RANDOMS

Rain does not have speech
But it can whisper soothingly
Just as it can give an angry tongue lashing
Rain does not speak
But still, our ears can perceive

 

I have seen life cheat time
As I witnessed a flower
Emerge from a bud
I have seen death defeat life
As a life ebbed away just after birth
In front of my eyes
But your overawing beauty
Can never cheat me
Of the innocence
Of your childhood
– my attempt at reworking on Yusuf Bookwala’s original

 

 

 

 

Belated Thanks, Janaab No-name

It was sometime in 1954 in Berlin, that I met this person in a shop. I do not remember his name, but one look at each other was enough to convince us that we both belonged to the Indian subcontinent.

We started chatting, surprisingly not in our common Urdu or Hindi, but in German, a foreign language which we were fluent in! He was holding a small book in his hand – Omar Khayyam’s Rubayyat – in German. I had heard about Omar Khayyam, but had never read the English translation as I disliked that language then. He praised Omar Khayyam no end and out of curiosity I just skimmed through the book. I was certainly impressed and made it a point to buy it the very next day. After exchanging pleasantries we bade each other goodbye, never to meet again. I read and reread that tiny booklet and even quoted some verse to my German friends who were very pleased. That tiny booklet opened new frontiers for me in literature. Recently, the same book again fell into my hands and took me back down memory lane.

Yes, I have yet to thank that Pakistani acquaintance for the treasure trove. I hope he is happy and doing well.

Salaam, wherever you may be, sir!

 

Translations from Gujarati

Sow seeds of compassion
Sprinkle with charity
Drizzle some love
Let honesty be the fertilizer
Weed out anger
Buds of happiness will sprout
You will reap satisfaction
Life will overflow with joy

 

All I asked from God was
To let me see my death just for a while
Doubting whether anybody would shed tears
I wanted to shed some of my own over my dead body

 

To resurrect my lost dreams
I made my world
In my own way
I called my shadow
My friend
And thus learnt
To live with my loneliness

 

I sought purity from the river
It gave me
I expected tenderness from a flower
I received it
I only wanted some compassion from fellow humans
Need I say that I was disappointed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can impure water purify one’s soul?

I am a Hindu by birth, though not a practicing one in the real sense of the word, but still okay with it despite observing its many idiosyncracies in day to day life.

I visited Rishikesh in 1981 along with some German friends. Rishikesh is where the Ganges enters the plains of India after criss-crossing the Himalayas. The water was so pure that I could not drink enough of it. There were literally tens of thousands of carps swimming in it and it was great fun feeding them. There were no motorized boats to cross the river and only row boats were available.

Contrast this with picture now. Only four years ago, I visited the same place again and yes, again with another German friend, who had expected a lot after hearing stories from me. We both were in for a bitter disappointment! Not a single carp in the river and motorized boats had replaced the row boats. The water looked so polluted that I did not want to have even a sip of it.

Nearby, quite a few devout were taking a dip in the holy river to wash a way their sins as is the belief in the Hindu religion. I was aghast to see them filling up their water bottles from this same place to carry home. According to Hindu tradition a few drops of “Gangajal” or holy water are always put in the mouth of a dying person. As far as my knowledge goes, what is known as “Gangajal”  is only the water taken from the river at its source at Gaumukh and up to Rishikesh. And any water taken  from the river downstream after cannot be called “Gangajal” – it is simply the water taken from Ganga (Ganges).

Anyway, I just abhor the very thought of putting this impure water full with the washed out sins of others in a dying person’s mouth. It is quite a different story with pure “Gangajal.”

What do you call this? Blind faith or sheer hypocrisy? No offence meant to my millions of practicing Hindu brothers and sisters, but would they please just sit back and give this a thought?

English & Me?

It all started when I was maybe about seven or eight years old. The alphabet I knew by then, but nothing beyond that. It started with the miseries of learning English grammar. We had a small booklet which translated everything from English into Gujarati – my mother tongue – and vice versa. First of all, I had to memorize the form of “to be” like ‘I am, we are” and so on. In Gujarati, this “form” was known as “roop”, a word which also means beauty. Now I never understood where the “beauty” in this was. To me, a girl could be beautiful, but this “to be”?

My tutor ,Govindbhai was a very hard taskmaster and at the slightest mistake, a hard slap would unfailingly find its mark well. I had memorized the “to be” and was quite prepared when he came the next day and asked me to recite the form of “to have!” Well, I never knew that there was another beauty called “to have,” so I innocently started reciting, “I am, we are,” when another hard slap landed on my cheek. When I looked askance at him, he said, “You fool! I asked you to recite the form of “to have” and not “to be”!” When I could not understand the difference between the two, he made me memorize this form too. I don’t remember how long this continued, but one fine day I found myself in a higher class, reading from an English reader.

My sister, ten years older, took up the challenge of teaching me English. I was happy at the prospect because I knew that whereas she might get angry with me if I committed a mistake, she would never raise her hand.

The first lesson went something like this: “there was a castle atop a hill, in which lived a handsome prince”. She explained to me the meaning and then asked me to translate it in Gujarati. To which I merrily replied, “there was a castle named Castle atop a hill in which a handsome prince lived”! “My dear brother, a castle is a castle it is not named Castle.” I protested, because in Gujarati, the world “gadh” means castle and we have many of them by the name of Sinhgadh, Raigadh , Chitordgadh and so on. And so I extended this thought to English, thinking this castle must be something like Castle-gadh! My sister laid down arms and surrendered – this “dumbo” was beyond repair.

And so my adventures with this silly English language continued. As if prose was not enough, a book called “Poets and Poetry” was thrust into my hands. By now, I could at least read the damn language, even if I did not understand it! There was a poem whose opening lines were, “go down to Kew in lilac times…”. Those were the years of the second world war and I was used to standing in long queues for sugar, kerosene, wheat and what have you, apart from of course the bus queue. The word ‘Kew’ intrigued me. I thought it was the printer’s devil and should have been ‘queue’ I had no clue as to the difference between queue and Kew. I was not aware of the famous ‘Kew Gardens, and wondered whether the idiot poet was talking about queuing up the lilacs for daily rations? Next, would he write about daffodils dancing in a pub or something? And this was what they called English poetry? I shook my head in total disbelief! Well, like it or not, I had to memorize many such poems and I remember having been detained after school hours if I had not done them right.

I think God must have felt the pain of Govindbhai’s slaps on my cheeks so he decided to send one of his angels in the form of Ashok – a distant cousin seven years my senior – to rescue me from this hell. Ashok was very fluent in English and being a very lovable person, I got along very well with him. He knew about my love for sports be it cricket, hockey, football or just about any of the others – not that I was good playing them but I used to eagerly read any news in the vernacular press. There was not much coverage apart from for cricket, but some English newspapers devoted one or two pages to sport. He suggested that I try reading only the sports news regularly and assumed that Iwould automatically progress from there to the other sections. I heeded his advice and moved on to reading about the battles and tribulations of World War II and thus started my redemption.

I improved considerably and in 1951, set sail for England to study engineering. My stay there for about a year did help, but the great change came in 1953-54 while studying German under Dr. Nicolai. I have never studied under a better professor teaching languages than him. Under his tutelage,I learnt the finer nuances of German and applied them to English too. I am very happy to say that the erstwhile ‘dumbo’ today considers himself above average in English!

Inanity & Insanity

Goodness! The confusion prevailing in my mind still continues. I had thought that after passing on my “insanity” to the shrink I’d mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I would have some peace of mind. But no way! Now, I am troubled by some more inane thoughts or ideas or whatever.

You know, as I was trying to say my prayers the other day, instead of concentrating on Him, the first thought that came to mind was how long would it take the prayer to reach Him?

Now, the obvious answer to this would be in an instant. But how do we measure the speed of this instant? At this particular point of time, He could be sitting some zillions of light years away, or He could be right next door, so are both the instants the same? And if He is some millions or zillion light years away and my prayer stumbles on some hurdle or hurdles, then will it reach Him at all during my life time or will I have to be reborn again and again till my original prayer reaches?

Also, I am quite sure there will be millions of others praying to Him at any given instant, so if all their prayers were to reach him in an instant, whose prayers will He dispense with first? And then do the others stand in a queue?

Knowing full well that no one in this world will ever be able to give me any satisfactory or plausible answer to my unending inane questions, I thought of seeking the answers from the greatest shrink of them all – all in my imagination, of course. So, on an appointed day and hour, I met Him when he was holding court. After giving me a patient hearing, He just said, “child, you are not even at the kindergarten stage and you want to know about the mysteries of the universe that I created? Your mind is not evolved or developed enough to grasp anything that I might try and explain to you.” OK, so when would or could that be? “Umm, let’s say after a few thousand birth cycles at the earliest.”

At that very moment, all my inane questions seemed to leave me just as air escapes from a punctured tyre, so forget enlightenment, I realized even my sainthood was nowhere near!