Nov 29, 2010

Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night light and half light
I would have spread those cloths under your feet
But I being poor have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly for you tread on my dreams

Khwaab mere naazuktar: Khaliqur Rahman

Paas mere huwe hote kaheen qaaleen-e-bahisht
Jin men zarreen kaheen aur kaheen seemeen kaam
Jin men neelam si chamak ho wahi qaleen-e-bahisht
Jin men ho subha kaheen raat kaheen ishwa-e-shaam
Aise qaleen sar-e-raah bichhaata main magar
Paas mere mere khwaabon ke siwaa kuchh bhi naheen
Main ne khwaabon ko sar-e-raah kiyaa farsh magar
Neend pyaari hai inhen neend se hai waabasta
Halke se rakkhen qadam aur zara aahasta
Paa-e-naazuk hi sahi khwaab mere naazuktar
Naazuki qadmon ki khwaabon ko jagaaye na kaheen
(This happened in the summer of 1965 after the Masters exam)

Nov 24, 2010

Bapu's Reply To GENEXT

Dear Gen Next
Thank you very much for your letter. I was moved. It is the best letter I've received in these 63 years. I'm happy you think so much and so very well for the country.
After independence, we have made quite a few mistakes. We should have entered into a 100 year no war pact with our neighbours and put our money on education. Good education makes human beings out of Man. Where are the human beings?
Then they should have attracted best of men and women into teaching. The best went to IFS and ICS (later IAS) and the worst in general went into teaching. After 63 cycles how much better can the how-much-worse produce? It is, I'm afraid, almost a total rot. They hold the degrees sans education, sans good sense.
Good education would have minimised other problems like health-care and poverty.
India is still a land of plenty -- plenty of men and women, plenty of youth energy and enthusiasm, plenty of water, plenty of money, plenty of food, but plenty of villainy and corruption, And, therefore, plenty of poverty and vice.
I think good education is cure-all.
And, I've laid down the blue-print of good education in my Nai Taleem. The Indian students in the 50's used to read an abridged version of that as a rapid reader at school.
I'll come back to this later,
You wish I came there for a day to clarify some points. The answers are there in my literature. Or, you can go to Agnivesh, Dominic Emmanuel, Waheeduddin  and Ramdev -- just to name a few. Some true Gandhians are still there. But they are sidelined for convenience.
Materialism isn't bad. But you should strike a healthy balance between the material and the spiritual. To attain this you should have a sound body and a sound mind. Spirit will then take care of itself. I've said all this in Nai Taleem. I'm happy Ramdev Baba is doing a good job.
Look at the pot bellies of some of the Netas, officers, even policemen and priests! Their bellies tell all the inside story. Have you seen a saint with a paunch and a bad guy without one?
I'm happy with the gen next. They are showing promise. But I'm peeved; most of you are skinny, or else, obese. Most of you can't solve problems yourselves. This is the result of bad parenting and bad education. Playground is in fact a training ground for problem solving, it is a pity, most boys and girls don't play.
I wish boys and girls of gen next develop personalities. Personality development is not a matter of a short course or a package. It is an on-going process at home, in school, in college and in office.
This brings me back to good education. Good education helps you to find out yourself and make a place for yourself in this world. Bad education works like a factory to produce brands. It is examination oriented. It hinders personal growth. It promotes hypocrisy and hampers honesty. It does not let you think. It burdens you with knowledge and information not really needed in day-to-day practical life. It turns you into a coolie. He carries the baggage for you but doesn't know what is inside.
I wish you all get good education and be good honest men and women. India needs good human beings.
With blessings and love

Nov 4, 2010

Naqsh Faryaadi Hai Kiski...

Naqsh faryaadi hai kiski shokhi-e- tahreer ka
Kaaghazi hai pairahan har paikar-e-tasveer ka
Naqsh refers to an outline or a figure  or a shape or a form. Life, whether animal, plant or human, has to have a shape, a form or a figure. Any naqsh has to be  a naqal of the asal, in the sense that the asal, that is, the real, in order to manifest itself, has to have a shape. The real, infact , is a concept, realization of which is a shape or a form.
In this couplet the form is complaining and wailing .
One complains or wails when one is in trouble and one wails or complains for help or justice.
Here, the complaint or the wailing is not directed straight. It is not addressed to Him. It is not addressed to His Script. It is addressed to the wantonness of the Script! This, not only reflects Ghalib’s own wantonness in expressing himself but is also an example of his, only of  his , way of expressing himself: Kahte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur !
What after all is the thrust of the plaint, the complaint, the wailing? The point of contention is: the covering, the clothing, the attire, the shroud of every figure- in- concept, the façade of every picture, is papery!
One by one, now, let us try to deal with words like: paikar, tasveer, pairahan and kaaghazi.
Paikar relates to the act of appearing, that is, to be present or to be face-to-face. One notices the face first when one comes face-to-face. Therefore, Paikar signifies face also. Paikar-e-tasveer is, therefore, the façade of the picture, that is, the form, the figure, the shape.
In the earlier times tasveer used to have all the three dimensions as it was made by sculpting stone or moulding clay or carving wood. Much later, it was made by drawing and painting on paper. The semantics of tasveer thus enveloped statue or idol also.
Generally, pairahan means libaas. Libaas maintains the limits(maryaada). Libaas covers sharm(look up the meaning in a lughat, that is, dictionary) and hides the reality. That is why clothing or attire or shroud is needed.
Kaaghazi means of paper or like paper. A paper-boat, that is, kaaghazi naanv is made of paper but a kaaghazi baadaam, that is, almond with paper-like shell has no paper in it.The thrust is: whether it is paper or paper- like, it is frail.
In this couplet, as in other couplets of Ghalib, every word is loaded with semantic significance. One needs to remove the layers of meaning to get into the poetic sense that Ghalib intends to pack in every word he uses. This is the poet’s uniqueness and the beauty of it.
Proceeding through the courses of the word-meanings  here, the sense, that is, the core message  is: every object in God’s creation has a form. This form is an image of the concept. The image is impermanent. As long as this image exists, it wails. Each form, therefore, wails and addresses to the One who is Formless(beyond Form), thus praying to be liberated from the form. The prayers in the form of wailings are, infact, appeals for unification.
Compare this with other couplets of Ghalib’s:
Na thaa kuchh to khudaa thaa, na hotaa kuchh, khudaa hotaa
Duboyaa mujh ko honey ne, na hotaa main, to kya hotaa
Shouq har rang raqeeb-e-sar-o-saamaan nikla
Qais tasveer ke prdey men bhi uryaan nikla

Pleasures Of Old Age

Khali, Khurr, Raha and Maan are all 70 or thereabouts. Their wisespeak is evidently loaded with very strong i-ness. But let’s not count the trees and miss the woods. Here is what they’ve spoken…wisely…

Forty is the old age of youth and sixty is the youth of old age, relates Khali and thinks he must be treated like a nine year old because old age is the second childhood. According to Blake, Khali must be at the other end in the chamber of experience but would prefer to enter the second chamber of innocence before his time is up. Like a snake sloughing off its skin, he is trying to cast off those personality traits that hold him back from entering the second chamber of innocence. One doesn't know when the Referee is going to blow the whistle. Entering the second chamber of innocence may well be impossible but to be busy trying at better goals has its own pleasure, he thinks.
He takes a lot of pleasure in doing routine things: like, getting up at 4, making tea, going for a walk, doing some exercises and following them with extremely relaxing yognidra. Such ordinary things which he used to do perfunctorily in his earlier days have now become a source of enjoyment.
Khurr enjoys one full hour in the bathroom. He loves reading in the lavatory and doing some justice to the newspapers and magazines. For this he needs a clean bathroom and pleasant smell around. He thinks the sitting-room doesn’t project the personality and the level of life he lives. It is in fact the bathroom that is a true indicator of the user's conduct. He cleans up his bathroom two or three times a week and puts a new odonil cake in the case once a week. A dirty bucket, a dirty mug or a dirty badna is an instant source of irritation. He sees to it that they keep him in good cheer.
He has a wall-clock in his bathroom to avoid overtime. He thinks he manages time extremely well: 20 minutes for the big job and reading, 20 minutes for bath and 20 minutes for drying up. He takes four towels to dry: one for the head and face, one for the upper body, one for the lower and one small one for the feet. He always uses white towels -- they tell him when to change!
Raha takes a lot of pride – and pleasure – in small things. As he is putting on his kurta-pyjama , he goes through the unmuttered prayers and thanksgiving to God for being so kind as to enable him to wear fresh- from- the drycleaner's clothes every day. Thank-you-God...Thank-you-God continues like a refrain as he wears three good quality Itr over his kurta and rumaal. He has 10-12 different varieties of Itr for the year!
He takes about 45 minutes to take breakfast which is the best meal of the day for him. He starts with a boiled or baked apple. He eats it with honey, black pepper and pink salt. As he eats, he says he tastes the GRACE, the GREATNESS, and extreme KINDNESS of G O D! He is completely overwhelmed, completely bowled over, as he relishes ... and relishes... fondling long the varied tastes of the fruits of the season in the fruit-salad. He wonders how such different delightful tastes in inexplicable attractive shapes and colours and textures develop from the same mother-earth to gift him with the only option of enjoying to the full the exquisiteness of those succulent slurps. Next, he eats chapatis or parathas (done in home-made ghee)--but parathas once a week only-- with two or three delicious delicacies. Then he has tea without milk to wash down.
For lunch, he has a bowl of clear vegetable soup at 1:30. Then he has siesta for an hour and has tea with one or two Digestive biscuits at 4.
Dinner is a family affair. He eats everything that is there. Connoisseur of good taste, he is a gourmet. He has found out the secret of enjoying food to the full without over-eating. He takes small morsels and plays with them as long as possible. The longer the food is in touch with the taste-buds, the fuller is the pleasure and the tastier the food, he says. He loves ice-creams. Here again, go-slow is the name of the game.
Maan is the fourth in their group.Apart from food, he enjoys music. Old film songs for him are a thing of beauty and a joy forever! He has grown with the music of Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Ghulam Mohammad, Khayyam and Madan Mohan. Ghazals of  Malika Pukhraj and Begum Akhtar still haunt him. Can he ever forget Sehgal? What about Habib Wali Mohammad? He says his recent numbers in Pakistan are marvellous. Nowadays he listens to qawwalis based on classical music, and here, Nusrat Fateh Ali for him is simply unsurpassable and a source of perhaps the highest form of pleasure.
He has a free time between 11 and 1. During these two hours he meets visitors or listens to music or sits at the computer. If a visitor begins to get on his nerves, he gives him a dose of music (like tea or coffee), closes his eyes so that music transports him into another world. The visitor thus is left with the options of either beginning to enjoy the music, which is OK for him, or preparing to leave, which again is OK for him. Sitting at the computer for him can be enjoyable as long as the computer is a good servant and he is not a bad master, he says. He has been a Cricket mad since childhood. He always watches Cricket when India is playing and he watches with academic interest. He also reads a lot of Cricket. Shall I tell you one thing? Cricket, he says, has been one of his best teachers of English!
Evenings for him are generally free. Sometimes he plays with kids.They often find in him an equally foolish kid and have a nice laugh -- and he joins!
 A day well spent is a reward in itself according to all of them. They call themselves lucky. They learnt, rather early in life, how to make a deal with Time to change business into pleasure lest Time should force them into a deal to change their pleasure into business and change business into drudgery.
For the four, at the top of all the day's pleasure is the pleasure of retiring for tonight. Getting to sleep before too long has the indescribable sense of joy like that of floating on the stream of consciousness and then secretly slipping into the dark softness, ‘half in love with an easeful death’ only to be awake hopefully at 4 next morning and once again … to be half in love with the glorious birth of another day!
Teaching of English
Teaching of English! Yes!!
Have you ever thought about the difference that is there in India between an MA in English and an MA in any of the languages like French or German or Russian or Spanish or Arabic? I’ll tell you, English in India carries the burden of Second Language while all the other languages referred to above enjoy the status of a Foreign Language. A foreign language student is personally interested in the language and is highly motivated, whereas a second language student is socio-economically under tremendous pressure to learn the language, in the hope of getting a job and earning a livelihood. A second language student thus finds himself or herself in a don’t-want-to-but-have-to situation. Therefore, when a student seeks admission to a PG course in a Foreign Language, the student’s language proficiency level is much higher than that of a student in India who wants to do MA in English which is a Second Language for him or her.
During the MA in English course, the student is exposed to the works of writers like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope … Shelly, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge … Eliot …  just to name a few of the many in the Syllabus. The teachers and the students lug information, like Coolies, without ever bothering what the contents are or mean! You have MAs in English Literature in lakhs every year, and MPhils and PhDs in thousands! But can they teach English language which they are asked to do at universities and colleges and schools? The answer is a big NO!
The UGC is a funny oceanic quagmire. Look at the syllabus for NET (National Eligibility Test) that qualifies one to teach English. They start with Beowulf! Leave alone Chaucer!! Now, how can the blessed Englishes ( this expression is pretty much acceptable nowadays and it refers to the different varieties of English) of these writers, or for that matter, of even Dickens and Hardy, help today’s teacher to teach contemporary English? If they can’t, you just can’t blame them because they have never been taught nor trained to teach English language.
I once talked to the Chairman of the NCERT while the big shot (in a small barrel) was here for a blessed exercise in futility which they call a seminar (without anything seminal in it) and suggested introduction of MA in English Language or MA in English Language Teaching instead of MA in English Literature. His response? “How can you bypass Oliver Twist’s ‘I want some more!’ and give a Master’s Degree?” I bypassed him for the rest of the seminar!
My humble suggestion is: Treat English as a Foreign Language when it comes to giving a degree in English Literature. And, allow only MAs in English Language or in English Language Teaching to teach English.
The teachers of English should possess a high level of language proficiency. They should also have an up-dated knowledge of Materials Production (text-book writing and all), Testing & Evaluation and current trends in ELT (English Language Teaching), contemporary descriptive grammar and modern Linguistics & Sociolinguistics.
More when you have the inclination and I have the time!
Man is a queer admixture of the animal, the human and the divine. The lower Man includes the animal and the lower human. The higher Man envelopes the higher human and the divine. The divine encompasses satan and god( Satan and God are the sum total of all individual satans and gods.)
A simpler way of looking at Man is to see Man as body, mind and soul.
From Freud’s angle of vision Man is id, ego and super ego.
Then, there are the dichotomies like the physical and the ethereal, the matter and the mind, the impure and the pure, the mortal and the immortal, the tangible and the intangible , etc .
God is one of the two dichotomies – the Ethereal, the Pure, the Immortal, the Intangible, the non-physical … the Permanent, etc.
Ghalib has said:
Lataafat be kasaafat jalwa paida kar naheen saktee
Chaman zangaar hai aaeena-e-baad-e-bahaari ka
What he means is: the Pure cannot manifest itself without what is Impure. The pure glass needs the impurity of a layer of mercury for it to be able to reflect the seer’s image. That is why you are able to perceive the spring breeze by looking into its mirror in which the spring blossms of the garden serve as the layer of mercury in the mirror.
I was initiated by my Peer-o-murshid in 1972. He used to say: murshid Allah (hai),Allah murshid naheen(hai).I got rattled as I was not able to swallow the statement: Guru is God…God is not Guru. But I never asked him to explain. Instead, I prayed for a purer mind so that I could understand what he said. I took 10 years to understand that Ghalib’s couplet and his statement mean the same. God as such will never come to show the path. He comes in the garb of a Guru. The Pure has to put on the Impure. The Nirakaar(beyond form) has to attain aakaar(form) for the benefit of our sense receptacles.
The Niraakaar is Pure. The Saakaar is Impure. Only He, the Pure, the Niraakaar ( Or,pick any of the non-physical in the dichotomies stated above) is Permanent. The Creator is Permanent, the created is not.
We, the created, have a life to live before death unifies us with the non-physical. We attain purity in death – the death of the physical. Then, what is purity of life?
We have been told at school Cleanliness is next to Godliness. I believe, the more cleanly we get, the nearer we are to God. In other words getting cleanlier is getting purer.
How can we get cleanlier? Can we get cleanlier every day? I think, we can. The journey starts in the mind. In the mind one says: I have to get cleanlier every day. The very idea is a Godsend. Sheer Grace of God it is. The mind tells you to take care of the body because you learnt at school: sound mind in a sound body. You begin to do everything to keep your body fit and fine so that you can keep it cleanlier everyday on your own. Soon, you begin to perceive, this body, in fact, is the temple or the church or the mosque in which your God resides. You are the caretaker of His Residence.
To keep the residence clean not only from outside but inside also, you do everything that is necessary. In order for your body to look beautiful you do all possible physical exercises. Your body looks beautiful and the world outside begins to like it. But does it look beautiful inside? Only you can see! That’s where honesty, the inside cleanser joins in and you begin all the necessary mental and religious exercises. Exercises need nutrition – the right kind of diet that suits your system, not just your palate.
You can choose from meat or vegetables or both to go with the cereals or the staple food you prefer.
Meat comes from the animal world. What do the animals do to get their food? They move around in search of food. Their movement is on the horizontal plane. Vegetables and fruits come from plants and trees. Their movement is in the vertical plane. They get their food from the earth beneath and the environment above.
Look at the meat eaters. They have, like animals, moved all over the world. They are the imperialists. Look at the vegetable eaters. They haven’t crossed seas. They are the spiritualists. The conclusion is: for worldly progress, eat meat; for spiritual progress, vegetables. What about Christian and Muslim saints? A careful study reveals they have reduced to the minimum ,or even stopped, eating meat in their advanced stages of spiritual pursuit.
Cleanlier food generates cleanlier thoughts. You begin to eat less and sleep less, too, and yet maintain a sound body and a sound mind.
As you get cleanlier, the impurities decrease and the purities increase. The animal in you has left you, the lower human has left you and you are left with the higher human and the divine in you. In Freud’s terms, you are left with a few traces of ego and all of super ego. If you are now blessed by the Grace of God and those few traces of ego, too, recede into nothingness, you are Super Ego. That, I believe, is the ultimate in the purity of life.
Please pray for me to get cleanlier.


My friend who has more than twenty years of teaching experience met me the other day and said, "The New Education Policy is like the New Cinthol." Struck by the simile I asked him how. "Didn't you notice." he said, "The cake itself has become smaller. Only the wrapper is glossier and more attractive."
'Why don't you be more serious and precise?' I said in a serious tone.
"Look here", he said , " I have always said serious things non-seriously but people have taken me unseriously. I have nothing to lose. You see, education should aim at improving peoples' quality of life -- not just of some privileged people but of all the people, especially the poorest and most disadvantaged. True, after World War II many countries attained independence and the educational aspirations of the common and uncommon people all over the world exploded like a genie from a bottle. Education expanded. But expansion and quality do not go together. Schools, colleges, universities and doomed – sorry -- deemed universities increased in number. Consequently, the number shot up exponentially in terms of graduates, postgraduates and doctors -- I mean PhDs. The educated class grew. But growths can be benignant as well as malignant."
'Much of it sounds like Philip Coomb's The World Crisis in education.' I interrupted to put the brakes.
"Thank God, it wasn't The World Cries in Education", he said and continued. "A great many teachers both qualified and unqualified, were forced to teach, most often with one arm tied behind them, like a farmer without a hoe or a plough. This often meant that everyone was going through the motions of 'schooling,' but with little being learnt. Tell me, if any one of our own universities, or, for that matter, even Oxford or Cambridge or UCLA or Harvard, apart from 'distributing' degrees, also guarantees humaneness or even common sense. Did they ever have a Professor of Good Sense? Why, even just sense would do!"
'But what is wrong with the new education policy? 'I said.
"Why? Have they thought of the basic structure? The rest of the things follow. Education should have three parallel branches: teaching, research and administration. All good teachers are neither good researchers nor good administrators. They try to put square pegs in round holes by asking a good researcher to teach. They should know that no teaching is better than bad teaching! You will ask me how a teacher will improve. Certainly, not through research on his own. In fact, research should be done by persons with the right aptitude.  And this research should feed into refresher courses for the teachers' improvement. For administration they should have people with sense -- the sense I was talking about. Can you play a ball-game without having the much needed ball-sense? And above all, they should understand, a good teacher is very fragile, very breakdownable. If they don't, he might do something today the results of which will show only after thirty years!"
'I take you rather seriously now,' I said, 'but can I quote you?'
"No", he said, "I want to be as famous as the famous Anon!"