Photo Of The Day

Empress Falls from the Empress Lookout

Empress Falls

Wentworth Falls from Rocket Point Lookout

For Sunday Reading

In a span of little over a month I have moved over such a wide swathe of literature from Albert Camus's "The Stranger" to TS Eliot's "The Waste Land" and now to Henry David Thoreau "Walden". All of these works are such defining works of their respective genre that are guiding lighthouses of their philosophy and intellectual thought. From Camus's Existentialism to Eliot's Modernism to Walden's Transcendentalism. Each of them such comprehensive universe in themselves and often confusing interpretations and boundaries that makes them hard to define and even harder to understand. I will probably some day may have so much understanding to write about what these '-isms' mean. In the meanwhile you can read about them here. I found a nice timeline on the same site that I am copying below. Happy reading!

TS Eliot : The Waste Land - A Game Of Chess (Summary)

This is part 2 of the four part series on the T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. You can read the entire poem here. The first part dealt with my version of the section "The Burial Of The Dead". This part will try to interpret (mine) the section "A Game Of Chess".

The first part dealt with the sterility of the land and love where love has lost the power to redeem and invigorate the times. This part builds on the same theme but is not as extensive as the first part. From what I could grasp, there are two broad stanzas with different context and narrator all reinforcing the theme of lust, breakdown and drudgery in marriage .

The first stanza opens with opulent setting where a wealthy lady sits on a high chair in a room stocked with all the paraphernalia of the rich society. The room is filled with big paintings on the walls, perfumes that pervades the room, ivory vials of exotic scents that fill the satin cases. The lady herself is covered with glitter from all the jewels she is wearing. The setting though luxuriant looks artificial and of decay and decadence. The spirits are all confused and troubled by the fresh air coming from the open window (metaphor on state of disarray inside due to the incoming fear of the unknown). The whiff of air flatten the candles that burn and smoke fills the grand room. The setting shows the lives of the high society who though are free from the grinding of the daily struggle still face the emotional and sexual collapse due to self absorption. The painting of Philomela, a character out of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is hung on the wall. Philomela is raped by her brother-in-law Tereus, who then cuts her tongue out to keep her quiet. She manages to tell her sister, who helps her avenge herself by murdering the king’s son and feeding him to the king. The sisters are then changed into birds, Philomela into a nightingale. The story of Philomela brings the lust and cruelty into the foreground. The woman here in the poem is like Philomela (unable to speak) sitting alone on a high pedestal unable to reconcile to her luxurious environs chirping meaningless verses (like a nightingale). Lust (using Philomela story) is one setting here that showed love not only failed to invigorate but instead broke down into a vicious circle of cruelty and revenge. The wealthy woman is also neurotic (maybe by self destructing occupation with the self and materialism) and pleads her lover to stay with her and talk to her, while the lover is obsessed with nihilistic ideas and thoughts of drowning. Occasionally we see a hint of absolute terror in his speech. This lack of communication and emotional attachment negates any chances of love and alleviating the sterility of their lives. What ever little communication happens is a cacophony of mindless babble of the neurotic and frantic couple incapable of shared sentiment. In the last lines, the woman plans for what she is going to do the next day (an outing, a game of chess) which appears to be a meaningless rote. It signifies the diversion and distraction that typically masks the routine married life where love has been pushed to the boundary.

The second stanza is a conversation that happens between two women in a crowded bar that is about to close. The women are talking about a certain Lil whose husband is about to be demobilized from the army and would be returning home. Their talk shows that they all belong to the working class unlike the high society in the first stanza. The women talk about how they chided Lil to mend herself up (get a new set of false teeth) so that when Albert returns he finds her pleasing. The women gossip telling her that Albert would leave her for some other attractive woman if she does not improve her appearance. Lil replies that she is on certain pills that is making her sick (could be pills for abortion). She has already got five times pregnant, all at the age of 31 and was near dying due to the last pregnancy. She does not want more, but Albert won't leave her alone. All this conversation happens in the midst of the frequent calls by the bar owner about "it's time to close". The two women greet each other and leave. The stanza shows the rushed existence of the working class made evident by the many calls of the bar owner. The poor have no culture, but only gossip and trivialities and the drudgery of marriage.The poet juxtaposes the high society experiences with the lives of the working class and retorts that ultimately it is in the same state. In working class, the love and sexual lives have become demeaning and the vitality is missing due to the premature aging brought frequent abortions and promiscuity. In the richer classes, it has become materialistic and sometimes neurotic. So in both there is no life enhancing sense of joy, no live giving fertility. Neither high nor working class sexuality is generative. The Fisher King will have to wait more. Nowhere is the sense of redemption and potency. Everything is sterile. A Waste Land.

Photo Of The Day

Wentworth Falls from Fletcher Lookout, NSW

Wentworth Falls from Fletcher Lookout, NSW

Lucas Caves, NSW

Translation - Aah Ko Chahiye Ek (Ghalib)

aah ko chahiye ek umar asar hone tak
kaun jeeta hai tere zulf ke sar hone tak?

Line 1/2 - Ghalib laments that it would take a lifetime of sighs of the lover to have an influence (or affect) on the heart of the beloved. Who knows who will live so long so see this fructify. Who will live so long to see your hairs properly arranged and your small nuances (curls of your hairs could mean the tangled/mysterious ways of your life) to get resolved. The poet says these small niceties/concerns of yours may take forever and who knows if I am alive to see you finally free and giving me the full attention that I deserve.

daam har mauj mein hai halqa-e-sad kaam-e-nahang
dekhain kya guzre hai qatre pe guhar hone tak

Line 3/4 - In a net of each ocean wave, lies a circle of devouring crocodiles with hundred jaws. See what struggle a grain of sand has to go through to become a magnificent pearl. The metaphor, the imagery in the lines is simply breathtaking. The poet says that life is full of endless churning (as waves in the vast ocean) and of dangerous obstacles (like the menacing crocodiles on this ocean) and yet my deep love for you and my patience will ultimately make my love, the jewel of my life. This love will survive against all odds slowly growing on to be something really magnificent and worth cherishing.

aashiqee sabr talab aur tamanna betaab
dil ka kya rang karoon khoon-e-jigar hone tak?

Line 5/6 - True love asks for patience but this desire and longing and search is making me restless. How should my heart remain, until I am consumed by this suffering? What color should I paint my heart with till it dies with in the agony of love? What should be the mood/temperament of my heart until you destroy it with your whims and indifference? What kind of emotion should it wear until it is killed? The poet says he know love demands patience but what should he tell his heart until it is ruthlessly broken by the beloved.

ham ne maana ke taghaful na karoge, lekin
khaak ho jaayenge ham tumko khabar hone tak

Line 7/8 -I know you will not be indifferent to me, but I may have died and turned to dust when the news of my situation reaches you. The poet says that I know you will not be apathetic towards me forever, but it could be that by the time you care to inquire about my well being (or respond to my love); I may be dead and turned to dust. The poet reassuringly tells his beloved, that I understand you will not be indifferent towards me, but who knows I may be dust by the time you get some news of me. One could also interpret it as poet hinting that if his love is not requited he will kill himself for the sake of love and it will be the only news she will get.

partav-e-khur se hai shabnam ko fana'a ki taaleem
main bhi hoon ek inaayat ki nazar hone tak

Line 9/10 - The morning drops of dew know of their imminent death by the morning sun's rays. The morning sun has taught them this lesson of mortality. I too, exist only till you grant me with a glance. The poet compares the radiant early sun with his beloved’s face and said that dew knows of its transitory life, I too live till the time I catch your glance. Your one glimpse is enough to take my life away. Beautiful simile indeed!

ek nazar besh naheen fursat-e-hastee ghaafil
garmi-e-bazm hai ik raqs-e-sharar hone tak

Line 11/12 - A single glance (from you) and no more is enough to fill the years (span) of my life and keep me lost in this world careless thinking of you only. That one glance is adequate to make me lose interest in the matters of living. Alternatively one can argue that it could mean the exact opposite where the poet says that - just your one glance is not enough for me and for my existence that is unaware/confused and looking for answers. The warmth of the meeting (between the lovers) is no longer than the dance of the flames burning in the night. The warmth (of the company) provides comfort as long as it burns (as long as we are together) but as soon as its burns out (i.e. we separate), the darkness (despair in our relationship) takes over.

gham-e-hastee ka 'Asad' kis'se ho juz marg ilaaz
shamma'a har rang mein jaltee hai sahar hone tak

Line 13/14 - The endless suffering that we call as life, ‘Asad’ has no cure for it other than death. Death eventually would heal all the misery and struggle that existence carries. The candle burns all through the night to the very dawn, burning (suffering) through all the colors and then eventually die out. In the same way, existence would eventually fade out passing through all the shades of life. The candle is the metaphor for life that burns sometimes brightly sometimes flickering and ultimately gets extinguished.

Meaning of difficult words: -
daam = net/trap
mauj = wave
halqa = ring/circle
sad-kaam-e-nahang = crocodile with a hundred jaws
guhar = pearl
talab = search
taghaful = neglect/ignore
partav-e-khur = sun's reflection/light/image
shabnam = dew
fana'a = mortality
inaayat = favour
besh = too much/lots
fursat-e-hastee = duration of life
ghaafil = careless
raqs = dance
sharar = flash/fire
hastee = life/existence
juz = other than
marg = death
sahar = morning

Read more posts on Ghalib.

TS Eliot : The Waste Land - The Burial Of The Dead (Summary)

I have just spent two full weeks of my seemingly very busy life on T. S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land". I won't say I am satisfied with what I could grasp. It is such vast expanse of construct and ideas that the poet has spun. I will still present my thoughts about the poem however unqualified I am to understand this compelling work of modernist literature. This is first of the 5 part series on the poem focusing on the part "The Burial Of The Dead". You can read the complete poem here.

First a little introduction into the times when the poem was conceptualized. The Great War (WW I) has just ended and it has literally shaken the core of Europe and the modern man's faith that continued advancement (primarily science driven) would improve the society and rid of it's all ills. But the confusion (moral & political) before the onset of war coupled with incoherence of voices (in favor of race/nation/class) lead to an individual crisis of identity amplified by the world gone wrong. It was as we can call it "The Collapse of the Certainties", that tomorrow will be better then today. This crisis, loss of faith and sterility (diseased) of the times gave rise to canvas that this poem fills. The poem has references and metaphors to the various sources (historical & contemporary) and follows a non linear method where the speaker, the context, location and time changes abruptly. Also it makes use of a myth to connect unconnected ideas into a single narrative.

The first part begins with the narrator(possibly an older woman) bemoaning that the April is the cruelest month because it's onset is making the narrator remember the things that were buried by the forgetful snow and the gloomy cold winter. It awakens all those desires and memories that were hidden. There is a mourning of life itself. As if i don't want this choice. I want to stay dead rather than enliven in Spring. The narrator recalls how in childhood they used to wander in the country drinking coffee and sledging with cousins. In the same narration, the poet juxtaposes such innocent frolic with the ugly nationalistic rhetoric that was prevalent in the pre-war Europe. The innocence is being lost and was being replaced by new consciousness about race and the nation state. The narrator remarks about her lifeless existence where is reads much of the night and has become a recluse and misses the winters.

The tone and the narrator changes in the second stanza where the canvas changes to a stony desert where there is no hope that roots can clutch to and no spirit where branches can grow. The land is barren and sterile and nothing grows. The language is prophetic and biblical. The heat causes mirages to form (heap of broken images) leading to incoherence and confusing signs. It's a stony rubbish, there is no life giver or the song of life. Instead we see fear of the unknown (shadows in the dark). It could also point to the ancient times after the Christ was crucified and the Jews had to flee to the barren desert as a punishment for killing the 'Son of Man'. From the morning to the evening, the sun would be relentless and your shadow will be your only companion (not even God) and there will be no life-giving rain on the parched land (and soul). A sense of horror accompanies those lines. The poem abruptly breaks to Wagner's Tristan & Isolde's lines where Tristan is taking Isolde her back to Ireland so that she can marry his uncle. It may mean her love that was unrequited and chances of future possibilities wasted. The spirits will still remain unloved and restless. The narrator again breaks off, with writing about his small affair with a girl (mentioned here as the hyacinth girl) that could not lead to fruition and consummation. She was in his arms, ready to be loved but that hope lead to nothing. The impotence(physical or emotional) comes across and in its failure the narrator becomes more withdrawn. He saw nothing and knew nothing when he saw into his heart. There was only a long drawn silence. The modern love has no power to redeem. The last line of the stanza goes back to Wagner's opera where we see Tristan dying and waiting for Isolde's ship on the horizon. The love has failed. The chances of making fertile this sterile wasteland have all been but lost.

The third stanza starts with the narrator seeking the help of a famous oracle Madame Sosostris to seek redemption. But here also the attempt to see enlightenment are ultimately fooled by a stagecraft of obscure prophecy. The oracle picks up a series of tarot cards (drowned phoenician sailor,a versatile belladonna, man with 3 staves, one eyed merchant, a missing hanged man) and ultimately in the end says that narrator should 'fear death by water'. She also has a vision of a mass of people “walking round in a ring.” Even though the oracle is a fraud, she help sustain a tone of fear and unease with the images.

The forth and last stanza moves to a surreal description of a modern city (London) that is decaying. The brown fog pervades over it like an evil spirit. A crowd of people move around the street in mindless synchronization not thinking anything, not going anywhere but just living. Dante's Inferno is quoted here for these people are spiritually dead and blinded by the occupied city life. They lives seemed like a mechanical clockwork each only able to see nothing beyond there feet and constantly engaged with the hustle-bustle of the modern city life. Life it seemed had moved to the background and with it the human warmth and self-invigorating vitality of love. Even the sound of the church bell becomes the sound of the dead. The narrator in this stir sees a old friend(Stetson) that was with him in the Punic Wars. He asks him what happened to the corpse that he planted in his garden and has it begin to sprout. Probably the sterile wasteland could only sprout the dead. In the end, the poet says that the reader must share his sins as well. All cities are same like London (they are dying) and all wars are same and all men are same. All the individual faces blur into Stetson. An undefined and formless humanity as the burial procession moved across a London bridge. We all will be dead into this infertile dust and will not give life.

Translation - Koi Din Gar Zindaganee Aur Hai (Ghalib)

koi din gar zindaganee aur hai
apne jee mein hamne thaanee aur hai

Line 1/2 - Ghalib says that only some of his life is left now. He is at the last stage of his life. He is old now. He is dejected as well by all the sorrow and grief he has seen in his life. And yet, he has decided that he will do something with his remaining life. It could also mean that we may plan something different with our lives, but the life has its own plans.

aatish-e-dozakh mein ye garmee kahaan
soz-e-gham hai nihaanee aur hai

Line 3/4 - The fires of hell are not as hot as the burning from the everlasting grief that is hidden and internal. Ghalib could be referring to the dejection and grief of seeing all his children die in infancy. The wound is there, hidden deep in his psyche that has scarred him all his life.

baarha dekhee hain unki ranjishain
par kuch ab ke sar-giraanee aur hai

Line 5/6 - Ghalib refers to his lover, and says that he has seen his lover angry so many times but all the times eventually they compromised and sorted their differences. But he laments that this time it will be difficult to compromise because this time differences have hit the ego and pride of his lover.

deke khat munh dekhta hai naamabar
kuchch to paighaam-e-zabanee aur hai

Line 7/8 - The messenger came and gave a letter from his lover. He is looking at his face for my reactions on reading the letter. But the message is different from what the messenger actually wanted to tell. His eyes are telling a different story from what is written in the letter, though he is not saying anything.

qaata-e-'amaar hai aksar nujoom
woh balaa-e-aasmaanee aur hai

Line 9/10 - Ghalib says that sometimes stars define the destiny and the future of man. Sometimes unfavorable stars can cut short the life of someone. But this lover of his (described here as beauty of such repute that she is a natural calamity where ever she goes) is something different. Ghalib also says for others stars could have a negative effect but for him his lover is the guiding star of faith.

ho chuki 'ghalib' balaayen sab tamaam
ek marg-e-naagahaanee aur hai

Line 11/12 - The poet says that whatever bad things had to happen to him have already happened. That string of misfortunes has ended. But one thing is left and that is the uncertain but an unavoidable death. It could also mean that it would be a misfortune to die suddenly without finishing whatever he had thought he would accomplish before his dying.

Meaning of difficult words :-
dozakh = hell
soz = passion/heat
balaa-e-aasmaanee=natural calamity
balaayen = calamities
marg = death
naagahaanee = sudden/accidental

Read more posts on Ghalib.

Translation - Koi Umeed Bar Nahi Aati (Ghalib)

koi umeed bar nahin aati
koi soorat nazar nahin aati

Line 1/2 - I do not see any hope in living. There is no solution in sight. Ghalib in his works has frequently touched upon this theme, that life is a continuous meaningless struggle that will end only with only when life itself ends. The second line could also mean I recall no face in my thoughts. He could be referring to his Love or God as he was disillusioned in both.

maut ka ek din mu'ayyan hai
neend kyun raat bhar nahi aati

Line 3/4 - Death is definite one day. It has to come someday certainly to everyone. But why can't I sleep in the night. Why am I so restless when I know that the end will be same for all irrespective of wealth, luck or actions?

aage aati thi haal-e-dil pe hasee
aab kisi baat par nahi aati

Line 5/6 - Earlier I was able to laugh at the dilemma of my heart. But now I am unable to laugh at anything. Ghalib is saying that the optimism and cheerfulness of youth has given way to the anguish and the despair of old age.

jaanta hoon sawaab-e-taa'at-o-zahad
par tabiyat idhar nahin aati

Line 7/8 - Though I know the benefits and rewards of devotion and religious duty, but I am in no mood of it. It's not in my temperament these days. Ghalib taking aim at the religious clergy that constantly preaches of religious deeds/devotion so that they are rewarded of good life in the next life.

hai kuch aisee hi baat jo chup hoon
warna kya baat kar nahin aati?

Line 9/10 - This is such a matter that it is better to be quiet. Otherwise there is no such thing which I can not speak of. Ghalib reckons that it is prudent for him to not talk of religious matters as he may offend people who may think what a non-practicing Muslim knows about religion.

kyon na cheekhon ki yaad karate hain
mere awaaz gar nahin aati

Line 11/12 - Why shouldn't I yell with joy at those old glorious days. But my voice fails to produce a sound. The overbearing state of mine has devoid me of any respite that I could get by recalling old fond memories.

daag-e-dil gar nazar nahin aata
boo bhi aye chaaraagar! nahin aati

Line 13/14 - Though nobody can see the wound of my heart, but the wound is festering and yet the healer does not come. Ghalib again questions the faith and says that he is a tortured soul searching for answers, yet the higher powers have not provided him any comfort.

hum wahan hain jahaan se humko bhi
kuch humari khabar nahin aati

Line 15/16 - I am in such a situation right now, from where even I am unable to get any news of myself. The sadness, the sorrow has covered his self to an extent that he is not able to hear his inner self. He bemoans the hopelessness of the existence where the sorrow and grief have overtaken the sense of being.

marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki
maut aati hai par nahin aati

Line 17/18 - I am dying of impatience in hope of death. Death arrives, but it does not. Ghalib depicts the human condition when faced with adversity or alienation that leads to a sense of despair.

kaaba'a kis munh se jaaoge 'ghalib'
sharm tumko magar nahin aati

Line 19/20 -How will you go to Kaaba? O Ghalib! You do not have any shame left. How will you face the Mecca? Ghalib humbly accepts that he has not lived his life according to the faith. This is opposite to so many verses where he questions his faith and methods of the religion. In a way, he is probably mocking himself as to how he will go there and not necessarily regretting his ways.

Meaning of difficult words:-
sawaab = reward of good deeds in next life
taa'at = devotion
zahad = religious deeds or duties
mu'ayyan = definite
chaaraagar = healer

Read more posts on Ghalib.

Another One Bites The Dust

Sepia Mutiny is closing shop today after a very very long run (long in context of the web where most interesting things are transitory). It was among the few initial blogs that I started to read and follow. For the past few years though i had been less and less frequent to that blog (for that matter to any blog including mine). It is sign of the times. The discussion has moved over to Twitter and Facebook long time back. Whatever blog enthusiast were left have moved to busy married life and even more busier jobs. Blogs are seen as passé. Some are now just an extension of the huge corporate media arms where blogs are run like publications with paid writers and moderated content.
I am not convinced that Twitter/Facebook provide the canvas that blogs did. 140 words is not even enough to prepare the construct, leave aside the narrative. But then we are living in a post-post-post-modernism (if there is such a term) where the explosion of media (social and digital) has left user attention span difficult to capture. In such a crowded ecosystem, blogs do not stand a chance. They never did.
Lets see how long this blog breathes. I for sure will not let it go easy!

Photo Of The Day

Sydney Skyline [Sydney Tower, Opera House, Harbour Bridge]

At Sydney Botanical Garden