Thursday, July 31, 2014

Borges : The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero

This is another impressive work by Borges where he conceives a short two page detective story. He mentions the setting are unimportant, the plot could well be in any country, at any times. The story is told by a narrator named Ryan who is great grandson of heroic Irish resistance leader Kilpatrick who was mysteriously killed. Ryan attempts to uncover the truth regarding his death. Some things to him regarding his death seem cyclical as if to repeat events from different places and times, from history and from literature. Like a unopened letter warning Kilpatrick of the plot (similar to Caesar) and other events that appeared repeated from story of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. These parallels led Ryan to "imagine some secret shape of time, a pattern of repeating lines." He also toys with the idea that before Kilpatrick was Kilpatrick, he was Julius Caesar. Further details plunge Ryan into yet more deeper maze. Certain events on the day the hero died seems to have been picked up from the Macbeth. "The idea that history might have copied history is mind-boggling enough; that history should copy literature is inconceivable". Also known is the fact that a close comrade of Kilpatrick named Nolan had translated works of Shakespeare besides written a piece on "Festspiele which is a vast traveling theatrical performances that require thousands of actors and retell historical episodes in the same cities, the same mountains in which they occurred". It was also revealed that Kilpatrick signed a death sentence to a unnamed traitor just days before death. Ryan ultimately discovers that the killing was staged and entire plot was executed over many days in which entire city placed the role of theater. The actual sequence of events are this - the resistance leaders meet and realize that they have a traitor in their midst. Kilpatrick gives Nolan the task of uncovering the traitor. Nolan proves beyond doubt that the traitor was Kilpatrick himself. The leader signs his own death sentence, but pleads that his punishment should not harm the cause. So Nolan devised a plan where Kilpatrick's execution by unknown assassins would rally the support for the rebellion. Nolan being short on time, plagiarizes the scenes from Caesar and Macbeth and this act is played out over multiple days in the entire city. Each act of the traitor is carefully choreographed, hundreds of actors are involved. The act ended with the traitor-hero being shot by unknown assailants. "Ryan suspected that the author interpolated them so that someone, in the future, would be able to stumble upon the truth. Ryan realized that he, too, was part of Nolan’s plot.... After long and stubborn deliberation, he decided to silence the discovery. He published a book dedicated to the hero’s glory; that too, perhaps, had been foreseen."

In this crisp story the lines between reality and fiction are obscured and blurred. Each real day and it's events are played out as an act, each moment of the reality is at the same time is a moment of fiction as well. The falsehood is planned in such detail and such scheme that in close observation the truth could be realized and the truth is again to be buried. Not only does the life imitates the art, falsehood actually replaces the reality. In this falsehood itself somewhere lies hidden the reality waiting to be discovered and to be lost again. Also the difference between reality and drama is not absolute, neither is the difference between the hero and the traitor. Both are hostage to perception and the act of investigation. The truth play out irrespective of they are being perceived correctly or not. Is it the truth, the complete truth? What if I do not understand it? Would it still be the truth. It becomes a prisoner to the Observer. The act of perceiving defines what the truth is. It is similar to a idea that "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" What looks to be an dramatic act on a wider stage to Ryan may appear to be truth by someone else who has access to more or less layers of information about the events than Ryan had. Alternate levels of realities each deeper than the other may exist depending on how many layers you unravel. There is no end to the layers and each one adding more detail to the whole plot.Besides the indifference to the place and timings, the generalization of details tells us the universality of the theme.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XX









Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-day of past Regrets and future Fears--
To-morrow?--Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.
 








This is the twentieth quatrain of "The Rubaiyat". The poet says O! my beloved, fill this cup of mine with that intoxicating wine. It cheers my heart and clears and helps me forget the regrets of the past and makes me unaware of the fear of the future (as to what lies ahead). This wine animates me and makes me forget the past and the future. Why the future? Because tomorrow my beloved, I may be dead. I may be what I was seven thousand years ago (a lump of lifeless rock, the poet assumes that life started seven thousand years). The motif of the quatrain being enjoying the present for tomorrow no one knows, we may be dead and consequently a relic of past. 

Translation - Zindagi Apni Jab Is Shakl (Ghalib)

zindagi apni jab is shakl se guzrii Ghalib
hum bhi kya yaad karenge ki khuda rakhte thein

Line 1/2 -  When my life passed in this shape Ghalib, will we even remember that we used to have a God? The poet says when this life of ours was passing in such bad circumstances, will be even remember that we used to have a God. In the misery of my situation, will I remember that we were once in His hands? He forged the good times for us, and now the bad times are also His ways. But will we remember Him?

There can be multiple ways in which these lines can be understood. Another possible stream of thought can be how earlier we have seen better days under Him, but now in these bad circumstances, He has abandoned us.Yet another can be that when the bad times come, we will remember that we had a God and this bad fate is also His workings.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Photo Of The Day

christ church cathedral, newcastle

fort scratchley, newcastle

Translation - Ug Raha Hai Dar-o-Deewar (Ghalib)

ug raha hai dar-o-deewar se sabzah ghalib
ham bayabaan mein hein aur ghar mein bahar aai hai.

Meaning of difficult words -
sabzah: greenery
bayabaan: wilderness

Line 1/2 - Greenery is growing out of the doors and the walls Ghalib!. We am in the wilderness and springs has arrived at my home. Ghalib says that he is in the wilderness having abandoned his home to the elements. Greenery is shooting out of his home. The weeds and grass grows all over his abandoned home now while he roams in the wilderness. These weeds give a semblance of the arrival of spring at his home. Absolute beauty of words!!


Another interpretation being since he has has left his home and lost in desolation, there is spring now at his home. (irony as well) He is such lost in his mind that he compares the slow destruction of his house (by growing weeds) to arrival of spring. The poet has gone mad for he compares the signs of abandonment at his home with the arrival of the life giving spring for how could a sane person compare slow destruction with life giving spring. Such is the wilderness and desolation of the Self.

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XIX










And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean--
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!








This is the nineteenth quatrain of "The Rubaiyat". The broad idea being the same as one in the previous quatrain. Look at this tender and pleasing green grass which cover the sides of the river's bank on which we leisurely lean. Tread on this grass lightly my dear! for who knows, what once lovely peoples now lay underneath who springs forth this lush greenery. As with last quatrain where the dead underneath makes the rose and hyacinth come up bright and brilliant. In this one the lush green grass besides the river, lean on it lightly for we do not know what lovely person lay buries underneath that springs these lush herbs.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Photo Of The Day

Newcastle City, NSW

Nooby Beach, Newcastle, NSW

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thought Of The Day

For those who know Kierkegaard, this BBC documentary is an exemplary take on the times and lives of this brilliant philosopher.

 

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."



"Once you label me you negate me."

Kafka - The Trial

"The Trial" by Kafka like lot of his works was never completed. Though there is a chapter at the end that brings the story to a conclusion but one does get a feeling if it was the way it was originally intended by the author. Like lot of Kafka's works, this also can be interpreted in many different ways.

The novel starts with protagonist Joseph K.waking up and finding two persons near his bed who inform him that he is being arrested for crimes that are no specified. The real authority of the ones arresting him is also left unknown. He is told that though he is 'arrested', he is free to continue with his normal life as before. K. is a senior bank official finds this kind of arrest strange. He goes on with his daily life. One day he is summoned to attend a court on coming Sunday. K. reaches the place where the court is in progress. The court is disordered, crowded and unregulated. There is a sense of sham in its proceedings. K. makes a speech deriding the whole system yet he is unsure if he made an impact or if anybody cared. K. visits the place next week but the court is not in session and he meets the court attendant who takes him to law offices located in attics.Again the whole legal system comes out as dark, unknown and impenetrable. Till now nothing is divulged of the crime or the authority that bought the charges against K. An uncle of K. takes him to a advocate as he thinks K. is not serious about his case. The advocate discloses the internal workings and the extent of the Law. Since the charges are unknown, he proposes that their defense would involve considerable work. The advocate discloses that the working of court are hidden, the charges, the judges, and laws, the rules, the previous judgments everything is a secret. The advocate tells that the major task of defense is to work with court officials in the background to get a favorable judgement. They start working on the first plea.

K. work at the bank deteriorates as the case disturbs him mentally. One day, a client of the bank tells K. that he is aware of the case and refers him to a painter who may help him. K goes to the painter who is the official painter of the court painting portraits of the judges. He divulges more details about the courts. He tells that absolute acquittal is impossible The only options is either make the case go very slowly by influencing officials or get the case stuck in bureaucratic maze. K. is convinced that the advocate is not working hard on his the case for he has still not completed his plea. He visits him with a plan to dismiss him. There he meets another of advocate's client Block, whose case is going on for five years. There he sees Block's excessively submissive behavior towards the advocate.The scene breaks. In the next, K. waits for a bank's client to show him around a cathedral. The client is late, and instead the cathedral priest starts talking to K. He tells a fable about Law to K. and they both discuss its various interpretations. In the last chapter two men arrive at K. room. They lead him to a abandoned quarry and over him as he lay on the dirt, pass the long knife back and forth between them (to provoke him to commit suicide). At last one holds his shoulder and the other stabs him in the heart.

The inaccessibility of the justice, the over-bearing bureaucracy, the dark and airless corridors of law, the omni-presence of all things legal is the repeating theme in the chapters. The tragic situation of K. where he condemned for a "crime" that he does not know, by a "court" that he can not not reach. In midst of all this, there is the meek human existence trying to penetrate the Law, working hopelessly to curry some favors with officials and trying all possibilities only to be dashed in the next layer of this vast unforgiving organization. The unreachable Law feeds on hope and laying waste the human spirit. The only working principle being that all accused are always guilty and complete acquittal is impossible. In this world, all the parts work giving hope from one hand and extinguishing it from the other in sole purpose to break the human will and make him accept not the invincibility of the Law's power but of individual's hopelessness. The absolute power makes people not question as to why they are arrested or what their crime is, but just trying to work with the Law and its officials to get some reprieve. There is no heroism, no valiant defense in courts and definitely no redemption. Instead there is a bleak existence, the helplessness, the anxiety, the unknown guilt, the final realization, the absurdity of the whole premise, and of the life itself. Like a web, the more one struggles the more he will get stuck in its web.

Translation - Ghar Mein Tha Kyaa Ke (Ghalib)

ghar mein tha kyaa ke tera gum use gaarat karta
woh jo rakhte the hum ek hasrat-e-tameer so hai.

Line 1/2 - What was even there in the house, that the grief for you would have destroyed it? That which we used to keep, one longing for a construction is still there. As with Ghalib there can be countless interpretations to it. The poet says what was there in the house that the grief of passion could have destroyed. The house was already dilapidated even before the grief. There is nothing much worse you could have done. The one thing the heart longs for, a construction, a structure is still there, a place of mine. Nothing could undo that longing. I think Ghalib wrote this after the sack of Delhi during the 1857 war. The palpable sense of despair and the un-extinguished hope both find home in these lines. What is there left in the city now that anything could destroy it?? One alone longing is still there in my heart and nobody an erase it.

Meaning of difficult words
gaarat = destroy
hasrat = longing
tameer = construction

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XVIII




































I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

This is the XVIII quatrain of The Rubaiyat. Somewhat different from the themes of the previous quatrains where the emphasis has been on short lived glories of human age against the immovability of nature. This one hints to the effects of human tragedy of nature and surroundings.The first two lines says the rose never blooms so red unless there are growing where the great Caesar bled. The type of death (emphasis on a brutal death rather than where Caesar lay peacefully) show that the violent death has made the rose more sharp. The color of the blood is showing in the roses above. The last two lines refer to the Greek mythology where Hyacinth dies a brutal death and where his blood was spilled, the bright hyacinth blooms. Every hyacinth that blooms in this garden is on the place where the young blood was spilled. The Nature gave these harmed men its respect that they deserved, their prime cut short by the treachery and jealousy. The rose and the hyacinth grew over their dead bodies and in doing so took the energy and vigor from their remains and came out bright and colorful. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Photo Of The Day

somewhere in southern highlands

fitzroy falls

Thought Of The Day

As some one who was and still is keenly interested in geography, maps have always interested me. Features, landscapes, lakes, mountains ect. on the maps were something I was very good in my school days. This was one exam I used to love giving. I think I am still good at it. Questions like "Mark Satpura Ranges" or "Highlight Strait of Malacca" on a maps exam gave me a high rush, besides a high score.

These and so many of the geographical features are thought to be eternal, at least in our sense of the word 'eternal'. I know that over countless eons they will change or maybe no longer be there, but mostly in timescales that we think of, we just assume that nothing is going to happen to take them away and that they are there always. So I was in a bit of surprise when the other day during one of my geo-political fantasy study over Crimea, I in the map could not locate a rather roundish and big lake (so big they call it a sea) called 'Aral Sea'. I remember (from my school days geography exams) this to be a round big water body near the Caspian Sea in what used to Soviet Steppes. Now instead of a big lake, the Google maps shows this sea as a set of smaller lakes that nowhere look like my faint remembrances of the famed Aral Sea. In fact there is no big lake left, its feature has been taken over by much smaller 3-4 lakes that hardly merit attention as the giant Aral sea used to get in a map. In our lifetimes, the big sea has become much smaller unknowns and who knows may soon become an endless dry sea bed. So much for the 'eternal' earth. The sea is now 10% of its original size. A 70,000 km2 (sources:wikipedia) sea has been reduced to a mere salt plains by unplanned and unthoughtful human exploitation. I wonder if features on maps are eternal after all. Some to think about!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Translation - Zikr Us Pareewash Kaa (Ghalib)

zikr us pareewash kaa, aur phir bayaan apnaa
ban gayaa raqeeb aakhir thaa jo raazdaan apnaa
   
mai wo kyon bahut peete bazm-e-ghair mein yarab
aaj hi hua manzoor un ko imtihaan apna

manzar ik bulandee par aur ham banaa sakte
'arsh se idhar hotaa kaash ke makaan apnaa

de woh jis qadar zillat hum hansee men talenge
baare aashna nikla unka paasban apna

dard-e-dil likhoon kab tak? jaaoon unko dikhlaa doon
ungliyaan figaar apni khaamaa_khoon chakaan apnaa

ghiste ghiste mit jaata aap ne abas badla
nang-e-sajdah se mere sang-e-aastan apna

ta kare na ghammazee, kar liya hai dushman ko
dost kee shikayat men hum ne hum-zabaan apna

ham kahaan ke daanaa the?  kis hunar meiy yaktaa the?
be_sabab huaa 'ghalib' dushman aasmaan apnaa

Line 1/2 - The mention of the the angel, and then my exquisite oration about her, made him my enemy finally who used to be my confidant. Ghalib says the mention of my fairy beloved came up over which my verbal magic finally made him my enemy who once was my friend. Such is my style and such is my eloquence!.

Line 3/4 - Why does she drink so much wine in the company of other, Oh God!. Today itself, it had been decided that she will test her resolve. Not a very clear interpretation of this. The poet says today she had decided to test her self by drinking wine, but God! why is she drinking so much wine in the company of others. She could have tested her resolve (of drinking and keeping sober or maybe of drinking and keeping her hands of me) in my company only instead of so many people.

Line 5/6 - I can create another view/landscape, one more on one height, if only our house was on this side of the sky. A brilliant verse that has literally and philosophically endless possibilities. Ghalib says if only our house was on this side of sky, we could have created another view to see it from the height. But our house is already at the highest peak. We are up here, alone, unwatched and unaware of our true self and reality. Another possible narrative is, that I can create another world, a better scene on a height, if only my home could have been on the other side of the sky (i.e. be in heaven who is impervious to rigors of fate and of the sorrows of the existence.) We could create anything, be anything but alas there is death and fate always in the shadows.

Line 7/8 - No matter how she much insults me, we will let it go, laughingly. At last, her/my gatekeeper turned out to be my/her friend. As  with all verses of this ghazal, the words can be reversed easily changing the meaning as well. One interpretation can be we laughingly accept all the insults she throws at me. In a way, her gatekeeper is my friend as he also takes her abuses willingly and does not complain.

Line 9/10 - Till when will I keep writing about the pain in my heart. I will go and show this to her. My fingers are wounded, and the blood dripping pen of mine. The poet says that my fingers are sore from writing about the grief of my heart. My bloody fingers are like a blood dripping pen. How long will I continue to write like this? I have been doing it for long. I will instead go and show my miserable state to her.

Line 11/12 - Being rubbed and rubbed, it would have erased away any ways. You uselessly changed it. By the shame of my prostration, that stone on your door-step. Such masterful! Ghalib says by repeated prostration at your door step stone, the stone would have gradually faded away itself. You uselessly changed it. It would have worn away eventually by my repeated prostrations at your door.

Line 13/14 - So that he does not engage in back-biting. I have made the enemy, by complaining of my friend, my confidant. The poet says by complaining of my beloved in front of my enemy, he has made him his confidant. For now, this enemy can not go to his beloved and complain about him for he too is equal partner in that crime.

Line 15/16 - Of what are we wise and learned of? In what skill are we unique? Without any cause or reason, Ghalib, the sky became our enemy. Ghalib says we have no unique skill and neither am we learned and wise, and yet the heavens without any reason have become our enemy. In a way the poet indirectly boasting and says though he is not wise and skilled yet the sky is jealous of his stature and has become his enemy. I am someone so unimportant that even the heavens are bothered about me!!

Meaning of difficult words
pareewash=angel/beauty/fairy
raqeeb=enemy
raazdaan=friend
'arsh=heaven
aashnaa=friend
paasban=gatekeeper
baare = at last
figaar=wounded/sore
khaama=a writing pen
chakaan=dripping
abas=useless
nang-e-sajdah=shame of prostration
sang-e-aastan=stone at your door
ghammazee=back-biting
daanaa=wise/learned
yaktaa=unique
be_sabab=without cause or reason

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Photo Of The Day

 Omkareswara Temple, Coorg

Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery, Coorg