ASOKA

Sita requests

The Asoka tree-

Prove true thy name;

Banish my Soka.

Your tender leaves burn

Me like fire

Pain surrounds me from

Every side.

Hanuman sees the frail woman

Her hair, a knot, unwashed, dusty

Eyes focussed at her tiny feet

Her whole aura, whispering

Ram, Ram.

Ravan approaches, Mandodari in tow

And a hundred beautiful women

From all clans-

Naga, Human, Gandharva, Rakshasa

” Listen, all of these women

Including Mandodari, my Queen consort

Shall be your slaves,

I give my word.”

Asoka cries along with Mandodari

At the humiliation, agony

Of debasement…

It cries along with Sita

At the humiliation, agony

Of debasement…

Two women crying

Over the same man

For different reasons:

One from hatred

One from love

Tears overwhelming…

The tree-

Wonders why it is

Doomed

To be named

Remover of pain

It sheds its leaves,

That burn both

Sita and Mandodari.

********

Asoka- without soka or pain.

The story referred to, is from SundarKanda in Ramayana.

Smoldering Coals and Other Stories…

Angarey- a collection of Urdu stories ( 9 stories and 1 play) by four young writers , back in 1932, literally created sparks. Banned in 1933 by the Government of the United Provinces, the books published by Nizami Press, Lucknow was burnt in the Office of the City Magistrate, charged with containing matter punishable under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The authors were a briliant, irreverent bunch, highly erudite and burning with rebellious optimism. Sajjad Zahir, whose taste for high thoughts were nourished at Oxford, Ahmad Ali, who taught English in China, and whose novel was praised by none other than E.M.Forster himself, Dr.Rashid Jahan, medico, all brilliance and passion, who was one of the founders of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA), Mahmuduzzafar,  who studied Economics at Oxford and wrote his story Masculinity (Jawanmardi) originally in English !

Almost 83 years later, the stories still make eminent sense, as they laugh at the hypocrisy of patriarchy, religion, rage at the objectification and exploitation of women…In the story “Heaven Assured”, Sajjad Zahir creates such a beautiful farce of mindless religious following, forgetting the beauty of living.  The character of Maulana aka Moulvi Doud Sahib who dreams of stunning Houris in his assured Heaven, but ignores his beautiful, young wife is as pertinent today , as 83 years before. The one act play, ‘Behind the Veil,” by Dr. Rashid Jahan points at the fate of many women even today, in different parts of the world, doomed to be just instruments of procreation- religion regardless. Mohammadi Begum epitomises the horror of a life that is under dictates of an unquestioned power structure.

This translation, published by Rupa in 2013, and translated from Urdu by Vibha Chauhan and Khalid Alvi, Professors at Zakir Husain Delhi College is a must read for anyone who was ever curious about “Urdu mein Angaray ki ravayat!” (The foreword is by Sajjad Zahir’s daughter and eminent theatre personality and writer Nadira Babbar)

******

Dame Snap, runs a school, which asks ridiculous questions.

” Why is a black board?”

Huh!

The questions are non sense, so the answers are non sense too!

That was my little girl, informing me wisely, from her Magic Faraway series.

That made me pause:

Very relevant.

In the book ‘Game of Life,’ by Florence Scovel Shinn, she says we literally create sense and non sense into our lives.

There was a man who feared certain disease, that was rare and very difficult to get. But he pictured it continually, and read about it until it manisfested in his body and he conked off.

Why was black board?

Don’t Snap!

Just beware (Be-aware) of the Scissors of the Mind- the pictures you focus on daily.

*****

In Vikram Seth’s ‘Rivered Earth’, he does beautiful calligraphy of Surdas’s Braj bhasha verse:

Little Krishna Wants The Moon

” Maiya, mei to chand khilauna laiho..”

My knowledge of Hindi and its fantastic dialects, including Braj Bhasha, is very limited, but with a sparkling joy I discover that with a little help from translators, I can read and understand the original lilting rhymes!

“Surdas hai kutil baraty geet sumangal gaiho!”

Not copying Seth’s learned translation, trying a bit of free wheeling myself (That is the coolest God of all ages- Krishna! He  will not mind, hehe!)

Here goes:

Ma, please get me that moon to play with!

Until you get me that, I am not going to play in your lap!

Won’t drink Surabhy’s milk nor comb my tresses!

Will be  Baba Nanda’s boy and not yours anymore!

Hey, come here my son, I won’t tell even Balram!

Yashoda laughs,  I will get you a pretty bride, come my son!

Really? Oh please do arrange my marriage now!

Surdas is  going to be a part of the procession

Am going to sing the wedding song!

*****

Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir, ‘And then one day,’ is a fat book. It looks slightly formidable but is actually quite a breezy read. Swear words and irreverence impishly poke up every where.

Yeah, what hooked me was the first sentence..”I was born in Barabanky..”.

His mother’s photograph made me sigh.

*************

A Picture Speaks…

head

Once upon a time

I knew someone

Who told me

” I do not understand poetry.”

It was said with sarcasm,

Contempt and pride.

I still struggle

With apt repartees

That went unsaid

Of course.

(Love is a strange suffocating mask…)

Today I know

It was the other’s

Misfortune-

Not mine.

I also knew someone

Who was afraid

Of what a woman’s words

Could do

To her reputation!

Hahahahahahaha.

(This one deserved the cake. Cliche is a poem too.)

In remembrance of all

Those who claimed to worship

Words

Without ever learning

To bow

Before her,

I dedicate

A simple poem…in ink.

(P.S. If you do not understand poetry, check your reputation.)

Ente Kavita / My Poetry : Vijaya Lakshmy (Translation)

To my readers who have given life to me, who have kept me alive- with a look, a word, a reading, an  acknowledgement, during my poetic journey.

As I present this compilation of my poems before you, I would like to reveal to you, only you, what poetry means to me.

All the Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha) are poetry to me. Life and dreams are poetry. Poetry is my friend and my love.

Following the Dharma of the Living, I entered into Grihastashram too. To make a living, I worked for a monthly pay.I have failed in Dharma, in my duties;  I have been vulnerable to all human failings. Poetry was  my refuge during all these travails. The outer aspects unravelled slowly, from all experiences. Like a faded flower, that still leaves behind a perfume, the poetry of those experiences remain.

In a very ordinary life, my days are my footsteps. In a desolate garden, in a secluded corner, like a spider weaves its web with fragile, delicate threads, enthused by an instinct- I have merely woven together the sky, water, wind and the sunlight that I have seen;  creating this work- albeit with limited word power.Perhaps a few dew drops must have shone bright , caught in these web threads.  A mid night star must have occasionally checked its reflection in the mirror of that dew drop.The rare sun ray that crept in, must have dazzled the web with a magical rain bow at times. Enough. That is good enough for me.

From dust emergeth, to dust returneth…In this unending flow, unable to distinguish either the speed or strength of an ineffable Creation, almost falling into the deep void, one moment! This life is but that moment- uncoveted by me. And poetry, like a life-breath, has given this momentary existence a radiance. Poetry and you, my readers- my exclusive fortune.

With gratitude,

Respectfully,

Vijaya Lakshmy.

(In the preface to her award winning poetry collection (1980-2010)….my most favourite vernacular poet writes thus)

Taj : Vijaya Lakshmy (Translation)

She died and the village grieved.

She was never a victim-she was the rescuer, always. She led people to greener pastures, helping to redeem the hunger, that was without origin or reason.As they gazed, she sparkled, shining bright. Reached a height that could not be gained by either the green grass or the great tree.

In the evenings when the children dribbled balls across the meadows, and the women lighted lamps in their homesteads and the men returned to homes loyally- she rose in the village skies.

At least for one soul.

The days went like this :  Food for a vagabond puppy, a support for a feeble old man and bread for the neighbour’s wife who came furtively seeking her help.

Wounds?  She let those heal in silence. Since she turned her impurity into good deeds, the village considered her a good omen.

She had nothing to hide. That day too, she sat on the porch, leaning against a pillar . She had forgiven herself-the Queen mother of pains. She had forgiven those great faces too, whose hungers she had appeased. She had let go of whatever had been hers.

The village never built her a memorial. She was the Taj Mahal.

(2010, Vijayalakshmy, Malayalam)

A Hymn For Love : Vijaya Lakshmy (Translation)

Picture 279Picture 281

Snehathinu Oru Prarthanageetham/ A Hymn for Love

Love hugged me close to its heart. My disbelieving fingertips searched for the Holy Wound in its palms.

In my dreams, I heard its song in the boughs of the Chempaka tree that the cuckoo had deserted.Sweet as nectar, harmonious glory. Like God’s own.

It was the night of the believers.In every earthly home, the light of heart’s purity was shining bright. In the eyes of Love, my reflection emerged. Like the dark shadows of the leaves, the reluctant silence laid a red carpet between Love and me. The Breath of Universe, walked across it  and caressed my forehead.

My impulsive heart forgot to beat for a second, and got entangled within an invisible lightning. The sound of Love  could be heard: This blaze will purify you, you will discover your own light, turning into light itself.

The echo absorbed the emptiness. An evergreen forest of love appeared therein. It blossomed, awaited for the spring eternal. Within the  silent, deep woods came the messages of the breeze. Light made love to light, sleep turned into ever lasting forgetfulness.

Love? It is unique. The key to happiness is in its hands.The Book of Solace is under its guard. The secret pathways full of scintillating laughter, is deep within its kingdom. The maps of dreams hang onto its walls. All sounds and echoes repeat forever a Hymn for Love. Love, keep me alive, alive, till eternity, carry me along with You.

In the blood dripping for hundreds of years from Your Holy Wound, I keep not my finger tip, but my pale lips and repeat : Love,  set me ablaze, ablaze, ablaze…..

( Vijaya Lakshmy, Samakalika Malayalam/Contemporary Malayalam, 2007)

Vayana (Reading) : Vijaya Lakshmy (Translation from Malayalam)

In one page as I turn, the serene blue skies

In the other- furious, the embattled ocean waters,

What if the sentences remain deeply silent-

Within them, time in greenly splendour- bursts forth.

In pages, smouldering ashes of rebellion

Intense like an impending great flood;

In the metallic dust that  encompasses all

The mind’s days and nights yearn towards

An imagery of ineffable twilight.

Then as I read, it rains

And wind hits against the glass windows

Relentlessly, by and by.

In the undulating flow of the

Goddess of Words

The earth’s mother-heart

Cools

The pain subsides.

********

Originally published in Malayalam, 2010, Mathrubhumi Literary Weekly Magazine