Saturday, 20 February 2010

Stanzas on a senile passion

Ever to know you was to love you but now to love you is to know
 Tears are bitter waters till they mingle and the years melt like snow
Two Winters warmed our kisses, may such kisses our Winter warm
That tho' a stricken bird, to this blizzard World, our Love the Heavens storm

Did 28 years really pass between one kiss and the next?
28 years redacted so Love rede its own text...
I still see the same girl, do you see the same boy?
Thou Egyptian Helen to my heart's burning Troy!

Please don't disturb me- I'm working now
Well... thinking of you, anyhow
My work so vital- please don't text me
Just typing your name so has vex't me...

More sublime than the Sanskrit psalms I heard when young
Is my transfixt delight in your Hellenic tongue
Which, in the House of Night, is more than Parmenides Wise
 Till our Symposium shifts to twixt your thighs!

Why Qais (Majnoon) is a favourite of poets

At its own smoke, to blink, so as to more fulminously  burn
Poetry teaches, not to think, but from its thought to learn
Not Love to serve, nor God to thank
But Majnun’s verve to, in Wildernesses, wank.

Friday, 19 February 2010

A poet explains his vocation

It doesn't cheer you when you are sad
Or put money in your purse
But, if your prose is beyond Bloggingly bad
 There's pride in doing Verse

Ghalib's ghazal - Shab ki voh majlis furoz-e-khalvat-e-naamoos ta- translation

The very brilliant and erudite Satyanarayan Hegde has been kind enough to offer me a glimpse of his work tracing the metaphor of the lamp-wick through its many incarnations in the classical literature of many languages. By the glamor he shed on the first couplet of the ghazal 'shab ki voh majlis furoz', I was- moth to the proverbial- emboldened to offer my own take on it- merely as a clownish contrast to what a truly well stocked mind could do with the same material. This is the ghazal. What follows is my 'transcreation'.

 shab kih vuh majlis-furoz-e ḳhalvat-e nāmūs thā
rishtah-e har shamʿa ḳhār-e kisvat-e fānūs thā
mashhad-e ʿāshiq se kosoñ tak jo ugtī hai ḥinā
kis qadar yā rab halāk-e ḥasrat-e pā-būs thā
ḥāṣil-e ulfat nah dekhā juz shikast-e ārzū
dil bah dil paivastah goyā yak lab-e afsūs thā
kyā kahūñ bīmārī-e ġham kī farāġhat kā bayāñ
jo kih khāyā ḳhūn-e dil be-minnat-e kaimūs thā 
(See Prof. Frances Pritchett's wondeful website 'A desertful of roses'- for the correct translation and  commentary )

Last night, when the radiance of our assembly to her abashed chamber retired
Each candle wick, became a thorny prick at its shade from the desired

Whom has not, Lord, the longing to kiss bridal feet, with a martyr’s zeal fired?
For miles, the Lover’s tomb, by not rolling wheat but green henna is gyred

Against Sorrow's sorites, the Brain, this Stoic armor, in vain, thus acquired
Trysts, hearts crush hearts to gain, are the thin lips of pain- it required.

Knew I respite from this wretchedness- I'd recite much to be admired
But, Oh!- eating my own heart out- my very bile has grown tired!

Today was my 47th birthday. Ghalib's concluding lines are indeed the lees in my wine glass. Happy birthday to me!
Oh dear! I've just learnt, this poem was written when Ghalib was 19.

I now read the first couplet as onanistic, the second as narcissistic, the third as immature Weltshchmerz, and the fourth the product of a truly crapulous hangover.
Fuck! That's me! Well, okay, I actually score three out of four. I won't tell you which stricture doesn't apply to me. Gotta maintain one's mystique- once one gets to a certain age. Like Madonna.  No, not Madonna- who is it I'm thinking off?- the long gowns, the hair extensions?- P. Chidambaram- now that's a tushy can still turn heads on Dalal street. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Cory Doctorow's 'the makers'- a book that can be read for free on the internet.

 Cory Doctorow is a Canadian writer who has campaigned for the freeing up of information on the net. As part of his belief that, to quote Stewart Brand "Information wants to be free" and that much of the intellectual property framework is counterproductive- a bad Business Model-  he has allowed net users to read the whole of his latest novel for free, leaving it to them to express their gratitude by, for example, gifting a hard copy to a library or other such institution.

I must admit, that Doctorow's culture- indeed his generation- is utterly exotic to me and that virtually everything he thinks cool strikes me as appalling. Yet his book- 'the Makers'- does not seem a young man's book. It's middle aged. Not just middle aged in the sense of manically fending off self-awareness by treating every contemporary cliche as a mantra- but middle aged in a particularly vile, pot belly rolling over blue jeans, kind of way.
Thirty years ago, grown-ups who talked and thought like teenagers- provided they were nerdy enough to not actually come across as bond salesmen- seemed the Parousia of the Spirit of '68- whose Gospel was don't trust anyone over 30 and, magically, under the pavement you will find the beach.
Now, in 2010, we realize that elderly teenagers can fuck up the world just as effectively as guys in smoking jackets sipping Napoleon brandy out of balloon decanters, or sociopaths in jungle fatigues sipping Napoleon brandy out of balloon decanters while chomping on the finest Cuban cigars hand rolled between the fragrant thighs of  lithe limbed virgin Chief Ministers of Bengal .
But, Doctorow (unwittingly?) shows us, these middle aged farts- like middle aged farts through out history- too have built their cathedrals- i.e. fossilized their own turds- to such good effect, that, as with every other ideology through out history, everything of value (for only ideology creates value) is now free, scarcity is over, it is done with- something else must mediate the relationship between man and man- and what that is is a roller coaster ride through that crap, but y'know like a user-directed roller coaster ride? Not that fascist Disney shite but, like a Wiki roller coaster ride? Coz, that's like liberative, and like empowering y'know?

Doctorow's economics is one where barriers to entry have been abolished, so you have not perfect competition, but monopolistic competition. However, Econ 101 tells us that okay you get product differentiation (a good thing right? Coz crap can never come in enough flavors) but also you get over capacity and higher per unit costs. In other words a colossal waste of resources.
It's like development economists getting a hard on coz of how like all these peasant women are bringing their bunch of bananas to market, and these little kids are trying to sell you crap as you take your taxi from the airport to your hotel- and how it is all so alive and vibrant... aw! kindly fuck off back to Denmark (or wherever)... it's a waste of resources is what it is. If you really think things like street vendors and the Grameen bank are a good thing in themselves (as opposed to a distinctly second best solution (one arising out of Institutional failure- i.e a failure in internalising an externality) then adopt them why don't you? Look what will happen to your property taxes- not to mention municipal service provision- if you do.
Unless you like gentrify it. "Liestyle market' the fuck out of it. But why not just turn yourself into a fucking theme park while you're about it? Or just join a cult.
In Doctorow's book, 'New Work' fails- not coz lardass pony-tail guy is inherently crap- but coz shite guys in shite suits are shite. Well, okay,  this is more than a tautology. Suits are shite. But suits are middle aged. And middle aged people are facing death. Not when it would be a blessed release but while still they have one or two illusions about themselves left to lose.
Middle aged people are inherently tragic. True, they are tragic coz they are crap. But, crap in blue jeans is bathos not  pathos- artistically, it strikes the wrong note.
I guess there must be a new Arthur Miller out there. Instead of 'Death of a salesman'- he's writing 'Death of a blogger.' Or maybe, I got the whole thing wrong. Perhaps that's what Doctorow has done here.  I'm just too stupid to see it. If so the title 'the makers' is actually quite literary, the kavi, the poet is the maker par excellence. Saussure who detected hypograms- mot themes- in Vedic texts would not be slow to find the mot theme of Doctorow's 'Makers''. It is crap. Not shite- which is Joycean- but crap. Even the download site is called either craphound or shitdog or something  fecal. Still, scavenging as the New New Economics might have its merits. I hear there's big money in dog poo in my neighborhood.
But enough from this grumpy old fart.  My Levis are cutting into my belly something fierce. Big mistake to wash them. Bigger mistake to have gotten old.
In future, I will only read Sci Fi about young people. That, truly, is the elixir. Also stuff with like ray guns and   cute alien chicks. The best Sci Fi is antique.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

In Lanka before sunrise- short story

In Lanka before Sunrise

    ‘Night School,’ I said, having noticed the two uptown types in the back row, ‘What good is it- now the State provides synaptic uploads for free?’
“Only to citizens.”
    “Only to subjects- not 'citizens', this isn't a Republic, thankfully- but, urm, I'm sorry your name really is too difficult to pronounce... if you will permit me to continue, the fact remains, with free implants and real time uploads and so on, what is the point of Night School? What is to be its new role in the emerging Technological...urm,’ 
should I say Lebenswelt? Too pretentious? Hey, this is just Night School! I hesitated.

   “We need Night School to get our certificates as Évolués. That’s the point It's the reason we're here.” 
My interrupter was the same big lug- a waste technician at the power plant, probably on a dodgy work permit- my guess, his supervisor had filled his head with promises of  permanent residency- yeah, like that was gonna happen! The whole raison d’etre for free synaptic uploads was to reduce our dependence on these immigrant gorillas.

    “Well.. that’s, of course, urm... an...urm... possible, possible.. urm...” Oh dear, I sounded like a drooling idiot. Normally, that wouldn’t matter- but those two uptown types in the back row had me worried. Why were they here? Just slumming? No- too clean cut. They looked... connected.

     “True, Night School started off as the poor man’s route to social and occupational mobility, but, with changing technology, it must now re-invent itself as ... the School of Night!”
“What?!”- the big lug looked set to hurl his desk at me.
   “Night,” I said quickly, “Night is the great mother from which our civilization evolved. Night is the School to which our civilization must return to learn anew the meaning of our stature as Évolués...”

    I glanced up. As I had hoped, the mention of his favourite word had tranquilised the gorilla. The meathead was now taking notes. I could proceed in safety. But pitch my words at the two uptowners in the back row. Why not? I might never have a second opportunity to talk to my own people- intelligent people, if their looks were anything to go by- in my own lecture hall. Carpe noctem- seize the night!

   “What is it that Night teaches? What is the true Nisha Sutra? Let us begin by saying what it is not. It is not its shadow- the wisdom of the forest dwelling Nishaads- nor the shadow of that shadow- the Upanishads- rather it is the cry of our immortal King- Ravana, named for his first and primordial cry of fright! Fright at what? Night. Night is the first teacher. Fear drives evolution. Our race- the Rakshasas- saw Raksha, security, originated in Fright. For those races which turned their back on evolution, on the other hand, Night which they apotheosise as Ratri, was what dispelled darkness, a beneficient Goddess. That same Goddess as is revealed in the dark trench their ploughs laboriously trace. To which, too, they give a Goddess’s name- Sita. But, that which made both fearful they forgot. Our immortal King did not make that mistake. Both labour and darkness he holds in loathing and fear more than loathing. Ours is a city of lights- it is a city of leisure. Both labour and night are banished here. We are the true ujali paraj- the race of light. The unevolved are the kali paraj- the race of darkness. We, driven by fear, we gambled and won! To them is left that inverse of the gamble- that opposite of the Master Slave dialectic- the dullard's duty of Krishi- mind darkening agriculture! Consider the difference between us and them! They light fires for their sacrifices during the day, but extinguish them by night! How foolish is that! Fire is to ward off the fears of the Night, it is wasted if used to but praise and give thanks to that living God whose crime against creation is the abolition of fear- the denial of evolution!”

    The two uptowners were now looking at me keenly. Beneath the cowls of their holo-cloaks I saw their sharp features flicker with intelligent appreciation.
 They scared me shitless. 
   Dad got his Évolué papers during the Brahma Wars when, frankly, such things were a lot easier.
I was cloned in a perfectly good facility- but, between you and me, it was offshore. I’m not a ‘birther’. These things make a difference you know.

    Fear was a drug I had been too long denied. I mean pure fear. Not the fear-methadone that keeps people of my class productive in this great Empire of Fear.
     Except, 'productive' is not, perhaps, the mot juste. True, I pay my protection money same as any other upstanding, that is cowering, subject. But, does the State not actually create the means for me to pay it off? I mean, I’m not like my Dad- who served during the Brahma Wars- but then I’m more evolved... Anyway, sorry to be pedantic, but let me change that sentence. Go back to ‘the fear-methadone that keeps people of my class’ and instead of ‘productive’ substitute ‘not transgressive, in this our great Empire of fear.’

My private musings had led me to punctuate my lecture with more urms and aahs than normal.
The two uptowners were getting up.
Great! They were leaving!
They were coming down towards me.
I fainted.
(Good genes, I guess. Like I said, Dad did yeomen service during the Brahma wars.)
“Get that monkey away from me!”
(Though my Doctorate is only in Comp. Lit, the fact remains- I was ranked second in the Screaming-Bee at my Middle School- a very good one I might add- albeit merely virtual.)
“Why? It can’t hurt you.”
The 2 uptowners displayed signs of gender dimorphism. This increased my fear.
“Stop screaming like that! What are you- Vat born?”
I abruptly stopped screaming.
“I was being ironic. Like ironic and savvy?”
   “Whatever. Look, we want you to talk to this monkey. Your PhD is in Comp. Lit right? See, this monkey has got amnesia. We found him wandering around the food court. Nice enough little fella. My girl-friend picked him up. Once she got him under her holo-cloak, he just hugged her like a baby.. Could you talk to him?”
“And if I don’t- you’ll eat me?”
   “Well, bits of you- yeah. Like, stuff you’d really miss. Unless of course, you can talk to this li’l darling. You know, my boy friend and me might register for natural birth. I’m thinking to, like, suckle our baby. It’s frightening- but somehow, once this little fellow snuggled against me- it just didn’t seem so scary anymore.”
Uptown girls- right? I mean whaddya gonna do?
“The monkey speaks.”
“Cool! What’s he saying? Like how much he loves his new Mommy?”
“Well... not precisely...”
      It was not the right answer. Her snarl told me a lot about which portions of me had excited her appetite.
“You see- somehow or the other- this monkey speaks Valmikian. It's like our own Ravanese. Indeed, Valmiki, too, started out as a robber. But whereas Ravanese is based on the infant's cry of fear at what Night's darkening Heaven's thundered, Valmikian is based on the poet's sorrowful cry at seeing, by the hunter's arrow, two love birds sundered.  Put simply, both are languages generated by their own mot theme... I mean, like mathematically constrained to always say the same thing while saying everything conceivable...”
“And what it’s saying is it loves its Mommy- right!”
   “Absolutely! No question. Well... a tiny see Valmikian is cosmological in scope, it can name every particular with the greatest degree of subtlety but only because it reveals the nature of Reality to its uttermost limit... but, no, no you are right- it is concerned wholly with ‘vatsalya’- love as between Mother and child. So, yes- your intuition was correct!”
“My monkey baby loves me! Sweetie, bite something nice off the Prof. for me to feed it!”
“I’m afraid you can’t do that.”
“Oi! What did you just say to my girl friend?! Did you say ‘can’t’!”
“Not ‘can’t’ can’t- of course you can- but what the monkey is saying is...”
“You already told us. It loves its Mommy. Don’t you sweetie?”
   “Well, of course he does-  but his Valmikian language has conditioned him- you know, Language speaks us in the same manner that Screams our lungs truly re-bring to breathe- to see the fearful, the tearful, the dire ire of vatsalya baffled- become its own breath blinded mirror, like the Autumn Moon, and all Love rendered but the polluted leftovers of its own sacrifice thus poisoning Evolution and causing Time itself to decay...”
“F**k you say?”
   “Guys- take it easy. This is complicated stuff. Look,  the essential nature of vatsalya, as a type of love, is to be parted from its object- but parted only so as to become Universal and thus true to its higher purpose. Thus, it must itself become Time- that which rends it from what it holds most dear.
    "We Rakshasas, on the other hand, have conquered Time- that was what the Brahma Wars were about- Fear drives all. The multiple arms and heads of Time have all been loped away- they are now the multiple arms and heads of our dread King- only Evolution is left but though an Evolution born of our fear, what drives it now is Universal fear of Us. Look, you must see where I'm going with this.”
“Bite off his arms- they’ll make a nice titbit for Baby.”
“Would, dear lady, my arms availed you- nothing now can feed it- nothing save alms to a Buddhist bhikku.”
“What’s a Buddhist?”
“You are.”
   “You are. At this moment, cradling that monkey- you have become Hariti, who gave up human flesh when the Buddha restored her babe to her. But be aware of this danger. Our immortal King saved you, saved us, from fear of God. He opened Evolution to us as our own fearless demesne. We- you dear lady, and your boy friend- are, in that sense, all the more vulnerable to Buddhism.. Your modality of Time is not Fear, nor the self emptying of kenosis- rather it is the eternity of the transitory moment- kshanikavada- you are already proto-Buddhists, your chariot a single spokeless wheel that is also a Strassenwalze- a road-roller- under which you can crush into the unresisting ground what is Other to you- for, truly,  there is neither Space nor Time- as a dimension extending to include interaction with others- no, at least not for you.”
“I like that bit about a- what did you call it?”
   Strassenwalze- a road-roller- crushing the Other into the road upon which your chariots might more fleetly fly.”
“Don’t sound so bad- but what was that other thing you said- Bikkie- a Buddhist Bikkie.’
Bhikku- a mendicant- a monk, one who lives by begging his bread.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Feed my arms to your monkey- the more of me you feed him, the more Buddhism devours you!”
“You dare to threaten us- jumped up little evoluee!”
“Scarcely I! I am not the danger! It is that little monkey you hold to your heart!”

“What... what is wrong with my baby?”
“He is Valmikian! Himself, the tragic trajectory of true Vatsalya!”
“What do you mean?- it’s my coochy cuddly baby- O yes it is!”
“He is not just a monkey- nobody is.”
“He is mine. I am his!”
“No parent, in a child, knows lasting bliss!”
“Listen, you immigrant- talk politely!”
“& it is to you, Sir, not black but whitely!”

“Beat him, Lover, tear his flesh!”
“Then never to your breast a babe will mesh!”

I felt actually quite good as the Raakshas tore off my arms.
My new appendages began budding almost immediately.
I was now a shoo in for tenure.
Uptown folk had devoured my arms.
Feels good right?! Especially the fear. I’d be moving in higher circles. Adrenalin rush!

What next happened was- unexpected? No, sadly not.
Actually, it’s what happens when you have immigrants who don’t know their place.
That great lug of a waste technician led the charge. They grabbed the uptown Rakshasas.
And released the monkey.

I did it.
My arms grow back real quick.
But the monkey didn’t know it.
That’s why I captured it so easily.
   I was tightening my hold around it- not exactly with the notion of throttling it, but simply squashing it into a nice piece of pâté for when the cops turned up....
How was I supposed to know?
In Lanka before Sunrise, the demon’s spell works amnesia.
But, hand-cuffs cancel mind-cuffs.
Physical constraint releases from Mental subservience.
That Monkey was Hanuman.
He burnt down our City.
He did it with his tail.
Guys- I didn’t know- Lanka was my Mother.
I learned Vatsalya after my Mom was burnt up.
Am I saved?