Friday, May 19, 2006

Main Kaun Hoon

मैं कौन हूँ?

मैं कौन हूँ, क्या हूँ, कैसा हूँ इतना तो आत्मज्ञान है,
किन्तु चलो स्वयं को आज औरों के दृष्टिकोण से
बस एक झलक देखा जाये ।

मैं भावुक नहीं -
क्षमता नहीं परभावना का आदर करने की मुझ में
और न है सामर्थ्य ही निजी मूक भावनाओं की
अर्थपूर्ण अभिव्यक्ति का ।
पाषाण हृदय मनुष्य हूँ मैं …

मुझ में है साहस नहीं –
जितनी जटिल समस्याएँ जीवन में आती जाती हैं
स्वयं समाधान उनका मैं निकाल तो पाता नहीं
यथार्थ नकार देता हूँ।
संकेत है यह कायरता का …

मेरा कुछ उद्देश्य नहीं -
न लालसा यशोधन की न अर्थसिद्धि का है संकल्प;
राग अस्तित्व का समस्वर और सुस्त गति है जीवन की
किन्तु पूर्णतः संतुष्ट हूँ।
कितना लक्ष्य रहित है जीवन …

मुझ में सच्चाई नहीं –
बाह्य रूप मेरा अलग है, आन्तरिक कुछ भिन्न है
रहस्य दुर्बलता का अपनी सबसे छुपाने के लिये
एक मुखौटा पहना है।
कहते हैं पाखण्ड इसी को …

निष्ठुर, कायर, निरुद्देश्य, दुमुखी और पाखण्डी
और एक दोष है – रहता हूँ अपने मत पर मैं अडिग
और मेरा यह मत है कि औरों के दृष्टिकोण से
कदापि मैं सहमत नहीं।

Monday, May 15, 2006

Staying in Touch

I've recently finished reading Vikram Seth’s Two Lives. It's a fascinating book. Part memoir, but largely biography, this book is about the tumultuous lives of the author's granduncle and grandaunt. What I like most about the book, apart from the uncomplicated and direct narrative style (which is expected out of Vikram Seth anyway), is the fact that we learn about the two remarkable individuals largely through the letters they exchange with each other and their other friends. While the author was lucky to 'interview' his granduncle and get his side of the story first hand, he had nothing to refer when it came to writing about his grandaunt (not even his granduncle had complete visibility to his wife's pre-marital life). As the author himself observes, this book would never have got written, but for the chance discovery of a set of letters that were very carefully preserved by his grandaunt. And the depth of information we get from that is infinitely more and much richer than what even a first-hand interview could give.

Last week I received an email from a friend. It was quite a general email, but there was one line that is largely responsible for this post. It simply said, 'Hey why don’t you mail me once in a while?'

Vikram Seth's book and my friend's email set me thinking. When was the last time I wrote a letter? If my memory serves me right, that was almost 6 years back. Or an email? Well, I do write emails, albeit very rarely, except when there’s something really important to talk about. In the world of instant messengers and text messages, who has the time to sit back, reflect and write a letter? This is what I call being slaves to technology. It seems that the only ways to connect with people we care about are IMs and SMSes. I must admit that I find them very convenient to stay in touch, but they are really not as 'personal' as a letter, or even an email. There is no place for emotions in these technologies. Technology is supposed to bring us closer, not pull us apart at an emotional level. Email too is technology, but when you sit down to type an email, it's just like writing a letter. You reflect, you collect your thoughts; and, if you've taken the effort to keep all diversions at bay, you can type (or write) exactly what you want to say. That's what I just cannot achieve through an IM. I tend to be very reactive on IMs, primarily due to the conversational nature of the communication and I'm not really a 'conversations' person. Also, I need time to reflect on my thoughts and IM just doesn't give me that luxury. Some of my friends would know that many a time I follow-up an IM conversation with an email, especially when we have talked about something important. Having said this, I admit that I'm just as guilty of depending too much on instant conversations as anybody else.

Take this friend for example. We had been in regular touch earlier, but somehow our interactions 'virtually' ended. Not that we had a fight or something - not at all. Just that our interactions happened only through IMs, and when due to certain compulsions we couldn’t use IMs we completely lost touch. Now, is that an excuse to lose touch with friends?

I hardly use IM these days for reasons I don't want to get into and which, in any case, are not relevant to this post; and that should, in a way, help me stick to what I have decided now. I have decided that from now on I will be more regular in writing to people I care about.

Thank you Mr. Seth, and thank you my dear friend, for making me realize that!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rules of Creativity

"Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem."

Today when I read these lines, they seem very obvious to me, but when I started dabbling with poetry almost a decade and a half back, I had no idea of the important role that 'limitations' play in poetry. Heavily influenced by the poetry of Ghalib (thanks to Gulzar’s TV Serial, Mirza Ghalib), and Mir, I tried my luck with Urdu poetry. Admittedly, it was quite awkward in the beginning because Urdu doesn’t come naturally to me. After learning the script and a lot of reading, I felt reasonably confident that I could write in Urdu. And I started writing ghazals and nazms. It was a very satisfying experience and I felt proud of my creativity and spontaneity.

However, when I compared my poetry with anyone else’s I found something lacking in mine. It wasn’t the language; it wasn’t the thought, but something else. Somehow, the musical quality (tarannum) that one finds inherent in a ghazal as a poetic form was lacking in my poems. I didn’t give it much thought till many years later when I just happened to read about the 'rules' of Urdu poetry. I found it strange that poetry, which to me was the ultimate expression of spontaneity, could have very rigid rules. I knew of the concepts of qaafiya (rhyme) and radif (refrain), but I wasn’t aware of the extreme importance of behr (meter) in Urdu Ghazal. It was a surprise to me that all Urdu ghazals need to follow a few pre-defined metrical patterns. So I read more about meters and looked at my poems again. And now I knew exactly why the musical element was missing in my ghazals!

To my horror, I realized that almost every single ghazal I had written did not conform to the rules of meter. My instant reaction was – how does it matter? My poems were not for public consumption anyway; and I had written them for my personal satisfaction only. So if I was satisfied with what I’d written, how did it matter if it was in behr or not? But was I really satisfied, now that I knew that whatever I had written had inherent imperfections?

Now I had a huge task in front of me. I had to correct (or 'clean', as I like to call it) more than 100 couplets. And when I actually started doing it, I realized that it was not as simple as it seemed at first. It called for some tough choices. In many cases it meant that to convey the same thought as my original she’r I had to use a different set of words, which was painful because there were certain word constructions that I had been very fond of and I couldn't use them. In some cases I had to completely get rid of a few couplets because no matter what I did, I just could not retain their original 'brilliance' and still fit them into the same meter as the rest of the ghazal. If I didn't want to get rid of them due to my fondness for the original couplet, I had to compose an entirely new ghazal in the meter of that couplet. It was a whole lot of hard work!!

See the two couplets below. They have the same thought, almost the same words but one is definitely more musical than the other. Can you guess which the 'cleaned' form is?

डरता था मैं न आए वक़्त-ए-फ़िराक़ मुझ पर
कुछ वस्ल से तेरे अब हौल-ए-दिमाग़ निकले

हौलज़दा था दिल कभी ख़याल-ए-फ़िराक़ से
कुछ तो तेरी वस्ल से वहशत-ए-दिमाग़ निकले

It has taken me almost 2 years to complete this mammoth task, but now that I’m almost done I feel really proud of this achievement.

Now I can say that I’m 'satisfied' with my creativity!

Creativity that has arisen out of the 'tension between spontaneity and limitations'

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Urge To Fly?

So I finally have a blog of my own. I have been mulling over this idea for a while now, but somehow I just didn't know how to start. First, there was this natural resistance to the concept of blogging itself. Being a very private person, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to put my thoughts for the whole world to read and comment upon. This was indeed the toughest hurdle to cross. It took me a while to convince myself that being private and expressing oneself through a blog were not mutually exclusive. After all, I would have complete control of what I would write about.

Then came another hurdle- not a major one, but quite significant. I love to write in Hindi and Urdu; in fact, I feel (some definitely disagree) that I can express myself better through Hindi and Urdu poetry. I have been writing in Hindi and Urdu for many years now; and if I had to start my own blog, it had to offer me the flexibility of choosing the script I wanted to write in. Even if I had the flexibility of writing simultaneously in Roman and Devnagri scripts, that would suffice. (Urdu can be written better in Devnagari than Roman - that's my personal belief). So, I searched around a bit and found a cool tool that could help me do that.

Finally, what should I call my bog? I didn't have to think much on this, I knew it had to be either "Scribe's Pen" or "Urge to Fly". Very odd choices, you might think. There are two of my Urdu couplets that I'm particularly fond of and these words come from there. They don't translate particularly well in English though (Khaama-e-Kaatib = Scribe's pen; Khwaahish-e-Parwaaz = Urge to fly). Here are the two couplets (शे'र) I'm referring to:

अशग़ाल-ओ-रोज़गार की मसरूफ़ियत जहाँ
चलता वहीं है ख़ामा-ए-कातिब भी ज़ोर से
(where one's busy with one's vocation
the 'scribe's pen' too runs with all its might)

क्यूँ न आग़ोश-ए-तख़य्युल में मैं उड़ता ही रहूँ
दर हक़ीक़त है मुझे ख़्वाहिश-ए-परवाज़ नहीं
(In the embrace of dreams why shouldn't I fly
In reality, I don't have the 'urge to fly')

(Don't even comment on the translations. I can't afford to get Vikram Seth to do them for me!!)

In Urdu I would have chosen "scribe's pen" (simply because I like the way it sounds), but I feel that "urge to fly" translates better in English. I could have chosen the original urdu words as well, but can you imagine anyone remembering

Anyway, the name's chosen and that's what it will be.

The scribe's pen has an urge to fly.

How that urge gets expressed, it will soon unravel.

P.S. The phrase Urge to Fly also happens to be used in one of the songs of my favorite Pink Floyd. However, that was never a conscious source of inspiration for the name of my blog.

"I've got a strong urge to fly. But I got nowhere to fly to, fly to, fly to....."
- Pink Floyd (Nobody Home)