I must go back briefly to a place I have loved to tell you those you will efface I have loved [i]
Exactly ten years after he left us, Aga Shahid Ali returned to his Kashmir. A couple of days earlier, many parts of the valley were blessed with the season’s first snowfall, signalling an end to Harud, the autumn season in Kashmir, and ushering in Wande, the winter. The sky over Srinagar was overcast too, as it has been for the past few days, maybe because this year Moharram has been particularly demanding, with mourners not being allowed to mourn because “the processions might be used by separatists to whip up anti-India sentiments”. The reason for the ban is announced from the same bureaucratic offices which, during the summer, employ the entire state machinery to ensure that people from the plains can climb up the mountains into a cave where Amarnath wants to spend some private time with Parvati so that he can explain to her the mysteries of immortality (Which must include, one would like to presume, the secrets of the longevity of a fragile mountain ecology.) Some like to define this variance in state policy and practice as “secularism”. The connection between the tyranny of Karbala and the present-day Kashmir is firmly established, once again. Continue reading Shahid in Srinagar: Arif Ayaz Parrey→
I could have met Sebald.
I went to Britain in September 2001,
And he died in December.
East Anglia wasn’t all that far way
From London, nothing, really,
Is all that far away in Britain.
I could have met him, if I had known him
What I would have wanted to say, I think Continue reading Untitled: Najeeb Mubarki→
If you met him on the street you would never imagine that he was a poet, and not your run of the mill poet, but among the most important poets of the 20th century, not only in Urdu, not only in the subcontinent but in the entire world of the 20th century. I have always wondered how could someone who invariably dressed in rather unimpressively stitched, unromantic terry-cot Safari suits, someone who could at best pass off as a joint secretary in the ministry of shipping or something similar, be such a wizard with words and not only with words but with content and with form?
The Oxford Anthology of Writings From North-East India : Poetry and Essays
Edited by Tilottoma Misra
Oxford University Press
New Delhi, 2011, 332 Pages / Rs. 595 ISBN 0-19-806749-6
If you are on the marginalisation trip, and India’s North East is your illicit high, you should be worried. In the last ten years, trying to make up for the dark fifty years of Indian ignorance, anthologies of literature from the region have begun to appear almost annually.
But before I get accused of an inside job, a disclosure that I am loathe to make:
I know many of the poets (some of whose biographies smell of Shillong) who feature in The Oxford Anthology of Writings From North-East India : Poetry and Essays. We share little magazines, anthologies, dark bye-lanes of love, anger, feuds, booze, and journeys to find our next fix. So, I promise to dull my taste and leash my judgment. And only occasionally lapse into pointless gossip. Continue reading 10% Anthology: Tarun Bhartiya→
Born on 4th February, 1949, Agha Shahid Ali would have been 62 next month. The Kashmiri-American poet who spent the last half of his life in the States (he migrated to Pennsylvania in the mid 70s) died in the winter of 2001 due to brain tumour. The next year had begun with papers and journals in the States, and in Kashmir and India, remembering Shahid. ‘Your death in every paper,’ Shahid had written for his own idol the singer Begum Akhtar after she passed away in 1974, ‘boxed in the black and white / of photographs, obituaries.’ In his new absence, he similarly reappeared in the words of his friends as an insurmountably beautiful poet, a gregarious Brooklyner, a near perfect cook, an impossibly good teacher and a lasting friend. Apocrypha started building around him very soon after his death. One could say this was the final proof that Shahid’s name would abide – that stories began to be spun around him as soon as he was not around. The Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie, Shahid’s creative writing student at Hamilton College in New York and then at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in the 90’s, and someone who always recounts his indelible influence on her writings (he coloured her drafts red), was one of the first to add to the stories that have multiplied since in this decade after Shahid’s death. Kamila’s friend, also a student of Shahid, had told her that some months after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, Shahid was riding the subway going to teach his class at NYU when he started to feel faint and began to black out. ‘For a moment,’ her friend told her, ‘he thought, “I’m dying,” and then he told himself, “No. First I’ll teach my class, then I’ll die.”’
2011 marks the birth anniversary of one of Southasia’s greatest poets, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Centenary celebrations are planned in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh throughout this year. The Southasian magazine Himal has brought out in its January 2011 issue a set of six articles on Faiz. A note accompanying the issue reads:
Over the course of human history, intellectuals and artists have helped broaden the scope of citizenship and the nebulous contours of citizen rights. Southasia is no exception. Despite its colonial past and internal fault-lines, it can boast of extraordinary individuals who have stood up against tyranny and reaffirmed the innate strength of the human spirit. Continue reading Celebrating Faiz→
Asrar-ul-Haq Majaaz was born in Radauli on the 19October in 1911 or 1910 and died at 44 on 5 December 1955. After his initial education at Agra and Lucknow he came to Aligarh and completed his graduation in 1936. This was the year when Ali Sardar Jafri was expelled from AMU for indulging in political activities and also the year when the Progressive Writers Association (PWA), formed a little earlier in London, held its first conference under the chairmanship of Munshi Prem Chand at Lucknow, the city that Majaaz called his home. Continue reading Asrar-ul-Haq MAJAAZ -1911-2011→