Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Durbaan-e-Mazaar-e-Ghalib (The Gatekeeper of Ghalib's Grave)

(This is the last blog entry on the matter of graves! Actually these entries sum up the famous graves I have visited, apart from Emily Dickinson's, which is just a five minute walk from where I live in Amherst, Massachusetts.). Check out this blog for a picture and translation of the inscription on Ghalib's tombstone. (Added July 12, 2008)

हुए मरके हम जो रुसवा हुए क्यों न गर्क-ए- दरया
न कहीं जनाज़ा उठता न कहीं मजार होता।

ہوے مرکے ہم جو رسوہ ہوے کیوں نہ گرک دریہ
نہ کہیں جنازہ اٹھتہ نہ کہیں مزار ہوت

hue marke ham jo rusva hue kyun na gark-e-darya
na kaheen janaazaa utthata na kaheen mazaar hota

The shame I endured after death, why did I not drown in the sea?
There would have been no funeral, nor a grave to be seen.

While Khusro is certain that his beloved will come to his grave (see previous entry), Ghalib, in his shame, wishes for no grave at all. He seems in this verse to reiterate Alexander Pope's conclusion, albeit in a more sombre mood, "steal from the world and not a stone tell where I lie." Except, in true ghazal tradition he writes after his death, from the other world. Oh, such shame have I endured here (on the day of judgment? in heaven? hell?), why did I not disappear into the sea, without a trace, with no grave to be a home wherein to wait for qayamat, the day of judgment.

But let us not confuse Ghalib the poet with the "I" in the verse. After all the "poet in the poem" rule, poetry as personal statement, does not seem to apply to the traditional ghazal, where the poet dies only to be resurrected in the next verse and often expresses contradictory sentiments not only in different ghazals but in different verses of the same ghazal (since the ghazal unlike the sonnet or other poetic forms inn English, has no requirement of thematic unity for its couplets).

In fact Ghalib's grave, far from being reviled or shamed as the lover's in the verse was, is rather an honored place of visit in Delhi. The grave is next to the Ghalib Institute (or the Ghalib Academy, one of the two) only a stone's throw from Nizamuddin Dargah. I went there at night and the resplendence of the dargah didn't quite make it to Ghalib, so the surroundings were rather dark. There is a small fenced compound just off the side of the gully, at one end of which is a small structure, a hut almost, of stone. At first I did not even notice the broad, in English, Hindi and Urdu, that proclaimed this to be the grave. When I did see it, I noticed that the only entry into the compound was gated and padlocked. It was past 8:30pm and I assumed this meant that the site was closed for the day. I looked around. There were several men selling flowers to those who wished to visit Hazrat Nizamuddin's dargah. On a whim I asked a flower-seller if this (pointing to the silhouetted structure behind him) was Ghalib's grave. Yes, he said. Can I see it from up close? I asked. Sure, he replied, to my surprise. Ask that gentleman over there, he said pointing to an old man in a kurta and lungi, sitting by the roadside. Intrigued, I approached the man and asked, Ghalib ki mazaar dikhaenge? Will you show me Ghalib's grave? Haan zaroor, he said. Absolutely. Getting up, he fished out a key from his pocket and walked over to the padlocked gate. I followed, strangely elated. Opening the gate, he led me. There turned out to be several graves there, right next to each other. Ghalib's was inside the stone structure visible from the road. Out in the open, next to it were some others. The old man, now in the role, not of gatekeeper, but of guide, pointed to them and mentioned the names of the people buried there. I am afraid I remember them no longer. I lingered in front of Ghalib for a while, imagining the remains (whatever is left after a hundred and fifty years) that lay underneath. The moon shone on the stone, on the inscription in stone above the little entrance, but there wasn't enough light to read. Dust thou art, to dust returnest. All those verses that leap off the printed page, that stay in your memory after reading them or hearing them just once, all came from a brain that is now scattered in the very soil beneath my feet. But Ghalib, conceited though he was (kehte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur, they say no one expresses like Ghalib does), may have disagreed with me. The verses did not come from his brain, they came from nothingness, from the hidden, the ghaib, in Urdu.

Aate hain ghaib se yeh mazzami khayaal mein
Ghalib sareer-e-khamah navaa-e-sarosh hai
These themes, they comes from the hidden
Ghalib, the scribbling of the pen, is the whisper of an angel

Anyhow, the guide waited patiently as I dreamed. On the short walk across the compound back to the gate, I asked him if he worked for the Ghalib Institute next door. Nahin, unse hamaara koi lena dena nahin, he said (I have nothing to do with them). I placed a ten rupee note into his hand and thanked him. I never discovered how he came upon this job, or what else he did by way of earning a living. I regret now, not asking him more questions. But mystery has its place too doesn't it? Let not the "will to truth" sully everything in life.

Monday, November 26, 2007

कितने नंदीग्राम?

आज -कल समाचारों में नंदीग्राम कि घटनाओं कि चर्चा से कोइ नहीं बच सकता है। चारों तरफ, और हर द्रष्टि से, फिर वह मा. क. पा के समर्थन में हो या उसके विरोध में, नदिग्राम का विश्लेषण हो रहा है। और होना भी चाहिए। आर्थिक विकास के नाम पर आम आदमियों, और खास कर समाज के कमजोर तबकों का विस्थापन और उनके जीवन तथा सम्पत्ति कि बर्बादी, स्वतन्त्र भारत के इतिहास में कोइ नयी बात नहीं है। फिर वह बडे बाँध हों, या चौड़े highways "देश के हित" में कुछ लोगों को बलिदान देना ही पड़ता है। जवाहरलाल नेहरू ने हिराकुद बाँध से विस्थापित होने वाले किसानों से कहा था: "If you must suffer, suffer in the interests of your country।" यह बात तब, १९५३ में शायद ठीक भी लगी हो, अब इस रवैये का सार्वजनिक विमर्श में कोइ स्थान नहीं होना चाहिए। चिपको, नर्मदा, कलिंग नगर और ऐसे ने जाने कितने आंदोलनों के बाद एक चीज़ साफ हो गयी है। देश के किसी भी कोने में अगर सरकार या कोइ भी दूसरी शक्ति, किसी जगह के प्राक्रतिक संसाधनों के लिए (फिर वह जमीन हो चाहे पानी, चाहे जंगल या खनिज) उस जगह के मूल निवासियों को विश्तापित करने के बात करती है, तो उसे कम से कम पुनर्वसन कि बात करनी होगी। और कई बार इतना काफी न होगा। सरकार या निजी निगमों को स्थानीय समाज से ऎसी चुनौती मिल सकती है कि उसे पूरी योजना ही खारिज करनी पड़े। जैसा कि नंदीग्राम में हुआ, या फिर चिपको में हुआ था।

एक तरफ रहा जन आन्दोलनों कि राजनिति का सवाल। इस मामले में तो नंदीग्राम ने दिखा दिया कि अगर आप आर्थिक विकास के नाम पर विस्थापन कि बात करते हैं तो आप को यह ध्यान में रखना होगा कि स्थानीय समाज कि इच्छा के खिलाफ ऐसा करना मुमकिन ही ना हो। लेकिन नंदीग्राम ने एक और पहलु को भी उजागर किया है। पूंजीवाद की प्राकृतिक संसाधनों की भूक अब किसी से छुपी नहीं है। विश्व स्तर पर मौसम में आने वाले बदलाव, हर तरफ पर्यावरण सुरक्षा के नारे, प्रदूषित जल, उजड़े जंगल, कैंसर के बढते cases , कौन नकार सकता है? नंदीग्राम ने यह भी दिखा दिया है कि अगर भारत को अमेरिका-यूरोप के मॉडल पर आधुनिक औद्योगिक विकास करना है तो उसे अपने प्रकृति कि वैसी ही लूट करनी होगी जैसे यूरोप ने उपनिवेशवाद के दौर में सारे दुनिया कि की थी। बहस अब इस पर हो सकती है की क्या संसाधनों को प्राप्त करने का तरीका लोकतंत्र के सिधंतों की कद्र करता है या नहीं करता।

लेकिन क्या बहस को यहाँ तक सीमित रखना जायज़ होगा? क्या यह अकलमंदी होगी? मुझे ऐसा नहीं लगता। अनगिनत छोटे और बडे जन आन्दोलनों के ज़रिये हम इस औद्योगिक सभ्यता (अगर इसको सभ्यता कहा जा सके) को एक मौलिक चुनौती दे सकते हैं। वह ज़माना और था जब यूरोप के देशों ने तमाम दुनिया के शोषण पर अपनी सभ्यता खडी कर दी थी। यह ज़माना और है। भारत और चीन इस मामले में यूरोप की पैरवी नहीं कर सकते हैं। इन देशों की जनता ऐसा नहीं होने देगी। फिर सवाल यह उठेगा की अगर यूरोप की पैरवी संभव नहीं है (पर्यावरण की दृष्टि से और लोकतंत्र की दृष्टि से भी) तो आर्थिक विकास किस किस्म का होना चाहिय?

इस विषय पर अगली बार बात होगी।

Saturday, November 24, 2007

हिन्दी ब्लोग्स का महत्व

इंटरनेट ने दुनिया के हर पहलू को छू लिया है। इस से अब कोई इनकार नहीं कर सकता। इस का मतलब यह नहीं होता कि इंटरनेट हर आदमी या औरत तक पहुंच गया है। हिंदुस्तान में इंटरनेट इस्तेमाल करने वालों की संख्या दो या तीन प्रतिशत से ज़्यादा शायद ही होगी। इसे इंटरनेट कि दुनिया में digital divide कहा जाता है। और अगर यह लोग वेब दुनिया के सदस्य होते तो भी उन्हें भाषा कि चुनौती का सामना करना पड़ता। क्योंकि इंटरनेट पर सूचना और संचार का बहाव ज़्यादातर अंग्रेजी में ही हो रहा है। इंटरनेट के सबसे लोकप्रिय encyclopedia, wikipedia को ही लें तो यह दिखाई देगा कि इसमे अंग्रेजी के बीस लाख से भी ज़्यादा पन्ने हैं। दूसरी वीकसित देशों के भाषाएँ जैसे कि फ्रेंच, जर्मन, जापानी, डच आदि के चार से छे लाख तक पन्ने हैं। हिन्दी का नुम्बेर तीसरे क्रमांक पर आता है (दस हजार या अधिक पन्ने) और उर्दू का चौथे क्रमांक पर (एक हजार या अधिक पन्ने। भाषा की दुनिया में अंग्रेजी के एकाधिकार से मुक़ाबला करने के लिया यह ज़रूरी है कि दुनिया की अन्य भाषाओं, और खास कर "तीसरी दुनिया" की भाषाओं को इंटरनेट की दुनिया में प्रचलित किया जाये। और अब ऐसा करने के लिए सूचना प्रौद्योगिकी भी मौजूद है।
कुछ लोगों का मानना है कि इंटरनेट के इस नयी दुनिया ने समाज में बुनियादी किस्म के बदलाव लाये हैं। इन बदलावों को समझना होगा। इन बदलावों पर विमर्श ज़्यादातर वीकसित देशों में ही हो रहा है, हालाकि इनका असर पूरी दुनिया में दिखाई देता है। यह ब्लोग इसी दिशा में एक छोटा सा कदम है। लेकिन चूंके मेरी रूचि और भी कई चीजों में है, इस ब्लोग पर आपको अन्य विषयों पर entries भी मिलेंगी।

Monday, November 5, 2007


(I took this picture, with permission, in July 2007 at Hazrat Amir Khusro's mazaar)

Kashishi ki ishq daarad naguzaradat badinsaa;
Ba-janazah gar nayai ba-mazaar khuahi aamad.

The attraction of love won’t leave you unmoved;
Should you not come to my funeral, you will surely come to my grave.

I couldn't go to Ameer Khusro's funeral, but a grand funeral it must have been, I like to think. After all he wrote sublime poetry in three languages (Hindvi, Farsi and Rekhtah, a mixture of the two from which Urdu was born), invented the art form of the qawwali (the original clappers were kids who followed him, the qawwal bacche), his poetry in sung today in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (though not as much in Iran), his composition of the Hadith,

man kunto maula, fa Ali un maula

Who ever takes me as ths master, Ali is also his master
has been sung now for over 800 years by Sufi's and qawwals in South Asia.
The couplet above is from a famous Persian composition of his, khabaram raseed imshab (click here for the entire ghazal and its translation in English). There are excellent renditions of this ghazal by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri Brothers.

I was not at the funeral in 1325, but as Khusro himself said, ba-janaajah gar na ayee, ba-mazaar kuahi aamad, and I did indeed go to his grave, this time I was in Delhi in July 2007. The picture above was taken standing right outside the inner sanctum where Khusro lies buried. A kneeling pilgrim is visible at the bottom of the picture. Khusro lies buried right next to his spiritual master Hazrat Nizamuddin, as per his wishes. His mazaar is in the same compound as Nizamuddin's, just behind where the qawwals usually sit to offer qawwali to the master. The first time I went to Nizamuddin, I did not know where Khusro's mazaar was, and as I had entered the dargah from the back door (so to speak), I did not encounter Khusro at all. So I returned from the dargah without even getting a darshan of Hazrat Ameer Khusro. Of course I had to go back.

Compared to Nizamuddin's magnificent mausoleum, Khusro's is much more modest. Nizam get the Khusro-Nizami Bandhu qawwals singing his praises every evening. Khusro only had three ragged looking unknown qawwals regaling him. But away from the shine and glitter, the aura of Nizam, tehy somehow looked more authentic, more dedicated, more pure. I don't know why, but it just seemed that way. Even now, when I think back to those three musicians, with a harmonium and a tabla, sitting outside Khusro's grave, singing, my heart fills with a strange emotion, not quite joy, not quite sorrow, not quite a mixture either.

Amidst the thronging pilgrims at Nizam's grave, Khusro seems relatively neglected. It is of course true that Nizam was the master, Khusro only the disciple, and the one who inspires is always greater than the one who is inspired. Every artist realizes this. No doubt Khusro did too. And yet, for me his poetry, his songs become a universe in themselves. Nizam is sometimes forgotten. Is that sacrilegious?

Mazaar-e-Marx, Mazaar-e-Gandhi

A few years ago, at the People Tree bookstore in Connaught Place (Delhi) I found a delightful little book of essays by the historian/anthropologist, Ramchandra Guha, called ‘An anthropologist among the Marxists’. Ram Guha starts the introduction to the book by saying that inside every thinking Indian is a Gandhian and a Marxist struggling for supremacy. I don’t claim to have met every thinking Indian, but of the some that I have met this is indeed true to some extent. The theoretician of capitalism and the experimenter of truth, the prophet of communism and the messiah of ahimsa, both dreamt of a stateless society consisting of enlightened self-governing individuals. And on my trip to India, in 2003 I was in London and in Delhi, both cities where the two now rest in peace (or in turmoil depending on your point-of-view).

Apart from the hearts and minds of nearly every professor of English, Literature and Cultural Studies (but not of course of Economics) in the United States, Marx is to be found today in a place called Highgate Cemetery in north London. Gandhi apart from adorning thousands of walls in sundry courthouses, government buildings and homes in every city, town and village of India is to be found in Rajghat, east Delhi, not buried of course, but cremated. The bearded German philosopher and the clean-shaven Hindu saint, both today face disfavor in their native lands. Gandhi has been idolized, canonized, revered, worshipped, even to some extent followed and imitated but the fact remains that his country today is farther away from his ideal than it was in his own time. Commenting on the profusion of M.G (Mahatma Gandhi) roads in every major town and city in India, the noted Marathi humorist P.L Despande says, ‘since we can’t walk the road shown to us by Gandhiji, we call the road we do walk on, Mahatma Gandhi Road.

When I visited London, I expressed my desire to visit Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. My host, an erstwhile college colleague was surprised and perhaps not a little displeased but nevertheless accompanied me like the excellent host she was. Ram Guha in the aforementioned book also describes his visit to the cemetery. Mine was a good deal less eventful than his. We took the tube to Highgate station, got out and started walking up Highgate Hill. I had the directions from the internet. On our way we bumped into a spirited old worker belonging to some revolutionary socialist party (I forget which one) hawking the latest issue of the party’s mouthpiece. I was delighted with the fortuitous coincidence, the omen, the sign depending upon your point of view. I bought his newspaper and his magazine (Marxist Review). While parting I mentioned to him that I was visiting from the US and on my way to pay my homage to our beloved prophet. ‘He lives, man’. Said the old guy in a thick version of one of the many London accents. We made our way through the park just adjoining the cemetery and finally reached the cemetery itself. There was a two pound entry fee. I asked the chap at the door if many people came through the visit Marx’s grave. Not so much anymore, he said. When the Soviet Union was still around bucketfuls of students would come from there on government sponsored trips, pilgrimages, one might say. Now it is the solitary person here and there, he said. But hearteningly in the forty-five minutes or so that I spend there, two people ask me for direction to where Marx rests.

In Delhi I was so busy tracking down and trying to meet living socialists and Gandhians that I had no time for the dead old man at Rajghat. I felt rather sad about this. Visiting both Marx and Gandhi on the same trip would have had that symmetry of purpose. But it was not to be. I did pass the Rajghat area on a couple of occasions and that consoled me. Every year on October 2nd, Gandhi's birth anniversary, there is an official ceremony at Rajghat. Whenever some foreign dignitary graces New Delhi, they are brought to Rajghat to pay their respects. Gandhi, in his death, is smothered with official recognition. In contrast, Marx seems much more incognito in death. As suits a career-troublemaker on the run from the authorities everywhere. Now that the Soviet Union is dead and China is safely capitalist, Marx seems to be in no danger of being smothered by officialdom anywhere. This is as it should be. People like Jesus, Gandhi and Marx only diminish with institutionalizing. It is far easier to be a Christian than to be Jesus-like, far easier to be a Gandhian than to be Gandhi-like, much simpler to be a Marxist than to... I have known many Christians, many Marxists and some Gandhians. A thinking person should have a bit of Jesus, a bit of Marx, a bit of Gandhi but she can never be a Christian, a Marxist, a Gandhian.