Category Archives: Books

Moon As Bright As The Sun

Published / by Jehangir

Finally, a world class effort by a resident Kashmiri author.

The Captured Gazelle is a highly accomplished translation of the Persian poetry of Ghani Kashmiri published by Penguin Classics.

The transliterated passages are like manna for someone like myself – tantalised by, yet unable to read Persian – and thus ignorant of the full genius of Ghani Kashmiri.

Well done ! ,
More power to your pen, Mufti Mudassir Farooqi.

Archived post from August 2008:

The 17th century poet Mulla Muhammad Tahir Ghani Kashmiri {born 1630 A.D} lived during the reign of Aurangzeb and died in the early years of the 18th century. Even during his lifetime his fame transcended the borders of India and he was acknowledged in Iran as one of the great masters of Persian poetry. In India he exerted a great influence on the development of Persian and Urdu poetry. The great poet Mirza Ghalib translated more than 40 of his couplets into Urdu.

Mahjoor refers to him in his famous poem ‘Arise, O’ Gardener’:

Littérateurs of Iran will bow
To you in reverence
if you create a poet with powers of
magical narration like Ghani.

Mirza Muhammed Ali Saib {1601 – 1677}, a famous Persian poet, unable to understand the meaning of a famous verse – in which Ghani Kashmiri had intermingled Persian and Kashmiri words – travelled all the way from Iran to Kashmir to meet him.

The verse, contained in “Diwan-e-Ghani“, reads:

Moi Miane Tu Shud Kraalpan
Kardah Juda Kasai Sar Ze Tun

Like the potter’s thread, your tresses made me dazed and senseless,
severing the head (pot) from the body (lump of clay).

When the Iranian poet arrived the poet was not home yet the doors of his house were open. Iqbal refers to this incident thus in his “Payam-i-Mashriq“:

That nightingale of poetry, Ghani,
Who sang in Kashmir’s paradisal land,
Used, while at home, to shut up all the doors,
But leave them open while away from home.
Somebody questioned him concerning this.
“O charming bard,” he said, “Why do you do
This strange thing, which nobody understands
The meaning of ?”
Ghani, who had no wealth
Except his gift of poetry, replied:
“What people see me doing is quite right.
There is nothing of any value in my house
Except myself. When I am in, the house
Is to be guarded like a treasure-house.
When I am out, it is an empty place,
Which nobody would care to walk into.”

I recall Dr. Ajaz Baba explaining to me how Ghani Kashmiri’s influence inspired the visitor, Saib of Tabriz, to immortalise a chance encounter on the banks of the Jehlum by composing his own version of fusion poetry. The traveller concluded a Persian couplet with an Arabic phrase.

Dast Aaluda Ba Gil, Ay Mahe Hamchu Aftaab
Shud Mara Virdi Zuban, Ya Laytanee Kuntu Turab

Mud Smears Your Hands, O Moon As Bright As The Sun
And My Tongue Recites, O Would That I Were Mud

An example of Ghani’s Urdu poetry :

“Dil yun khayale zulf mein phirta hai n’ara zan
Taarik shab mein jaise koi pasban phire”

Ironically, Ghani Kashmiri is  almost forgotten in his native Kashmir today, while his writings are prescribed study material for scholars in Iran – where some learned scholars regard him as a greater poet in Persian than even Allama Iqbal.

In the sixties a library/reading room was established at his birth place in Rajouri Kadal – and later a sports stadium was developed nearby – but the fall into decay of this reading room and stadium illustrates our apathy towards the great poet.

This is how we treat our heroes.

Of Bullets, Books and Bradbury

Published / by Jehangir

Fahrenheit

'Fahrenheit 451' is a 1953 dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury describing a future society that 'does not read books, enjoy nature, spend time alone, think independently or have meaningful conversations'.

Does that sound familiar?

In an earlier post I observed, nay lamented, our ebbing love of books and the fact that very few people seemed to be interested in a rare book fair in Srinagar.

That disappointment was nothing compared to today's shocker:

Sign

I kid you not. I bought one kilogram of classics for Khurram who seems to have inherited my addiction to the printed word.

Classics

Some years ago India Today frontpaged an article about the semi-legendary weapons market of Darra Adam Khel in NWFP Pakistan where bullets were sold by weight in pickle jars.

Bullets back then and books by the kilogram today – I wonder what Ray Bradbury would make of it?

P.S: The book stall is part of an ongoing trade fair at the Sangarmaal complex. Just be sure to invite a friend who's into weightlifting.

Have you ever Kippled?

Published / by Jehangir

This post features three of my favourite authors, albeit in a less than laudatory fashion.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote four novels and 56 stories featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. They were so wildly popular that a century-and-a-quarter later his creation is the most adapted character in literary history as well as the most played character in cinematic history. Even today Sherlock Holmes receives mail by name at his famous address, 221B Baker Street, as though he were an actual person!

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

An example of Doyle's success in creating a analytical mastermind with unmatched deductive powers is the passage where the fictional Sherlock Holmes deduces Dr. Watson's professional and service background:

Here is a gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly Afghanistan.

Pure genius !

Unfortunately the coldly analytical first-and-only 'consulting detective' could not decipher the impossibility of a name like Mahomet Singh in 'The Sign of the Four' (1890).

In 1907, Rudyard Kipling became the first English-language recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The prize citation said: 'In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author.'

Of his childhood in India Kipling wrote that '…one spoke 'English', haltingly translated out of the vernacular idiom that one thought and dreamed in'.

Of his return to India at the age of seventeen years, '…my English years fell away, nor ever, I think, came back in full strength'

Ironically for a man who vaunted his connection with India, his writings were considered paeans to Victorian empire-building in his lifetime, and later discredited as imperialistic propaganda with racial overtones. Case in point :

'The White Man's Burden' (1899)

Take up the White Man's burden-

Send forth the best ye breed-

Go, bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives' need;

To wait, in heavy harness,

On fluttered folk and wild-

Your new-caught sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child.

In 1890, our self-confessed thinker-in-the-vernacular titled a famous poem 'Gunga Din'.

'Tho' I've belted you and flayed you,

By the livin' Gawd that made you,

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!'

Gunga Din, indeed.

Messrs. Doyle and Kipling may be forgiven for their lapses made over a century ago, but what of our next storyteller?

Jeffrey Archer has topped the bestseller lists around the world, with hundreds of millions of books sold in a hundred countries and some novels nearing a hundred reprints (Kane & Abel). He has also authored six collections of short stories, three plays, three volumes of his prison diaries, and a religious tome. He is the only writer ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction, short story and non-fiction categories.

In a short story titled 'The Commissioner' in 'Cat O'Nine Tales' (2006), one vital character is a Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai Police with the mutually exclusive name of Anil Khan.

Maybe these grandees felt that even a wee bit of research on 'sullen peoples' was not worth their time or effort.

Their standoffishness is the reason why the legacy of the British, unlike that of earlier rulers, was not assimilated into the Indian narrative. Unsurprisingly their rule sired the bastard Hinglish in contrast to the incomparably symbiotic Urdu.

Coming back to the intro, nominal gaffe's notwithstanding, all three are favourite authors, with the best piece of writing being Rudyard Kipling's four stanzas of advice to his son:

If

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And – which is more – you'll be a Man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling

I have kippled, and enjoyed it immensely !

Update: A pivotal character in Star Trek is called Khan Noonien Singh. WTF, Gene!