World Poetry Day: Time to appreciate language and life

Offering up words for public consumption takes a certain amount of – well, not courage – but “pluck.”

Even we newspaper “ink-stained wretches” (as we were once known), are painfully aware that each word is a choice and thus an opportunity to be judged – by you, our audience.

That partly explains why you often see in older writers plaintive addresses such as “Dearest Reader,” or in Greek epics, introductory invocations to the Muse to give the poet the strength, skill and inspiration needed to accomplish his formidable task.

For example, Homer’s “Odyssey”: “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”

As you skim the pages of this newspaper, keep in mind that what you hold in your hands is not simply ink on paper, but thoughts inscribed on the eggshells of egos.

We approach today’s topic with more self-consciousness than usual. The reason is our esteem for one particular potential reader, the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Mervyn Morris, who is visiting the Cayman Islands in connection with today’s celebration of World Poetry Day.

For  those who are not fortunate enough to experience Professor Morris’s workshops or readings today, we strongly suggest taking some time to reflect upon a favorite poem or discover a new one.

We will share some verses that might serve as departure points for rewarding literary journeys, starting with an excerpt from Professor Morris’s “Little Boy Crying” about the relationship between a 3-year-old boy and his father figure: “You cannot understand, not yet,/the hurt your easy tears can scald him with,/nor guess the wavering hidden behind that mask./This fierce man longs to lift you, curb your sadness/with piggy-back or bull-fight, anything,/but dare not ruin the lessons you should learn.”

Perhaps today is an apt opportunity to become acquainted with the work of Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian poet awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992 (for “Omeros,” his adaptation and reimagination of a Homeric epic). Mr. Walcott died Friday at the age of 87.

In the poem “Islands,” he wrote: “I seek,/As climate seeks its style, to write/Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,/Cold as the curled wave, ordinary/As a tumbler of island water.”

In American letters, there’s also Emily Dickinson, the subject of a new movie, “A Quiet Passion,” starring Cynthia Nixon, who visited Cayman in October to speak at the Breast Cancer Foundation gala. We’re not sure how the notoriously reclusive Ms. Dickinson would have felt about her enduring fame, but this is what she wrote in “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”: “How dreary – to be – Somebody!/How public – like a Frog –/To tell one’s name – the livelong June –/To an admiring Bog!”

And of course, the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, who treated immortality as a regular theme in his sonnets. For example, in Sonnet 60: “Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth/And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,/Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,/And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:/And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand,/Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.”

The choices are “literally” endless. And none of them is incorrect. For readers who don’t care for poetry, or who think they don’t, here are some thoughts from eminent critic Harold Bloom. In order to start becoming a dispassionate critic, he said, “you must fall in love with poems.”

“[I]n the end you choose between books, or you choose between poems, the way you choose between people. You can’t become friends with every acquaintance you make, and I would not think that it is any different with what you read,” he said.

अब ईश्क है तो है…।।

सुनो, तुम लाख गुस्सैल हो और गज़ब की तानाशाह, पर अब इश्क है तो है। दरअसल सच कहूँ तो तुम्हारी अकड़  पर ही तो मेरा सारा डोमिनेंस दिल दे बैठा।

21वीं सदी है, लोग स्पेस चाहते हैं, गुस्सा तो झेल ही नहीं सकते। यहां हमारा केस इतना अलग कैसे? मेरी सारी अकड़ तुम्हारे आगे चकनाचूर हो गयी, इस कदर क़ि मुझमे “मैं” बचा ही नहीं जाना, सिर्फ तुम ही तुम रह गई।

क़ि आज तक जहां रहा लोगों ने हाँ में हाँ मिलाई, और फिर तुम मिली, “एक बार बोला ना मुझे ये सब पसंद नहीं। बहुत गज़ब गुस्सा चढ़ता है।” और मैं चुप। मूड खराब हो तो लोग मनाते हैं, तुम तो डायरेक्ट बिना शान्ति प्रस्ताव के बुलेट फायर करती हो , “हम कह रहे हैं, मूड ठीक कर लो वरना फिर तुम्हें दुखी देखकर मेरा दिमाग खराब हो रहा है, गुस्सा झेल नहीं पाओगे।” हाय्य्य … ऐसा माशूका जो तुम्हें खुश भी देखना चाहती है और प्रेमिकाओं वाली हरकत भी नहीं आती, आती है तो केवल ठकुराई, क़ि सुनो तलवार की नोक पर ही सही, तुम्हारा मूड ठीक करेंगे। मतलब जो आपको मनाए भी तो लगे धमका रहा है और उसके तमतमाए तेवर पर आपको गज़ब का प्यार आ जाए हर बार। इतना गुस्सा? इतना गुस्सा लाती कहाँ से हो? क़ि मतलब हर बात मेरी नाराज़गी से चालू हो और अंत में तुम पासा पलट कर गुस्से में भड़क जाओ, मुंह फुला कर बैठ जाओ और मनाने का काम मेरे जिम्मे। दुष्टता की हद।

कहते हैं ब्रह्माण्ड में हर पार्टिकल का एक ऐन्टी पार्टिकल मौजूद होता है, वाकई , तुम मिली तब समझ आया। क़ि लोग कहते हैं वो आज़ादी ब्रांड हैं, पर मैं तो तुमसे जितना बंधा, मेरी रूह आज़ाद होती गयी। क़ि तुम ना पूछो क़ि दफ्तर से कब लौटा तो कुछ अधूरा लगता है। तुम्हारी हर रोक टोक से इश्क है। पर सच,जब गुस्से में भड़कती हो, इतनी दूर से तुम्हें शांत करने का कोई रास्ता नहीं सूझता, कमज़ोर दिल वाला कोई बंदा होता तो बाय गॉड हार्ट अटैक से मर जाता।

खैर, असल मकसद कहने का ये है, क़ि मैंने खुद को सौंपा है तुम्हें खुशी खुशी, क़ि मुझे पता है उस हर गुस्से में छिपा बेइन्तहां प्यार जो तुम्हें जताना नहीं आता, बेफिक्र रहो जाना। मुझे प्यार में इंडिपेंडेंस की थ्योरी समझ नहीं आती। क्या प्यार इतनी आधुनिक भौतिक शर्तों पर हो सकता है, जो इतने टर्म्स एंड कंडीशंस के साथ हो, वो प्यार कैसा! प्यार तो है सर्वस्व लुटाना बिन उम्मीद, बिन शर्त।

क़ि आप जियें उसको, और आपका वो ‘मैं’ उसमें गुम हो ‘हम’ बन जाए। क़ि वो डांट रही हो और आप फ़िदा हो जाएँ गुस्से से लाल हुए उसके चेहरे पर। मैं तुम्हारे हाथ चूम लूं और तुम मुझे गले लगा लो, काश एक रोज़ यूँ भी हो। प्रेम कभी रोमांस है, कभी मातृत्व, कभी गहरी दोस्ती, मैं उन तीनों रिश्तों को जीकर अब समर्पण तक पहुँचा हूँ, और यकीन मानो, तुम्हारे साथ ये खुशनुमा है, बेहद खुशनुमा! तुम जो मिली, हम जी गए।

लिखने से सूकून मिलता है

मैं लिखता हूँ ताकि तुम पढ़ सको। तुम्हे इम्प्रेस करने को ही लिखता हूँ ये चिकनी चुपड़ी बातें। मैं कह देता हूँ, लिखने से सुकून मिलता हैं मुझे, लेकिन ऐसा कुछ होता नही हैं। शायद ये मेरा सबसे बड़ा झूट हैं की “लिखने से सुकून मिलता हैं।”

ऐसे कितने किस्से हैं जो सिर्फ दर्द ही देते हैं। और अगर उस दर्द को लिखो तो उसे जब भी पढोगे वो हर बार तकलीफ ही देता हैं। मैंने उन सबको लिखने की कोशिश की हैं। पता हैं, लिखने से बातें कहीं और जाती नही, हमारे पास ही रहती हैं हमेशा। वो हर पल जो हमने साथ बिताया और वो हर रात जो तुम्हारी याद में बिताई हैं। वो सब मेरे पास ही हैं। मैंने उस हर बात को लिख कर अपने पास रखा हुआ हैं।

और ऐसा मत समझना तुम की मैं कुछ मुलाकातों पर नही लिखता। मैं बस तुम्हे बताता नही हूँ, अपनी हर मुलाकात को मैंने सम्भाल के रखा हैं।

जब पहली बार हमने बातें की थी और तब से वो सिलसिला बदस्तूर जारी है। मैं आज भी उस मुलाकात को जी सकता हूँ। तुम्हारे पास जब कुछ ना होना जीने के लिए तो एक बार आना तुम। मैं तुम्हे सुनाऊंगा की बैठे बैठे जिंदगी कैसे कितनी भी बार जी सकते हैं।

याद है जब पहली बार तुम्हें देखा था। तुम्हारी वो भोली सी सूरत आँखों में घर कर गई है।

वैसे आज ये सब बता रहा हूँ न ये सब भी इसलिए ताकि तुम्हे इम्प्रेस कर सकूँ। फर्क बस इतना हैं की इस बार चिकनी चुपड़ी बातों के साथ थोडा अपनी सच्चाई का तड़का भी लगा दिया हैं। मेरे पास लिखने के एकमात्र वजह यही हैं की मैं वो हर चीज़ लिखके रखना चाहता हूँ जिसे मैं खोना नही चाहता।

मैं तुमसे जुडी कोई भी याद खोना नही चाहता। और कभी जो फुर्सत में पीछे मुड़कर देखोगी ना तुम तो देख लेना, मैंने जो भी कुछ लिखा हैं। तुम उसमे सिर्फ और सिर्फ खुद को ही पाओगी।

और सच यही हैं अब मैं तुम्हे खो ही नही सकता। तुम चाहो तो भी नही, क्यों की अब तो इसमें तुम्हारा भी कोई बस नही…

Gloomy Picture of Development

Unemployment in India is on the rise. According to media report daily 550 jobs are simply vanishing.

Prahar, a civil society group in it’s report after study has said that everyday 550 jobs are vanishing. It means daily 550 people are losing their jobs. If this trend continues unchecked by 2050 a huge percentage of Indians will be unemployed.

Daily wage earners, small scale labour contractors, vendors are facing the brunt of this trend.

In the beginning of 2016 the Labour Bureau of Govt of India released a data according to which in 2015 only 135,000 new jobs were created compared to 419,000 in 2013 and 900,000 in 2011.

Majority of Indian people are youth between 18 and 40 and they are in need of employment.

According to data by World Bank in 1994 60% of Indian population was dependent on Agriculture. In 2013 it has been reduced to 50%. This means that people are migrating to cities for employment.

Much is being talked and trumpeted about development of economy and progress in other sectors. But none is talking about human development!

The World Vision, an international human charity organisation on its website has said that in India 40% of schools do not have toilet facilities. Girl students are forced to go in open risking their lives. Many girls have stopped going to schools.

I have a friend in Mumbai. He and his colleagues pulling their own resources are constructing toilets in schools for students. These toilets are not of proto types or makeshift types.To make and maintain each toilet cost approximately 250,000 rupees. I am told that even for granting permission to construct toilet govt officials demand money. Will corruption ever spare India?

Last year after passing out from college I had opportunities to visit some municipal and private schools. The conditions of toilets in some schools including private ones were that literally they were unusable. Visiting them were as good as inviting some health problems. The conditions of toilets in municipal schools were worst. I think principals, head masters and health inspectors never visit such places. It seems that we Indians are not that hygiene conscious. We are champions in giving beautiful slogans. I saw big multi colour posters ‘Clean City-Green City’ everywhere. We don’t know the real meaning of cleanliness. Perhaps, we have changed the definition of cleanliness.

There is no dearth of people, groups of organisations and even big business who can and want to help built and maintain toilets for students. They are ready to spend their own money. They only need govt/municipal permission to do so. It seems that ‘Permit Raj’ still exist in India.

The govt/municipal officials should not come in the way of building toilets. Permission to construct toilets in schools be done away with.

(Disclaimer: this article is not against a particular government)

My son was ‘taken’ from me!

Simple daily rituals have become so severely agonizing. Pain which seems to hide itself  behind the necessary necessities of life while it reminds me of him whenever my slow breaths warn me that I am still alive. My shirt would have fitted him perfectly by now. His feet would have grown big enoughto wear my shoes. He would have been wise enough to advise me. Perhaps he would even have attained some levels of patience and not argue as much as he used to. Now, he would have become taller than me and I would have looked up to him. Now, he would have been just like me.

Today, on this very day, he would have been nineteen years old. A young, strong man in the prime of his youth carrying the small dreams of my fatigued eyes on his broad shoulders. Jet black hair, deep brown eyes, his careless smile and a little bit stubborn. Always using his hands when he talked and a high pitched voice with which I used to tease him that he sometimes sounded like a girl. At times mischievous, but most of the times very obedient and quiet. Often wearing his favourite white coloured shirt. The only branded shirt which I was able to give him in his short life.

The son of a simple fruit vendor, who had decided to pursue his studies in the medical stream after his matriculation. The son of a simple fruit vendor who wanted to fulfil his father’s desire of seeing his only son become a Doctor. The son of a mother who stitched clothes for the more affluent ladies in the neighbourhood. A brother to three sisters who all loved him immensely and prayed for his success. Indeed, my son, Farhan.

I still remember when he was born almost two decades ago in Srinagar’s only maternity centre, Lalla Ded Hospital. I had earned 300 Rupees that day, which were just not enough to see him. The ‘price’, fixed by the nurses, to see a new-born son was 500 Rupees in those days. Had it been a girl, then perhaps 300 Rupees would have sufficed. For some strange reasons, new-born girls were considered less superior than new-born boys, which affected the prices demanded by the hospital staff. Eventually my brother and my brother-in-law both gave me 100 Rupees each.

After paying the ‘price’, one of the nurses brought him back into the room where my wife was lying along with dozens of other women on half the beds. I took him in my hands, kissed each one of his small fingers of his right hand and looked with amazement into his half-opened eyes. It felt as if my God relished the sight while this small wonder carried a bliss over my soul.

He was three years old when I took him to my insignificant fruit shop for the first time. We walked for a little more than half an hour from our home in the early morning. He squeezed my pointing finger with all his small fingers tightly while he kept pointing to everything we passed by and asked all those innocent questions like only innocent children can ask. “Who gives water to all these big trees, Baba”? “Baba, how far is your shop from this white car”? “And how far is it from that red car”? “Baba, the sunis at the same place as it was when we left home. Where does the sun go when you come home in the evening”? “Will you buy me a car when I become older”? I adored listening to his pure words. It made me transform from a small-time fruit vendor into the richest man on the surface of this earth.

I gave him his first cycle when he was 5 years old. A second-hand black coloured one with those small side-wheels on the side. The happiness on his small little face and the excitement of his tiny little jumping body are indescribable. As if he was intoxicated with joy. Days filled with sunshine, rain or snow, he would always be glued to his cycle and ride in the narrow lanes of our neighbourhood.

I loved him like every father loves his son, although I believe that I loved him more than any father ever could. He was not only my son, he was the manifestation of my dreams and wishes. He was the hope of my advancing years. The pillar of my infirmity. The reliance of his sisters. The confidence of my expectations.

It happened a few weeks after he had given his matriculation exams. On that damned day, he was again wearing his favourite white-coloured branded shirt. Farhan was neither a so called area-commander nor a soldier. He had nothing to do with the cunning politics of deceit in Kashmir. He was just the son of his father.

While shopping for a new branded shirt, which I had promised him if he would study hard for his exams, a grenade was hurled by militants on a patrolling party of the BSF in the busy shopping street. A fire exchange occurred and in the cross-firing, my Farhan was hit twice in his abdomen and once in his neck.

Nobody knows which bullet was fired by whom. Nobody knows whether the bullet was Muslim or Hindu. Nobody knows which bullet was Indian or Pakistani or which one was aimed at Azaadi. Whatever the objectives of the innumerable bullets, the three which found their way into his body murdered a Kashmiri son and killed the hopes of a Kashmiri father.

I saw the dead body of my son. His favourite white-coloured branded shirt drenched in blood. Holes of hatred in his neck and abdomen, oozing out his young innocent warm blood. Every vein in my body wanted to burst. My legs were shaking and refused to carry the weight of my body any longer. My hands started pulling out my grey hair while I fell on my knees next to his body. I was beating my chest and howling his name while my falling tears tried to wash away the blood from his beautiful face.

A thousand deaths would have been more bearable than carrying my sixteen year old boy to the graveyard on my weakened shoulders of half a century old. I lowered myself into his grave and wished that he was me and I was him. I wished that it was my blood drenched body which he was lowering into my final resting place. I wished that I would have been dead and he would come alive. That day, my sheer desperation cursed all that which called itself Kashmir.

Although I do not know whose bullet proved to be fatal for Farhan, I wanted nothing from anyone. I refused the apologetic compensation which was offered to me by the government. Not because I did not need it or because I believed that my son had died for a ‘cause’, but because mere pieces of paper could not replace him. Money could not become the torchbearer of my unfulfilled dreams. All my dreams and wishes got buried with him and I had decorated their grave with earth and flowers with my own hands. My hands still carried the fragrance of his pious blood. Money would only replace his fragrance by the rotten smell of paper which in many ways had been the actual culprit of the chaos in this land.

Others, known as ‘Senior Pro-freedom Leaders and Senior Pro-resistance Leaders’, also came to my home to express solidarity. Soon their solidarity turned into naked attempts of exploitation when they claimed that my son was their son. One of them told me; “Be brave. He died while walking the path of Jihad. His blood will not go waste and we will soon achieve our promised right of freedom. You have given your son for the cause of Azaadi”.

A rage took over me and a black curtain of frustration and helplessness blocked my eyesight.

I wanted to grab him by his beard and ask him how many of his sons had died for Azaadi. I wanted to rip apart his clothes while asking him why his son became a doctor and mine couldn’t. I wanted to drag him by his hair in front of the whole city and yellat him from the depths of my lungs and ask; why do only sons of poor fruit vendors like mine get killed? I wished I had the power to lynch him and his supporters in public and ask them how many of their family members had given ‘supreme sacrifices’ for the cause of Azaadi. I wanted to pull out his eyelashes one by one followed by his nails and ask him how he managed to import furniture for his palace from abroad while he claimed that he had spent at least two decades in jail. I wanted to crash his existence under my feet and crush his head onto a lamppost until it would burst into pieces while asking him why he and his fellow shopkeepers enjoyed medical treatment paid by forces which they themselves called occupiers.

I wished that I would not have been a simple, poor fruit vendor. My heart wished that my damned existence would have had the strength to do all that, what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I was just a poor, simple fruit vendor with three daughters and no son.

With the utmost restraint and disgust I looked at him and mustered the courage to tell him just one thing, before ordering him out of my inferior house; “I did not ‘give’ my son. He was taken from me”.

Need of the hour. An insight of Indian secularism and reservations for minorities 1

AFFIRMATIVE actions refer to at least three kinds of measures available to help the socially disadvantaged: affirmative action, positive discrimination, and strict quotas in school/college admissions and jobs. It can take many forms, from setting up special schools or vocational guidance facilities to declaring that the government will encourage specific groups to apply for jobs. Quota-based seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in educational institutions, legislative bodies and public offices was seen as a way of ensuring equal opportunity for people who had been excluded, subordinated and denied social and economic resources. Caste-based distinctions, especially untouchability and forced segregation were seen as forms of discrimination that placed the excluded community in a terribly disadvantaged position. Reservations, above all, were an acknowledgement of this injustice and a means of bringing these hitherto-ostracized sections into the social and political mainstream. The policy of reservations in government jobs for the scheduled castes and tribes has to some extent guaranteed their participation in public employment.

Though the constitutionality of the use of religion as a criterion for selecting backward classes has not been explicitly under challenge, the government and courts have rejected its application in practice; hence, minority groups were not identified as backward for the purpose of special safeguards for the disadvantaged.
1 There are three main reasons advanced:
(i) it was incompatible with secularism; (ii) in the absence of a caste system among Muslims there was no overt social discrimination suffered by them to justify special measures; and
(iii) it would undermine national unity.

Secularism as defined in the Indian constitution can only mean that the state should have equal respect for all religions and/or should maintain equal distance from all religions. But this doctrine is not consistently applied to all religious collectivities, which has clear implications for the policy of reservations.

The most obvious example is the prevalent view that Muslims and Christians in India are outsiders. Both in the constitution and the Hindu Code Bill, Hindus include Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, while Muslims and Christians are external to this fold because their religions were born outside India. A second type of argument is derived from the perception that minority religions are different in the specific sense that they do not accept the caste system and reservations are principally a matter of social justice or reparation for those who were the victims of oppression and discrimination arising out of the Hindu caste system.

2. Since Muslims do not recognize caste there is no overt discrimination suffered by them to justify preferential treatment.

A third is the tendency to view reservation based on religion as threatening to national identity and the cohesiveness of the state. This argument had precedents in the nationalist positions articulated in the Constituent Assembly debates. The general apprehension articulated therein and the sense of uneasiness which continues to mark government policy led to a concern that since any form of special representation or reservation for minorities might be divisive and had in fact led to Partition, any policy proposals aimed at increasing minority representation in government and so on might once again give an impetus to political division and separation.