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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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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Does she still listen to Begum Akhtar?

July 11, 2017 at 9:15 PMJul (Friends, Literature, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

“You take her name like you own it,” said my friend when I took a particular name while recollecting an episode from my life, because the on going conversation reminded me of the same.

I laughed in response because that is all I could do.

I don’t know if I own the name, but I know that the name, as it means to me, and the person, as I know her, belong to me alone. I say this at the risk of sounding possessive and claiming ownership. But when you know that you have lived through a stage of life with someone in a very subliminal way, in words, beyond words, distant from the five sense which made you realize that there are dimensions to life beyond them, you realize that the person who you met in this parallel universe of emotion is someone to whom you and only you had access to.

That person in the parallel universe of interwoven feelings, is not the same person the world knows. Nor are you the same person the world knows in that parallel universe of interwoven feelings and that ‘you’ were accessible only to that one person and that ‘you’ belongs to that person alone.

Some stages of life are so beautiful that neither life nor history can bear their beauty…

On evenings like this when it is raining both outside and inside, I wrap myself in memories and wonder if she still listens to Begum Akhtar.

woh jo hum mein tum mein karaar tha tumhein yaad ho ke na yaad ho

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Creative Coincidental Kinship~ 4

June 21, 2017 at 9:15 AMJun (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Around one and half years ago (March 2016) I received a message from my mursheed Rahamat Tarikere saying one Basavaraj Puranik is trying to contact me and asking me to call Mr. Basavaraj Puranik. The ignorant me called Rahamat Sir immediately to ask who Basavaraj Puranik is and why he was trying to get in touch with me. “He is a translator who translates from Urdu and English and also has authored a book on Allamaprabhu titled ‘anupama charita Allama deva’. He is a great admirer of your writings. It seems he wants to talk to you. Please call and talk to him.” I felt good about someone being an admirer of my insignificant writings. Probably the joy got a bit more than joy which made me wonder why should I call someone if that someone wants to talk to me. But without raising that question, I told Rahamat Sir that I would call Basavaraj Puranik because of the respect I have for Rahamat Sir.

When I dialled the number of Basavaraj Puranik, which I had got from Rahamat Sir, a lady picked up the call and for a moment I wondered if I had dialed the wrong number. Since it felt awkward to cut the call after a female voice said, “hello,” I uttered the number I had dialed and asked if the cal had connected to the same number. When the lady confirmed that it was the same number I said I was asked by Basaravaraj Puranik to call. “One minute,” said the lady suggesting I wait for the phone to be handed over to Basavaraj Puranik. I waited for Basavaraj Puranik to call thinking how such waiting over the phone call had become a rare phenomenon. Within a minute Basavaraj Purani’s voice came from the other side. A slightly frail voice saying, “Hello” made me realize what, in the message sent by Rahamat Sir, the digit 82 within bracket next to the name of Basavaraj Puranik meant! The man was 82 years old and suddenly I realized why Rahamat Sir had insisted that I call him instead of giving Mr. Puranik my number. I was suddenly overwhelmed and humbled.

“Sir, I am Samvartha. I was asked by Rahamat Sir…” I had not completed introducing myself when Basavaraj Puranik from the other side started speaking. “How much I have been searching for you! From over six months now I have been on the hunt for you. Whoever I ask kept telling me that you are from the coastal region, studied at the film institute Pune and are quite elusive, difficult to catch hold of. But I continued to ask for you and recently while revisiting Rahamat’s article on Urdu I saw your name being mentioned there. So I called him up and asked him to put me in touch with you,” said Basavaraj Puranik drawing a map of his search for me. I felt very embarrassed and also felt special. He mentioned that he had read some of my articles and translations and thanked me for the mention of Eduardo Galeano’s book ‘Children of the Days’ in a small write up for Avadhi. Recollecting how he pestered his son to get him a copy of the book, through online purchasing, and had read the book in one go Bsavaraj Puranik said, “While reading that book I understood you.” I was surprised. What did he understand I dint know. I asked him what is that he understood about me by reading Galeano’s book. “Let me try to understand myself through your understanding of me,” I said laughingly. Very notoriously Basavaraj Puranik said, “For that you will have to come meet me. I cant say all of it over the phone.” Inquiring how often I visit Bangalore and when is my next visit to Bangalore likely to be he said, “Please come home and meet me the next time you come to Bangalore.”

During our conversation that day Basavaraj Puranik made note of my e-mail id and later in the day wrote to me where he said, “Had you not written about Galeano’s book I would have been deprived of a beautiful experience. I thank you for this. I congratulate you for your engagement with books as this which erodes inertia. Please suggest more books of the same kind. I will try to read them and flower again.”

In the following days I shared some of my writings and translations with Basavaraj Puranik who affectionately wrote back to me giving a pat on my back and also giving useful suggestions and suggesting certain corrections. We had also exchanged some Urdu poetry with each other via mail. Iqbal, Ghalib etc..

After I came in contact with Basavaraj Puranik I made only one trip to Bangalore with specific work in hand. I couldnt meet Basavaraj during that visit and when I wrote to him apologizing for the same he wrote back saying, “Do meet me next time without fail.”

Yesterday (20 June 2017) evening when I was reading a text related to a work I am enegaged with I got a message from Rahamat Sir. It read; “A great admirer of your writing, a translator from Urdu Basavaraj Puranik is no more. Were you able to meet him?”

I have not read a single translation of Basavaraj Puranik not have I read any of his original writings. Forget reading his work I, for the longest time had not even heard his name leve alone being familiar with his works and his contributions. Yet he in his 80s searching for a young insignificant writer in his 30s for six months, thanking me for introducing him to Galeano, giving insightful feedback on my writings and translations and also insisting I meet him once… All of this sounds too surreal. But I am aware how art and literature can connect people across time and space. A man in his 80s met a young man in 30s through literature, our unrest and Urdu poetry in mystical ways.

Basavaraj Puranik a man who made me experience such a beautiful bonding, who made me feel special with his love and admiration, is no more and I feel a strange loss. I should, at least now, make an effort to read Basavaraj Puranik and understand him. But I have lost an opportunity to understand myself through the understanding of Basavaraj Puranik, with an intervention by Galeano, forever.

Thank you for your love, affection and appreciation Basavaraj Sir. I regret not having met you. Apologies.

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Creative Coincidental Kinship ~ 2

February 28, 2017 at 9:15 PMFeb (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The day S. Diwakar gifted me his copy of Nazim Hikmet’s book my evening was spent along with Diwakar Sir and a very fine critic and writer Narendra Pai.

The conversation between Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai, with me as an active listener, went for long without us realizing the time. On seeing darkness having settled outside the window Naredra Pai sir got up to leave. Diwakar sir, at that point, said, “Lets have a cup of coffee before we disperse.” We decided to have a cup of coffee near the bus stop so that Narendra Pai sir could catch the bus then and there. Since I had my scooter, I drove to the bus stop while Diwakar Sir and Narendra Pai came walking. By the time the two reached the bus stop Narednra Pai had changed his mind. He said having coffee would actually get him late and caught the bus immediately.

Soon after he caught the bus Diwakar sir lit a smoke and as we continued conversing I got a call from my father asking me to come pick him up. While I was taking leave Diwakar Sir said, “At least we could have had a cup of coffee together.” Even I felt the same but I had to leave as my father was waiting for me. I left having assured Diwakar Sir that I will join him for breakfast the next morning.

Coming home that evening I wrote a blog-post about the creative coincidental kinship between Nazim Hikmet-Ramachandra Sharma-YNK-Satyajit Ray-Diwakar-Samvartha and also Nazim Hikmet- Faiz- Chittoprasad- Samvartha- Srajana- Diwakar.

Next morning I woke up relatively early and left home to meet Diwakar Sir. While I was on my way my phone rang and I stopped my scooter to see who it is. It was my mentor K.P. Rao who was calling.

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“Hello Sir.”

“Hello Samvartha. I saw your write up. Is Diwakar still in Manipal?”

“Yes Sir. I am on my way to meet him. If you want to come I will come pick you up.”

“You know, I follow the rules and dont break them.”

“Do not worry Sir. I have an extra helmet.”

“Then come home to pick me up.”

I turned my scooter and drove towards KP Rao’s house. Getting on the scooter KP Rao said, “I felt very happy reading your post. In fact Satyajit Ray stayed very close to my boss in Kolkata. He would wave at us whenever he came to his balcony,” and after a while added, “The beauty of YNK and his gang of people is that they have the entire world on their table.”

In a while KP Rao and I reached the International hostel where Diwakar Sir was put up. When we reached the 15th floor and rang the calling bell of room number 1525, Diwakar Sir opened the door. When KP Rao introduced himself to Diwakar sir who immediately recognized him and saying, “You taught Kannada to computers, isnt it?” welcomed us into the room.

For the next one hour the conversation between the two moved from Panini to Arya to Chomsky to Satyajit Ray to Homi Bhabha to DD Kosambi to Vedas to Sanskrit listening to which my jaws dropped.

The conversation was abruptly cut when there was a knock on the door. It was the driver of the vehicle which was to take Diwakar sir to the air-port. He had come to inform Diwakar sir that the vehicle will leave soon. We immediately left the room and took the lift from the 15th floor to the ground floor only to see that the co-passengers of Diwakar had not yet arrived. We seated ourselves on a couch there in the lobby and the two continued their conversation invoking the lives and works of KK Hebbar, memories of the first all India cartoonist meet and also discussed the tulu paaDdana. After a while the co-passengers of Diwakar sir arrived and so KP Rao and I took leave from Diwakar sir.

During the conversation in the room KP Rao while remembering his teacher DD Kosambi had recollected what was told once to him by the master. “Kosambi would say that if you are not interested in everything then you are not interested in anything.” That sentence kept ringing in my mind when KP Rao and I walked out of the hostel taking leave from Diwakar Sir because the two, I realized listening to their conversation, are literally interested in everything under the sun and above the sun.

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If you look at it closely you realize that everything in the world is interconnected. KP Rao says to make computer learn Kannada what came handy was not just his knowledge of technology but also his interest in linguistics and his reading of vedas. That reminds of what the Kannada poet Pu.Ti.Na. says; ‘ee jagadoLu posadaavudu peLiri joDaNe horatu?’ (what is new in this world, everything is an extension, a continuation, an addition.) Everything is connected and hence if you are interested in something then it leads you to everything.

Yes, everything is connected that is how the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, a non-residential Indian Kannada poet Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Diwakar get connected with Samvartha after 50 years. Yes, everything is connected that is how when Samvartha is on his way to meet Diwakar gets a call from KP Rao and he becomes a witness to the memorable meeting between the two giants! Yes, everything is connected and that is how creative coincidental kinships are formed.

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Library of Experience

December 9, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Photo: Hiren Patel

Photo: Hiren Patel

Last night I had a strange dream.

In my dream all of Amrit Gangar sir’s experience- reading, viewing, listening etc- was turned into a library where he would visit every now and then to access the huge archive of experience and knowledge. It was a huge huge huge library.

In that library of experience, I was the librarian. Of course I was feeling extremely happy that I have access, though second hand, to all that Sir has read, heard, viewed, experienced and understood.

On waking up I realized the trigger for this dream was my envy for all the experiences in reading, listening and viewing Sir has had and my deep felt desire to be able to access all of them through him.

This was one of the two most beautiful dreams I have ever had, the other being one where I was a line of poetry in the heart of Gulzar.

Thanks for everything Amrit Sir.

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Backstory of a Cover Page

October 12, 2016 at 9:15 AMOct (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Jayanth Kaikini, one of the finest Kannada writers, in an informal conversation recently spoke to me about the cover photo of the book by Dr. Mamta Rao on the short stories of Jayanth Kaikini titled ‘Janath Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’. He said, “I like the pic on cover which Srajana clicked in Delhi market when I was unable to cross road. It looks as if my charcters have gheravoed me and asking me, “what do you think you are?” Pen and paper in my shirt pocket look so stupid and helpless like me.

jk-kathanaavarana

That reminded me of a short note I had written, in Kannada, on 10 April 2015 on Facebook when I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy of the book. Here I just reproduce a translation of that small note.

The book by Dr. Mamata Rao titled ‘Jayanth Kaikiniyavara Kathanaavarana’ finally reached me last evening. I first learnt about this book when the designer of the book Raghu Apara, months ago, shared the cover page of the book on Facebook.

A book on the stories written by Jayanth Kaikini triggered immense curiosity and excitement in me. And I was thrilled to see the cover page because I was very familiar with the moment – time and space- in which the photo on the cover page came to life.

It was monsoon of 2010. Jayanth Sir had come to Delhi for the admission of his daughter Srajana, also a dear friend of mine, at JNU for MA in Arts and Aesthetics. After completing the admission process on day one we decided to go around Delhi to see places of historic and heritage value on the following day.

Next day we started our Delhi tour with our visit to Kutub Minar. On seeing the flowers and creepers chiseled on the walls there, some broken some fallen some still intact, Jayanth Sir clicked photographs of those sculpted floral designs and said, “This can make a good cover page for a book.” He followed that sentence with his observations and thoughts on what makes a good cover page, what is the purpose of a cover page, what emotions should a cover page invoke, what impression do cover pages create etc.

I had heard, until then, people discussing books. But never had heard anyone discussing the cover page of the book and its aesthetics.

After the visit to Kutub Minar we went to the Lotus Temple and from there we went to the Red Fort. Opposite the Red Fort we found this small but colourful shrine which made Jayanth Sir say, “even this will make a good cover page picture.” As he said that he clicked couple of photographs of the shrine along with the cycle rickshaws around. He made Srajana and me stand in front of the shrine and clicked a photo of us.

jk-clicks-srajana-and-me

Following this Srajana clicked the photo of Jayanth sir caught in traffic, which has now made it to a book cover page.

I am thrilled because the photo that came to life while discussing about cover pages, has now become a cover page by itself and I have been a witness to that moment.

Thrilled also because the cover page is so apt with this photograph! Jayanth Sir is standing amidst the flow of life and observing the life and humans around him, breathing the same air. There are human beings around him, there is a shrine behind him where God resides. Behind the shrine is a huge tree, representing nature. There are cycles around, which stand for mechanization and human craving to make lives easy. Amidst humans, motors, nature and the divine stands a writer who seeks humanity in the rush of life, enriches human spirit through his writings and tries, in his own way, through his writings, to makes life easy/ bearable by showing the beauty of life.

I congratulate my friend Srajana for this meaningful and loaded photo and also Raghu Apara for designing this beautiful cover page

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Creative Coincidental Kinship ~ 1

July 3, 2016 at 9:15 AMJul (Friends, Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Couple of months ago a friend on Facebook (Guruprasad Nayaran) put up a post on Satyajit Ray. While commenting about the books written by Marie Seton, Chidanand Dasgupta, Gaston Roberge etc on Ray I also mentioned about an essay by S. Diwakar where he mentions about Ray having designed the cover page of a poetry collection of the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.

In that particular essay (found in the book ‘naapatteyaada graamaphone mattu itara prabandhagalu‘) S. Diwakar recollects how he first read Nazim Hikmet’s poetry in translation, translated by Ramachandra Sharma and how went looking for a collection of Hikmet’s poetry, without any success. He remembers how, during those days, he once mentioned about Hikmet to the great Kannada writer YNK who on hearing the name of Hikmet got excited and spoke of Hikmet, his poetry and his politics with great enthusiasm in one breath. But to Diwakar’s bad luck YNK’s copy of Hikmet’s poetry collection was borrowed by someone and never returned to YNK.

20160624-0007But then “Twenty five years ago” writes S. Diwakar, “in a small old book stall in the then Madras,” he found a book of Hikmet’s poetry titled ‘Nazim Hikmet Selected Poems.’ He continues to say, “Recently” (at the time of writing the essay) he chanced upon the book again in his library and a detail that had skipped his eyes all those years caught his eyes. The cover page of the book was designed by Satyajit Ray and the book was published by one ‘Parichaya Prakashini‘ based in the then Calcutta.

Narrating these S. Diwakar writes in his essay, how thrilled he was to see a a Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, non-resident Indian Kannada translator Ramachandra Sharma, a Kannada writer YNK and the Bengali language film director Satyajit Ray get connected and how thrilled he was to see all of them get bound together in his mind.

I had forgotten about my comment on Guruprasad’s post on Ray. Completely. But then…

On 24 of June 2016 S. Diwakar came to attend the inaugural function of the Hebbar Gallery and Art Center in Manipal. He was one of the speakers in the panel discussion conducted as a part of the inaugural programme. He was surrounded by other friends and admirers during the tea break following the panel discussion. When one by one started dispersing we met and on seeing me he immediately put his hand in his bag and took out a book saying, “This is for you.”

A yellow bind book with an image of human figure in black whose titled read ‘Nazim Hikmet Selected Poems.’ !!!

“I saw you mentioning about my essay on Facebook. I was happy that someone had read and remembered it as well. I dug out the book from my library that very day and thought of sending it to you by courier but got held in some other work. But in a day or two after that Srajana called me to invite me for this programme and I thought it is better to give you the book personally when I come here. So, here it is,” said S. Diwakar.

My friend Srajana Kaikini, who is the curator of Hebbar Gallery and Art Center was right there when this exchange happened. When I showed her the book saying, “See he gifted me this,” there was a memory recollected.

Sometime in 2011 Srajana and I had attended the exhibition of paintings by Chittoprasad in Delhi. In one of his paintings one can see Hikmet’s book in the frame. Standing before that painting I had recited Faiz’s translation of Hikmet in Urdu; “Meri jaan tujh ko batalaaun bahut naazuk yeh nuqtaa hai, badal jaataa hai aadmi jab makaan uska badalta hai.”

Next day when Srajana went to class with Raqs collective the discussion in class was around Nazim Hikmet’s poetry! That evening we had wondered at the coincidence.

Years after this Srajana witnessed Nazim Hikmet Seclected Poetry collection, where Turkish poet Hikmet and Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray are bound together, being gifted by S. Diwkar who has his own history with the book where Ramachandra Sharma, YNK, Ray get connected with Hikmet, to Samvartha with whom she shared her own Hikmet story where Faiz and Chittoprasad are Hikmet are connected.

s.diwakar nazim hikmet and me

Srajana clicked a photo of Diwakar Sir and me with the book.

When I opened the book I saw S. Diwakar Sir having documented the date of purchase on the first page of the book under his signature. It read 1. 12. 66. The book was purchased 50 years ago and the essay ‘Sharma-Hikmet-YNK-Satyajit Ray’ was written 25 years ago.

In his essay he says to him Sharma, Hikmet, YNK and Satyajit Ray are not just humans but threads who connect with each other to weave a grand narrative of their times. And he wonders how a creative kinship is formed

I am thrilled to know that 50 years after these threads passed through Diwakar Sir has now passed through me too making me a part of this strange yet beautiful creative kinship. And in a strange way another series of coincidences involving Faiz, Chittoprasad, Hikmet and Raqs collective met S. Diwakar’s narrative of creative kinship.

I am also thrilled about the fact that the book is now in my possession.

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Becoming Buddha

June 17, 2016 at 9:15 AMJun (Activism, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

becoming of buddhaSiddhartha born in present times holds within him the possibility of becoming a part of the system and strengthening it and also holds within him the possibility of becoming a rebel and subvert the system, said the wise ones.

Seeing the possibilities within Siddhartha the Emperor to ensure the tragedies, miseries, poverty etc. are not seen by Siddhartha, created an illusive world of make belief ‘good days’ with the use of media, advertisements, public relations and sugary slogans.

Blinded by these Siddhartha, for long, failed to observe price rise, land grabbing from Adivasis, attack on Dalits, communal disharmony, dis-empowering of educational spaces, censure on speech and expression, market favoring governance etc.

Siddharatha of current times will, one fine day, wake up to the reality of the times. He will break away from the trap of fake good days to move out for a while in search of ways of resisting, ways of countering the miseries and tragedies of the world. He will become the Buddha and concentrate his efforts in creating a new world and thus liberate the world from the tragedies, miseries and also the make belief good days.

Every individual trapped by the illusion of fake good days is a Siddhartha, holding within himself a rebel and the possibility of becoming Buddha and creating a new world. A new dawn will arrive, good days, real ones, will arrive too.

Troubled times compel every Siddhartha to take this political-spiritual journey collectively to the new self to the new world.

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Invoking Water

May 30, 2016 at 9:15 AMMay (Activism, Literature, Media, Musings)

A very brahminical ritual among the upper caste Hindus is of chanting a shloka while taking bath before going to the temple and also in the beginning of the process of performing the daily prayer service. The shloka goes thus:

Gange cha yamune chaiva godhawari saraswathi
Narmade sindhu kaveri jalesmin sannidhim kuru.

The sholka broadly means: “In this water I invoke the presence of holy waters from the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godhawari, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.”

riversSimilarly prior to the entering of the Masjid and before the performance of namaaz one is expected to perform the ritual of wuzoon which is to purify oneself with water.

Metaphorically looking at this ritual of purification one realizes that without being purified through water and invoking holy rivers in the water one cannot access the divine.

Water and religious/ spiritual experiences are closely connected through rituals.

***

Interestingly the rivers invoked in the sholka carry the name of goddesses, women to be more specific. In a quite imperceptible way the divine, woman and river/ water are interwoven in the sholka and a close look at it, again metaphorically, we realize that the divine, woman and water/ river are creators and also source of life!

So it is not surprising, with a basic understanding of history makes one realize, that all civilizations took birth by the river coast! To put it in another way, for civilizations to take birth, to sustain them water body has been very necessary. It is the river/ water which have nurtured human civilization.

Where rivers have dried civilizations have died.

***

Rahul Sakritaayana the scholar-writer constructs his fiction spanning from 6000 BC to 1942 AD around the river coast and calls it Volga-Ganga. Though a fiction in the work it is the rivers which provide the setting for the stories to unfold. The twenty fictional short stories in a metaphorical way narrate the history of human civilization. History, we realize, is built around river/ water body.

It is also a reference to how water body is central to epic storytelling and an inseparable part from the creative energy.

Shantanu’s children are drowned in the river, Karna is left afloat in the river, Shakuntala’s ring gets lost in the river—these are few examples of how river has been a very integral part of our mythology and our narratives.

***

While we can agree that water is the source of life, we must never forget that water has also been a tool of dehumanizing. While it is the water route which lead to colonization it was denial of water and refusal to share water which has been the cruelest way in which untouchability is practiced.

Kabir when says ‘ekai pawan ek hee paani ekai jyothi samaana, ekai khaak gaDey sab bhaandai ekai kumhaar saana’ (same air same water same fire, God the potter made all in the same mould by the same clay) it is also to be understood that it is in sharing all the basic resources, nature broadly, inclusive of water, that equality is established and refusal to share any of these and denying some to share/ use them is to not just dehumanize oneself by treating the other lesser human but is also a disrespect shown to divinity!

Water being one for all is a kind of spiritual experience for divinity and thus a propagation of equality for Kabir. But it, in social reality, is divided and denied turning the world inhumane which makes it necessity for social and political battles for equal and egalitarian society.

Reclaiming the water source was an essential part of the fight against untouchability in India. If Dalits under the leadership of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar drink the water from Chavdar Tale on 20 March 1927 then it is not just a fight against untouchability and oppression but also for dignity and for life.

Recently in Maharashtra’s Kalambeshwar village a man named Bapurao Tajne, belonging to an untouchable caste, dug a well after his wife being denied by the upper caste people to draw water from the well belonging to the upper caste.

Water, we see here, is at the heart of life, love, liberty, equality, fraternity and denial of it is in the centre of hatred, oppression, discrimination and humiliation.

***

water as life sourceThe great Kannada writer Kuvempu in his autobiography speaks of his visit to Dakshineshwar in Calcutta to Ramakrishna ashram and Kali ghat. He explains in great detail how dirty the Hoogly River, a distributary of the holy Ganga, was.

He then goes on to say that on that very night he had written a poem which has remained unpublished and shares that poem with the readers. In that poem he write about a ‘pure’ Ganga which cleanses all sins.

This though looks ironic is essentially quite insightful because we realize that the mythic Ganga and the physical Ganga are different. At the same time we realize that Ganga, in specific and river/ water broadly, has been having not just physical existence in the collective consciousness but also mythical and thus an essential for the inner life too and not just physical life.

What I have tried to map in this article is also how water body has been the life source for the multiple dimensions of human life, essential for religious, narrative, historical, spiritual, physical, social, political life and has occupied space in out myths, metaphors and memories.

***

I would like to close this article by recollecting an overheard conversation. During my stay in Delhi I was a regular customer, in Pathpadganj, of Verma, who was affectionately called Verma ji by all, who owned a small tea stall. Verma ji hardly spoke but whenever he spoke one would realize that he was a master of words and hence did not waste much of words. Many auto drivers and cycle rickshaw riders came to him for tea.

One day as I kept sipping tea a rickshaw driver came to Verma ji and asked for water. Verma ji just pointed at the water can kept to his left. As the driver bent the can to take a glass of water Verma ji told him, “main do cheezein kabhi nahi bechta. Roti aur paani. Zindagi banti hai inn do cheezon sey,” to mean, “I do not sell two things- bread and water for they are the source of life.”

I had my jaws dropped. To actually think of it, tea is luxury so are biscuits. But bread and water aren’t. They are source of life. To realize that they are source of life and hence are not to be sold is great wisdom.

[Originally written for the Neervana campaign, for water conservation, by the web news portal News Karnataka. Published on 20 May 2016]

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