The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XXII









And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch--for whom?









This is the twenty-second quatrain of the Rubaiyat. The continuity of the theme of previous quatrains continues. The quatrain says that while we currently are engaged in mirth and fun in this world, they (the best and the loveliest mentioned in the last quatrain) they have left us and passed on to the nether world. The summer is in the bloom now, and must soon we also descend to death to make room for the next generations to wander around on this earth whom we do not know now. We came and we went and some else comes along and the arrow of time moves on, waiting for none!

Translation - Az Mehar Taa Bah Zarrah (Ghalib)

az mehar taa bah zarrah dil o dil hai aaiinah
tootee ko shash jihat se muqabil hai aaiinah
 
Line 1/2 - From the sun to the grain of sand, they are all hearts and the heart is the mirror. The parrot is confronted by the mirror from the six directions. Like with Ghalib's work a million strands can be made out. Every thing you see around, the unremarkable and small grain of sand to the unique and majestic sun. Everything is a heart. The whole world is a heart and the heart is a mirror. The parrot in the cage is confronted on all the six sides by the mirror, he is confronted by his heart. He is confronted by the world. Whichever way he turns, he can not hide away from the mirror. He has to confront it, in it he sees his heart, his consciousness, and in his heart he realises his external reality. He becomes aware. Looking in (into yourself) is the only way to look out, to comprehend the extent of the universe and your relationship with it. The parrot speaks after looking into the mirror seeing his image. In the same way, our heart is our way of communicating to our external reality. The heart is part of the world, and at the same time the heart shows the image of the world (reflects it). The Self and the Universe are one each reflecting on one other by the act of looking into (Mirror)

Meaning of difficult words :-
az = from/then/by
mehar = sun
taa = to
bah = sand
zarrah = atom, particle
shash = six
jihat = direction
tootee = bird (could be a parrot)
muqabil = confronting, opposing

Translation - Dost Gamkhvari Mein Meri Sai (Ghalib)

dost gamkhvari mein meri sai farmavenge kya
zakhm ke bharne talak nakhun na badh javenge kya

beniyazi had se guzri banda paravar kab talak
hum kahenge hal-e-dil aur aap farmavenge kya

hazarat-e-naseh gar aayen didah-o-dil farsh-e-rah
koi mujh ko ye to samajha do ki samajhavenge kya

aj van teg-o-kafan bandhe hue jata hun main
uzr mera qatl karne mein wo ab lavenge kya

gar kiya naseh ne hum ko qaid acha yon sahi
ye junun-e-ishq ke andaz chhut javenge kya

khana zad-e-zulf hain zanjir se bhagenge kya
hain giraftar-e-vafa zindan se ghabaravenge kya

hai ab is mamure mein kahat-e-gam-e-ulfat asad
hum ne ye mana ki dilli mein rahe khavenge kya

Meaning of difficult words
gamkhvari - grief-eating
sai - help
farmavenge - to give advise or say informally
beniyazi - indifference/freedom from want
paravar - nourisher
naseh - advisor
didah-o-dil - eyes and heart.
farsh-e-rah - carpet in the path
teg - sword
uzr - objection, excuse
zad-e-zulf - slave of curls
khana - house
zindan- prison
mamure - an inhabited place
kahat - drought
ulfat - affection

Line 1/2 - In my state of affliction/sorrow and friends comforting me, what help would my friend attempt to administer. By the time my wounds fill up and heal, wouldn't my fingernails grow up again? Ghalib in his brilliant best says, in this my state of sorrow and discomfort, what informal advise or help can my friends offer? Maybe they will tell me to cut my finger nails so that I can not scratch my wounds. But what good would come from that? Before my wounds heals, my finger nails would have grown again and I would again be back scratching my wounds. The lover mocks that in this state of his, friends are of no help!

Line 3/4 - The indifference has passed the limits, Oh Cherisher of servants, till when? We tell the state of our heart and you indifferently say - what? The lover says that the indifference of his beloved has passed the limits now. Till when? The beloved is referred in an honorific title as the protectors of followers. The lover opens his heart out and she says - what? as if inattentive and not even listening to the pleas of the lover.

Line 5/6 - If his lordship the advisor would come to me, I would lay down my eyes and heart out like a carpet in his path. Someone explain to me then - what will he explain? Again the lover mocks the helpful and well meaning advisors and says that he respects them highly, but tell me what they will explain to me? what can they advise me to help me lessen the pain of my sorrow?

Line 7/8 - Today, I go there having tied my sword and the shroud. What excuse will she put up now for not killing me. The lover says today I have resolved myself to die having a sword and a kafan (shroud) wrapped around my head as I head towards her place. What excuse she will have today for not killing me? I have the sword which she can use to slay me, besides I am ready for my death and have come prepared for it.

Line 9/10 - If the Advisor would imprison us, then al right, so be it! These shades of the madness of love and passion - will these also be let go of. Would these leave us? Ghalib says that even if the advisor imprisons us, the shades and temperament of my madness would not go away. I will still wear them even if you imprison my body. This madness is my dress and my reward for my passion.

 Line 11/12 - I belong to the house of slaves of curls. Why will I run away from chains. I am a captive of faithfulness, why would I be afraid of prison. The lover says that he belongs to a house which is slave to the curls. Here the curls of hair akin to the chains. So why would I run away from the chains. I am in them already. Also I am captive to faithfulness and hence does not need to fear prison as I am already a prisoner.

Line 13/14 - There is now in this place, a drought or scarcity of the grief of love, Asad! We have agreed to this that we will remain in Dilli, but what will we eat? Ghalib says in this place there is a scarcity of the grief of love, in fact there is no love for where there is love there has to be grief of love as well. And we are so used to eating grief of love and living by it that though we can live in this place, but what are we going to eat? for there is no grief here! In this city there is no passion, no lovers and no beloveds.

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XXI








Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.










This is the twenty-first quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. This quatrain as like so many that came earlier tells us that the same fate awaits us all. Look at all the people some we loved, some the loveliest of people we ever met and other the best of people. The best of them were prepared by the working of the Time and of the Fate. Even these very best, will all eventually die having drank from their cup of fortunes.And slowly one by one all will silently creep to the eventual rest, even the loveliest and the best. The Fate of all is same. As someone truly sad - "After the game is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box."

Borges : The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero (Summary)

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.

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.

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.

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 (Summary)

"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

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. 

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!

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

Photo Of The Day

 Omkareswara Temple, Coorg

Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery, Coorg 

Borges : Funes, His Memory (Summary)

"Funes, His Memory" tells the story of a frictional Borges who meets a boy named Funes in Fray Bentos who he recalls as a one with a taciturn face, Indian features and an extraordinary remoteness. His recollections of him (on which this story is) are based on in all three interactions with Funes. In the first chance meeting, he asks him what time it is and Funes instantly replies the exact time without a blink. Funes is mentioned as someone who always knows what time it was, like a clock. Some years later Borges returns to Fray Bentos. It is revealed to him that Funes got crippled in a tragic horse riding accident. Borges meanwhile has started studying Latin and brought with himself some Latin books & dictionary. News of  this reaches Funes and he sends across a note asking if he could borrow some of the books and a dictionary as he wants to learn Latin. Borges in conceit as to if  Latin could really be mastered using just a dictionary sends across the most difficult book to remove any of Funes misconceptions.
Some days later, Borges receives a telegram and has to go back to Buenos Aires. Before leaving he recalls that Funes has some of his books and visits him to collect them. At his home, he is led to his room, which is in total darkness. Funes is heard speaking loudly, clear and perfect Latin, reciting a chapter of the book that Borges gave. The subject of the chapter was memory. In conversation with Borges, Funes lists the cases of extraordinary memory cited in the book and says he was amazed that such cases were thought to be amazing. Funes explains since the accident his memory has been so rich, so clear and so complete that he does not seem to take notice of his immobility. He for example can remember the shape of the clouds on a particular afternoon, or every leaf that he sees on a tree. "Nor were those memories simple — every visual image was linked to muscular sensations, thermal sensations, and so on. He was able to reconstruct every dream, every daydream he had ever had. Two or three times he had reconstructed an entire day; he had never once erred or faltered, but each reconstruction had itself taken an entire day." They talk into the night. Funes recalls that he once invented a numbering system where a different word had a particular numeric figure attached to it like 'leaf' for 99 and 'aah' for 203. Borges argued that is exact opposite of what number system was meant to accomplish(ie. bring order), but Funes somehow seem incapable of understanding. Funes also contemplates a language where he catalogs all mental images of his perception at any given time. Such a catalog would be total sum of his memory and a complete language to represent those memories in space and time. A book perceived today would be a different from one perceived tomorrow in this catalog and hence would have a different name. Both these projects though idiotic and meaningless, tell Borges about the fascinating and dizzying world that Funes lives in. A grandeur of endless possibilities. A simpler perceptive and sensory overload where order is sacrificed for detail. In-spite of such detail, Funes was incapable of general, platonic ideas. His world was not of abstraction, but of endless and mind numbing and yet perceptible details. "His own face in the mirror, his own hands, surprised him every time he saw them. Funes could continually perceive the quiet advances of corruption, of tooth decay, of weariness. He saw — he noticed — the progress of death, of humidity. He was the solitary, lucid spectator of a multiform, momentaneous, and almost unbearably precise world." Such detail made Funes restless and unable to sleep at night. To sleep is to take one’s mind from the workings of the world. But for him, laying on a cot, he can picture every crack, every crevice in the wall of his house. "He had effortlessly learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very good at thinking. To think is to ignore (or forget) differences, to generalize, to abstract. In the teeming world of Funes there was nothing but particulars — and they were virtually immediate particulars." They talked the whole night. In the morning light, Borges saw his face, Funes all of nineteen years looks as monumental as bronze, as old as the Egypt's pyramids. "I was struck by the thought that every word I spoke, every expression of my face or motion of my hand would endure in his implacable memory; I was rendered clumsy by the fear of making pointless gestures." We are told that Funes did couple of years later of pulmonary congestion. End.

In the Funes fascinating world, there are only absolutes realities. There is this moment wrapped around the arrow of time, each of these moment having a set of unique and permanent mental images. Funes is able to perceive all this countless moments in extreme detail. Funes is incapable of generalizing or detail suppression. The details that he perceive in fact blur the subject's identity by focusing greatly on it. All is consumed by this detail. Funes forgets nothing, in his mind there is the sum total of all his perception that he has comes across. In his languages, there is the sum total of all his thoughts. Yet, he is unable of thinking, of reason for he is mired in particulars. He is the pinnacle of human mind and yet he is crippled by the absolute nature of his knowledge. He can not think, categorize, organize, abstract and logically differentiate anything. For him, any thing at any two different moments are two different thing. In fact, there is no general model of anything. Each thought as such is a unique model. We have created this world view because we can not remember or perceive all of it. I can not perceive if today is as hot as yesterday, so to help me I have create a model called the temperature scale to measure the hotness of the day. Funes has no such shortcomings. For him, these memories are his past, present and future. He has a perfect and total memory, but no imagination to create these generalizations and abstracts. For him all thoughts and events are equidistant, he will be unable to order them and act on them. He would not see a pattern in the world, he would not see a pattern in himself. He would not be able to hide thoughts or enhance thoughts but live his thoughts over and over again with nothing to imagine. A perfect prisoner to himself. We through imperfect memories, images and imagination we create an identity for ourselves. For Funes there will be no Self, but only a train of thoughts as same as the reality he lived.

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XVII


They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep;
And Bahram, that great Hunter--the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep.

As with other previous quatrains, the recurring theme is one of frailty of the human glories in the face of the passage of time.Khayyam says that the mighty lion and the lowly lizard inhabit the land which once used to be the courts of the greatest king the land has ever seen, King Jamshed. In these lands where once Jamshed basked in his glory and hunted and drank, are no more his fiefdom any more. Nature has taken over it and the mighty and the lowly thrive unconcerned of past glories of human conquest. Same has happened with King Bahram who was known as a great hunter of the wild ass in ancient Persia. Now, the wild ass stamps on his grave as if to wake him up from his perpetual sleep, but it can not break his sleep.The human glories, the human conquests are just specks in the arrow of time that waits for no one. Newer glories will replace older ones and the march of time continues. The heroes of one era will be dust in the next and in all this tumult, time will be never-ending like a wave that comes over and over again, washing away the footprints on the sand.

Translation - Zulmat Kade Mein Mere (Ghalib)

zulmat_kade mein mere shab-e-gham ka josh hai
ik shamma'a hai daleel-e-sahar, so khamosh hai

nai  muzda-e-wisaal na nazzaara-e-jamaal
muddat huee ki aashtee-e-chashm-o-gosh hai

mai ne kiya hai, husn-e-khud_aara ko be_hijaab
'ai shauq, haan ijaazat-e-tasleem-e-hosh  hai

gauhar ko ikd-e-gardan-e-khubaan mein dekhna
kya auj par  sitaara-e-gauhar_farosh  hai

deedaar, waada, hausla, saaqee, nigaah-e-mast
bazm-e-khayaal maikada-e-be_kharosh hai

'ei taaza  waaridan-e-bisaat-e-hawa-e-dil
zinhaar gar tumhain hawas-e-na-o-nosh hai

dekho  mujhe jo  deeda-e-ibrat_nigaah ho
meree suno jo gosh-e-naseehat_niyosh hai

saaqee  ba_jalwa  dushman-e-imaan-o-aagahee
mutrib ba_naghma rahzan-e-tamkeen-o-hosh hai

ya shab ko dekhte the; ki har gosha-e-bisaat
daamaan-e-baaghbaan-o-kaf-e-gul_farosh   hai

lutf-e-khiraam-e-saaqee-o-zauq-e-sada-e-chang
yeh  jannat-e-nigaah  woh firdaus-e-gosh  hai

ya subh  dam jo dekhiye aakar to bazm mein
nai woh suroor-o-soz na josh-o-kharosh hai

daagh-e-firaaq-e-sohabat-e-shab kee jalee hooee
ik shamma`a reh gaee hai so wo bhee khamosh hai

aate hain ghaib se ye mazaameen khayaal mein
ghalib,  sareer-e-khaama nawa-e-sarosh hai

Line 1/2 - In this my place of darkness, there is this fervor and emotion of the night of grief. There is a candle which is the sign of the morning and that too is silent. Ghalib says in this my house(world) where darkness pervades and there is passion in me due to this night of grief. The extinguished candle is the proof that the morning has come by. As dawn approaches the candle is blown off. So though my world is still dark (and possibly more darker due to the candle being blown off), there is hope that the dawn is coming soon.

Line 3/4 - Neither the good news of our meeting nor the sight of such a beautiful face. It has been a long time, that there has been a peace between the eyes and the ears. The news of meeting makes the ears fill with joy, but makes the eyes jealous and the glance of her beautiful face brightens my eyes but make the ears jealous. It has been a long time now that there has been peace and quiet for neither the eyes get the see her and the ears get to hear the news and so there is harmony between them.(for there is nothing to be jealous about)

Line 5/6 - The wine has lifted it, the veil of the beauty of the self adorer. Oh! the desire indeed, there is the permission to surrender the senses. Ghalib says that the wine has lifted this veil of the self adorning's beauty. Oh! the desires of my heart, now you too have permission to sacrifice your senses.(an extension being that just by looking at the unveiled beauty, no one can remain in their senses)

Line 7/8 - I saw the pearl in the necklace of a beautiful person(my beloved). What height the star of the pearl merchant is!. Ghalib says I saw my beloved and the pearls on those lovely necklace she has. Look at the fortune(star) of that pearl seller. His pearls adorn such a magnificent beauty.

Line 9/10 - Appearance, promise, courage, bartender, a intoxicating sight. The meeting of thoughts is like a bar without a tumult. Ghalib says the mind is like a wine-house. Lot of things are competing for attention, the only thing that is different in this virtual bar(mind) is that this bar lacks the hustle bustle of the real bar.    

Line 11/12 - Oh! the fresh arrivals at the chessboard of the desires of the heart. Be warned! if you lust for feasting and drinking. The poet says oh! you the un-experienced lovers who have just entered the minefield of the longing of the heart. If you lust for drinking and feasting, then beware!

Line 13/14 - Look at me if your eyes can bear the sight of a rebuked person. Listen to me if you have the ear of the advise listener. The poet says look at me, look at my state if your eyes can look at a admonished person and if you have an ear that is ready to listen to advise of others, then listen to me.(referring to himself as probably a rebuked lover who can give a word of caution to the newly minted lovers)

Line 15/16 - The bartender with his tricks & style is an enemy of integrity and knowledge. A singer with a beautiful song is a robber of power and understanding. The poet says the bartender with his magic of wine is the enemy of wisdom and dignity for these attributes take leave as the wine takes effect. And as melodious music plays, the power and senses also leave. The music makes me weak and lost.

Line 17/18 - Either at night we used to look, that every corner of the spread. It is the shirt of the gardener and the sleeve of the flower seller. The poet says at night, every corner of the spread (gathering) is full of flowers. The corners have become the shirt of the gardener and the sleeve of the flower seller for they decorated with full of flowers.

Line 19/20 - Enjoy the intoxicating gait of the bartender and the taste of sound of the flute. One is the heaven for the eyes and the other the paradise for the ear.

Line 21/22 - Or else come to the meeting at the break of dawn and take a look. Neither that joy of passion nor excitement and turmoil is there. The poet says come and take a look at the gathering at the break of the dawn. All that hustle bustle and commotion of the night is no longer here. There is no pleasure of passion/ardour nor there is excitement of tumult.

Line 23/24 - Burned by the scar of separation of company of the night. Only one candle has remained, and that too is silent. The poet says being burnt by the wound of separation of the companionship of the night. In this lonely night there was one candle left and that too has been burnt out and the dawn has still not arrived. The burning night of misery has no respite.

Line 25/26 - These topics comes mysteriously(or from the hidden) to my mind. Ghalib, the scratching sound made by the pen is the voice of the angel. The poet says that such topics/themes comes from the hidden/unknown (some higher power) into his mind. Oh Ghalib! the sound of my pen writing is the voice of the angel.

Meaning of the difficult word -
zulmat = darkness
kade = place of
daleele = proof
sahar = morning
muzda = good news
wisaal = meeting
nazzaara-e-jamaal = seeing a beautiful face
aashtee = harmony/friendship/peace
chashm = eye
gosh = ear
mai = bar
khud_aara = self adorer
hijaab = veil
tasleem = greeting
gauhar = pearl/gem
ikd-e-gardan = necklace
khubaan = a beautiful person/sweetheart
auj = highest point/summit
farosh = merchant
deedaar = appearance
be_kharosh = quiet/dead
waaridan = arrivals
bisaat = chess
hawa = desire/greed
zinhaar = be warned!
hawas = lust/greed
na-o-nosh = feasting/drinking
deedaa= sight
ibrat = admonition
gosh = ear
naseehat = advice
niyosh = listener
aagahee = wisdom
mutrib = singer
rahazan = robber
tamkeen = authority/power
gosha = corner
baaghbaan = gradener
kaf = sleeve
gul_farosh = florist
khiraam = speed
zauq = taste
sada = sound
chang = lute
firdaus = paradise
suroor = pleasure
soz = passion/heat
firaaq = separation
sohabat = company
ghaib = hidden/mysterious
mazaameen = topics
sareer = scratching sound made by a pen
khaama = pen
nawa = sound
sarosh = angel