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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Poessay: Rosary 4 - Adam and Eve Limited - II

satan's wrinkled face a weather map
a maze of high and low pressure rings
lines scurrying, dipping and curving
as he smiled the wrinkles formed crescents
how can this man be satan thought i
looks can be deceptive, said his eyes
'if you truly are the satan
why are you not leading us astray?'
asked hamid, not one to hold his peace
'nah,' the old man said as he inhaled
'my mission here is accomplished.'

the sun was still up - we're in no rush
he puffed on his pipe and continued
'aye, i knew him when he traversed
the sands that hid the black gold beneath
(their feet)
measured his actions diligently
Voice of Allah named him his followers
i who served Him since eternity
bid my time to checkmate VoA
and his followers with wile and guile
the battle of the camel then siffin
and my coup de grace, karbela
oblivious of my victory
his followers spread east and west
in palaces with petty intrigues
my patience is legendary
i rest, waiver nor falter ever
nothing is oblivious to me
sunnis, shiites, sufis all whimper
and are enslaved by a mecca
that i created in their minds
i swear by my Allah who favoured
clay over light, me over you
even muhammed will disown you
there is nothing left for me to do.'


Poessay: Rosary 1 - Pink Sand Beach
Poessay: Rosary 2 - Fishing
Poessay: Rosary 3 - Adam and Eve Limited - I

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poessay: Rosary 3 - Adam and Eve Limited - I

a battered truck pulled in the rest stop
on the liberia-san jose highway
a faded sign on its side panel
read adam and eve limited
an old man, face taut, weather beaten
emerged from the ford 150
sat down at a table in the sun
ordered a bavaria negra
and intently gazed at the dottle
then tapped it on the clay ashtray
once, twice, thrice…till the dottle fell in
with care filled the bowl with tobacco
retrieved from a lined leather pouch
tapped it down with his fore finger
satisfied he smiled and lit a match
puffed on it quickly while the lit match
circled the pipe's rim clockwise

hamid sipped his second cerveza
samir toyed with his remaining lunch
and i gently nursed the cohiba
as the cars, wagons and trucks whizzed by
and the assembly of crows crowed
over bin-bush, north-south hegemony
i couldn't care less and shooed them away
the old man, pipe now freshened up
mistook my shooing for a wave
ambled over, pulled himself a chair
i offered a shake 'hi adam'
he smiled and said 'no, i am satan'
'then where are your horns?' quizzed hamid


Poessay: Rosary 1 - Pink Sand Beach
Poessay: Rosary 2 - Fishing

Friday, October 29, 2010

Poessay: Rosary 2 - Fishing


The only thing visible for miles around were the rolling sand dunes.

As the Land Rover groaned up yet another dune in the singeing sun, the driver and the passengers saw a lone figure atop another gritty ridge. It came to a halt a hundred yards from the still, hunched figure. They alighted, stretched their limbs and exchanged glances.

Strangers in high noon desert. Even from this close it was hard to tell anything with certainty about the figure. Perplexed, the driver decided to approach the still figure.

His feet crunching the sand and the wind rustling through his clothes tempered the pervasive desert silence.

'Salam, what are you doing?' His eyes were now focused on the squatting figure. In freeze-frame slowness the figure turned and looked at the driver and uttered a single word reply, 'Fishing,' and just as deliberately the old Bedouin resumed his crouched stance.

The driver stopped in his track.

Just then the wind dropped and a sudden silence overwhelmed. The driver and his passengers could now hear the murmur of their hearts. He motioned everyone to get on board and drove away.

The old Bedouin remained motionless.


Poessay: Rosary 1 - Pink Sand Beach

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poessay: Rosary 1 - Pink Sand Beach

Pink Sand Beach

I am wandering on the Harbour Island Beach off Eleuthera, enrapt in thoughts, hearing cosmic symphonies conducted by the waves, oblivious to gulls and others two legged creatures. The reflectimuse’s intensity and focus alternately sparkling and fading like the distant stars in the cosmos.- thoughts that nurture in mind's oven as we live our allotted three score and ten and either wither away or metamorphose.

From mundane to terrene, from mystic to mysterious they dwell on subjects that touch the core of some arcane hermeneutic practice, grass blades, shape of noses, how in the old the noses bloat as their bodies shrivel, colour of eyes, food wastage, garbage treatment, the tsunami of capitalistic apathy camouflaged as concern for the down and out or “them developing folks,” – they must have democracy, they must pull up their socks…beg your pardon sir, they do not have shoes…forgetting we bombed them to the last century before gushing forth with our charity (for which they pay with their unborn, with their pride, with their lives and their oil) and when they take ours we retire to cigar rooms and unthinking tanks and call them funda-mentalists and call them believers of the wrong beliefs, (they subscribe to the wrong Book, why don’t they learn that the new Almighty is the Greenback?) the survival of the fittest with $15 lattes, the abject poverty of $2 a day survivalists, (in darkened salons they discuss books and authors and shrug in dismay at the unfortunates who don’t read) and wonder about the look in the eyes of those who cannot afford bus fares to work but whose eyes lit up at the thought of the hole in the ground left by the disappearance of the twin exclamation marks in the concrete jungle across the oceans, how dare they display such vicarious glee at our dead, forgetting we unceasingly make them pay a thousand folds for dreaming such dreams...and global warming, melting of glaciers, hardening of arteries, the rush hour traffic, road rage, the desolate vastness of the beach, the hue of water, reach of the waves before they compromise with the beach, the colour and make-up of the sand...fine, grainy, pebbly, soft, hard, crunchy, the observing look of the security guard, ever ready to pounce helpfully, the blissful unawareness of the honeymooners, or the knowing smile playing upon the frolicking children's lips.

I will write. I will write about all these and more on the pink pages of this three mile beach.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grains - of Truth, Sand and Biofuel

Corn used for biofuel

Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

in our wakeful moments
we're legends, walking time
but when mother time wins
we'd be grains of sand
on the spacious shoreline
of the sea of history

with six billion plus
demanding more and more
the planet's patience
not inexhaustible
the poor feel the pinch
with increasing pain

oil, non renewable
we look for alternatives
and bio-fuel lures
grains get diverted
making a few relieved
but the plenty
go hungry and riot

unprepared, unable
to solve their leaders
entrench and buy more arms
the hungry millions
up in arms, without
can only whimper, die

the gleeful arms merchants
seeing profits in grain
smile obliviously
less is more, they think


secret report

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tolerance and respect is not all that uncommon.

Muslim priests serve at 900-year old Shiva temple.

This is not uncommon. The Alamgiri mosque in Benares is looked after Hindus. Prior to partition, Muslim caretakers looked after Harminder |Sahib for generations.

Tolerance and respect is not all that uncommon.

Sky or Skies?

clear, cloudless, ethereal light
a hovering cap over earth
jet-exhaust in stratosphere
making sharp, diffusing patterns

under the peepul on the charpoy
the child would gaze at the stars
in those less polluted times
trying to catch falling stars
before he succumbs to the skies

skies sustaining laden clouds
sun playing game of hide and seek
cool breeze flirting with the crops
just before the heavens open up
and farmers sigh thankfully

skies, growling, rumbling, roaring
reminding how noah might have felt
raining death and destruction
upon refuge-less creatures

lovers in quivering embrace
oblivious of skies and earth
only wish time to stand still

sky or skies? scholars, stern and grim
exchange words, first mild, then acerbic
and ignoring the might of pen
they unleash swords to settle
inconclusive debates, in vain

il'm hay kaisa
ho jo mohtaj
zor e taigh ka*

at the day's end the sun succeeds
in robbing the sky of azureness
the glow of city's radiance
no match for the sun's glitter
but it is a short-lived reprieve
the battle eternal continues

sky or skies?


* what is learning
why is it dependent
on the sword's sharpness

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dormant Poets Everywhere

We were going to the other end of town. There was chaos on the roads. Even though both of us had to be there on time there was no movement in sight. I suggested to the driver to pull over by a roadside shack and ordered some tea.

He was born in Karachi, Pakistan and his parents were from Swabi, in the North West.

Are you a reporter, he asked me. How do you conclude that? He pointed at my cameras and notebook. I told him I wrote poetry.

This shack was some distance from the road that locals called a highway. Even though it was supposed to be winter, the heat was piercing and made worse by the pollutants and dust covering us in a haze. The flies were oblivious to the pollution and went about their business with zeal. There was this big fly that circled the driver every two seconds and then came to rest on his cup. He ignored it. I kept waiving them away, and they would fly away and settle on the hair, ear, even the back of hand - audacious little things. The ever present cacophonous noise pollution was present also. Some drivers actually believe horns assist in braking. And the rickshaws have no silencers. People get used to talking as if in a crowd. You tend to notice these things.

I could never write a poem.

The traffic was not moving as far as I could see. Even the two-wheelers that tried to maneuver through the cars and trucks had come to a halt. I called the person I was visiting to apprise of the situation. She told me to have faith. I told her I had misplaced it decades earlier.

Yes you could. Anyone can write a poem.

'Nahin saab, mazaaq mut karo.'

Have you ever made pottery? Made? Created? There are Picassos and Michaelangelos and there are Ramus and Dittas. Am seeing in my mind the clay toys from Harappa and Moen jo Daro. The line between an artist and artisan has a common beginning. Was Picasso not a craftsman par excellence? Where is the boundary? Is there a boundary between craft and art?

Are you married? No.
Did you love someone? No.
Why this smile? Yo can be honest with me.
Saab....saab...the last place I worked... I liked the chothi memsahib.
Tell me about her, I told him and opened my notebook.

I was the second driver. My duties were driving the memsaab and chotimemsaab around. Her laughter still rings in my ears. She had a dimple when she smiled. He body smiled. She smelled fresh, innocent. She would not talk with others, but she talked a lot with me. I am unread. She was attending University. We poor cannot even dream. Even in dream I could not touch her. But I liked her and her smile always hovered in my thoughts. This is written in my destiny.

I am poor and unread
but that stops me not
from thinking about her
dimpled smile, fragrance
I cannot stop this thinking
but I cannot dream of her
I cannot dream about her
this is written in my destiny

I read back this to him. He shook his head and said, 'Saab you wrote this, I did not.'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

glowing exit sign

is not an exit
with intended consequences
it is despair's last hiccup
hope's unreleased
unrealized sigh

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bajan Claire Collins

bajan claire collins, lithe
smiling eyes, pouted lips
assured, single parent
in T.O. by way of
the st. lawrence gap,
island of barbados
mother of ashley
now six and my colleague

ashley was cuddly, cute
with a short afro and
infectious dimpled smile
everyone loved him

ten years later

a dark wintry night returning late from work
walking towards home saw some dark shadows lurking
around the corner variety store ahead
baggy pants, white joggers, over-sized tops with hoods
instinctively i crossed the street and kept walking
past the store i heard foot steps approaching me
i ran a mental checklist to ward off trouble

'hello uncle t, how are you?' said ashley
relieved i inquired about him and claire

*names changed

Friday, October 22, 2010

Into The Arms of Morpheus and Other Poems

gaze by moin

into the arms of morpheus...

adrift, anchorless
a thought appeared
over the horizon

captured it
on my laptop
and floated away
to other dreamlands morning
saved on word
i found those words...


some sleep
is so real
the wet pillow


of you

bila unwaan

zindagi kay yeh moR
chaal t'ri, taubah
woh khum, kamar ka
zeh'n per, dil per
sab't ho gaya thaa
ab jo her shubb
baahouN maiN haiN aap
phir kyuN poochtay haiN
itni saada-dili say aap
'kyuN her dum youN
muskurahtay rehtay ho'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

against an azure sky and the dieffenbachia

K2 - credit: ike 186
credit ike186

against an azure sky

the hobo disheveled
unwashed and smelly
had a spark in his eyes

the jaded and wrinkled
woman of the shadows
had zest in her smile
but the impervious
king of mountains
majestic and aloof
tolerated no smiles
just silent indifference

the dieffenbachia in the corner

the dumb cane, eight foot tall
bathed in the glow of spotlights
and beside it on the wall to the left
three golden frames of exotic plants
- an interior decorator's cruel joke

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

wrinkles and other poems

Mt. Everest credit Cigajr
photo credit Cigajr

junior league final
the young one, crushed
over missing a goal
being consoled
by an old man
who'd made a career
over missing goals
in his wrinkled times


nature abhors
who'd inform

sober alcoholic at king and yonge

in the corner window
the same mannequin
dressed seasonally
her pursed lip, smile
luring and inviting
all passersby
except me

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

jibal al tariq/ gibraltar

credit AnnaSwanSong

if the brain impulses ossify, what then
if the grounded oar-less soul-boats burn down, what then

abandoning the pursuit of shadows, what then
if not possible to escape all umbras, what then

if the mirages desert us in quick-sand, what then
we destroyed some, the chase of umbrage killed some, what then


dimagh ki rahaiN jO maflooj hON, tO kya
rooh ki kashtiaN jala bhee daiN, tO kya

tamam um'r sa'yON ka peecha karaiN, tO kya
mumkin nahiN saayouN say farar, tO kya

sa'yON kay bhaNwar maiN gar doobay, tO kya
fana kya, kuch fana hu'aye, tO kya

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jinnah, Advani And Jinnah

first pub. June 03, 2008
KILLAI (TN): Showcasing secular values in this remote village of Tamil Nadu, a devout Muslim couple have built a temple for Hindu Goddess Mariamman in the backyard of their house and conduct regular poojas, arousing interest and curiosity in this region, which remains a citadel of communal harmony.

It all started with a dream that M Bashirbi (50) had in her sleep and her husband Mohammed Ali Jinnah (55) without any hesitation gave his full backing for building the small temple 10 years back in the backyard of their thatched house in this town, near Chidambaram, about 250 km south of Chennai. Muslim family builds temple for Goddess. Muslim family builds temple for Goddess

On august 11, 1947, Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, sought permission from the Speaker J. N. Mandal, and addressed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.He said this in his speech:

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community…Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago.

No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this.

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.

We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

This is the Pakistan he had in mind. Those who knew him personally were aware of his character and nature and even his worst enemies did not accuse him of harbouring fundamentalist ideas.

When Zina ul Haq came to power, he used the full might of the state machinery to obliterate and delete this part of Jinnah's speech.

Mr. L K Advani grew up in Karachi and was aware of the political movement for independence and when he visited Quaid's Mazar (Jinnah's Mausoleum) in Karachi this is what he wrote in the visitor's book:

There are many people who leave an irreversible stamp on history. But there are few who actually create history. Qaed-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual. In his early years, leading luminary of freedom struggle Sarojini Naidu described Jinnah as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 is really a classic and a forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to follow his own religion. The State shall make no distinction between the citizens on the grounds of faith. My respectful homage to this great man.

The BJP has Jinnah in its Enemies Hall of Fame and rose in uproar over this and other comments by L K Advani that proclaimed Jinnah secularity. Ultimately the BJP succeeded in forcing him to quit as party chief.

In his recently released memoirs, My Country My Life, in a chapter headed "I have no regrets" Avani writes: Mr. Advani grew up in Karachi and was aware of the political movement for independence and when he visited Quaid's Mazar (Jinnah's Mausoleum) in Karachi this is what he wrote in the visitor's book:

I could well understand if some ordinary people had felt surprised and even upset, at seeing headlines in TV news bulletins or newspapers that said: 'Advani calls Jinnah secular'. But what pained me is that some people thought I had committed a serious ideological heresy even before acquainting themselves with full facts and background information.
Advani recaptures the turmoil which forced him to resign as president of the BJP. "It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was upset," he notes. His resignation was, however, not accepted by the party's Parliamentary Board. He withdrew his resignation but Advani recollects that the turbulence did not end there.

"I was in a dilemma. What should I do ? How should I respond to this situation ? Never in my political life was I enamoured by any post or the power that supposedly came with it," he notes. I had no regrets and no disappointments. I had the satisfaction of having served my party dutifully and conscientiously — and the determination to continue to do so in the future," Advani writes.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". - (Act II, Scene II).

So Back to the other Mohammed Ali Jinnah who can also boast of secular credentials.

Bhakti is the one essential thing.
To be sure, God exists in all beings.
Who, then is a devotee? He whose mind dwells on God.
But this is not possible as long as one has egotism and vanity.
The water of God's grace cannot collect
on the high mound of egotism. It runs down.

From politics to Spirituality by way of digressions: one of the wandering paths taken by poets to capture nano seconds of lucidity.

The pleasure is in journeying: not in arriving at the destination. God is everywhere. She may be oblivious – I am certain of it. Since I tend to be inclusive, for atheists reading these lines, and still here, feel free to substitute Golf, or Net, or any other Passion for god and stick around, she won't mind.

There is peace in the pursuit of peace.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

rictus *ab aeterno**

photo credit KKurl

perched on the crest
neck extended
the hawk scanned

wheels - 2,3,4...18
men and animals
vying for the tarmac

pathos aplenty
pickings slim
for the bird of prey

in that dissonance
of diesel's whining
exhortative blares
vendor's symphonies
pauper's piteous pleas
children's cackling chatter
into fickle silence

the lava of suspicion
blends with polluting
plebeian palliation
and flows undetected

a child with matted hair
runny nose, bloated stomach
locks eyes with the bird
and smiles

* ric·tus - noun, the gape of the mouth of a bird

** ab ae·ter·no - adverb Latin. from the most remote antiquity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Not a majonooN e laila Poem

they said your story was different
both of you were majnooNs
even though you were a layla

from that first encounter
when your smile captivated
to the first kiss, embrace

no mountains around to carve
just hills and rivers to cross
pausing at dusk, getting ready

diapers, teething, schools
rents, mortgages, taxes,
licenses, permits, notices
check ups, hospitals, drugs

but at dusk each day
crescents, clouds or stars
you majnooNs huddled

still in euphoria of old
with no temporal signs
except wrinkles, creaking joints

and this tale gets better
than that recited one
though not as well shared
(here is to you mom and dad)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oh, To Be In Error: A poessay on Errorists

Space is not the only final frontier. Space can be far out, or cranial. Space can also be the separation between two persons and the disconnect with reality.

Spaceisimportantotherwisearunonlettersbecomesnightmarish. In speech, pauses do what spacing does in writing.

Much like other creatures, (sardines in tin cans will be considered another time) individuals need their space.

Ask couples how important is individual space for them. Customarily, this space is proportional to the time they have been together. The shorter the togetherness the lesser the space. Exception: some newlyweds can spawn a mile wide space between them in a hurry. Exceptions move people closer or apart in nano seconds.

Both individual and collective shared spaces are prone to whip lashes.


To be in error is to be in ecstasy - for that night. The morning after if you forget the companion's first name, or mix it with a former partner's - that error, if not deliberate, could be painful.

To err is to be divine. To err is to be a Republican. To err is to be a neoconzix. To err is to be poetic.

We live our lives through a series of errors and course corrections - though some amazingly go through their three score and ten without any course correction. In some societies we call them professors, in others, priests, mullahs and rabbis - even insensitive s-o-bs. The b is for brainless.

The more intelligent and sensitive amongst us repeat the same errors less frequently while the less gifted and resilient repeat the same errors repeatedly. You can bet and win again on replays with them.

The key to longevity, both at the work place and at home is in timely error spotting and in timely corrective measures.

The survivors become more adept in error control. They become errorists par excellence. They rise to the top while the rest gravitate to the bottom.

In essence I whirl in error - from birth to the present - hence I qualify to be called a life long "errorist." I, therefore, humbly and solemnly declare myself to be an errorist - even though there is a inherent setback in this declaration.


Eavesdrop on a phone conversation:

First Person, "Have you heard t is an errorist?"
Second Person, "t, errorist?"

For the uninitiated, every phone conversation is monitored and transcribed in the bowels of Langley, Va. the bee hive of Curious Interpretive Age.

This is where spacing becomes crucial. If the transcriber misses that space, I am toast. And I end up at the exclusive, all-inclusive Gran Bahia Principe Guantanamo Bay.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'll Be Gentle: A Poessay on Lenny Bruce

A lot of people say to me, 'Why did you kill Christ?' I dunno, it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.

If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.

The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can't fake it... try to fake three laughs in an hour - ha ha ha ha ha - they'll take you away, man. You can't.Lenny Bruce October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966

Woke up this morning with Lenny Bruce.

Yes, he died in 1966. Four decades later he still shows up in any list of top comedians. I must have caught a few extra winks. The semi-conscious after sleep can be euphoric sometimes. This time upon regaining consciousness a phrase “I’ll be gentle” reverberated. Reason unclear.

That is troubling – this search for meaning. There ought to be a mandatory time when reason should be let go of. (In some cases, admittedly this should only be practiced when the subject is harnessed.)

“I’ll be gentle” are loaded words. Unwary women get bellyful.

Unsuspecting public gets whacked.

Unabashed environmentalists take a SUV (a gas guzzler) to a earth-day demonstration. Unmindful environment continues hurling towards self annihilation. Hurling or Hurtling? In human time measurements both barely register.


“I’ll be gentle” when pronounced is ungentlemanly and callous.

Clear, bold, truthful, earnest, single minded endeavors need no declarations – least of all of faux gentility.

There are exceptions where gentleness ought to be practiced in moderation (like any other behavioral trait.)

When alone – hitting on keyboard – in bed – (where again this exception can merit other exceptions – which could be material for another poessay) – with children, parents and imbeciles, on public transport and in police stations.

And then there are places where gentleness is largely wasted: in boardrooms – with teenagers – in broadcast booths and studios with biased hosts – with friends undergoing separation trauma – when discussing Colombian java with Kahaanites.

I'll be gentle - spare you now (this is another exception for am not being callous nor ungentlemanly - just considerate)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zardarigate: Who's Afraid of Judiciary?

[this was first posted April 20, 2008 but is worth a revisit. The removal of documents from Switzerland by Wajid Shamsul Hasan as captured on video can be seen in the same light]

read this passage in a column by Anjum Niaz in the Daily Dawn of April 13, 2007. Interestingly, the link I had saved for her column in Dawn does not work. I googled and again I got the same link to her column -

ISLAMABAD DATELINE: Amar Prem -DAWN Magazine; April 13, 2008

By Anjum Niaz. Is a living chief justice meant to be as pious as Mother Teresa ... My usage, therefore, of the word Amar Prem relates to your and my and the ... (
but the link goes to another page. I can get her full column later. For now I would like to quote from Baithak Desi:
Do you know what Hussain Haqqani and Rehman Malikdid the minute they became VIPs? Both the gentlemen reportedly descended on the basement of the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) in Islamabad and personally supervised the destruction of all the records dripping with evidence against them and their benefactor Zardari. They took the law of the land in their own hands. So now for Zardari to pontificate that CJP has become “political” is an oxymoron when he himself is not going strictly by the book. Anjum Niaz.
Some pressure must have been applied to retract the story. A denial was issued by Dawn quoting sources from the Interior Ministry. (Yes, Mr Rehman Malik is the de facto minister, acting as the Adviser to the PM for Internal Affairs and Narcotics Control.) But the News confirmed Anjum Niaz's story the next day.

There appears to be a linkage of this action with the way the newly installed government is behaving. Musharraf and Benazir agreed on NRO - National Reconciliation Order - a baptismal for past sins under US arm twisting. Under NRO, a majority of past graft, corruption and bribery charges would be withdrawn by the Musharraf Administration.

PPP agreed to US overlordship, ostensibly through President Musharraf. And as it appears both Musharraf and Benazir's political heir co chairman Zardari appear to have kept their end of the bargain.

Witness these recent developments from the new coalition government of Raza Rabbani:

* The coalition accepted the appointment of Maj Gen Jay Hood (of the Qur'an desecration infamy) in the US Embassy at Islamabad.

* The coalition recalled Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a protege ofShirin Taher-Kheli and a colleague on Balusa, as Ambassador to the Court of St. Bush and appointed him National Security Adviser to the PM Raza Rabbani (Shirin is also a neocon and knows Hussain Haqqani, Ayesha Siddiqua and others through IDSA and other fora.)

* The coalition appointed Hussain Haqqani, first as Ambassador-at-large and then as Ambassador-designate to the Court of St. Bush. Last week Blogger Pakistan ran a long, rambling article by Moin Ansari - Husain Haqqani:-Dangerous 5th Column or Selfish opportunist? which tried to establish Hussain Haqqani as a neocon at best and a neoconzix at worst. * Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has "detached himself" from the Balusa Groupaccording to Mariana Babar.

Shireen Mazari, columnist and Director General of Islamabad based Institute of Strategic Studies writes:

"The Americans have increased their intrusive activities on all fronts. We have had rising Predator and missile attacks from across the international Pakistan-Afghanistan border even as US-linked/supported personnel continue to occupy positions in the corridors of power. The Balusa Group members funded through an American, Shirin Taherkheli, are a key US investment in Pakistan's power echelons that continue to pay dividends for the US, and this is only one of the many influence-generating channels."

Even Ayesha Siddiqu, author of Military, Inc and a regular columnist who seldom agrees with Shireen Mazari here agrees with her assessment and writes:
"The PPP selected Washington's dream team to run foreign relations and national security. One is not sure that appointing Durrani as the National Security Adviser will do the job. The appointment (of Durrani) is in consideration of the general's close ties with the US Pentagon. Not to mention the fact that Durrani owes his intellectual growth to Shirin Tahirkheli, a Bush administration adviser and former senior official of the UN National Security Council".

The raid on NAB basement to retrieve and destroy incriminating evidence maybe an offshoot of the tripartite understanding between the Bush, Benazir and Musharraf.

It is little wonder that both Musharraf and Zardari pay lip service to an independent judiciary. The once vociferous media plays poodle - business as usual with some new faces.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

smiling crocodile

in the parched marshes
crocodiles have stopped
shedding tears
at the never ending
deir yassins as sleeping
dieties from
the past are invoked
they have to feed too
in darfur there are
no crocodiles left
we eagerly await
a saharan ronnie
to discover
fahimi zidan
conscience is the biggest
crocodile of all
bigger than most gods
as we tuck our kids
with a kiss on the
after the bed time
stories we look
under our beds
for hidden reptiles
and satisfied go
to sleep
before the jaw closes
once i want to ask
the crocodile if
i can have a word
with his god

Monday, October 11, 2010

foggy dawn - february 18, 2008

the note asked the last
one to leave the booth
to extinguish the candle

the light has gone out

said the shaken one
while the other lamp
by the dusty road
went without a sigh
from podiums

for sister the light works
and in vacuous fog
it find its way
to me as i write
by the flickering

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autotelism Versus "Unity of Art, Use and Beauty."

Deepti Lamba ends her short story Kindred Spirits with these words: "They wished the childhood abuse had never happened."
In the comments, I suggested the straight forward ending punch was too bare. Perhaps a lessshowing sentence hinting at the abysmal darkness and gloom could have been more effective in rousing the reader's imagination to the protagonists misfortunes.
Temple Stark had a different take and said: "I like the bluntness of the last line because it's (sic) subject is very blunt. You don't get mysterious about childhood abuse, it's a "show stopping" subject."
And Aditi Nadkarni added: " Temple said I too like the bluntness. I don't like poetry in matters like child abuse. It just doesn't sit right and does not deliver the shock it should."
There are as many ways to begin and end a tale as there are genres in writing. As a minor poet I try to play around with words and felt this sublime and powerful short story loses some of its charm when the punch line suddenly explodes towards the end. I also think a challenging O Henry ending could have carried greater finesse and punch.
Deepti had traced the subterranean path of the submarine and brought it nearer the reader. It rose from the depths of the protagonists' despair to very near the surface. Now what to do with the lurking submarine? Should it emerge gracefully out of the watery grave or tentatively shoot up?
The suspicion, fear and the latent guilt of the two protagonists that electrifies the narration throughout the story suddenly dissipates and fizzles from the story ending.
In 1935, in England a bunch of Indian Writers got together to launch Progressive Writer's Association. And in 1936, they founded the Indian Progressive Writer's Movement in Calcutta. Why this sudden switch from Dee's short story?
Because this leads to the unresolved argument of art for whose sake? The Progressives considered the primacy of objective above art. As a minor poet I have a different take. Art (broadly speaking) is inspiration meeting paper, canvas or another medium. It flows from the deeper innards and should not be intentionally subjugated to causes, ideals and whims no matter how deeply held or felt. Unobtrusive and unimpeded flow of art is overwhelming by itself.
L'art pour l'art - art for art's sake - divorced from any encumbrances such as morality, didactics, or messages should be the ultimate justification. The Greeks have a word for it Autotelism- (noun -belief that a work of art is an end in itself or its own justification.)
We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake [...] and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force: — but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's sake. Poe, Edgar Allan (1850). The Poetic Principle.
In the 30s the Indian world was stirring to throw away the yolk of the flickering Raj. This period, sandwiched between the two wars proved to be conducive to the Progressives. Mushir Anwar inSajjad Zaheer and Progressive Writers' Movement writes:
THAT literature will meet our criteria which has thought, passion for freedom, beauty, a constructive spirit, the light of life's realities; that moves, creates a turmoil and turbulence, makes us restless, does not put us to sleep since it would be akin to death if we sleep more. Thus Munshi Premchand defined the objectives of the Progressive Writers' Movement in his presidential address at the movement's first congress held in 1936. The standard bearer of this movement was Sajjad Zaheer, a scion of nobility who renounced the advantages of his birth to work for the cause of the downtrodden. Sajjad Zaheer saw in literature that force which could bring about a qualitative change in the life and thought of the people since it anticipated the profound and the deep unseen as well as the surface tensions springing from the font of ambition that not only make men dream but goad them to their realisation. But that in effect meant changing the aesthetics of art which some thought to be inflexible.
This is further refined in Progressive Movement and Urdu Poetry, where Ali Sardar Jafri says:

This Progressive Movement was a spectrum of different shades of political and literary opinions with Prem Chand, a confirmed believer in Gandhism at one end, and Sajjad Zaheer, a confirmed marxist, at the other end. In between them were various other shades including non-conformists, but every one of them interested in the freedom of the country and glory of literature.

And this captures the essence of the movement:

The basic and fundamental postulate of the Progressive Writers Movement is the unity of art, use and beauty.It is not a violent departure from the past or an angry revolt against tradition as such, although we did reject certain unhealthy and obscurantist trends. And that is how our path was new. What we tried to do was a reiteration of the values getting lost in modern commercial age, or distorted under the weight of the decaying social systems. It is a rediscovery with a new experience and consciousness, and new artistic additions giving fresh vigour to Urdu poetry and literature as a whole.

I viewed the Kindered Spirit from this perspective and felt the ending was "designed" and restrictive. It did not allow the soaring freedom to the reader's imagination.

Am I perhaps guilty of ignoring the message in the story? No. Deepti, Aditi, Temple, Jawahara and others who grace the pages of Desicritcs are a fine bunch of writers who know and practice their craft well. I just felt the ending could have been done differently.

But if that wish were to come true, then this story would straddle the mid ground between the Progressives and the Purists! Both will lose some and the reader stands to gain.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

at the water's edge

at the water's edge
apologues come alive
by the moonlit swells
and with the ebb
and flow of waves
at the water's edge
dastaans are shared
the flickering flames
cast orange shadows
on map-lined faces
at the water's edge
as the embers cool
the tangerine glow
embraces the world
at the water's edge
life smells the same
as it did eons ago
the beach, the hut
were and will be there
when we return
with new faces
to the water's edge

Friday, October 08, 2010

Of Fly and Butterfly: A Poessay

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn." Legend has it that minimalist Ernst Hemingway wrote it, when challenged to write a novel in six words.

Communication to be effective should convey an idea - effectively.

"Can I have a glass of water, please?" 9
"Can I have a glass of water?" 8
"Can I have a glass?" 5
"Can I have some water?" 5
"Can I have water?" 4
"Water, please." 2

And a gesture with hand, thumbs risen and moving towards the mouth can also convey a request for a glass of water.

From using nine words to none there are several options to convey a thought and all are effective in some measure.

The idea of saying less with more intrigues me. At the end of a long day, where on a board dealing with folks who exploit vested interests, readers were posting and riposting without abandon I tried my hand at summarising and compared the posters thoughts as fly and butterfly.

These thoughts churned and whirled on in the subconscious.


fly and butterfly i

fly butterfly
stray cats domesticated cat
feral dogs pet dogs
crows eagles
manhatton amazon
despot leader
barrel shots
death safety
killer butcher
absen(s)ce sense
courtesan wife
fly butterfly



arey bhai what do you hope to achieve with this skeletal display...add some muscles and some fat...the raw poverty of bones is too garish and needs focussed concentration for is short and people have to do a lot with their life...make it a little less mean i should compromise? no, just a little less mean i am vague?...well, let me try this...if you rewrite perhaps more people would read...and not understand?...thank you, you are no help!


fly and butterfly ii

fleeing, fleeting prisoner of passion, association
stray cats scavenging, persian cats purring
feral dogs barking, chihuahua snuggling
crows croaking over cretin's chicanery
gliding eagles surveying warily
amazon succumbing to manhattan's denseness
steady erosion of land (and human) marks
marked by demented despots and hunter-butchers
barrel's mouth spewing forth flaming venom
invoking different gods of sense and absen(s)ce
wife and courtesan, regurgitating words

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mata: Meem, Alif, Tay, Alif

Hum muwah'hid haiN hamara kaish hay tark e rasoom,
MillataiN jub mitt ga'een ajzaa e eemaaN ho ga'een
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Believers in one God, rituals we renounce,
Creeds, when dissolved, merge into one Faith.
Trans: K.C. Kanda

I travel a lot and one of the places I always make an effort to visit in the new city is the oldest place of worship, be it a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or shrine. I cherish the serenity and a certain peace I find in such places. Earlier I have written on:What Kind of Muslim Are You and What Kind of Hindu Are You?

Hundreds and thousands of years of worshiping, prayers and incantations imbues a sang-froid aura - a serenity that breathes in the walls and the surroundings.

In places I have discovered churches in mosques - Damascus; mosques in churches - Istanbul; a church where you have to take off your shoes - Goa; a mandir with pews - Trinidad.

Recently I read in the ToI about a visit to Pakistan by Manu Joseph. Describing his visit to the Clifton Mandir, he writes:

Sanjoy Ghosh
Kali idols in Karachi's posh Clifton area

Outside one such temple in the posh Clifton neighbourhood, on a distant Monday four years ago, stood a man in pathan suit. His name was Jayanti Ratna. He was wielding a stick and surveying the large crowds that were trying to enter the temple. "Jai Shiv Shankar," he kept screaming. Occasionally, he stopped some people by placing his stick horizontally around their chests. "Muslims are not allowed," he said to them. He stopped me too. "Are you a Hindu," he said, "Muslims are not allowed inside." That was the first time during the two month tour of Pakistan that my religion was asked. And it was outside a Hindu temple. He was shown the passport. His eyes softened. "Christians, too, are not allowed. But then you are an Indian." Outside a Hindu Temple in Pakistan - Manu Joseph

I last visited Karachi in 2007 and in my conversations with Karachites, young and old, was dismayed at how little they knew about Karachi's history. Except the odd well informed Karachite, who knew about the Talpur fort on Manora Island, and the temples, churches or the lone synagogue, most had no interest nor an inkling about Karachi's past. The synagogue has been sold off to developers and part of Karachi's history has been lost for ever.

Karachi has lots of mandirs. And there are a few functioning ones too that I visited. There is one in Clifton, one across from the KMC building on M A Jinnah Road, one near the old Native Jetty Bridge, two in Soldier Bazaar and one in Amil Colony # 2 near the Islamia College. And there is a crumbling one on the beach in Manora that ravages of time has turned into a crumbling structure.

Last year, late one night we were at Clifton. I asked my friends and an assortment of nieces and nephews if they would like to visit the Mandir. They agreed and I approached the keeper, who was also in shalwar kameez. He asked me if I was a Hindu. I smiled without answering and he waved us through.

For the Karachi friends and relatives it was an experience, and I hope a learning one.

The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir across from KMC building on M. A. Jinnah road is in a compound. When we visited it one afternoon, the mandir was closed and some boys were playing cricket nearby. One twelve year old asked us if we were Hindus. M smiled and said she is an insaan. The kid nodded wisely.

Another day we visited one in Soldier Bazaar. One thing is imprinted on my mind from that visit. Inside the sanctum sanctorium on the far wall Mata was spelled in glittering Urdu lettering, about two feet high - meem-alif-tay-alif. Mata was written in multicolored glitter ribbons, the kind used in garlands and for decorating the bridal car.

(Above photo is the view of the mandir facing Arabian Sea by Owais Mughal)

I had visited this mandir in 2004 and it was in appalling state. Plaster was peeling off and bricks were coming loose. On Blogger Pakistan Sridhar had commented on the mandir's architectural style:

Hindu Temple Manora, Karachi - Johnny Stores Post Cards Karachi No. 26, ~ 1930

The architectural style is the Nagara style - seen in temples all over North India. Ancient surviving examples of that style includes the complex of temples in Khajuraho, dating from the 10th century. Most medieval temples in north India also followed this architectural style (or sometimes the Orissa style). It is characterized by a narrow tapered tower (called the ’shikhar’) with a square base, overlaid with sections of smaller reproductions of itself. The ’shikhar’ often has a circular structure on the top, called the ‘amalaka’. This particular temple in Manora is quite simple and not large or ostentatious, but typical examples of this style also include several layers of embellishments carved into the ’shikhar’.sridhar

The narrow street that led to the beach and this mandir reminded me of the street that led to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial atKanyakumari. It was lined with small shops selling trinkets, charms, sweets, posters and food with the air smelling sea.

The mandir in Manora was crumbling and in a dilapidated shape. The small chapel that we found on the naval base nearby was sealed off and appeared to be in a better shape. Perhaps the tourism department or another relevant government body should look in to this.

Tu Hindu banayga na Musalmaan banayga
Insaan ki aulad hay insaan banayga

Neither a Hindu nor Muslim will you be
A human you are, a human you shall be

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ashes to Ashes - jalo aur jalao

turtkes - rumana husainphoto- rumana husain

flare glares
burns, rages
kehti hay jalo jalao
jalo aur jalao
fire prostrating

to clay, as
satan twirls

this is not the ire of rome
nor the liquid rave
that separated noah
beware for He is father
of all fire, fury and furor
merciful, graceful
wrathful, unforgiving

maloom hay humaiN
yeh aag nahiN bajooz oos aag kay
jo kisi aanay walay lumhay maiN
sub aalamouN ko chupa laigi
apnay shikanja e zeest maiN
her smile a glimpse
of the promised
big bang beginning
of molten passion petrified

heaven's rage
creative, consuming
enraged we bow

flare glares
burns, rages
kehti hay jalo jalao
jalo aur jalao

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

it is written on the clouds

credit musuf

it is written on the clouds
how you'd smile today
dress tomorrow

the heart
of the mirror of Truth
broken in pieces
ensconced and cherished
reflected collective sighs
grins, groans and grunts
on the floating ships
seen in the possessed shards
the conundrum - why
are you angry with me
one day and smile the next
you say that too is decreed

the fog of fall
with its abrahamic colors
shrouds un-heavenly judgments

the smoke of saffron
lets no wails through
nor does the miasma of fire
or the smaze of voices

gods are invented
through the haze
much to their amusement

Monday, October 04, 2010

cold hands at 3 a.m.


credit katsetsuna

'the heart beat is arrhythmic
pressure erratic
change medication
wait and monitor'

close and distant relatives
crowd, stare and wait
'shukria doctor saheb,
may god bless you'

the patient is slipping,
will not see another dawn
if i speak up now
wailing will start
if i hold my peace
the night in quiet
will pass
we treat

till dollar tinted hope

runs dry
death wins arguments
no disinfectant can cleanse
the ghoulish ward odors
ah, well! i will go and
have that tea and samosa
perhaps this splitting headache
will fade away

'where is the chart?'
the nurse shuffles from her station
handing the chart, asks
'why are your hands so cold?'

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blogging and Journalism: Amongst the Best the Line is Blurry

With easy internet access and free blog hosting sites many people are sharing their thoughts on different topics. Some share their special interests and form groups. Others publish their creative writing. But the biggest beneficiary of blogging has been journalism - specificallycitizen journalism and its impact on professional journalists.

At this time let us get some descriptions out of the way.

Journalism: reporting, writing, editing, broadcasting, as an occupation.

It flows from above that a journalist is a paid reporter working for a media organisation or as a freelancer for several media organisations. He may directly report on news or may interpret news and write view points and investigative reports. He is usually a specialist who covers a specific field or interest.

The journalists are covered by a code of conduct by the media organisation that employs them or it could be self imposed. They are team players.

A blogger could be any person who has access to a PC and internet, has a host blog and writes entries in it. They are the solo fliers. Generally, there is no compulsory code of conduct, though this distinction is increasingly getting blurred as journalists working for major media organisations are encouraged to have have their own blogs.

What is this code of conduct for journalists? Broadly it covers accuracy, objectivity, truthfulness, fairness, and impartiality. For a more detailed examination you can read the codes for Al Jazeera,CBC and BBC in order of complexity and depth.

The fault line is ever shrinking between Blogging and Journalism. Blogging - specially News and Political blogging has come of age. Gone is the period where it was words and opinions essentially unsubstantiated and based on murky half baked thoughts or hearsay borne out non-conviction and lacked clarity, vision and conviction.

Journalists - serious journalists - even if they are freelancers abide by a code of conduct, keep slant or bias to a minimum, language straight forward and error free.

In the earlier days bloggers were deemed to be free of any constraints. It was their blog, they could write whatever they wanted, they thought.

I once rejected a shoddily written, plagiarized article. The writer submitted another atrociously written article the next day. I patiently pointed out the deficiencies and errors in detail and suggested a serious re-write. He submitted a third article that was also filed under G. He complained.

In his defense the writer claimed all those articles were found acceptable and published at another site and provided a link to it. It was another site that hosted member blogs and his "articles" were "published" on that site under his blog! He was subsequently caught for plagiarizing, sacked and all his articles deleted from that site.

Today, bloggers have matured and an increasing minority is serious about their writing. And their efforts are being recognized. Read this: A Landmark for Bloggers — and the Future of Journalism.

The journalist also has a distinct advantage over the blogger. He has support of the organisation - editors, fact checkers, proof readers all help in delivering a good copy.

The blogger in most cases is on his/her own. That makes the job not only arduous but also more interesting and gratifying.

As the lines get blurred between good journalists and good bloggers, the bottom lines becomes clearer - the best among both are those where the writing is well grounded in facts, clear, lucid, precise, objective and geared for the target audience.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

panicked bird

wintry night

feeling sleepy we bid adieu and
drove home, parked, and walked in the yellow-white
light of the crescent moon and the street lamp


the sun of yesterday had melted

sidewalk snow, turning it into slippery
ice in the bone-chilling cool of the night

fumbling for the keys at the door, fingers
numbing in seconds, heard a flutter as
i pulled the storm door
'poor bird,' said M

how did she end up here? where would she find
repose now? why do we refer to birds
as females? how i wish had brought her in

the thought nagged long after the bird had flown
destination and fate unknown
the bed room doors saw the kids fast asleep

smiled, brushed, turned off the lights and went to bed
and then stayed awake in the cuddly warmth

Friday, October 01, 2010

No Nobel For Baba Amte: In Good Company

Baba Amte laying in a bed

Murlidhar Devidas Amte who?

He was known as Baba Amte - not because he lived to the ripe old age of 94 years young, but because he was nicknamed baba as a child.

He was a social activist and shared his passion for working with the downtrodden with Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave. And he shared another thing with the other two. The Nobel Foundation ignored him.

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Baba Amte was born to a brahman jaagirdar family on Dec 24, 1914 and died on Feb 8, 2008.

He studied law and started a lucrative practice in Wardha, but was appalled by the poverty in his family estate in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. He relinquished his robes and began working with sweepers and carriers of night soil. He married Sadhana Guleshastri in 1946.

After marriage he took up a formal course for leprosy treatment. First he set a camp at Warora and later started Anandwan near Nagpur, Maharashtra.

Anandwan was registered in 1951 and more land was given by the government. Two hospitals, a university, an orphanage, a school for the blind and technical wings were added subsequently. The ashram is now a self sufficient unit and more than 5,000 people are dependent on it for their livelihood.

Baba Amte also launched two Bharat Jodo — Knit India — Movements from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 1985 and Assam and Gujarat in 1988. His aim was to establish peace and generate environmental awareness.

Baba Amte also launched the Bharat Jodo (Unite India) movements from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in 1985 andGujarat to Arunachal Pradesh in 1988, with the mission of establishing peace and raising environmental consciousness.

He was a recipient of dozens of awards including Magsasay in 1985 and Gandhi Peace Prize in 1999. See this LINK for some of them.

Here is an excellent write up on him: BABA AMTE'S VANAPRASTHA

PART 1 The Agony and Ecstasy of Late Youth

PART 2 Marriage and a shram ashram

PART 3 No big dams

PART 4 Homage to a fellow traveller

PART 5 Life at Kasravad

Baba's legacy has lived on through the tireless work of his two amazing sons and their wives, who in their own ways have contributed significantly to furthering Baba's vision. Dr. Vikas Amte runs Maharogi Sewa Samiti and coordinates operations between Anandwan and satellite projects; his wife Dr. Bharati Amte runs a hospital at Anandwan and his brother Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Manda Amte run the school and hospital at Hemalkasa.
The good attracts the good. The truism comes alive if we look at the people Mahatma Gandhiattracted in his social activist avatar - Badshah Khan (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan - The Frontier Gandhi), Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte to name a few.

In the verse of Allama Iqbal:

hazarON saal nargis apni bay-noori pe rooti hai
baRi mush'qil say hota hai chaman maiN deedavar paida