Leaving behind a rather turbulent year

The year passing by has heaped much pain on us, on our nerves, on all our sensitivities. It wouldn’t be amiss to say that its been a rather turbulent year. News reports of killings, violence, torture, rapes, molestations and injustices have been on …an ongoing feature.

In fact, very recently Gulzar saab had aptly commented if you pick up any of the day’s newspapers it would so heavily laced with news reports of violent killings that if you were to squeeze those pages blood drops would spill out …He was speaking in New Delhi in the backdrop of his two very latest books: his debut novel ‘Two’ and ‘Footprints on Zero Line-Writings On The Partition’. And as always, he spoke along the emotional strain, from his very heart.

He’d said what pained him was today’s ground reality. We are seeing those tell-tale signs of partitioning. As though we haven’t learnt a lesson from the killings of the past, we are not visualizing nor comprehending what lies ahead.

Yes, on December 5 evening, Gulzar saab was at his frankest best, if I may say so. I have heard him before but never before did he look and sound so pained with the halaats around. That evening he spoke not just of the prevailing violence but also of the communal build-up, the plight of those seeking refuge amongst us. Yes, the hapless Rohingyas fleeing from one border to the next…

He’d got nostalgic about his birthplace – Dina, in Pakistan, and about his roots, people and places.

Quoting these lines from his new volume Footprints on Zero Line:

‘It has taken me seventy years/

To return to Dina and touch the dhaiyya/

How much have I run in the wasteland of Time/

How long have I played hide-and-seek!/

An old picture of the railway station/

The smoke from the engine hovering mid-air./

Its colours had begun to fade

And standing at one of the doors of the train/

Was my Abbu./

The picture was beginning to flake off /

When I reached the dhaiyya/

The board was still there at the station /

So was the name.’

Also these lines of his:

‘Silence at the Border/

Why is everything so still at the border?

I am scared of his frozen silence/

This stork-like silence is very cunning/

While standing on one leg/

Meditating with one eye closed/

It keeps the other open./

Cactuses of thorny voices sprout/

At the slightest stir/

On either side of the border./

In the deserts along the border/

Even the wind moves holding its breath/

And the sand blows rubbing its neck against the ground./

A stillness has descended on the border/

I am scared of this icy silence along the border.’

And as I’m filing this column on December 27, which happens to be the 220th birth anniversary of the Subcontinent’s greatest poet, Mirza Ghalib, so it would be apt if I end this column writing about him …

Born in Agra on December 27, 1797 as “Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan”, he used pen name ‘Ghalib’ (the conqueror). While still very young, he shifted to Delhi and during his stay here he’d witnessed turbulent times during the 1857 revolt and also the subsequent changes that followed, the changing socio-political scenario… Ghalib wrote the poems of his collection, Diwan-e-Ghalib, at his house in Old Delhi, Ghalib ki Haveli (now a heritage site).And in this haveli he spent the last years of his life till he died on February 15, 1869. He was buried close to the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya and the grave of Amir Khusro.

Leaving you with these lines of Ghalib from Khushwant Singh’s volume Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry (Penguin):

‘Love me the lust for living - /

To ease my pain it gave me something for sure;/

It gave me such pain that nothing can cure.’

And also Ghalib’s this verse:

‘To be united with my beloved was not writ in my fate/

Had I lived any longer, it would have been the same long wait/

I lived on your promises, I knew they were not true/

Would not I have died of joy had I believed in you?/

Ask my heart about the pain of love and it will tell you /

The half-drawn bow’s the assassin, not the arrow that pierces through /

The stone’s veins would burst and nothing would stem blood’s flow/

If these weren’t sparks of anger, but outpourings of my sorrow. /

To whom can I speak of sorrows that come with the fading of light/

Death would be welcome, if it did not stand at my door every night.’


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