Friday, May 30

अन्य

आज कोई नहीं है, बस
बारिश है|
कल कई थेशायद तुम भी?

जमा करे कंकड़-मोती, सब,
ले कर आए थे|
ख़ाली हाथ गये, भरे दिल से
ज्यों-ज्यों निशाना सही पड़ा|

फिर रात के सन्नाटे में भी
आए थे कुछ बादल;
मेघ को दारू समझे पी गया दिल,
जैसे-जैसे घाव भरे, हुस्न खिला|

मैदान-ए-आशिक़ की वारिदात
दर्ज नहीं होतीं| बेसबब समेटी जाती हैं,
यादों के कटघरे में नहीं;
सिर्फ़ इनायात के तजरिबे में|

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Saturday, May 24

Narendra Modi: new twist to Asian story, world history


It is amusing to read some of the invective both pre and post Modi win, and people sharing it on social media: the variety includes leftist intellectuals who still yearn for some socialist, subsidy-ridden state; human rights advocates, who conveniently forget years and years of Hindu-Muslim riots that happened all throughout Congress-ruled regimes in Gujarat, something that is no more there since the post-Godhra riots in the last ten years; those who are concerned about the growing strength of a religion, Hindutva, at the expense of sanatana dharma, a philosophy that defines India; environmentalists, who fear from a China-style development, which is supposed to look only towards short-term benefits; and, finally but the biggest quantity, those who haven’t lived in Gujarat, who simply read a CNN news article about Modi’s revoked visa or rights records and who don’t know what secularism is and assume it to be some unquestionable good, those who pitchfork themselves into the category of humanists and intellectuals. As always, some concerns are valuable, some others seem to be derived from flimsy grounds, and in many there are a few grains of white and few of black and a lot of grey. And yet, Modi has often been painted as black, univocally black.
But not by the populace of India. BJP couldn’t ride to this seat share even after the mandir chestbeating and VHP terrorism and interminable rath yatras in a Hindu-dominated country in earlier elections; rather, in an electoral campaign sans emotional issues and emotions, Modi has yet won a rare majority by himself. What does that say? One, at whatever cost, the people of India are mature enough voters now: the days of dynastic politics, nepotism and buying votes through subsidies and populist schemes are over in most of India. Two, the lack of anti-Congress vote divide, by and large, says that Modi does speak to them somewhere directly: thanks to the Anna/Kejriwal stunts, the people of India have started to interrogate themselves now and express their preferences. While there seems to be a dangerous political volatility (which though is not of that much concern, given the durability of India’s strong democratic institutions), as the citizens remain immature and easily swayable by the media, at the same time, the strength of media, while being a double-edged sword, also keeps all in the public eye now on their toes: all the more necessary when a party has a clear majority and opposition is decimated, an otherwise dangerous situation to be in for any country, for any system. Even a king needs to be aware of some covetous bastard child.
It is difficult to say where Modi will turn to, which wind will take him whither (or he will take which wind where): however, it remains now incontrovertible that India has turned a chapter, not just a page. It has taken its Westphalian nation-statehood seriously for the first time. Most Asian and African countries got independent at a time when statehood was already reaping fruits for Western nations, and on top of that when the Cold War did not let them choose to become states at all: rather, they had to choose camps (or try to please both, the path chosen by Nehru), try to survive, and just remember the hard-earned nationhood. Different countries took different paths. China’s early post-independence isolation ironically helped it to become a state much earlier than others could: whatever Mao’s policies were, and how much ever disastrous in the short term, it is undeniable that he always remained a flag-bearer of Chineseness. This ironically given that he had rejected the quintessential Chinese values of Confucianism: flung onto the little island of Taiwan (and now forgotten by them as well). However, we Indians forgot what Bhārat means: in our mad rush to speak English and become civil servants, the sarkari babus with all the perks and batti-vaali gaaRi. Yet, India has such varied pockets that homogeneity was impossible: so even if the English speaker was respected and white skin was (and is) venerated, it wasn’t everyone’s lot, wish or ability to imitate them. Countries like Turkey and Iran tried to steer away from Islam, an ideology to which political statehood is in itself an incompatible concept (a contested view by some, but according to me, the concept of ummah precludes loyalty to political state, unless if the spiritual caliph can be divested with political caliphate as well: an ongoing experiment of the ayatollahs in Iran, limited to the Shi’i); the miraculous1 leadership of Atatürk was able to do that, though Turkey would later return to Islamic leanings, while the US bungled and intervened in Iran, thus helping to prop an Islamic regime, ironically now one of those blacklisted by it. The worst lot was that of countries like Syria, and regions like Palestine and Kashmir: not helped by Saudi Arabia’s double-dealt hands, and too wise to lose its real independence by taking US aid, Syria has been fighting for survival as nation itself, whereas Kashmir and Palestine struggle for recognition as nations, forgetting that it would be easier (acceptable/face-saving to other entities) to make the fight that of statehood (only). In a world of colliding and collapsing entities, not just political but also human (e.g., social networks) and economic (e.g., the experiment of Bitcoin), nations may soon be an outmoded concept, to be studied along with the dinosaurs.
Such a background, though too much simplified, is essential to understand India at this corner of its story. It is also necessary to understand how Gandhi sided with the moderates; Savarkar’s viewpoint; why Godse killed Gandhi; and most importantly, what we have gained or lost, at least as much and as far we can judge, from independence, partition, the unnecessary wars we fought with China and Pakistan, and a secular constitution. Nothing should be unquestionable: nothing should be on a pedestal except the cleanliness in our heart and the ability of our mind to think through.
I will simply list a few paragraphs of the challenges ahead for Modi.

a. Geopolitical: It has been an old school of thought in RSS circles and in fact in all revolutionary Indian circles to valorize the East. However, India had a shared Buddhist and trade story with Southeast Asia and China; that story no more exists, and religion isn’t the most trending thing among Chinese youth, or rather most youth anywhere in the world, today.2 Much has been talked of Modi’s eastward stance, but Modi would do well to be careful of China. While there is no need of incensing China unnecessarily,3 India must strengthen ties with Japan and Southeast Asia: the time is ripe for that in the background of: (a) China’s push to become a great naval power, and hence its increasing tensions with Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia (strangely, Taiwan is not on that list; the present Ma government4 with its China leanings is a danger for the whole region); (b) the US pivot-to-Asia policy, which may not be shelved even if Obama goes. While the US will keep playing double games for its maximum benefit—engaging with China, protecting Taiwan but not playing it off with China, and yet creating forums as part of the pivot to form some kind of a counter-hegemon against China, should the latter become belligerent—countries like India (or Indonesia), which are growing fast but do not have the resources to devote to defense (already India spends too much), should take care to create bilateral alliances with key potential allies like Japan and S. Korea (regardless of it being politically close to the US and culturally these days to China), rather than happily and dizzily jumping on board US-sponsored multilateral Asia-Pacific alliances, unless as observer. Though India is not an Asia-Pacific country, the US pivot is to Asia, not necessarily Asia Pacific: and hence an inevitable offer from the US at some point in the near future, and the danger of acceptance. China may resent India’s entry to such alliances, plus India gets bound by a multilateral forum’s restrictions: and it gains nothing. China is not looking for landward expansions, and will not turn belligerent towards India as of now, unless India acts really stupidly in some way (Dalai Lama, Arunachal/Sikkim, boasting). It would be good though if India could silently strengthen Nepal (i.e., economic or infrastructure aid).
Coming to Modi, he should be careful of inviting too much Chinese investment into India: rather, he should look further east (to Japan), north (Russia/Ukraine/Uzbekistan), immediate north (Afghanistan: critical for passage of pipelines), west (continue engaging with Iran, esp. now that the US is also softer), and especially inward. India is too service sector dependent: and it services Europe and US, the former of which seems to be an irrevocable downward trajectory. It is high time that India starts also on its manufacturing path on a larger scale, to match China’s to some extent: it is important to enter markets like Africa, as China is already doing (and as one Indian company, telecom major Bharti Airtel, has done), not just for services, but also for products manufactured at home.
A concern is the Tamils: Modi might be more friendly towards the Sri Lankan government, and while that is good for India in terms of politics, what about the voice of Tamils, who have been almost effaced out of the political picture in Sri Lanka? The redundancy of Tamil parties’ wins in the elections has presented an unsavoury conundrum for India.

b. Domestic: Key concerns after these elections are Assam and Kashmir; both have thrown up polarised results, and I am not confident about Modi’s ability to handle them, unless by ruthless measures, which is no measure at all, since suppressed wounds fester and become venomous grouses over time. It is a good beginning that Modi has invited Sharif and other neighbouring leaders for his swearing-in, and he must continue in the same dialogue mode with local leaders, and remove Army from Kashmir and the Northeast, and rather focus on creating economic prosperity. Material well-being, when equitably distributed, is the most effective means, usually, of promoting harmony.
Modi’s Cabinet also is a concern: while it is not yet formed as of the time of writing, there is hardly anyone in the ranks of BJP that inspires much confidence. The Vajpayee cabinet was hopeless, carrying on the legacy of Congress. And it may be by and large the same Cabinet in place. The one good ally that Modi has got is Chandrababu Naidu, and Modi must ensure that Naidu remains strong and influential in his government.
Modi may also be a target of more terrorist activity in India, especially at the beginning, in a bid to hustle him or test his mettle. That he is not the dearest for Islamists would not be a discovery. If the US forces do withdraw from Afghanistan, it will be a challenge for both India and Pakistan to fight Taliban and allies both inside and outside their countries, and keep the region safe.

c. Development: If high-speed rail links and expressways mean development,5 then Modi is on a wrong track, and he may have to face the same public ire that Congress did this time. Fast connections are good, but when people can drink clean water, have a roof on their heads, do a job and earn respect, not just money, and send a child to a real school, not just some arrangement to get the child fed. A country where there is no education is not developed: and education does not mean churning out engineers and doctors in lakhs. It means the ability to think, the capability to stand on your own feet: to give that confidence, that experience and those skills. You must not tell what to think: you must inculcate a habit of thinking, of questioning. For even thinking is a habit: it is gained and lost through habit and ill habit (as Hermann Hesse said in one of his works).
Development needs to be also targeted to a country’s needs. In a country where the GDP per capita isn’t a great figure, who will take the high-speed rail, particularly when the ticket difference won’t be much when compared to airfares? Rather, encourage small and big players in aviation industry, but don’t give so many licences that the existing ones are not able to run on profits; build more airports; give tax breaks and incentives to airlines; make cities that fall on global trade routes like Delhi or Chennai transit (and shopping) hubs like what Doha or Dubai are. That will encourage small businessmen to fly, make India more connected, and increase by leaps and bounds India’s economic well-being. And let the Indian rail be as it is; just make it more accountable and efficient, and lay electric rail lines through the Deccan plateau. It is the freight sector that needs attention rather: modernize wagons (introduce proper cold storage), re-lay those lines where freight is more, so high-speed lines can be there for freight, and focus on safety of passengers. Re-introduce some now-disused narrow-gauge tracks (e.g., the track that used to go from Madurai to Tenkasi and onward in western Tamil Nadu)—conversion of narrow gauge to broad gauge is not modernity. Instead, if properly marketed, these narrow-gauge lines can bring you lot of foreign exchange through rail fans.

d. Culture: This in fact is where Modi can contribute most critically, but will he? He must be ruthless this time—in dismissing leftist intellectuals’ voices. But careful that he does not slide into Hindutva.
In a country where more than 80 percent of people are Hindus, we do not know our own works of philosophy: religion is taboo in schools, though not so in missionary schools or madrasas, where Catholic masses are sung quite proudly and the Qur’an is taught as the first thing to learn. Modi must not veer to Hindutva, but where is even Hindu in this country? We live in some kind of perpetual apology: of what? Of being numerically dominant. We do not know the rich web of Jain, Hindu and Buddhist thoughts, and neither Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) or Aquinas at our schools. We are fed rote materials, not debate and discussion and frankness. We never talk about dvaita and advaita; and we squirm in strange notions of our own sanatana dharma: feeding milk to Ganesha, thinking not eating meat as “religious,” and boasting of how “scientific” our ancestors were. We do not know the erotic poetry with Krishna at its center; thankfully, for its anti-institutional tones, we can read Kabir at least. And our students learn French and Spanish as foreign languages on top of the three-language formula, but the UP person does not learn Tamil, a classical language with rich literature, and no one is bothered about the Tibeto-Burman languages of Arunachal, or knowing what does a little boy in Kashmir eat for breakfast. No one learns Dogri, and no one learns Tulu. India must learn to appreciate and take joy in its own richness: India is a Hindu land by its traditions and thought processes. That is far from Hindutva.6 Everyone is welcome here and everyone is absorbed in this land and new thoughts come, new practices come, new syntheses occur. Sometimes there is smooth sailing, sometimes there is friction. Yet the Indian mentality remains as it is: that of fatalism, detachment, leaving everything to what “the one above” or “the fate” wishes or does or desires, alms-giving, monkhood, openness to every thought and un-thought, personal honesty. Irrespective of which so-called religion you follow, it is these that define India, just as Hindu, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism or Christianity, in the mouths of the wise and in the acts of the generous, all boil down to simply a perennial philosophy—sanatana dharma—of striving for truth, of not fearing suffering but of striving to reduce suffering, of thoughtful action. India now must begin to learn satyam shivam sundaram. In the name of secularism, we do not have to shy away from it: it is our right, our duty and our fate to learn and seek, avidly and widely.
There will be a lot that Modi will leave undoubtedly undone out of this, and maybe he will do some good things not thought of by me. And maybe some bad things. He remains a politician, an opportunist, and his allies remain corrupt leaders and misguided RSS cadre. However, India is only now independent: free from an apologetic tone of existing. We are quiet, and that’s good; we are humble, that’s better; but we need to be wise, always looking to grow. The path may be long, but at least it has begun, maybe in fog, but yet dark has dispelled.

1 Every statement always carries two, or even multiple, faces: and so do all of mine. Turkey has also lost a lot of its culture with modernisation, with the agressive secularisation of Atatürk. Also, Turkey has also been guilty of not being so warm to other ethnic groups, as was the old Iran towards Azeris. There is nothing right; nothing wrong—just as Modi is neither white, nor black. Politics, and human life, is a game: it is only each instant’s greater right and greater wrong that we can recognise. And even then, our judgement may falter, be occluded, or even be on a stroll in the park.

2 So, now alliances can be nothing beyond economic: China in particular is not much interested in spiritual sharedness, though Chinese tourists can of course increase on the Gaya circuit, again bringing some forex.

3 It is Dalai Lama who uses us; what do we earn in return? China’s enmity is not worth having. China’s stance is unfortunate towards Tibet, but the Lamas have also been feudal landlords of the spiritual sort. In a political game between the two, one a big fry and the other a tiny one, India has unnecessarily caught itself up in between. Modi should distance himself from Lama.

4 This can change rapidly; China’s recent (as of the time of writing) tensions with Vietnam can inflame the region as a whole, and Ma Ying-jeou may have to change tack (subtly). Ying-jeou is letting ROC (Taiwan) be a pawn in the game for the island chain in the Pacific: Taiwan is never going to control them, so why supporting China? In the end, ROC itself will end up soon being part of PRC if it continues likewise.

5 We must not go the way of China: we may develop very fast when we pollute our lands and waters with unlimited investments and then fighting others to eye more markets so our industries can keep running; even more fast, when we can have one language, one religion and one culture (Mandarin, atheism in China, and nationalism at the expense of many other cultures, one of the main sufferers being Confucian values), but of what use is development where we can read all day about fascinating stuff on our smartphones but actually don’t have it? No, we must not become intellectuals!

6 Hindutva means treating Hindu as some religion: excluding other thought systems and ideologies, blindly and unquestioningly adopting certain aspects of the Hindu traditions and thought (basically adopting the conservative text of Manusmriti, and excluding everything else from Hindu thought), and becoming intolerant, agressive and non/not-truth-seeking. Valuing the widespread branches of Hindu thought and learning about them is however not Hindutva: we are a Hindu land.

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Sunday, May 18

life of a human

I do not know, if
smoked tunas are hung out
to dry on walls by the beach, bicycle
loitering.
I have only heard of smoked salmons.
But they sound nice.

I would like to play
some football. I do not know how I get
penalties.
I have heard of Pele and Maradona,
seen pictures of busty girlfriends.
But all of it looks nice.

Tomorrow, you will come, you will go,
like a cloud some rain, then barren
sunshine.
I have heard of love and hearts in a flutter,
read stories where they died together.
But then, it dreams nice.

I have wondered about the Dhaka muslin,
or more about Dacca. Spellings carry
memories.
Under which lamp now sits the boy
whose grandfather once weaved looms of splendor?
And it touches nice.

I have sat under the low, mango tree
counting the stones they pelt. I would like
an alphonso steamed in the fumes of
a volcano.
My favorite will be Stromboli.
But it tastes nice.

And then I wonder,
if strombolied alphonso is same as
beach-hung smoked tuna?
I wonder who will tell me,
I dream no one will,
ever.

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Tuesday, April 29

सन्नाटे की चमड़ी

सन्नाटे की चमड़ी में से / कोलाहल सा बहता जाए
- Revolver Rani (2014)
चतुर नाग के डेरे में फैला है बवाल,
हर अंधेरे की ओट पे है सवाल,
मंत्रणा करते केंचुओं को फ़िलहाल
न मिले माई-बाप, न ननिहाल|

सागर से जाके पूछो, तो टक-टक,
जैसे समय की लड़ी बेखटक
दौड़ती जाए, एक साँस एक-टक
चाहे कितने ही सेतु की हो उठक-पटक|

ज़लज़ले के भीतर न तुम खेलो,
खेल बड़ा है, दाना-पानी बना लो,
आग में भस्म होने का चैन ले लो,
पर आहिस्ते ... वरना सब खो लो|

शैतानों के देव अब करें समंदर पार,
न बादल न जल करें संहार,
कोई वाद, तो कोई विवाद को दे हार
जब चले प्रलय का तमाशा, बार-बार

वही चित्रहार|

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Friday, March 7

जड़

रंज में रोएगा आज आसमान, तू!

तनिक बादल पे गेरू नहीं,
न कहीं गहरे मन का नील,
बस सफाचट नभ तपे, तपाए
संगमरमर के मकान-ओ-मंदिर,
जैसे दिन चलते चलें, बिन आग, बिन बरसात,
और शिथिल उच्चारण में फँसे ओम,
वैसे बढ़े रोग, बढ़े दारू,
फैले अचेतना, न रंग न प्रकाश|

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Thursday, January 23

फ़ैसला

भोले, तू कहाँ चला गया था रे?
मेज पर किताबें रखी छोड़े,
सूरज की कॅंपन को अनदेखा करे,
जाड़े की रेशम-सी गलियों के बीच,
कहाँ निकल गया था, रे?

कौनसा संकल्प तू ने ऐसा बाँध लिया था,
कि भूल गया तू इस गुलिस्ताँ के
पाबंद मज़े को, नाज़ुक मोहब्बत की लड़ी को?
हैं रे? किस आग में झुलसा ऐसा,
कि सब ग़म को पी गया, न हँसते, न गाते?

देख! यहाँ आसमाँ के रंग नहीं बदले,
न वे कोने-कचुले जहाँ तेरे चर्चे रहते;
उसी उम्र में फिर मिलना हुआ
कोई रंजिश बिना, जैसे बिन मौके की बरसात
आज गिरी मेरे आँगन में, न दस्तक, न माफ़ी|

तू आया है तो आराम कर तनिक,
मेरी आँखों के सवाल हैं गुम, हैं अंजाने,
तू सुना, अरसा हुआ तेरी ज़ुबान सुने,
क्योंकि यही सामान ले कर जाना है मुझे,
कहीं दूर, जहाँ तेरी यादें हों, तू न हो|

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Sunday, January 5

बल

दो मिनिट में उठून्गा
सरदार के भेस में निकलूंगा
सीली टहनियों में थोड़ी आग लगाऊँगा
तड़कते मच्छरों की तरह मोस दूँगा|

इन भीने क़दम का रुख़ कोई समझे न
कि सोई ताक़त कब होशियारी से जग पड़ी,
जब तक जान रहे, कर दूँगा तमाम और भस्म
चार दिशा में हाहाकार, जग भर में जयजयकार|

प्रण है पर्याप्त, समंदर पर है सेतु बाँधना-
इस रौ के आवेश में, छलाँग है लगानी
तरंगों से तारों तक, मेरे बनानेवाले तक,
प्रार्थनारूपी शस्त्र से भेदूँगा, रोम-रोम को|

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Sunday, November 17

Ashes 2013-2014: II, Australia: Preview

The Ashes have been getting progressively short of some good cricket except in patches: the DRS dominated so much of the last Ashes that whatever good cricket was there (Bell's batting) was also completely overshadowed. It didn't help that two of the best bats from the team, Cook and Pietersen, never came to the party, nor that Clarke also was subdued for most of the time except for one big innings. Add to that stupid tactics by both camps - nod to rookie Agar ahead of Lyon as spinner-in-chief for the first part of the series, and England's bizarre selections in the last Test - and only DRS had a series to remember.

As the cricket moves to Australia, on truer pitches and with both sides showing more sense of selection and strategy, there's better hope. Australia have more importantly brought Bailey in: he might not prove to be a matchwinner in his own right at Test level, but he's a very mature person with a strong mental make-up. If he can stitch a couple of fine partnerships, that's all what Australia might need, especially since that I don't expect much from Australia's top three. Clarke should be at four, followed by Bailey, Steve Smith and the wicketkeeper (and I much prefer Wade to Haddin, but a divisive captain like Clarke will of course go for the latter): if Watson can't bowl, then I won't select him and the top three will be Warner, Rogers and Cowan for me (no Hughes or Khwaja). Mitchell Johnson will again be a liability: I never rated him as a good bowler and I don't see any reason to do otherwise. Performing against India, which he has always done, is a different thing: England rather face more problems against Watto's gentle bowling. However, if Australia does select Johnson, then they will have to drop a batsman (Cowan in my scheme of things): for they have to definitely have three men out on the field: Harris, Siddle and Lyon (except for Perth). I would select Faulkner over Watto and Johnson: that is the nut to crack for Clarke. And that could well set the momentum for the rest of series: one wrong spell by Johnson, and Australia can bid the series goodbye already.

As for England, they will depend heavily on Cook and Trott: they cannot look every time to Bell to guide them out. Pietersen might play a brilliant innings here and there but also might get out early or into 20s and 30s often: he might be a bit scratchy, but still explosive enough to turn the match on its head whenever he feels like to. That's the beauty about Pietersen, isn't it? I do expect both Cook and Root to score very well: both are good backfoot players, and what better place than Australia for such players? Carberry is an unknown for me, but I back the move to have Root back at no. 6 for now: even if Carberry does that much as what Compton did in India, that should suffice. Anything over would be lovely bonus. I don't expect England batting to have much worries, except maybe at Perth and the 1st day of Brisbane Test (since they have a history of starting a series poorly): it looks much more solid with Root at 6, and Bairstow is not bad to replace an injured Prior. The problem for England is their bowling attack. Swann is now ageing: he's not been in the best of forms since some time now, injury or no injury. It's good that Broad looks in good nick, for Anderson might not be the most suitable bowler for Australian pitches: it's Broad in fact who has to be in prime form. But look beyond them, and we've got nothing. I cannot believe that England have brought three carbon-copy bowlers in Finn, Rankin and Tremlett here: Topley or Onions should've been there instead of Rankin in my opinion. For me, the third pacer has to be Finn, even if he's expensive: he's also quality when he bowls in the right areas and is unplayable every now and then. Sure, he will spray it around, but not like Johnson: Finn will also give you wickets every now and then. The thing to fear is though what if any of (or both) Anderson and Broad break down: then England will have to be ready for attritional cricket, trying to look for draws. Hence, it is important that England break their habits of these recent years and start the series on a winning note.

A good Ashes for England will go a long way to build up tomorrow's England: for players like Root, Bairstow, Ballance (hope he gets a game or two! maybe if England have wrapped up the series early on?) and Finn, this will go a long way to nurture their confidence at the highest level. They will be readier to take on South Africa in South Africa: when that supreme battle happens.

I only hope the cricket is of much superior quality this Ashes, and that DRS controversies remain in the background. The ICC has already created more stupidity by the new rules, but hopefully there won't be HotSpot in the series: so one completely unreliable technology at least won't be affecting match flow. And hopefully no rain-affected matches petering out in draws.

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Tuesday, November 12

trust

I have sown a few moons today
In the field of sunflowers.
The blind girl will come,
Knock on a snake's burrow,
All in the dark of a breezeless night
Where all the wind scurrying rats make.

My work is done, I lie asleep
Contented, hands stained with earthworms,
I will only rise to wait:
I will watch the river's edge
Where my broken boat's edges bounce
Off every little seed blown that way.

I will take grains of wheat in my hand,
Make them a rosary, count them and pray them,
As many times as the girl shall try
To come to me, to find a way,
Without ever taking a staff, she will need to
Walk and knock. And walk and knock.

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Sunday, September 29

तप

गहन ज़हन में प्रदत्त
न सीमा, न बेला का ग़ुलाम,
चूर स्वयं के आनंद में, जैसे
लाल चाँद में नहाए सागर की छटा;

जब छल से निकले कोई कश्ती
तब बन जाए वह कायनात का अभिन्न अंग,
पूजक और पूज्य दोनों ही भीतर,
केवल दिखे, अन-दिखे पूजा

और उसके कुछ हज़ार नाम;
भीड़ के चेहरे लड़ें, मरें, कटें
उनके लिए जो देखें, जिनका न रहे ईमान,
पर ज़िंदगी का वह मद-मस्त रहे तपस्वी,

रहे आसमाँ और ज़मीं की डोर|

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Thursday, August 15

वह तारा नर्तकी

वहाँ दीवाल पर नाचते हैं जिन्न,
कई रंगों में भस्म, कई घुटन के ज़ख़्म,
लेकिन न प्रेत कोइ कहने का वो
जो अपनी बदमाशी के आँगन में न छेड़े चिंगारी को,
हर द्रव्य की जड़ में ने खन्खोले चेतन को|

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Wednesday, July 17

no Other – paramatma – at home, but not

I got my answer of long time this morning: of what I used to feel missing when I lived in France. I was dropping two stranger boys to a bus stop who had put their hand up and asked me for a lift: could I have imagined that scenario in day-to-day city life of France? Often, I give and I see giving people lifts (rides, to go back to standard English) in India: it's normal to ask, it's normal to give. It exists more of a birthright than any swarajya: the other person  is going that way, so why won't he? so why shouldn't I? so what's the issue at all?

When I stop at traffic jams, I often talk to the people waiting next to me - in spite of the language barrier. Today I asked the guy waiting at a train crossing like me that where did that bus go (its number was strange, and I hadn't ever seen that number). He offered an answer - it looked to me an invented one, since in India we seldom like to say that we don't know, but maybe his answer was correct; that's not to the point - and then both of us discussed buses - green, red, different numbering schemes, etc. The train came only in another five minutes, so I had plenty time to learn more. As the train barrier rose, we finally broke our conversations (yeah, without any "bye," just like I had directly asked him the question without any "ahem" even, forget a "hello"): and we went our ways.

I don't have to go to Hindu philosophy to feel the paramatma ("supreme soul" shared by all): I can already experience it in India. Is it Hindu thought? A common background of difficult conditions and poverty? But then India was the golden bird: merchants of India have been there since time immemorial the richest and the shrewdest, so it can surely be not the poverty? What is it in this land that does not have a bonjour - not because we are rude, but because one doesn't say bonjour to oneself (with increasing narcissization, I guess though we are already there): because there is no feeling about otherness about any other. All Lacans and Foucaults fall flat on their faces in this land: there neither is nor is not the Other, an Other, Other. There simply is life. There simply is the temporary abode of soul: the inn where we stay. Some people ask for proofs of God and soul: I wonder if those same people ask for proofs of life when they go to watch theatre. Thankfully, this infantile state of mind is already not much to be seen in the land of lands: because we live our thoughts and thought systems. We act like children of the earth.

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Tuesday, July 2

Ashes 2013-2014: I, England: Preview

Ten Tests of Ashes within six months: an overkill? Not for any Test cricket fan. There will certainly be one team wanting revenge when the latter half of five Tests commence in Australia: there will have been some heads rolled, many new, fresh faces introduced (esp. in Australian terms, given the muddle they have been in during the past couple of years, combined now with Ponting and Hussey exits), and the world of cricket much richer. A chance to dream if Root can be the poster boy of English cricket: he will certainly be if he does well in an Ashes. A chance to watch if it is only negative thoughts and ill-confidence that have been ailing Australia: or is it plain mediocrity? On the evidence of their Champions Trophy one-day match vs. England, it certainly seemed the former to me. English bowling, which has been a worry now to me since some time and will continue to be so all throughout the Ashes, wasn't anything out of the decent: and yet Bailey's side played as gingerly as if they had never seen a cricket ball in their lives. Lehmann's dramatic appointment as coach will certainly bring fresh energy and some missing attitude to Aussie players: which can only be good, as one wants to see two evenly matched sides in action, at least as far as possible. However, in the long term, I am not sure if this is a good move: this team is now Lehmann's team, and Clarke, quite an arrogant man in general, wouldn't like it one whit. He doesn't have too much of a say right now, after the India fiasco and his own troubled back, plus his known history of getting good players (Katich, for one) ousted just because he doesn't get along with them doesn't help him: if Australia start winning, all will be good, issues will be swept under the carpet, but if they don't - then I don't expect the Clarke-Lehmann combo to be comfortable. Clarke is an authoritarian, and he was comfortable with Arthur, a middle-management person: what Australia needs is someone like Kirsten or Moody, who is not as weak or bereft of ideas as Arthur, nor as attention-hogging as Lehmann, rather gelling in with Clarke, let his team be his, but slipping in good management, good advice and good consultations almost unnoticed.

Let's move on to the Ashes itself. The game is this time primarily between Aussie bowlers and English batsmen: so let's review the weaknesses first, English bowling and Aussie batting. There's not much going on for English bowling now since some time, except for the top-class Anderson and Swann. Broad is an overrated bowler who might chime in with some destructive spell at some point of time, but is otherwise too profligate and nothing to worry about; Finn is yet to develop, and has somehow lost his hostility, though he does have a golden arm, it must be said; Bresnan is no bowler at all, rather just continues the now-ages-old English policy of bits-and-pieces cricketers who don't contribute neither a bit nor a piece when it matters; conservative England under Flower hasn't tried Topley, Meaker and Rankin so far in Tests, which they should have had in New Zealand; Tremlett might find himself on the plane to Australia, but right now it's too soon to call him back in; Onions is a decent bowler, and if cloud cover and other conditions assist swing, I would select him over Broad, but would the conservative duo of Flower and Cook do that? I doubt that. Swann himself is a bit of worry for me: he has not been in great form in the last couple of years (yes, he bowled well in India even with that lack of form: that just shows how good he is), plus now he's got this surgery done. Fingers crossed if he continues to be the good spinner with a very good control that he has been. The only positive for England on the bowling front is that in Joe Root they have discovered a very good part-time bowler and potential golden arm: in some years' time, Root might be even as useful as Gayle/Samuels are for West Indies (largely in one-dayers), or maybe even more, but that has to wait. If in these couple of Ashes, he just picks up a wicket or two, breaks some bedded partnership, then all of us would be more than happy: of course, there are no expectations of him on the bowling front. If he doesn't, well, he doesn't. He is just a Samuels-type wicket-to-wicket bowler, Bopara in spin version. My four bowlers would be in fact Anderson, Finn/Broad, Onions/Broad (if conditions assist swing, the former), and Swann. I would keep Rankin in the squad, to keep Broad and Finn interested: if these two fail, get in Rankin, and Tremlett if he's doing well on the county circuit. Or even Topley. But, please, no Bresnan anywhere near the team. Please, no!

What is the mitigating factor here for England is that for Aussies, it is their batting that is the main problem: they are susceptible to huge collapses, especially when Clarke does not fire. They are over-dependent on Clarke; I like the new coach's move of moving up Watson in opening, and giving him Rogers as partner, with Cowan coming one-drop. That does inspire a lot more confidence than what the Warner-Cowan duo did. However, if two wickets fall early, which could happen easily in English conditions, then it gets much trickier: both Khwaja and Hughes are simply not Test quality, and I do not expect Clarke to keep churning out double hundreds as he did in the last year. Simply put, there is no more Michael Hussey in the Australian side. What they have is Khawaja, Hughes, Wade, Smith, Haddin and tailenders like Starc who can bat: all of these to cover up for one man, Michael Hussey, and I am afraid all of these combined won't be as good as the man. A middle order comes rarely as spineless as this one: and this is where England's advantage lies. However, since it is the England bowling that is the weak link to English defence of the urn, this is where the fascinating battle lies: can England find bowlers outside of Anderson and Swann to expose this mediocre Australian middle and late order?

On the other hand, the English batting order does inspire loads of confidence. They have Cook, they have Root, they have Pietersen. What more can any team in the world ask? If these are not enough to inspire visions of 500+ totals and innings wins, then there is Trott, the ideal run machine (and good though Australian bowlers are in general, the likes of Starc keep straying on the legside every single over: Trott will love it so, so much!). So, among the 7 batsmen, we already have 4 solid run machines (with one of them, KP, a real murderous, game-changing, come-to-watch-just-me man, and I fear would be at his best - seems finally matured), all 4 hard to dislodge; plus Prior, the busy, attacking keeper, a 5th bat. The only debate is about the remaining 2 bats: I would personally prefer to have Compton as opener, at least for this Ashes and then think about the one later on in Australia, and keep Root for the time being in the middle order. As Bell has not been in any form now since a long, long time, a middle order of KP, Bell, Bairstow looks wobbly (remember, KP is coming in from a long break). If I have the utterly reliable Root there (KP, Root, Bell/Bairstow, Prior - as per my preferred order), then that looks much more solid. I would personally select James Taylor in fact over both Bell and Bairstow, but somehow inexplicably the guy has been utterly forgotten: in that case, I'd go for Bell over Bairstow for the first couple of matches, and if Bell doesn't strike form, then Bairstow for Bell. But I would keep Compton as opener and Root at 5 (6 is too low down for a player hard to dislodge: he would be wasted if he's playing half the time with tailenders). It's good by the way that both Bresnan (if he's selected) and Swann have struck some useful form with the bat: the latter in particular is a really good batsman (wish he could take it more seriously!).

Aussie bowling is though sharp: if conditions assist, they will be real handful. I will be particularly wary of Faulkner, Pattinson and Bird (if he plays). Siddle will put in lion-hearted efforts here and there, but I don't expect him to be a consistent threat; Starc does bowl some great deliveries, but all around them are cannon fodder, so he's hardly a worry for me. I haven't seen Harris bowl, so he's an unknown quantity for me. The chief worry for Australia will be to keep their pacemen injury-free plus fresh. If they can manage to do so, then this Ashes will be close. Plus, there is Lyon, whom I don't rate badly: he is a good, attacking spinner. I think he doesn't get enough support sometimes from Clarke, or he would be an even better bowler. I don't know if Watson would be able to bowl, but if he is, then he would be a real threat in English conditions.

Cricket is a mind game more than anything else or more than any other sport; Australia will come out bounding with some fresh energy fed to them from the new coach: if England, normally poor starters, can for once not start badly and win the first Test, then the series might already be a doomed one for Australia. But if Australia can take their best chance, the first Test, then you never know what may happen: the series might be close, but there might be an upset at the end of it round the corner. England must learn to be not conservative, not complacent: two evils they are often accused of, and rightly so.

For me, the stars of the first Ashes leg may be Root, Pietersen and Anderson from England, and Pattinson and Rogers from Australia. I am not selecting Cook and Clarke, the two premier batsmen of the series, in the list: I think both will have good enough series, but I think middling ones, not the mammoth ones both are used to. I don't mind getting it wrong in Cook's case, but in Clarke's case I would like to get it right!

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Saturday, May 25

writing poetry

since we are treating of culture chiefly as expressed in words, we shall identify culture with “poetry”; not having in view the kind of poetry that nowadays babbles of green fields or that merely reflects social behavior or our private reactions to passing events, ... [Ananda K. Coomaraswamy]

To arrest the fleeting images that fill/The mirror of the mind, and hold them fast,/And force them sit, till he has pencilled off/A faithful likeness of the forms he views ... [William Cowper]

There cannot be a starker contrast between two statements as in the above two quotations about the same thing: poetry, and its role. And it is unfortunate that the world has gone on the path of Cowper, that of Keats and Wordsworth: mere artisans who weren't craftsmen, mere beauticians who didn't know how to breathe soul into words. Rather, they were bent upon extricating the soul from the words themselves, lost in plays of words and their sounds and the metaphors that became ever more ingenious: photoshopped photographs. The world had changed directions: reason was sought everywhere, even in the conduct of man (psychology); testimonies of miracles are scoffed at or sought to be explained by something or the other; and suddenly man, who has always been so superhuman to me, made himself so puny. He discarded the magic of believing, of living, of what lay beyond the "wordery": the mystic Rumi gave way to banal eroticism of Neruda, and worse: reading any American MFA graduate makes you wonder, why is the writer whining (which poetry does not) instead of singing (which poetry does). From the sunny day to how the lovemaking session went last night, from the man fondling a minor to the descriptions of a city's streets or immigrants - this is where we have come to, with poetry.

Yes, this is where. Now, poetry serves also as travel vignettes, as slices of life, as witty conversations, as a manifesto against something or the other in this label-riddled world, as confessionals in the world of religiously atheists and agnostics (whatever the latter term could mean; I doubt a sane person would be able to make anything of it), as vents of anger/frustration/drive/desire; anything but poetry. Now it is not deliverance, not praise, not seeking; not intangible smoke; not wonder, not burning curiosity; not happiness of pain, and pain of happiness. Now it is semotics; it is preservation; it is photocopies; it is residue.

It's a pity. It's a bit difficult to sometimes live in a world which is so hellbent against poetry: not too difficult, though, as any true poet knows to make and distill his own poetry. The voices have died already, they are no more to be heard in the public sphere: no publisher would ever publish real poetry. Not many would be writing it anyway. But the few who will be, will have charming listeners: their own souls as they converse with the bees and the clouds and the thousand joys that transport them - and they will ask whereto? wherefrom? Not content with painting still lives of the wind and the tossing grass, they will seek alternative bodies, other universes and new names of God: in eternal quest, these few will live in every song that ever will be breathed, in the joys of a fire kept during a cold night, in the noise and tumult of birds as much as rolling tanks: eternally.

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Sunday, March 31

वार्ता १

तेरे डेरे की हैवानियत पर
गुमान तो है आ बनता,
कम्बख़्त किस बवाल-ओ-कोहराम का
बखेड़ा तू ने ख़ल्क़ किया;
फरामोशी का नाम मैं रह गया बन कर-
गल नहीं, गर हमशक्ल न होता
वह मोती असीम लोट्ता तेरा और मेरा,
तब क़ायनात के किरदार में तू न जंचता|

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