The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XVI

Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his Hour or two, and went his way.

This is the sixteenth quatrain of the Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat. The theme of this quatrain is same as the the previous one. Our time here is short, our stay is temporal. Be it beggar or kings of kings, everyone will turn to dust. Death will be a great leveler,  seeing none and distinguishing none and ending it all. Khayyam says that in this battered and ramshackle inn (caravanserai) whose doors are the coming of the day and the night. This dilapidated inn that provides accommodation to the travelers of this land is this world and we are the travelers. In this earthly inn, the doors are portals into other times and other worlds. And in this inn, kings after kings have come with there might and splendor to inhabit it and then leave to the other worlds.  This earth is a resting place in our journey. We come here from some other worlds with nothing, and we will leave for some other worlds with nothing. All the show and pomp will not change this eternal path. All will meet the same fate.

Translation - Kisi Ko De Ke Dil Koi (Ghalib)

kisee ko de ke dil koee nawaa_sanj-e-fughaan kyon ho?
na ho jab dil hee seene mein to fir munh mein zubaan kyon ho?

woh apnee khoo na chodenge, ham apnee waz'a kyon badlein?
subak_sar banke kya poochein ki ham se sar_giraan kyon ho?

kiya gham_khwaar ne ruswa, lage aag is muhabbat ko
na laaye taab jo gham ki, woh mera raazdaan kyon ho?

wafa kaisee? kahaa ka ishq? jab sar phodna thehra
to fir 'ei sang_dil tera hee sang-e-aastaan kyon ho?

qafas mein mujh se roodaad-e-chaman kehte na dar hamdam
giree hai jis pe kal bijlee woh mera aashiyaan kyon ho?

ye kah sakte ho "ham dil mein naheen hain" par ye batlaao
ki jab dil mein tumhee-tum ho to aankho se nihaan kyon ho?

ghalat hai jazba-e-dil ka shikwa, dekho jurm kiska hai
na khincho gar tum apne ko kashaakash darmiyaan kyon ho?

ye fitna aadmee ki khaana_weeraanee ko kya kam hai?
hue tum dost jiske, dushman uska  aasmaan kyon ho?

yahee hai aazmaana to sataana kis ko kehte hain?
`adoo ke ho liye jab tum to mera imtihaan kyon ho?

kaha tumne ki "kyon ho ghair ke milne mein ruswaaee?"
baja kehte ho, sach kehte ho, fir kahiyo ki "haan kyon ho?"

nikaala chaahata hai kaam kya taa'anon se too 'ghalib'
tere be_mehar kehne se wo tujh par meharabaan kyon ho ?

Line 1/2 - When one has given his heart away, why would one lament and be a singer of pain and distress? When there is no heart in the body itself(for it's lost), then how must there be tongue in the mouth? (to cry and grieve). The poet says why must you grieve after you willingly gave away your heart. Why this waling now? If there is no heart left, then why must the tongue continue to cry! Isn't lament and sorrow part of the deal of falling in love. Then why this anguish? You signed for it!

Line 3/4 - She would not leave her habit, why should I change my behavior? Should I become light-headed and ask her 'why are you so arrogant with us?'. The poet obviously irritated with the beloved's angry temperament says she will not change her mood, so why should I change my behavior and abandon my self-respect Light-headed and easy going should I, ask her as to why is she so proud. The second line can be said by either of them, but then nobody says it. They both are hopelessly in their molds and stuck together, deserving each other.

Line 5/6 - The comforter/sympathizer(eater of grief) has disgraced me, to hell with this love! The one who does not have  strength/courage during grief, why would he be my confidant? Ghalib says that my sympathizer has betrayed me, to hell with this love which made my sympathizer uneasy and weak so as to reveal our secret. He who did not have strength to endure this grief, how did he became my confidant.

Line 7/8 - What loyalty? Which love? When my head smashing has been decided upon to settle these questions. Okay then, o-stone hearted and merciless one, why then it has to be the stone at your threshold? The poet says if I am to smash my head to settle the question of love and loyalty, then why it has to be your door-sill stone.Why would I choose that one, I could very well smash myself against any stone lying around. Why would I endure more bitterness going to your door, o stone-hearted cruel!

Line 9/10 - Don't be scared of telling me my dear friend, the state(report) of the garden, even though I am in a prison. Why must that little nest be mine, where a lighting struck yesterday. The poet, a little caged bird, implores another bird, tell me my friend - don't be scared, tell me the state of the garden for I can't see it for myself. Why would the little nest that was destroyed in yesterday lightning strike be mine? Why would it be my nest? A true metaphysical question? The garden is our world and the cage is our life. Why the sorrow had to hit me? of all the people why God choose me for this grief? What did I wrong? A sense of disbelief and despair as well, for it must not have be my nest? Absolutely Brilliant!!

Line 11/12 - You can say "aren't we in your heart", but tell me this if you are one and only in the heart, then why are you hidden from the eyes? Here the beloved complains to the lover "aren't we in your heart", to which the lover says tell me when you are so firmly in my heart then my are you not visible to my eyes. The lover a bit provoked, says you are complaining if you see me in your heart, but let me assure you that you are firmly there, but then why not in front my eyes.

Line 13/14 - The complaints about the desires of the heart were wrong. But see whose fault was it? If you do not pull yourself away, then why would there be a struggle between us. The lover says I agree that those my complaints about desires of love were improper, but then whose fault is it. You draw me towards yourself. But you pull your self away. If you do not pull yourself away, then why would there be a struggle between us.

Line 15/16 - This calamity/affliction is sufficient to lay waste a person's home. Who ever is you friend, why would sky be his enemy? The lover says that calamity that this friendship with you is (beloved), is more than enough to destroy a person's home. Why would sky be his enemy for he has friends like you.

Line 17/18 - If this a test or a trial, then I don't know what a torment is? If you have already moved your loyalty to my enemy, then why is it examination or trial of mine? The poet says I wonder if this is a test, for it does not look like one, it looks more of a torment. I wonder what torment is in my beloved's dictionary. If you are already committed to my enemy, then why this examination of mine. The beloved probably with his new love purposefully in front of the poet and the poet wonders if this is a test or torment and wonders why he is still under test for she is no longer his?

Line 19/20 - You say that "why would there be disgrace/dishonor in meeting the other". You say it correct, you say it truthfully, say it again that "surely why would there be?". The lover says that you(beloved) say what harm is there in meeting the rival, where is there any disgrace in it? Yes, you are right, you speak truth, my dear - can you say it again "why would there be?". The lover in a hint of sarcasm and mocking his beloved asks her to echo her reasoning again.

Line 21/22 - What purpose do you wish to achieve with these taunts, Ghalib. Why would she oblige you, when you keep saying unkind words to her. The lover has been saying flattering words to his beloved, but that has not helped his cause. So now he has taken to saying unkind words to her in the hope she does the exact opposite (i.e. to be kind to him), but again this scheme does not work.

Meaning of difficult words -
nawaa_sanj = singer
fughaan = cry of pain or distress
khoo = habit
waz'a = conduct/behavior
subak_sar = light headed/unsteady
sar_giraan = arrogant/proud
gmam_khawaar = comforter
taab = courage/patience
raazdaan = friend
sang_dil = hard hearted/merciless
sang-e-aastaan = threshold
qafas = cage/prison
roodaad = report/statement
nihaan = hidden
jazba = desire/feeling
shikwa = complaint
kashaakash = struggle/dilemma
darmiyaan = between
fitna = quarrel
khaanaa_weeraanee = ruining of home
'adoo = enemy
imtihaan = examination
ruswaaee = disgrace
baja = right/correct
taa'an = taunter
be_mehar = unkind/repulsive

Photo Of The Day

 Flatrock Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW

Weeping Rock, Blue Mountains,NSW

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XV

And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

This is the fifteenth quatrain of the Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat. Continuing with the same motif as the previous quatrain, where Khayyam says that hope that sometime prospers or flounders is something no to be taken to heart for all is transitory. The poet here says all those who used their resources and energies wisely and prudently (conserved and used frugally each and every grain he had in his store) , and all those who extravagant and wasteful (and flunged the fistful of grain to the winds like a rain). All will be same, the same end awaits all. They will be no golden earth that awaits any of them. No golden grave await any. And once buried, no one would want to dug them up again. The same cold grave awaits all, same of rich or poor, same for king or beggar, same for wise or foolish. And once you lay buried, no one would want to dig you out. No one would care anymore, be it anyone. The dead will sleep quietly alone and undisturbed, irrespective of who were they. 

Borges : Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (Summary)

Continuing with my extensive reading of Borges, I read this strange story where the narrator discovers a fictitious country (and latter a fictitious planet) that had been created as a part of a giant scheme by a secret society. The ideas of this false world later manifest themselves in this world and no longer we are able to make out the differences between these two and in essence - This our world becomes Tlön.

During a dinner with a friend, references to mysterious country named Uqbar come up. Not finding it in their encyclopedia copy, they find it mentioned in another copy of the same encyclopedia. The narrator is fascinated by Uqbar for the details around it add more mystery rather then solving it. Names, rivers, places all seem exotic, remote and unknown. He also notes "that the literature of Uqbar was one of fantasy and that its epics and legends never referred to reality, but to the two imaginary regions of Mlejnas and Tlön". Chance references to that country keep cropping up. A family friend accidentally leaves him a substantial related work, "Encyclopedia of Tlön Vol XI". Now he had access to a vast fragment of an unknown planet's entire history, its philosophy, its algebra, its literature and everything in between. Tired of looking for the missing volumes, his colleagues propose that they undertake the task of reconstructing those missing pieces. From here the story delves into languages, maths and philosophy of Tlön. An extreme form of idealism is practiced in Tlön. "Their language and the derivations of their language - religion, letters, metaphysics - all presuppose idealism. The world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts". In one half on Tlön, the language have no nouns but verbs in place, in the other half adjectives are used instead. "The literature abounds in ideal objects, which are convoked and dissolved in a moment, according to poetic needs. At times they are determined by mere simultaneity".

Psychology is the main discipline here. Universe is proposed as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time. In other world, they do not conceive that the spatial persists in time. Consequently causality is alien. Complete idealism invalidates all science. "Every mental state is irreducible: there mere fact of naming it - i.e., of classifying it - implies a falsification. There are no sciences on Tlön, not even reasoning. The paradoxical truth is that they do exist, and in almost uncountable number. The meta-physicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature. They know that a system is nothing more than the subordination of all aspects of the universe to any one such aspect. Even the phrase 'all aspects' is reject-able, for it supposes the impossible addition of the present and of all past moments. Neither is it licit to use the plural 'past moments,' since it supposes another operation."

One school negates time as says the present is indefinite and future has no reality other than as a present memory. Another says that all time has elapsed & we live in only in remembrance. Many school abound, each more fantastic than the other. The basis of its mathematics is the notion of indefinite numbers. They maintain that the very act of counting modifies the quantities and converts them from indefinite into definite sums. The basis of their geometry is not the point, but the surface. Their fiction contains a single plot, with all its imaginable permutations. Both the thesis and the antithesis are present in it. A book which does not contain its counter book is considered incomplete. Even perceived reality is changed to exert this idealism. Physical objects are created just by the force of imagination. The 'past' becomes hostage to the present. The present become hostage to perception and perceiving. "Things became duplicated in Tlön; they also tend to become effaced and lose their details when they are forgotten. A classic example is the doorway which survived so long it was visited by a beggar and disappeared at his death. At times some birds, a horse, have saved the ruins of an amphitheater."

In the postscript, it is revealed that the narrator and the world now know that Tlön & Ubqar are fictitious, invented by a secret society. The society worked for three hundred years and came up with a imaginary planet Tlön with an understanding that will have no relation with Christ as proposed by later financier of this project. As Tlön is revealed to the world, later objects from Tlön begin to appear in the real world. Soon all the forty volumes of Tlön are revealed and the ideas Tlön starts to take hold on the earth. Mankind is obsessed by it. "Ten years ago any symmetry with a resemblance of order - dialectical materialism, anti-Semitism, Nazism - was sufficient to entrance the minds of men. How could one do other than submit to Tlön, to the minute and vast evidence of an orderly plant? It is useless to answer that reality is also orderly. Perhaps it is, but in accordance with divine laws - I translate: inhuman laws - which we never quite grasp. Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men. The contact and the habits of Tlön have disintegrated this world. Enchanted by its rigor, humanity forgets over and again that it is a rigor of chess masters, not of angels." The narrator predicts in a hundred years, earth will lose its languages and countries to those of Tlön. This world is Tlön now. End.

The story is more a philosophical take on idealism than a fantasy. In this imaginary planet, causality is not possible for time does not exist. A consequence of that is there is no identity. There is nothing to connect a thing to others or to itself as it is passing through space. A extension of no identity means that there is no equality. A thing that no one sees or senses, is not perceived to exist. Any learning is impossible now and so are the sciences. Perceiving is supreme and the underlying reality is denied. In Tlön, what I hold in hand today is different from what I had in my hand yesterday (Even though I am holding the same thing). As Identity is missing, so is Equality. No two things are same. No two things are connected. A thing 'lost' means a duplication is created that we will 'find'. Lost and Found are not actions, but just remembrances. In a sense, there is no underlying reality to anything. Everything is what the mind perceives and outside of it, there is none. Everything becomes hostage to the perception and even physical objects that do not exist are created by sheer thought. A lost object can be found by two person in two different places because they are looking for it. To deal with this world, they proposed that there is only one supreme subject, that this indivisible subject is every being in the universe and that these beings are the organs and masks of the divinity. The other person finds it because he already knows he lost it. This all knowing subject takes the place of God in Tlön. Among other ideas the story explores, is the reality itself can be created. Like God, we have created the whole planet Tlön and its entire workings and this imagined reality is so powerful & simulating that in it we begin to lose the actual reality of earth. Probably God's reality is too complicated for us to see through, what interests is the model created by us, however bizarre though seemingly orderly and simple. For everything there is down to an irreducible state that can not be any more simpler. A labyrinth created by humans for humans, as opposed to the one created by God.

Translation - Phir Kuch Is Dil Ko Beqarari Hai (Ghalib)

fir kuch is dil ko beqaraaree hai
seena zoya-e-zakhm-e-kaaree hai

fir jigar khodane laga naakhun
aamad-e-fasl-e-laala_qaaree hai

fir  wahee  parda-e-'amaaree hai

dil khareedaar-e-zauq-e-khwaaree hai

wohee sad_rang naala farsaayee
wohee sad_goona ashq_baaree hai

dil hawa-e-khiraam-e-naaz se fir
mahshristaan-e-beqaraaree  hai

jalwa fir arz-e-naaz karta hai
roz-e-baazaar-e-jaan_sipaaree hai

fir usee bewafa pe marte hain
fir wohee zindagee hamaaree hai

fir khula hai dar-e-adaalat-e-naaz
garm  baazaar-e-fauj_daaree  hai

ho raha hai jahaan mein andher
zulf kee fir sarishta_daaree hai

fir kiya paara-e-jigar ne sawaal
ek  fariyaad-o-aah-o-zaaree  hai

fir hue hain gawaah-e-ishq talab
ashq_baaree ka hukm_zaaree hai

dil-o-mizhgaan ka jo muqadamaa tha
aaj fir uskee roob_qaaree hai

be_khudee be_sabab naheen 'ghalib'
kuchch to hai jiskee pardaadaaree hai

Line 1/2 - Again, this heart of mine is somewhat restless. My chest searches for a deep hurt(wound). Ghalib says my heart is longing again, it looks as if it is seeking a fresh deep wound. To assuage my uneasy heart, I may do something that may give me a fresh wound.

Line 3/4 - Again, my finger nails plough deep with in my liver. The season of red flowers have arrived. This red flowers, this spring stirs up desire and all it does is to agitate me like as if my finger nails are cutting deep my liver (again the Ghalib heart-liver scheme, liver is akin to a blood producing organ)

Line 5/6 - The direction of my objective are those glances that I so much desire. Again, she is not bothered and indifferent (mentioned here as seated on a veiled canopy seat on an elephant immune to whats going around her). My purpose is to catch those glances of my beloved, but she is indifferent to grant him these.

Line 7/8 - These eyes are slaves of things that make me cry.This heart is buyer of only those things.My eyes only sees her and the sight makes me sad and demeaning for she does not respond. But then my heart is buyer of only such actions. I can't help myself doing it again & again, even if it degrades me.

Line 9/10 - Those same hundred moods of the lamenter. And those same hundred times of lamentation.The poet says, those hundred state of the lover whose love is unrequited and those hundred times of mourning, there are all the same as he confronted last time. The temper, the agony is all the same.

Line 11/12 - Again, the heart is running with desire liking a racing wind. The heart is restless as if it is it was the last day before apocalypse. This heart again is like a strong wind filled with desire, and at the same time is uneasy as if it was the last day before the apocalypse. Their is a mighty desire, at the same time the horror as to how the lover would respond.

Line 13/14 - The magnificence shows itself in flirty & coquettish ways again. And like a every day market, they resign their lives into the hands of others. The poet says the brilliance shows itself in those teasing ways. And like a market, they are subject to whims of the others who may or may not appreciate it. A possible reference to the courtesans resigning to the whims of the buyers.

Line 15/16 - I am dying for that betrayer again, It the same old life of mine, again. The poet says he can't help falling again for that indifferent lover. And again, the same old life of mine will repeat. The cycle of pleading (akin to my dying) and her continued indifference has now become my life.

Line 17/18 - Again, the doors of courts of love are open. The markets of authoritarian justice are hot now. Again, I am on trial by the moral guardians who claim to be attestator of love, and their tyrannical judgement are usual and hard. Another reference could be that my lover is accessible now, and those looks and nuances are frequent and intense.

Line 19/20 - There is darkness enveloping the world. Again, they have turned their locks of hair. Darkness engulfs my world now. She has turned the locks of her hair over me again.

Line 21/22 - Again, a piece of my heart(liver) cried out a question. And a long sigh, a pleading also ran out. Every piece of my heart pleads out a question, every corner of my heart cries out. A sigh leaves my lips, a humble request goes out.

Line 23/24 - Again, those witnesses of love have been summoned. The order has been given to let the lamentation continue. The poet says attestors of love came and spoke, and the decision was made to keep the lover mourning. These witnesses decided that the lament of the lover should continue.

Line 25/26 - That case of mine, of my heart and her eyelashes. Today again they put their mind to work instead of their heart. The poet says that his argument was of love, of his heart and of her subtle glances. But instead of the heart, the judgement was given from the mind. (and not in his favor, for if it had been given with heart, his case would have surely won)

Line 27/28 - This state of bliss, of ecstasy is not without any reason, Ghalib!. There is something that is hidden or veiled. This insulation from self, this state of detachment from self is not without any reason. There has to be a reason for this, which is hidden from view. Ghalib says this alienation of his has a reason which is not in plain view. Many interpretation are possible. The ways of the God are hidden for what was His purpose in this state of mine. Another could be that only Ghalib knows why he is indifferent and it is a higher and supernal truth that no all commoner can understand.

Meaning of difficult words -
zoya = searcher
zakhm-e-kaaree = deep wound
aamad = arrival
fasl = season/harvest
laalah = red flower
qibla = respect for elder, direction of prayer
niyaaz = desire
'amaaree = rider's seat with a canopy on an elephant or camel
chashm = eye
jins = things/items
zauq = taste
jalwa = splendour
jaan_sipaaree = resigning one's life into the hands of another
sad = hundred
naala farsaayee = lamenter
sad_goona = hundred times
ashq_baaree = lamentation
khiraam = speed
mahshar = the last day
mahshristaan = place of the last day
dar = abode
fauj_daaree = military court
sarishta_daaree = a regulator's position
paara = fragment
mizhgaan = eyelashes
roob_qaaree = to put the mind into work
talab = search/desire/request
be_khudee = rapture
be_sabab = without any reason
pardaadaaree = to hide

Photo Of The Day

Stanwell Tops, NSW

Stanwell Tops, NSW

Rock Wall in Mt Tomah (HDR)

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XIV

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes--or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two--is gone.

This is the fourteenth quatrain of the continuing series on Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat. Khayyam says the the hope that men have, the earthly hopes of men that they so much cherish, These hopes can some times flourish or sometime fail. Neither is permanent, both success and failures are transitory. They may change as soon as they arrive. But there is one thing that is permanent. Death. The passing and along with those failures and those success and those hopes. We take none. In the times we walk on these earth these hopes that fail or succeed is not something to be taken heart to. Nothing is persistent, Neither the failures, nor the success. Not even the Self. Like a brief spell of snow on the face of the barren desert, that lights up the desolate landscape for an hour or two. Giving it hope and vitality, only to disappear sometime later. And the desert goes back to its un-moving starkness. Such is the human condition, it will end. Good times or bad.. the short burst will inevitably end and all will return to dust! 

Conrad : Heart Of Darkness (Summary)

I just completed Joseph Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness". It's a slow moving story of a sailor who travels upriver into the heart of colonial Africa where he becomes increasingly enamored with a mysterious station agent called Kurtz. He comes out in the end alienated & full of contempt for the European imperialism and instead of any humanizing progress or an illuminating persona (in Kurtz), all he find is exploitation and human fallacy (in the garb of reason).

The novel starts with the narrator (Marlow) aboard a yawl reminiscing with his friends. The environs sets the mood of the story. A brooding weather is cast over the Thames and sky is menacing over London which is the said to be greatest of the cities. Marlow recounts about this particular experience he had. He had just returned from six years on the sea, but soon gets tired of resting. Through his good offices he gets himself appointed as captain of steamer on river Congo. Marlow shares that he was always fascinated by maps since his childhood. There was a map of Africa marked with different colors (for each colonial power's jurisdiction) and there was a big emptiness in the center where a big river coiled like a snake flowed. All his childhood, this patch of blank was filled with images of lakes and jungles and all things mysterious. He long cherished the idea of going there and finally he had his chance. Aboard a ship to Congo, he reaches the base station. There he sees how colonial powers have literally teared the heart out of this continent. The base station brings a picture of utter waste of both men & material. Machinery & equipment strewn across and same was for native men, overworked, exploited and discarded. The revulsion of men treating men as beast of burden and then casting away. From here they trek the jungle to Central station where the steamer was which he was to command. Nothing around except the searing heat, the unending jungle, the solitude, the blackness of the experience and the great silence beyond as if impenetrable and mocking. On reaching Central station, its revealed the steamer has sunk and needs to be repaired. Rumors of Kurtz abound in the station and the mystique slowly around him builds. During months of repair, Marlow realizes the station as nothing more then a hub of intrigue and back biting. Hearsay has it that Kurtz is a near genius who has made other agents jealous due to his versatility in retrieving ivory. Kurtz increasing captivates Marlow's thoughts.

After repairs, they started upriver for the inner station, into the dark and the silent unknown, like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world. The stillness did not bring peace, instead it was the stillness of an "implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention". The river, the lurking death, the hidden evil, the impenetrable thoughts and the wilderness of the heart. Every emotion was raw here. For him, the all directions flowed to Kurtz.
"I wondered whether the stillness on the face of the immensity looking at us two were meant as an appeal or as a menace. What were we who had strayed in here? Could we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us? I felt how big, how confoundedly big, was that thing that couldn’t talk, and perhaps was deaf as well." 
There was no sign on the face of nature of this amazing tale that was not so much told as suggested to me in desolate exclamations, completed by shrugs, in interrupted phrases,in hints ending in deep sighs. The woods were unmoved, like a mask—heavy, like the closed door of a prison—they looked with their air of hidden knowledge, of patient expectation, of unapproachable silence. 
"The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us—who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign— and no memories. The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there— there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity— like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend."
Just before the inner station, their ship is attacked. Marlow is disappointed for he thinks Kurtz's station has been overrun and they will never meet. He imagines Kurtz in embrace with death and being Death's favorite. Such are the powers attributed to Kurtz. "Everything belonged to him— but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own." In midst of thoughts to turn back, they see the inner station. Nearby they pick up a Russian (a Kurtz camp follower and still his admirer) who shares Kurtz's cruel and brutal ways, of stories of natives worshiping Kurtz and strange practices. Marlow hears & sees the horrors for himself. The wilderness it seems had got Kurtz. "It whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude—and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core". They recover Kurtz alive in the station, near death. The natives teeming on the banks ready to retrieve Kurtz for themselves. During that night, Kurtz tries to escape but Marlow convinces him to come back to the steamer in a moment where foundations of their close bonds are laid. The next day they leave downriver. Kurtz health deteriorates and he soon dies in front of Marlow uttering "The horror! The horror!". Marlow leaves the company and returns to Europe. A year later he meets Kurtz fiancee still in mourning. She eggs him to repeat Kurtz last words and Marlow feigns that Kurtz last words was her name. End.

Conrad's work is as much a comment on colonial past as it is on human nature. There is darkness at all levels, of the modern civilization, of the unending jungle and of the human nature. Colonial powers raced against each other to grab virgin lands. The premise was that this is for the march of progress, a so-called bringing light of civilization into the heart of darkness under a garb of imperialism. Instead he saw darkness is in human heart and in this pretense that fails to see men as men, the darkness over mighty cities of Europe that peddle much propaganda and are built over such lies. These stations instead of a beachhead for progress become a den for barbarism and exploitation. Amid this philanthropic pretense and intrigue, an aura of Kurtz reaches a climax, hidden in the darkness, but radiating an extreme lightness. Kurtz started out maybe as a beacon of this humanizing thought, but soon lost reason. Ivory (desire) took hold of him. In the horror of jungle he goes down to a brutal life.. reduced to madness. A corruption to which we all succumb. An urge to be more than human, to conquer all but end up not even being human. The brutal instincts deep hidden come bare, and the very soul is stripped of reason, of fear and struggling with itself and yet the realization of it came to him at very last. He looked over the edge into the abyss and the abyss looked back at him. The jungle took him as one of their own.

Translation - Unke Dekhe Se Jo Aa Jati (Ghalib)

husn-e-mah, garche ba_hangaam-e-kamaal achcha hai
us'se mera mah-e-khursheed-e-jamaal achcha  hai

bosa  dete naheen aur dil pe hai har lahja nigaah
jee mein kehte hain, muft aaye to maal achcha hai

aur  baazaar se le aaye agar toot gaya
saaghar-e-jam se mera jaam-e-sifaal achcha hai

be_talab  dain to maza  usme  siwa  milta hai
woh gada jisko na ho khoo-e-sawaal achcha hai

unke dekhe se jo aa jaatee hai munh par raunaq
woh samajhte hain ke beemaar ka haal achcha hai

dekhiye  paate hain  ushshaaq buton se kya faiz ?
ik birahaman ne kaha hai, ke yeh saal achcha hai

ham_sukhan teshe ne farhaad ko sheereen se kiya
jis tarah ka bhee kisee mein ho kamaal achcha hai

qatra dariya mein jo mil jaaye to dariya ho jaaye
kaam achchaa hai woh,  jiska  ma'aal  achcha  hai

khijr sultaan ko rakhe khaaliq-e-akbar sar_sabz
shaah ke baagh meiN  yeh taaza nihaal achcha hai

hamko  ma'aloom  hai  jannat  ki  haqeeqat   lekin
dil ke khush rakhne ko, 'ghalib' yeh khayaal achcha hai

Line 1/2 - Even though the beauty of the moon in the time of perfectness is good, my moon with sun's beauty is even better than that. A dramatic exaggeration indeed, the poet says though the full moon is beautiful, my beloved is a moon with sun's beauty is much better. The full moon while beautiful, is sporadic, but my beloved is like a sun always shinning and hence better.

Line 3/4 - She does not grant me a kiss, and yet her eyes are constantly on my heart. In her heart she says, if I get my hands on it for free, then it is a worthy thing. The poet in this light heart sher says, his beloved is keeping an eye on his heart and yet she grants me no favor. In her heart, she realizes I am a decent deal if it comes free. The deal coming free can be realized both as it will be a bargain to get it free or maybe its so unmerited that only getting it free makes any sense.

Line 5/6 - I will get another one from the market if it broke, my cup of clay is better than Jamshed's goblet. King Jamshed's magical cup was said to reveal all secrets and the whole world was said to be reflected in it. Ghalib says I can get another one if I broke one, this humble clay cup is better than Jamshed's cup for King Jamshed would not have that luxury of getting a new one in case his magical cup was to break. The poet reasons that sometimes the easier things are the better things and humbleness has advantages that splendid and majestic can not buy.

Line 7/8 - If one gives without being inquired, then the pleasure in it is something else. That beggar who has no habit of asking is a better one. Again a bit convoluted, the poet says there is another delight in if something is given without being asked. The beggar who does not keep imploring is a better one for he allow bestower to give without pleading and hence the donor feels a bighearted and just. Ghalib says that I am that beggar that does not beg, but you (beloved) should bestow me with some favors and enjoy that pleasure it brings.

Line 9/10 - On seeing her my face brightens up, She presumes that the condition of the sick (me) is better now. Ghalib says that on seeing her face, my face lights up and she thinks that my illness is better now. O! I do not even get the looks of sympathy now, for I just looking at her briten up and she thinks that I am alright and recovering.

Line 11/12 - Let us see what rewards does the lovers receive from these idols, one soothsayer has said that this year is going to be good. Here idols refer to the unwavering and unyielding beloved. Ghalib says let see what favors do the lovers receive from these idols this time for a soothsayer has said that this year is going to be a good one. This year the beloved would be more open and conciliatory, a soothsayer had foreseen this.

Line 13/14 - The axe made Farhaan and Sheereen talking to each other. Whatever way it was done, the result was good. The line refer to tale of Farhaan & Sheereen where Farhaad kills himself with his axe and Sheereen on finding his body uses the same axe to commit suicide. Ghalib says the axe got them talking to each other (which was nor possible when they were alive due to their social differences). Here dying together is portrayed as being finally able to converse together and a small axe did that trick. Whatever the technique was, the end result was good. Ghalib implicitly acknowledges this was for the better (however gruesome), for the society would never have let them live together.

Line 15/16 - If a drop was to merge in the river, it will become a river. Any work is good, if the outcome is good. These lines are a bit convoluted in meaning. Ghalib says in a way, we (a small drop in the universe) when we merge in this divine being, (in search of truth and meaning) we become the part of it. Each bit of us becomes the part of this giant scheme. We lose our singular existence, but become part of this holy creation like the same way a drop loses it existence, but becomes the river. If in the act of this, if we were to realize our purpose and our goal, then any path chosen is a good one. This is a classic sufi concept, to embrace the divine, to be part of it and Ghalib says any approach to achieve this is good as long as we achieve it.

Line 17/18 - Ghalib recited these couplets in the royal court, so an occasional testimonial to royalty was usual in his works. The poet says, may The Greatest Creator keep the Sultan Khijr prospering and thriving. In the Emperor's garden, this fresh tree is good and sound. A light sher in praise of his patron, Ghalib expresses that the new prince is coming up good and may the Supreme One keep him prospering.

Line 19/20 - I for know the reality about heaven but, to keep the heart content, Ghalib the thought is splendid. Ghalib says I know the truth behind the heaven, but nevertheless it is a useful ploy to keep your heart content and satisfied. In a very accessible manner, the poet questions the concept of heaven after death, but then adds its a good way to keep the heart pacified and content.

mah = moon
hangaam = season, time
khursheed = sun
jamaal = beauty
bosa = kiss
saaghar-e-jam = Jamshed's cup
jaam-e-sifaal = clay cup
be_talab = without any enquiry
gada = beggar
khoo = habit
ushshaaq = lovers
faiz = profit
ham_sukhan = conversing together
tesha = axe
ma'aal = result
khijr sultaan = one of Zafar's son
khaaliq = The Creator
akbar = greatest
sar_sabz = fertile
nihaal = tree

Photo Of The Day

Jervis Bay, ACT

Cambewarra Mountain Lookout, NSW

Borges : The Garden Of Forking Paths (Summary)

Continuing with my extensive readings on Borges, I read his short story "The Garden of Forking Paths". This is said to be a detective story. The story starts with Dr.Yu Tsun, a German spy in England realizing that he is being pursued by a British agent(Madden). Dr. Yu is privy to information about the location of England's new artillery park which somehow he has to convey to his leader in Germany. We are told that Dr. Yu is doing this not for any love for Germany, but out of desire to prove that a yellow man (whose race his leader so belittles) can save the armies of Germany. Realizing that time is of essence, he scans a telephone book for a name (Dr Stephen Albert) and leaves to meet him on the train. He narrowly misses Madden pursuing him in the station. Yu is elated for he has frustrated his enemy's plan and it has provided him with ample head-start to achieve his goals. He proceeds to Dr Albert home down the solitary road, reflecting on the road that reminded him of labyrinths. It is revealed that Dr Yu is the great grandson of Ts’ui Pen, The governor of Yunnan province who renounced worldly pleasures to undertake two tasks. One to write a vast novel and second to create a labyrinth that no men can solve (practically infinite). Yu lost in these thoughts imagines a labyrinth of rivers and provinces and kingdoms, of past and future and of stars. "He for an unknown period of time, felt as an abstract perceiver of the world." On reaching the gate, a man greets him in his own language and ask if he desires to see the garden that Ts’ui Pen created. Yu discloses that Ts’ui Pen was his ancestor. They both deliberate over chaotic chapters that Ts’ui wrote which no one could understand and the labyrinth which is now untraceable. Dr Stephen reveals that he has solved both these mysteries. The novel was the labyrinth, they were one and the same. To strengthen his argument, Stephen shares a letter written by Ts’ui which says
"I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths."
The Garden of Forking Paths is a un-ordered novel, where the situations fork in time, not in space. In the novel, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses simultaneously all of them. He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork. Sometimes, the paths of this labyrinth converge. Stephen explains that the novel is an infinite maze whose theme is time which causes the author to prohibit the use of the word 'time' in its pages. Ts’ui conceived it as an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times unlike a linear and absolute Time. Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. Dr Yun shows his gratitude to Stephen for unraveling the mystery.In the garden, he could see Madden approaching. Yu asks for the letter to be shown again. Dr. Yu fires at Stephen in the back killing him immediately. Madden arrests Yu and is later sentenced to be hanged, but we are told that his task was accomplished. He had communicated to Berlin the name of the city. It was revealed as a riddle of murder of noted Sinologist Stephen Albert who was murdered by a stranger, one Yu Tsun. The Chief encrypted the message for he knew the task was to get the the word Albert out, and Yu found no other way to convey this but to kill a man of that name. End.

To think of this as a simple detective story would be an oversight. As with Borges nothing is what it looks. In this story we are told of a novel that has infinite plots and is ever expanding. The novel looks disjointed and non-linear. It is like a labyrinth that is unsolvable. But instead of a physical labyrinth laid out on a garden, this one is written out. Time as we know moves linearly, from yesterday to today and to tomorrow. It has a definite progression, an order of passing. In this novel, “The Garden of Forking Paths” rejects the notion of time itself being linear. In fact, it forks and the new branches exist and continue and represent possibilities of future. All possible results are part of this "future" landscape where time continually forks. (and sometimes diverges). Each moment in Time becomes branches into many possibilities. It is like a "hypertext", like a page on the internet where one can read from top to bottom or he could click on any links available on the page to get into entirely new page and context. Those new pages link to yet new pages or can link back to previously traversed pages. Labyrinth has been a recurring themes in Borges work. But instead of a spatial, this one is spaced out in time. Time is growing out like a ever-growing ripple of water when the stone hits the water surface leading to multiple worlds and multiple realities. In a way each Time is the point of creation for new multiple worlds, but in the same scheme Time looses its significance as there is no singular line of reference now. Time creates Time but Time looses centrality. Any things are possible in these multiple futures, but we are aware and limited by our sequence of time or context. In the story Yu says to Stephen that in all futures, he would be grateful to him for revealing these mysteries, to which Stephen replies that it is not possible as in one possible future we are going to be enemies. It also brings the question of fate & free will as all possibilities exist simultaneously and are being action-ed, so whatever I choose does not matter for there are worlds where I made the other choice. The characters are bound to act on all possible choices hence forking into multiple futures. Choice is not more a choice. It seems uncanny that Yu finds his ancestor's secrets in England's country side (of all the places). Also the killing of an innocent man to convey a encoded message which someone may or may not understand sounds odd. But then aren't these actions one of the countless possibilities that can happen. And we and Borges somehow existed on this plane of time to write and read it.

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XIII

Look to the Rose that blows about us--"Lo,
Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

This is the thirteenth quatrain of the Firtzgerald's The Rubaiyat. This is the most ambiguous of all quatrains that we have come across yet. I will attempt to provide a meaning for these lines, do let me know if you think of any other interpretation. The first two lines say, Look at the rose that is blowing in this light wind. Look at the pleasant sight of the rose in bloom blowing, cheerful in the wind. In this breeze it blows, spreading it pleasing scent around and its soft red petals flowing in the wind. Giving itself totally to the pleasure of others. At the same moment the silk tassel of my purse broke, and the treasure (gold coins) fell into the garden spread all around. I have nothing to give for all I have are some cold coins in my silky purse. In this moment in the garden with my companion, the lowly rose and its scent and it's flowing petals (in the wind) is something to be cherished and it provides a delight to the senses, something which the treasures in my purse can not buy or provide. What will I do of these gold coins here? What good are they spread here across the grass in the garden? They don't stir a emotion in me! They don't buy a thought!

Photo Of The Day

Mount Wilson, NSW

Hampden Bridge, Kamgaroo Valley

Beckett : Waiting for Godot (Summary)

This had been a long pending read for me. And it wasn't such a long read. Probably more thoughtful though. A very classic example of "Theater of The Absurd". It is the story about two characters (Vladimir and Estragon) waiting for a person named Godot to show up. Their wait is endless without getting tired only to be interjected with their talking, sleeping, entertaining, reminiscing and yet more waiting. Most of the time they end up doing nothing, most of their actions itself are of no importance and that is the recurring theme in the play.

The play itself is divided into 2 acts that are happen over two days. The general tone of their actions over these two days repeats itself loosely. The settings are the same. The people they meet are the same. The day starts with both struggling to sort themselves out and the day end with the realization that Godot is not going to come today and they will wait for him tomorrow at the same place. The realization of time is not distinct here. Probably its even not important. What matters is that they exist and they have spare time at hand. These two days are separated over time for we see the colors of tree change over these two acts. So it appears the two are waiting for Godot probably for a long time and will wait for him endlessly. Time is non-linear as well as periodic. It will repeat. All of us are trapped in it, with no chance of escape. The only escape is the realization of the meaningless of the existence and silently accepting it. As they say it "Nothing to be done", it is exactly Nothing that has to be done. All we have to do is to pass the time, doing something to keep ourselves engaged. All this philosophizing, fighting, writing ect is just distractions in human life to make sure we do not have time to understand that "Nothing to be done". All this waiting for Godot and not really sure what we are waiting for and what it will bring? That is the human condition, busy in distractions and meaningless antics waiting for something and trying to avoid the realization that life itself is pointless.

The complete books fails to fit into a pattern, a clear understanding of it. Time does not move linearly and sub plots also look disjointed over the two acts. Actions happen arbitrarily and characters do not recall what happened the other day. The idea being Universe is chaotic and lacks an order and sequence. Time is disordered and so will be life. But the bigger picture is still the same. Even midst of this great chaos, the human nature will adjust and find something to keep itself occupied and busy and wait for Godot to show up. The purpose (or the lack of it) keeps us busy in passing our time here. We develop a pattern, a semblance of sanity to keep the horror of pointless life away. To keep up with the charade, but then is their a Choice? As they said "Nothing to be done"

The Bitter Harvest Of Inaction

For the last couple of months the biggest narrative in India has been the near precipitous fall of currency and the dark clouds gathering over the economy. And this is when there are ample experienced hands at the deck. So many captains and yet no glories to speak of. Leave aside glories, the ship looks as if it has hit its underside on the rocks and is rapidly filling water. How could we have come undone so fast? See no further for what went wrong. It was not any action that caused it, it was years of inaction. It is just plain complacency. The spectacular growth mostly export fueled during the UPA-I years gave them enough reason that all is a-ok and growth will continue like this with any impetus. You know what, any captain can sail on a favorable wind. Even if you don't do anything, the winds pushes the ship forward. This is what actually happened. As long as global economy was strong, we were going mighty fast.

Then 2008 came and the bubble burst and our ship hit rough waters. But the so called Jack Sparrows of our economy kept repeating that all is well and we will soon return to 8%+ growth rates. No course correction was ever done. I always believe the Government is not their to take decisions that please the people. Who does not want subsidized LPG? Who does not want freebies? But can a country with very limited resources work like that. Can Government take decisions based on populist pressures? Or do nothing and hope things mend themselves. And all this has led us to where we are. Inflation is not really under control, growth rates that is sputtering, currency in free fall, foreign capital fleeing the shores and no new investment being done.

The problem is not global economy now for US despite of such a massive base grows decently while we manage measly growth on such abysmal economic standards. The problem is not even falling currency for that is a symptom of the malaise not the actual disease. The fever tells you that probably you have a bigger problem somewhere. What we have here is a perfect case of a self-afflicted wound. Policy inaction, multiple power centers, fiscal profligacy and just plain over-confidence. I don't pity the captains of this ship. They probably don't need it anyways. They will still manage well in their Lutyen's bungalows. We would also manage well. Probably one or two less movies or eating out in a month. But it won't be a easy ride for the countless millions joining the workforce every year or those at the margins of society. Couple of percentage of less growth will ensure millions will be left jobless. This minuscule growth will be a jobless growth for the industry will not hire unless they see momentum picking up. The powers that be will still fiddle over the definition of poverty line and how they moved millions of unwashed masses to so called "middle class". And there will be no easy way out of this troubled waters. No warm winds to help us come unstuck. It is going to be many years of discontent.

Translation - Ye Na Thi Hamari Kismat (Ghalib)

ye na thee hamaaree qismat ke wisaal-e-yaar hota
agar aur jeete rehte yahee intezaar hota

tere waade par jiye ham to ye jaan jhoot jaanaa
ke khushee se mar na jaate agar 'eitabaar hota

teree naazukee se jaana ki bandha tha 'ehed_booda
kabhee too na tod sakta agar oostuwaar hota

koee mere dil se pooche tere teer-e-neemkash ko
ye khalish kahaan se hotee jo jigar ke paar hota

ye kahaan ki dostee hai ke bane hain dost naaseh
koee chaarasaaz  hota, koee ghamgusaar hota

rag-e-sang se tapakta wo lahoo ki fir na thamta
jise gham samajh rahe ho, ye agar sharaar hota

gham agarche jaan_gulis hai, pe kahaan bachain ke dil hai
gham-e-ishq gar na hota, gham-e-rozgaar  hota

kahoon kis se main ke kya hai, shab-e-gham buree bala hai
mujhe  kya  bura  tha  marna ? agar ek  baar hota

hue mar ke ham jo ruswa, hue kyon na gharq-e-dariya
na  kabhee janaaza  uthata, na  kaheen mazaar hota

usse kaun  dekh  sakta  ki yagaana  hai wo yaktaa
jo dooee ki boo bhee hotee to kaheen do chaar hota

ye masaail-e-tasawwuf, ye tera bayaan 'Ghalib' !
tujhe ham walee samajhate, jo na baada_khwaar hota

Meaning of difficult words -
wisaal-e-yaar = meeting with lover
'eitabaar = trust/confidence
'ehed = oath
boda = not strong
oostuwaar = firm/determined
teer-e-neemkash = half drawn arrow
khalish = pain
naaseh = counselor
chaarasaaz = healer
ghamgusaar = sympathizer
rag = nerve
sang = stone
sharaar = flash/gleam
jaan_gulis = life threatening
ruswa = disgraced
gharq = drown/sink
yagaana = unique
yaktaa = matchless/incomparable
dooee = duality
masaail = topics
tasawwuf = mysticism
walee = prince/friend
baada_khwaar = boozer

Line 1/2 - It was not my destiny that there would be a union with my beloved. If I had lived further on, there would have been this same waiting (waiting for his beloved). Ghalib in this seemingly simple lines says he was never destined for a meeting with his beloved. Had I lived on, this wait would have been the same. The poet says he is dead now, but had he lived, the situation would not have been different. This can be interpreted both as a defeatist as well as hopeful. My waiting would have been same even if I had lived on, for it was never destined (negative). The same reading can also mean that my wait would have been same had I not died (hopeful).

Line 3/4 - I lived by on your promise, be aware my love! that this statement is false. I would have died of happiness had I believed in it (on your promise). Ghalib here says to his beloved that don't fool yourself with the thoughts that I live by your promise. But then in a sharp u-turn he rescinds and explains that he would have died of happiness way earlier if he had believed in it. The tone here is not to affront her, but to show a light defiance to his beloved. Like take it easy dear!, I would have died the moment you would have promised had I believed in it. So don't kid your self with the thought that I live by your promise. A swaggering beauty by Ghalib!

Line 5/6 - I understood from your delicateness that your promise is loosely tied, for you could not have broken it had it been strong. The poet continuing with the haughty mood of the previous lines says your delicateness and fickleness which in the first place attracted me has made me realize your unreliable nature of those promises that you have made to me. Those promises would never have broken had they been strong. Compared to last couplet where he took a light dig at his beloved, this sher is a more caustic take on his beloved. He is literally accusing her of not being serious in the relationship and just making promises for the sake of it.

Line 7/8 - Someone should ask my heart about your half drawn arrow. Where would this pain have come from if it had gone through the liver? The half drawn arrow is an arrow that was shot with not full force. Here they are analogy for the slight and subtle glances of his beloved. Ghalib says ask my heart about her subtle glances that she fires at me. They are like sharp arrows going through my body and I am in pain now since it has not gone through the liver completely. Had it gone through the liver, I would have been long dead. Ask my heart about your arrow for it will be able to tell you about it since it is suffering for my liver can not produce enough blood (for the heart to pump) as it is injured.

Line 9/10 - What kind of friendship is this, where the friends have now become counselor. If only there were some healer, if only there was some sympathizer. The poet says what sort of friendships is this. I am looking for friends who sympathize with me, friends who provide a healing touch to my misery (caused by rigors of my feelings towards my beloved), Instead of being empathizing friends, they have all become counselors and advisers who are advising him to desist from pursuing his beloved (probably). Where are those healers and soothers for my friends now advocate me instead of providing a helping shoulder.

Line 11/12 - The blood that is dripping from the veins of the stone, it will not stop. That thing which you are thinking of as grief, if it was a spark. This is not very clear to come by. The scheme being used here is as on hitting the heart it sheds blood, in a same way hitting the stone will fire sparks. One plausible explanation could be, had all this pain that is in my heart been like a spark then it would have not stopped emitting from the stone every time you hit it. The spark emitted by stones striking is never ending and so is the grieving within my heart.

Line 13/14 - Although grief is life threatening, but there is no escape for it's the heart. If it would not have been the lament of the indifferent love, then there would have been the sorrow of daily bringing in enough to survive in this world. The poet says I know that this grief (due to the unappreciated love by his beloved) is deadly, but then i can't escape for I have a heart. Had I not been been bogged down by the grieving, It would have been stuck with the problems of day to day living and the misery it brings.

Line 15/16 - To whom should I say what it is, this night of grief is a distressing experience. Why would I complain of dying, if it had occurred to me only once. Ghalib laments about the nights of separation with his beloved and says to whom should he complain about these nights and what a terrible experience to undergo them alone and away from my lover. I have no qualms about dying if it was to happen only once. These nights of separation from you is like a dying experience from me that comes everyday unlike dying which only haven once. I am willing to die, if only it comes once.

Line 17/18 - I was disgraced after my death, why did not I drown in the sea/river. There would have been no funeral for me, nor there would have been a grave anywhere. The poet says on death I was discredited (the reason not obvious here), why did I not drown in a river instead? In that case, there would have been no funeral nor any grave built for me someplace. The point being that having no funeral would avoid all kind of indiscreet and unflattering talk that would happen in the ceremony and no grave means that there will no place which will remind people of his ignominy. His passing away would be blotted out from people's mind and that would save him uncomplimentary talk.

Line 19/20 - This is the most complex and most fascinating of all. It is like an onion, the more you peel the more there is underneath. The poet says Who can see him, for the Incomparable One is unique. If there was even a hint of duality, then there would have a meeting somewhere sometime (or then there would be many-more existing). The word "do-chaar" itself introduces a duality there. One meaning can be - Who can see him, for He the Matchless One is unique. The Maker is singular, which makes him so difficult to see for only one exists. (Can also be interpreted as a possible satire on invisibility of the God, providing God an excuse for his indifference to show Himself to his admirers). If the Creator would have been two then the poet might have come across Him somewhere. One more obtuse interpretation (I read somewhere) is if there was duality indeed, then the Almighty might have come face to face with himself somewhere and then he would have truly empathized with us and tasted his own medicine i.e. realized how people feel about his capricious and indifference that they are submitted to. Another interpretation is (I like this the most), that if there was trace of duality in His aspect, then there could well be more. The poet says that there is One God only, and if there was indeed a whiff of duality then there could well be more then two. Why only two, why not more. If we do not accept it being Singular, then why do we accept its duality. It can very well be many. The "do-char hota" in every day conversation manner can be meant both as to come across or many in number (not a definite count).

Line 21/22 - Oh! these topics of mysticism and those words that you say, Ghalib. We would have considered you as our chief had you not been a boozer. The poet in a classic tone of hauteur says all these complex matters/themes of reality and supernal truth and your spoken words Ghalib. We would have regarded you as a chief/lord had you not been a wine drinker that you are. Consider the poet closing his ghazal with such skilled and subtle disdain that Ghalib has all the answers for the ultimate reality of this mortal world, but lets not patronize him as a head for he is a drinker.

Photo Of The Day

Somewhere in Southern Highlands, NSW

Lodore Falls, Wenthworth, NSW

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XII

"How Sweet is mortal Sovranty!"--think some;
Others--"How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

This is the twelfth quatrain of the Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat and unlike some of the previous one, this one is a little more obscure giving itself not easily to interpretation. The first two lines can be interpreted as some people think about how glorious is sovereignty of men. While other say how blessed would be the paradise in their afterlife. The wish for sovereignty can be read as a desire for freedom for men. (not necessarily of the nation state). That Men does not rule over men. All are made equal. And how sweet would that be. Think of equality and free men and same laws would apply to all. While others yearn for the fruits of the paradise that they will have in their afterlife. They think of all the joys and the bliss of heaven in their next life. The next two lines say that take whatever you have in your hands and waive the rest of it, let go of it what is not here, not present. And Oh don't worry about that sounds of a distant drums (probably a call to arms for a battle). Enjoy whatever you have today and forget about rest (be it the glories of the past or the dreams for the future, in this life or the afterlife). Savour what you have and relish it. Do not get bogged down about how to earn heaven in afterlife or dreams of glory! Live for Today, Concern yourself with Today. 

Translation - Naqsh Fariyaadee Hai Kiskee (Ghalib)

naqsh fariyaadee hai kiskee shokhee-e-tehreer ka
kaaghazee hai pairhan har paikar-e-tasweer ka

kaave-kaave sakht_jaanee haay tanhaaee na pooch
subah karna shaam ka laana hai joo-e-sheer ka

jazba-e-be_ikhtiyaar-e-shauq dekha chaahiye
seena-e-shamsheer se baahar hai dam shamsheer ka

aagahee daam-e-shuneedan jis qadar chaahe bichaaye
mudda'a 'anqa hai apne aalam-e-taqreer ka

bus ke hoon 'ghalib' aseeree mein bhee aatish zer-e-pa
moo-e-aatish_deeda hai halqa meree zanjeer ka

This is probably among the most famous of Ghalib's work and the most complex that I have come across with each verse having various connotations and multiple streams of interpretation. This translation uses fair help from other sources over the web.

Line 1/2 - The poet says this written complaint, against whose mischief of writing/painting is it against? Every face in this painting wears a dress of paper. A bit of history before we understand this seemingly meaningless couplet. In old Persia a complainant would enter the courts of kings wearing clothing made of paper in order to display their humility and abjectness. Ghalib cleverly employing this scheme says against whose mischief and fickleness is this written complaint directed? Who wronged? For every face in this painting is made of paper (i.e. they are in despair) The picture here being that of the Universe and the mischief doer being the God. The question asked being whose mischief was this to create such a painting where each character is suffering and helpless. All faces appear helpless pleading in front of God. The poet asks Why was Universe such created? Why are we made so helpless? The questioning in the first line and the realization in the second is the beauty of this verse.

Line 3/4 - The poet says ask me not of the hard and difficult work that life is excavating through this hardness of solitude. To turn this lonely evening into the morning is like creating a river of milk (an impossible task).  Ghalib says living life solitary is like digging slowly and laboriously through the hard and unyielding rock. It makes the whole existence toilsome and punishing. And to pass the night alone waiting for the next day is like making a river of milk. The passing of night (separated from my beloved) is no less taxing than that impossible task.

Line 5/6 - The poet says you should have seen the passion of the uncontrollable desire. The breath of the sword is beyond the chest of the sword. This is such a brilliant play on words. Here the breath is used to describe the edge of the sword. Ghalib says that see the rage of the irrepressible fervor and zeal. It like as if the rage has filled the sword with emotion and fury so much that the sword was now outside its sheath. The breath is literally tearing out of the chest chaining it in midst of this uncontrollable rage. Totally awesome!

Line 7/8 - The poet says that let knowledge spread its trap of conversation that way it wants to. The meaning of my universe of discourse is like a angha bird. Angha or simurgh (in persian literature) is a mythical bird that is appears as a peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion.(wikipedia) In short it is difficult to conjecture what exactly is it or even if it exists? Ghalib says the let the net of intelligence spread its reach where ever it wants through the conversation. Lets my knowledge (through talking) cast its net far/wide and anyway it wants. The intention of my domain of discussion is like a angha bird. What I discourse is hard to comprehend or there maybe no meaning or truth in it. Here angha is a metaphor of something which is elusive to make sense and grasp.

Line 9/10 - The poet says I am as much Ghalib, the one who even in captivity, has fire beneath his feet. The rings of my chain looks like (curls) of hair burning. Ghalib in his fascinating imagery says even though he is imprisoned, he still has fire under his feet. He is burning restless in his legs. Even the shackles on the legs can not calm him. They chains appear like hairs that have caught fire (and subsequently curled). The ring of the chains on his legs evoke images of hairs being on fire. The coils of burnt hair are so soft and airy that they do not concern me (bother me), same are these shackles that bound me. I am not bothered by them. To me they are like coils of burnt hair, soft and un-hampering.

Meaning of difficult words.
naqsh = copy/print
fariyaad = complaint
tehreer = hand writing
kaaghazee = delicate
pairhan = dress
paikar = appearance
kaave-kaave = hard work
sakht_jaanee = tough life
joo = canal/stream
sheer = milk
joo-e-sheer = to create a canal of milk(here means to perform an impossible task)
ikhtiyaar = authority/power
shamsheer = sword
aagahee = knowledge/intuition
daam = net/trap
shuneed = conversation
'anqa = rare
aalam = world/universe
taqreer = speech/discourse
aseeree = imprisonment/captivity
zer-e-pa = under the feet
moo = hair
aatish_deeda = roasted on fire
halqa = ring/circle

Borges - The Library of Babel - Part II (Summary)

I last month posted a brief summary of the Borges's famous story "The Library of Babel". It is such a vast expanse of very dense words. Ideas so vague that they stretch to the very edges of universe in thin ether and yet realistic enough for each and every one to make some sense of them.. for themselves. I will briefly touch on some themes that I could pick up among the infinite this story touches.

In the story, The Library is said to be "Total". It contains all that is written, all that is unwritten and everything in between. The narrator lives all his life in middle of this infinity trying to make sense of it, ultimately dying in the hope that this monstrosity is not meaningless, it is not random. It has an order, a purpose and a meaning. The order gives it a meaning. The existence gives it a purpose. Probably we are the purpose of its existence. We are the music that plays out of this celestial flute. Otherwise what would be the Library without the people trying to decipher the books? Why would it even exist if there is no one to flip through the pages. It would be a indefiniteness of perfectness and yet total absurdity in the absence of a Librarian. Are not we in the same plane as narrator trying to find a similar sense here? In this Our Universe. The self, the horror is all here as well, very perceptible and quivering and in midst of us.

All the hexagons of this Library are similar, in a way, this whole said Universe is symmetrical and yet there is randomness to the extreme present in the books. Both the perfect symmetry and perfect randomness is extrapolated to the utmost. Since the symmetry is perfect, hence the rule came that Library is Total and permanent. Near perfectness awes. To most it reveals the hand of creator. Near randomness despairs. To most it reinforces faith in the creator or higher power. Isn't it a metaphor for this universe where we see both these exist in similar fashion. There is this general symmetry and beauty and pattern in nature, and this turbulence and indefiniteness and chance and causality in human behavior and action. Symmetric yet random in the same canvas.The two parts of a Whole.

The Library has near infinite number of books, most meaningless. For every line that made sense, there are shelves and shelves of near nonsense. In this glut of "information", pretty much everything becomes useless. How does one know that a sudden appearance of meaningful text is not a chance play akin to monkeys scribbling haphazardly on paper. Does not this flood of text compromise whatever little made sense? Isn't this what's happening with the hyper-reality that plays out on media and arts these days? Isn't noise consuming us all? Isn't noise replacing reality?

This Library has books that have all combinations 25 symbols and each book is said to be unique. That means all possible knowledge is already in the books. Everything is already known. All possible actions and reactions are known. The truth, the falsehood, the proof of truth & the proof of falsehood. All. But can we comprehend? And then there is the question of - are we fated? Is everything foretold? The people trying to decode this books assumed majority of the text to be nonsense. Can it really be nonsense? Could it be some language that we don't know? It can be also said every book in this Library is understandable provided it is deciphered right. So all possible text could have a meaning in some remote language that we know not of. Could it also be that the text was written just for writing and was never meant to be understood? The act of writing now becomes disassociated from the act of understanding and whatever little we understood was a mere chance. Could the whole Library be like Voynich manuscript written for the sake of writing and the librarians are trying to understand something which never had sense to begin with. Could our Universe be same? A similar creation? In this enormity, can we understand the reality when we can not make sense of it completely? Is complete knowledge even possible when we do not see the complete picture. We have just bits and scraps of so-called information in midst of this glut. Do we even understand the language? Do we even understand what we are reading? How do we know for sure that this story was not a guide to catching fish without a bait?

The meaningless pursuit of wisdom in the books leads zealots, fanatics, blasphemers and mystics to run riot. Various theories are made. Some claims abandoned, other that still persist. Cults are created, Messiahs and false prophets abound. Some ideas becomes the cornerstone for the society of Men. Maybe they called it Religion. The multitude of Gods fighting the oneness of The Library. Some ideas that gave them hope, some that lead to their death and destruction.Truth is hard to come by here, Complete Truth is near impossible. What we are left with is a Great Mystery and our meaningless existence in it with no hope of ever understanding it fully. It is Near Omnipotence and Yet Nowhere near Omniscient! That is the fate of the mankind in this Universe.

Photo Of The Day

Pitcher plant (one of the few carnivorous plants)

Mount Wilson, NSW

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XI

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

This is the eleventh quatrain of Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat. It seems continuation of the previous two quatrains where poet implores him to let go of the glories of the past and come with him to the edge of the settlement, where the complications of civilization would not be there. Khayyam says here at this place, far from the trials and tribulations of life, we will with a loaf of bread beneath a large tree and with a bottle of wine and also a book of poems, we will sing in the wilderness and this wilderness would be our small paradise. Away from the society of men, away from the charm of a home, we will take refuge on the margins of the desert and there we will take out our loaf of baked bread in shade of a tree. We will cherish the food we have with a flask of wine doing the rounds between us and singing songs from a small book of poems. In this wilderness, in this what we call as paradise we will live in careless abandon with whatever little we have! A piece of bread, some wine, a song, a dear friend and a tree to rest on, what else does a man wish for in this small life! isn't this what paradise is?

Borges : The Library Of Babel - Part I (Summary)

This is another of Borges more famous works - The Library of Babel, a true Borgesian construct if I may say. This is a small brief on a fascinating story. I will try to analyse it in my next write up.

In this story there exists a Universe, which is called a Library and is composed of infinite number of hexagonal rooms with air shaft in between surrounded by low railing from where one can see the other hexagons on all other floors up and down. The Library is said to be unending. These hexagons had five book shelves on four sides of the room (which cover the walls up to the low roof). One free side had a hallway that leads to another identical hexagon and two small closets for sleeping and bodily functions. There is a spiral stairway which allows to move vertically to all places in this vast conundrum. Also present in this minimalist room was a "mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances". The mirror to narrator is a sign of the infinite extent of the Library. The narrator says that he has traveled widely in his youth amid this Library to search for meaning of all these books or for a catalog of books to decipher the meaning of this enormity, but now that he is old,near blind and preparing to die (not far from where he was born though). Once dead, he would be flung over the railing and his grave would be the unfathomable air in a fall that will be infinite. Some says the Library is infinite, some others claim that "The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible." some others say the universe is incomprehensible in any other form (like triangle) other than hexagon for any other concept of space is inconceivable. Other still claim it as a circular chamber containing a circular book, whose spine follows the complete circle of the walls. The circular book being God.

Each shelf has 35 books of similar format (i.e. each is of 410 pages and each page of 40 lines and each line of 80 black letters). Each book has a title that does not say what the book actually contains. After countless centuries, they come up with two broad canons about this Library. Foremost being that the Library exists from times immemorial. Second that all the text in the books is made of 25 symbols (including space comma and period). From these two axioms was demonstrated the fact that Library will exist in foreseeable future. A implication from above was that Man can be a product of chance, but this vastness of order, of its perfectness, of symmetry can only be work of a God."To perceive the distance between the divine and the human, it is enough to compare these crude wavering symbols which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book, with the organic letters inside: punctual, delicate, perfectly black, inimitably symmetrical.". Also known was the fact (from the knowledge of these symbols), the books are formless and mostly random. For each sentence that made sense, there were countless others that lacked clarity. Some even swore that books meant nothing, and finding sense in them was like understanding disorderly lines of one's palm.

Such grandeur led to lot of speculation on the Library and its origins. Some believed that the language of the books had gone extinct as the first librarians used a language quite different from today and language spoken elsewhere in this maze is radically different from what's spoken here. However many said that any language however primitive can not meaningfully write 410 pages of just "MCV" to present a narrative or meaningful text. Some even hinted ciphers. But ages after ages of analyzing, a genius librarian came up with the fact that the building blocks of all books was essentially same (i.e. those 25 symbols). It was also speculated that there are no identical books. So the Library was "total" and had all books written, or will ever be written or were not written. It has all the truth, all the falsity, all the evidence of the falsity and everything that was to be said or unsaid. It is 'Complete' and all encompassing.
"Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels' autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books."
The feeling of it being total, made the existence of Library seem vindicated to many. Some seemed euphoric. There was no problem whose solution could not be found in those books. The Library gave happiness for men felt overlords of such knowledge and it saddened some for it extinguished the "unlimited dimensions of hope". Also existed in the midst of these was book of Vindications for each man that has the story of their lives and wisdom for their future. Men set out like crazy to find them in the Library. Lot were killed. Others went mad in search of that elusive book of Vindications. A sense of despair followed the optimism. Such enormity, such vastitude and yet almost certainly meaningless and gibberish, except a small hope of finding a meaningful book made men mad. Now no one expects to find anything useful here. Deception was practiced. Some went to great length to create orderly books by creating disorder. Some argued that it is possible, to come up with a meaningful book by endlessly juggling the characters. A sect arose that went around destroying works that did not seem meaningful to them (to sanctify the library) though this did not actually made much of an impact given the size of the library.

Another persistent belief was born that there existed a "Man of the Book" who has found a book that was a catalogue of catalogue. A key to all other books. Many wandered to search for him. The human soul was exhausted and battered and conflicts, suicide and pillaging have ravaged the Library. Such meaningless adventures have consumed and wasted his (narrator) whole life as well. And yet in this despair, the author rejects that any book is this Library was meaningless. For him, the Library contained all variations of those 25 characters, but it does not contain a shred of nonsense. Any text must have a meanings that we're not aware of. The seven letters "Library" here means this, but it could mean different in another language. It has to have meaning is some hidden language of the Library. Do we even understand the language? Do we even know that language? I beg that such a "Man of the Book" existed for he will be understand the beauty of the scheme. If the honour was not mine, then let it be of someone else. Let the Library be justified for at least someone. I do not pity the Library for it will forever exist, ever perfect and secret and Infinite and random. I pity the human race. The burden has brought our decimation. I say Library "Infinite" for even with limited number of books, it will be never-ending It will just repeats itself. This universe is periodic. The repetition of disorder here creates an Order. And This belief gives me hope.
"I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -- which is absurd. Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope."