Monday, June 23, 2014

The Eurasian Teal, a Siberian migrant

The Eurasian Teal or Common Teals (Anas crecca) are the most abundant winter migrants, they are gregarious lot and create ruckus in the water bodies they inhabit. Swift fliers they flap quite rapidly, giving the impression of being in a hurry. Common teal feed on plants, young crops and small crustaceans, molluscs, worms, grubs, and snails. 

Tennyson: We feel that we are greater than we know

For now the Heavenly Power
Makes all things new,
And thaws the cold, and fills
The flower with dew;
The blackbirds have their wills,
The poets too

It is not that I am unaware of Tennyson, and I find his poems quite charming, just that I find long poems too much for attention and becomes difficult to comprehend, sometimes the language is too ‘Victorian’. 
It so happened that on an afternoon walk in the streets of Mysore while the setting sun rhymed poetry in the west, I stumbled upon a thin collection A Treasure of Poems (Book 1) with the second hand books vendor. He said it will cost 5R!! I gave him 10R. When was the last time anyone of you bought a book for 10R?! I flipped through the book as I sipped Sarasparila drink at a local shop (Indian Sarasparila is different from American that is the source for much popular drink, the root beer). Soon I was reading what I read in school many decades back “The little bird” 

What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger,
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.

Charming, however this blogger prefers that children be taught in their mother tongue as far as possible, English can be compulsory language (visit me at on this). So there it was time to revisit Tennyson. Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was one those very few poets who attained peak of his popularity while still alive, but not before he went through bleakest of situations in life. Any other person in his place would have easily broken down, his tenacity towards vagaries of life is what really rivets me to him.

The Eagle
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

All Things Will Die

Clearly the blue river chimes in its flowing
Under my eye;
Warmly and broadly the south winds are blowing
Over the sky.
One after another the white clouds are fleeting;
Every heart this May morning in joyance is beating
Full merrily;
Yet all things must die.
The stream will cease to flow;
The wind will cease to blow;
The clouds will cease to fleet;
The heart will cease to beat;
For all things must die.
All things must die.
Spring will come never more.
Oh! vanity!
Death waits at the door.
See! our friends are all forsaking
The wine and the merrymaking.
We are called--we must go.
Laid low, very low,
In the dark we must lie.
The merry glees are still;
The voice of the bird
Shall no more be heard,
Nor the wind on the hill.
Oh! misery!
Hark! death is calling
While I speak to ye,
The jaw is falling,
The red cheek paling,
The strong limbs failing;
Ice with the warm blood mixing;
The eyeballs fixing.
Nine times goes the passing bell:
Ye merry souls, farewell.
The old earth
Had a birth,
As all men know,
Long ago.
And the old earth must die.
So let the warm winds range,
And the blue wave beat the shore;
For even and morn
Ye will never see
Through eternity.
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
 For all things must die.

I thought of putting this poem that contrast the above… 

Nothing Will Die

When will the stream be aweary of flowing
Under my eye?
When will the wind be aweary of blowing
Over the sky?
When will the clouds be aweary of fleeting?
When will the heart be aweary of beating?
And nature die?
Never, oh! never, nothing will die?
The stream flows,
The wind blows,
The cloud fleets,
The heart beats,
Nothing will die.
Nothing will die;
All things will change
Through eternity.
'Tis the world's winter;
Autumn and summer
Are gone long ago;
Earth is dry to the centre,
But spring, a new comer,
A spring rich and strange,
 Shall make the winds blow
Round and round,
Through and through,
Here and there,
Till the air
And the ground
Shall be filled with life anew.
The world was never made;
It will change, but it will not fade.
So let the wind range;
For even and morn
Ever will be
Through eternity.
Nothing was born;
Nothing will die;
All things will change.

Flower in the crannied wall
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

 Snake Shyam talks: I happen to listen to Snake Shyam (and Gowri Shankar, who works on King Cobra in Agumbe). Most mysorian know enigmatic and quintessential Snake Shyam, he is now a popular elected councilor, indeed he could have easily been an MP. We went with him for snake rescue mission and saw him in action. He has rescued and released about 30,000 snakes, the man is really passionate about snakes. Though quite flamboyant he comes out as an endearing man. I had joined the workshop to remove my reluctance on snakes. His advice to the group was “not to listen to parents!!” while Gowri Shankar mentioned that “things will look better after this generation of elders vanishes”. Clearly our so called family tradition has no value for nature, despite tall claims, it will need a new generation of sensitive individuals to break free from these regressive pits.

From my scribble pad..

The wasp 
The world and its wants,
tribulations and expectations can go by
 Everything else is here 
The sun, moon and stars
and this earth and its wonders
Like this wasp 
that has just alighted on the window sill 
observes in brief stillness 
and beats its wing for a hurried detour 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The White-eared Bird is a Bulbul

The White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis) is quite common along the Aravalli hills, specifically in JNU there are quite a few. They are similar to Himalayan bulbuls but lack the crest and are smaller in size. Gulf countries don’t have too much of biodiversity but this is one bird that you could see across Saudi to Iran and western part of India. Spotted this one at JNU, during the bird survey on big bird day, sometime back.  
Vayalar Ramavarma (1928-1975): stirring voice from the land of advaitha
I have been listening to songs of Vayalar Ramavarma since I could remember. He was a Malayalam poet and lyricist, he gained immense popularity with the latter, his movie songs are enormously popular to this day. Though he was using the populist medium and constraints associated with it he never compromised on quality. The language used is quite simple, so that common people can understand and enjoy, but the meanings are much deeper. He was quintessentially an Indian mind with deep rooted compassion emanating from the best of Indian thoughts and philosophy. His songs have had an elemental impact on me, since it is in popular medium the songs tends to stay on forever in collective psyche. What an amazing man. 
I happened to be at Alappuzha (Kerala), just about 20Km from my home is a place called Vayalar (the place is also witnessed to hundreds of people being massacred for rising against the atrocities committed by Diwan CP Iyer in 1946. This was one of the foremost popular communist uprisings in the country. CP was a scoundrel akin to the Nazi, who is, quite understandably, being resurrected by his progenies/clan et al Kasthuri & Sons. The audacity of it, they also hoodwink into comrade ranks, only shows rot at the top of communist parties). Vayalar Ramavarma’s samadhi is next to his palatial house. I have here translated three of his popular songs from malayalam, my translations is quite wanting and poor imitations. The readers needs to keep in mind that the choice of words by the lyricist is such that it seamlessly weaves into songs, also the deep held meaning that he sought to communicate, it’s a miracle these songs. 
Manushyan mathangale srishtichoo

Manushyan mathangale srishtichoo
mathangal dhaivangale srishtichoo
manushyanum mathangalum dhaivangalum koodee
mannu panku vachu manassu panku vachu
(Manushyan mathangale)

hinduvaayee musslamaanaayee christianiyaayi
nammale kandaalariyaathaayee
india bhranthaalayamaayee
aayiramaayira maanava hrudhayangal
aayudha purakalaayee
dhaivam theruvil marikkunnu
chekuthaan chirikkunnu
(Manushyan mathangale)

sathyamevide soundaryamevide
swathanthryamevide nammude
rakth bandangalevide
nithya snehangalevide
aayiram yugangalil orikkal
varaarulloravathaarangal evide
manushyan theruvil marikkunnu
mathangal chirikkunnu
(Manushyan mathangale)

Man created religions

Man created religions
religions created gods
man, religions and gods together
divided the land and divided the minds
(repeat: Man created religions)

We became hindus, muslims, christians
we have become unrecognizable
India has become madhouse
Thousands and thousands of human hearts
have become storehouse of weapons
while god dies on the street
devil smiles
(repeat: Man created religions)

Where is the truth, where is the beauty
where has our freedom gone
where are blood relations
where are friends forever
where is the music that comes
once in thousand years
While man is dying in the street
religions are laughing
(repeat: Man created religions)

Pravaachakanmaare pravaachakanmaare

Pravaachakanmaare pravaachakanmaare
Parayoo prabhaathamakaleyaano
Prapancha shilppikale
Parayoo prakaashamakaleyaano (pravaachaka)
(Repeat: Pravaachakanmaare pravaachakanmaare)

Aadhiyushassin chuvanna mannil
Ninnaayuga sangamangal
Ivideyuyarthiya viswaasa gopurangal
Idinju veezhunnu kaatil idinju veezhunnu
Ee vazhithaarayil aalambamillaathe
Eswaran nilkkunnu dharmma neethikal
Thaadi valarthi thapassirikkunnu thapassirikkunnu (pravaachaka)
(Repeat: Pravaachakanmaare pravaachakanmaare)

Bhaavi charithram thiruthiyezhuthum
Bharatha yudha boovil
Idayan thelichoru chaithannya radham thakarnnu veezhunnu
Ee kurukshethratthilaayudhamillaathe arjunan nilkkunnu
Thathwa saasthrangal etho chithayil eriyunnu (pravaachaka)
(Repeat: Pravaachakanmaare pravaachakanmaare)

Hey prophets, hey prophets  

Hey prophets, hey prophets
Tell me is the morning nearby
Creators of universe
Tell me is the light nearby
(repeat: Hey prophets, hey prophets)
In the red sand of eternal dawn
The towers of faith
is collapsing into the forests
On the pathway without any magnificence
stands god with long grown beard
And is in deep meditation 
(repeat: Hey prophets, hey prophets)

Future is rewriting the history
In the battle field of India
the chariot of consciousness is collapsing
In this kurushetra Arjuna is standing without any weapons
Look the truth, philosophy is burning in the pyre 
(repeat: Hey prophets, hey prophets) 
Adhwaitham janicha naattil 

Adhwaitham janicha naattil 
Aadhi shankaran janicha naattil 
Aayiram jaathikal aayiram mathangal 
Aayiram dhaivangal 
Adhwaitham janicha naattil

Mathangal janikkum mathangal marikkum 
Manushyanonne vazhiyullu 
Nithya sneham thelikkunna veedhi 
Sathyonnyeshana veedhi 
Yugangal raktham chinthiya veedhi 
Adhwaitham janicha naattil 

Prapancham muzhuvan velicham nalkaan 
Pakalinonne vilakkullu
Laksham nakshathra dheepangal koluthi 
Swapnam kaanunnu raathri 
Velicham swapnam kaanunnu raathri 

Adhwaitham janicha naattil 
Aadhi shankaran janicha naattil 
Aayiram jaathikal aayiram mathangal 
Aayiram dhaivangal 
Adhwaitham janicha naattil

The land where advaitha was born 

The land where advaitha was born 
The land where Adi Shankara was born 
Thousands of castes, thousands of religions 
Thousands of gods
The land where advaitha was born 

Religions are born, religions die 
Humans are but on the roadside 
Ways of the eternal love befalls 
Ways of the seekers of truth 
Ways of the blood spilled ages 
The land where advaitha was born

To light the whole universe 
Daylight is being torched 
Millions of stars form strings of deepam 
Night is dreaming 

The night when the light dreams 
The land where advaitha was born 
The land where Adi Shankara was born 
Thousands of castes, thousands of religions
Thousands of gods 
The land where advaitha was born

 From my scribble pad…

I scrape my memories to get references 
For the realities I face 
the world is diminishing at a rate 
that I fail to keep track 
I desire to enter the embryo 
and the world begin anew

Stray insights 
There is a way with time
It mauls the passerby
And punishes for the crime not committed

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grey Jungle fowl

 I have been hearing Grey Jungle fowl (Gallus sonneratii) for some years now, their loud calls reverberates the mornings of the Western Ghats. These are extremely shy fowls, I have had very few and fleeting sightings in the last many years. So it was a pleasant surprise that not only did I get to see them but also had the opportunity to observe for long time. A wild relative of domestic fowls, Grey Jungle fowl are found only in the jungles of Indian peninsula, and are quite a vocal presence in the mornings and dusks of these dense forests.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz: hum dekhenge, laazimhaike hum bhi dekhenge, hum dekhenge

We will see
It is certain that we too will see
We will see

Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) evokes strong fervour among the listeners, the simplicity of words and universality of theme, that binds the oppressed into hope, is what gets hold of you. The above line is an example; it’s a call for rebellion against the oppression. It was a protest against Zia ul Haq’s policies that were quite detrimental and led to intolerance, and ultimate moral decline of a society called Pakistan, the mess you see now has seeds in these. Here is the translation of the poem…

We will see
It is certain that we too will see
We will see

That day which has been promised
Which has been written in the divine tablet

We will see
When the cruel mountains of injustice
Will blow away like cotton-wool
Beneath the feet of us oppressed
The earth's heartbeat will pound
And above the heads of the rulers
The lightening will roar

We will see
From the kabah of God's earth
All the idols will be lifted
We of-the-pure who are labeled haram
On high cushions will we be seated
All crowns will be hurled
All thrones will be brought down

We will see
The only name remaining will be that of Allah
Who is absent but present
Who is the spectacle and the beholder
The cry “I am truth” will arise
Of which I am and so are you
And the creation of God will rule
Of which I am and so are you

We will see
It is certain that we too will see
We will see

Faiz was a powerful voice from the subcontinent, and no longer restricted to the region. He gave voice to the problems that assail the oppressed. “His poetry continues to inspire people of all political persuasions from the far left to the far right and everyone in between” (A.M. Hashmi). Faiz used his position to limelight the matter of land reforms, problems of workers and other pressing issues that concerned the masses. He had an amazing sense of empathy and camaraderie with dispossessed. His perceptions on these matters were built during the time when his father died leaving a huge debt, Faiz writes “…suddenly transferred us from one class to the other. This sudden transformation posed a question before me: Why are there classes? Why are some people wealthy and the others poor?”

To this day
The anguish of this day
The anguish of this day, displeased with life’s flower garden
This wilderness of yellowing leaves, my homeland
This carnival of suffering, my homeland
To the melancholy lives of clerks
To moth-eaten hearts and tongues
To postmen, tonga-wallahs, rail men
To innocent factory workers    
Faiz considered Mohammed Iqbal as his poetic mentor, the relation was deeper and dates back much earlier, when as a student Faiz recited a poem on Iqbal -in his presence as a chief guest, later it was Iqbal who recommended Faiz.
A impromptu elegy on Iqbal's death

There came to our land a sweet singing beggar
Sang his song and moved on
Desolate pathways and deserted taverns sprang to life
Far away is he now, that regal beggar
And forlorn once again are the streets of our land
The Second World War presented a dilemma for the intellectuals in India, in the meanwhile the brutality of Hitler and imperial Japanese forces were being known to the outside world, the difficult decision about which side to choose was finally over and Faiz decided to join the propaganda department of British Indian army as a Captain and eventually rose to the rank of Colonel and was even awarded for his services. He resigned the Army and headed The Pakistan Times newspaper. It was around this time as subcontinent was being divided, and Pakistan was carved out that he wrote Subh-e-Azadi (Independence Dawn)

This blemish light, this night stung dawn
This is not the morning we waited so long
In whose fervour we set off
Hoping to at last, find
The stars final repose in the sky’s desert
Somewhere, surely, night’s sluggish tide would find shore
Somewhere, the ship of heartache would drop anchor
And now, we hear, the birth of dawn from darkness has occurred
That our final sanctuary has been reached

I was reading Faiz Ahmed Faiz His Life, His Poems: The Way It Was Once (Ali Madeeha Hashmi) “Salima, his older daughter, had her first child, a son, in 1970 in Karachi. She remembers that Alys went out to announce to Faiz, Salima’s husband ShoaibHashmi and Shoaib’s older brother that a son has been born. The men started cheering and celebrating and Alys came back fuming, mumbling that they probably would not have cheered so loudly if it had been a daughter. The boy was named ‘Yaseer’ by Faiz, in honour of his friend, Yaseer Arafat. A few years later, in 1974, Salima did have a daughter. Faiz named her ‘Mira’ in honour of his friend Mira Salganik. Salima was concerned that ‘Mira’ might make people think of hindu mystic, ‘Meerabai’, the devotee of Krishna, possibly causing some raised eyebrows in ‘Muslim’ Pakistan, until Faiz assured her that Mira was a constellation in the heavens and was also an Arabic word (emphasis mine)”. 

What kind of argument is this, I am appalled. It reeks of siding with dogmatism. If Faiz is what is being claimed then he should have said something on the line ‘…good if it means Meerabai, the name therefore represent devotion, that is quite positive, anyway a name is in the beauty of how it sounds, further it also means constellation….” But our man couldn’t think on these lines. I have observed that the so called liberals too get into mullah’s (read rigid fundamentalist Muslims, who give misery wherever they roost) framework as and when it suites them and easily slip through to claim ‘secular’ and egalitarian without much scrutiny. It is unacceptable, and these lapses should be dealt sternly. This instance, as also his response to creation of Bangladesh, put serious question mark on Faiz as an “aggressive humanist”. I am also deeply concerned that though he married a European lady, he gave her a muslim name and is clear that the children carry muslim names which means conversion of religion, and as is the case, to the requirements of male, thus consolidating patriarchy, grossly feudal. I fail to see any humanistic values here. Having faith in a religion is a personal choice but then to be driven by its deviant norms and ways as matter of expression cannot be condoned, particularly when the person concerned is placing himself as humanist poet and torchbearer of conscience. We all have blemishes but to include this incident in the biography that too by his grandson (and a psychiatrist!) is not only puzzling but disappointing, maybe the society has become so regressive that these are seen as normal. Nevertheless it is quite a readable book and very significant contribution on Faiz (though I cannot stop thinking that with so many pictures of smokers, the book maybe sponsored by a cigarette company!! In a feudal-liberal construct it is a possibility). I also happen to watch a play Kuchh Ishq Kiya Kuchh Kaam in Mysore based on the life of Faiz by MS Sathyu. It covered his romantic period, as also scenes from Rawalpindi conspiracy so on. It is around this time i thought of writing Faiz in my blog. Apart from many website I also happen to read Faiz aur unki shayari (Prakash Pandit) as also listen to Rooh-e-Faiz (Saba Prateeksha). 

Faiz’s legacy of humanism, peace and social justice endure and remain a definitive standpoint for struggling and marginalised millions across the world. Here are some of his poems, due to paucity of space i am putting only one (from A Song For This Day: 52poems)  

Tell Us What to Do

We floated the little rowing boat of life
Upon the waters of affliction
And what strength was there in the arms
What a tumult in the blood
It seemed that all that was needed
Was a few strong strokes
And the shore would be ours

But that is not how it was
Each little eddy hid an unseen maelstrom
And the oarsmen were untried
And now we have tried all the tacks
And handed out all the blame
And the waters are afflicted
And the rowboat still the same

Now you must say what we are to do
And show the way to the shore
And when we felt the wounds of this land
And found them embedded in the heart
And there was faith in the faith healers
And their recipes for elixir
And it seemed it would be but a little time
And the pain would be forgotten
And the wounds would all be healed

But that is not how it was
The malady was old as time
And the healers never knew
And the elixir never worked

And now you are free to do as you will
And lay the blame where it will lie
But the heart is the same as ever
And the wounds are all the same
And you must tell us what we are to do.

Weaver ants at work..
From my scribble pad…

Waiting for time to or is it to waiting time for  
The beggar at the street corner asked ‘What’s the time?’
I replied ‘9.30’
‘Will it be 10.30 after an hour?’ 
‘Yes, that’s how it is’
That is how it is.

At a tourist place

They take pictures of everything and anything
And them with them and it, it with them and it
The group, the couple, the individuals and children  
Smiling, hugging, slanting against the wonder
What they miss they capture
and what they capture they don’t see.
It’s a trapeze of worth against moment  
Moment against yearn.
It is when you watch
You see.