A weekend of Gulzar

This weekend my phone was abuzz with messages from every whattsapp group and friends possible. And surprisingly all of them sent in lines from Gulzar’s poetry. As though, it was the most ‘in’ thing now, to send a few of his couplets. The fact that Gulzar has written poems on every emotion and circumstance possible in human life and penned the most memorable songs in the history of Indian cinema, was used quite conveniently by my friends, to depict their moods, or the weather, or what they were hoping for. The man is a genius. Not only has he mastered a subtle way of depicting life through his poetry, he has written plays, scripted films and directed some too.

His poems make me thank my Hindi teachers at school, for letting me learn and understand, one of the several languages that he writes in to reach the masses. There is a rich regional literature treasure in India, each state has its own language and often writers have used regional languages to communicate. However, Hindi and English are spoken throughout the country and taught at schools, in addition to the local state language in some states. Although there are some good translations of regional literature into Hindi and English medium, much of these remain unknown and unread in other parts of the country. Personally, I am not fond of translated literature, since I always feel that the original author’s perspectives are lost or dulled by the translator.

But I am grateful to those who take time in researching, understanding and translating, otherwise, we would never have known about the epics from all over the world, Coelho would sadly be absent from our lives, Love in the Times of Cholera would not have reached the girl growing up in Southern India and Tagore would have not won his Nobel in literature.

Here are a few of Gulzar’s couplets that I have attempted to translate. Hope that these convey his thoughts as closely as possible (courtesy: Rekhta)

  1. From ‘The Melting snow’

When the snow will melt on the mountain

And fog will lift its veil from the valley

The seeds would stretch their limbs

And open their sleepy lazy eyes

And even though,

the new young grass, will begin to green the mountain slopes

Notice carefully, the new spring

Would still have memories of the past season

For even now there would be remnants of tears of yesteryears,

In the melancholy eyes of the new buds that sprout.

My short understanding from the above- Dang! The memories….they never fade. Although we transform from one year to another, one goal to the other, who can forget the past? For as human, we carry our past into our present (maybe that’s a gift?).

  1. From ‘Books’

The books steal glances from within their unopened book case

Sometimes with a lonely, longing gaze

For we haven’t met in months

The evenings that were once spent in each other’s company

Are now used up viewing the computer screen

The books have begin to get restless

For they have now learnt to sleep walk

The books look on with a lonely, longing gaze

 

The values that they once narrated

With their endless passion

Those values don’t live in my house anymore

The relationships they had once proposed

They seem unstitched, undone, incomplete to me now

 

When I turn their pages, I begin to sigh

For many of their words have lost their meaning

For many of their words remain unused now

Terminologies forgotten, meaningless

 

The crystal utensils have made the earthen pots obsolete

For once a turn of a page would vet my appetite

And now at a click of a finger and in an instance

So many pages, pages within pages open by themselves

 

The bond with books has been forgotten

For sometimes they would rest on my heart as I lay,

Or sometimes carried possessively on my lap

Sometimes I would face them on my book stand of knees

Sometimes I would read them like a holy book

And touch them to my forehead in a prayer

 

Perhaps their contents are still accessible

But those dried flowers hidden within pages,

Those fragrant messages from companions

Those relationships forged by an excuse of lifting a fallen book for another…

What would happen to those?

Would those be now forgotten as well?

My two bits- Although we now depend on e books and audiobooks, how can we forget the emotions of reading a thriller….. page by page, so many of those nights in our younger years, of being unable to sleep till we could finish a book?

Books were more than paper pages, they were ways to disappear into an imaginary land, of forging new relationships and being inspired….

Ahh! Gulzar….you made my weekend!

The old man and the garden

The institute where I work, has a beautiful garden. On cold wintry lunch hours, when the courtyard is filled with faculty and students out to soak the mid morning fleeting sunshine, one cannot not notice the vibrant colours of Asters, Marigold, Dahlias, Cosmos and red and yellow leaves of ornamentals. Every morning when I arrive for work, I see the gardener, an elderly gentleman, tugging along, alone in the garden. He works early mornings and late evenings. He usually hums an earthy tune, sometimes breaks into a rasping cough, sometimes looks around his pots and foliages, in the most paternal way possible. One day when he was pruning a Neem tree, I had gone forward and asked him for some leaves. I like the bitter taste of Neem and Bittergourd, especially if they are cooked with Tomatoes and Brinjals.

The gardener had given away the youngest, tender, rusty leaves of pruned branches to me and advised that these were the best to taste and easiest to cook. I had asked him how long he had been with our organization. He had always been with us. And he had always been a gardener ever since he could remember. He seemed so happy and proud as he looked around his canvas. I felt so content just knowing that a simple life is enough for people even in this year of 2017. A life of nurturing and caring and putting in love into whatever one is doing. He also tends to his plants in a most unhurried way. It seems like he has reached a place where time doesn’t matter.

As I debate over faculty development programmes, attending International meetings and conferences, bagging large funded projects, with my other faculty colleagues, my thoughts go over to the old man and the garden. Did he never need to build his skills or go on an exchange programme to enrich himself? How did he teach himself of scientific ways of manuring, pollinating, asexual plant breeding? How does he know that certain plant need only certain angle of sunlight and some need more water than the others? Is experience enough to teach one everything there is to know about ones professional needs? Or is it necessary to reach a stage where lines between professional life aspirations and personal life satisfaction blur and become one?

Like Earnest Hemingway’s book, sometimes one doesn’t need tangibles, certificates, physical acquisitions to assure oneself of one’s worth. Sometimes feelings suffice, small joys and a knowing in what you have and what you had are enough to keep one going. It doesn’t matter if there are storms in your way, what you will build with love will keep you coming back and you wouldn’t even realize the storms you have weathered to reach your happiness.

Expectations

Some fifteen years ago, when I first read Humayun Ahmed’s Himu, I completely understood why someone would make a habit out of aimlessly walking through the narrow streets of their locality and be able to sustain themselves by merely bonding with everyone in their environment. There was nothing unnatural in a person who did not have a normal day job or a proper home where he could rest at night or a friend circle that consisted of the same people one was used to catching up with, after a long day’s work.
I am sure, that we have seen or experienced a ‘Himu’ in our neighborhood, or within our own family or friend circle. I am also positive, that sometimes, we have thought and pondered about transforming into a ‘Himu’, just so to lose ourselves from our usual selves of following a ‘natural’ pattern. The fame of Himu and the popularity of Humayun Ahmed’s entire series on Himu, does indicate that not only I, but there are several others, who are equally attracted and mesmerized by his characteristics.

 
Was Himu trying to make a statement in protest of the usualness of the society? Did he defy norms by not expecting anything from life, by not having an ambition to succeed in his chosen career or save for a rainy day? Did he never wish for a family that understood and sheltered him in a four walled enclosure, or the comfort of his own bed where he could curl up into a fetal position in the darkest hour of the night?
Maybe not. Maybe, he was content with the ‘now’. However, the same society that upholds expectations, stable career, adult responsibilities, reached out to accommodate the ‘odd’ Himu and feed him an occasional minimalist, but hot meal. However, his life without expectations is what draws us to him.

 
Sometimes, even relationships that do not harbor expectations touch us and make themselves unforgettable. For instance, the bond between Fenno and Malachy in Julia Glass’s ‘Three Junes’. The book depicts how two people randomly brought together by life in a busy metropolis, can support each other sans expectations. Its empathy that bonds human beings to each other and to their environment. Empathy does have the power to sustain our planet.

While our society teaches us orderliness and structure, to remind us of being the most evolved species, our human-ness lets us know that it’s alright to sometimes, give up, not to follow norms, be on our own…for we will find kindred spirits on our own journeys and be grateful for our lives.

(So am I someone who is contained in the structures of society or living a life of boundless unrestrainedness?
I am both…. and grateful!)