Wednesday, 9 December 2015

For Those Who have Read 'Frankenstein'



While writing this post, I share the premonition of the monster created by Frankenstein; I don't personally know anyone who has read this novel yet I am dying to discuss it with someone. My intuition dictates that I won't meet that someone for a very long time and even if I do, chances are that things might get lost in perceptions and vindications. Like meaning is lost in translation. I am not a good translator of what I want to convey in words that have voice. I may also share some part of the disposition of the Frankenstein's monster. So while I won't take revenge on my creator because A) I can't and B) I have partially been euthanized by placebos all my life, I would venture to write this post as honestly as I can. 

People who have a yearning for travelling hitherto unknown destinations often have an uncommonly strong desire for finding a friend as well. And that desire is highly selective when it seeks its material and spiritual manifestations. The travelers seek the distance traveled in the eyes of those whom they want to befriend and entrust. They search the marks of that journey in the withering of the face and hands in every face that they encounter. The search for that communion is unending, just like the quest to set foot on lands never visited before by a mortal soul. That was my perception of Captain Robert Walton. He never called his sister Margaret as his friend even though he conversed with her extensively. I guess he unconsciously knew that we can only be friends with individuals about whom we have this intuition that they can switch places with us, as a theory of sociology says. Unless the illusion of looking yourself in a mirror while conversing with another human being isn't there, the connection will almost always leave you unsatisfied. 
Unlike many of the travelers who are tried in the court of their travels, he finds that friend. And from the narration of that friend hence, starts the story that has so gripped my imagination.

I wonder how that monster must have felt when he opened his eyes and the first vision he ever saw was a spiteful creator and an empty apartment. They say that human babies die if they are not touched or stroked in the first five hours of their life outside the womb of the mother. He was not a human baby yet he was an alive extension of a human mind and thus he must have wanted that touch to assure him that the world he was summoned in to was not a terrible place. He was powerful yet there was no compassion to properly guide the exercise of that power. Throughout the novel, he laments this loss. How human that is, to lament the occurrence of loneliness in the early part of life. To lament waking up in dark rooms and then searching for the doors in the dark. To say farewell to those rooms, rejecting the dismal hope that somewhere in that darkness, someone from whom you instinctively expected kindness and compassion got lost.

How convenient was it for Frankenstein to label his creation a monster? This can be related with, for you often find this notion among those who create art in any medium, of detesting and abhorring their creation. But with what authority could he call him a demon? We are often reminded to not pass judgement on other people unless we have walked in their shoes. Did he even try doing that? Frankenstein’s early life was nothing but bliss. Benevolent and mature parents, a home in a valley, friends and siblings who adored him and a freedom to practice pretty much anything. Of course he would care about the lives of others throughout his life because others cared about him when he was young. That is how his filter about humans was furnished. In contrast, the first hand that the creature ever extends, after months of ardent preparation and selfless service, gets brutally rejected by virtue of the skin covering that hand. The first model relationship for him involves not compassionate words or kind embraces, but violence. This is his first perception of humans, of himself. That they reject and he is the one who’ll be rejected. That they hurt and he is the one to whom that hurt will find its way. That they judge without listening and the judgment will always find him guilty. That they are scared of the things that they have no control over.

What would he do in his further life with that first impression? What would you do with that kind of a back ground? There are only moments when Frankenstein considers this question. But they are not everlasting. Again and again, he tries to compare his creation with the notions of what a civilized being ought to have done. He equates the honesty of raw misery and pain in the discourse of his creation with eloquence that deceives. So when he laments of the loneliness deepened by the rejection of all mankind, Frankenstein rarely sees the humanness in that lament. For him, he is a demonic monster who’ll bring havoc upon the mankind. As Sirius Black wanted to commit the murder for which he was locked in Azkaban, this monster also then wanted to live up to the reputation bestowed upon him by his creator. And he did. Till the very end.

Does that mean that the killings that this monster carried out were justified? Even the monster didn’t believe that. He suffered in agony over the murders that he committed. The question then should be, who was responsible for the loss of innocent lives? Loneliness. Loneliness was responsible for extinguishing the flames of companionship. This I guess, is the nature of this Universe. That the components of this Universe, regardless of the good and evil in their nature, continue to expand, reaching out to the fire of the other opposite pole and to extinguish it. So if companionship will not reach out to extinguish loneliness, the later will find a way to destroy the former. In the world we live in, humans are the vessels of that extension and transfusion. Who became the vessel of the extension of loneliness and estrangement in this novel? Frankenstein. He first created loneliness and then refused to cater to that loneliness, always viewing it from an apathetic distance. That loneliness then, reached out to the bliss that he was fortunate enough to have, but was not generous enough to bestow where it was needed.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Instinct to Die


There was resistance
To the mirrors that reflected darkness
From the abyss that life fell in to; daily
From the lack inherent in the streamline
Made straight by the granite stones
That are not visible, only to be felt
By the waves that dare to go elsewhere
Not wanting survival, security or belonging
Willing to die on the ruthless shore
Where countless before perished 
In their quest to escape the mighty flow
To breathe in a different medium 
To seek sustenance from a source
Known to kill

The first being that escaped water
That escaped the substance that nourished generations
Was slaughtered in the air, by the air
The air, strengthened by absence of multitudes 

Why would that life escape
The familiar scent of the previous generations
The comfort ever pervasive and sustaining 
The unending sustenance 
To seek creation in the mirror of death?

I wonder if there is a superior instinct 
Than the instinct of life and survival;
The instinct to die;
The death of life lived countless times before
In other bodies
The death of life that lives for living's sake
The death of life that reflects only darkness 
Living comfortably; The Darkness of the ages.

Friday, 13 November 2015

'Silhouettes': A Translation of Parchayan by Sahir Ludhianvi (Part 1)


 Silhouettes



An ivory cloak enwrapping the nascent night
Is fleeting like a flocculent dream


Scenic flowers, petals and branches
(Are) limbering like a sylphlike body


The soft edges of the sky have dissolved (themselves) in the air
The earth is beautiful, like the land of dreams


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge
Sometimes like doubt, sometimes like faith


The trees we sought refuge under
Are standing still even today, like a guardian


Under their shade, two pulsating hearts have yet again
Come to listen and speak through silent lips






Who knows, with what struggle and effort
Have they stolen these transient moments


It was the same air, the season, the time
From where hence, we began our love


With a pulsating heart, shaking gazes
We made a trifling request in front of the invisible presence


That the buds of desire bloom in to flowers
The prayers of heart and sight (may) be answered


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge


You are coming (towards me), dodging the surveilling world
Lowering your gaze, hiding away your body


Shying away, fearing the whisper of your own footsteps
Scared by the swaying of your own shadow


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge


A yacht is sailing along (the direction of ) the winds
The sailor sings on the instrument of the stream


With every tiding wave, your body
Sways in my open arms


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge.


I am clipping a flower in your bun
Your eyes are straining with joy


I don’t know what I am about to say today
(My) tongue is dry, my voice stutters


Silhouettes of imaginations


Your tender arms are around my neck
The shadows of my lips are on yours


I am confident, that we won’t ever part
You doubt that we are strangers despite union


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge



The books that are scattered on my bed
You are picking them up with humility and grace


On the wedding night, on dhooluk which are sung
You are singing those songs in stifled tones


Silhouettes of imaginations emerge.

Update 12-08-2016
Click here to read Part 2

Click here to read Part 3

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Against The Printed Lines

A distant hand writing on
Horizontal lines;vertically forward
Not satisfied with the seeming generosity
Of the pre-printed direction
Unaware, both the words and their meaning
Of the slashes that they appear on
Like the wounds they didn’t ask for
Or saw coming
& once the ink starts fading away
They are stopped and hindered at every word

By a bar of jail, transcending down
Unchallenged.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Travel Notes; En-route Gilgit Baltistan



From a town settled on a mountain
I watch you from a road alongside it
Under the light of moon
Above that mountain
You exist in the distance
Between me and that mountain 

That distance represents the life to be explored
and created

Right now, I watch that distance. I behold you as an entity fascinating and unreachable. 




But trust me so and deny me not
Your Beauty 
When my vulnerable hands extend
To hold it
Exquisitely. 













 ********************************************************************************

The moon light falls on the mist
Before reaching the valley below
The stars above the mountain 
Speak with the mountain top.

I watch these two lights search and speak 
To the pebbles placed beneath and above the mist
And I want nothing more
Than to learn 
The language of the light
When it treks the mountain top
When it negotiates the mist
And when it reaches out beyond that mist
And speaks softly 
To the ground that holds it all. 

 **************************************************

The mountain top is clear,still and distant
I watch that clarity, stillness and distance
With awe; it is not exclusive of me
Even though I am moving around the base of that mountain
Watching the tides performing their pilgrimage
Around that stillness.




The Pathways of Gilgit Baltistan.




***************************************************

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye




Victor Frankl believes that in the human psyche, there is a higher quest than the desire to maximize pleasure (satisfying sexual desires according to Freud) and minimizing pain; the quest for meaning. I have always wondered why this quest exists in more intensified form in some individuals than in others. Why the meaningless small and phony talk is perfectly fine for some individuals but causes massive discontentment in others. That 'other' is a part of a very insignificant minority, so the world keeps wondering if there is something wrong in their orientation. This is the story of an individual belonging to that insignificant minority. And from that perspective, it is a harsh critic on the institutions and norms of the society.

The first institution that comes under bitter criticism by the protagonist Harold is the institution of Education and its extensions in the form of schools. Holden has already left three schools when he flunked Pencey, a great prep school he was enrolled in. The reasons he gives for having such an aversion from schools is the sort of alienation and meaninglessness he encounters there. A lot of things can be derived from this. The idea that schools in that era (or even this one) encouraged mechanical thinking and excluded out of the box and free thinking from their narratives. The example is given by the protagonist of an open expression class, where the students practiced impromptu speeches. A student got a D just because he digresses from an apparently meaningless topic such as his farm to something meaningful such as the intricate details of those whose lives belonged to that farm. Students who shouted 'Digression, Digression!' when that thing happened were given a higher grade, an incentive to out cast those who don't fit in the system.

The institutionalization of that mechanical thinking leads to a higher social status for those who have been certified in mastering it, such as Ivy League students as mentioned in the novel. The protagonist sees them as phonies of the highest order. However those who, because of their different way of thinking and living fail that system, are even denied the certainty of belonging to a home where they can go no matter what happens. Harold wastes his time and resources around in New York because he fears that he would not be welcomed home after flunking another school. Clearly no one is willing to understand him and clearly, what he thinks about himself is inferior than what the school authorities think about him in the eyes of his parents.

One of the reasons why we tell each other our experiences and notions is because when others approve of them and tell you that they feel the same thing, it gives you a sense of certainty, of not being alone. That is how we derive our identity and strengthen it. Harold searches for that sense of certainty and belonging through out this novel. He faces bitter isolation and estrangement and he tries to overcome that by asking 'if you feel the same thing' to everyone he encounters. But people are so identified with the commodities trending in the society; shows, cars, dresses etc that they fail or are not willing to engage in a dialogue that goes beyond that. That further isolates Harold. He pursues drugs in order to numb that isolation which is a recurring theme in the post modern era. For anyone reading the review, we need to get back to each other beyond commodities and beyond treating each other as means to an end. Else we will be treated by those very commodities and their manufacturers as a means to their end, which is maximizing profit.

Harold finds solace in his relation with his young sister Phoebes. Despite her immature age, she tries to consider whatever Harold has to say without being judgmental or becoming tired. Amidst trying out everything illegal for his age, he keeps thinking about that relationship and what her sister would say if he told her about his sense of estrangement. In the end, that is the one relation that pulls him back by the willingness to go the distance with him. (which I resent though :P) May be, that's what we need in the relationships of the post modern era; space, consideration and non-judgment.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Talk To Me : A Translation of 'Baat Kar' by NM Rashid






Talk to me
            Show to me my face for it has 
 Been burned by the warmth of your eyes
Talk to me
Remove the curtain on my view
On which there is a rainbow of pretense
Stretched out
The rainbow which is not a mirror of aspiring
And neither a step stone of the ink of passion!

You saw that yesterday, I (A beggar)
Under the shadow of the wall of morning
Was found shivering
Your eyes, your lips kept staring
How could I have believed in their warmth for I
was in the depth of the catastrophes of my heart,
Swayed by memories

  Talk to me
For between the night turning in to the dawn
There is no distance

  Talk to me for your discourse
Is a verdict against the face of death*
Now transcend beyond the eyes and ears and lips
On the paths of desolate cities
Dip the chandeliers of voice

The waves of secrets
Will emerge, streak after streak!  


*Improvement needed. Suggestions are welcomed.

 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Conference of The Birds (Maqāmāt-uṭ-Ṭuyūr) by Farid ud-Din Attar- Book Review



'The first stage is the Valley of the Quest;
Then Love's wide valley is our second test;
The third is Insight into Mystery,
The fourth, Detachment and Serenity-
The fifth is Unity; The sixth is Awe,
A deep Bewilderment unknown before,
The seventh Poverty and Nothingness-
And there you are suspended,motionless,
Till you are drawn- the impulse is not yours-
A drop absorbed in seas that have no shores.'

I heard about this book when it was mentioned during a lecture by Wayne Dyer. He said that it was a fable about the birds who set forth to meet God but when they got to their destination after a violent journey, they found nothing but a mirror, reflecting who they had become during the journey. The knower and the known became one by virtue of that journey. That description intrigued me so I decided to read the book. Before I started reading, I was expecting the description of the journey to be the main chunk of the book. I was wrong. and I am glad that I was wrong. And the reason for not describing the journey in detail, Attar explains in the description of the valley of Bewilderment, is that each of the birds had to travel their own journey that is different from the rest. I saw Rumi in that explanation who once said,' Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.'Sure enough, I found during my research that Attar was a major inspiration for Rumi. Some even claim that Rumi met Attar but it is disputed. They might have not met physically, but you can see the spiritual union if you read both of them.

'The Conference of the Birds' can be looked upon as an epic that accurately describes the Sufi tradition in South Asia. The birds (disciples) need a guide Hoopoe ( spiritual master) if they were to reach Simurgh (God) by traveling through seven valleys (Trials). According to the Sufi tradition, no one can reach God with out a teacher. That teacher holds unquestionable authority and the disciple has to obey everything, even if the instruction goes directly against the teachings of the faith. The spiritual masters teach that this is the only way to overcome ego or nafs as they call it in Persian.

Before the journey starts, the Hoopoe has to convince the other birds to make the journey. So he lets them pour out their deepest fears regarding the journey and then answers the inherent questions in those insecurities through fables. The symbolize another popular tradition is Sufism, that is teaching through fables and stories. The same tradition was found in the West, an example of whom is Canterbury Tales. In fact, there were stark similarities as well as differences between The Conference of The Birds and Canterbury Tales which might as well symbolize the similarities and differences between East and the West. The epic was a form of instruction in both East and The West but what was instructed is something very interesting to observe in both cases.

The end of the epic again is something very significant. It speaks of the presence of God in each of us. Access to that presence is denied to us because of the false self that we have created, that dictates us about who we are and who we are not. That false self or ego is the mirror reflection of the customs and traditions of the society. That ego has fears and subsequently the pride which is used to cover those fears. Most of the fables included in this book are directed towards showing the falsehood of these integral parts of the ego. The way to overcome these twin forces is something upon which both the East and the West agrees. Love. To be more precise from the Eastern side; the journey of love, towards love, with love. 'Love Conquers All' as Chaucer said. If I reflect upon my life, I find that what stops us from setting out on a journey is fear and pride in unequal proportions. But what annihilates that mixture is the force of love about whom Attar says, 'the impulse in not yours'. If the impulse is not ours, then I would say that the presence of God makes itself felt through that impulse. The end seems to signify that we don't reach our Beloved. We become that Beloved during our reaching.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Broken Bridge

 


Knowing you is similar
To walking on a bridge at night
That is known to carry passengers
To the other side,
Yet some of the planks that constitute it
Are broken and misplaced,
To reveal the surging river below
That finds its voice
(A voice that is seldom heard in its entirety)
By being constrained and hindered
By the time tested, uneven stones
(Is that not how we create
something of our own; something that is
rarely seen or acknowledged?)

The music of that voice is created
In three different, closely distant layers
The stream travelling from an altitude
Hits the rock, so sure of the power it possesses
Only to find a part of it
Lost, Displaced and left behind
Stopped by the rock.
That is the first sound
The sound of loss, defeat and loneliness.

The left behind part is then endorsed 
On to the same rock, by the forth coming wave
Thus producing the second sound,
Of not letting those belonging to the same tribe as you
To be left behind, helpless in the face of a foe
The sound of hope, inevitable after loss
is thus produced.

The waves again, both old and new
Breathing, travelling in the unity they created
Tide over the rock 
Thus producing the sound of triumph

The symphony of the waves is thus created. 

It's easy to let what's unfolding beneath 
Surging, violent and impatient,
To stop you from observing 
Of what is so still above
The mountains hiding behind the darkness
Created by the clouds embracing the moon.

The silhouette of those hiding mountains
is still; laughing perhaps
At the music of the perpetual violence being created below.

The broken bridge exists
Between the silhouette of the still mountains above
And the raving river below
And I stand on that bridge 
Wanting to know you; and You. 

you (You) exist at a point in distance
Where the cloudy dark sky
Unites the broken waves and the quiet mountains

But stopping me from going there,
From knowing something so majestic
Is something as naive 
as a bunch of broken planks
scattered all over the bridge

I can't life my head to explore that point
Without fearing to misplace my foot 
On one of those planks
and fall in darkness
So out of fear and lack of faith 
I decide to follow the instinctive way
To keep myself safe on that bridge
Rather than to submerge myself intimately 
With that point in the distance
The point where sky unites the broken waves and the quiet mountains
And not fearing if I trip
And become a part of the music below


I stand on that bridge
Getting your (Your) glimpses
But I am shunned from entirety 
Existing at that mystic point
For I lack the faith,
The faith to be intimate.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

No god but God



The time stood undiscovered
And life was yet to be created 
God stood there
Unknown, Ununderstood, 
Lonely
He saw in forsight, His creation
With the life He was about to bestow
The life that was to search for Him
And know Him
and that would unite
the knower and the known.

He decided to separate a part of Himself,
and put it in that creation
So that that part,
may return to Him, searching
understanding, knowing Him along the way

Perhaps He forgot
That His part was also Him
Through and through
That wanted to be known rather than to know
and wanted to created 
A world of his own
That would fight in his name
and kill 
Wanting a prophet in that world
To worship and adore him
To talk with him when he does not want to 
To spend restless nights, chanting his name
To die in his name

God in his quest to be known
Created countless other gods
Who believe all but one thing,
That there is no god but God!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Distance

If distance is all you know
of every street and every road
of every life and the relations before
then deny me not for even your denial
is so distant and unsure.

I'll imagine myself sitting
somewhere not so dark, blurred
and I'll stare with a strain 
towards a sky, blurred as well
inwards
i'll be crossing a river
for the thousandth time
never the same river
and those waves
emerging from the unknown
i'll watch them passing intimately 
but always dissolving, along with my stare
in the distance.

why is there distance
between what we see and us
that inspires or exhalates who we are
that feels so near
yet it appears
miles and miles
very short miles
distant

when moving on the concrete road
along the unconcrete life
I search for the most distant tree 
that I can see 
for a simple reason
that I don't know
or perhaps I am not watching that tree
but the distance between those indistinguishable leaves 
and myself
if I am unaware
unawareness brings me to watch the distance
but being aware, I see a distant tree
the distance somehow is different, 
with the tree in sight.

If the stir of longing is your only reminder
your only memory
your only nostalgia
your only picture in the distance
your only frame in the sky depth picture
then blame me not
for looking for you
where you are not.

An iota of distance is reflected beyond
of what exists behind the eyes

there is distance in the eyes that see. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Ramblings in The Amphitheatre





To sit somewhere beautiful and still not find words for saying something that is not so beautiful is kind of sad. The Freudian psychiatrists who promoted the therapy culture of lie-down-on-the-couch-and-talk have led us to believe that we find it easier to voice uncomfortable and anxiety-causing thoughts in a surrounding that is non-judgmental, accepting and peaceful. This place is way more than that in a lot of ways. But then again, life is not the way we are led to believe it is. I'll describe the place anyway, in a hope that I start describing myself in the process.



There is a tree on the far right side of my sitting position with whom I feel a certain kinship. It has multiple parasitic plants wrapped over its entire length and on its leaves at the top. These plants look extremely attractive on that tree, as if a bride wearing a jewelry. But that 'beauty' costs that plant a lot. According to Botanists, those parasitic plants suck the life out of that tree without contributing anything towards its growth other than that splendor which most people don't normally see. There are three conclusions that can be made from this sight.

1, Sometimes what makes you beautiful and unique, hurts you the most. 

2. The irony about that beauty is that you can't see it on our own. Our only source for watching that beauty in a reflection are the eyes of the people around you. Eyes that know how to see and are awake. 

3. Often times, receiving the 'privilege' of that beauty is not a choice. Embracing it, is. But it involves a lot of awakened eyes around. Or at least some. 

I love that tree because it embraces that burden so beautifully. It's now being reflected in the water gathered in the open air theatre after the rain. I am sitting somewhere in the middle of those stairs. The tree that I just described stands in the context of a sky filled with moving clouds and a fading light. Watching a sunset here would have been a luxury but it happens to occur every day on my extreme right side between which stands a Gothic building. That building is often more beautiful than that sunset. 


Sitting on those cold, welcomingly coarse stairs, I am happy and satisfied. Sort of.

 
Few moments back, I saw numerous birds wandering in the sky and around me in the now drying amphitheater. The movement of three birds caught my eye in particular.

There was a bird carrying a very small, broken branch in its beak, flying towards a place presumably its home. Or a place where its home will be. And that branch will be an addition to the security and authenticity of that home, or it may become its founding stone. That struck me as something meaningful. If we suppose that there is a place and a union that human beings create which is called a home and family, and it is different from a house and a group, that is how it is made. They gather the broken pieces displaced by the storms and upheavals, brought to them or found by them through accident or design and then integrate it in their own lives. Permanently or temporarily. A law of physics that I read somewhere says that energy can’t be created or destroyed. It only changes from one form to another form. In the same way, may be, homes and families are created by the destruction, change of form and by the gathering of that change of form and its integration such as that bird had gathered that thin branch that once might have been a part of a glorious tree. It would have had different functions back then. It was adorned by leaves and sunlight used to visit it every morning. But presumably displaced by a storm, it found itself utterly alone, broken and useless, waiting to be decomposed. The bird however saw that out of home branch and would have thought about the way it can strengthen and be a part of its own home.

Homes thus, a place of comfort, certainty and nurture, are formed by utter displacement, uncertainty and wreckage.

The other bird that I observed was flying at a great speed towards me. Suddenly it saw me (Presumably. Apparently, I am not visible from a distance) and turned back in midair, without even changing its position, at the same speed. That was remarkable. I had never seen a bird do that. Other than the deeper understanding of how repellant I am, even to the birds, I can’t decipher any other meaning from that.

Then there was this bird I saw whose wings were shining in the sunlight. That bird was flying effortlessly, barely moving those beautiful shining wings.
This sight left me with a simple question. Can life be so effortless? And the answer was, when you are flying so high, may it is.