Poems Of India - III

Milk is left over
from the calves.
Water is left over
from the fishes,
flowers from the bees.

How can I worship you,
O'Siva, with such offal?
But it's not for me
to despise left-overs,
so take what comes,

lord of the meeting rivers.

-- BASAVAŅŅA [Translated by A. K. Ramanujan in the book - Speaking of Siva]

Poems Of India - II

The rich
will make temples for Śiva.

What shall I,
a poor man,

My legs are pillars,
the body the shrine,
the head a cupola
of gold.

Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
things standing shall fall,
but the moving ever shall stay.

-- BASAVAŅŅA [Translated by A. K. Ramanujan in the book - Speaking of Siva]

Photo Of The Day

Above pictures taken at Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XLV

But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me
The Quarrel of the Universe let be:
And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht,
Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee.

This is the forty-fifth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. The poet says to the reader, Come with me and leave the wise behind to wrangle with the workings of the universe and their quarrel with the way it works. And in some corner of this clamour and din of the world around us, lay quiet and let it be, take it lightly (make game) of what comes your way. Leave everything behind and come with me, leave the wise to argue and debate on their disagreement of the universe. Ignore of what's they think of you/happens to you and amidst this hue and cry, take it easy and enjoy your time!

Poems Of India - I

Fire can burn
but cannot move.

Wind can move
but cannot burn.

Till fire joins wind
it cannot take a step.

Do men know
it's like that
with knowing and doing?

--DĒVARA DĀSIMAYYA [Translated by A. K. Ramanujan in the book - Speaking of Siva]

Borges - The Shape Of The Sword (Summary)

In this short story "The Shape Of The Sword" Borges revisits his theme of shared experience of the whole of humanity that is a recurring theme in many of his works. In this story, the narrator tells of a man called "the Englishman" who has a vengeful scar on his face. During a session of their drinking together at his place, the narrator inquires about his scar. The host agrees to tell the story under one condition - "no contempt or condemnation be withheld, no mitigation for any iniquity be pleaded." The Englishman reveals that he is in fact Irish and was a revolutionary conspiring to win Ireland's independence. During these times, he met a young man called John Vincent Moon who was also part of the struggle, though the Englishman impression of him was that he is invertebrate and full of vanity of his supposed intellect. The young man showed arrogance and contempt towards whosoever gets into a debate with him. One night, they are stopped by a soldier, John freezes because of terror, but the Englishman knocks down the soldier and they ran away. During this melee, a bullet grazes John's shoulder who is visibly shaken and they take refuse in a country home. Nine days they spent here. The Englishman leaving at dawn and returning late every night while working with other undergrounds, on the other hand John stayed at home feigning injury.
I was embarrassed by the man and his fear, shamed by him, as though I myself were the coward, not Vincent Moon. Whatsoever one man does, it is as though all men did it. That is why it is not unfair that a single act of disobedience in a garden should contaminate all humanity; that is why it is not unfair that a single Jew’s crucifixion should be enough to save it. Schopenhauer may have been right—I am other men, any man is all men, Shakespeare is somehow the wretched John Vincent Moon.
On the tenth day, he returns early and hears John talking to someone on the phone, promising to deliver him in return for guarantee of his own safety. The Englishman seizes a sword and chases him across the vast country house and leaves an unforgiving scar on his face before he is arrested. The Englishman then says to the narrator
To you alone,Borges—you who are a stranger—I have made this confession. Your contempt is perhaps not so painful. Here the narrator halted. I saw that his hands were trembling."And Moon?" I asked. "What became of Moon?""He was paid his Judas silver and he ran off to Brazil. That evening, in the city square, I saw a dummy shot by a firing squad of drunks."I waited vainly for the rest of the story. Finally, I asked him to go on.A groan made his entire body shiver; he gestured, feebly, gently, toward the curving whitish scar."Do you not believe me?" he stammered. "Do you not see set upon my face the mark of my iniquity? I have told you the story this way so that you would hear it out. It was / who betrayed the man who saved me and gave me shelter—it is /who am Vincent Moon. Now, despise me." 

Borges again raises the idea of interdependence of all human experience, the shared experience of what one man goes through, it is as if all men go through. In this story, even though the John switches his identity and tells the story about himself and his betrayal, yet he is shamed by John's cowardice not because he is in fact John but because in some measure all men (including himself) shared the same cowardice. And to similar end, he identifies with the "Englishman" whose death he caused. The notion of "what you are" and "what you are not" is no more there. I am all men! The hero is a villain and vice-versa. The experiences are shared, the consciousness is shared. There is nothing original to it. What I have felt, would have been felt by some one before me in past and would be felt by someone after me in future. Experiences are nothing but repetitions of what has happened previously or previously experienced. The loss of originality of an experience or an emotion can be extended to the loss of individuality  or of "Being". How can I claim to be I if I am just a repetition in an endless cycles of thought! What is my claim to originality of thought? of my ego, my betrayal, my passion, my defeat.

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain XLIV

The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord,
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword.

This is the forty-fourth quatrain of the FitzGerald's Rubaiyat and among the more obtuse ones in my opinion. It talks of the mighty warlord Mahmud who with his enchanted sword scatters away and defeats the non believers and the black horde that dwell in the heart of men as fear and sorrow. As to what FitzGerald meant with these lines is anybody's guess. I mean with the benefit of hindsight we know Mahmud though mighty was any thing but enlightened. His countless raids of plunder and mayhem of Indian subcontinent is well known and if FitzGerald is conveying that Mahmud is the slayer of a non physical enemy like the sorrow and fear of the soul and having spiritual powers to rid people of the soul's misery, then it leaves me perplexed and confused about what he means with this quatrain. Perhaps written from the victors viewpoint, Mahmud has vanquished the infidels and the misery that afflicts the soul of these vanquished men with his magical sword. As with any lines of Rubaiyat, I can over-interpret.. but I will leave it at that!

Poem Of The Day

Another of Whitman's small and great poem. This one is called "A Noiseless Patient Spider". The poem imagines a small spider noiselessly and forever toiling in an uncertain surrounding, trying to find its footing. The spider isolated on a rocky beach, clutching to anything it can hold on to, sending out yarns and pulling them back in to explore the vast emptiness around it, to figure out anything it can root on to, anything that made sense or to make sense of it.

An precisely in the same manner, the speaker's effort to connect to the universe. Standing there, along in this world, his soul laid bare, surrounded and detached in this vastness of space and thought and time. Never tiring to find a connection, a meaning in this world that gives some sense to it, some perspective to living and life in this endless search and madness till the time the gossamer thread do clutch to something tangible and real. Whether the speaker is able to find something in the universe or he spends his whole life searching for it is not clear.

You can read another of Whitman's gems here.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Photo Of The Day

Above pictures taken at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Chinatown, Singapore

Busy shipping lanes on the Singapore Strait

Translation - Kabhee Nekee Bhee Uske Jee Mein Gar Aa Jaaye (Ghalib)

kabhee nekee bhee uske jee mein gar aa jaaye hai mujhse
jafaayen  karke  apnee  yaad   sharma  jaaye hai mujhse

Line 1/2 - If only, sometimes goodness also comes into her temperament towards me. Remembering her cruelties and torments (towards me), she is embarrassed before me. The poet says the beloved in some rare sense of generosity has shown kindness and benevolence towards him unlike the usual indifference and torment. But even in this moment of kindness, she recalls her own cruelty towards him and feels ashamed to come across him. I am a miserable self, the beloved's usual behavior is of cruelty and indifference and on a rare day of kindness, she won't even come in front of me (out of embarrassment) and grant me her graces. Such is my luck which has no respite at all!

khudaaya ! jazbaa-e-dil  kee   magar   taaseer  ultee hai
ki jitna khintchataa hoon aur khintchtaa jaaye hai mujhse

Line 3/4 - Oh Lord! perhaps the impression/effect of the emotions of the heart have been reversed. For, as much as I pull, she goes on being more pulled away from me. The poet says O Lord! probably the effect of the emotions of the heart have been inverted. The emotions have been those of attractions of the heart but maybe the effects of it have been reversed. Instead of being attracted towards me, the more I try to draw her towards me, the more she draws away (in the same measure) from me. There is no mention if the beloved is purposefully doing it (drawing away) or it is the effect of his attraction that have somehow been reversed!

woh   bad_khoo   aur  meree  daastan-e-ishq   tulaanee
ibaarat mukhtasar, qaasid bhee ghabra jaaye hai mujhse    

Line 5/6 - That (the beloved) bad habits/behavior and my tale of love (is) long. To keep the speech short, even the messenger gets bewildered because of me. The poet says the beloved's bad conduct (of indifference and rebuke towards him) and my epic narrative of love and passion is very long. To cut the long story short, even the messenger becomes nervous when he hears my lengthy message. Leave alone the ill tempered beloved, even the messenger gets into panic at the thought of having to hear my long story. (or probably the messenger gets into panic at the thought on what the response of the ill- mouthed beloved will be when he narrates the message). The poet willingly makes the long story short to sum up his situation with the messenger but he is unable to make his long epic a bit concise for the fear he will not get his passion across to her. He can't make it any less shorter. Such is the perplexity of the lover! Very clever usage of long daastan (an epic tale full of subplots and themes) and a concise ibaarat (diction) in the sher.

udhar woh bad_ghumaanee hai, idhar yeh naatavaanee hai
na  poocha jaaye hai us'se,  na bola jaaye hai  mujhse

Line 7/8 - Over there there was suspicious-ness and distrust, over here there is weakness and inability. Neither is she able to ask, nor I am able to speak. The poet says over there, there is doubts and distrust about my love for her and so she does not ask about it. Over here, I am unable and powerless (weakness due to grief) and hence unable to speak to her. Her suspicion stops her from asking and my weakness stops me from speaking to her. What can I do? She does not ask and I can not speak. How will I convince her of my love. The use of idhaar-udhaar to specify the lover and the beloved without actually pointing to them and this also expresses the remoteness of the other and the emotional distance between them!

sambhalne de mujhe 'ei na_ummidee  kya qayaamat hai
ki daamaan-e-khayaal-e-yaar choota jaaye hai mujhse

Line 9/10 - Let me get hold of myself, oh! hopelessness, what (is it?) doomsday it is!. That dress-hem (daamaan) of the thought of the beloved is slipping out of my reach. The poet says let me get hold of my self, let me steady myself. Oh hopelessness! why did you throw me down? What a doomsday it is! that I lost my grip on the hem of the thought of the beloved. Due to that fall, it has slipped out of my hand. What a calamity it is! The lover is beseeching the hopelessness to not annoy him for he has only the hem of the thought to comfort him. The use of hem of the thought and not thought is interesting. daamaan is usually the trailing portion of the dress and the beloved goes past the lover indifferent and all he has is the thought of her hem dragging along. The lover has inverted it into hem of her thought and is clinging on to it. The other reading is where the lover questions if this is doomsday? It could be doomsday only for then it would be possible for hopelessness to get the better of me and cause me to loose my grip. No other situation would have caused me to shake me of my despair and let go of the hem of the thought of the beloved. It must be doomsday for sure!

takalluf bar-taraf nazzaaragee mein bhee sahi, lekin
woh dekha jaaye, kab ye zulm dekha jaaye hai mujhse

Line 11/12 - Leave aside the formality, I too indeed am a spectator[engaged in watching her], but. That it is to be seen, when is this cruelty to be looked upon by me? nazzaaragee means looking at or seeing and is taken from nazzaarah which means a view or a show. The poet says leave aside the formality, I am also a spectator here looking at her (beloved). To tell you the truth, even I am also engaged in watching her. She is such a beauty that she has to be seen. But when am I going to look into this cruelty of others watching her. When will I take care of this cruelty and torment of people watching her. But then he also says to tell you the truth even I am among the people watching her!

hue  hain  paanv hee pehle nabard-e-ishq  mein zakhmee
na bhaaga jaaye hai mujhse, na thehra jaaye hai mujhse

Line 13/14 -  It is the feet that were first wounded in the struggle of love. I am neither able to run, nor I able to stay. The poet says my feet were the first causalities in the battle of love. The lover leaves open the question of as to how and why were his legs injured in the early battle for love. They are not particularly relevant, what is crucial is the situation the lover find himself in. He is lying on the ground unable to put up a fight or flee the battle. The lover finds himself in a pitiable situation indeed vis-a-vis the beloved where both the options are not available. Neither can he die in the battle for love, nor can he flee in the hope of coming back again later. All he can do is to narrate his abject condition with despair!

qayaamat  hai  ke  howe  muddaee  ka  ham_safar 'ghalib'
woh kaafir, jo khuda ko bhee na saunpa jaaye hai mujhse

Line 15/16 - It's is a doomsday, that (she) has become a fellow traveler of the enemy, ghalib. That infidel, who I can not entrust even to the God. The poet says it is a calamity, it's the doomsday that she has agreed to become a fellow traveler of my enemy (a rival suitor for the beloved's favors). I can not entrust this infidel (her) even to the Lord. Now consider this setting. The beloved is leaving on a journey with his rival and the lover during their farewell instead of the customary greeting khudaa-haafiz (may God be your guardian) says he can't even entrust her (hand her custody) to God out of jealousy and such strong feelings for her even though it would do her some good for she is an infidel. And yet for someone who can not trust her even to God, has to bear at the thought of her going on the journey with his rival. Such is the irony of my situation. It surely must be doomsday!

Meaning of difficult words -
jafaayen = oppression/tyranny of a beloved
jazbaa-e-dil = emotions
taaseer = impression
bad_khoo = bad habits
tulaanee = long
ibaarat = diction/ admonishing
mukhtasar = concise
qaasid = messenger
badghumaanee = suspicion
naatavaanee = weakness
daamaan = hem of the dress
taqalluf = hesitation/formality
bar-taraf = suspend
nabard-e-ishaq = struggle in love
muddaee  = enemy/conniver
saunpa = confide / entrust

Read more posts on Ghalib.