Ghazala's Weblog

a poetic thread to string my words and experiences on…

Being a woman — June 20, 2010

Being a woman

Every woman is a whore

Or a potential whore

What does it matter

what the subjective details of this instance were

When the demons of past

raise their ugly head

they ask for blood

if its not people

at least relationships

the kill is not called for by need

and the dead are not eaten

the corpses are abandoned

left to rot

and fill the deepest niches in our beings

with their morbid stench

and then

I can be accused again

of being a woman.

a quartain — February 11, 2010

a quartain

Fazaaye dil pe udaasi bikharti jaati hai
Fasurdagi hai ke jaan tak utarti jaati hai
Fareb-e-zeest se qudrat ka muddaa maaloom
Ye hosh hai ke jawaani guzarti jaati hai

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The climate of heart gets smeared with gloom
Desolation climbs deep into my being
Illusion of life explains nature’s concerns
I’m conscious of youth passing by

My Translation

Life really does long for itself… — February 7, 2010

Life really does long for itself…

 

Life is changing your password

from freespirit to funspirit

it is being settled like sludge

of dying wishes

that shallows each passing day

Life can be exciting little kicks

from within your belly that fail to affirm you

 

life is being woken up one Sunday morning

by kisses of a child

and missing your own mother

 

life is what happens

when a finicky friend

lets you order at the restaurant

to make you feel better

Life arrives  at some unremarkable instant

and leaves you weeping

as you climb the stairs home.

 

Life is the art of wondering

without really caring…

Where is it that successful people reach

when they succeed?

 

Life is making a little ritual speech

addressed to yourself, every now and then

and going on.

 

 

 

Twilight at dawn… — August 29, 2009

Twilight at dawn…

नए मोड़

दिल में कुछ खद्शे

नए रिश्ते और नई-पुरानी बातें

चौराहे, बंद गलियाँ

नए तेवर, वही बहाने

खोए लफ्ज़…नए गाने

भीड़… हाथ थामे

कोई साथ

कई जी चुराते

मुश्किल लोग उलझी आँखें

नादाँ मन…

नादाँ मन…

Statistical poem! — April 21, 2009

Statistical poem!

Second post in a day… thats rare for this blog 🙂

I just wanted to share a poem by Wislawa Szymborska which I was reminded of while publishing the earlier post. Here goes…

A Contribution to Statistics

Out of a hundred people
those who always know better
-fifty-two

doubting every step
-nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
-as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
-four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
-eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
-sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
-forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
-seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
-twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
-half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances
-better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
-just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
-thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
-eighty-three
sooner or later,

righteous
-thirty-five, which is a lot,

righteous
and understanding
-three,

worthy of compassion
-ninety-nine,

mortal
-a hundred out of a hundred.
thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

Friends — March 12, 2009

Friends

Extremely ordinary footwear
a bag that has everything
needed for an overnight stay

No TV in the house

A rack full of books
fiction, politics, travel
a little humanistic poetry

Some soulful music

Ever observant eyes
analytical mind
large accommodating heart
providing to the soul

An adopted child

Clear, respecting relationships
open to questions, reason
encouraging independence

An alternative school
a telescope

An open house
a stream of friends

How shall we get acquainted again…? — December 24, 2008

How shall we get acquainted again…?

So much has happened in the last couple of months and it has left an unsavoury taste in lots of interactions, expressions and friendships. Mumbai attacks claimed hundreds of lives but people were not the only casualties.  For weeks I went about my life, feeling inwardly as if I had experienced a personal loss. Like when my parents died.

Kosi floods had pained me as did the images of recent repression in Kashmir. The encounter of young Raj from Bihar had me shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at being a citizen of police state. But this was something different… It was personal. It could not be otherwise when a friend told me that, “in times like this when Imams want to wear black bands on Eid and Muslim groups don’t want terrorists to be buried on Indian soil, you of all intellegensia (sic) should sense the dominant mood and that perhaps its very WORTHWHILE for Muslims all over the world to say that TERROR in name of Islam should be stopped.” Another person said “Although some members of the Muslim community do express condemnation, on the whole I do feel that the Muslim community has not expressed enough outrage at some of the terrible atrocities that some extremists have committed in the name of their religion over the last decade or so especially.”  

These people were essentially just agreeing with American Hawk journalist Thomas Friedman when he says “But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”

Another person said, “It is actually the welfare of the Muslim community that is at the heart of this argument… it is a religion and a community that has some serious thinking to do at many many levels…”  (all this exchange took place online when the friend mentioned above CC’ed an e-mail, containing a link to this Friedman article from New York Times, to several of her friends saying it was a “worthwhile read” and I hit the reply all button to say that I was, “Really saddened to see that you thought this dangerous ranting against Muslims in general a ‘worthwhile read’.)

I mulled and agonised over all this when I sat in winter sun in the park and watched my 3 year old daughter Miftah play and call for more of my attention. “Amma dekhiye… AMMA!” The comments hammered on my heart and left me gasping for air every time I thought of it. “Muslims all over the world“? Me included Miftah included? The terrorists were acting on what I and millions of Muslims around the world want but do not dare to do? And what they have done has brought shame on me and my daughter? Then, obviously, many people think it is not enough that I condemn the attack as a human being but that I should somehow feel responsible and ashamed because I am a Muslim and condemn the attacks as a Muslim.

I looked at Miftah and felt scared for her… I did not feel this scared even during and after the Gujarat 2002 violence. Those days, at least from the security of the small world of development professional/social activists, I heard many sane voices of reason and compassion. No one was calling for people who condemned the communal carnage to identify their religion.

I told my friend that it saddened me but it just scared life out me to realise that this was the world that my Miftah will be doing her growing up and living in. For weeks, I couldn’t muster words to respond except to apologise for my inadequate e-mail attequettes- having hit the reply all button.

My friend, philosopher and guide Dr. Manoj Jha sends out new years wishes every year. This year he chose this ghazal by Faiz Ahmad Faiz to go on the card. I think, it just so aptly and beautifully says what I struggled to in the earlier paragraphs of this post but couldn’t really. It will suffice if my English translation conveys how I feel even to a few people.

Hum ke thhehre ajanabi itni madaraaton ke baad
Phir banenge aashnaa kitani mulaqaaton ke baad

Kab nazar mein aayegi bedaagh sabze ki bahaar
Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge kitni barasaaton ke baad

Dil to chaha par shikast-e-dil ne mohalat hi na di
Kuchh gile-shikave bhi kar lete munajaaton ke baad

The bohot bedard lamhen khatm-e-dard-e-ishq ke
Thien bahut bemehr subahein meharabaan raaton ke baad

Un se jo kahane gaye the “Faiz” jaan sadaqaa kiye
Ankahi hi rah gae vo baat sab baaton ke baad


Even after much warm hospitality we stand unfamiliar

After how many meetings shall we again get acquainted

When shall we see a spotless spring in the fields again

How many rains shall it take to wash the blood stains off

Though the heart wished, it did not allow its defeated self

To make complaints after whispering words of prayers

Merciless were the moments when the throbbing of love ended

Unpitying were the mornings that followed the compassionate nights

With the gift of your own life, Faiz, what you went to tell them

That matter remained unsaid when all had been expressed

The past few weeks have also included conversations with friends that gave much hope and I do not wish to end this post at a pessimistic note so here is an Arundhati Roy quote, that my friend Aanchal Kapoor mailed me.

“Sometimes — quite often — the same people who are capable of a radical questioning of, say, economic neo-liberalism or the role of the state, are deeply conservative socially — about women, marriage, sexuality, our so-called ‘family values’ — sometimes they’re so doctrinaire that you don’t know where the establishment stops and the resistance begins. For example, how many Gandhian/Maoist/ Marxist Brahmins or upper caste Hindus would be happy if their children married Dalits or Muslims, or declared themselves to be gay? Quite often, the people whose side you’re on, politically, have absolutely no place for a person like you in their social, cultural or religious imagination. That’s a knotty problem politically radical people can come at you with the most breathtakingly conservative social views and make nonsense of the way in which you have ordered your world and your way of thinking about it and you have to find a way of accommodating these contradictions within your worldview.”

Peace All.

To the memory of that defiant rickshaw ride- summer of 1998 — August 28, 2008

To the memory of that defiant rickshaw ride- summer of 1998

 

This ghazal I present today is an all time favourite of mine. I had picked up an audio cassette, during a college trip to Jabalpur, called Meri Pasand by Pakistani popular singer Nahid Akhtar. I liked this ghazal so much because it was the first time that I had heard a love poem in the voice of a woman. And she was being an active lover- passionate, persuasive and hasty. It was such a refreshing gust of air- I was completely blown over. I was an independent girl and I was in love too! And I couldn’t find a poem which expressed quite how I felt. All the love poetry I found till then was full of patriarchal metaphors and imagery and the feminist poetry I had encountered till then was dark, angry, ominous and about women being at the receiving end of unjust treatment.

So when I found it, it kind of validated what I felt being in love. I was the one who wanted to throw all the restraint to air, being afraid of no one. But Nasir was cautious, hesitant… Sighting couples in love together was not rare in Jamia, but shuttling between our departments everyday in attempts to spend as much time together I would be too tired with all the walking for much else! Nasir wouldn’t share a cycle rickshaw ride on campus with me. That would be like publicly defying some unwritten code of on-campus conduct! But one day I made him do it and did we get stares?!! I loved it!!

So I present my friends this ghazal to you, dedicated to the memory of what was probably the first rickshaw ride of a girlfriend-boyfriend together in the Jamia’s history. To love’s abandon and defiance. I can’t remember who had written the ghazal may be some reader can help… ?

Agli hi gali mein rehta hai
Aur milne tak nahin aata hai
Kehta hai takalluf kya karma
Hum tum mein to pyar ka nata hai

Kehta hai ziyada milne se
waadon ki khalish badh jaaegi
kuchh baatein waqt pe bhi chhodo
dekho who kya dikhlata hai

khud usse kaha ghar aaney ko
aur uske bina mar jaaney ko
aur ab jo who kuchh aamada hua
dil reh reh kar ghabrata hai

kehta hai tumhara dosh na tha
kuchh hamko bhi apna hosh na tha
phir hansta hai, phir rota hai
phir chup ho kar reh jata hai

heres my quick translation of the ghazal.

right in the next street he lives
but doesn’t even come to see me
whats the use of being formal, he says
when we share the connection of love

he says, meeting too often
lends promises more insistent
leave a few things to time
and see what it has to show

I asked him myself to come home,
or else I’ll die, I told him.
And now when he’s inclined himself
my heart is anxious over and over.

He says it wasn’t your fault
I ,too, had lost my wits
He then laughs, and then he cries
after that he goes quiet

Discovering African-American Poets — August 13, 2008

Discovering African-American Poets

I finished school and went to university (Jamia Millia Islamia) to study mathematics but got more interested in all the contemporary English literature in the Dr Zakir Hussain Library. I remember my three years of B.Sc. Maths Honours as a period of great intellectual stimulation and growth. I spent hours at the library, got issued numerous books, devoured them, often using up seldom used library tickets of my classmates. I submersed myself totally in them, not really paying much attention to any of the subjects that I was actually supposed to study.

I did not have anyone around me to recommend books or let me know of reputation of writers and books. I mostly picked up books I read randomly, intrigued by their titles. This is how I found “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” and then ended up reading all four volumes of the autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir. Then her novels- “She Came To Stay” and “The Mandarins” and of course “The Second Sex”. I would read all the works available of an author who interested me. So read a lot of A.S. Byatt, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Naipaul.

The biggest discovery of this period was getting to know the work of African American poets-writers of the Harlem renaissance. I had picked up Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of America” in my usual random fashion and read Margaret Walker’s prose-poem “For My People”:

. . . Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth, let a people loving freedom come to growth, let a beauty full of healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now rise and take control!

And Langston Hughes‘ poem “Harlem” also known popularly as “The Dream Deffered”

What happens to a dream deferred?
              Does it dry up 
              like a raisin in the sun?
              Or fester like a sore-
              And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

It was still those days when internet had not been heard of much by likes of us- so I couldn’t just google ‘Harlem Renaissance’ or ‘African American poets’ to find out more. It took years to gather in bits in pieces my acquaintance with these phenomenal poets. Another very famous poem of the genre is by Gil Scott-Heron

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag
and Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, the tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

More Poems About Poetry — July 24, 2008

More Poems About Poetry

Some more meta-poems… the first is by one of my favourites- Alice Walker. She speaks in this poem of her conversation with muse, during which she describes the creation of poetry as a painful, near death experience before poetry arrives in the garb of “wierd light”. She recounts ways in which poetry talks to poets. Once the muse arrives it nags and nags till the poem is done.

The second meta poem of this post is a short and sweet feminist poem by a poet called Tess Gallagher. This is the first time I have read anything by her but the poem really touched my heart. It reminded me of things I learnt from my mother without actually ever being taught and the eerie similarity between her and me even though she died when I was just an adolescent. The poem also spoke to me because so many times I promise myself to get back to the poem while I immerse myself in this or that mindless chore and a little girl stands next to me too watching me do it all.

And the final one by a master- Dylan Thomas. This poem is sort of a pure meta poem but beautiful nevertheless.

I Said to Poetry

I said to Poetry: “I’m finished
with you.”
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
“No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
I’m out for good times–
at the very least,
some painless convention.”

Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn’t sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: “You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?”
I said: “I didn’t hear that.
Besides, it’s
five o’clock in the a.m.
I’m not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you.”

Poetry said: “But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one–and how surprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with

Think of that!”

“I’ll join the church!” I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
“I’ll learn how to pray again!”

“Let me ask you,” said Poetry.
“When you pray, what do you think
you’ll see?”

Poetry had me.

“There’s no paper
in this room,” I said.
“And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise.”

“Bullshit,” said Poetry.
“Bullshit,” said I.

By Alice Walker

——————————————————–

Stop Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back
to the poem. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.
by Tess Gallagher

——————————————————————-

 

Notes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

by Dylan Thomas