To be able to give your children the gift of language is something indescribable. To be able to read, write and understand.
Understand all the hidden meanings that those tiny little letters contain is a wonder in itself.
The guttural sounds, the words that roll off the tongue so effortlessly, words which you can still taste on your tongue.
To be able to make them understand that language if used properly in just the right amount and manner is magic in itself.
That words can heal.
That language can build esteem and confidence and make you conquer a world. Or many worlds.
And that, that very same language can undermine. And how.
Language if used right, can deliver you from your fears.
That is, if you have had language magicians guiding you every step of the way on your first journey.
The very same language will make you a jumbled mass of emotions that crash into each other like waves.
It will give you solace when all else seems bleak.
And hunt you down just when you think you have found a quiet corner in the house all to yourself.
Language will not leave your conscience alone. Remember that. And tread carefully.
It will be your most amazing gift to your child. Precious beyond measure. Passed down from one generation to the next.
For, in one masterstroke you have just insured your child against a world that will knock him down. And knock him down hard.
For me, those magicians have been my grandparents and my parents.
The language teachers and the librarians whose names I can still remember.
I didn’t know it then but I was entering a sacred world. One where to pretend to know everything was sacrilege because everyone was on a journey.
And the journey did not have a destination.
To want to know the hows and whys was to feel deeply. And to feel deeply was to be open to heartache and sadness.
But always, there was a hand that reached out. To offer solace.
A book read under a quilt with a flashlight. Noone else seemed to exist in the world right there in that moment.
Do you remember that moment? Hidden away in the recesses of your mind? A childhood moment stolen from time?
The one that still makes you smile when you think of how desperately you wanted to read that book. That very book. That very night. Way past your bedtime ?:)
That exact moment you see, is what I want to gift a soon- to- be – 1year old little boy.
He already loves his books. The birdies and the animals. All the duckies in a row and the jungle animals and what not. He turns each page slowly, looking up in anticipation. That I will say something . That I will make a silly sound or give a name to that picture he is looking at.
He has so many expectations from me. So many hopes in those young eyes.
I am sitting in mom and dad’s home. My first home. And my forever one. As I sit here late at night surrounded by hundreds of books. Books I have collected all these years. From book fairs, flea markets, hole in the wall bookshops.
And the most revered ones of all.
The ones passed down like holy grail. They belonged to my grandparents and parents .
Books whose names I know by heart . Their pages read and read again till I know them like my own reflection. These books painstakingly taken care of by maa and dad.
They are fiercely protective of these books. For, they know that their daughter’s heart resides in them.
As I look at the books and think of the amazing gift my parents and grandparents have given me, I cannot help but make a desperate wish. A wish that I will do the same for my son.
I look at his sleeping face
Such innocence. He sleeps oblivious to the world outside and the dangers that lurk.
And terrified suddenly by my own fears, I want to give him a magic potion.
One that will make him strong. Strong enough to be able to withstand the storms that will come. And come they surely will.
For what else is it to be a human being?
I want to gift him that courage of conviction that will make him hold on and stay true to his beliefs in a world that will falsely make him believe otherwise.
I want to gift him that moment under the quilt.
A book in those tiny hands, a flashlight and magic.
Written about 4 years back.:D
Hello little one.
This is supposed to be my letter to you.
Your mom is in love with words and shares them with all her loved ones. (24×7 as your dad will tell you with a fake sigh😀 )
I am writing this letter on a day when I have had a fight with your dad. A tiff really. An argument. Okay a small difference of opinion. (call it what you will , he says …you are still acting like a kid )
I am missing him. He is probably lost under tons of office work or doing what he does best. Flying.
So to take off my mind from how densely obtuse your dad and the love of my life can be, I thought I will write this letter to you.
Well..its a pretty early letter and all (won’t tell you the date or you will die laughing at your silly mom’s eagerness)
A baby. What a huge gift and a huge responsibility. Your dad and I still act like immature adults. Like kids really.
We fight for chocolate (the man doesn’t put on any weight I tell you! ) and about who should get up and get that ringing cell from the farthest corner of the room.
Many other things too…you will know for yourself. You have no idea whats in store for you. Its a madhouse. Your dad is a kid at heart. And I love him for it.
Anyway…so I and your dad are hoping for a daughter. Well.. we are hoping for a healthy baby. But I am kinda leaning towards a daughter you know.
Teeny weeny leaning really. Your dad would be happy with any gender. But he gives the cutest smile when I talk to him about a daughter. He knows me inside out.
Your naanu will probably pamper you silly. He is the most gruff man you will ever meet .He looks tough but has the softest heart of anyone you will ever meet in your life.
He rarely says much. Except to mom who knows him like no other and even with her he is not that vocal.
You get the picture.
Naanu will give you treats and gifts and share secrets with you. He is going to tell you not to share the secret with anyone coz you two are best friends.
I know. He used to do the same with us.🙂
Naanu will trick you into eating more by getting into an eating competition with you. Before you know it, you will be stuffed.
I know again. He would do that with us too.:)
Actually come to think of it you will be spoiled silly by everyone won’t you? *sigh*
I already have a picture in my head.
Bratty, spoilt kid. Grandparents who pamper not to mention uncles, aunts, cousins… Oh! They will pamper you some more.
I hope and pray you meet each member of your family and grow up to remember each one’s uniqueness.
I pray that you make amazing memories with them.
I also want you to grow up surrounded by animals. Of any kind. But that we will have pets is a guarantee.
It is a firm belief of mine that children who grow up surrounded by little furry beings, winged, four legged or otherwise are much more patient and more sensitive and better human beings. Atleast that’s what I hope and pray you will be.
Your dad suffered a heartbreak when his little fourlegged friend died while he was still in school. He promised himself that he would never go through that heartache again.
I lost my little companion when she was 11. I still miss her. That picture in the living room? Thats her. She was a mad one. A delight . She would make us laugh with her antics. She was the wisest little being I have ever come across.
Your naanu, naani and both your maamajis suffered that heartache too. They still talk about her you know. Specially your naani. Ask her about her nanhi someday. She will smile and get lost in her memories. We were blessed to have her.
There is an ache. I too like your dad cannot bear going through the heartache again.
But I hope your dad and I can pick the courage to get a new member in the family. They make our lives richer you know. These little beings. I want you to know what its like to have a little nose nuzzling you or a tongue licking you in delight. These pleasures are priceless.
May you be blessed always.:)
Edited to add(4 years later)🙂 :-You are finally here little one and you are definitely not a girl.:D You are a darling lil boy. Your mom and dad love you! our pink prince.🙂 Maybe all the girly shopping can come in use some other time😉
She was in a hurry today. A little distracted and fidgeting with the saree folds again and again. The pleats were not coming out right.
Just what was it with the saree today? Today of all days!
Just when she needed to look her best. For him.
The vehicle was supposed to be here in an hour. She would meet him at the parade ground itself.
She looked at her watch and then looked in the mirror again. He loved that burnt shade of orange on her. As she looked at herself in the mirror and smiled….she remembered…. he loved all colours on her.
But this one was his favourite.
They had a fight the day before he left. Because he had to cut short his leave and report early. Granted that he couldn’t help it. She had married a man in uniform and his duty always came first.
And she had always shown so much patience hadn’t she? But just how much patience was she supposed to have? Uff! How they always fought like kids! He always tousled her hair which would make her mad.As if she was a little kid.
He always told her to grow up too. But that was just a pretence, she knew. He didn’t want her any other way. Her childlike exuberance was what he had fallen in love with.
She stuck out her tongue at the mirror and couldn’t suppress a giggle as she recalled his exasperated expression. The one that said,” I love you , you mad woman, even if you are a little crazy.”
But he loved her for precisely this..she knew. Just as she was head over heels in love with who he was. In love with all his moods, the gruffness and the guarded way in which he would express himself.
Army guys are not supposed to show emotions. That is what he believed. But she had learnt to recognize all his moods. Even when he didn’t say a word. He was his most vulnerable self with her. He would clown around and make those funny faces till she collapsed giggling on the bed.
That vulnerability he showed only with her..she knew that was his most precious gift to her.
He would be so proud of her today. She intended to make him proud.
To see that look in his eyes. He would take one look at her and say, ”looking good baby”, in that deep, drawling voice she loved.
She had made his favourite dish today. Aloo paranthas. Well, not his favourite but just about the only thing she could make decently well. The way he liked it. He still loved whatever she cooked. She sighed. She would try to learn more of his favourite dishes.
He always came back home having lost many kilos. Nothing was quite the same as home cooked food. ”I am a forever young sort of guy you know. You should be glad”, he would say with a wink and a grin whenever she fretted about his health. Worried at how thin he sometimes was when he came home on leave.
She hoped he would like the aloo paranthas .
He always made fun of her cooking. But then, his cooking skills were really good. During their time together, he would always cook for her. ”Let me cook jaan. You just sit back and relax. After dodging all those bullets at the loc, you wouldn’t want me to die of food poisoning would you?”he would say with that wicked twinkle in his eyes.
God! That man certainly knew how to rile her! Hmpph! If she could never get time to learn how to cook, was that her fault?
Today they would make up for the earlier fight. Today she would show him how proud she was of him. She hoped she could make him proud of her too.
Today she had a surprise for him too. A beautiful one. The biggest one of their lives. She was waiting impatiently to tell him.
She had been trying to imagine what his face would look like when she told him the news. She had been so tempted to tell him on the phone but then had stopped herself.
He was coming home on leave in a few days, he had told her a few days back and she wanted to see each change of expression,the initial bafflement, the dawning realization, the mad grin she knew would cover his face.
And he would catch her by the waist and dance all around the room.
And she would giggle and both of them would collapse laughing on the floor.
A little life inside her.
She looked down at herself in wonder.
A honk outside.
The vehicle was here.
She almost ran out till she remembered she was an army wife.
What would the driver think of her? She sighed and tried to walk at a more sedate pace.
Smiling inside at how he would have laughed his head off if he had seen her just now.
The army driver gave a crisp salute and opened the door for her.
The young lieutenant standing next to him gave a crisp salute as well. She nodded and smiled at both of them. ”Kaise hain Anil Bhaiyya? Ghar pe sab theek thaak hai?’‘
The driver looked discomfited and mumbled something, so she just smiled at him again. Anil bhaiyya had always been shy but he had been with them on two previous postings so he was almost like a family member now. She knew better than to make him feel more awkward.
The young lieutenant looked distinctly uncomfortable. Even more than Anil bhaiyya if that was possible. These young officers always felt out of place with ladies.
Fresh out of the academy, they would get tongue tied in the presence of ladies.
So she didn’t press on for a conversation.
She looked out of the window. The weather was slightly gray today.
She hoped it wouldn’t rain.
They reached the parade ground in about half an hour. She was shown to her seat.
So much of chatter all around her.
Once or twice she looked up and saw the lady next to her and smiled. The lady gave a hesitant smile back. As if she was unsure. Did she know the lady from somewhere?
She thought about it and then let go of the thought.
Her entire attention was now focused on the stage.
Just a few minutes more. Then it would be just the two of them. They announced something over the mike. It was time.
She stood up and drew herself a little taller.
Squared her shoulders, tilted up her chin and moved up the steps.
A small , muffled sob escaped the lady who had been sitting next to her.
” Maj Unnikrishnan gave his life in the service of the country in the highest tradition of the Indian army. Maj Unnikrishnan was an officer of ……………
For Meens who tagged me and made me revisit some favourites:)
There was a time when I was about 11 or 12, when I struggled to grasp the nuances of sentences said, poems written, meanings that were hidden in the crevices of words.
When poems that were beyond my understanding struck me as pompous.
I know:) The naivety and arrogance of the young.
Then somehow, through some stroke of luck I found teachers. Teachers who opened new worlds for me. The gaping with disbelief, awestruck me.
Not just in school but outside it too.
Those who took me by the hand and gently guided me into the bewildering world of poetry.
Not a poem but a part of many couplets of his.
Something ethereal about these lines.
Auguries of Innocence
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
From ‘Auguries of innocence‘
2. Unending Love
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.
You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.
Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
– Rabindranath Tagore
Need I say anything?:)
3. मैं तेनु फिर मिलांगी
(Amrita’s words in Gulzar’s voice)
Main Tenu Fir Milaan Gi
Kithey? Kis Tarah? Pata Nai
Shayad Terey Takhayul Di Chinag Ban Ke
Terey Canvas Tey Utraan Gi
Ya Khowrey Terey Canvas Dey Utey
Ikk Rahasmayi Lakeer Ban Ke
Khamosh Tenu Tak Di Rawaan Gi
Yaa Khowrey Sooraj Di Loo Ban Ke
Terey Rangaan Wich Ghulaan Gi
Yaa Rangaan Diyan Bahwaan Wich Baith Ke
Terey Canvas Nuu Walaan Gi
Pata Nai Kiss Tarah? Kithey?
Par Tenu Zaroor Milaan Gi
Yaa Khowrey Ikk Chashma Bani Howaan Gi
Tey Jeevan Jharneyaan Da Paani Udd-da
Main Paani Diyaan Boondaan
Terey Pindey Tey Malaan Gi
Tey Ikk Thandak Jahi Ban Ke
Teri Chaati Dey Naal Lagaan Gi
Main Hor Kujh Nai Jaandi
Par Aena Jaandi
Ke Waqt Jo Vii Karey Ga
Aey Janam Mairey Naal Turey Ga
Aey Jism Mukda Hai
Tay Sab Kujh Muk Jaanda
Par Chaityaan Dey Dhaagey
Kaainaati Kana Dey Hundey
Main Onhaan Kana Nuu Chunaan Gi
Dhaageyaan Nuu Walaan Gi
Tey Tenu Main Fair Milaan Gi…
I will meet you yet again
How and where? I know not.
Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe, spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas,
I will keep gazing at you.
Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colours.
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where –
but I will meet you for sure.
Maybe I will turn into a spring,
and rub the foaming
drops of water on your body,
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest.
I know nothing else
but that this life
will walk along with me.
When the body perishes,
but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
I will pick these particles,
weave the threads,
and I will meet you yet again.
4. Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
– Henry Scott Holland ~ 1847-1918
Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral
A poem which has given me solace when nothing could. When there were and are moments that could not be given words, this was my voice. This poem is like a soothing balm.
5. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
_ Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas recites it here.
It was a joy to hear it being recited in the movie ‘Interstellar’. By Michael Caine. It was the first time I heard someone say it with such intensity. (Michael Caine after all!)
Now I know why it was such a favorite of an English teacher whom I respected beyond measure. She had said , ”someday you will understand.”
I hope that I am able to. Till then I am in love with the words even if I don’t understand it in its entirety.
Oh! and if you have not yet seen the movie, then you are really missing something big. Go watch Interstellar now!
Understand, I’ll slip quietly
Away from the noisy crowd
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows,
With only this one dream:
You come too.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
This one simply is. For us.:)
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
Stark, raw and beautiful.
8. When I am an old woman
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Oh! I hope so.
http://kaavyaalaya.org/mdhshla.shtml (entire work here)
Manna Dey has lent this classic work his amazing voice.
My favourite lines are these..
धर्मग्रन्थ सब जला चुकी है, जिसके अंतर की ज्वाला,
मंदिर, मसजिद, गिरिजे, सब को तोड़ चुका जो मतवाला,
पंडित, मोमिन, पादिरयों के फंदों को जो काट चुका,
कर सकती है आज उसी का स्वागत मेरी मधुशाला।।१७।
-हरिवंश राय बच्चन
And here is a poetess extraordinaire whom I love.
She resides here
The title of her blog says it all.
to seek those gossamer nuances of words, that come not from me, but thru’ me:)
And soft as gossamer her words certainly are:)
This one below, is an all time favourite of mine.
For the daughter I wish I’d had
laughter ringing clear-
warm hugs and
little sudden pecks on my cheeks!
A whirlwind of a girl;
now here, gone in a flash!
Long long hours of girlish talk-
boys, books, heroes and men!
Life, love, trust and THAT!
while ogling the boys…;)
summing them up, then
walking by in disdain!!
Cheering her up
when sadness strikes-
being there for her…
just in case, she asks!
Holding her hand-
without her knowing..
as only moms can do;
though she, being mine,
would know it too…!!!
Sharing myself with her-
my fears, my joys
my secrets, and my ploys-
Ending the day in warmth
so fierce and filling..
Wishing each mother had
so like mine!!
19 June, ’07
I just love, love this Ushus:)
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
— Margaret Atwood
This makes my breath stop.
The sheer power of her words.
12. Kitaabein jhaankti hain
Go to this link for a better understanding of the words if you are having some trouble in understanding the poem.
Kitaabein jhaankti hain
kitabein jhankti hain band almaari kay sheeshon se
badee hasrat se takti hain
maheeno ab mulaaqat nahi hoti
jo shamein in ki sohbat main kata karti thein,,,,ab aksar
guzar jaatee hain computer kay pardon par
badi bechain rahti hain kitabein
zaban par zaiqa aata tha jo in safhe palatne ka
ab ungli click karne se bas
ik jhapki guzarti hai
buhat kuch tah-b-tah khultaa chalaa jaataa hai parde par
kitabon se jo zaati rabta tha kat gaya hai
kabhi seeney pe rakh ke lait jaate the
kabhi godee mein rakhte thay
kabhi ghutno ko apne rahal ki soorat banah kar
neem sazade mein parhaa karte thay,chhoote jabhee se
khuda nay chaha to wo sara ilm to miltaa rahegaa baad mein bhee
magar who jo kitabon mein milaa karte thay sookhay phool
kitabein maangne,giraanay,uthaane kay bahaane rishty bante thay
unkaa kyaa hogaa
wo shayad ab nahi hongey!
There are many others. The list is never ending. Classics.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How Do I Love Thee?’
Lord Byron’s ‘She walks in beauty’
Robert Frost’s ‘The road not taken’ and ‘Stopping by woods on a snowy evening’
Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without fear’ (This was our morning prayer in school)
Emily Dickinson ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’
Tennyson’s ‘The charge of the light brigade’
Whitman’s ‘O Captain! My captain!’
Walter Winter’s ‘If you think you are beaten’
‘When you are old’ by Yeats
Maya angelou’s ‘Phenomenal woman’
‘If’ by Kipling.
Please feel free to tag yourself if you would love to share your favourites:)
Old posts on poetry
This is a long blog post. Too long even going by my track record.
But this needed to be said.
For sorting out my own thoughts on the matter. Jumbled as they are and yet inter connected.
Because freedom of expression is one of the most beautiful gifts this democracy has given us.
For non blog friends. I write under the pseudonym Indyeah.
At the outset I should mention that I am an Indian. A reasonably decent human being as those who know me will attest. A woman. A fierce nationalist. Minus the jingoism.The daughter of an army officer. The sister of an army officer. And the wife of an army officer.
All of them have served in the valley.
In the most sensitive of areas. The kind of places that flare up in a heartbeat. At the sight of a uniform. A loved one is about to serve there . One is still serving there. I am the cousin and niece of many others in uniform.
I am all of the above.In that order. And maybe someday the mother of one too. I wish I too could have donned the uniform. And god knows I tried. But it was not to be. Because perhaps then with that final medal on my shoulder I would be deemed fit to comment on this. On what I am about to write.
Why have I mentioned all of the above? Simply because before I write what I am about to write, a mental image of who, what or how you perceive me to be should form in your mind. Because you will anyway won’t you?
I don’t stay on one side of the fence.
I can argue for freedom of expression having reasonable restrictions. And then a few years later question the hypocrisy that our pseudo liberals show when it comes to getting offended whenever members of a particular religion do something and the subsequent branding of an entire religion as fundamentalist and promptly banning the offending item altogether. Of having double standards when it comes to other religions. Because ‘they’ are the poor victims caught in the crossfire.
A long time back, about 5-6 years ago I wrote on something that was close to my heart. Freedom
It started an intense debate in the blog circle.
It led to rebuttals and more .
I wrote again ”Freedom continued.”
A friend had a viewpoint that I respected then as I do now. Freedom of expression and the right not to be offended.
Today, I stand with that friend too. His words resonate with me,
I have no illusions about India ever turning into a civilised, tolerant nation. I would, however, value freedom of expression because it is one of the few things that will slow – not stop, just slow – our inevitable transformation into a banana republic. We’re almost there, anyway. While it is my fond hope that it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, I’m not holding my breath.
And last but not the least, here Qatar Calling is what I wrote on M. F Hussain’s decision to move to Qatar and my views on his freedom of expression.
What is the point of writing all this? Re-visiting old arguments?
Because I saw a film in recent times. Haider.
I went into the hall with all kinds of reviews jostling in my mind for space. The ‘‘oh!its brilliant!” and ‘‘yeah, could have been better.” to ‘‘Disgusting piece of anti -national filth.”
I sat and watched the entire movie without moving an inch. It was gripping. Save for the romantic interludes between Shahid’s and Shraddha’s character which just seemed as if they had been put in for the regular bollywood hero -heroine love staple. Some parts were stretched beyond what was required. But it was a well made, well crafted movie.
It wasn’t brilliant.
It wasn’t out of this world.
But it was damn good.
The movie was the beginning of a heated discussion in my Delhi circle of family and friends.
I never got the impression that the army was being depicted as some kind of evil entity as many say it has been . The army did what it did in those troubled times in the way it best knew how. It did what this country required of it and asked of it. Atleast that is how I saw it.
I, for one loved that dialogue from the army officer about giving it back to those militants when one of his men is injured.
Yes, one could argue that the separatists, the militants have been shown in a soft, almost benevolent light. That the doctor’s answer ” Zindagi” when he is questioned by his wife about whose side he is on as he is about to operate on a militant is sneaky on the part of the director. The director is treading a fine line.
In the second half of the movie the army narrative disappears. Now the focus is just Haider and all those connected to him. It is a human story. One should view it like that.
But to say that a film like this shouldn’t be made? That it is anti national? Anti army? Pro -kashmiri muslim? And we call ourselves a democracy? A fully functioning vibrant one?
Just a question. Why has this movie not been released in Pakistan? After all, all the charges of the movie being anti nationalist , anti- Indian fare should whet the appetite of the Pakistanis. No? Because the movie shows snippets of reality.
Just because it does not show the precursor to 1995 does not mean that what it is showing is a lie. It is a half truth. A convenient one that Vishal Bharadwaj has chosen. It would have been nice to have had a context in which to place 1995 and the violence that followed had the director also chosen to show another side of the story. Rahul Pandita’s and of other kashmiri pandits.
But Vishal Bharadwaj did not. Instead he chose to tell Basharat Peer’s story.
But should that be the director’s burden to carry?
In our country, artists can choose to paint, depict, write about the majority religion in the way they deem fit. That they dare not do so when it comes to minorities should tell you something.
Our outrage should not be about why this movie was made. About how dare he the director show the army in a poor light.
Our voices should support the director’s freedom of expression.
Do you know why? Because tomorrow when someone wants to give a voice to the kashmiri pandits, to the inhuman behaviour our forces are subjected to in that very same valley by the very same ‘innocent ‘ haiders ,then I don’t want outraged people standing in the way of my or anyone else’s creativity.
And if you outrage against a Haider , against an individual’s right to freedom of expression, then you lose all right to show/create/paint/ make what you deem fit .
Because there will always be those who are offended, those who don’t see things from the same perspective as you do.
The debate is not about Indian army being portrayed as the villain.
And it is not about why has the director skipped over the past and chosen to jump as many say ‘conveniently’ to 1995.
The debate is about whether we who proclaim to be a fully functioning democracy where freedom of expression is of the utmost importance , can understand that there are many sides to a story.
That stories will not be told according to our convenience.According to our fancy. That we can ask why the other side was not shown but that it does not negate what has been shown.
We can at best nitpick . Pick holes in the narration.We can criticize .
What we cannot do is ask for it to be banned. We cannot , cannot under any circumstances ban it. Nor can we vow to stop such things from getting made in the future.
A loved one of mine , alongwith his men was left to drown by the locals in the flood waters in a vehicle that was caught up in the fast current of the Jhelum. No effort was made to save them by the locals. The very same locals these men in uniform had gone to save. Instead, do you know what the locals tried to do? Snatch their guns leaving them to drown.
It is a tribute to the army of this country that not only did the men in uniform save themselves from the raging waters of the Jhelum and their weapons from being snatched by the locals but they also saved the very same locals a few hours later.
Another loved one has had stones pelted at him and his men. For standing at a place that could erupt at any time and where he had been ordered to keep a vigil. Stones pelted , simply for standing there.
And yet despite this, despite knowing that the lives of my loved ones are on the line, I cannot in my wildest dreams call for banning such movies or for them not to be made.
Because I cannot , will not let my bitterness turn into revenge.
Kaveree Bamzai , a reporter and a Kashmiri Pandit herself, writes, We too once had a home with 25 rooms, an apple tree in the back, and a kitchen garden which grew more than we could eat. The thread of life has been broken, families destroyed and traditions interrupted. But as in Pandita’s case, “the remembering must go on.”
But equally does that mean that one has to negate the suffering chronicled in Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night, which is as potent as Our Moon Has Blood Clots?
Every community remembers its struggle differently. The Other is a convenient demon, even if he is an intimate friend. Can suffering be measured?
A retired army officer who has served in the valley in the same time period as mentioned in the movie has written his views here. One Haider is not enough.
To think that this movie tells you everything you need to know about Kashmir would be fallacious. We will perhaps need another half a dozen movies just to scratch the surface of the many truths of Kashmir.
There is no reason to believe that it didn’t happen but such incidents (as those of ‘fake encounters’) came down dramatically after the 1996 assembly elections. It is something which ideally shouldn’t have happened but when people are sucked in the vortex of an ugly conflict, ugly things happen. The question of justice for those who suffered in that conflict — innocents, militants, sympathisers, security force personnel, Kashmiri Pandits, families — is a vexed one. Should it be “retributive” justice or “restorative” justice advocated by Mandela in South Africa? Can time heal all the wounds? If so, how much more time do we need? These are complex questions in any conflict and in case of Kashmir, almost impossible to find simple answers to.
Haider is a movie we should welcome whole-heartedly. More than the quality and the message of the movie, the fact that such a political movie can be made and released in this country is something we should be justifiably proud of. Let a thousand more Haiders bloom.
Perhaps Anupama Chopra in her review says it best when she says,
” Go into the film knowing that it is problematic and unwieldy. And that it is one side of the story — Kashmiri Pundits get a token mention and, after being cast as the villain, the Indian army gets a line of praise for its handling of the floods in Kashmir. Those are stories that perhaps other filmmakers will choose to tell. But I can guarantee that you will emerge from Haider shell-shocked. And when was the last time a Hindi film did that to you?’‘
Rashneek Kher in his review of the movie sums up the feeling of many when he writes,’
The filmmaker chooses to ignore those significant years which saw hundreds of temples being razed to dust, thousands of houses burnt after being looted, which saw this very majority, which is portrayed as almost subjugated, participating in a gory ritual of driving away the minorities and being the subjugators themselves. +There is a convenient script and an inconvenient half truth which makes the very edifice of the movie suspect and thus less credible.
‘Post Script: When I saw the song “Bismil” (which was irrelevant to the movie in any case and could have been shot anywhere else in Kashmir) being pictured there with this big black gory puppet inside the temple, I couldn’t resist but ask if Bharadwaj would have dared to do something similar in a mosque, a church or even a gurudwara? Haider’s convenient half truths and some inconvenient answers.
The reason I say that I understand the anguish of those friends of mine who have felt hurt by the portrayal of the Indian army or how the suffering of kashmiri pandits seems to have been erased is this. Firaaq. I saw that movie by Nandita Das and wrote my views here.
I was as anguished as all of you are. I too spoke of the other side. And about how could Nandita Das brand an entire community as a villain? Purely evil?
And yet .
And yet I had the same views as I have now. This is what I wrote then.
The beauty and strength of India and infact most democracies is precisely the freedom of expression that they guarantee to their citizens. India too can have many Firaaqs made and noone can say a word because it is the artistic expression of the filmmaker and her sensibilities that are being portrayed on screen.
If Nandita Das has chosen to make a movie on the Gujarat Riots we should applaud her.But we should not be completely blind to her limitations as a film maker. When the Indian liberals say that religion should be kept out of conversations like these,it is equally important to highlight that Nandita Das made this movie as an Indian. Not as Hindu or a Muslim or any other. Do not say that Nandita Das is a Hindu who made a movie on atrocities on Muslims. How is it that religion surfaces here??That too by liberal individuals? She is an Indian who made a movie on a brutal truth. Period. The movie ofcourse will not make or break Indian society.Very few movies do. It will be lucky if it is able to earn enough to recover its production costs. I am not saying this out of any ill intention, but simply because in India unless a movie is a masala movie , they fail to earn anything substantial at the BO and the good ones are left in the lurch. Firaaq too is a good attempt by a good film maker to show an ugly face of a supposedly ‘normal’ society. However,the attempt is not brilliant and neither is it unbiased, it is merely good (and i am being generous here) and it remains there.
Sometime back, I had gone to the Wagah border and the Hussainiwala border for the evening ceremony conducted by BSF.
I saw the people of Pakistan sitting on the other side. In both places, some things on the Pakistani side were similar.
Men and women were seated separately on their side. From the common to the elite class, women did not sit with men from their family. All of the women wore burqahs and hijabs.
Their audience looked uniform. In both Wagah and Hussainiwala..
Same dresses for the men and women. No jeans. Not for men. Nor women.
The women who looked like they were from a more elite background wore a better quality of burqah.
I remember one instance clearly. A newly married Indian couple probably on a honeymoon trip were sitting on our side. The husband and wife were too engrossed in each other to worry much about or pay attention to the ceremony. The husband would nuzzle his wife’s neck and kiss her on the cheek with love in between.
For the entire ceremony, the Pakistanis , the audience and guards alike(the guards furtively so) could not take their eyes off the duo. They looked at the couple as if they were aliens.
And what was the scene on our side? People were busy clicking photographs. They wore anything and everything you could imagine. Jeans, cargoes, Tank tops, halters, Short skirts, long skirts, sarees, salwar suits. And you couldn’t make out who belonged to which religion or region or which language they spoke. And noone paid attention to the couple.
I have never felt more proud to be an Indian. Or more fortunate.
The naysayers say we are no better. But I beg to disagree.
Oh sir! We are a lot better. The kind of difference that is visible between the armed forces of both the countries should be proof enough. One as political as it is possible to be and the other so apolitical that they give a whole new meaning to the word.
A blog friend had written a mail to me when we were discussing freedom of expression and the limits to be imposed on it. I still remember some lines of his.
I think Bradley said a book burns at 485 ° ; at what temperature does a painting burn. And your freedom, gal?
We cannot say what should or shouldn’t be made or shown. To do so would be treading down a very dangerous path. It opens the way for other groups, fringe or otherwise to demand the same. Each group thinks its outrage is justified. Its demands legitimate. It snowballs from there.
As long as the government of this country can ensure law and order no matter how much the provocation, then films can continue to be made. Artists can continue with their creativity.
And do you know why I want more Haiders to be made? Without any curb on freedom of expression?
Because I want to discuss Article 370. And UCC. (can already imagine the mayhem , can’t you? That is exactly my point)
I will lose all right to do so tomorrow if I do not support an individual’s creativity today.
If you really want to stand up for the soldier,stand up for something concrete.
Materialistic as it sounds, stand up and ask why his pay is peanuts and his pension half of his pay after he retires.
Why is it that he spends an entire lifetime having to choose between taking care of his family or the education of his children or buying his own modest house or ‘indulging’ in luxuries but never all of these in the same lifetime.
A country that goes on dharna for basics such as bijli, paani and the prices of petrol and diesel.
Where homemakers are constantly lamenting the fact that tomato prices have gone up and it has upset their daily budget…where we are outraged when we hear about the prices in the parliament canteen , in that country we are lamenting the fact that our army has been ‘dishonourably’ treated? In a movie?
What a joke!
Do our armed forces personnel and their family members live on air? Or on this intangible called izzat?
This , to me, smacks suspiciously similar to the way the hindus are being exhorted by the fraudulent ‘ representative ‘ senas and their ilk and the muslims by the various religious heads and jamaats. They are not interested in providing education and employment opportunities to the people of their faith whom they claim to represent.
Those who have decided to ‘speak up and defend’ the honour, the izzat of the soldier? I really have nothing to say.
Just a request, please if you can , if you have a conscience , fight for OROP, fight for the benefits that are a soldier’s due. Fight for something concrete. The soldier is tired of these intangibles like izzat and aan.
Give him tangibles. His pay, his pension which should match the magnitude of service that he does for a thankless country.
Make the armed forces a votebank and see how miraculously, almost as if overnight, all their demands will be listened to.
I had the same lament years back. I have the same lament now. https://indyeahforever.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/a-nation-forgets/
And read this.
A country makes a sacred contract with its soldiers that while he/she will lay down his/her life when called upon to do so, the nation will take good care of his/her and his/her family’s needs to the extent its resources would permit. The armed forces feel they have never got their due from various pay commissions over the years but the government in its wisdom decided to keep the armed forces away from any representation in the latest Pay Commission.
The dominance of bureaucrats meant that while the interests of the bureaucrats were well-recognised, the armed services once again ended up getting a raw deal.
The discontent is so serious that some of the best and brightest in our services have refused to go for the Higher Command Courses and more and more are seeking an early retirement. Indian armed forces are desperately trying to fill vacancies as other professions are luring the young of the country. Against the sanctioned strength of 300 per batch, the National Defence Academy finds that it can only attract 192 cadres this year. The same story repeats itself in the Indian Military Academy.
A country that purports to be a rising power is facing a shortage of more than 11,000 officers. Our politicians remain more than willing to waste tax payers money by routinely boycotting Parliament and have never shied away from increasing their own pay and allowances, claiming that they remain underpaid. Yet those who defend the sanctity of Parliament are given a short shrift.
Many years later, has anything changed? Ask anyone who wears the uniform. They might not tell you, for the oath they took prevents them from doing so, but their loved ones will.
This country that applauds the relief and rescue work done by its armed forces during natural and man made calamities but does not even for a moment pause and ask why our armed forces are doing the work that ideally should have been carried out by the NDRF?
The civic agencies?
By any other agency except the armed forces.
Did our forces sign up for this?
Weren’t they meant to safeguard this country’s borders?
To protect it from external enemies?
So when did they start cleaning up the messes our politicians and our countrymen created?
When and why were they given the all round responsibilities of solving all the crises of this nation?
So the question is not what price is a soldier’s izzat? In some movie or some artwork.
The question is what price is a soldier’s invaluable work?
In war AND in peace?
What price is a soldier’s life?
That is what this country needs to ask itself.
It is the soldier who ensures that we enjoy unfettered freedom of expression in this country.
Let us not erode that freedom in his name.
PS:- Apologies for the change in font size at places. Technical glitches
They quote Kafka and Jung and Ghalib.
And pontificate on what it means to be a ‘liberal’. Endless pontification.
I know because I am one of them.
On what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.
Of having a spine. And standing up.
Standing up when they can’t .
They say,” but…but… you? ….he?……how?”
His is a free soul. Mine is bound by thoughts, opinions, books, words, others.
He is his own person.
He doesn’t give a damn about the world. Not when it comes to doing something.
He is a doer. I am a dreamer.
There is a madness in our love. The kind of love that comes when two beings who are opposites come together.
I cannot fool him. Do you know why? Because he does not carry the baggage of Kafka and Jung and Freud .
Because I cannot make a pithy remark on the frivolities of life and hope to get away with it.
Marriage. A meeting of two halves. A union of two similar beings.
But why? Why do we need to have things in common? I avoided ‘common’ like the plague.
Because the last thing I wanted to do was live my life with someone who had thoughts, opinions, values, judgements similar to my own.
We found each other. I don’t know how. But we did.
Different states. Different languages. Different cultures. Different backgrounds. Different outlook towards life.
Because he never makes me feel as if I have gotten more than I deserve.
And yet can you believe that both of us feel that we have gotten more than we deserve?:)
Because when his wife gets stubborn as hell, he stands right by her, come hell or high water. No questions asked.
And then gently asks her later,” Feel like talking about it?”
Brooding at times. Sunny at others. This man who is a little kid at heart. Who finds it supremely funny whenever I scream while watching a horror movie.
Who loves to give me the horrendous scares by sneaking up on me.
We are currently on 10-6 approximately. 10 being my score ofcourse. I have smartened up.😉
This hubby of mine who helps me in filling up forms and it reminds me of ma and dad.
The care they took when it came to my education.
The way he reminds me to keep my admit card/pens/lunch. You name it. It’s making me smile as I write this.
When he paces outside waiting for my exam to get over…
Listening patiently to my rambles about the question paper, the examiners..
With a belief so strong that his wife will get through all exams no matter what:)
When he gives me a look in a room full of people and it speaks volumes.
A beautiful memory, a mischievious smile, a thought about something …all of it in one look.
When he tucks me in like a little kid coz I have been out in the cold enjoying ‘the evening’
and rubs vicks on a cold red nose…not saying a word because he knows me by now.
The let’s-see-who -kicks-the-other-off-the-bed-first game. laughing like crazy loons all the while.
When I write super corny lines while murdering a perfectly good (great) poem.
You bring out the army brat in me.
You bring out the indignant me.
The” how dare they?” in me.
the ‘let’s go on our own journey’ in me.
The ‘world can take a hike’ in me.
The need to drown myself in jasmine ittar and nothing else.
‘I shouldnt’ eat so many chocs.
and ‘oh what the hell!we live just once ‘ in me.
To eat your share of chocs too while you look on indulgently.
You bring out the bauble lovin prima donna in me.
and the anxious ”do I look good in this? in me.
The ‘let’s collect all mushy romantic quotes’ in me.
Ghalib & Saahir & Meer in me.
She is Language, he is Thought
She is Prudence, he is Law
He is Reason; she is Sense
She is Duty; he is Right
He is Will; she is Wish
He is Pity; she is Gift
He is Song; she is Note
She is Fuel; he is Fire
She is Glory; he is Sun
She is Motion; he is Wind
He is Battle ; she is Might
He is Lamp; she is Light
He is Day; she is Night
He is Justice; she is Pity
He is Channel; she is River
She is Beauty; he is Strength
She is Body; he is Soul
“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
My soul is at peace.:)
Last year’s draft when I gave some crucial exams:)
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
From the poetry volume, ‘I shall not be moved.’