling fan. But I remember having taken a screenshot of that text and having saved it under the name, “at least someone asked.”

Later on weeks after that evening it occurred to me that just a gesture of genuine concern and affection, at times, can save a life or rather, to avoid glorification of the idea of life and living, can avert a suicide, which undoubtedly is an unfortunate thing to happen no matter who it is, where it is, how it is, when it, why it is.

I also realized that at times the state of mind is so horrible that an auto-generated message can touch you because you are craving for such a touch.

Remembered all of this when a friend called on an evening recently and after telling me she has been feeling suicidal from some days, asked how I would kill myself if I were to arrive at that state of mind again.

After a long conversation that evening followed by a long anxious night, the next morning I made sure I sent a text where I asked after wishing her a good morning , “Are you okay now?” for I have always tried not to forget those two words from Chinese philosophy; Chung and Shu which mean, “Dont do it to others which you dont like if done to you” and “Do it to others what you like if done to you.”

PS: My friend is fine, as of now, and so am I.

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Creative Coincidental Kinship~ 5

August 3, 2017 at 9:15 PMAug (Activism, Friends, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

“When you come here you should meet this new friend I have made,” said my friend Diti when I called her to ask how the film appreciation course was going in Pune. Later once while talking to Sakshi, with whom Diti was staying, I was told by Sakshi that I would enjoy the company of her friend who is also on campus for FA with Diti. So I was quite intrigued by this person who I knew only by name- Jasdeep.

“He has great taste for poetry and is also a translator,” Diti had told me and Sakshi had told me that he was the language consultant for Gurvinder’s films. Both had certified him as an intelligent nice human being and me as someone having full faith in both believed their words and was looking forward to meet Jasdeep during my visit to Pune.

When I finally landed in Pune I dint get to meet Jasdeep immediately though Diti, Sakshi and I met in no time. Finally when that evening when I met this man who I was looking forward to meet, there was silence between the two of us. We both had heard about each other through Diti and Sakshi and kind of knew what the other person is like yet there was not much conversation between us other than the casual hi hello and some basics.

Few days passed without much conversation though we had breakfast, lunch, tea, drinks, and dinner together. One night while heading back to our respective rooms Jasdeep said, “We should have a proper conversation,” I agreed but dint know why there was such a silence between us even when we felt so comfortable in each other’s presence.

One afternoon it was decided that we would go to Asha Dining Hall for lunch and there while waiting for our plates to arrive Diti made a mention of my book and that got Jasdeep interested. He asked me what book it is and I told him it is a book of translated poems. “Which poet have you translated?” he asked curiously and I told him that it is a collection of 74 poems and the connection between them is the translator alone. The 74 poems, I told him, are by various poets writing in different languages. Since Jasdeep is also a translator, writer and a sensitive reader I mentioned to him that the collection includes some Punjabi poets too. “Who Pash?” asked Jasdeep. “Pash also. And Lal Singh Dil…” I said and struggled to remember a name who I absolutely loved reading and translating. I held my forehead, banged the table once lightly in order to remember the name but couldn’t.

When even a few seconds of silent thinking dint help me remember the name, which I knew was inside me but was refusing to surface on my lips; I decided to tell Jasdeep the lines of the poem. “To go back home is now difficult…” I recollected the opening line of the poem and Jasdeep immediately took the baton from me and in the same pace and same rhythm that I recited the line went on to recite the poem, even though not completely, in its original Punjabi form. I was thrilled to listen to the poem in original after having read it in English, translated it into Kannada and having lived with it for over 6 years. I was hearing something I am familiar with in a language that I am not familiar with and the unknown was becoming known and the known was becoming unknown at the same time.

That weekend when we were cooking Jasdeep made me listen to an audio recording of the poem, “To go back home is now difficult…” in Punjabi. This time it was the entire poem. As he explained few lines in English I recollected from my memory my Kannada translation and recited them to Jasdeep. Punjabi, again, though unknown became known to me and Kannada though unknown to him became known to him.

That day Jasdeep was playing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan songs for us while we all joined hands to cook. At some point he played the song, “maaye ni maaye,” penned by Shiv Kumar Batalvi and I said, “Forgot to tell you, I translated this gazal of Batalvi too.”

Next day or the day after Jasdeep sent me the link to his blog and when I clicked on it I found the photo of Rohit Vemula. I scrolled down and realized Jasdeep had translated the poem originally written in English by Rohit to Punjabi. Incidentally I am the one who translated it to Kannada.

I scrolled down further and saw that Jasdeep also is an admirer of Eduardo Galeano who I adore immensely. Also saw our shared love for Meena Kandasamy, MF Hussain which made me realize beyond literature, cinema we also are comrades of concern.

Seeing these few posts I realized that Jasdeep and I have been connected to each other from a long time, through our engagements with literature, world and negotiating with both through language through translation, though we met only recently. That in a way also explained why we felt quite comfortable with each other though we hardly spoke to each other. We somehow knew each other beyond language.

Even after that day our conversations did not increase much.

In some days Jasdeep left for Chanddigarh and I stayed back in Pune for some weeks. When I got back home after a month’s stay in Pune I finally got copies of my book of translated poems. I messaged about the arrival of the book, with a photo of it, to some friends and Jasdeep was one of them. I received a congratulatory message from Jasdeep with a request. He wanted a copy of my book. I replied saying it is in Kannada. I had a smile on my face when Jasdeep responded saying, “Still. I will keep it. I have got Urdu books since long. I can manage to read them now,” which showed not just his affection for a comrade of concern in me but also his absolute love for poetry beyond language and also language itself beyond meaning, purpose, comprehension.

I took Jasdeep’s address and sent him a copy of my book with a small note where I recollected the meeting of Pablo Neruda and Faiz Ahmed Faiz where they spoke and shared their poems in their language even when they did not know the language of the other. I was very thrilled when I had first read about that magical moment and have always wondered how hearts met, lives intersected beyond time, space and language. I was happy and secretly proud that I somehow lived a moment which remotely rhymed the incident of Neruda and Faiz exchanging pages of their life and poetry and thus form yet another creative coincidental kinship.

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