Heart

Wish The Predicament Lasts

So that

ecstasy may continue

and dearth deepen.

 

Because of you

haven’t lost touch

can say I have known you.

 

In order to

have lived differently

thought superior.

 

As a result

content and proud

brave, shy and  cheerful.

 

For

desires shake me in dreams alone

reality gets dreamier.

 

Is it not then

all that can be had

and all that should be.

 

Wedded to oneself

no promises to keep

no scripts to maintain

just those shady trees to regain!

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Showcasing My Friends-1

(For the purposes of this series where I shall be posting interviews with people I am close to, I emailed Faisal a set of questions that I wanted him to respond to. I have reproduced the responses here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. It is my plan to continue the series with other friends as and when that becomes a possibility). 

A lean bodied young man seemingly lost in an intense conversation on his cell phone walked a couple of steps ahead of me. It was a hot summer afternoon of 2007 and I was at the headquarters of the organisation that I had chosen to study for my Ph.D. thesis. It was months before I got to meet him in person. We had a very formal conversation at that time. I remember that we spoke to each other about such things as my research and the university departments where both of us were then enrolled-Jamia Millia Islamia and University of Delhi.

It was not until July of the following year that we met again. He had come to Delhi University as an applicant for the M.Phil program. He soon joined the program and it was not long before a never-ending exchange began between the both of us. What I call exchange has in effect been a precious experience, special because it has always transcended and at the same time overlapped varying categories in terms of which we tend to generally think of relationships. I find it difficult to think of an instance where we have had any talk that was either just intellectually serious or nonsensically humorous. Being with him and talking to him has always been that unique moment wherein laughter and intellect intertwine. I cherish all that I have shared and learned from him and I hope that this friendship deepens further and takes so many more roots in our minds.

Faisal finished his M.Phil thesis in 2010 and left Delhi for Bangalore where he now works as a researcher for the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy.

——-

Personal Concerns- Thanks Faisal for agreeing to respond. To begin with, I would like to ask you something about your name. What does it mean and what do you think of it?

Faisal- My Dad named me. The name is OK. My name is stupid….I am the most confused and the weakest when it comes to taking decisions in personal life…But still it means ‘the one who takes good decisions’!

PC- You know a number of languages. Is there any one of them that you find special?

Faisal- Urdu is special to me as I am the most expressive in it. Urdu is also the most accessible of languages in terms of audience. No matter if a person doesn’t fully understand Urdu, a properly delivered talk can make sense to most Indians. The language has a lot of ‘expressional’ merit. Also for a language which has developed in last three to four centuries, it has travelled a credible career, in terms of literature and in its reach.

PC- Could you please tell us something about the kind of literature, music and sports you enjoy the most? 

Faisal-I like poetry and sports/sports persons who are more artistic like tennis/Roger Federer, Cricket/Laxman and Jayawardhane. Firstly, to appreciate any music I need to understand the lyrics. I can’t hum away a song if it doesn’t make full sense to me. My musical senses hit a road block if they can’t digest lyrics. I enjoy plain instrumental, mostly the classical type. Especially (the ones) filled with emotions. 

Federer

I think Begum Akhtar is one of the greatest singers. Unlike any other singer she does not try to match up to the music direction or even to the lyrics for that matter. She owns the raag and the song she is singing because her voice is the medium of her emotions. To my mind, the instruments playing around her voice come to life and all of them unconsciously decide to tune to her voice almost like those disciplined and drunk rats following the bagpiper. She is the Singer Sorceress. 

My favorite of Begum Akhtar’s Dadra is ‘Hamri Atariya pe Aao Sanwariya…’- such lyrics! Very few actually, but the way she repeats them with layers of emotions coming to the fore with each recitation is just magical. She is someone who has mastered the classical art and has reached a state where she need not care for the classical form. The form is a slave to her voice, emotions and persona. Total Be-nayazi, still the most classical of them all!


PC- If I ask you to name two of your most favourite sociological thinkers, who would they be? 

Faisal- (Emile) Durkheim for his emphasis on a scientific method and (Max) Weber for his breadth and depth. I don’t know about August Comte. But to me founding fathers of sociology are only two- Weber and Durkheim. Marx is a great thinker, a greater satirist too but I don’t think his contributions to critical theory have developed Sociology as a discipline. Without Durkheim and Weber there wouldn’t have been Sociology. Only with Marx, Sociology wouldn’t come to life either. People who can’t make this distinction in the founding fathers’ contribution are called Marxists in the Indian academia. Marx set out to make political economy as a method of inquiry and not to build an academic discipline from scratch.

To my mind the earliest foundations of Sociology are in Durkheim’s Suicide- solid empirical data, spatial as well as temporal. And the ways in which it helps him come up with concepts and make generalisation on the nature of social cohesion in nineteenth century Western Europe.  Durkheim made the difference between mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity and for the first time made the nature of social cohesion in modern societies more discernible, saying that in modern times people’s inter dependencies increase due to division of labour.

Emile Durkheim
Emile Durkheim

I think Weber, though famously called as some one who always fought against the ghost of Marx, was precisely making this point. Marx introduced a method, but it cannot encompass a whole discipline, for God’s sake! He carried it forward and made Sociology a prophetic discipline, if you want to call it, by explaining the missing ingredient of modern societies, Enchantment! Made it more decisive by proclaiming an ‘Iron Cage’  if instrumental rationality increasingly rules the world. Somewhere here between these debates we started to understand the meaning of being social or a collective.Weber enriched and carried forward that emphasis on empirical data. But more than anyone else he was a critical theorist trying to critique and understand the role of religion in human societies. Grappling with the idea of what is now called the interpretative method, broaching the subject of Objectivity and Interpretation. (He never defends subjectivity, or whatever it is!) and giving those fine touches to what would be a sociological method. I wish I get a chance to revisit Marx, Weber and Durkheim.

PC- Which film did you recently watch and how did you like it?

Faisal- I saw Don 2. Its awesome. Don 2 epitomizes what Shahrukh Khan is in Bollywood. He romances his audience- the ones who like and do not like him. The way he romances in the film! To my mind, he is not a great actor, not a good one either. At times he doesn’t even make an effort to act.  But no one has better capitalised the need for a superstar for the Indian cinematic mind/eye than SRK. He has a face, not necessarily the most beautiful, that the camera cannot take its lens off from! Most importantly he maintains an intriguing balance between his religious/social identity. A conscious Muslim, throwing in Inshaallah’s here and there in conversations, married to a Hindu and seemingly comfortable with it. Mind you someone with no family background in Indian cinema the career he has built for himself is just incredible. Most importantly, from a fan’s point of view, he doesn’t make those annoying distinctions like Amir Khan between private and public life! Neither is his life up for sale. Sorry, I speak more about SRK than the film. Frankly, there is no Don sans SRK. He was born to be a Super Star.    

PC- What is on your mind these days?

Faisal- Confusion about what to plan for the next few years.

PC- How do you react to the notion of being an Indian? In other words, what about India impresses you the most?

Faisal- I don’t know….

PC- Which book, if any, have you been reading these days? 

Faisal- No book actually.

PC- If there is anything you would like to say about the time we spent together, do it here 🙂

Faisal-Time spent with you is very valuable and lovely. It is one of those moments which I remember when alone.

(All comments and suggestions regarding the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)


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When Kamadeva Strikes

In the epic poem Ramcharitmanas penned by the 16th century north Indian Brahmin poet-saint Goswami Tulsidas, one comes across a fascinating description of all that happened to the universe when Kamadeva decided to exercise his powers to wake Lord Shiva from his state of meditation. Kamadeva is the Hindu God of human love and desire and for matters of convenience may be considered the Indian ‘equivalent’ of Cupid. Such an event was planned so that the Gods could pray and ask Shiva to consider the option of himself getting married to Sati, the daughter of the mountain Himalaya.

Mythology says that the demon Tarakasur assumed increasing powers and the Gods gradually lost all of their wealth and influence because of him. Tarakasur had in a way made life difficult for deities and they had to think of a way to get rid of him. Clueless as they were, all the Gods approached Brahma and asked him for a solution. Brahma told them that it was only Shiva’s son who could defeat and kill Tarakasur. He suggested that Shiva who was in samaadhi (meditation), had to be woken up and made to agree to getting married so that his son could take birth. Brahma went on to suggest to the Gods that through his actions, it was Kamadeva who was capable of disturbing Shiva, make him angry and therefore rise from samaadhi.

So the Gods planned that the moment Shiva would wake up, they would bow in his feet and pray so as to almost coerce him into agreeing to marrying Sati. Accordingly, the Gods very lovingly remembered and prayed for Kamadeva to appear on the scene. With his five arrows and the flag with the fish-symbol, Kamadeva came and the Gods explained him everything they had to. Kamadeva agreed to do the needful.

The verses written in Awadhi make for a delightful reading. Here I have translated some of those which deal specifically with all that resulted after Kamadeva began exerting his power on the universe. They occur in the first section of the epic known as the Baal Kaand (The childhood episode) which deals with the birth and early childhood of Rama (the Hindu Deity) who was born in Ayodhya and later became the king. I have picked up verses (83 and 84) for the translation as they are the most pertinent to the heading I have given to this post. It is noteworthy that Tulsidas looks at the universe as clearly composed of two mutually distinguishable elements- the masculine and the feminine and as one for the sustenance of which the element of sexuality is indispensable. Comprising the essence that runs the universe and remains irreplaceable in the most testing situations , it stands for the basic instinct underlining all existence. The verses make it clear that this element pervades the universe and is capable of defying all restraining forces of reason and morality if it needs to do so. One may lose all of one’s socially inherited capabilities and yet sexuality and the modes in which it manifests itself refuse to die out. The translation:

“The deities went to Kamadeva and spoke to him of their troubles. Listening to their request,  Kamadeva thought for a while and smilingly said to the Gods that it was not in his favour to pit himself against Shiva (83). However I will do what you want me to do because the Vedas consider being beneficent to be the supreme Dharma. The saints always praise the one who sacrifices his body for the sake of others (1).

Having said this he bowed his head to all present, and with his arrow made of flowers in hands and his companions (the spring season and others) left. While on the way, he thought (in his heart) that in the act of opposing Shiva, my death is a certainty(2). Then he exerted his influence and the whole universe was under his control. His flag had the sign of a fish and when he got angry, the dignity of all the Vedas vanished in a few moments(3). The army under the control of Discretion that consisted of soldiers like Celibacy, rules, various kinds of self restraint, Patience, Dharma, Knowledge, Science, Virtue, Japa, Yoga and Renunciation got so scared that they ran away(4)

Discretion and his soldiers ran from the battle field. At that time, all of them hid themselves in the caves of the scriptural texts (meaning they remained merely written words and lost all contact with actual practice). There was chaos in the whole universe and all started praying “Oh Lord! what is going to happen now and who will protect us? Who is this two headed being (Tarakasura) for whom Rati’s spouse (Rati is Kamadeva’s wife) has angrily lifted the bow and arrow in his hands?

All the masculine and feminine beings of the universe, whether moving or stationary lost their dignity and came under the control of Kamadeva(84). Every heart was imbued with corporal desires. Looking at the creepers, the branches of trees started gravitating towards them. The disturbed and energised rivers ran towards the ocean and all the ponds and small water bodies started to intermingle among themselves(1). When the stationary, immobile beings (trees, rivers etc) experienced such a condition, then who can talk about whatever happened to the animate beings. All the animals and birds active in the sky, water and on earth lost all sense of their (mating) time and succumbed to the control of Kama(2).

Everyone became lusty and experienced uneasiness. Certain bird species do not care for the time of the day (for mating). The Gods, devils, men, kinnars (hijras), snakes, phantoms, ghosts, betaals(3)- they are forever the slaves of Kama and knowing this I have not described any of their condition. Those who were accomplished and the ones who were renouncers and great saints along with the great yogis  came under the influence of Kama and began thinking of women(4). 

What to say of the mischievous men when the yogis and the greatest of all the ascetics fell slaves to Kama? The ones who used to look at the universe as imbued with divinity, began seeing it as feminine. Women began looking at the universe as masculine and men began looking at it as feminine. For two moments, this drama controlled by Kamadeva kept the universe enthralled.

No one resorted to patience in his heart because Kamadeva had won all of them. Only those could survive who were under the protection of Raghupati Ram(85). 

The later verses describe further events that unfolded. Kamadeva approached Shiva and got scared. As a result, everything in the universe which had seen tumult moments ago, got back to normal. After having tried all his tactics, he could not succeed in waking Shiva up. He got annoyed and climbed a beautiful flower laden branch of a tree and shot his three arrows which struck Shiva’s heart. Shiva woke up and angrily looked all around. When he found Kamadeva hiding in the mango leaves, he  furiously opened his third eye which caused Kamadeva’s body to be reduced to ashes. Henceforth Kamadeva came to be known as Anang (one without a body).

The gods then came to Shiva and expressed their desire of being witnesses to his wedding which Shiva agreed to fulfil. Tulsidas goes on to write about the wedding in fascinating details, about which I shall be writing in a later post.

Heart, Uncategorized

Ten Excellent Films I Saw This Year

Needless to say that I am a huge movie buff and enjoy watching all kinds of films. This year was a great year on many accounts about which I will be writing about in later posts. To start this series I have chosen to mention the following ten films which I just appreciated so much that I would love to watch them again and again. Such films I felt, are a definite reminder of the amount of talent a team needs to possess in order to be able to deliver something which ultimately appears to be as marvelous as these.

1. Sunset Boulevard

Sitting huddled together on a breezy summer evening; I saw this film on my PC with close friends Lenin, Vikrant and Awanish. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, the forgotten star from the silent-movie days and William Holden as Joe Gillis, the struggling script writer, represent the two extreme aspects of the film industry- one, which salutes just the rising sun forgetting everything that is no more in vogue and the other glamorous side of it that holds immense attractions for those who aspire to be a part of it. The film takes the viewer to the Paramount studios and provides with a small but close and sensitive account of the forms of sociability prevalent therein. Swanson undoubtedly dominates the film with the accurate facial expressions every time. It is a sort of accuracy, I confess that I had never seen before.

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

 

I watched this very famous film after it was mentioned by my Professor in one of the lectures where she was talking about Erving Goffman’s classic monograph on the Asylums. Watching the film which is studded with a great performance by Jack Nicholson (of course!), I did realise the impact the novel and the film together must have had in shaping the anti-institutionalization discourse in the west. Louis Fletcher was however someone who was the most surprising in her role as the unyielding nurse. Hers was a mind blowing performance. I watched the film alone and was forced to repeatedly say this to myself “Wow!”

3. Rebecca

This was the last Hitchcock film I saw this year. What made the film brilliant for me was its acutely sensitive portrayal of the intimidating aspects of aristocracy as they are experienced by an orphaned young girl who marries a widower apparently still in love with his ex wife Rebecca. The lady who ‘hires’ this girl as a companion warns her of the consequences of marrying the rich, elite man and vanishes from the plot. The viewer is then taken to witness the anxieties that the new Mrs. de Winter faces while being in company of the servants attending to Manderley- the palatial countryside mansion. Mrs Danver took the lion’s share of all my appreciation for this amazing thriller.

4. The Untouchables

It was a film that I saw for the nth time again with Lenin, Vikrant and Awanish. Needless to say, we were all once again in awe of the magic that Sean Connery, Kevin Kostner and Andy Garcia created on screen. Robert de Niro as Al Capone mesmerised us all. After the film we actually went on to name each other after the characters of the film. I was Elliot Ness, Vikrant was named Stone, Lenin Capone and Awanish Malone! Definitely one of the best films I have seen till date. Wardrobe by Giorgio Armani added that extra charm to the entire impact the film continues to have on all of us! Can never forget Kevin Kostner’s order to Garcia “You Got Him?…..TAKE HIM”

5.  Mr. Brooks

Another of Kevin Kostner’s masterpiece as an accomplished and talented actor. The film gradually grew on me and it wasn’t long when I was convinced of its amazing plot and narrative style. The detour through a personality infested with an obsessive compulsion to commit murders was thoroughly fascinating and made for an exciting watch. Till date this one is the only Demi Moore film I have seen. She seemed extremely impressive here.

6. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 

This marvelous film introduced me to the genius that Humphrey Bogart is. The influence that gold is capable of exercising on the human soul forms the backdrop of the intricate storyline that revolves around three men who go digging for gold. Intensely psychological in its portrayal of the forms of relationship which grows among these men, the film has had a huge impact on the way I have come to look for the importance of meaningful dialogues  in cinema.

“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

Extremely tempted to include Bogart’s Casablanca in the list as well. Hope one of his should suffice here!

7. The Heiress

This is one of the most magnificent romantic dramas I have ever seen. One of my most favorite actors, Montgomery Clift and Olivia da Havilland spin together this lovely tale of love and betrayal. As Morris Townsend, Clift delivers the best of his talent and for sure, I have no words for da Havilland’s acting prowess. Unforgettable line for me from the film was “She dominated the colour”. This was one film whose camerawork is likely to remain deeply etched in my memory. It is also a film with that quintessential dramatic ending- a scene worth watching.

8. 400 Blows

Truffaut’s masterpiece. I dont think anything from my side is needed to be said about this one. A beautiful film!

9. The Message

The challenging task of making a film on the life of the Prophet Muhammad seems beautifully accomplished by  Moustapha Akkad. An extremely accurate and sensitive document, this film I feel should be seen by anyone who is interested in Islam. I plan to watch Lion of the Desert, another of Akkad’s masterpieces in the coming week.

10. Women In Love

 

What a wonderful adaptation of D H Lawrence’s masterpiece this one was! I really cannot decide if I liked the novel or the film more. Plan to watch more of Oliver Reed’s films as and when I get time. Rupert, when asked as to what does he really want says “I want to sit with my beloved in a field with daisies growing all around us”

Suggestions for good films that I should watch in the coming year are most welcome 🙂

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Rains

Pourings! I have missed you this evening. The chill has solidified all that is beautiful in me. When you come noisily, the beauty just flows abound all over.

The nectar of the soul lying frozen somewhere right now waits for its moment of assimilation. Come soon, it is willing to thaw and dissolve like never before. Come and tell me all about whatever you did while the winter played unchecked. There is that element of fragility which the drops carry on themselves like nobody else. Remember you naughtily hurt my bald skin when I wish to be jovial. Similar evenings, when you just keep dripping silently and fill my being with silence and damp. Oh the lethal darkness that falls on those rainy evenings!

In the drops I see life at its peak. This chill actually feels so morose when seen in that light. The pour rejoices and makes me rejoice in a manner that is unknown to the either the falling snow or the stream of sweat on my skin. The rain fills me with precisely that thing which the chill drains me of. Let me fall into the hands of greed and ask you to merge with this chill. What an evening- chilly, rainy and windy it shall be in the event of your compromise with the competing seasons- hot winds, white snow and moist skies!

Its true- the more the merrier!