Monday, July 30, 2012

Will you pardon

Will you pardon, if I say
that as we age, the lines
on our faces will harden,
every city, and every one
we meet, will leave a trace,
irremovable, on our face,
and there is no way to
outsmart ‘em, there is
no way to go back and
touch her forehead
lightly, as if to rub out
– only with your hands
does it seem likely –
these lines, that are
under your eyes, near
your lips, where your
cheek gently dips, for
as you grow, know that
there'll be more of this,
and all the lines which
remain unsaid, will find
a place and will be read.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Curator’s Monologue, Srinagar Museum


The durbar’s cause [against the British taking away the antiquities found within their princely state of Jammu and Kashmir] was scarcely strengthened by the curatorial arrangements at its museum in Srinagar that classified sculptures under the heading of Geology, 'presumably on account of their being carved in stone'. 
- Mridu Rai, in the last line, quoting Dr. Vogel, Officiating Director-General of Archaeology, June 1910

You might think I am not very bright,
but really, I didn’t get the point in his slight,
that mismatch that he sought to decree
between sculpture and Geology was one
that I will not agree to, I am free to classify
the objects around here, in the way that I 
find sound and what better way for stone
to be seen as than how it was first found.
Dr. Vogel, some said, was light in his head,
but I’ve never been the sort to avoid debate,
especially when it's about the state in which
I keep my museum, you see, umm, it’s like this,
I don’t know how he could miss, despite the
duration of his job at Archaeology, the logic
behind my curation, see, I think of sculpture
as the work of man, often in his image made,
sometimes proud, at times serene, standing,
reclining, modest, obscene, but all representing -
and this was my reason - the pains and the joys
of man in every season since his birth here
on this planet, and what is Geology, dammit,
but the study of this Earth, to which he must
return, it's the stuff he's made of, so how could
I divest the content from its vessel, the fire
from the hearth where it ought to burn, and
make my curation inaccurate, as I wrestle with
Vogel's tricks, his stupid brand of metaphysics
which separates that which should be one, only
to find his approval, that Doctor, my nemesis,
who has still not read his Genesis, and I, though
technically not of his faith, still know it better,
down to the letter, the next time I meet him, I will
ask him to pay heed to Chapter 3, Verse 19, 'you
should have seen this, Dr. Vogel,’ I would say,
without the slightest trace of guile, ‘no, the next
page, now turn,’ ‘Dust thou art,’ he would read
aloud with a twitch on his face, as I would smile
and rest my case, ‘and unto dust thou shalt return.’

Thursday, July 12, 2012

जां, कितनी ठण्ड है बाहर

tr. from Frank Loesser's English song 'Baby, it's cold outside'

अब और रुकुंगा नहीं
          जां, कितनी ठण्ड है बाहर
बस अब चलना है कहीं
          जां, कितनी ठण्ड है बाहर
ये शाम बड़ी
          मुझे था तुम्हारा हि इंतज़ार
सुहानी गुज़री
          ज़रा हाथ देना, ये तो बर्फ हैं यार
माँ परेशान होंगी
           जां, क्यूं इतनी है जल्दी
डैडी हैं दिल के रोगी
          देखो, ये फायरप्लेस जल दी
बस अब मैं चलता हूँ
         अरे ये जल्दी किस बात की
अच्छा, चलो आधा जाम और
         अभी लाया, तुम लगाओ फीवर 104

पड़ोसी सोचेंगे क्या
          जां, है मौसम ख़राब अभी
हे, इस जाम में है क्या?
          टैक्सी भी मिलेगी नहीं
काश मुझे मालूम होता
          तुम्हारी आखें हैं कि हैं तारे
तो तुम्हारे जाल से बाहर होता
          ये टोपी दो, क्या खूब बाल हैं तुम्हारे
मुझे कहना तो चाहिए - ना ना ना
           मैं ज़रा तेरे पास आ जाऊं हाँ?
कि कोशिश की थी, ये तो कह पाऊँगा
           मेरे ग़रूर को ये ठेस मैं न सह पाऊंगा
           जां, सुनो तो

नहीं अब तो जाना हि है
           जां, कितनी ठण्ड है बाहर
जवाब तो नहीं हि है
           सुनो, बहुत ठण्ड है बाहर
तुम्हारा इस्तकबाल था
           मेरा नसीब कि तुम आये
कितना प्यारा
           खिड़की से देखो, ये तूफ़ान सारा
मेरी बहन को शक कि आदत है
           तेरे होठों में मेरी शहादत है
मेरा भाई दरवाज़े पर हि होगा
           जैसे साहिल को लहरों ने छुआ होगा
मेरी बुआ का दिमाग है शातिर
           तेरे होंठ हैं सिर्फ मेरे खातिर
चलो, शायद इक आधा जाम और
           कभी ऐसा तूफ़ान न आया इस ओर

बस अब तो घर है जाना
           जां, बाहर जम जाओगे
ज़रा मेरा कोट लाना
           क्या इस बर्फ को सह पाओगे
तुम बहुत ख़ूब मेज़बान थे
           तेरे हाथों को मेरे हाथों में आन दे
अरे क्या तुम समझ नहीं सकते हो?
           मेरे साथ तुम ये कैसे कर सकते हो?
कल क्या क्या बात करेंगे सब
           सोचो, तुम्हारे बिन मेरी ज़िन्दगी का सबब
ज़रूर खुसुर-फुसुर तो होगी हि, हाँ  
           कहीं तुम्हें बाहर हो गयी न्यूमोनिया
नहीं, मैं अब रुक नहीं सकता
           जां, अब छोड़ भी ये बात, कुछ तो सुना कर 

           देखो, कितनी ठण्ड है बाहर


Frank Loesser













Aur, urdu waalon ke liye (zubaan ek, likhne ke tareeke do):


Jaan, kitni thand hai bahar

Ab aur rukunga naheen
            Jaan, kitni thand hai bahar
Bas ab chalna hai kaheen
            Jaan, kitni thand hai bahar
Ye sham badee
            Mujhe tha tumhara hi intezaar
Suhaani guzri
            Zara haath dena, ye to barf hain yaar
Maan pareshaan hogi
            Jaan, kyun itni hai jaldi
Daddy hain dil ke rogi
            Dekho, ye fireplace jal di
Bas ab main chalta hoon
            Arrey ye jaldi kis baat ki
Achha, chalo aadha jam aur
            Abhi laya, tum lagao Fever 104

Padosi sochenge kya
            Jaan, hai mausam kharab abhi
Hey, is jam mein hai kya?
            Taxi bhi milegi naheen
Kaash mujhe maloom hota
            Tumhari aakhein hain ki hain tare
To tumhare jaal se baahar hota
            Ye topi do, kya khoob baal hain tumhare
Mujhe kahna to chahiye – na na na
            Main zara tere paas aa jaaoon haan?
Ki koshish kit hi, yeh to kah paaoonga
            Mere garoor ko ye thes main na sah paaoonga
            Jaan, suno to

Naheen ab to jaana hi hai
            Jaan, kitni thand hai bahar
Jawab to naheen hi hai
            Suno, bahut thand hai bahar
Tumhara istakbaal tha
            Mera naseeb kit um aaye
Kitna pyara
            Khidki se dekho, ye tufaan saara
Meri behan ko shak ki aadat hai
            Tere hothon mein meri shahadat hai
Mera bhai darwaze par hi hoga
            Jaise saahil ko lahron ne chua hoga
Meri bua ka dimaag hai shaatir
            Tere honth hain sirf mere khaatir
Chalo, shayad ik aadha jaam aur
            Kabhi aisa tufaan na aya is or

Bas ab to ghar hai jaana
            Jaan, bahar jam jaaoge
Zara mera coat lana
            Kya is barf ko sah paaoge
Tum bahut khoob mezbaan the
            Tere haathon ko mere haathon mein aan de
Are kyat um samajh naheen sakte ho?
            Mere saath tum ye kaise kar sakte ho?
Kal kya kya baat karenge sab
            Socho, tumhaare bin meri zindagi ka sabab
Zaroor, khusur-phusur to hogi hi, haan
            Kaheen tumheim bahar ho gayi pneumonia
Naheen, main ab ruk naheen sakta
            Jaan, ab chod bhi ye baat, kuch to suna kar

            Dekho, kitni thand hai bahar

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Rain Song of Ganesh and Karthikeyan


Fighting over Narada’s gift, a golden mango, the fruit of knowledge, Ganesh and Karthikeyan had to compete for it. ‘Whoever will go round the world thrice,’ Shiv said, ‘and come back first, will win.’ Karthikeyan sat on his peacock and at a furious pace started his journey of the universe. The clever Ganesh just went round his parents Shiv and Parvati thrice, said ‘My parents are my world’ and won.

It has been a long time, brother,
since I played that trick on you.
I was lazy (he said ‘the whole
damn universe,’ thrice! Did he
even know that I rode mice?)
so when I could not think of
other plans, I replaced work
with wit (you would have liked
the joke) and fooled mom and
dad into believing it; we would
have laughed at them together,
the old folk, if you were here
now on Kailash, but it has been
a long time since you were gone.
I am waiting, little brother, bored
of the Gods who have finally found
‘the wiser one’ and they tell me,
overfeeding me with mangoes,
that from now on at every ritual,
they will pray to me first; really,
Karthikeyan, it feels more like I am
cursed, to stay here, watching them,
obsequious, blinking, while all the time
thinking which corner of the universe
is now your place, which new fruits
have you bitten, which new face has
you smitten, an' with which friends you
play, how you see a world that is not all
made of ice (is it just like they say, is it
really nice?), how you must defraud the
world of its delight, while here I sit,
‘the wiser God’, and you are not here
on these icy peaks for yet another night.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Shahid


tr. from Muzaffar Karim's Urdu poem 'Shahid'

tr. by Muzaffar Karim and Akhil Katyal



Blank page
Srinagar night
thoughts captive
Kashmiri children in Shergadi Police Station
every letter of my heart
stuck in curfew

But
the night passed melodiously
all day in kaen-i-jung
Malcolm X read Fanon
and I, Agha Shahid Ali

All day from the little palms
stones, like bullets, kept fleeing

Today it was arrested
one thought
hangs inverted
from the ceiling of the jail
they intensify the pain
I, my memory

I await the dawn
of one thought
it shouts "azaadi"

The gun is deployed
the thought is fired
the blood is spilled

From the tip of my pen
a star rises
and blots the page
I fold the paper
and put it inside Shahid's
The Country without a Post-Office.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How to write a Nonnet!

Hear hear, this is what a nonnet is
begin with 9, then with each line,
cut a syllable every time
by the 4th line, it's 6
by the 5th, it's 5
and as you dive
my hon', your
nonnet's
done!