Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Seeking the Long-billed Pipit

It’s not always you come across a long billed Pipit (Anthus similis), and to add that the Himalayan foothill specie differ from the peninsular hill ones (jerdoni as against travancoriensis). Caught up with this one on a late noon walk through the mountains on the outskirts of Dehardun (Uttrakhand), he had just landed on the wall of a little hill temple, did few minutes of show off and there he went.  

So says Rahim

Body, a paper toy
turns into pulp in a trice
strange, so says Rahim
yet filled with much pride

After Kabir the most popular dohas is undoubtedly that of Rahim’s. Rahim is very much part of collective conscience. As Kabir invoked his own name in his dohas –kah kabira, Rahim too wrote Rahiman Kahe (so says Rahim), thus making his name extremely popular among common people. Savor this…

Bade badai na karain bade na boole bole
Rahiman heera kab kahe lakh taka mero mol.

(The truly great never reveal their worth. Nor do those who are truly worthy of praise, praise themselves. Says Rahim, when does a diamond reveals its value)

Rahiman dhaga prem ka, mat todo chatkai
Toote se phir na jude, jude gaanth pad jaye

(Says Rahim, don't allow the (delicate) thread of love (between individuals) to snap. Once it snaps, it cannot be rejoined and if you do rejoin it, there is a knot in it)

Even the most popular lines during school Bada hua to kya hua, jaise ped khajoor/Panchi ko chaya nahi, fal lagat ati dur (What’s the point in being big (tall) like a date palm/ It doesn’t give shade to even a bird and the fruit grows so far), being a short thin fellow it helped me a lot in getting even!!

  If you are in Nizamuddin part of Delhi, while moving from Humayun’s tomb towards the Railway station you will come across a rather run down but well maintained ‘makbara’ on the road side itself. Chances are you will not give a second thought to it (believe me I have passed through this place more than few hundred times!!). Even when you decide to pay a visit (it is charged, that keeps the hooligans out) you will not realize that this is Rahim’s tomb. Such is the ways of people who decide these things. They could have kept few popular dohas in the walkways so on, this would have helped people connect, as also it is a tribute to the great man as he is cherished by the people for the same reason. So what we have here is neat but staid description of his life and architecture (which ofcourse is marvelous), one may not even finish the read. Clearly the people who thought about these didn’t have their heart in the right place, they wrote a paragraph and worked out the garden –for people to picnic, I reckon. Just another hangout spot on weekends rather than about Rahim, Market driven literature refers to it as quality time, in a civilized world it is nothing but non violent vandalism. Further, if you ask anyone about Rahim’s makbara they wouldn’t know, even the regular rickshaws plying the place, you have to refer to as Khankhana, asking for Khan-e-Khana will get response like ‘yahan khana nahi miltha!!”.
Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana (17 December 1556 -1627) aka Rahim was one of the Navratnas (Nine Gems) in Akbar's court. The surprise here is that he was the son of devilish Bhairam Khan, the man who caused immense atrocities on common people. Akbar was sickened of Bhairam Khan attics so once he came of age and attained his bearings, he send him away, and is speculated that got him killed. Infant Rahim was adopted by Akbar as his son. Rahim was multilingual and quite comfortable in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hindi (even Braj Basha), in the meanwhile he also became a powerful army general and commanded Akbar’s armies in many battles. These are interesting facts since people always read Kabir and Rahim in same context and assume that Rahim too was living as a mendicant or like many others in the fringes of society as these dohas were sung by people seeking alms. Another interesting fact was that he was a devotee of lord Krishna and wrote many religious couplets. He was also quite conversant in philosophy and literature (I am not mentioning astrology since it’s dealing with nonsense and works on insecurities of people, pseudo science is the nearest claim for credibility). Rahim translated Baburnama (“Babur’s memoirs” from original Chaghtai language to Persian) that remains an authentic and one of the widely referred source of medieval Indian history. 

Known for his philanthropy and charitable acts, there is an interesting episode in this context that is worth relating. Rahim was humble about giving alms and would never look at the face of the people seeking alms, instead he kept his gaze at their feet, Tulsidas (another of Navratnas in Akbar’s court) while emphasizing his benevolence questions his demeanor in form of a couplet
Aisi deni den jyun, kit seekhe ho sain
 Jyon jyon kar unchaya karo, tyon tyon neeche nain
(Why do you give alms like this Sir? Where did you learn it?
Your hands go high, but your eyes are so low)

Touched by Tulsidas’s kind words, Rahim answered with his own verse, and I must add that these subtle acts are quite rare and defining moments in our civilizational understanding, reminds me of Ghalib in context to Zauq.
Denhaar koi or hai, bhejat jo din rain
 Log bhram hum par kare, taso neeche nain
(It is not me who gives, but the one who augur in day and night. I lower my eyes so the people do not give me credit for the acts of charity)

Unfortunately Rahim’s life took a nasty turn after the demise of Akbar. Rahim had tutored Prince Salim (later Jahangir) but came to dislike him and opposed his ascension to throne which turned out to be a futile effort. Once Jahangir was crowned the emperor he had Rahim stripped of his powers and expelled him, he even executed his two sons (indeed his nephews), and in a chilling act their bodies were left to rot at Delhi’s Khooni Darwaza (“Bloodied Gate”). 

Rahiman baath agmay ki, kahin sunun ki nahi
Jo janath wo kahath nahi, kahath the janath nahi
(Rahim says, truth cannot be described. Those who know don’t tell and those who tell cannot know)
This metaphor of chess is indeed quite smart…

Jo rahim oche bade, tho athi ithraye
Pyadha se farzi bayo, tedo tedo jaye
(Rahim says, when a petty person gets promoted he shows lots of pride.
Like in a chess game when a pawn becomes a rook it start to move crisscross)

Jo baden ko lagu kahe, nahi rahim gati jaye
Giridhar murlidhar kahe, kachu dukh manath nahi
(If you attempt to degrade a great person, they don’t get degraded
It is not considered demeaning to call ‘mountain bearing lord Krishna’ as just a flute player)

Rahiman weh nar mar chuke, je kahu mangan jaahi
Unthe pahle weh mue, jin mukh nikhsath nahi
(Rahim says, those who beg are like dead people
But those who don’t give even after begging are already dead)    
 Jo Rahim Uttam Prakriti, Ka Kar Sakath Kusangh
Chandan Vish Vyapth Nahi, Lipte Rahat Bhujangh
(Says Rahim, one who is of inherently noble nature, will remain unaffected even when he associates with bad people. The sandalwood plant does not absorb poison when the snakes wind around it)

He has written some nasty stuff too!!
Kheera mukh te kaatye, maliyat laun lagye
Rahiman karue mukh ko chahiyat eehi sazaye
(To cure a bitter cucumber, we cut its head off and rub in salt. Says Rahim, to cure a bitter mouth we should apply the same remedy)

So next time you see this pavement chaatwala cut the head of cucumber and rub in the salt recall Rahim’s doha and get some vicarious satisfaction!!

My collection of books runs into thousands, despite my best efforts it keeps increasing!!

From my scribble pad…

 Colours of the day
The earth get lit into green and blue
The lower half green and upper blue
Sometimes the puddles carry the blue
And trees take out the green
Trembles the clear world into blurs
That seeks chaos  
The egret slashes through the puzzle 
With it whites, ruff, chitter chatter  
From green to blue and blue to green
So it goes on till the lights are off

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Whimbrel: of the new moon

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a large shorebirds. They have a long, dark bill that curves downward like a crescent, the genus name, Numenius, means "of the new moon". The bill is well suited for probing soft mud for small crustaceans and pulling fiddler crabs from its burrow. It’s a migrant from northern hemisphere and is quite common in the coastal region of the peninsula, found this one at Mararikulam beach (Kerala). Extremely vary of human beings therefore often act as a sentinel species as they are the first to alert the other birds to danger.
Sarmad Shaheed, the beloved naked fakir: I swim in the sea of disobedience but I do not drown

Why do you wander in the wilderness
Looking for Him?
Sit still. If He is God
He will appear on His own

Sarmad Shaheed was a fakir who was close to Dara Shikoh (“my master and preceptor” was how Dara addressed him) and therefore was beheaded by Aurungzeb with the active connivance and guidance of the mullahs –who saw him as a threat to their orthodoxy. Irony here was that Sarmad was but only a fakir who didn’t posses anything nor any desires, indeed he had even shed his cloths and roamed naked, that he was much liked by common people and his views cherished reflects the subtle nature of society. “There can be no denying the fact that he has played a very important part in molding and shaping the spiritual thought and evolution of India” (Dr. Zahurul Hassan Sharib). His popularity was the reason that the ‘mighty’ mughal king Aurungzeb had to seek religious reasons to behead him. Mullah Qawi was sent to Sarmad to investigate the reason for his nudity. The Mullah asked “Despite your wisdom and knowledge why you have chosen nakedness?” Sarmad answered, “What can I do? The devil is qawi on me”. He recited
My tall Beloved has dwarfed me
His wine cup eyes have snatched my senses
He is in my arms, yet I seek him
What a strange thief
He has stripped of my garments
That was enough to make the mullah furious, Sarmad had cleverly used his name to invoke devil as also taken potshot at moribund interpretation of Islam. Mullah rushed back and informed Aurungzeb that he has now evidence for death sentence and was about to issue the fatwa that Aurungzeb stops him, realizing the weakness of evidence. Sarmad was not an ordinary person to be dealt so routinely, whole of Shajahanabad had become his devotee, accordingly it was decided that he appear before a gathering of elders and wise.
Aurungzeb was the first to interrogate, “People say that Sarmad predicted an empire of Dara. Is it true?”
Sarmad’s reply was characteristic of him, “Yes my prediction proved true. Dara Shikoh was crowned king in the empire of eternity”.
Aurungzeb thought nudity to be not fit enough cause for execution and wanted him to recite the verse, aware that Sarmad only recited the first part i.e. ‘La illah’ which meant denial of god. Sarmad maintained that he is still at the stage of ‘no’ and haven’t yet realized ‘yes’ and therefore cannot say what is not risen from within. Accordingly he was ordered to be executed for blasphemy and was dragged through the streets. As the executioner moved his sword, it is recorded that he smiled and looked straight into the executioners face and said
O come, I implore you!
In whatever guise you come
I know you well

I was reading Sarmad Shaheed by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (written in 1910 he used two major sources Miratul Khayal by Sherkhan Lodhi and Riaz-ul-Shuara by Ali Quli Valeh Daghistani as reference) as also Rubaiyat of Sarmad (translated by Syeda Saiyidain Hameed). Maulana Azad’s is an excellent piece of writing, exceptionally nuanced and elevating, it was a pleasure reading even the translation. Clearly he was quite an evolved mind but I find his narrow reference of Sarmad to Islam (indeed pride) rather stifling, it is clear that Sarmad is beyond religion, the fact recognized by Azad but I sense he makes attempt to place Sarmad into tight jacket of Islam, as an ‘prime example of Islam’s all encompassing scope’. There is an unnecessary attempt at pamphleteering, ‘universal benediction of sun of Islam’ so on. As a necessary retort, I submit that Sarmad would not have been possible without influence from diversity and somewhat chaotic form of thoughts, and liberation herewith, that forms ‘hindu’ society.    
The grave of Sarmad is located in the spot where he was executed, next to the Jama Masjid. Abul Kalam Azad quotes Daghistani that people heard sounds from the severed head of Sarmad and that it recited remaining two syllables ‘Illalah’ thrice, and even praised the god. Azad has an interesting take on this, he writes “Today people may not give credence to oral tradition, and it is biographer’s duty to separate tradition from history, but we are not surprised at this eyewitness record. If one should not, in principle, listen to hearsay, one should atleast see the fact as they are. During the spring we have often seen flowers conversing. During the fall we have heard the dry desolate branches whispering to one another. It is therefore, no great wonder that the lips of Sarmad’s severed head were seen in motion” What do say to that? Whatever romanticism one may have but this is a blatant attempt to twist the ‘facts’ to the requirement of religion. It is quite clear that Sarmad denied god as defined by religion, and to confine him into something defined as a religion is a mistake. It is shocking that Azad (whose birth anniversary is celebrated as National education day) attempts to put words in the mouth of severed head (I am sorry but it sounds as ridiculous as pushpakviman as precursor to aircrafts) to justify his own wonderful versions. This kind of nonsense is not going to be tolerated, I am going mild considering that this was written in 1910. There are other crazy versions to the aftermath of execution, one says that he carried his own head down the steps of Jama Masjid while another says that the body picked up its own head which recited the Muslim affirmation of faith the kalima-i taiyaba ("There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his Prophet") and then proclaimed to the crowd, "Ana al-Haq" ("I am Reality, I am one with God"), however compelling these maybe but I don’t think I will be delving in these fertile hocus-pocuses.         

For common people Sarmad becomes a martyr, a Shaheed. His legacy lives on. “…Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not” says the inscription on his tomb. Like Dara Shikoh, Sarmad too was sought to be expunged from annals of history, it is therefore not surprising his grave, a much revered sight for common people, lies in congested slum next to the imposing Jama Masjid –the site where he was executed, sandwiched by another imposing structure –the tomb of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (India’s first education minister, the one I referred in the earlier paragraph), irony here is Abul Kalam has written quite extensively on Sarmad. Sarmad Shaheed’s tomb lies near a lone neem tree in the congested Meena Bazar, there is no proper entrance, you have to walk into and through a dilapidated tea stall, a short narrow alley and you come across vivid Red and Green tiled two adjoining tombs. Kwaja HareyBarey’s tomb as the name suggests is green in colour, while Sarmad is bright blood red signifying his fury and martyrdom. To know that his stature as a poet is often mentioned along with Firdausi, Saadi, Hafez, Jami and Omar Khayyam makes the squalor surroundings and neglect poignant. While I was here many people were seen sitting around the tomb in reverence, irrespective of religious affiliation or other such nonsense. Kissing his tomb was a cherishing moment for me too.
Who is the lover, beloved, idol and idol-maker but You?
Who is the beloved of the Kaaba, the temple and the mosque?
Come to the garden and see the unity in the array of colours.
In all of this, who is the lover, the beloved, the flower and the thorn?
According to the majority of sources, Sarmad was an Iranian Jew, who converted to Islam, it is though widely accepted that he had a universalistic notion of religion, seeing no conflict between his Judaism and the esoteric truth of the Sufi path he adopted. In his poems Sarmad asserts that he is neither Jew, nor Muslim, nor Hindu. He undoubtedly had a deep dalliance with Hinduism (as is reflected in some of his couplets), clearly he had grown beyond the hold of religions. A fakir lives in spiritual realm.
He dwells not only in temples and mosques --
The whole creation is his abode.
The whole world is bewitched by his tale,
but wise are those who are lost in his love
He moved along with his hindu lover, a boy who had a melodious voice and sang the moving verses composed by Sarmad. Sarmad would break into ecstatic dance soon these would acquire spiritual dimensions.
He and I are one, like the word and its meaning.
Behold union in separation, like the eye and vision.
Not for a moment is He separate from me --
Behold us together everywhere, like flower and fragrance
They wander from Sind to Lahore then Golconda to Agra and finally Delhi (Shahjahanabad, what is now Chandni Chowk-Daryaganj region) at Khwaja Hareybarey. Soon he gained immense popularity among common people. He was stridently against the orthodoxy of mullahs and misery it created for common people “In the shadow of great mosques does evil prosper”. For the Mullah, Islam was a set of stern and inflexible laws, for Sarmad, it was nothing but a message of love. In the meanwhile, Sarmad in his discussions with Dara, contributed to din-i ilahi, an idea of “Divine Religion”, something that was initiated by Akbar.
He who understood the secrets of the Truth
Became vaster than the vast heaven
Mullah says “Mohammad went to heaven”
Sarmad says “Nay, heaven came down to Mohammad”

Sarmad brought the complex sufi believes into the restrictive matrix of rubayi with great precision, intensity and economy. These translations –even transliteration, will definitely miss that intensity and accompanying force of the language…

Aitebar-e-wada hai mardum-e-duniya ghalat
Haan ghalat, aaray ghalat, imshub ghalat, farda ghalat
Nushka-e-beenai-e-deewan-e-umr-e-ma mapurs
Khat ghalat, maani ghalat, insha ghalat imla ghalat

It is wrong
Certainly wrong, wrong today, wrong tomorrow
To trust the promises of this world.
Do not ask
For the manuscript of my story,
Erroneous spelling, erroneous calligraphy
Mistaken meaning, mistaken style.

Az fazl-e-khuda hamesha raahat daaram
Ba naan-e-javin qanae-o-himmat daaram
Nay beem ze duniya-o-na andesha-e-deen
Dar gosha-e-maikhana faraghat daaram

By the grace of god,
Have I always been content.
From a loaf barley bread
I have drawn strength.
Afraid neither of the world or religion,
Sitting in the corner of the tavern
I am free !

Shaah-e-shahanaim zahid choon tu urian neestam
Shauq-o-zauq-e-shorisham lekin pareeshan neestam
But parastam kafiram, az ahl-e-imaan neestam
Su-e-masjid meerawam, amma muslamaan neestam

I am the king of the kings
O sheikh! Not naked like you,
I love madness, dynamism but I am not distraught
An infidel, an idolator,
I am not one of the pious.
I am going towards the mosque
But i am not a muslim. 
From my scribble pad…

Enter the Now
Listener of the rain beholds what the rain doesn’t
Incessant prattle becomes in a sense a rhythm
Of lives that flows out from every being
And the way as it is in the non being
The rain comes distinct as a drop
And all the world is clear
In a way as nothing is
Situates the self
A presence

 (I really don’t prefer the above, its bit contrived to get the effect of reducing words in each line to get the feel of entering. Quite flamboyant for my liking, nevertheless I am putting it in the blog as it isn’t all that bad an effort further it’s kind of structurally different, creepy but there is some novelty)

Road rage
This much is sure that the roads meet
At the sidewalks and the congested bylanes
Don’t have corners.
The resurrected tree is alive.
And so is the stale air that assail nose, and noses
Filling in strange sort of feeling
That makes blood curl
And go for the jugular
Of the offender
Or someone who fits in the role