When I was leaving Delhi for Manipal she and I decided to write letters to each other. She said, “You write first.” I agreed. When I got back, I wrote her a letter, with all the love I had for her and that I could give her. Even after a month the letter did not reach her. I wrote a second letter which also did not reach her. Our conversations, all through this time, did continue via mail, sms, phone calls, gchat etc. But the letter just did not reach.
One evening as I was standing at a shop by the Manipal lake waiting for the rain to stop I got a message from her saying, “Just woke up from an afternoon nap. In my dreams both your letters had arrived. You had signed in the end and that is all I could read in my dream, not any other line.”
Bad postal services also could not stop letters being exchanged.
Letters have the quality of a dream. It is a personal and emotional truth. Letters exchanged in dreams are…
(Memory recollected while in a conversation with Rashmi Ramchandani around the magic and beauty of letter writing.)
When in a stranger town, for work, I befriended a person who was about to go abroad for higher studies in some days. When she left I shot her a mail and she replied. I responded. She answered.
We wrote to each other almost on a daily basis initially and quite regularly, if not daily, nearly after a month of daily exchange.
Slowly I started realizing that I was falling for her but was in denial for a long time. I was also trying to battle my feelings for her.
But then one day, I received a handwritten post card from the other side of the globe. That is it. I admitted to myself that I am in love with this girl and put on the ground all the weapons I had equipped myself with to battle my feelings.
She had drawn a flower on the card. I replied saying, “woh phool tanha mehsoos kar raha hai yahaan, tamaam gulshan ek lifaafey mein bhej deejiye…” (The flower is lonely. Please send an entire garden in an envelope)
I craved for more and I started loving her even the more.
It was that one hand written post card…
(Memory recollected while in a conversation with Rashmi Ramchandani around the magic and beauty of letter writing.)
[A slightly edited and rewritten version of the mail written to a friend last night after watching Pedro Almadovar’s film Talk To Her last evening. It was a quick response to the film, which I felt I could also share here on my blog]
Since the film opens with Pina Bausch’s performance let me use a sentence once spoken by Pina to begin my loud thinking about the film. “I am not interested in how people move, but in what makes them move.” To me the film Talk To Her is also about what makes people move the way they move and not how they move and whether the way they move is right or wrong.
When the Lydia asks Marcom why he wants to do a write up on her he says he like “desperate” people! When Benigno goes to the psychiatrist he is asked what is troubling him and he says, “Loneliness.”
During the first bull fight scene, Nino de Valencia, who was Lydia’s partner ealier, is told by the man next to him that she would let the bull injure her so that he can see it. In the end when Benigno swallows all those pills its not to kill himself. He says he is hoping to reach a state of coma and in that state of being become close to Alicia. These are the two characters who take extreme steps in their desperate need to get away from loneliness and in the process end up, accidentally, killing themselves. Their need for a life without loneliness is such that they are ready to risk their lives for it, hoping to feel belonged, to gain attention, to be loved.
Marcom too is a lonely man who gets to witness closely two extremely desperate and extremely lonely people. But Marcom, though lonely, cannot go extreme levels, he cannot go irrational like Benigno and Lydia. That is why he refuses to talk to the Lydia when she is in coma, even when Benigno insists on him talking to her regularly. His hesitation to go all the way for love and in love is a double loss. He remains lonely and he fails in bringing the Lydia back to life. Benigno goes all the way and goes irrational in love and for love. He ends up bringing Alicia back to life and he lives a largely fulfilling life where he wasnt as lonely as Marcom since he had the company of Alicia.
Did Benigno rape Alicia? Was it against her consent? Though it appears like it was rape and without her consent (since she cannot speak), I think that within the world of the film and within the world of Benigno it is not a rape. Now we have to get slightly irrational here, to understand this.
But before that let me just deviate a bit since this part of the film i.e. Benigno allegedly raping Alicia leaves people within the film and outside the film uncomfortable and the act unacceptable. To me the question is not whether it is right or wrong. To me the question is, whether it is possible or not? and what makes it possible?
Not to say political correctness is a taboo. But probably stapling our expectations to political correctness, at times, becomes our limitation. And political correctness need not be, at least according to me, the preoccupation of an artist. Then it becomes sloganeering. Its only when art doesn’t mind being politically incorrect that it enters a realm of human life and human mind that we get to know something more about our own existence.
When Alicia’s teacher discusses her ideas with Alicia in the presence of Benigno we see Benigno telling the teacher that Alicia likes the idea. He is indicating the Alicia’s approval of the idea put forth by the teacher. He can hear/ sense her approval, her disapproval. He speaks to her and he can also listen to her or sense what she is saying. A strange communication which is beyond the understanding or comprehension of others does exist between the two. What looks like a “rape” to the world possibly was an act of love making with consent. And nowhere in the film nor in Benigno’s character we get a hint of him having the possibility of raping someone. Remember the moment when he has sneeked into Alicia’s room and is spotted by her while coming out from the bathroom. She screams and he says, “I am not harmful.”
The “desperation” the “loneliness” and also the “love” and “communication” of the characters are of a different kind. Its not “normal” in the worldly sense. Hence he is called a “psychopath,” which is a kind of ab-normalcy.
In the end a kind of normalcy is achieved, in the film, with the hint dropped about Marcom and Alicia possibly getting together. Like the teacher says, ‘life emerges from death,’ this normalcy emerges from ab-normalcy. Deep love, that of Benigno for Alicia, emerged from his deep loneliness. Great courage of the Lydia came from great insecurities and vulnerability.
Will Marcom and the girl get hooked? They will, I think. Because what brings Marcom and Lydia together is their loneliness their desperation. What brings Marcom and Benigno together is their loneliness and their desperation. Now with Marcom being alone again and in Benigno’s absence Alicia losing a companion, the possibilities of the two being lonely and feeling a connect and getting painfully connected is high. The reason the film doesnt show Marcom and Alicia hooking up is because both are quite hesitant by nature to explore and expand and to go all the way in love. So there is just a possibility that we see. Whether they will make use of the opportunity and become lovers depends on whether this time they will leave behind their hesitation.
The film is not just about loneliness, as I see it, it is also about how lonely people get painfully connected to each other. It is like what Faiz said, “baDa hai dard ka rishtaa.”
It is about what great loneliness and immense desperation can make people do. Its concern, as I see, is not how they move but why they move the way they move. In a way it celebrates love that has within it the possibility of going irrational and beyond the framework of normal. Because it is there that love and life can flourish.
While I was in High School you were in still in primary school. When you came to High School I had marched ahead. While you were still there I joined College but by the time you came there I was out of that place.
Recently when I came to that part of the world, you were home while, though we met briefly, I was visiting relatives and you went out for a family function while I was home. Next time I come home, you will be on a vacation and while you return, I will be packing my bag back to this stranger city.
Say, in which part of the world shall we meet?
You are a musician. Music is your language. I am a young man who attempts writing poems. Poetry is my language. I haven’t heard your music. You haven’t read my poems. You say that you do not understand poetry. I say I don’t understand music. If we enter the world of music, you are a practitioner of Carnatic music and I am one who enjoys Hindustani music. In the world of poetry I attempt poetry in Hindustani language. But you say that you don’t understand the Hindustani tongue.
Say, in which language shall we have a dialogue? In which language shall we communicate?
According to you I am a rational person, a realist who is opinionated towards the happenings of the world. To you I have brain at the centre of my self. I see you as an opposite to this. You yourself acknowledge that you are more of an imaginative being, who finds happiness living in an imaginary world. You like looking at colors of the world. Looking through your eyes, I have planted my eyes at the darkness which swallows every color. You are of the belief that you are an emotional being while I am an intellectual being. Your belief in God is strong. I believe that there is no God. You love animals. I find it disgusting if animals are in my immediate surrounding. I get attached to humans and you fear getting attached to humans.
Say, walking on which path shall we turn this dwaita in to adwaita?
You might ask- what is the need to meet at a point of the world and speak in a tongue that is familiar to both and have a dialogue and communicate to turn dwaita into adwaita?
Though not opposing, different points, different languages when met accidentally and walked two steps together, there was a spark which lit a lamp inside me. This lamp which went unrecognized by me till now has announced itself and as a result this letter is unfolding before you.
Yes, as your imagination and your awareness might have perceived by now, I have started liking you. When did this feeling build a nest inside me, is something which I myself am not aware of. But this feeling has been living within me from sometime, even before I myself realized its existence within me.
Drop by drop, when this feeling announced itself to me, I tried combating it with all sort of logic. It is true that I attempted to defeat it but in the process I got defeated and submitted myself to this feeling.
If you ask me what in you did I like, I have no answer. This silence can be understood as a feeling which cannot be enveloped in words. Shall I say that I fell for your music?- I havent heard your music to this day. Shall I say that I fell for your sharp bright eyes or for your captivating smile? If that is the case I should have fallen for you in the very first meeting of ours, for I had noticed the lovely eyes and smile of yours then itself. But it did not happen so. In the course of time, in your company, walking with you, speaking to you, laughing with you, unknowingly I started liking you.
By the time I woke up to this emotion of mine, I was in this stranger city. While taking lonely steps in the unknown roads of this city, attempting to reconstruct the broken life with bleeding hands, you and my feelings for you flowered completely within me. My loneliness, after the coming of spring, amidst the flowered feelings, started weaving dreams. Dreams about living and leading a life with you.
In the heart of this dream, there was an element of doubt. The doubt was this- will we be able to meet at one point and converse in a language which both of us will understand?
But during my recent visit to the home town, while we walked in the rain under the same umbrella, this doubt vanished. In that rain while you came and held the umbrella, may be, you too were aware that the small umbrella was not enough to save both of us from the rain completely. I was aware. But still we walked together. Half drenched and half clean.
The left part of my body was drenched in the rain and the right part of your body. But the right part of my body and the left part of your body remained clean and warm. That day, the right part of my body remained clean because the right part of your body got drenched. And the left side of your body remained clean because the left side of me got drenched.
Similarly, if we walk together may be my rational will get the wings of imagination and your imaginations will get the gravitation of reality. My poems can come together with your music to make a beautiful song.
Will you coat my poems with your music and turn it in to a beautiful song? I am ready to wet the left side of me to keep your left side clean. Will you wet your right side to keep my right side clean?
There is no urgency attached to the answer. Take your time. Give it a serious thought…
It appears to you that you are an emotional being and I a thinking being. But it is I who has let his emotions in this letter and it is you who will be thinking now. It appears to me that somewhere a part of you has entered me and a part of me has entered you. Without our notice have you become a part of me and have I become a part of you? Both of us need to think of this too…
Waiting for your answer. And for you…
[A fiction love letter originally written for Helpost]
Pune: Five students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) were attacked in the premises of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) here on Wednesday, 21 August by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The attack took place soon after the screening of filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Jai Bhim Comrade and the performance of Kabir Kala Manch at NFAI. The programme was organized by the FTII student’s body in association with Yugpath, a youth forum based in Pune. This was the first public performance of Kabir Kala Manch after two and a half years.
The screening of the documentary and the performance by Kabir Kala Manch was finalised two weeks ago. There was a request to cancel the programme from various quarters respecting the call for bandh as a mark of protest against the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dhabolkar. But Yugpath and the FTII student’s body decided to stick to their plan and go ahead with the screening and performance as a mark of respect and homage to Dhabolkar.
According to Kislay, one of the organisers of the programme, the “ABVP hooligans” walked out of the screening and waited for three hours outside the NFAI premises for the programme to get over to confront the Kabir Kala Manch artists and the organizers. Around 12 of them started crying slogans such as “Bharat Maata Ki Jai” “Vande Mataram” and “Down down Naxals.” which sparked a confrontation between theABVP members and the FTII students, Kislay says. While students Shameen, Ansar Sha, Kislay and Ajayan were hit by sticks holding the saffron flags that the ABVPmembers were carrying, Sriram Raj was attacked with a helmet on his head causing a serious head injury which had to be immediately attended to in a nearby hospital.
Ajayan who also got beaten up said that his cry for help went unanswered even by the police. Many students confirmed the presence of the police outside the NFAI campus minutes before the attack took place. Ajayan said that the attack was not a spontaneous reaction but a well thought out and planned attack.
The FTII students have lodged a complaint against the ABVP at the Prabhat Police Station. The students said they viewed the attack not just against an attack on their freedom of speech and expression but also as an indication of the growing fascist forces that had also allegedly, murdered Dhablokar just the previous day in the city.
Interestingly, the members of ABVP have also filed complaints against the students of FTII at the Prabhat Police Station. They alleged that two of their members were injured and had to be hospitalised, while protesting the participation of an objectionable group (Kabir Kala Manch) in a programme organized by FTII, which is a Central government institute, “ABVP activists did not beat up FTII students. They might have hit Kabir Kala Manch artists after being hit by them first,” Vivekanand Ujalambkar,ABVP Pune Unit Secretary said.
Meanwhile, the Student’s Association of FTII issued a statement condemning the incident and added, “We the students are extremely distressed at this incident. How long can this hooliganism carry on?”
Neeraj Jain of Lokayat, an activist group based out of Pune, condemned the attack on the students and said, “It is a democratic set up and one has the democratic right to perform. ABVP cannot act like the police. When the judiciary has let the members of Kabir Kala Manch on bail what right does ABVP have to question their right to perform?
Playwright Makarand Sathe reacting to the incident said he condemns it and added, “Attacking artists is more condemnable because it is they who create a space for dialogue in a democratic society. Closing down of such spaces for dialogue by any fascist forces, driven whichever specific ideology, is a far bigger threat than it looks on surface.
Ajayan and Kislay speak: click here
Kislay speaks: click here
Press release: click here
(An edited version of this report was published in Tehelka daily)
Dear unknown friend,
When my mother would fall at my father’s feet and I thought that was the norm and hence normal, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When my mother would wait for my father to return home and have dinner only after he had and I believed there was nothing wrong in it, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When my parents would ask my sister to be back home before sunset and I thought they were right, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When my parents would tell me that my sister would not come to the temple on some of ‘those’ days, without telling me why, I accepted that in the name of God without knowing I was somewhere becoming party to your murder. When my parents bought a toy car for me and a playing kitchen set for my sister and I did not allow her to touch the car and asked her to play with the kitchen set ONLY, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When teacher, in class, while teaching basics of language construction taught from textbook the lessons that read “Ram plays cricket, Rama helps her mother in the kitchen,” and I did not find anything wrong in it, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When a relative made his daughter- my cousin- discontinue her studies after class 10 and I did not question his decision, I did not know I was being party to your murder. When I saw Urmila’s transparent dress in the song “tanha tanha” with jaws dropped and fancying her and beyond her clothes, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. While in teenage when with friends I discussed women’s bodies as though it was an object of desire, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When I laughed when some friends would refer to some girl as “maal,” “bomb,” “item,” “figure” or “pathaaka”, I did not know my silence was making me a party to your murder. When once I saw two men whack a girl’s ass as they drove next to her and I just smiled while the girl was screaming, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When market brought to us many products in containers in the shape of women’s body and I accepted it without questioning, I did not know I was actually becoming party to your murder. Once when a friend was upset with me and not speaking to me and I burst out in anger saying, “Why is she acting as though I raped her,” I did not know I was somewhere being a party to your murder. When after tough exams I declared “I am raped,” I did not know that somewhere I was being party to your murder . When I went with my cousin to “see” a girl for him and I did not raise objection to the so called custom of “seeing” the girl, I did not know I was somewhere being party to your murder. When Hindu fundamentalists or Muslim fundamentalists attacked “their girl” and “other boy” I thought it was only communalism and not gender, I did not know somewhere I was being party to your murder. When I used, without second thoughts, abuse words in Kannada equivalent to “mother fu****” or “Sister fu****” I did not know I was being party to your murder.
Years after all this, when my friends have helped me unburden myself, to a great extent, of patriarchy and misogyny, you have been brutally murdered. You were murdered because the world we inherited had murdered our sensibilities and our humanity to some extent and also because we passed on the world without correcting it, to those who arrived after us. While many of my friends, out of fear and disgust say, “It could have been me,” I must say that had I not met those beautiful friends and mentors who unburdened me, to a great extent, may be it could have been me, given the structure I was born into which saw women and girls as lesser humans. Though its not me, I know that I have been party to your murder and the murder of several other sisters who I do not know. I can see the blood in my hand and I know that not even all of the Neptune’s ocean can wash this hand clean.
No, I write this letter not to apologize. I know to say sorry is inadequate. Why do I write then? I dont know. I feel guilty hence I write though its not an act of sin cleansing. I write this also because I need to tell you that I see many of my unknown brothers, awakened after what happened with you, are unburdening themselves of patriarchy and misogyny. But it hurts as this cost your life and the life of other unknown sisters too. I know things will not change soon. It will take time. May be it will take many more lives too. But hope, someday…
An ashamed friend.
A friend wrote a mail regarding her experience with the grassroot India. While I was happy and proud about the work my friend is doing, a line from the mail got stuck in my mind which reminded me of several other conversations. The line said that my friend hereafter, after looking at the miserable conditions of poorest of poor, will not crib about her own life.
The line reminded me of what many people over many years have been telling me and I have heard many people telling many other people. How many times I have been told, “Look at those people who do not have to eat, a shelter over their head. In comparison to their lives your life is so much better.” I have heard this being told to many other people I know by many others who I know with much concrete examples like “Construction workers,” “Migrant labourers.”
I have had problems with such line of thought, always, for two reasons. One I have never understood how can we compare two or more tragedies of life and say one is bigger a tragedy and the other is not. While I understand that there is an intersection of socio-economic powers in some tragedies and some are purely emotional and personal, I cannot come to believe that social, political and economic tragedies are more miserable than personal, while I completely agree that socio-political and socio-economical tragedies need to be fought collectively. I say this at the risk of being called “self absorbed.” But let me say this, like Manto said in his essay titled ‘Why I Write?’: “If a boy falls in love with a girl I do not consider it to be the same as some viral fever. Such a boy captures my thoughts and imagination. It happens so because to my mind his hunger for love is as intense and as strong as the hunger of Bengal.”
I have not even understood how the miseries of a migrant labourer or a construction worker can make me feel better about my own situation. It is like what Javed Akthar wrote in one of his gazals:
Kam Ho Kaisey Inn Kushiyon Sey Tera Gam,
Lehron Mein Kab Behataa Hai Nadi Ka Chand.
[How can your miseries be of less weight than these moments of joy,
When has the river carried away with it the reflection of the moon?]
Similarly how can somebody else’s miseries carry away my own tragedies, however personal and emotion it is in opposition to the other miseries which have a social political and economical gravity.
More importantly, I have always found this call to feel better about oneself looking at other’s miseries, very sadistic. To feel good by looking at other’s tragedies, by comparing it to our own tragedies, to my mind is a sadistic line of thought.
But I believe that one’s personal tragedy, because of its touch of pain, should make one understand the bigger tragedies of life and world in a better and much more sensitive way. If that does not happen then it is ‘self absorption’, I agree. But at the same time those who speak of the tragedies of ‘construction workers’ bringing in loaded words of class and oppression, should be able to understand the personal tragedies without dismissing it off as personal and emotional. We require a Montosque line of thought which can see the personal and social as the same and personal through social and social through the personal, it appears to me, rather than breaking the two apart and saying one has more weight than others.
Woh Yaar Hai Jo Kushboo Ki Tarha,
Jis Ki Zabaan Urdoo Ki Tarha…
Gulzar Saheb, you might find it weird that I am quoting your own lines to you but I have no other expression to get started. There is a reason why I pick up this line. Not just because on the 8th of July, 2012 in Mangalore I used this line as a take off point to ask you a question, during the discussion following your lecture on poetry but also because this line, in a way, captures what I feel about that day when you were in Mangalore.
When I asked you, “what Urdoo means to you?” because of your expression, “Urdoo ki tarha” you said, “Urdoo is my love,” and spoke on the lines of, “Urdoo speak to me. My emotions speak to me in Urdoo.” Then you went on to say how the song is soofiyaana and remembering the line, “Main hawaa pe doondhoo uske nishaan,” said that the song was about the invisible existence of a “yaar” like the “kushboo.” To think about it, how true! The fragrance exists and we all know of it yet cannot be seen with naked eyes. It is there, yet it isn’t there. You too were like kushboo, to me in Mangalore.
Let me express my anger and my unhappiness now. I asked for an interview slot and I was denied. It hurt me. Yes, deeply. I felt it was an insult to my years of love admiration for you and the years of my reading and living/ breathing of your works. But the magic was this- when you began with your lecture one by one you answered the opening two questions I had written down for you. I had come with 16 questions (yes too long but do you think I am not selfish?) and your lecture answered the first two.
What is a poetic moment? Was my first question to you, in my questionnaire. It is from a very general that I wanted to get into more specific. Though I never got to conduct the interview, you did answer my first few questions. You said what a poetic moment is. “When a lady lights a lamp in the evening, wiping her tears cries saying- jab charaag jaltaa hai toh poora aangan roshan hota hai, dil jalta hai toh sirf dhuaan kyuna uth’ta hai?” you narrated and went to describe how the flame, after fighting to stand up while the wind is blowing, stands up and then challenges, “Aaye ab koi jhonka.” When you were explaining how a flame stand up on its feet, moving your hand slowly in the air like painting in the canvas of air (hawaaon pe likh doon) I had my answer- there is poetry in every moment, it just requires a third eye to see it!
I also loved the way you entered the question of a poetic moment by answering the question what poetry is. You said that the question “what is poetry?” is like the question, “what is life?” for which none of us have a definitive answer even when we all are alive and live life. I had once asked my teacher H.S. Shivaprakash a similar question, “What is a good poetry? How do you judge a good poetry?” to which he had counter questioned me, “Who is a good human? How do you judge as to who is a good human?” I was reminded of my conversation with my teacher when you spoke.
My second question was to be- what is it in poetry that makes it poetry? You answered this question so beautifully and poetically. You said poetry was walking and initially rhyme was following it and after a while poetry thought to itself, “yeh toh mere palle pad gaya hai,” and casted it off. Then you said it casted off meters too. So, what is it in poetry that makes it poetry? There is no specific answer that you gave. But your repeated mentioning of “ehsaas” makes me read that as an answer. Or probably it is essentially to bring something to life. For example the way you narrated the history of poetry as though poetry was walking on some street with rhymes and meter following it like some “paaltoo billi,” to use your own word. It could have been said in a matter of fact fashion. But you gave life to that information and yes, you made it poetic!
When you answered the opening two questions of mine without knowing that I had those questions for you, I was thrilled. I felt like you had heard my unvoiced question and were answering me. But did I ask those questions to you? Did you actually hear the unasked questions? Wo Yaar Hai Ko Kushboo Ki Tarha…
Once you put a full stop to your lecture the floor was open for discussion and I used that opportunity to ask a couple of more questions. I asked you how the lyricist in you tackles writer’s block. I wanted to know this because a poet doesn’t have deadlines and “tukda ek nazm ka” can remain “din bhar saanson mein …” waiting for that moment when poems become ripe. But that is not the case with a lyricist. The lyricist has to work within deadlines. Your answer was this: “Writer koi aasmaan sey utraa hua shaks nahi hai. A writer is also a professional like any other professional and he has to know his job and do his job.” You said every profession has its own block but one has to tackle it. “Yahaan ticketbik gayi hai aur log hall mein aa chuke hai. Ab artist yeh thodi na keh sakta hai ki ab mood nahi hai, ab gaa nahi sakoonga. Writing is like any other profession and you have to work like a professional.” Your answer broke the aura around the writer. And your approach to writing as a profession like any profession was a required answer to every other writer and aspiring writers.
My other question to you was about how your writing preserved its delicate nature even after your close association with PWA and IPTA. Going through the art works of PWA and IPTA one can easily sense the difference in their craft. They are quite loud, quite explicit. But your works have maintained that delicacy and that ambiguous nature. Take for example the poem that you recited after saying Mangalore is known for its ‘tensed’ environment:
Kaagaz pe rakha
Toh kuch lafz phoote
Kuch dhuaan uthaa kuch chingaariya
Ek nazm ko aag lag gayi.
Dango Kay Shehar Mein Baitha Shaayar
Ab karein Bhi toh kya karein
Lafzo se aag nahi bujhtaa
Nazmo sey zakhm nahi bharte
(Apologies if I got the words wrong. I am recollecting it from my memory. Did not make notes while listening to you being absorbed completely in listening)
How beautiful. Without getting explicit and worse, getting to sloganeering, you speak of the inability of art to heal wounds and speak of the violence prevailing outside poetry. It is political without speaking of politics and not a single pixel of compromise with aesthetics. The delicacy, which is quintessential Gulzar, is so evident and so unlike most of the others associated with the politically charged group of writers.
Answering my question you said, “It’s easy to go with the flow but you have to remain true to what you feel and remain yourself.” My answer is even the shorter- because he (you) is…- Gulzar!!!
Gulzar saheb, I had more questions to ask. I wanted to continue the same question and ask you about aesthetics, politics, political aesthetics, aesthetic politics because your approach is different from other PWA and IPTA members that I am slightly familiar with. While many are aesthetic and political at the same time the politics takes and upper hand and in you aesthetic takes an upper hand and politics flows beanath.
I wanted to ask you about your earliest visual and auditory experiences (because your poems are very visual and have an auditory imagination) and how they have shaped your craft. I wanted to know about the craft of poetry by asking you about the translations you have made of Tagore, Sukrita, folk songs and also the alterations of the poems written by Meena Kumari. Wanted to know how expressions find a form and know how and why about the new form you invented i.e. Triveni and the new kind of music albums that you cut with Abhishek i.e. Udaas Paani and Raat Chaand aur Main, about the new form that you are planning to venture into i.e. drama. I wanted to know if art can help in healing wounds, especially because you once said unconsciously the memories of partition pushed out poems from you and hence I am curious to know what poetry does to a poet after taking wings from the poet, especially in the context of historical violence. There was a question on how second childhood has changed your writing for children. So many other questions too. ..
Some more questions I had but all remains unanswered for me. But still a portion of my interview was done. Kushboo ki tarha… Interview is done, yet not done. Gulzar saheb, it’s like this- a couplet in a gazal is complete in itself yet couple of couplets don’t make a gazal complete. Similarly couple of questions answered but the interview remains incomplete. The interview is there yet not there. Wo Yaar Hai Jo Kushboo Ki Tarha…
Answering one of the audiences you said that some poems remain incomplete. You said at times while drawing water from the well the rope slips our hand and the pot with the rope goes into the well… You said at times when dipping a biscuit into a cup of coffee the biscuit stays inside and only the undipped part of biscuit remains in hand… You said similarly some poems remain incomplete. That is how incomplete it was- my interview of yours… It was a dream lived and a dream incomplete also because again, as it happened once before, when breathing the same air with you, standing next to you, I was speechless and my voice was stuck in my throat… The dream to converse with you remained incomplete… Not that I did not converse with you. But nothing complete. I did converse yet did not converse… Wo Yaar Hai Jo Kushboo Ki Tarha…
My conversation with you began with a smile, as I opened your biography and placed it in your hand. Taking out the pen from my pocket, handing it over to you and said, “Printed hai. Zaraa saans bhar deejiye haatho sey likh ke…” you smiled and signed…
But my dream was to converse more. I wanted to tell you how you had captured my imaginations and how I hated you in my teens because you gave me complex by writing extremely romantic verses, at your age, which put my teen age romantic poetry to shame. But words were stuck “galey mein” like, “kaanch ka tukda”… I spoke to you yet did not speak to you…
Dreams half lived or unfulfilled- I cannot explain. Things were incompletely complete. Dreams shouldn’t come true Gulzar saheb… They must not come true. As you said in one of your poems, “Jaag Jaayega Toh Khwaab Marr Jaayega.” If dreams come to life, they will die… The incompletion of it makes me dream of another tryst… Will there be another tryst, I don’t know. But yes for now I can take shelter in your unusual English poem:
I have tossed a moon in the sky
Hold it when it comes back.
If it falls on heads
You will meet me again.
If it is tails
I shall wait for you.
Cause all that goes comes back
That’s the law of gravitation: In love.
Yes, you were like “kushboo” for me… But at the same time you were “Urdoo ki tarha” and that is where you won me, again and again. Your small gestures were “Urdoo ki tarha.” You taking the garland from your neck and walking straight to the small kid among the audience and garlanding the kid… You apologizing, in public, to an unknown journalist after denying an interview… Sitting on the dusted stairs and having chai… These all made you appear “Urdoo ki tarha” to me and not as “koi aasmaan sey utraa hua shaks.”
When I handed you my old copies of your book to take your signature you wrote on them: “to you with love <signed Gulzar>” and now I feel my name if YOU.
I read it as a lesson in poetry. I have to become YOU and not just remain ‘I’ to become a poet. The ‘I’ should be inclusive of ‘You’. Else I will not be able to understand what a lady lighting the lamp in the evening has hidden in her heart and I will not be able to listen to the flame saying, “Aaye ab koi jhonka.” Its only when I imbibe the YOU that I will be enriched. Thanks for the lesson… Take a bow, Master, from this disciple.
With all my love I have for you and I can possibly give you…
It was two decades ago that the play Tumhaari Amrita was first staged. It was in Prithvi Theaters of Mumbai, the then Bombay. A recent report in The Hindu reveals that Feroze Abbas Khan, the director of the play, while preparing the play for its first show, thought that the play wouldn’t go beyond four shows. But after two decades the play still continues to pull the crowd and today the play is being staged in Mumbai after yesterday’s show in New Delhi, to mark the completion of twenty years.
Tumhaari Amrita is a play telling the story of two individuals Amrita Nigam and Zulfikar Haider through the letters exchanged between them for 35 long years. Amrita and Zulfi sit on the stage with a pile of letters and read out the letters. This play with no stage movement unfolds before us and enacts itself in the realm of our minds through words. Experimental in its own way the play actually challenges the traditional norms of staging a play and succeeds in giving a fresh and euphoric experience.
Amrita and Zulfi are not just different individuals belonging to two different religion but are also different in terms of their outlook, approach, intensity, temper and also taste. But these differences stop them neither from loving each other nor from writing letters to each other. They pamper each other, they play pranks with each other, they advise each other, they fight with each other, they criticize each other they encourage each other. In one sentence, they live with each other through the ups and downs of life, through letters. Though they do not come together they do not stay apart too for they cannot stay apart.
Two worlds meet through words. At one point of the play Zulfi says that writing letters to Amrita has become an essential part of his life. Amrita once after meeting Zulfi writes to him saying she loves him more in letters than in real life. It is not just two worlds meeting through words but two worlds coming to life, for themselves and for each other, through words. In the play where the ‘word’ is the king, the worlds of Amrita and Zulfi get unfolded before the audience through words and thus the word becomes the world, in the moving tale of Tumhaari Amrita.
Through these words what unfolds is not just the tale of Amrita and Zulfi but also the tale of the times in which the play is set. The play begins in 1940 and goes to the time of Emergency in India. The pains of partition, the insecure position of Muslims in the post independence India, the communal riots in Meerut, the turbulence of the 70s and the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi cuts through the lives of Amrita and Zulfi and thus becomes a part of the narrative of the play, which while encapsulating the lives of Amrita and Zulfi in words also encapsulates the tale of the times.
Feroze Abbas Khan, in the recent interview to The Hindu, said that a friend from Gujarat gave him a copy of A.R. Gurney’s play Love Letters which he thought was not a play for the Indian audience, even though he liked the play. Being at the peak of his theater career then he thought of staging the play for the Prithvi festival and contacted Javed Siddiqui to write the very same play with Indian context. Javed Siddiqui, who says that he liked the form of A.R. Gurney’s play but not the content, went on to write a play with the same form in mind but a play of his own. Thus flowered Tumhaari Amrita which though started off to become an adaptation of A.R. Gurney’s play went on to become an independent play which Javed Siddiqui prefers to call a play by him ‘inspired’ from A.R. Gurney’s play.
The play has not been published yet and all the rights of staging it is with the Feroze Abbas Khan team. But interestingly the play has not just been translated into Kannada but also published. As the Kannada translator Jayanth Kaikini mentions may be this is a unique incident in the history of literature and publication where the translation is published first and not the original. It was translated by Jayanth Kaikini, in the year 2002, for the Saket team of Arundathi Nag who wanted to stage the play as a precursor to her major project- Ranga Shankara. The play was directed by M.S. Sathyu, who incidentally was the person who, in 1992, had escorted Feorze Abbas Khan to Javed Siddiqui. The play won the hearts of the people of Karnataka and so did the play, in written format, when Manohar Grantha Maala in the year 2003 published the play. The beautiful translation of Tumhaari Amrita as Iti Ninna Amrita, for many a Kannadigas, has made the play a play of Kannada itself. So, when Tumhaari Amrita is celebrating twenty years Iti Ninna Amrita is also celebrating its decennial.
Shabana Azmi, who plays the role of Amrita in Tumhaari Amrita once said that the original pile of letter to be read out on stage had increased from 100, during its first show, to 300 now for the change in eye power over the time. This also speaks of the amount of river water that has flowed into the sea from the time of the first show of the play. She says that often she jokes with Farooque Sheikh, who plays Zulfi in the play, that the play will follow them even after their death and that the two will have to perform the play in the other world too.
The play follows the audience throughout their life by moving them deeply and by pulling the chords of their hearts. It lives with them. It can also be read like a novel or a novella being alone in silence, without being staged. I know of many, including myself, who with friends read out the entire play. They live out the play, while reading it either in a group or in seclusion.
Amrita at the moment of death pleads Zulfi to keep writing to her even after her death. She commits suicide and asks Zulfi to keep writing to her! She lives her death. This passion, this intensity, this eccentricity captivates! It could even scare death. So, the death is also lived. The play also continues to live- on stage, through words- even after two decades when it was assumed that it wouldn’t go beyond four shows.
Respected C.C. Patil,
You are the minister for women and child welfare, so let me assume that you are really concerned about women and hence you suggested a possible way by which girls and women can be saved from being raped. Your concern remains unquestioned from my side honorable minister.
Yet your statements angered me, I must tell you. Your statements saying you do not “approve” of “provocative” clothes being worn by women and suggesting they wear “dignified” clothes, how much skin they should cover and finally throwing the ball in the other’s court by saying it is up to women to decide which cloth is “safe”.
What a sane society we live in! Isn’t it Sir? What a sane society, where women are asked to be dressed “decently” and in a “dignified” manner to safeguard themselves from being raped and men are not asked to behave decently and dignified. Improper (as per your definition) dressing leads to rape and not an improper mindset of the rapist. Really insightful view Sir! We have ethical questions to the victims and not to the victimizers! What a sane society!
Do you know what is even the more sick? This mentality which thinks it can ‘instruct’ women and doesn’t have anything to ‘instruct’ the men!!!
Equally sick, as the act of rape, is the omnipresent male gaze which scans through the body of the girls to see how much of her skin is revealed and how much covered.
Yes, honorable minister this is the country which has named many a river after women and has worshipped women in many ways. But why is it that women become disrespectful if their skin is exposed? Why is it that they become ‘indecent’ when they wear “low-waist jeans” and “provocative” dresses? Why is it that they should even know if some Tom, Dick and Harry “approve” of their dress or not? Why is it that they are blamed when they are being victimized? What sort of respect is this? Why is it that women are expected to change their way of dressing keeping in their minds what men would find provocative and what they wouldn’t find provocative? Why should their way of life be seen through the eyes of men before being lived? Why should the omnipresent male gaze dictate the women what to do and what not to do? What sort of respect is this, which pushed women into self imposed censorship?
Your concern for women’s safety is well appreciated. But is there any way that one can prove that “decent” and “dignified” dressing will assure them safety? No. Plenty of cases can prove that many women are raped with them wearing no “flimsy and fashionable” clothes.
If a girl is wearing a “flimsy and fashionable” cloth it is no invitation for rape. If one feels it “provocative” it is their problem and if one feels it is “objectionable” even then it is their problem and not of the girls. To give “flimsy and fashionable clothes” as a reason for rape is equal to using it as an excuse. The victimizer’s mentality needs to be corrected and not the victim’s life style.
You are nobody to “approve” what they wear nor am I anyone to “allow” them to wear anything they want to. Who am I to “let” them do whatever and wear whatever they want to and who are you to “stop” them? To wear what she is comfortable with is her right. To wear what she wants to wear is her right. It is her liberty. That liberty was not given by us nor can it be snatched by us.