Sunday, 31 January 2010

extract from 'Samlee's daughter'- a vist to the kotha

Samlee's daughter Book  2
(This book can be viewed on Google books)
For the kotha visit, Arif had chosen to disguise himself as a Talibani Afghan.
The elderly courtesans were greatly taken with him.
He resisted their blandishments on high religious grounds saying- Against Love forearmed by Allahs grace/ A mujahid am I of Afghan race! This, however, but served to stoke their ardour and they coaxed him to break his vow against amorous dalliance by flattering his racial pride with couplets like- Hai! Nimrods heart & Josephs face!/ Sure the darlings Yusufzais! or Of maiden hearts, of conquest greedy/ Sure the darlings Afridi! Arif, however, though struggling somewhat to reattach his red beard & keep up his comic Pathan accent, sternly parried their advances saying To swallow my oath were a crime most heinous/ (Though koh-i-noor[1] emerged from an Afghans anus!) Which remark so delighted the Besura Begums that they took up the chant crying- And British Crown still is famous/ for koh-i-noor emerged from an Afghans anus!
Meanwhile, Bhim Singh and the chevda-chomper had set to work rooting around in the upper rooms uttering, by the formers own account, such immortal couplets as (the more Spiritual than Mir Taqi Mir) For God is the Song and Soul the musician/ Kindly assume the doggy position! or (the more Socialistic than Faiz Ahmed Faiz) For plight of proletariat is most worrying/ Work it bitch coz I is hurrying!
Not that those sly work-shy whores didnt try to put them off with Culture- reciting ghazals & passing them the shamma. However, our heroes promptly blew it out saying things like-
Parvaana ko bhi hai us larhiya se laŗhaai
Bhujaa de shamma jo teri saaya angraai!
(So shocked by your shadows lascivious stretching & swaying
Tho but here to confer, I cant hear what you are saying
That it thus bids up your price is an absolute scandal!
Think the moths, I surmise, & blow out the candle.)
Or more succinctly-
Kya mushkil mujhe Manini manana?
Yo bitch! Peel my banana!
Meanwhile, Arif and Iyer were busy getting drunk. Keen to keep up the pretense that Arif was Afghan, the elderly courtesans quoted such gems from Khushaal Khan Khattak as-
The dire Moghul’s beck, the drear Muezzin’s call
My little rebeck- come silence them all!
Wine’s  Sea  become gall -save me in your wreck!
What’s a rosary after all?- but a one string rebeck.
Nor heart, Spring, knew, nor tears, Neap, know
Reeds- reap a few. Rebeck- sing a-flow
Till our ashes May it- her lightning’s return
Should Green sap stay it- grown Old we burn!
The lines in italics being Arifs ripostes.
His own (mercifully short) ghazal was as follows-
                                             Jab zalim na hai hum zabaan
                                                                           Apni sunaoon kya ghazal?
                                             Hoon mutarjim-e-afghaan
                                                                           Ki ye khayaal mubtazal!
                                             Kiya shor-o-shaghab kyoun Shaitaan?
                                                                           Shayri ka khabar-e-ajal
                                             Khud hai wo rauzokhaan
                                                                           Har Ishq ka roz-e-azal!
                              (Since the tyrant & I have no common tongue 
                                                                           This- the singular song I’ve sung
                              Even could I translate aright
                                                                           Is to all a cliché trite
                              For captious critics, at Love’s daybreak,
                                                                           The canting Devil invited
                              To tut tut & tipple at Poetry’s wake
                                                                           This elegy the corpse recited!)
Iyer, meanwhile, had been introduced to the mirasins as Sir V.S. Naipaul- which, not unnaturally, led them to have high expectations of him. Even when, remembering Naipauls reputation in such places, Iyer very tearfully pleaded to be taken for Vikram Seth- which ought to have kept him safe- the women continued to eye him hopefully. He, for his part, being used to the brusque efficiency of London barmaids, greatly deplored the delays in refilling his glass occasioned by the courtesans reciting of poetry. Hence, being passed the shamma, he made his views known as follows-
Abh ki shayri hai Saqi ka naya shagal
Hum sharabi sunayen kya ghazal?

Shakeel hai Saqi par ban na faz’l
To saqil shayri mein na ho baz’l!

Ki unpé Laal bhaboo’ka shab-e-azal
Laulaak hai Pari ka aihl-e-daghal!

Ki pyaasa hai Saqi hai shayri chugh’l
Kuch tanaafur hui, na hui ghazal!
(Since the Saqi has taken it into her head to write
What verse can this drunkard now recite?

Fair is the Saqi but were nobler far
To stint her verses not us at the bar!

When primordial Night blushed to scorn
Thy Judas kiss, Wine was born

Of the Saqi’s thirst, her poetry tells
We heard some jargon but no ghazals!)

[1]    Koh-i-noor (mountain of light) a famous diamond. Shah Shuja, an Aghan king, swallowed it so as to keep it from falling into the hands of the Sikhs. However, the soldiers kept watch on him until he passed the diamond in his stool. It is now one of the British Crown Jewels.

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