Nostalgic about Ghazals this morning

MusicIn the mornings, Stockholm’s metro usually presents a sight where most people have their headphones on, listening to music. I am usually no different. This morning, while I was travelling to work, I was listening to some ghazals by Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh. It had probably been a few months since I last listened to a ghazal and therefore the music sounded sweeter than usual.

After a couple of tracks such as “Sharaab Cheez Hi Aisi Hai..” and “Aap Jinke Kareeb Hote Hain..” (both by Udhas), I started to feel possessed by the poetry – something that ardent Ghazal fans will identify with – and closed my eyes for a moment and lost myself in the crowd.

“Hosh waalon ko khabar kya, Bekhudi kya cheez hai.
Ishq keejiye phir samajhiye… Zindagi kya cheez hai.”

I opened my eyes and made that smooth, rythmic and slight sideways shake of the head which we music lovers do in appreciation of great poetry and melody, not to be confused with the headshaking to meet the beats of a faster Music.

“Un se nazaren kya mili, Roshan fizayen ho gayi.
Aaj jaana pyaar ki Jadugari kya cheez hai.”

Do you understand the feeling when I say that the next couple of lines always mesmerise me and make me smile?

“Khulti zulfon ne sikhayi, Mausamon ko shaayari,
Jhukti aankhon ne bataya, Maikashi… Kya cheez hai”

I looked at others listening to their own secret music and wondered if they ever shut their eyes and appreciate the beauty of the poetry of a song like a ghazal lover does. Being a foreigner here, I wondered if the locals ever had any idea, or were capable of ever understanding, what a Ghazal was. Did they have something within their own culture that took the place like that of Ghazals in our culture? Do they ever feel that the lyrics have reached inside them and touched their soul and changed them – for good or for bad Do they ever open their eyes and say, Wah!?

“Hum labon se keh na paaye, Un se Haal-E-Dil kabhi,
Aur woh.. samjhe nahi yeh……. Khaamoshi.. Kya cheez hai..”

Do they ever wonder if no other arrangement of a few words could ever match the beauty of what they just heard the shayar say? A bit like,

“Aise bolo ke dil ka afsaana, Dil sune aur nigah dohraaye.
Apne chaaron taraf ki yeh duniya, Saans ka shor bhi na sun paye.”

Maybe! And maybe not! I don’t know. As for myself, decades after decades, I know I can continue to say “Wah!”

A doze of Dostoyevsky for today?

notesfromundergroundThis morning I woke up feeling a little different and decided to give up mid-way what I was reading till last night – The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carre. Instead, just before leaving for work, I quickly grabbed Dostoyevsky’s Notes for the Underground. This book has been lying on my shelf since a week and everytime I opened something else, I could hear Dostoyevsky calling out to me to read him first. I kept ignoring it long enough but this morning something changed.

So, when I finally got on the train and sat, I scrambled for a seat so as not to waste any more time and quickly took the book out of my bag. It started as follows:

“I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it and never have, though I respect medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine anyway. (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am.) No, I refuse to treat it out of spite. You probably will not understand that. Well, but I understand it. Of course I can’t explain to you just whom I am annoying in this case by my spite. I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “get even” with the doctors by not consulting them. I know better than anyone that I thereby injure only myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t treat it, its is out of spite. My liver is bad, well then– let it get even worse!”

Those of you who have ever read Dostoyevsky probably know the kind of excitement one feels when embarking upon a journey where he is the guide. For those who haven’t read him, do so before you die. Everything else can wait.

Carl Sagan on the Magic of Books

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The Quotable Hitchens – 2

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“I have tried for much of my life to write as if I was composing my sentences to be read posthumously.”

“I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness.”

“I’ve proved to be as difficult to convert as I am to hypnotize.”

“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can’t prove it, but you can’t disprove it either.”

“Religion is not going to come up with any new arguments.”

“The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes.”

“The suicide-bombing community is not absolutely 100 percent religious, but it is pretty nearly 100 percent religious.”

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

“To terrify children with the image of hell… to consider women an inferior creation. Is that good for the world?”

“To the dumb question, ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply, ‘Why not?'”

“Trust is not the same as faith. A friend is someone you trust. Putting faith in anyone is a mistake.”

“Well, to the people who pray for me to not only have an agonising death, but then be reborn to have an agonising and horrible eternal life of torture, I say, ‘Well, good on you. See you there.'”

Bradbury on Not Reading

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All your books!

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The Quotable Mark Twain 2

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“But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”

“All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.”

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”

“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

“When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.”

“When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.”

“‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read.”

“There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.”

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

“Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.”

“Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.'”

The Quotable Mark Twain

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“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”

“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”

“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

The Quotable Reader

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A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. ~Mark Twain, attributed

My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter. ~Thomas Helm

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~Paul Sweeney

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~Oscar Wilde

The Quotable Hitchens

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“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.”

“If god really wanted people to be free of [wicked thoughts], he should have taken more care to invent a different species.”
―God Is Not Great

“Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing [in the ten commandments] about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly “in context” to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended?”
―God Is Not Great

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”
―God Is Not Great

“I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.”
―Hitch-22

“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life — except religion.”

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

“Bombing Afghanistan back into the Stone Age’ was quite a favourite headline for some wobbly liberals. The slogan does all the work. But an instant’s thought shows that Afghanistan is being, if anything, bombed out of the Stone Age.”

“For the people who ostensibly wish me well or are worried about my immortal soul, I say I take it kindly.”

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