Translated Treasures: ‘Roots’ (fiction)

A Story in Punjabi by  Bhagwant Singh Rasulpuri

Translated by Amritbir Kaur

           I step out of the washroom after a shower. Standing in front of the tall mirror in the drawing room, I massage my scalp. I came back bald from the barber. My palms feel the depth of a scar just above my right eye. Looking into the mirror I spot the scar and visualise the scenes of that incident; the very fight, in which a long knife had caused this scar over my right eye and led to my face being covered in blood. I try hard not to reminisce about that fight but the moment my hand touches the scalp, my mind is clouded by all those forgotten memories. Whenever I’m in a pensive mood, my hand automatically roams over my scalp. It has developed into a kind of habit.

To acquire five kanals of land, I had fought against my whole tribe. That is the place, where I have constructed ‘Boddh Vihar’ now. I tried to convince my people but in vain. My village ‘Dharampura’ is inhabited by low-caste (‘chamar’) people. It is often referred to as workshop/industry. I have heard this name being used ever since I was a child. It was only when I grew up that I came to know of the real name of my village. Dyeing of leather done by the people here got this village its nickname. The people living here were all from my tribe and were into the same business of dyeing leather. Even the adjoining village was also occupied by leather dyers. My father, Ram Rakha also used to do the same job and the same is with my paternal uncles and grandfather now. My grandfather’s house has a spacious verandah, where one corner is devoted to the vessels for dyeing of leather. Whenever a relative visited our house he would cover his nose with a handkerchief on the pretext of the foul smell emanating. But it didn’t matter to us.

When I floated the thought of constructing a ‘Boddh Vihar’ on that five-kanal plot, my father was very agitated. The news spread like wild fire in the whole community. All the elderly wise men of the village gathered at my house in the evening.

An old wise man, Duni Chand, who was my grandfather’s youngest brother, addressed me,  “Look son! Be wise…we all pay our obeisance to Guru Ravidas. Guru has showered his blessings upon our village and we are, under no circumstances, going to leave his shelter. The work of leather has been bestowed upon us by our Guru. There is an ostentatious place devoted to the worship of Guru Ravidas, where we all go. Hence, there is unity in our community. The village is as if tied together by the holy words of Guru Ravidas ji. Don’t spoil the whole state of affairs by your thought process about the five-kanal land…Rakhkha was saying that Gyan is planning to come up with a Buddhist temple in his five-kanal plot. I fail to understand who teaches you all this rubbish! In olden times we used to listen to Buddhist teachings but now the tradition is no longer in tune with the times. Conform to my opinion Son…”

I calmly replied, “Look here Baba ji, I don’t stop you from following Guru Ravidas. But our people need Mahatma Buddha badly; Ravidas is no religion at all. You are well aware of the fact that Dr. Ambedkar too had adopted Buddhism. He used to tell all the people from low caste that if they want to enjoy equality of status they should adopt Buddhism.”

“Just look at this leather worker’s son! A little bit of money has gone to his head, he dreams of becoming an Ambedkar! Keep in mind being Ambedkar is not a child’s play!” the head of Ravidas’ shrine shouted.

“Brother Gyan we should be loyal to our tribe and community. Whatever wise people do is for our benefit. They have the experience of a lifetime. It’s not for nothing that they have grey hair. See the colour of their nails that tell tales of the manual work done by them. Their bodies have decayed in doing years of labour. We should not betray our Guru”, quipped in another one, who tried to convince me.

There was a lot of discussion that degenerated into an argument as well. But I didn’t budge an inch; I was not at all affected by all that. The elderly were agitated with me, and now even the young began venting out their anger against me. They were the ones, who had established the ‘Ravidas Naujawan Sabha’ to carry out the working of the temple of Guru Ravidas.  I talked to the members of the Mission Society in foreign lands; they insisted upon building a ‘Boddh Vihar’ at that place. Initially, the boys of my village protested against the usage of that place also, then they tried to put pressure on my father that we should donate this land for the Ravidas temple.

The people of my community told my father, “Old man, this is the common land of the people and the Panchayat is planning to file a case against you.”

I came to know later on that ownership of that land was controversial. People claimed that this is common land. But it came to my knowledge when I had the amount in full to the seller of the land, so I ignored this fact at that point of time.

Then I gathered the officials of all the ‘Boddh Vihars’ and planned to lay the foundation stone of the planned ‘Boddh Vihar’. On the stone was written ‘Budhh Vihar, Village Dharampura, whose foundation stone will be laid by Bhikhshu Sangh Anand Kaushleyan on 6 December, 1980’. Below that was mentioned ‘Bhikhshu Gyan Ratan, by Ambedkar Mission Society, London’. When the villagers realized that the construction is really about to begin, they started threatening me.

My companions tried to boost my confidence. On the day when the Budhh Vihar was going to be inaugurated, my father told me, without mincing any words, “Look Son, we all are not with you. We are with the community. How does it matter to you as you’ll be leaving for England any day, it is we who are going to stay back here with these people.” But I started making preparations for the inaugural ceremony. Bhikshu Anand Kaushalyan came all the way from Delhi. Buddhists had come with their families from all the villages around. Many had come to adopt the Buddhist way of life. When all the people had left, the workers of the Ravidas Youth Union barged in. They carried with them rods and other weapons. Prior to that, my father had abused me with foul language. Those people immediately started fighting with me the moment they entered.

I wanted to stay calm. I thought I’ll try to convince them again and again. One of the boys caught me by my arm and shook me badly, while another pushed me back twice-thrice. At this I too grabbed a rod to protect myself but I was soon rendered helpless in front of a gang of ten-twelve people. Suddenly a sharp weapon hit me just above my right eye…and there was a lot of blood oozing out. Then after razing down the wall with the foundation stone of the ‘Buddh Vihar’, they all left shouting slogans.

Although my family was angry with me, yet in that condition they took me to the hospital. One of my relatives informed the police station. When I regained consciousness after about four-five hours, the police was there to record my statement. All my companions were angered. But I didn’t want to flare up this issue. I had never wished to promote groupism in the community. Therefore, I did issue a statement to the police. The matter was laid to rest within a matter of few days. But the scar on my forehead was permanent that always reminded me of the bygone issues.

“Get ready quickly. Food is ready, consume it while it is hot.” Hearing my wife’s voice emanating from the kitchen, the sights attached to that scar at once fade into oblivion and I emerge out of the drawing room wearing a saffron coloured long robe.  I have started dressing up completely like the Buddhist monks and also clean-shaven and bald like them. My wife cannot control her laughter when she looks at me. She has also started wearing clothes like the Buddhists.

I seat myself on the raised platform built below the Peepal tree. I look at the ‘Boddh Vihar’ in front of me, that has been built on the half area of the five-kanal plot. On the ground floor is a hall of 36 by 60 feet area. On top of it is a statue in white. I plan to build a school in the remaining half part, a place where the poor kids of Dharampura and around can study. All the students would come to school wearing the robes of Buddhist monks with their head shaven off. I see the dream being realized in my mind. People from nearby areas come to grace Buddhism. They are also dressed in similar clothes. Those people include women and children as well.

There are some rooms in the Budhh Vihar as well where I stay with my wife and work towards achieving my mission. I visit my father every two days. My deranged mother, who has been bed ridden for twenty years now, starts mouthing foul words as soon as her eyes rest on me. Why does she have fits on seeing me? As a child I used to see my mother reciting bhajans while sitting on that charpoy. Before going in for that meditation she used to issue an instruction that nobody should disturb her. Gradually she went on to say that she had a glimpse of a saint during her meditations. At times she said Meera Bai resided inside her. She called out to me and asked me to become Meera and sing with a ‘toomba’. And then started singing by herself. I am often disturbed at this sight.

I had got prepared a lawn in front of the Buddh Vihar. With a Peepal (Plaksa) tree in the centre, flower shrubs were planted in the garden. The tree has now gained a height of about ten feet. Whenever I see that tree peace prevails and I feel calm and peaceful. Whenever I meditate under this tree, in my mind’s eye I can see the ancient ‘Buddha Tree’ and the eighty feet statue of Budha. Even in this Buddh Vihar we have imported the statue of Buddha from Thailand.

My wife brings in food for me that consists of boiled vegetable and two chapattis. This is all that I eat. Since the time that I have experienced the rise in my blood pressure, I have drastically reduced having oily things in my diet. Occasionally I have high sugar level, so I take too many precautions. I experience high blood pressure due to mental anxieties. I don’t even have sweet things. My wife sits on the mat spread across the floor in front of me. Kids from about ten houses of the village come to the Buddh Vihar daily. I teach school subjects to them and also tell them about Buddhist teachings. I stay in the village for around four months and then I leave for England with my wife. The administration of the Vihar is taken care of the officials here. I don’t work in England either. My wife and I both make do with the pension that we receive.

I can clearly recall that when I last visited my ancestral home, my father, who was reading a newspaper in the verandah after my customary questions about the well-being of my mother and house, asked me, “My son if Buddhist religion was so good then why was it wiped out from India?”

I dug up the knowledge from inside and replied after a thoughtful pause, “Bapu ji, about three-fourth of the population of India comprised of Buddhists. When the Yemen     came to India they started killing the Buddhists. They demolished the statues of Buddha and the Boddh Vihars. The monks were killed on a large-scale. It was because of this fear factor that a large number of Buddhists fled from India and took shelter in countries like China, Tibet and also some went to far away countries. Consequently, Buddhism was slowly wiped out from India.” Whenever someone from my neighbourhood asked me some such question, I always progressed with this flow of thought.

Just then my deranged mother burst out in a fit of shouting loudly. My father gave her a pill with a view to tranquilise her. Gradually she was put to rest.

It happened once that my mother entered into the gates of the Boddh Vihar. My whole attention was diverted towards her. She bowed in front of the statue for long and kept on repeating the words, “Hail the saints! Hail Ravidas!” And then she came and sat in the Vihar. It was with much difficulty that I took mother home. This scene was often repeated. She used to laugh after looking at me. I felt scared of her laughter. My mind was clouded with various thoughts and my concentration was disturbed.

Sitting in front of me my father again tried to tease me, “Did more people also become a cause for the fall of Buddhism in India?”

While trying to convince him, I quoted History, “Father History says that those who propagated Buddhism in India were the natives of India, the Nag people. They were not Aryans. Rather they had an enmity with the Aryans. That is why many wars were fought between both these tribes. The Nag people wanted to do away with the Aryan tribe. But some people say that at one point of time the Nag tribe was done away with by the Aryans. But according to some historical sources, August muni     saved one ‘naag’. And we all belong to the same tribe Father. It is we people who have saved Buddhism till date.” My father sits in silence after that. I don’t know whether he liked my statements or not. As I stood up and started walking away he said, “Look after your kids too my child. All the time you are engrossed in this task only.”

I agree both my children have grown up to be opposite to what I expected them to be. My son is not at all interested in my religious activities. My daughter too seems to be living in a world of her own. Now I feel like staying abroad. I’ll be receiving the pension.

Just then a leaf falls into my plate that distracts my attention. After having my food I hand over the utensils to my wife. Very delicately I keep the leaf aside. Then I start concentrating upon myself again. All this talk of the time about ten-twelve years back, when I experienced fits. My parents have informed me about all this. I have not even set up the Boddh Vihar yet. It was when I had travelled from Dharampura to England that I gave up wearing pant-shirt, shaved off my head and started wearing saffron coloured clothes. “Just see my son has gone mad and turned a saint!” my mother reacted sharply on and shrieked. “Leave this place, you are not one of us…you are not a son  of this tribe…go…just go…”, my mother continued to abuse me while I was leaving the house.

“Yes mother I am not one of you. I belong to the ‘naag’ tribe”, irritated I uttered these words. Then suddenly silence descended upon her. Sometimes it happened that mother charged towards me to tear off my saffron coloured robes. I used to have a tough time controlling her and making her lie down on her bed again. I was crazy about becoming a monk. That is why I started writing my name as Monk Gyan Ratan instead of my original Gyan Chand. Mahatma Budhh  used to come in my dreams and I found my world revolving around him.

I dreamt of King Bimbsar coming to adopt Buddhism. Often my dreams were about the dacoit Unglimaal, Yashodra and Gautami. When such type of sights became common with me I ran away from my home and without informing anybody at home I went to Nagpur, the place I was to come into the folds of Budhhism. From there I went to Nalanda, the place that was once home to the world famous university of the Buddhists. I was stunned to see the remains of Nalanda University. I was reminded of the place in Sultanpur Lodhi, where once stood a Buddhist monastery. About four to five hundred people could reside at that place.

After putting in some efforts at excacating the site I discovered a few remnants the Budhhist monastery as well as some partially destroyed idols. I placed all these things in the Boddhh Vihar. Then I could form a picture of the rooms of the university in my mind. I visualized Buddhists meditating there. In my stream of day-dreaming I asked quite a few questions from a monk residing there: What is the reason for suffering?  I also asked as to why the monks don’t give much importance to household and family life? “I don’t know”, the monk answered. Then I reached the Ajanta Caves, where I was left dumbfounded after having a look at the sights and scenes there. I made a note of quite a few points there and also took a few photographs. Then I came back to my home. My family was a peeved lot, that was all because of my actions and behaviour. When at home, I used to read books all day and night. I was out of the house whenever I felt like going out.

One day I reached a township located near Phillaur. The remains of a Boddhh Matth were buried under the foundations of that area. I don’t know where I read about or it might have been my intuition. I roamed around in the plateau-like region of that area. Had I had the power I would have ordered an excavation of that site! I sat under a Peepal tree growing there. ‘Why does excavation not take place here?’ my heart cried.

Then appeared before my mind’s eye the remains of the Buddhist monastery buried there. I could visualize the large statue of Mahatma Buddh. I took out an incense stick from my bag, lit a candle, placed some flower petals there and started praying. Then my hand took a round of my bald scalp and I thought of the statues of ‘Bamiyan’ at the time when I had come to know of those statues being pulled down, I had not eaten a thing for full seven days. I was totally shattered and was restful after a long time. It was as if I had wheels fitted in place of feet, I used to wander from one place to another. My sons and daughters had stopped giving me any money. Therefore, I only had the support of my pension to meet my livelihood expenses.

I am reminded of an incident when dressed in saffron-coloured robes I went to the Guru Ravidas dham very unwillingly, where all the elderly men of my clan had gathered. I invited them to visit ‘Buddh Vihar’and promised to tell them about the preachings of Mahatma Buddh. But they were least affected by whatever I said. Then I returned from that place after I bowed my head in front of the statue of Ravidas. I can recall that once when I was sitting in a room at Budhh Vihar and I saw before my eyes the members of my family; my father, who used to take to the Ravidas Temple and sometimes my mother used to take to another Saint. My mother used to tie a handkerchief on my forehead whenever we used to go there. I used to be very excited when I paid obeisance there and used to take parsad in a very excited manner. Whenever such things dominated my thoughts, my Ravidasia personality of Gyan Chand dominated my Buddhist facet of Gyan. Once in a while I also felt like abdicating my garb of Buddhism and go back to my people.

I give my head a shake and move my hand on my bald scalp. I try to bring myself out of my mind’s reverie.

One day I bought a picture of Ravidas and kept it in one of my books of Buddhism. Whenever I wanted to I kept looking at the photo for a long time. I used to bow my head in respect and then kept it back in the book. Then I felt sick of myself. Continuously I moved my hand over my scalp as if trying to punish my mind.

I am reminded of the time I was in college. May be it was my last year in graduation. There was a large group of boys from my village in my class. An idea struck my mind that we should celebrate Guru Ravidas’ birthday. We put forward this request to the Principal but he rejected it. All the boys of our clan went on a strike. To avoid flaring up this issue the Principal conceded to our demands the next day. From that day onwards a tradition to celebrate Guru Ravidas’ birthday was established. After my studies I got married and went to England. It was there that I got influenced from Buddhism.

I was sitting in the shade of a Peepal tree when about eight to ten children come to me. They go inside a room and change into the robes of a monk. After dressing up they first of all bow their head in front of Buddha’s statue and lay flowers at the feet. Then they line up to sing a Buddhist prayer I had taught me. I move towards Buddh Vihar and enquire about the well-being of all. Then I start telling them about the four noble truths of Buddhism.

“My child, attaining moksha or salvation is the most satisfying task and getting satisfaction is what religion is. What is religion? Understanding this is very important. You can experience that. And for understanding the truth and experiencing it you need to know and comprehend the four noble truths and also practically follow them.”

The eldest from among the child monks puts up a question, “What are these four noble truths?”

“They are related to suffering, causes of sufferings, cessation of suffering and the path to cessation of suffering.” Then I start elaborating upon them. Then all of a sudden at the end of my sermon I accidentally utter ‘Jai Ravidas’. And I open my eyes wide open, my ears all alert; I look at the children around me. I think that my words have not fallen upon their ears. For long I keep standing in front of the statue of Buddha and ponder upon the reasons why I uttered those words.

Children say, “We could not understand all.” Even I have not been able to comprehended all these things. It just happens that I preach all these things when the Buddhist hidden inside me starts talking. I too don’t realize the meaning of all the things I speak then. Sometimes I feel that it is not right to talk of such high status and noble things with the children.

I ask Usha to prepare a cup of tea for me. I sit in front of the computer. For the past many days I have into  preparing a book on ‘Daily Rituals for Buddhists’. For spreading the message I have got about twenty books published till now. The cost is borne by the society but it is my responsibility to get the book ready.

Today I have to write about the Buddhist rituals associated with death. The incident of my mother’s death that happened last week haunts me. It has been hardly seven days since she died. For the past twenty years she has been mentally deranged and confined to bed. In her last days she was reduced to the form of a skeleton. I wanted the Buddhist rituals on my mother’s death but all my relatives opposed it, so being alone I was rendered helpless in front of all of them. A person was called from the Ravidas Dham to execute all the rituals.

Unwillingly I kept along in all the rituals and then accompanied the body when they were taking her to the cremation grounds. Bhikshu Kaushaleyan dominated my thoughts and therefore, it was my spontaneous outburst when I started telling a person beside me, “ Mahatma Buddha says that old age is a misery, disease is another one; if we try to tackle our sufferings, more sufferings emerge out of it. We all are tied to each other by the greed and these are referred to as the clutches of materialism. It is out of this tight grip that feelings and emotions  arise inside us. If such feelings don’t arise inside a man, kids won’t be born. If birth is not there, then even old age and death aren’t. In turn, if all these are not there then there would be no suffering. You know, it is Buddha who talks of getting rid of the sufferings. Another fact is that…” The person beside me was merely nodding and agreeing to all the things. Probably he was my mother’s nephew.

Now they’ll follow the same traditions on the bhog ceremony of my mother. I came back home with a heavy heart. I had a risen blood pressure. The Bhikshu Gyan Ratan inside me was in conflict with me that day, “What happened Bhikhsu Gyan Ratan! What of all your declarations that I would make all the people of Dharampura convert to Buddhism. In my mind I think, ‘I am not the one who will get defeated very easily. You must be aware of the fact that even Mahatma Buddha had the following of about ten-twelve Bhikshus.’

The Bhog ceremony of my mother will be performed tomorrow. I am feeling very discomforted with all the thoughts. I want to run away from here. I think of my mother. I think of Bhikshu Kaushaleyan’s sermons, Ambedkar’s lecture that he gave when he adopted Buddhism. Quietly I wear the brick-red robes, take a book on Buddhism with me, go the station and board the train for a long journey. I have experienced the same thing earlier also. Then I suddenly spring up with surprise when I came across the photo of Guru Ravidas kept in that book. I closed that book immediately as if I had seen a horrible thing! Hey Anand! Be your own guiding light, be your own disciple…Think of religion as your path. Don’t take the guidance from anybody except from religion. I could hear a voice saying all this inside me. I try to pacify myself by drinking water.

Translated Treasures: ‘Wind Era’ (poem)

A poem in Punjabi by  Jaswant Singh Zafar

Translated by Amritbir Kaur

 

Stone age it was first of all

Of stone tools, stone weapons

 

Then came the bronze age

Of bronze were garments,

arms and utensils made

 

Iron age followed then

Man had rupee, dollar and yen

Indecency and vulgarity ingrained in him

Man became poor at times

At times became very rich then

Craftsman here, and a farmer there

Sometimes good, sometimes bad

With many types of trades there

Man, a trader and a worshipper

The iron machine

Man became a superfast runner

 

This speedy man

Flipped the pages with speed

Wealth age, knowledge age

Computer age, information age

Speedily the list increased

 

Name of the present era?

Do you know?

This is an age of winds, the ‘wind era’

And the man of this wind era?

Seated atop the wind horses

Trampling and destroying

Some with high airs

Some with egos inflated

Some throw weight around

Some take pride in accepting

Their egos being inflated

Air of some is deflated

 

Characters build by airs

And images destroyed

Those faces painted on flex boards

Make promises inflated

Rath yatras are undertaken

To build airs about self.

Balloons in air at ceremonies,

People’s revolt to change the winds

And winds of change switch governments.

 

Columns in newspapers

Channels of communication

All instruments of wind they are.

 

It is the wind that drives the share markets

Policies are mounds in deserts

And decisions sands

Wind places and shapes them

 

Winds of change

drive the fashion trends

with winds are carried

discussions and

winds inflate prices

but values deteriorate

 

Hey! Inhabitants of this wind era

Spare air for your breath

Fly high in the air

But stay grounded too

If you pump up the winds

You’ll be thrown to the winds

Be careful

The inhabitants of wind era.

Vol. I, Issue 3: Poetic Musings

1. STANDING ALONE   ~Sweta Srivastava Vikram

2. STORY OF A WOMAN   ~Paarth Ashok Narang

3. FINALLY I FOUND IT   ~Sagar Singh

4. A POEM   ~Nishtha Sood

5. SOMETIMES   ~Paromita Bardoloi

6. FLIGHT THROUGH THE OLD CITY   ~Abhimanyu Bishnu

 

 

STANDING ALONE

By Sweta Srivastava Vikram

 

Binoculars made a home over eyes,

frosted breath rubbed hope into the lines of hands, eagerly

waiting to soak the sight of the surreal expanse of space.

 

Breath ran faster than I could breathe. Shuddering

with ecstasy, the breeze cajoled the bald, barren trees.

The uninhibited steam from the boiling tea leaves

 

set up the suspense. With the world as its audience,

the sun lifted the curtains, its first ray birthed magnificence—

the enormous Mount Kanchenjunga in unison

 

with spots of jealous clouds seeking attention. The crowd

of one cheered, but the structure stood unmoved like a white,

widowed wall painted in the sky. I sensed solitude,

 

humility mistaken for arrogance, no one to call its own today.

Not even a print of a soldier or Sherpa boy. Shielding its secrets—

unforgiving tales of betrayal and grief, etched as permanent marks

 

in the crevasses of its history, the mountain stood.

Was it tall or orphaned? The Humming Bird sang

hymns to bring solace to its barrenness. But with fortitude

 

of a circus artist covering angst with makeup,

Kanchenjunga performed the show,

without a complaint, under the blue bedspread.

 

—–XX—–

STORY OF A WOMAN

By Paarth Ashok Narang

 

I am a woman and I shall tell you my story

I’ll tell you how I died and lost my glory

I was sad, I am sad and I shall remain too

For the life that looked eternal, but was vapory

 

Before I was born, daddy had a fear

Mummy also told the doctor to be clear

And worst was the day when I did get born

For that day in their eyes, was a gloomy tear

 

A sweetheart, a doll is what a girl does spell

But indeed my life had a way different story to tell

Missing were those Disney labeled pacifiers in my mouth

Rebukes were the ones used to make me quell

 

I did go to school, but did I really do?

When in minds of mummy, only doubts did brew

I wanted to study hard, and so I did too

But failed the exam of life, brutally in lieu

 

I grew up every day with many fears in my mind

To those ghastly to me, I was always kind

Yet my questions, yes all of them died unanswered

Which, today in oblivion, though not alive – I try to find

 

The day came when I fell in love with a soul

I held that soft hand and went on a stroll

Unaware that death awaited me back home badly

Oblivious that my armors will turn vitriol

 

I was beaten and slain with the sharpest sword

Nothing I spoke was listened to, not one word

That’s the day when I started dying deep within

That’s the day when I bid from life, farewell to accord

 

I am sorry that I dared, and I tried to speak

Forgetting that once upon a time I was meek

Nothing is now left of me, not a tad of flesh

All what is left of me, is a bloody streak

 

For those who put me to gallows of demise

Death embraced me, didn’t take me by surprise

I am sorry; to you I was not a dear son

The fact, which in fact was my end’s premise

 

I sleep in my coffin, hugging my death very tight

Come hurt me bad, however bad you might

Now I am dead, none can rouse any pain

For the stoic feels no ache, and possesses no fright

 

—————————————————————————

FINALLY I FOUND IT

By Sagar Singh

 

Finally I found it,

found it in my situation,

my life is my own magic,

my own creation.

why should I take blames,

N put blames on other’s,

I wanna fly high,

with my own feather’s.

I wanna run away one day,

live, life like a holiday.

chill out on beaches,

n get wet on a rainy day.

jump from peek,

measure how much ocean is deep.

I  don’t wanna complicate myself,

why I should think  before asking

anyone’s help.

Finally I found it….

 

Its hard, hard to understand,

love is faith n my only friend.

why not to try,

what’s wrong,

wanna sing my life, like a song.

don’t wanna waste time,

what’s complicated,

rules I made,

Its time to break it.

life is not about,

what I have or what’s gone of my hand,

everyone around,

is my  fellow , my friend.

I don’t wanna distinguish,

what’s gud or bad,

why should I regret later,

that ,this thing I never had.

finally I found it…

 

————————————————————————————-

A POEM

By Nishtha Sood

It was a night of unparalleled darkness,
an auspicious night some said,
The night that gives birth to all desires,
but desires within me were dead.
All the coyness, my deep preserved secret
that my father asked me to preserve till the time is ripe,
stood naked before me,ready to be devoured,
by someone whom I had never met.
“He will keep you happy”,
my neighbourhood aunt would say,
Someone from a far off village told my father that
the boy was a gem, and I was lucky
But the pious fire engulfed all my luck,
severed my identity,destroyed my existence,
the thin veil would break tonight,
I was supposed to yield,not offer any resistance.
It was not that he loved me,
my father was against the idea of people loving me,
He was a nice boy,he said,and I was supposed to be with him forever.
And satiate his needs night and day..
Why would I be of any use to him?I said to myself,
The question remained a deep mystery till tonight,
when I was shamelessly asked to cross the threshold because it was time,
for me to reveal everything on that unfathomable dark night.
A sacred night some said,
But devotion within me was dead..
Killed by his hands mercilessly moving across my body,
exploring the darkness within.
I tried to relent but my screams were stifled,
by the roaring noises of his intense fire.
“You are supposed to it every night,” he said,
“I have an insatiable hunger and your body is my bread,
I have earned you and can devour you in any way I want.”
That night my emotions and dreams met their demise,
My life was his possession, he was my god in disguise.
I should worship him every night with utmost sincerity.
His happiness is my purity..
I was half dead that night..I begged
for some respite,but it was greeted with despise..
And all I got was……….
anguish between my legs,
and tears in my eyes.

 

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SOMETIMES

by Paromita Bardoloi

Sometimes, when the yellow sun melts in my hair

And the blue moon sets in my eyes, I think about you.

The rain carries letters with words,

And the green butterfly sets on my cheeks, I think about you.

I miss days that never were and the dreams that might have been.

But I still think about you …..

……And of days that never were.

 

FLIGHT THROUGH THE OLD CITY

by Abhimanyu Bishnu

Come again, when evening’s here

And the darkness rises as a shroud;

When evening kisses the darkening tresses

Of the solitary wandering cloud.

Let’s fly together, you and I

On the wings of the wind unbound.

Let’s explore this ancient city

Of amazing light and sound.

 

Let me take you into the oldest alleys

And lanes of the behemoth town;

That has survived a thousand years

And will further live ages down.

 

Let’s look into those decrepit houses,

Soar above the roofs as kites.

Let’s wander the streets –

The city streets, the strangest sights.

 

The curling smoke kisses the walls

Of long worn-out buildings, and falls.

The last Emperor left them behind.

Trapped among the city walls.

 

Close your eyes and you will hear

The clamouring of times bygone.

Come, it’s time to explore

The city of mirth and song.

 

Come again, when evening’s here

Come again, when dark is near;

We’ll roam the city, we’ll scale the walls

We walk about, we’ll know no fear.

Artistically Yours

Artistically Yours

 Vector-Background-YellowPink-StarAre the artists really artistically free? Can they be freely artistic? We have been witness to what happened recently in context of the planned visit of Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year. The fate of M.F. Hussain is not hidden from anyone. The name of Taslima Nasreen has always been marred by one or the other controversy. One might say these faces have in their pockets a lot of fame so it is but natural for them to be in the limelight for one or the other reason. But this is not so. We have lesser known and even hitherto unknown artists, who have been attacked for their artistic expression in the name of obscenity. India’s freedom of expression has been curbed increasingly with the Hindu religious groups accusing the artists of hurting religious sentiments in being obscene. I would like to remind you here of an incident that took place in the year 2007, when Chandramohan Srilamantulaa, a post-graduate student of Fine Arts at MS University in Vadodara. The group of members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, led by BJP leader Niraj Jain barged into the university. The Dean Shivji Panikkar was suspended from the university because he protested the arrest of the student. The protestors had claimed that the works of Chandramohan offended the religious sentiments by painting nude men.
That is not all. Among numerous other cases, we have a more recent incident of violence against Balbir Krishan. The artist was attacked on the last day of his exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi. Balbir Krishnan had said that a group of people had been threatening him since many days before they attacked him on the last day. Krishnan’s latest exhibited works are based on the theme of homosexuality and depict male figures in erotic positions.

Editor

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TWITTER-FEED OF A LAW-BREAKER

By Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar, author of the book “A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb.”

Writer Amitava Kumar was advised to leave the recently held Jaipur Literature Festival after he had read, along with Hari Kunzru, extracts from Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.” The novel has been banned in India since its publication in 1988 because the government held that the book would hurt the sentiments of Muslims. The following is a stream of messages that, like Gibreel Farishta in The Satanic Verses, Mr. Kumar dreamed he had written.

Just landed at Newark. Before leaving saw on TV at Delhi airport that complaints have been filed against us in Jaipur and elsewhere. #JLF

I was not a protester at Tahrir; I only read from a banned book. #JLF

Friends in media, forgive me for my silence. It was on legal advice. Also, I don’t trust you. #JLF

I had to leave India to be safe. A realization filled with surpassing loss. #JLF

But did I need to leave India to be brave? The truth was that I was afraid. #JLF

As in countless films, when the man pleads with his killer, “I have small children.” #JLF

First moment of fear: Hindi TV reporter pushing camera in my face to ask, “Are you not guilty of provoking religious violence?” #JLF

The organizers offered Scotch. “The festival will be shut down. We will have to appear at court hearings for years.” #JLF

En route to Delhi airport, stopped at Arundhati Roy’s home for a beer. She said, “You have to lose fear.” #JLF

I will be ashamed of you if your pulse rises when you show your papers in Delhi, she said. I said, My pulse rises only when facing you. #JLF

Imagination makes us shape better stories, sure, but it also allows us to multiply possibilities. Imagine a different end. #JLF

I read from “The Satanic Verses” because it was, in that time and place, a bold and imaginative act. #JLF

If I were honest, that would be the only claim I submit to the Indian authorities in my defense. #JLF

Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi repeated the same act of defiance at the festival as Mr. Kumar and Mr. Kunzru, reading from “The Satanic Verses.”

Mr. Rushdie, who was scheduled to appear at the Jaipur festival, was forced to stay away because of threats against his life; some reports say the threats, complete with fabricated names of gangsters, were concocted to keep Mr. Rushdie from coming to Jaipur. On Monday, six complaints were filed with the police against the four authors who read from “The Satanic Verses” for having provoked social disturbance. All four authors have been advised to submit a statement saying that they were not aware that it was a criminal offense to read from “The Satanic Verses.” The police are examining the complaints.

*Amitava Kumar is a professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair at Vassar College.

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Artistic Freedom- Is it Absolute?

By Jayasankar

 “I believe in absolute freedom of expression. Everyone has a right to offend and be offended. So I supported Hussain. In India, I see a division; some support Hussain, others support Rushdie.  Why can’t they support everybody’s freedom of expression? If they can’t support Rushdie, (Danish cartoonist Kurt) Westergaard, MF Hussain, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asiya Bibi and me equally, then they don’t believe in the freedom of expression.” These were the words of Ms Taslima Nasreen, the Bangladeshi writer, who had to leave her country, in the face of attacks from religious groups, in her interview published in the Times of India, dated 19 June 2011.

These words again brought up to the fore, certain confusions relating to the sad situation in which India’s one of the most commercially successful artists, MF Hussain, had to accept citizenship of another country and had to die outside his country of birth (when I say commercially successful, I am not qualifying the success of Hussain as an artist. The term is used for the simple reason that art and paintings are not my forte and, therefore, I do not want to pass judgements thereon).

Who is right and who is wrong? Are all parties wrong or right? My heart says artists must have the full freedom to express their creativity, thoughts and ideas.  I would not feel offended merely because someone has used his/her artistic freedom in some form or other.  But my mind says that no freedom can be absolute; one’s freedom must stop just before the nose of another and should not include the freedom to touch the nose itself!  Absolute freedom amounts to anarchy and therefore it is not advisable for any society that believes in rule of law and aspires for harmony.

I wouldn’t go into details of the situation involving MF Hussain for three reasons: (i) my concerns here are more conceptual in nature, (ii) I have not been able to make up my mind about culpability of Hussain in drawing nude paintings of certain figures that are worshipped by others, and (ii) I am already biased against the extreme right-wing elements among Hindus, who caused the whole episode.

According to the Constitution, no freedom is absolute in India. The Constitution itself makes fundamental rights enshrined therein, including right to life, subject to reasonable restrictions.  Therefore, when Ms Nasreen talks about the “absolute freedom of expression”, that has no sanction under Indian Constitution.

However, that does not solve our confusion. What amounts to reasonable restriction is something very subjective. At the most, it will help if a matter reaches the court and the court has to decide upon it.  However, these issues are not decided in courts, but often on the streets. Just like artists, there are elements in the society who think they too have the freedom of expression; only that their mode of expression is violence and not arts.

When Ms Nasreen says ‘everyone has right to offend’, isn’t she, inadvertently but ironically supporting the so called right to freedom of expression of her tormentors as well? When she was being harassed by these fanatics, weren’t they expressing their freedom of expression in a manner known to them?

Similarly, what if an artist or writer deliberately offends a group or community with the intention of either creating social tensions or merely to gain publicity for his/her works?  What if a radical group wanting to create riots, use one of the artists to publish some matter that can inflame any of the other groups? Can we allow such things to happen?

To think of the other side of the coin, it is often seen that the misuse of freedom to create social tension is done not by artists but by communalists. They will do it on some or other pretext, even if artists keep their silence. Also, the issue remains as to who decides what is offensive and deliberately made to market one’s works? Should it be done by the communalists or journalists who have never evaluated a work of art, or by art critics?

Obviously, these are not black and white issues.  There are no clear answers to all these questions.  That is why we need to find a mid-path.

While respecting the artistic freedom of expression, the artists have to ensure that the freedom is not misused in a way that it results in creating social tensions. At the same time if a third party, whether it is moral police, government authorities, censorship bodies or even art critics are given the power to censor the art works that can stifle the genuine freedom of the artist.

Artists cannot compare themselves with militant groups that are fuelled by religious or other retrograde agendas.  Artists are part of the civil society and must feel more responsible for its well being. They must value their freedom and show a sense of responsibility in exercising it. Every artist must ensure that he or she is exercising self imposed reasonable restrictions on his/her freedom of expression, so that the social harmony is not disturbed by their works.  They can use the test of reasonableness, wherein they decide not to do something that a reasonable man would find offensive in a given situation. I am sure there are enough ways to create a work of art, without using offensive language or symbols.

First step towards this objective is for artists to realise and admit that no one has absolute freedom of expression and that the right is subject to reasonable restrictions and social responsibility. They must understand that they have more responsibility towards society than hooligans and violent groups.

Having said that, let us analyse in detail the three distinct approaches to the issue of freedom of expression.  No one can deny the fact that there are thousands and thousands of artistic expressions in all forms of arts that do not hurt any sentiments yet manage to be great works.   There are also certain artistic works that by their very nature and subject might cause some hurt to some people, not because of the work as such, but because these people are unduly possessive or sentimental about the subject itself.

It is not the above mentioned works but the third group of works where an artist causes hurt to the sentiments of a large section of normal population, whether deliberately or otherwise, that concerns us.  When I say normal population, I mean any population of rational beings excluding the fundamentalist or extremist elements.

Unfettered and absolute freedom

Proponents of this view do not believe in any kind of restrictions, self imposed or otherwise, on the freedom of artists.  They believe that artists should have complete freedom for expressing themselves in the artistic way they want to and should not be subjected to any form of restrictions.  If someone is offended by a work of art s/he should have the freedom not to see/read/hear that work.  This view corresponds to the view expressed by Ms Nasreen in her interview cited above.

As per this view of absolute freedom, if a person or a group of people is of the opinion that an artist is deliberately maligning their religion or culture they have the freedom to protest in a peaceful manner.  At the same time the Government has the duty to protect the artists’ freedom and the freedom of others to protest peacefully. But the Government or the Courts should never stop an artist from expressing himself as the aggrieved parties always have the choice not to see/read/listen to the work

I do not agree with the practicality of this view.  For example, if a university chooses offensive portions to be included in its syllabus, would it be possible to tell the students that if they are offended by the work they don’t have to study it?  Taking the artistic freedom little further, is it fine for an artist to deliberately carry out character assassination of a person by including a distorted version of the family history of that person in some artistic work?   Wouldn’t affected person have a right to sue the artist for defamation and wouldn’t it be improper for the State/Courts to punish the artist, if it is proved that the work amounted to defamation as per the laws of the land?  Or, should the Court merely tell that affected person to restrain from reading the artistic work containing defamatory matter?

Violence is not limited to physical form alone; even psychological and emotional violence is equally deplorable.  No matter what the mode of expression, every form of violence is to be condemned and stopped.  That includes a violent artistic work as well.

Further, this view pre-supposes a superior right to artists to express themselves, in whatever form and fashion they choose, while imposing a burden on all others to be apologetic about their sentiments and to be choosy about what they read, listen, view etc.  Artists can violate others’ sentiments through their work, but the affected people have to resort only to courts and peaceful protests to register their hurt feelings.  In the real world, this kind of a classification of rights may not be feasible or practical.

Artists have to be aware that for a State, maintaining social harmony is more important than allowing individual creative freedom.  Therefore, given the choice a State is likely to stifle freedom than allow anarchy by allowing every group to exercise their respective ‘absolute freedoms’. The concept of society and nation-states are based on giving up certain individual freedoms for the common good.

 Absolute control over the Freedom

The other end of the spectrum demands absolute control on an artist’s freedom of expression.  This is the view of the ‘offended’.  As per this view, there is a thin line between freedom and hurting someone’s feelings. Freedom of expression cannot intrude others’ sentiments. If an artist portrays someone in a way which may be hurting and indecent, to quote freedom of expression as an excuse would be arbitrary and unjustified.

Problem with this view is that who will decide where the thin line that separates freedom and hurt is?  Sentiments differ from person to person.  Can an artist realistically determine what the line is where he can be sure of not hurting anybody’s feelings?

Let us turn the argument on its head.  As much as there could be an artist who is deliberately out to destroy social harmony, isn’t there a possibility of some motivated individuals, wanting to instigate a large groups of people to indulge in violence,  accusing an artistic work of hurting their sentiments (real or imaginary)?  In fact, it is the so called ‘offended people’ who often resort to violence without even trying to find out the truth behind the allegations about offending their sentiments!  Most of the violence that occurred in the past against artistic works was precisely due to misguided reactions, at the behest of trouble makers and without actual reading, viewing or listening, as the case may be.

Case for Self Restraint

Between the two extreme views above, we have to find a line which has balance of convenience, even if not ideal, so that we can ensure maximum social harmony with minimum interference in artistic freedom.  It is towards this end that I suggest self-restraint as the method, wherein the artist himself acts as any prudent artist would act in the given situation.   I am sure there are thousands of ways to express one’s creativity and ideas without hurting other normal people’s sentiments.

Concept of ‘Swatantrata’ is found in Indian culture from ancient times. ‘Swa‘ means self;  ‘Tantra‘ means method, discipline, or rules. So, Swatantrata means acting according to our own methods or rules, which is the ideal type of ‘freedom’.  In other words, freedom is not absolute but subject to self discipline and self regulation.

This is not limited to artists alone. In fact, this principle of self regulation applies to all the members of a society.  I agree that each one of us have absolute right to hold a view, opinion or belief, howsoever extreme it may be.  But we do not have such an absolute right to manifest that view etc in public, without considering its impact on other members of the society.  That restraint is the little cost that we have to pay for enjoying the membership and associated benefits of a society.

Self restraint is the best form of censorship, as it gives the artist sufficient opportunity to express his ideas or art in a way that the essence of the work is not compromised.

First step towards this objective is for artists to realise and admit that no one has absolute freedom of expression and that the right is subject to reasonable restrictions and social responsibility. They must understand that they have more responsibility towards society than hooligans and violent groups.
Having said that, let us analyse in detail the three distinct approaches to the issue of freedom of expression.No one can deny the fact that there are thousands and thousands of artistic expressions in all forms of arts that do not hurt any sentiments yet manage to be great works.There are also certain artistic works that by their very nature and subject might cause some hurt to some people, not because of the work as such, but because these people are unduly possessive or sentimental about the subject itself.
It is not the above mentioned works but the third group of works where an artist causes hurt to the sentiments of a large section of normal population, whether deliberately or otherwise, that concerns us. When I say normal population, I mean any population of rational beings excluding the fundamentalist or extremist elements.

Unfettered and absolute freedom

Proponents of this view do not believe in any kind of restrictions, self imposed or otherwise, on the freedom of artists.They believe that artists should have complete freedom for expressing themselves in the artistic way they want to and should not be subjected to any form of restrictions. If someone is offended by a work of art s/he should have the freedom not to see/read/hear that work.This view corresponds to the view expressed by Ms Nasreen in her interview cited above.

As per this view of absolute freedom, if a person or a group of people is of the opinion that an artist is deliberately maligning their religion or culture they have the freedom to protest in a peaceful manner.At the same time the Government has the duty to protect the artists’ freedom and the freedom of others to protest peacefully. But the Government or the Courts should never stop an artist from expressing himself as the aggrieved parties always have the choice not to see/read/listen to the work

I do not agree with the practicality of this view.For example, if a university chooses offensive portions to be included in its syllabus, would it be possible to tell the students that if they are offended by the work they don’t have to study it?Taking the artistic freedom little further, is it fine for an artist to deliberately carry out character assassination of a person by including a distorted version of the family history of that person in some artistic work?Wouldn’t affected person have a right to sue the artist for defamation and wouldn’t it be improper for the State/Courts to punish the artist, if it is proved that the work amounted to defamation as per the laws of the land? Or, should the Court merely tell that affected person to restrain from reading the artistic work containing defamatory matter?

Violence is not limited to physical form alone; even psychological and emotional violence is equally deplorable.No matter what the mode of expression, every form of violence is to be condemned and stopped.That includes a violent artistic work as well.

Further, this view pre-supposes a superior right to artists to express themselves, in whatever form and fashion they choose, while imposing a burden on all others to be apologetic about their sentiments and to be choosy about what they read, listen, view etc. Artists can violate others’ sentiments through their work, but the affected people have to resort only to courts and peaceful protests to register their hurt feelings.In the real world, this kind of a classification of rights may not be feasible or practical.

Artists have to be aware that for a State, maintaining social harmony is more important than allowing individual creative freedom.Therefore, given the choice a State is likely to stifle freedom than allow anarchy by allowing every group to exercise their respective ‘absolute freedoms’. The concept of society and nation-states are based on giving up certain individual freedoms for the common good.

Absolute control over the Freedom

The other end of the spectrum demands absolute control on an artist’s freedom of expression.This is the view of the ‘offended’.As per this view, there is a thin line between freedom and hurting someone’s feelings. Freedom of expression cannot intrude others’ sentiments. If an artist portrays someone in a way which may be hurting and indecent, to quote freedom of expression as an excuse would be arbitrary and unjustified.

Problem with this view is that who will decide where the thin line that separates freedom and hurt is? Sentiments differ from person to person.Can an artist realistically determine what the line is where he can be sure of not hurting anybody’s feelings?
Let us turn the argument on its head. As much as there could be an artist who is deliberately out to destroy social harmony, isn’t there a possibility of some motivated individuals, wanting to instigate a large groups of people to indulge in violence,accusing an artistic work of hurting their sentiments (real or imaginary)?In fact, it is the so called ‘offended people’ who often resort to violence without even trying to find out the truth behind the allegations about offending their sentiments!Most of the violence that occurred in the past against artistic works was precisely due to misguided reactions, at the behest of trouble makers and without actual reading, viewing or listening, as the case may be.

Case for Self Restraint

Between the two extreme views above, we have to find a line which has balance of convenience, even if not ideal, so that we can ensure maximum social harmony with minimum interference in artistic freedom. It is towards this end that I suggest self-restraint as the method, wherein the artist himself acts as any prudent artist would act in the given situation.I am sure there are thousands of ways to express one’s creativity and ideas without hurting other normal people’s sentiments.

Concept of ‘Swatantrata’ is found in Indian culture from ancient times. ‘Swa‘ means self;‘Tantra‘ means method, discipline, or rules. So, Swatantrata means acting according to our own methods or rules, which is the ideal type of ‘freedom’.In other words, freedom is not absolute but subject to self discipline and self regulation.

This is not limited to artists alone. In fact, this principle of self regulation applies to all the members of a society.I agree that each one of us have absolute right to hold a view, opinion or belief, howsoever extreme it may be.But we do not have such an absolute right to manifest that view etc in public, without considering its impact on other members of the society.That restraint is the little cost that we have to pay for enjoying the membership and associated benefits of a society.

Self restraint is the best form of censorship, as it gives the artist sufficient opportunity to express his ideas or art in a way that the essence of the work is not compromised.

From the Editor’s Desk: Vol. I, Issue 3

Life has been called a unique combination of success and defeat. In fact, both complement each other. If a person has not tasted defeat, he will not be able to enjoy his success. Another aspect is that the bricks of a person’s success are laid on the foundations of the other person’s defeat. It sometimes happens that we lose even if we win. We have a crowning success but the crown seems to be made of thorns at times. All the fame sounds so worthless. In such situations, inspite of our victory some shortfalls are there that don’t let us bask in the glory of our success.
Often we say that hope sustains life. So we lose only when we no longer believe in being tied to the string of hope and we shift our residence to the dark and dreary lanes of dejection and disappointment. Our defeat is not in doing a work in the wrong manner, rather it is when we come to the conclusion that we can never finish that work properly. We are not a loser just because we keep thinking of the past; we lose when in delving into the past we forget to move ahead.
We are not to be considered defeated when our dreams are not transformed to reality; but we are definitely defeated when after crashing of our dreams we stop dreaming. As Dr. Abdul Kalam has said, ‘dream is not something that we see in our sleep, dream is something that doesn’t let you sleep’.
Now let’s take a flight of fancy with wings of literary thoughts and visit a utopian world of poesy, tales and visual delight. Let’s be friends with reading…Wish you a happy journey, flipping through the pages of ‘The Literary Jewels’.

Amritbir Kaur
Editor
05 May, 2012