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.'”

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