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Monday, August 28, 2006

Kamla Bhatt

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The Kamla Bhatt Show

Kamla Bhatt, writer, journalist, interviewer and now a passionate podcaster.

She has studied in Madras, Milwaukee and Delhi and divides her time between NYC and Banglore.

Look at THIS list of people that she has interviewed: Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Dr. Salman Akhtar and many more.

Listen to her podcasts and tell your friends about her:)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Faraz the irrepressible - Afzal Mirza

Originally linked on 7/27/06, this profile of Ahmed Faraz by Afzal Mirza is worth reproducing.

Writer Michael Mewshaw has quoted famous writer Jean Paul Sartre as saying that writers arere generally inferior to their books. But Mewshaw himself qualifies it with the assertion that this should in no way jeopardise the writer's status as a writer. Ever since his debut as a poet in early 1950's Ahmad Faraz has maintained his penchant for creating controversies, but his beautiful poetry helps in settling the dust raised by these controversies. There are many reasons for such controversies, but to me the major cause is his exceptional wit and uninhibited bluntness in commenting on almost every subject that he is asked to comment on. This has cost him heavily in life and for it he even had to undergo incarceration and exile. But again he knows how to extricate himself from such situations and resume his life as ever.

The problem is that, like all great poets and writers of yore, Faraz is not generous to his contemporaries. You ask his opinion about someone and he replies with a witty remark denigrating him. I remember that in the late 1950's the Bazm-i-Ilm-o-Fun in Abbottabad, of which I was then the general secretary, decided to hold an all-Pakistan mushaira. Among the few we considered inviting from the Peshawar Region was Faraz's name. Faraz had not yet written his famous ghazals 'sookhe hue kucch phool' and 'ranjish he sahi'. In those days his poem 'Bano ke naam' was in demand at every mushaira. While preparing the list of poets to be invited I found that majority of the members of the organising committee were opposed to inviting him. They gave number of reasons for their opposition, including that after reciting his poem Faraz would join the audience in hooting the other poets. Recently a friend who attended almost all of his mushairas in USA told me, "I like Faraz's poetry, which is marvellous, but I don't understand why after reading his poems he comes and sits in the audience and joins them in hooting other poets." I do not know why Faraz indulges in such pranks, but I have a feeling that even now, at the ripe age of 75, there is a 'teenager' in him that instigates him to do it.

Generally Faraz's detractors insist that he is the poet for teenagers. Late Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi wrote about an interesting incident that happened in Mecca. He along with Ahmad Faraz were performing Umra and a young man holding the trembling arm of his aged father approached Faraz because the old man wanted to meet his favorite poet. Qasmi says that he told Faraz that "Didn't you see this teenager expressing his devotion to you. It is a different matter that this teenager seems to be past 80-85." Qasmi continues to write, "'Faraz is a poet of teenagers.' 'Faraz is a poet of those who have just entered the threshold of youth.' 'Faraz is the poet of young college and university students.' Faraz has been facing these accusations since long, but oblivious of this he continues to produce beautiful poetry." I think Qasmi sahib has aptly defended Faraz against such frivolous charges. A critical look at his more-than-dozen books of poetry that have sold like hot cakes, shows his popularity among readers of all ages. One finds a perpetual development in his poetry which is a beautiful blend of matters of the heart and political cross-currents.

Faraz started writing poetry when the Progressive Writers' movement was at its peak. Some people call him the image of Faiz. As far as I remember, he always proudly acknowledged the influence of that great poet on his poetic thought and style. But, like other poets who after attaining a certain status in literary world try to project their own individuality, Faraz also seems to be keen on carving out his own niche and to be remembered as poet of his own diction and style. That is why, in some of his recent interviews, he has said that he would prefer to be known as Faraz and not the image of Faiz. "I did follow Faiz but never as a disciple or even as a rival," he clarified. He elaborated it by saying that as a student Ghalib and Faiz were his ideals. The quality he revered the most in Faiz most that even on the harshest and hardest subjects, he used polite expressions. Replying to an Indian journalist's question as to who was his ideal poet, Faraz named Sahir Ludhianvi.

Born as Agha Ahmad Shah in the small town of Kohat in North Western Frontier Province, Faraz wrote his earlier poetry as Sharar Kohati. In this he followed his father Agha Barq Kohati, who was an Urdu and Persian poet and oriental teacher. From him he imbibed the Persian language that gave strength to his poetry, which is replete with Persian idioms and words. But after his early schooling and on shifting to Peshawar he changed his name to Ahmad Faraz because, as his friend from Kohat Rahim Gul points out, once one of his friends told Faraz that he couldn't sleep the whole night because he forgot to close the tap of water and it flowed shrr..rr..rr. That might be true but my late friend Sharar Naumani, who also practised poetry in Peshawar during that period, used to claim that Faraz changed it because his (Sharar Naumani's)name was more popular in Peshawar region.

Soon after the partition of the subcontinent, Peshawar could boast of many outstanding poets -- Farigh Bukhari, Raza Hamdani, Nazir Mirza Birlas, Shaukat Wasti from the older generation and Khatir Ghaznavi, Ahmad Faraz, Mohsin Ehsan, Hafeez Asar and others from the younger. From time to time Radio Pakistan also provided the city with poets of repute, like N. M. Rashed, Ahmad Nadim Qasmi, Kartar Singh Duggal etc., who came to serve there. While pursuing their studies many of the younger writers found part-time work in Radio Pakistan, and it is there that I met Ahmad Faraz for the first time, in 1959. He was then program producer in-charge of talks and I had gone there to deliver a talk. He was then a handsome young man with a fair Pathan complexion and thick crop of brown hair. He already had the script of the talk with him. In those days we used to go directly on the air. He made me to rehearse my talk and pointed out some pronunciation errors. After the talk, as we were sipping tea in the office, of duty officer Khatir Ghaznavi came in. He always appeared to me as a double of poet Shahzad Ahmad. Khatir was then attached to Radio Pakistan as a producer and was also the official photographer. Khatir was then already well known in literary circles of the country and Faraz was coming up fast. Then in the next few years, while he studied in Peshawar University for his Master's in Persian, Faraz flabbergasted the literary circles with numerous ghazals that were spontaneous and came straight from the heart. Faraz, who later lectured in the college, became a rage because his ghazals reached a wider audience through the radio ,TV and movies.

As a government servant he did not associate himself with any political party, but like the majority of Pathans he always had a soft corner for the National Awami Party and its founding father, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. That is the reason for his tilt towards the Leftist cause as well. Since the party had also always stood for peaceful relations with India, one can understand Faraz's recent interest in Track-II diplomacy. Faraz is a democrat and that is why he has been opposing all dictatorial regimes, starting with Ayub Khan's. When during Yahya Khan's rule Pakistan faced a defeat from India and lost its eastern wing, Faraz wrote some very poignant poems -- the most popular being 'Professional Killers'. Though Faraz remained associated with officialdom in various capacities during the Bhutto period, it is interesting that during PNA's anti-Bhutto movement his poems, especially 'The Professional Killers', were circulated in anti-Bhutto rallies. He was apprehended during Zia's dictatorship and was confined in the infamous Mansar Camp. After his release he escaped from the country and remained in exile for many years, living in England and visiting other countries, especially USA, for participating in mushairas. After Zia's death, when democracy was restored in the country, he came back and served in various positions, ending with the Managing Directorship of National Book Foundation from which he was recently removed.

During his recent visit to America I met him, after many years, at the residence of Dr Attiya Khan. The Khan household has played host to numerous literary personalities from the subcontinent, including Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Qurratulain Hyder, Javed Akhtar. Faraz seemed quite frustrated by what had happened to him at the National Book Foundation. He was also quite critical of the political affairs of the country. His recent renunciation of Hilal-e-Imtiaz is one manifestation of that frustration. Lots of critical articles have appeared on this count, but looking at the stature and poetic achievements of Faraz and listening to his side of the story, one could only remind the present regime of Faiz Ahmad Faiz's line:

Apne ushshaq se aise bhi koi karta hae.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dance partner: humraq's

dance partner

a collage
of colliding dreams
trembling touches
brushed kisses
scintillating embraces
overlap a mirage reflected
in the mirror over the fireplace
as the fall breeze rustles leaves
in rhapsody

this magical mirror
mirrors mind cobwebs
and continues its charade
in the face of truth asleep
partnering facades and illusions
for a few spent moments
as the hands around the waist
and hips, arms and nape
tango tremulously

next day's sun
ushers its own truth

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khaab, muhabbat, nafrat, bahar, qa'rar, fa'rar,
aaeena e haqeeqat maiN larzaaN her ak's
pasand ka apni apni milta hay jahaaN
ik mafhoom her nigah e mutlaashi kO
phir doo'kh ki yeh judagana rahaiN kaisi
her wazah kay lOg raq's e azli maiN jahaaN
saathi bantay haiN chund sa'atouN kay liyay

mendicant's imploration: a requiem for the undead

(a fermenting poem)

forget you? how can i? tasted your fragrance nor felt the reverberations of the rhythmic pulses in waves as you trundle by my wall-less abode, eyes set on horizon, hint of a smile, walk on air past me

you glance not at my art display: coins thrown at random, shiny, dull, face up or down, inscriptions, dates...coins that travel in disdain, in hope, casually to fall and hug my rag, passersby look at my art display furtively before rushing away

i sit here...meditating meanings...conversing with flies...shadows dance around me all day, from one side to the other...they shrink and grow again only to be swallowed by the ever lingering darkness of the heart unaided by ordained meanderings

forget you? how can i? tasted your fragrance nor felt the reverberations of the rhythmic pulses in waves as you trundle by my wall-less abode, eyes set on horizon, hint of a smile, walk on air past me...glide past my canvas...i search every day...not for coins...for an inkling in your eyes...why do i feel denied...who is more dead?

Desicritics Editors' Picks-- July 10-July 23

Another roundup of articles. If you're in the list, please vote in one article to be featured in the next Editors' Picks:

Prayer Of The Livid July 10, 2006 - PerihelionFlux writes:
her gaze was lifeless and cold
he hesitated for a moment,
wanting to do CPR on her;
but his first aid certificate had just expired the previous day.

how lice! the shopkeeper blurted in excitement
as he saw the bedraggled man squash a lice
between his thumbnails.

E-school Ranking Survey: Sins Of The Times July 11, 2006 - Arunn Narasimhan writes:
As I am in a profession where as an academic exercise my very existence is sometimes suspected, I am unable to watch the nebulous clouds of reason serenade past my youthful and immature hot-head. Hence, I made the above post with questions about the method of survey (and only that). If most of them have been or will be answered by Cfore or Outlook, no, need not be to my satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of any objective standard, I can start rejoicing.

After all, the survey reports my department to be the top in India (and I believe in that, with or without this survey).

On Gift Donkeys July 17, 2006 - bevivek writes:
Infant clothes and toys. Grammatically challenged text, in general, is the thin red line through many donkeys but reach their acme of imperfection in baby material. Clearly the copy writers have damaged language centres in what passes for their brains. Either grammar not existed or The meaning jumped over clause. Or they need better translators from Cantonese. My daughter's extensive wardrobe, almost entirely gifted, has the following communications.

Rabbit happies
Sweet children have sweet memories with sweet cake
Lion and Lamb Love
And the Koan-like
Smack, zzz, dance
Ribbit, meow, ribbit, meow

A final question. If someone has their brains up their bottom, and it hurts, is it piles or a headache?

Whoever gives me the best answer can have my two remaining Eagles.

Let It Not Cost Us The Earth July 17, 2006 – DesiGirl writes:
Another way of helping things is to reduce the usage of cars and bikes. While it is not feasible to take the train from Washington to Bangalore, you can do something to negate the bad effects of air travel by carbon offsetting. What is that, you ask? According to Carbon, carbon offsets enable people and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint. Carbon Offsets allow carbon dioxide, one of the main green house gases, to be either taken out of the atmosphere or reduced in another part of the world.

This can be something simple like planting a tree to changing to a green energy supplier for your electricity. Whatever the method is, we have to start doing something straight away.

Ain't No Pill For Memories> July 18, 2006 - Richard Marcus writes:
If at some point a patient is just given this drug to diminish the memories but does nothing to process the information, they are only doing half the work required for a full recovery. You won't know how these memories have affected your day-to-day existence if you just walk away from them. You are still the same person who was experiencing the flashbacks and really no further ahead then before you took the drug.

There are no shortcuts to mental and emotional health, and I worry that a pill like this will tempt people into believing that they will be able to solve all the problems caused by traumas in their past just by taking it once or twice. That is an unrealistic and false expectation (and hope) to be giving people.

Thatta Kedona July 20, 2006 - Shirazi writes:
Thatta Kedona is a project of the first Pakistan international NGO network in rural area where handmade quality dolls and toys are crafted using all indigenous material and traditional designs based on cultural and folklore themes. The workmanship of the dolls and toys has acclaimed international recognition and clientele through their participation in numerous international events, exhibitions, fairs and display at International Doll Museum Iceland and Deutsche Gesellschafr zur Foerderung der Kultar, Germany. These toys are the embodiment of dreams, hopes and most of all self-reliance of the hands, which breathe a part of the soul into them.

America: An Enigma? July 21, 2006 - Anil writes:
In the foreign policy front the world cannot thank America enough for its contributions to the world wars. America turned the tide of the wars and ensured that the good guys won both times. It was noble deed, one that was committed with selflessness and one that may have saved humanity from destruction. Compare it with the recent wars it has waged in Iraq, Kuwait and elsewhere with nothing but economic interests in it mind and you will understand my predicament.

I am sorry if this article reads like a collection of random peeves. The fact is that I am in awe of this country that was discovered just 500 years ago and what it has managed to achieve. At the same time I cannot fathom the poverty, intolerance and plain stupidity that seem to be prevalent in that country. America to me is nothing short of an enigma and I still don't have a certain opinion about it.

Yeh Daagh Daagh Ujala: A Sequel to under the minaret

Sub'h e Aazadi

Yeh daagh daagh ujaalaa, yeh shab-gaziida sahar

Woh intizaar thaa jis kaa, ye woh sahar to nahiN

Yeh woh sahar to nahiN jis ki aarzu ley kar

Chale thay yaar kay mil ja`egi kahiN na kahiN

______________________Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Freedom's Dawn

This leprous daybreak, dawn night's fangs have mangled

This is not that long-looked-for break of day,

Not that clear dawn in quest of which those comrades

Set out, believing that in heaven's wide void

Translation: V. G. Kiernan


Midwifed by Louis Battenberg (you would know him as Lord Mountbatten) on Lailat ul Qad'r, the holiest night of the holy month of Ramadaan (midnight of Aug 14-15, 1947) the non-identical twins' tenuous umbilical cord was finally cut by the untiring efforts of the elite Pakistani usurpers aided by nudges from Indira Gandhi in 1971.

The present Pakistan is entering her sixth decade today: from a tethering fledgling to an ostensible front line state is a mixed anomaly in the best of times.

These aren't.

It is the sixth most populated country with 164 million people, 340,000 square miles, spread over the deserts of Baluchistan and Sind, the mangroves of Rann of Kutch in the south to the plains of truncated Punjab in the center and the peaks of three ranges in the north - the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hindu Kush in the north, Pakistan has all that nature can bestow. And more.

The five main nationalities are the Punjabis, the Baloch, the Pathans, the Sindhis and the Muhajirs. Used to be six, as I alluded to earlier.

It is a thriving country. I use thriving with caution.

The natural exuberance and enterprise of its people is thwarted at every step by the bureaucracy aided and abetted by the occupying army. It has sharpened and fine tuned the colonizing Raj's policies of divide and rule to enhance and perpetuate its stranglehold.

This has had unintended results in unleashing forces that the Army has a tough time controlling. Out of Pandora's box, Zina (rape) ul Haq let out Altaf Hussain's Muttahida Quomi Movement (akin to Shiv Sena) to counter Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's hold over Sind. Today this secular, semi-fascist party is President Musharraf's coalition partner in Sind and in the Centre.

Zina's successors created MMA Mad Mullah's Association who want to push the baby back into the womb by wanting to recreate the era of 760 AD in 2006 AD. To understand how successful they are witness the occupying army's impotency in Baluchistan, Waziristan and Northern Areas where MMA and is allies are a law unto themselves.


The thorny (and bogey) issue of Kashmir and its attendant anti India card was always opportunistically used by the Army to divert the public's attention and scrutiny away from its mismanagement of the country. A political problem that laments for a political solution has been frequently used by Pakistani elites and to a lesser extent by India's rulers in this game - much to the delight of arms suppliers.

The Army succumbed to intense U.S. pressure to restore normalcy with her neighbours and was brow beaten into not increasing its share of the national budget. Another realization that dawned on the generals is that there is only so much it can optimally siphon off the budget. Today the Army is running out of tricks. But never underestimate its Machiavellian resourcefulness.

In addition to dividing and ruling the Army is always on the lookout to enrich itself at the expense of disenfranchised Pakistanis. After grabbing the maximum it can of the national budget pie - (depending on whom you believe - that share ranges from 38 to 65% of the budget that cannot be audited or questioned in the National Assembly) - it found a new outlet to enrich itself.

Land grab.

If you are familiar with the word cantonment, you know that they are a creation of the Raj to control the entry of the natives so the Mem Sahib can live in relative safety away from the natives' glare. (Yes I am oversimplifying some: email me if you don't get the point.)

They have enlarged and created more cantonment areas in Pakistan long after the Raj is over. Part of this land is in urban areas that fetches a tidy sum for Army's officers. They are awarded this land or they purchase it at paltry prices and sell off at prevailing market rates.

I am hard pressed to think of single redeeming feature for this occupying army save this: it has managed to keep intact the surviving country. But even this cloud has lines! They know that without the country their power base would dry up.

Why are you so harsh on the Pakistan Army I am frequently asked. A simple answer would be that in collusion with big landlords, bureaucracy and industrial magnates they have hampered the development of democratic institutions that are the bane of nation building.

Look at India.

The two countries received independence from the Raj at the same time. India under Nehru adopted the democratic path. They veered, stumbled, and learned along the way to becoming the largest functioning democracy.

The main culprit for denying and subverting the democratic ambitions of the Pakistanis is this occupying army. After 59 years, the Pakistanis are still essentially disenfranchised. For the gullible who believe that democracy is alive and well in Pakistan I have Santa Claus' cell number. And Pamela Anderson's too.


Whatever headway Pakistan has made is in spite of the Army occupation.

The Pakistani businessmen and industrialists can compete with the best given a level playing field. That they have managed to survive and on a smaller scale and thrive is a tribute to their ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills.

What can Pakistanis be proud on this independence day?

Two things! They survived. And they have Abdul Sattar Edhi?

under the minaret

nearly six decades have gone
and what do we have to show
a rusty bloated bomb
an occupying army
a bankrupt ideology
and abdul sattar edhi?

am not swayed by big buildings
roads, dams and bigger egos

the distraught mother is still
stirring the same darkened pot
and the hungry dazed children
w(e)arily dream of biryani

from the tall minarets
descends through chanting fog
praises of the bhagwaan

An Injured Tom-Cat In a Gunny Sack - Translation of a Saqi Farooqi Poem

The original in Roman Urdu: Khali Boray MaiN Zakhmi Billa - Saqi Farooqi

Jan Mohammed Khan
_______________this is no easy journey
in this empty gunny sack
_______________life suffocates
Jute strands pierce the heart
and on the foggy cornea
coins of moonlight cascade
and darkness overwhelms the body...

Today on your bare back
_______________who'd lit the fire
who'd fire the coal
who'd blossom the blood stained
flowers of strife?

My fiery claws are listless
_______________today the journey is not easy
presently this path abruptly will stop
at the dirty pond
and ensconced in the loneliness of my coffin
I'll embrace sleep
water to water, dust to ...

And you'll have to move on ...
_______________move on as if in trance
and you cannot fathom that invisible sack ...
_______________you can't recognize your own sack
Jan Mohammed Khan
_______________this is no easy journey.



Saqi Farooqi : A Poet's Progress by Faruq Hassan

An Injured Tomcat in an Empty Sack translated by Frances W. Pritchett

A Wounded Cat in a Sack translated by Hifzul Kabir Qureshi

An Injured Cat In An Empty Bag translated by Rafey Habib
The Wounded Cat in an Empty Sack translated by C.M. Naim
A Wounded Cat in an Empty Sack translated by Faruq Hassan
Cat in the Sack translated by Alamgir Hashmi