Thursday, December 29, 2016

Parveen Sethi writes

In a small rustic teastall where
aroma of tea comes wafting mixed with kerosene 
Dimly lit hues of late afternoons
draw crisscross patterns on my heart full of longing
The scraped plaster on the walls tells stories of bygones
The wooden stools whisper to me that you have been here
Sipping tea from ridged glasses
Singing songs of Shiv and Sahir
Eyeing the sly beauty on the opposite table
Whereas another smiled coyly  by your side
These places talk about you to me
The winter sun still carries the warmth of your having basked under it,
discussing Nothing, everything and life
Every nook says how you
have belonged here once upon a time
And How I am late in coming looking for you now
You Left a while ago
Just a little while or maybe more...
Now you sip tea from fine porcelain
In some place unknown to me
The fragrance of freshly brewed ambrosia now mixes with the memories of those left behind noons and days
I sit today breathing in you
where I could not be when you were
But did you ever leave .....
I am not sure

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  1. Shiv Kumar Batalvi was a Punjabi poet known for his romantic verse, noted for its heightened passion, pathos, separation, and lover's agony. In 1967, at 31, he was the youngest recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award given by Sahitya Akademi (India's National Academy of Letters), for "Loona," his epic verse play based on the ancient legend of Puran Bhagat, a 2nd-century prince of Sialkot who was falsely accused of seducing his father Raja Salban's childless young second wife, Loona; the raja had his son's hands and feet ambutated and his body thrown into a well, but he was resued by Guru Gorakhnath; after he recuperated, the prince spent many years beside the well, giving spiritual advice to people; when the raja and Loona sought his aid in having a child, not realizing his true identity, he would pray for them but only if Loona answered truthfully about his own guilt or innocence, then told them that they may receive divine forgiveness and end Loona's sterility; they later had a son named Rasalu; Puran then became Baba Sahaj Nath Ji, the supreme head of the Jandiyais caste. Shiv's first anthology of poems, "Piran da Paraga" (The Scarf of Sorrows), was publishd in 1960. His poetry recitations, and singing his own verses, made him popular on both sides of the India-Pakistani border. He became a medi sensation during a vist to England in 1972, but his late nights partying or in discussions with other artists, followed by awaking a couple of hours later and beginning his new day drinking Scotch severely affected his fragile health. He died a few months after his return home, at 36. His songs and poems have been notably recorded by Deedar Singh Pardesi, Jagjit Singh-Chitra Singh, Surinder Kaur, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rabbi Shergill, Hans Raj Hans, Mahendra Kapoor, Jagjit Singh, Asa Singh Mastana, and Jasleen Royal, and in 2014 the Swet Shop Boys (Himanshu Suri and Riz Ahmed) sampled Shiv's recitation of one of his poems.

    Pepper Leaves

    How can a moonless night
    Offer anything to the full moon?
    Why would a camel leave the desert,
    For the ocean?

    Tell me, how can the henna of good fortune
    Color a hand,
    If fate crushes pepper leaves
    Upon ones palm?

    Grief, like a cataract
    Descended right into my eyes.
    It is a terrible journey thru the valley of love
    How can I live my life like this?

    Who takes care
    Of acacia flowers?
    Does the gardener prune
    A jujube bush?

    My songs have turned bitter
    From eating berries of pain.
    Who can sing tender songs
    With a life that feels like death.

    How could I cry out
    When I saw the blade move across love's neck?
    The butcher had thrust
    His silver knife into my throat.

    The yearning to be with you
    Was my destruction.
    Such were the arrows of separation,
    Shot by the tyranical rulers of love.

    I gathered pebbles from your street
    And chewed them like boiled grain.
    I collected bits of straw
    And held them close.

    Not one dropp could I drink,
    Of the pure water of love.
    It became infested with worms
    The moment it touched my lips.


  2. "Sahir Ludhianvi" (Abdul Hayee) was an Urdu/Hundi poet and film lyricist, often in collaboration with S. D. Burman and Khayyam (Mohammed Zahur Hashmi); he won two Filmfare Awards for Best Lyricist for "Taj Mahal" (1963) and "Kabhie Kabhie" (1976) and the Indian government's 4th-highest honor (for "distinguished service"), the Padma Shri, in 1971. Unlike the ususal practice, he demanded that the music be composed around his lyrics rather then the other way around. His poems and lyrics were generally about declining social values, the senselessness of war and politics, and the domination of consumerism over love. At the Satish Chander Dhawan Government College For Boys, in Ludhiana, he became known for his ghazals and nazms but was expelled for fraternizing with a female student on the principal's lawn. In 1945 he published his first book, "Talkhiyaan" (Bitterness) and joined the Progressive Writers' Association in Lahore. After a warrant was issued for his arrest du to his support for Communism, he fled to Delhi in 1949, but eventually he settled in Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai, and built a bungalow there which he called Parchaiyaan (Shadows), after one of his works, where he lived until his death in 1980 at 59. Although he never married, his partners included poet/novelist Amrita Pritam and singer/actress Sudha Malhotra. Amrita had publishd her first book when 16, the same year she married an editor in Lahore to whom she was engaged in early childhood. They divorced when she was still young, and she became enamored of Sahir. They would often meet without talking to each other, while he smoked; then sh would smoke his cigarette butts. After his death, she said she hoped the air mixed with the smoke of the butts would travel to the other world and meet Sahir. In a poem, she wrote:
    There was a grief I smoked
    in silence, like a cigarette

    only a few poems fell
    out of the ash I flicked from it.

    One of Sahir's own poems was "Blood Is But Blood!":
    Repression is sill repression
    Rising, it must flop
    Blood is sill blood
    Spilling it must clot.

    Whether it clots on desert sands
    Or upon assassin's hands
    On justice's head or around shackled feet
    On injustice's sword or on the wounded corpse
    Blood is still blood
    Spilling, it must clot.

    However much one lies in ambush
    Blood betrays butcher's hideout
    Conspiracies may veil in thousand darkly mask
    Each blood dropp ventures out with burning lamp on its palm.

    Tell oppression's vain and blemished fate
    Tell cruelty's crafty Imam
    Tell the UN Security Council
    Blood is crazy
    It can leap up to the cloak
    It is inferno, it can flare up to burn grain-stock.

    The blood you sought to suppress in abattoir
    Today that blood moves out into street
    Here an ember, there a slogan, there a stone
    Once blood comes to flows
    Bayonets are no avail
    Head, once it is raised
    Is not downed by law's hail.

    What is about oppression?
    What is with its impression?
    Oppression is, all of it, but oppression
    From beginning to end
    Blood is still blood
    Myriad form it can assume
    Forms such as are indelible
    Embers such as are inextinguishable
    Slogans such as are irrepressible.


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