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प्रेम रामायण

लेखक: अनिल गोयल

महरषि वाल्मीकि की रामायण ने पिछले लगभग सात-आठ हजार वर्षों में कितने ही रूप धारे हैं. हर काल में वाल्मीकि–रचित इस महाकाव्य को हर कोई अपने तरीके से सुनाता चला आया है. इसकी मंच-प्रस्तुतियों ने भी शास्त्रीय से लेकर लोक-मानस तक हजारों रंग भरे हैं. पारसी शैली की रामलीला को देख कर भारत की कितनी ही पीढ़ियाँ भगवान राम की इस कथा को मन में धारती आई हैं. कुमाँऊँनी रामलीला से लेकर कोटा क्षेत्र के पातोंदा गाँव, ओड़ीसा की लंकापोड़ी रामलीला और हरियाणा में खेली जाने वाली सरदार यशवन्तसिंह वर्मा टोहानवी की रामलीला जैसी कितनी ही सांगीतिक रामलीलाओं की लम्बी परम्परा हमारे यहाँ है. भारत ही नहीं, विदेशों में भी इसकी अनेकों प्रस्तुति-शैलियाँ पाई जाती हैं. इंडोनेशिया में बाली की रामलीला की तो अपनी अलग ही मनोहर शैली है.

हमारे देश में भी कलाकार रामलीला को अपनी दृष्टि से मंच पर प्रस्तुत करने के नित नये तरीके और शैलियाँ ढूँढ़ते रहते हैं. प्रवीण लेखक, निर्देशक और निर्माता अतुल सत्य कौशिक ने, जो प्रशिक्षण से एक चार्टर्ड अकाउंटेंट और अधिवक्ता हैं, अपने नाटक ‘प्रेम रामायण’ में प्रेम की दृष्टि से इस महाकाव्य की विवेचना की है. रामायण की अपनी व्याख्या पर आधारित नाटक ‘प्रेम रामायण’ का प्रदर्शन अतुल ने 5 अक्टूबर 2022 को दिल्ली के कमानी प्रेक्षागृह में किया. उनकी इस नाटक की यह पच्चीसवीं या छब्बीसवीं प्रस्तुति थी, जोकि हिन्दी रंगमंच के लिये एक गर्व का विषय है.

हमारे यहाँ प्रेम-भाव का प्रयोग प्रायः कृष्ण-कथाओं की प्रेम-मार्गी प्रस्तुतियों में किया जाता है. परन्तु अतुल ने बाल्मीकि की रामायण के मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम भगवान राम के जीवन पर आधारित रामायण को प्रेम के भाव की प्रस्तुति का माध्यम बनाया है, जहाँ रामायण के चरित्र ईश्वरीय अवतार होने के साथ-साथ अपने मानवीय रूप, स्वभाव और संवेदनाओं के संग नजर आते हैं.

Atul Satya Kaushik

इसकी प्रेरणा उन्हें कैसे मिली, इसके उत्तर में वे कहते हैं, “मैं किसी एक प्रोजैक्ट के लिये बाल्मीकि रामायण पढ़ रहा था, और क्रौंच-वध के प्रसंग को पढ़ते हुए मुझे लगा कि इस महाकाव्य की उत्पत्ति तो एक प्रेम-आख्यान से हुई है. तो रामायण की विभिन्न कथाओं में प्रेम को ढूँढ़ने की प्रेरणा मुझे इसी आदि-काव्य से मिली!”
इसके लिये उन्होंने रामायण में छुपी पाँच प्रेम-कथाओं को चुना है. प्रेम-कथाओं के इन पन्नों में से सबसे पहले वे एक लगभग अनजानी सी कहानी ‘अकाल’ ले कर आते हैं, जिसमें श्रीराम की बड़ी बहन, दशरथ और कौशल्या की पुत्री शान्ता और उनके पति ऋषि श्रृंगी या ऋष्यश्रृंग की कहानी दिखाई गई है. दूसरी कहानी ‘रथ से निकला पहिया’ कैकेयी और दशरथ की जानी-पहचानी कहानी है. तीसरी कहानी ‘स्वर और शान्ति’ में वे सीता और राम के मन की संवेदनाओं की कथा सुनाते हैं. इसके बाद ‘उल्टी करवट मत सोना’ में लक्ष्मण और उर्मिला की कहानी देखने को मिलती है. और अन्त में, ‘उस पार’ के माध्यम से सुलोचना और मेघनाद की करुण प्रेम-कथा के दर्शन होते हैं.

विरह या अपने प्रिय से अलगाव ही प्रायः प्रेम-आख्यानों का आधार रहता है. इन पाँच में से शान्ता की कहानी के अतिरिक्त अन्य सभी चार कहानियाँ अपने-अपने कारणों से जन्मे उसी विरह की वेदना को दर्शाती हैं. सभी कहानियों में स्त्री-मन की अथाह गहराइयों को दर्शाने का प्रयास स्पष्ट नजर आता है, जिसके लिये अतुल कभी-कभी इन कथाओं की अपने अनुसार विवेचना भी कर लेते हैं.

दशरथ के मित्र और अंगदेश के स्वामी राजा रोमपद ने शान्ता को पाला था. युवा होने के उपरान्त परिस्थितियोंवश एक बार शान्ता का सामना ऋषि श्रृंगी या ऋष्यश्रृंग से हुआ. ऋष्यश्रृंग ने अपने पिता विभान्तक या विभंडक के क्रोध से शान्ता की रक्षा की, और उसी क्षण शान्ता ऋष्यश्रृंग की हो गई! (इन ऋषि विभंडक के नाम पर ही आज का मध्य प्रदेश का भिंड नगर बसा हुआ है!) ऋष्यश्रृंग ने भी जीवन के हर क्षण में शान्ता को अपने साथ रखा, उसे पूरी बराबरी का सम्मान दिया! शान्ता के जीवन के उन्हीं क्षणों का चित्रण अतुल ने पूरी कुशलता के साथ किया है.

‘स्वर और शान्ति’ में अतुल ने सीता और राम के मन की ध्वनि को एक अनूठे ही तरीके से सुनाया है. अतुल की सीता अयोध्या की सीता नहीं हैं, वे मिथिला की बेटी सीता हैं, मन से एक चंचल बालिका, सुकोमल भावनाओं से ओत-प्रोत, कर्तव्यों के गाम्भीर्य के बीच अपने मन की संवेदनाओं के कोमल स्वरों को भी सुनने वाली सीता. अयोध्या के राम जितने शान्त थे, मिथिला की सीता उतनी ही चपल और चंचल थीं. आज भी मिथिला और नेपाल के गीतों में उनका यही रूप अधिक प्रचलित है, जनकपुर की बेटी का रूप! राम का स्वरुप भी यहाँ अयोध्या के युवराज का नहीं, बल्कि मिथिला के जामाता का है, जिसके साथ ठिठोली भी की जाती है! सीता के इसी स्वर, और राम के गहन-गम्भीर, शान्त स्वभाव की कथा है यह कथा! यह प्रेम रामायण है, तो उसमें अतुल ने कलात्मक स्वतन्त्रता लेकर सीता की प्रचलित एकदम गम्भीर, आदर्श छवि से हट कर, सीता को अपने पिता की लाडली बेटी, एक बच्ची के रूप में दिखाने का प्रयास किया है!

लेकिन पूरे नाटक में सबसे अधिक मार्मिक और करुणा भरे क्षण रहे लक्ष्मण और उर्मिला की विदा के क्षण! मैथिलीशरण गुप्त ने भी अपने महाकाव्य ‘साकेत’ के नवम सर्ग में घर में रह कर वनवासिनी का जीवन जीती उर्मिला की कहानी कही है. आसन्न विरह के आभास और सीता के वनवास जाने से उत्पन्न हुए कर्त्तव्य के बीच अद्भुत सन्तुलन बनाती हुई उर्मिला… इन चारों बहनों में से सबसे बड़ी सीता तो वन चली गईं . अब बाकी तीनों में उर्मिला ही सबसे बड़ी हैं. तीन सासें तो अपने वैधव्य को भोग रही हैं. उन तीनों सासों की, अपनी दोनों छोटी बहनों की, दोनों देवरों की, और इतने बड़े राजभवन की सम्पूर्ण जिमेवारी अब उर्मिला की हो जाने वाली है. लेकिन इन सब कर्त्तव्यों के बीच उसका अपना आसन्न विरह भी तो है, जिसे न चाह कर भी उर्मिला ने स्वीकार कर लिया है. लेकिन लक्ष्मण के वन जाने के पहले वह एक बार लक्ष्मण से मिल कर अपने को अयोध्या के राजभवन के अपने चौदह वर्षों के वनवास के लिए तैयार कर लेना चाहती है. वह वन-गमन की तैयारी करते लक्ष्मण को बुला भेजती है.

लक्ष्मण एवं उर्मिला दोनों को ही पता है कि उनका यह मिलन एक क्षणिक मिलन-मात्र है। उर्मिला के उलाहनों से प्रारम्भ हुए इस अल्पकालीन मिलन में दोनों में से कोई भी अपने अन्तर के ज्वार भाटे से दूसरे को अवगत नहीं करा पाता है। उन दोनों को ही पता है कि दोनों को अगले चौदह वर्षों का भीषण वियोग सहना है। उर्मिला का उर अश्रुओं से गीला है। लेकिन जाते हुए वह लक्ष्मण को दुःख नहीं देना चाहती… अतः अपनी चपलता को बनाये रखने का असहज सा प्रयास करती है. गरिमा और दीप्ति का आविर्भाव इस बालिका, उर्मिला में अभी होना बाकी है. मायके में माता-पिता, और अयोध्या में सीता के संरक्षण में पली-बढ़ी उर्मिला अभी तक एक चपला बालिका भर ही तो रही है…

अतुल के लक्ष्मण ने ऐसे एकाकी क्षणों के लिये अपनी उर्मिला को ‘मिला’ नाम दिया है. वे आते हैं, और अपनी ‘मिला’ से पूछते हैं, “तुम्हें क्या बात करनी है?”
ये कुछ क्षण आसंग विरह के पूर्वरंग के समान हैं. दोनों ही सोच रहे हैं कि क्या बात करें, कैसे एक-दूसरे से विदा लें. वह भी लक्ष्मण के साथ वन जाना चाहती है, परन्तु उसे पता है कि यह सम्भव नहीं है… उसका विराट कर्त्तव्य उसके सामने नजर आ रहा है.
लेकिन कर्त्तव्य के साथ-साथ उसका अपना विरह भी तो है… एक नन्हा सा, कोमल भावनाओं से भरा हृदय भी तो उसके पास है! यहाँ पर अतुल ने उर्मिला को एक छोटी सी, लगभग नन्हीं सी नवविवाहिता किशोरी के रूप में दिखाया है, चौदह वर्षों का लम्बा विरह जिसके आगे प्रस्तुत होने को ही है! वह कहती है, “मुझे? मुझे क्या बात करनी है?”
लक्ष्मण कहते हैं, “मैं चौदह वर्ष के लिये वन जा रहा हूँ और तुम्हें मुझसे कोई बात नहीं करनी?”
उर्मिला आज इन कुछ पलों में जैसे अपने आने वाले चौदह वर्षों को जी लेना चाहती है, अपने सायास ओलाहनों से बातचीत को सहज करने का प्रयास करती, “तुम्हें भी कहाँ करनी है बात! तुम तो सुनते ही तैयार भी हो गये, जैसे प्रतीक्षा में थे कि कब अवसर आये और तुम मिला से दूर जाओ। मैं बहुत लड़ती हूँ ना तुमसे!”
लक्ष्मण तो ठहरे सदा के गम्भीर! लेकिन अपने कर्तव्यों के बीच उन्हें उर्मिला के उर में समाते जा रहे विरह का भान भी था. वे उस चंचला से बोले, “तुम कहाँ लड़ती हो। कदाचित लड़ने के कारण मैं ही देता हूँ तुमको। अब चौदह वर्ष का समय मिला है तो सोचूँगा कहाँ सुधार हो सकता है।”
दोनों का वार्तालाप चलता रहता है, स्तब्ध बैठे दर्शक सुनते रहते हैं, अपने अश्रुओं को रोकने का असफल प्रयास करते हुए…
लेकिन आसन्न विरह के इस क्षण में उर्मिला उतनी चंचला भी नहीं रह पाती, जिसका प्रयास वह अब तक कर रही थी! वह नन्हीं सी बच्ची, वह चंचला किशोरी अब अपने लक्ष्मण को उपदेश दे रही है, “… आज मुझे लड़ना नहीं है। सुनो, तुम ना… भैया-भाभी की सेवा में, कुछ अपना ध्यान भी रख लेना। खिला के भैया-भाभी को कुछ अपने नाम भी रख लेना। समय पे उठना, समय पे खाना, उल्टी करवट मत सोना। याद मेरी आ भी जाये, भैया के आगे मत रोना।”
‘उल्टी करवट मत सोना…’ उस दिशा में शैया पर उर्मिला होती थी! अब जब वह वहाँ नहीं होगी, तो लक्ष्मण को अपनी मिला की याद आयेगी, उन्हें सन्ताप होगा! अपने विरह से बड़ा उस मानिनी के लिये है अपने प्रिय के विरह का भान!

लेकिन विरह-सन्ताप के साथ-साथ इस सीता-भगिनी को कर्त्तव्य-बोध भी है! ‘याद मेरी आ भी जाये, भैया के आगे मत रोना।’ अपने व्यक्तिगत सन्ताप के क्षणों में भी कर्त्तव्य-बोध के होने का इससे बड़ा उदाहरण और क्या हो सकता है!
दोनों के बीच वार्तालाप सतत प्रवाहमान है. प्रेक्षागृह का वायुमण्डल प्रेक्षकों की निस्तब्ध साँसों और आँखों की नमी से बोझिल होता चला जाता है. लक्ष्मण कहते हैं, “मिला… ना राम को, ना सीता को, ना लक्ष्मण को ये श्राप मिला। यदि सच में मिला किसी को तो उर्मिला को ये वनवास मिला। मिला, तुम महलों में रह कर भी वनवास का जीवन भोगोगी। मोर के संग मोरनी को देखोगी, तो भी रो दोगी। पर आह, दुर्भाग्य। मेरी मिला का वनवास ना वतर्मान याद रखेगा, ना इतिहास। उर्मिला का वनवास कोई याद नहीं रखेगा।”

लेकिन उर्मिला को अपने लक्ष्मण पर अटूट विश्वास है, “झूठ कहते हो, कोई याद रखे या ना रखे, मिला का वनवास, लक्ष्मण याद रखेगा। रखेगा ना।” और फिर दोनों ही अपने को रोक नहीं पाते… संयम के सारे बांध टूट जाते हैं… दोनों गले मिल कर फफक कर रो पड़ते हैं। उर्मिला का लक्ष्मण पर यही अटूट विश्वास बहुत वर्षों के बाद लक्ष्मण को रूपवती राक्षसी सूर्पणखा से दूर रखने में सफल होता है! सावित्री की कथा इतिहास में कितनी बार दोहराई गई है!
नाटक के लेखक, निर्देशक और प्रस्तुतकर्ता अतुल सत्य कौशिक ने अपने नाटक को कथावाचक के फॉर्मेट में तैयार किया है. मंचाग्र में दाहिने हाथ पर कुर्सी पर बैठ कर अतुल पूरी कथा के सूत्र को अपने हाथ में थामे, एक कुशल नाविक की भांति दर्शकों को इस कथा-गंगा की यात्रा करवाते हैं. इस कथा-यात्रा की पतवार हैं नृत्य और सजीव गायन, जिसमें लोक से लेकर शास्त्रीय तक सबका समायोजन अतुल ने किया है. अंजली मुंजाल की अत्यन्त सुन्दर और प्रीतिकर नृत्य-संरचनाओं को सुष्मिता मेहता और साथियों ने कत्थक नृत्य के द्वारा प्रस्तुत किया.

एक घंटे और चालीस मिनट के इस नाटक को अतुल ने केवल तीन कलाकारों सुष्मिता मेहता, अर्जुन सिंह और मेघा माथुर के द्वारा प्रस्तुत किया है, जो दृश्यों के अनुसार विभिन्न चरित्रों को बारी-बारी से निभाते हैं. नाटक के आकर्षण का प्रमुख आधार-स्तम्भ है लतिका जैन का गायन. दूसरा स्तम्भ है नाटक में नृत्यों का प्रयोग. आज हिन्दी रंगमंच में गायन और नृत्य का प्रयोग लगभग समाप्त हो चुका है. कविता, गीत, गानों, गजल इत्यादि के माध्यम से निर्देशक ने विभिन्न भावों और संवेदनाओं को दिखाया है. मैथिल सुहाग-गीत ‘साँवर साँवर सुरतिया तोहार दुलहा, गोरे गोरे लखन … दुलहा’, अवधी के विदाई गीत ‘काहे को ब्याही बिदेस’, रामनिवास जाजू की हिन्दी कविता, और हिन्दी, उर्दू, फारसी, बृजभाषा इत्यादि के एक प्रसिद्ध गीत जेहाल-ए-मिस्कीं इत्यादि को प्रयोग करके अतुल ने आज के समय में एक साहसिक प्रयोग किया है… जिसकी बानगी हमने बापी बोस के नाटक ‘आषाढ़ का एक दिन’ में भी देखी थी. कुछ लोग इस नाटक को डांस-ड्रामा या नृत्य-नाटिका का नाम देंगे. मैं इस प्रकार के पश्चिमी वर्गीकरण के विरुद्ध हूँ… हमारे नाट्यशास्त्र में कलाओं को एक समग्र तरीके से देखने का प्रावधान है, ना कि उन्हें एक-दूसरे से अलग करके देखने का, जो मुझे ज्यादा उचित लगता है. अतुल के सैट की परिकल्पना में भी कहीं अल्पना जैसी पारम्परिक शैलियों की झलक मिलती है.

नाटक में प्रकाश-व्यवस्था तरुण डांग ने और ध्वनि-व्यवस्था दीप्ति ग्रोवर ने सम्भाली थी. संगीत निर्देशन अनिक शर्मा का रहा. गायन जीवन्त था, लेकिन संगीत कराओके था, क्योंकि, ‘संगीतकारों को साथ लेकर चलना सम्भव नहीं हो पाता!’, अतुल कहते हैं. हिन्दी रंगमंच की यही विडम्बना है, कि एक प्रस्तोता को कितने ही समझौते करने पड़ते हैं!




अब पितृ दिवस मेरा सूना है। – ज़िले सिंह

पिता तो मेरे चले गए,
अब पितृ दिवस मेरा सूना है।
जैसे लोभी का धन लुट गया,
और लगा मोटा चूना है।
अब यादों में रहे शेष बस,
मूरत नहीं दिखाई देती।
कहां ठहाका रहा हंसी का,
खुशियां नहीं दिखाई देती।
कहां छुपी वो आशीषें जो,
हमको सदां दिया करते थे।
हमारी खुशियों में खुश थे,
और दुख में सदां दुखी दिखते थे।
थे निश्छल, निष्कपट भाव वो,
ऐसा कोई कहां मिलता है।
रिश्तों में स्वारथ सधता है,
और मनों में छल पलता है।
मेरे पिता तो, देवलोक की,
सीधी ऐक निशानी थे।
हुंकारों से रोम खड़े हो,
ऐसे वो लासानी थे।
मगर वो माली चला गया,
जहां बाग पल्लवित होते थे।
क्या मजाल कोई घर में आये,
खुल्लम खुल्ला सोते थे।
पिता गये,वो रति गयी जो,
उनके होने पर होती।
आज अगर जिन्दा होते तो,
ऐसी गति नहीं होती।
जिनकी कोई औकात नहीं,
मुझ पर आरोप लगाते हैं।
गले लगाते रहे मगर वो,
छूट छूट कर जाते हैं।
मेरे पिता ने मुझसे जो चाहा,
वो मैं कर जाऊंगा।
सब रुठे फिर भी मैं अपना,
वचन निभाकर जाऊंगा।
मेरे पिता हैं, मैं भी पिता हूं,
ये धारा है जीवन की।
मैं भी पुत्र हूं,मेरा पुत्र है,
यही व्यवस्था हर तन की।
जहां देने का भाव रहे,
बस पिता वही कहलाता है।
जहां सेवा का भाव रहे,
बस पुत्र वही कहलाता है।
फिर कहता हूं दुनिया में कोई,
मेरे पिता सा पिता नहीं।
मुझे भाग्य से मिले पिता,
मेरी थी औकात नहीं।
मैं उनके गुण क्या लिक्खू,
वो लिखने में नहीं आयेंगे।
राई से क्या पहाड़ तुलेगा,
तोल तोल मर जाएंगे।
है ईश्वर से एक निवेदन,
पुण्य अगर कोई बाकी हो,
फिर से पिता बने मेरे,
दीदार वही, वही झांकी हो।

श्री लालाराम यादव( पितृ दिवस पर सादर समर्पित जिले सिंह )

सबके बस की बात नहीं है।

फूल छोड़ कर कांटे चुनले,
सबके बस की बात नहीं है।
महल छोड के वन को चुन लें,
ये सब की औकात नहीं है।
भावों का भी एक जगत है,
जो लौकिक में नहीं समाता,
द्रष्टि से भी परे दृष्य़ है,
जो आंखों में नहीं समाता।
उसको जो कोई देख सके
ये सबके बस की बात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर….
शब्दों का छोटा सा दायरा,
पकड़ पकड़ के कहां पकड़ोगे,
बुद्ध और महावीर की वाणी,
शब्दों से कैसे पकड़ोगे।
जहां शब्दों की पकड़ छूट जाये,
उसको तुम कैसे पकड़ोगे।
सुधा छोडके गरल को पीना,
सबके बस की बात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर…
मानव यूं मानव नहीं होता,
जैसे सब मानव होते हैं।
मानवता जिनके अन्दर हो,
वो मानव थोड़े होते हैं।
जो मानव मानव बन जाये,
ये सब की औकात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर…
अन्धो को कैसे समझाए,
वेद व्यास भी हार गए हैं।
जीते जागते कृष्ण न दीखे,
सब कौरव बेकार गये है
सबकी झोली में आ जाये,
ये ऐसी सौगात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर…
कविता गढ़ दूं, और मैं गा दूं,
फिर भी इससे क्या होता है।
गीता और रामायण लिख दी,
फिर भी अपना मन सोता है।
दर दर पर जो लुट जाये,
ये ऐसी खैरात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर…
अंतस का जब भाग्य उदय हो,
और संगत परवान चढे तो,
कभी पुण्य का उदय होय तो,
और सज्जन सत्कार बढ़े तो।
तभी ज्ञान की वर्षा होगी,
ऐसी फिर बरसात नहीं है। फूल छोड़ कर कांटे चुन लें,
सबके बस की बात नहीं है।
महल छोड़ कर …

देखो ये कैसी मजबूरी

दीपक की ये मजबूरी है,
जले नहीं तो और करें क्या।
और पतंगें की मजबूरी,
जान के जल गया और करें क्या।
मजबूरी ऐसी ब्याधा है,
इसको बस मजबूर ही जाने।
क्ई बार मजबूरी में तो,
खुद को पड़ते प्राण गंवाने।
फिर भी हल नहीं हुई समस्या,
देखो ये कैसी मजबूरी।
वो न कभी जान पायेगा,
जिसने नहीं देखी मजबूरी।।
आत्मघात सस्ता होता हो,
मर न सके वो है मजबूरी।
पर ये सब मजबूर ही जाने,
जना न सके ये है मजबूरी।
घोर कष्ट देना मालिक,
पर मत देना ऐसी मजबूरी।
सीता जैसी नारि त्याग दी,
बनी राम की वो मजबूरी।
राम त्याग दिए दसरथजी ने,
जानो थी कैसी मजबूरी।
प्राण त्याग देते सस्ता था,
पर नहीं त्यागे थी मजबूरी।
नारद,शेष, महेश,जिन्हें,
दिन रात रटे,करते मजदूरी,
उनका घर से देश निकाला,
दसरथ की कैसी मजबूरी।
राम तो बड़े उदाहरण है,
पर बड़ी बहुत होती मजबूरी।
जहां समझ और ज्ञान हार जाये,
वो देखी हमने मजबूरी।
मेरा अपना ऐसा अनुभव,
मेरी भी अपनी मजबूरी।
धर्म ध्वजों के ऊपर ही,
हावी होती देखी मजबूरी।
मगर धर्म का साधक ही,
होता मजबूर,यही मजबूरी।
अधम और नीचो की देखो,
नहीं होती कोई मजबूरी।
मैं कहता हूं मजबूरी में,
यों मजबूर कभी मत होना,
धर्म डुबो दो मजबूरी में
ऐसी नहीं होती मजबूरी।
पुत्र कटे,धन दौलत लुट गई,
ऐसी भी होती मजबूरी,
मगर धर्म को लील जाये जो,
ऐसी नहीं होती मजबूरी।
विश्वासो को लील जाए जो,
ऐसी भी होती मजबूरी,
मगर धर्म को लील जाए जो,
ऐसी नहीं होती मजबूरी

( जिले सिंह)

कवि ज़िले सिंह, Delhi Police. (Studied in MSJ College, Bharatpur)



MY HEART IS AN ALIEN SPARROW and other poems in English and Italian

MY HEART IS AN ALIEN SPARROW

Ah my heart, my heart is an alien sparrow.

Ah my heart, my heart, which dance of love,

that dances a comma of your land.

Ah my heart, my heart,

in the summer fire

between thirsty slopes,

in the clear sky,

between your roots
.

Il mio cuore è un passero alieno

Ah il mio cuore, il mio cuore è un passero alieno.

Ah il mio cuore, il mio cuore, che danza d’amore,

che danza una virgola del tuo terreno.

Ah il mio cuore, il mio cuore,

nel fuoco d’estate

tra pendici assetate,

nel cielo sereno,

tra le tue radici.

(Antonio Blunda, © 2022)

*****************************

YOU COULD BE MY SON

You could be my son

Ah…My son…How could you be that!

I can’t forget your name

In the days that is yet to come

I will end up soon

But it will be you

To find me among the dead

Together we will fly away,

Sail in the wind

As evil is all visible

And goodness is hiding

Come and hold my hand

At your leisure

POTEVI ESSERMI FIGLIO

Potevi essermi figlio.

Figlio mio, ah come potevi esserlo!

Non perderò il tuo nome,

nei giorni che restano.

Finirò il mio respiro,

ma sarai tu

a trovarmi tra i morti.

E voleremo insieme

come una vela al vento,

come il bene nascosto

nel male di questo mondo.

Tu allora, d’un conforto,

verrai a prendermi per mano.

*********************************

You could be my son Image: ColumbusDojo

THE SOUND

The life – it’s our strongest hold

We are in this world

And with our light

We lift ourselves from the ground

Life is so beautiful

because it has its rhythmic sound.

A sound

That I hear from the bloomed flower

by god’s grace

I listen to it in love and compassion

The sound

Of trains in the railway station,

I listen to it even in the still clocks

And in the passing winds

The sound that lingers

Inside the rooms of my house

And I am ever listening to my own sound

The sounds that make you feel things around

I hear it from behind my tears of the youth

And still from the green paths of those small roads

Now I feel it in my middle age

Life…my life

the sweet sound of it

But yet something more to be heard

Life…you are the light so heavenly

And the sound –

The moving reason behind

All those fluttering butterflies

RUMORE

La vita

è la mia cosa più forte.

E’ caduta appena

per questo mondo

d’una mia luce breve,

e mi solleva da terra.

La vita è così bella

perchè fa un rumore.

Un rumore che conosco

nel fiore dischiuso

nella mano di Dio

nell’amore amato e coincidente

nel cerchio della mia pietà

.

Il rumore che conosco di tutti i treni

di tutte le stazioni con gli orologi fermi

di tutti i passanti nel vento

.

Questo rumore

che va bene per tutte le stanze,

per le stanze della mia casa

dove, da sempre,

ricordo il rumore.

.

Il rumore di cui parlo,

il rumore che ti fa sentire le cose

.

qualcosa già prima

per ogni mia lacrima

.

Perchè ho pianto, in gioventù.

E nel cammino verde

della piccola strada

sento adesso la via

così a metà della mia vita.

.

Vita, mia vita,

vita mia,

immenso dolcissimo rumore

di tutto il mio vivere.

Rimani ancora qualcosa.

.

Tu che sei la meravigliosa luce

e la ragione commovente

delle mie farfalle.

*************************************

YOU NO LONGER KNOW WHAT WINTER IS

(To my father)

You no longer know what winter is

a winter of the Thermopylae kind

the hatred

sickened by love

the road

perspiring from medicine

the cold

in steam from water

all this cold

like the last unfinished

speech at six

the kind that discards me

like a defeated soldier

inoculated

and kicked like tin cans

that discards me

with all the candy souls of radiators.

TU NON SAI PIU’ COS’E’ L’INVERNO

(A mio padre)

Tu non sai più cos’è l’inverno

quest’inverno da Termopili

l’odio

ammalato d’amore

la strada

nel sudore della medicina

il freddo

nel vapore dell’acqua

tutto il freddo

come quell’ultimo discorso

incompiuto delle sei

da scartarmi via

con la resa d’un soldato

inoculato

in calci da barattoli

da scartarmi

con tutte le anime di caramelle dei radiatori.

**************************************************
TELL ME I LOVE YOU

Tell me I love you,

I who hardly can say it any longer.

Tell me I love you,

so that this house, for once,

will not remind me

because the last sunset

seems a story told

because “I love you”

is something immense

in this silence

that vibrates so much

tell me I love you

and I swear to you

that I will have slowly counted

all the swallows”

DIMMI TI AMO

Dimmi ti amo,

io che quasi non so più dirlo.

Dimmi ti amo,

perché questa casa, per una volta,

non me lo ricorda

perché l’ultimo tramonto

sembra un viaggio narrato

perchè “ti amo”

è qualcosa di immenso

in questo silenzio

che vibra così

dimmi ti amo

e giuro

che avrò contato piano

tutte le rondini




The Grand Inquisitor

Shukra aka Morningstar (Mumbai, July 2012)

He took me to a place
hanging loosely in the stratosphere
and he showed me the kingdoms of the earth
in splendour, sealed with blood.
But, he was only a shadow.
He was not
the Prince of Darkness
and he didn't ask for my soul.

On this day in July,
blood looms bigger
than faith.
My mustard seeds have lost their fragrance.
They're scalded as if
the mustard oil
had been left unattended.

It is time to look for other flavours,
says the earth,
athelas, sanjivni, valerian root ...
But something inside me whispers, even burnt mustard will suffice.

Katya and Grushenka (Mumbai, 2013/2014)

Red velvet in my hands
holding you in my heart
until the end.

Unwoven strands of present
tense, wasted, swirling.

In the basin of the night,
the veiled Mistress
smiles gently.

"Patience, my love."

They will find you
when their time comes.
You'll be ready
red velvet in your hands.

Strange Days (Mumbai 2013/2014)

She gave me an address
and instructions
on the way to get there
but I was blindfolded
a hand covering my eyes,
my face,
my mouth
she had been there before
it seems
she seems
confident of the path she takes
strange loops of glamor
underneath the full moon's light
opening the trees like curtains
in a well-rehearsed production
scenes edited like history
delivered as only-begotten children
once having entered
must exit
through ways predestined
never to be born again
anew.

And After All the Tea and Cakes and Ices (Patna, 2003)

That's all, your Honour!
no more witnesses today.
The stars are dull.
Look in my eyes
every question wraps around my irises
like a solenoid
you are magnets, held
to black pinpoints
look, how you tremble
locked inside your iron will.

Laugh with the Fool
he has forgotten the Footman
the settled dust of memory
awaits the coming of a deeper night.

The Kiss – Heathcliff and Catherine (Mumbai, November 2014)

A smog of memory breathes droplets
shimmer in November's lamplight
a million moths crawl across the chasm
conversations thicken
into zero watt serial patterns

Lips lock into lips
Spirit locks in human 
Human twines into Spirit
Warp drive to Stars' End

He lives on
Sowing bullet seeds
The majesty of willing life-in-death
Fusion 
in Absolute Zero 

The Peasant’s Verdict, Through a Glass Darkly (Mumbai, June 2007)

An enemy
is only a mirror
that reflects
a few stains
on a dress that doesn't fit.
Sometimes I snap the threads
that seem to hold it together
and there are times
when it hangs so loosely
that I am utterly shapeless
an amorphous mess
spreading out like something sticky
into spaces where I dare not venture.

But when the bugle calls
I look into the mirror
and I fit myself
into the soldier's uniform
to give those stains
a chance to belong.

That when my peace
comes back to me
I will not be distracted
from my joy
by those naive remarks
that fall upon
some stupid little stain.

The references to The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) are too numerous to mention. Strange Days is a song by The Doors. The Footman and the cakes and tea and ices are taken from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. Stars’ End is a reference to the Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Heathcliff and Catherine are from Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). Athelas is from The Lord of the The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). The other references need not be cited because they fall well outside the purview of any copyright laws.




Night’s Neurons

The Weaver (June 2007, Mumbai)

Betwixt waking and eternity
the corridor twists
and turns
darkness peeps out
of many doors
left ajar.

Out in the open
a man steps out
of the lamplight
into the rain
he wears a long, black coat
his voice
is breaking
and his eyes are earnest.

He drives off
in a van, full of people
into mortal danger
there are no digits
on the number plate.

The corridor turns
like a thread for Sydney Carton
on a spindle
in his weary hands.
He reeks of midnight's oil.
The rain drips off
his shoulders
like a chill
into his heart
His lamp is burning
and the door is shut.


Wait Until Dark (February 2014, Mumbai)

The wings of night are spreading wide
the Morgul Lord unmounts
his hands are cold as ice
his breath
forks like a tongue
a sheet of flame, twisting and unwavering
his eyes the usual 
empty sockets
hopelessly out of sync
for it is daylight that he haunts.

The night, the pristine, the undying 
night
keeps us safe, 
unmirrored
untouched
within Her bosom
for if any of Her creatures should see the day
be it an owl, besieged by ravens
or a candle flame
in a pile of amorphous wax
or a student grappling with a crowd
of random cadences and flashing rhythms
a fastening of fancies
into tens and fives 
and sevens and their noises,
if one of us forgets a turning, strays
into the deepening shadows of daylight
and forgets the way,
the noonday sun will have his fill
and let us go
and She will find us
where She left us
in the midnight hour.

To Swell A Progress (March 2015, Mumbai)

A voice: What will you do
when you're free?
When the memory of this tiger and that
no longer snarls
at your gate?
When your bones have left their grating
at chalkboards
squeaking clean
allowing
no dust particles to settle with ease
at the counter
dark matter
white matter in a parallel universe
I answered - almost.
My eyes are tired
from too little widening
the muscles are stretched thin
now blowing out
at elliptical fault lines
cavernous as hot air balloons
and just as vacuous in their leaning
into the bitter air.

And yet, there is a way
of gentleness
a deathly stillness
that rips the sky open
and in between the seconds
uncountable millennia
leave just enough
breathing room
for a promised freedom.

Class (October 2001, Philadelphia Suburbs)

Your curses clamor through the walls,
the crickets shrill, the boiler's rumbling grin
a grin, 
not quite a laugh, a grin
escapes the boiler room below
muscles in its chin
contort in heed, in heat, 
to conversation's end.
Pieces of your soul are strewn like coals
into this empty din.

I read between the minutes of the night
freezing autumn night unquenched
the boiler's heat in rhapsody, in flame
in flame upon my back
in chill upon my feet.

I read between the minutes of the night
your face
caught in a struggle 
with my swearing friend 
I looked at you
with brave and tender eyes.

Other Poems by Acushla Sarswat




Blood and Rain

A View from an Ex-Aristo (Mumbai, 2014)

Mother of God!
There you stand
tall and proud
the blade across your torso
angled
like a grey black sports bra
but you have no breasts.
Why no breasts?
Only straight lines
running true
without curving
without bending.
I stand for my turn
sometimes sit waiting
always waiting
for you
to christen me again
your pen
writing my name
in blood,
in drops of red ink
rolling,
rolling with my severed head
across the floor
my thoughts disembodied
stuck in limbo
for a soul to pick them up
somewhere
off the mainline.
I think they've lost my number
I've been waiting for hours
the never-ending minute
seems to stretch across eternity
like a rubber band
carrying within it
infinite tension
never breaking
always teasing
just a little further ...
Your blade is dull today
it carries rust
there is no one to whet it.
We are saved by gravity alone
Madame la Guillotine!
May Thou always be
so merciful.
Hallowed be Thy Name.

Sand and Yang (Mumbai, 2014)

The safest place in the universe
is the eye of a hurricane.

Walls of steam rise up around me
making havoc of buildings, trucks
breaking trees like pencils
carving messages into uranium
reactors that pop and fizz
like corks and balloons
now spurting blood
as if some wrathful Goddess
eyeless
in the steam-colored garb of Isis
drawn like oil paintings
from the wells of fantasy
threw a party
for a fan following of misshapen clowns
and half-baked misanthropomorphic entities
hanging out
the bored masculinity of the ancient desert
having been assured
that there is no water on the red planet
and no little blue men worth waiting for
hooded or otherwise.

The balloons we live in
are fragile
and yet the storm
protects us
for the whirlwind has no center. 
His dark anger spins Him
in the vortex
of memory.

And who are you
to talk of fantasy
said He
you who live in the land of Bell Curves
and Sorting Hats?

August (Philadelphia, 2002)

As you walk by
the air becomes so heavy
I am pushed against a wall
Is it you or is it just the heat of August?
Hiroshima breeze
you are so heavy
I am hanging like the leaves 
on the drying summer trees
pulled down towards the earth
Is it you or is it just the August air
that makes me droop with so much longing?

The August sun was always known to burn
us lesser mortals 
with his august glare

We sacrificed an apple for the rain 
I kissed the earth
I heard a little girl cry out
as if she knew the presence there
If August comes creeping
like a whisper
through the hollows of your mind
tell me, love
then does September trudge behind?
If you were a pebble 
in the walls of Jerusalem
would they come crashing down?

Is it you or is it just the mushrooms clouds of August?
Sodom and Gomorrah lifted out 
like mushrooms from our lore, our fantasies
borne into reality
and christened Hiroshima, Nagasaki ...
hanging heavy in the firmament
laden with their sixty years
of ripened weariness
your glance is heavy as the August rain
shining through them and the trees.

The stares of the undying lifted through the skies
reflecting points of consciousness
the dying steps of the millenium 
now reborn into the new
thunder like the heavy August rain
and you. 

Waiting for Rain (June, 2005, Mumbai)

Climb, gaze
up where the steeple meets the sky
scribble someone's name 
into the dust-filled clouds.

Casino in the heavens
lit by lightning
somewhere the westerly wind
sits poker faced
covering diamonds
about to be scattered
wait for the sparkling rain.

Shards of Light (October, 2005, Mumbai)

In the shredded darkness of this night
dazzled and undeafened
stupid
stupid, staring eyes
stuck in the stupor of unceasing sight
the heaviness of nothingness plodding
through
tortuous miles of wakefulness
and twisting arms of time
tick-ticking through eternity.

Arise! Awake! Shake off your sleep!
You swept through the room in all of your magnificence.
An army of rays assailed us
nailing me to shadows
that have dared remain.

Eyelids jammed are not like doors
the lock of sleep
cannot be forced with chisels
chisels are at work
carving out my name
into each terrifying minute.

Acknowledgments: I have quoted song lyrics by Iron Maiden and Megadeth in some of my verses.

Other Poems by Acushla Sarswat




About Amrita Pritam / Kanika Aurora

If you truly wish

To write the story of your life

All you must do

Is to bleed

On the blank pages…

These are the words of Amrita Kaur; born a hundred and two years ago, sparkling with uncommon fire in Gujranwala, Pakistan who afforded us a glimpse of her promise shortly after her mother had passed away despite her furious and fervent prayers to the Almighty. Questioning her grandmother about the perplexing tradition at home of keeping her father’s Muslim friends’ utensils in a segregated corner in the kitchen, an activist at eleven, refusing to drink in any other glass until all glasses belonged to one religion. Her first ‘baghavat(rebellion)’, as she called it.

Constantly unafraid, she wrote with much fervour and managed to churn out her first collection of poems published in 1936, at the age of sixteen entitled ‘ Amrit Lehrein (Immortal Waves)’.Getting married off soon after to Pritam Singh did not rob her of her resolve or gift and write she did; finding solace in her inner world and words as Amrita Pritam.

Her first distinguishable progressive streak in writing became rather apparent when she wrote of the anguish and the socio-economic concerns of the hour in ‘Lok Peed’ (People’s pain), in 1944. Here, she criticized the state of the economy after the Second World War and the terrible agony suffered by all during the Bengal famine in 1943. It was however in 1948, post the Indian Partition in 1947 and its innumerable and unspeakable horrors, that Amrita wrote her now iconic poem ‘Ajj aakhan Waris Shah nu’ ( Today, I invoke Waris Shah)which made her a household name in India and Pakistan alike.

Ajj Akkhan Waris Shah nu/ Today I invoke Waris Shah

Speak from the depths of the grave

To Waris Shah I say

And add a new page to your saga of love

Today.

Once wept a daughter of Punjab

Your pen unleashed a million cries

A million daughters weep today

To you Waris Shah

They turn their eyes.

Awake, decry your Punjab

O sufferer with those suffering!

Corpses entomb the fields today.

The Chenab is flowing with blood,

Mingled with poison by some

And the waters of five rivers

And this torrent of pollution

Unceasingly covers our earth.

And heavy with venom were the winds,

That blew through forests

Transmuting into a snake

The reed of each musical branch

With sting after sting did the serpents

Suppress the voice of people….

Where can we seek another like Waris Shah today?

Only you can speak from the grave

To Waris Shah I say

Add another page to your epic of love today. (Translated by Amrita Pritam)

In 1950, her novella Pinjar(Skeleton); arguably one of the finest and foremost depiction of the Partition from a woman’s perspective was published and gained much acclaim. It was adapted and made into a Hindustani movie in 2002 produced in Bollywood(Mumbai). In this story, Amrita wrote passionately about the plight of scores of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh ‘nowhere women’ who were abducted, raped or killed as well as those who somehow managed to return but were never accepted back into their families for being ’tainted’. It was a strong comment on the hypocrisy of the societal norms of the day and fiercely feminist and critical in tenor and managed to make quite an impact on the conservative collective consciousness at the time. Some of her later work, notably ‘Kaal Chetna’(Consciousness of Time), Aksharon ke saaye(The shadow of words)  and Kaala Gulab(Black Rose) all had a serious rebellious flavour.

The trauma of partition and the shackles of patriarchal society which relegated Punjabi women to the kitchen, behind the veil forever lamenting their unspeakable grief in hushed tones to each other or in innumerable pathos laden Sufi folk songs; Amrita Pritam emerged as a fearless voice from amongst them and made a name for herself despite being criticized, condemned and even threatened braving the odds.

Speaking of socially relevant purposeful literature and the Progressive Writers Movement (from1930s till after Independence) which sought to inspire people through the written word championing the cause of equality and condemning social injustice; one tends to recall Munshi Premchand, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Kaifi Azmi, Sajjad Zaheer , Majaz, Manto, Ismat Chugtai, Krishan Chander and Bhishm Sahni to name a few; Amrita Pritam  who initially indulged in romantic poetry had joined the movement and went on to create and express her own brand of revolutionary ideas in an original voice strongly and soldiering on.

Post Partition, she began working at the Punjabi service of All India Radio in Delhi, where she had moved from Lahore and continued serving there till 1961.  

 Mera Pata/My Address

 Today I erased the number from my house

and got rid of the street name from the top of the road

Wiped off the names from all the street posts

But if you are really keen on finding me

Then go knock on the door of each house

Of every street, of every town in every country

This is a curse

This is a blessing

For wherever you come across a liberated soul

Think of it as my home

As an alternative view of history luminously shines through her poems and stories that cut deep, laying bare raw grief and palpable despair which find little solace but for her words; her refuge; her “Akkhar’(Words). 

 In her personal life, love came to her outside her marriage in the form of Sahir Ludhianvi, the celebrated poet who became her muse of sorts and fiercest lifelong attachment… She was enamoured by his charm and did not keep her feelings under wraps and wrote him ‘Sunehey’(Messages) which won her the Sahitya Academy award in 1957. Interestingly, at the time her intense involvement with him which she describes in great detail in her autobiography “Raseedi Ticket(Revenue Stamp) recounts moments of prolonged silence between them with him smoking cigarettes and her saving the stubs and reigniting them in private. Another famous anecdote has her recalling a time when she was being photographed by a press reporter posing with a pen and paper on her table; she would scribble his name “Sahir”, filling up the age in a trance like state. That she would get turned on by languidly applying Vicks on his throat when he was a little under the weather and describe it in minute detail was considered extremely sensuous and not at all appropriate at the time. Her first meeting with him has been recorded for posterity in “Aakhri Khat” (The last Letter) and his dalliance with Sudha Malhotra, a singer in Mumbai resulted in Amrita suffering a clinical emotional breakdown. Her poems obviously took on a different hue speaking volumes of her unfulfilled longings, all rather semi erotic in nature and completely frowned upon in public yet devoured with relish in private fomenting some of the most original, paradigm shifting poetry of its time…

You do not come

Spring awakens and stretches its arms

Flowers weave their silk threads

For the festival of colour

You do not come.

Afternoons grow long

Red has touched the grapes

Sickles are kissing their wheat

You do not come.

Clouds  gather

Earth opens its hands to drink

The bounty of the sky

Yet, you do not come…she laments.

Her desire for him is almost tangible and she openly professes to the poems being dedicated to him and admitting that her marriage was a loveless burden which she finally freed herself of in 1960.

Sahir and Amrita

In an interview to Carl Copolla she articulates, “The bonds and conventions of society are certainly reflected in my poetry, negatively, of course.  But I think every intelligent person has to suffer…Suffering is the price the intelligent person has to pay.  As for women, I feel that women in literature are different from women in other fields…Basically; there is a prejudice against women in literature.  Men take women’s writing lightly; they doubt a women’s sincerity.  For example, when I got this Sahitya Akademi Award, and with it fame, the leading English daily in Delhi wrote that I got my popularity in Punjabi literature because of my youth and beauty.  I felt very sorry to read that.  Why not talent?  They can admire a beautiful woman, but not a talented one.”

In spite of innumerable constraints, she continued writing in her native tongue and started the publication of a Punjabi literary journal, ‘Naagmani’ (Serpent’s jewel) in 1964.

Translating poems of Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Frost n Punjabi as well as highlighting the work of emerging Punjabi poets and women writers; she worked relentlessly to create a healthy, aesthetic platform showcasing marginalized thought and voice.

It was an uphill task but she had a companion and a lover extraordinaire called Imroz who spent the last 45 years of her life dedicating his own to her cause.

Imroz allowed her to be.

Living with Imroz in an unconventional, uninhibited way, without formally marrying him at the time was again Amrita’s way of following her inner truth and at the time considered a remarkable revolutionary life choice. 

In another instance, when she insisted, he roam around the world before taking any final decisions about them; he apparently got up and circumambulated around her seven times and said; “That’s done”.

Amrita and Imroz

“Father, Brother, Friend and Husband…the labels mean nothing.

When I set my eyes upon you, all these words became meaningful at once…she said of Imroz.

That was our tryst, yours and mine

We slept on a bed of stones

And our eyes, lips and fingertips,

Became the world of our bodies; yours and mine

They then made translations of this first book

The Rig Veda was compiled much later.

(An excerpt from her poem ‘Kufr’ )

Her book ‘Aurat(Woman)’deserves a special mention which carries interviews of scores of women activists and writers , translations of feminist writings from other languages and her own essays on issues such as prostitution, bride burning, women’s rights and the quest for liberation.

Her strength lay in her knowledge that her vision was shared by many others in other times and places.

She would often implore all who vociferously criticized her to give her a fair chance.

“I wish to ask all those who condemn me and my writings, do you wish to allow the fire of Punjabi writing to spread light all over or do you forcibly wish to bury it, silence it forever?

In her self- portrait poem, ‘Amrita Pritam’, she attempts to mirror her innermost core in very sparse, simple words.

“There was a pain

I inhaled it silently

Like a cigarette

There are a few songs

I have flicked off

Like ashes from the cigarette…

In a career that spanned over six decades, Amrita Pritam penned over a hundred works including poetry, essays, stories novels and biographies. Her works have been translated into several Indian and foreign languages.

Apart from the Sahitya Academy award for Sunehede in 1956, one of the highest awards for literature, Bhartiya Jnanpith Award was conferred upon her in 1982 for Kagaj Te Canvas (Paper and Canvas).

She also received the Padma Vibushan, India’s second highest Civilian Award in 2004.

“An award is not the ultimate goal for any writer. The only goal is to reach people, touch their souls. If an award aids that process, then it actually means something, becomes important.”; she said.

But apart from her very passion laden emotional poems, her influences were of multiple nature which lead her to produce an alternative, exceedingly intelligent, often explosive, unique, inspirational body of work.

So she wrote on as a progressive-romantic writer who promises her lover that she shall return to him and live on.

Her most quoted poem which is also a promise to Imroz reads

Maiyn tenu phir milangi (I shall meet you again)

I shall meet you yet again

Where and how

I know not

Perhaps I shall become a

figment of your imagination

or maybe splaying myself

as a mysterious line

on your canvas

I shall keep gazing at you.

Perhaps I shall become a ray

of sunshine and

dissolve in your colours

or embraced by your colours

I will paint myself on your canvas

How and where

I do not know –

But I shall meet you for sure.

It’s possible that I shall transform into a spring

and rub foaming

droplets of water on your body

and like a tender coolness I shall

rub your chest

I do not know enough

But that whatever time might do

this birth shall run along with me.

When the body perishes

All perishes

but the strings of memory

are woven with cosmic atoms

I will pick these particles

Re-weave the strings

and I shall meet you yet again.

And live on she shall, for all those who are concerned with the truth of life.

Constantly challenging the status quo, her legacy is her philosophy which still inspires;

“My life shall be my answer.”

(All translations are done by the author unless mentioned otherwise).




In The City Alone … and other poems / Rachna Joshi

In the City-Alone

The lone Tesu tree at the edge of the road,

hardy survivor of many city beautification drives

throws the morning shadow over the mazdoor

woman

breaking stones.

Half-erased signboards written in Hindi

flank her.

Yahan Malba Phekna Mana Hai

‘Do not throw rubble on the road.’

Undeterred, she keeps pounding rocks

breaking them into pebble-size,

the sidewalk is cluttered.

There is a bulldozer parked on one side

and also a scrawny boy with a limp hobbling by.


 Girl on the Bulldozer

 
Oh!  Thin girl on the bulldozer,

your faded sari, shriveled plait,

your bold attempt to stand erect

have stilled me here.

Is the beefy driver-lover

exploiter, employer?

Have your desires, loves and life

Been pounded into

a sick and suffering body.

Ensconced in my sunlit terrace

like the maker of a documentary film

I see you still.

Elvish , wispy, forlorn

spirit: I gather you,

in my thoughts.


That Boy with a limp

He had shorn off

his hair after 1984

yet the limping boy

still feels cornered

by innocent stares.

Pulled apart by two sets of conditionings

split by the riots

in Byronic despair

he thrusts his fascinating profile forward

his trembling limb held firmly in check.

He is iconoclastic and outrageous

his voice fierce, eyes black

he seeks clarity and meaning

identity and success

in an increasingly incomprehensible world.

Images of carnage haunt him

scared, wary, suspicious,

he will rather starve than beg.

(From Travel Tapestry, Rachna Joshi, 2013, Yatra Books, New Delhi)


Rue de Rivoli, Paris

A cobbled street merges

into the paved road.

I see the old Paris

old buildings, worn and used entrances,

people dressed in quaint clothes.

I am drawn back to India.

India as a dark, vibrating womb

which maintains at its core

a primal rhythm.

A fragrance arising

out of old manuscripts, statues

rock carvings, leaves, bricks, dust.

Buried in nooks and crannies,

in forgotten places.

(From Monsoon and Other Poems, Rachna Joshi, 2020, Tethys, New Delhi)


Sivoham

In the bus, people move among goats and sacks of grain.

Women in flaring skirts

seamen on leave

sick children.

Across the ridge, the sun rises

Nanda Devi, Trishul, Pancha Chuli,

they appear in different colours.

I walk through the old market

fascinated by cowbells. Himalayan cedars

and pines cover the slopes around.

Dew soaks through the foliage

and the cold vapours settle everywhere,

branches and leaves hang in a myopic mist

green, white and light blend.

In the wooden house, the harmonium is playing.

someone is singing ‘Sivoham, Sivoham.’

His brow is covered with sweat

and there is a sandal-silver dot in the middle of it.

(From Configurations, Rachna Joshi, 1993, Rupa & Co., New Delhi)


Worli Sea Face

Rain flies across the pavements,

and smoke rises from the road,

wet, sticky odours linger…

one streetlight flickers,

one mangy pie dog barks,

but…the onslaught continues.

The churning sea comes inwards,

With deafening crashes, tumultuous breakers,

foam, froth and water boring every shattered rock.

Haji Ali, bathed in some celestial light

stands alone…distant…a tower of silence.

Smoke rises from the Bhel Puri vendor’s stall,

it hurts the eye.

Something drifts in the air,

something…reflected in the restlessness of the sea,

something felt as the rain drums the tarred road,

something felt as Sunita and Sujata discuss the language of the waves.

‘The sea dances,’ they say.

‘It joins hands to dance among the stratified remains of some land,

it breathes, it heaves, it wants to say something.’

I stare up at those tall, towering giants,

those muted high rises, the forlorn penthouses,

they look back, with conscious irony.

Then the sea decides to speak,

the rain beats faster, the sea leaps up,

the fast, co-ordinated dance breaks,

the waves lose step, the water screams,

screams out, too clear…

and we walk back,

unable to understand the fathomless, changing, unpredictable dance.

The sea has warned us,

the sea has warned us.

(From Crossing the Vaitarani, Rachna Joshi, 2008, Writer’s Workshop, Calcutta)




As tributes pour in on Surekha Sikri’s demise listen to her Swan Songs

Veteran actor Surekha Sikri passed away this morning, Friday the 16th July 2021, following a cardiac arrest, her agent, Vivek Sidhwani informed. In a statement shared with the media, the agent said the actor had been suffering from complications arising from a second brain stroke. She was with her family and her caregivers who requested privacy at this time.

Surekha Sikri (19 April 1945 – 16 July 2021) was an Indian theatre, film and television actress. A veteran of Hindi theatre, she made her debut in the 1978 political drama film Kissa Kursi Ka and went on to play supporting roles in numerous Hindi and Malayalam films, as well as in Indian soap operas. Sikri has received several awards, including three National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award.

Sikri won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress thrice, for her roles in Tamas (1988), Mammo (1995) and Badhaai Ho (2018). She was awarded the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Negative Role in 2008 for her work in the primetime soap opera Balika Vadhu and won the Indian Telly Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the same show in 2011. In addition, she won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1989 for her contributions towards Hindi theater. Her last release Badhaai Ho (2018) got her immense recognition and appreciation from viewers and critics. She won three awards: the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress and the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.

As a fitting tribute to the great performer she was we will listen to her mellifluous recitations of Hindi and Urdu Poetry. But before that, here are some of the tributes which poured in on social media and otherwise from her millions of admirers, and eminent people whom she knew, including actors and directors from film, television and theatre.

Ashish Abrol, Income Tax Commisioner, laments: “Surekha Sikri or Surekha di as we called her passed away today morning. I cannot get myself to accept that she is no more. I came to know her in 1985 when she was a faculty member in NSD and came completely under her thrall as she became a mentor, teacher, older sister and a maternal figure for me. Her panache, idiosyncrasies, brilliance as an actor and her erudition… often when her silences taught you more than lectures of so many others. Her love for chaat and the occasional joint… later of course she could not eat much courtesy the intestine problems. She was perhaps the greatest theatre actor ever in modern India; some one who could emote and yet be aware of her own performance as if standing out of her body observing herself perform. More than that she was always overflowing with warmth that traveled to you through her twinkling often mischievous eyes. She was so thrilled when her son Rahul had an exhibition in The Habitat Centre …I was not in touch with her for some time more since her paralysis and with her inability to speak. A triple national award winner; Surekha ji was known to the country at large courtesy her TV and film roles…in Tamas, as Dadisa, in Mammoo but it is her oeuvre in theatre that is stunning; she owned the stage, set it on fire and then doused the flames with her voice and gentleness. RIP Surekha di my mother in another life you live on in your performances and our memories”

“She was one of my personal favourites .. a lovely actress .. will never forget her Nsd work when I was in college in delhi .. god bless her” – Lillet Dubey

“There is a total immersion in life…have deeply admired her work, her persona from the Nsd days, so fully engaged in enjoying everything that came her way intensely” – Amba Sanyal

“Surekha my dear dear friend! We were in the same batch! A consummate actress,very strong woman , determined and brave! ! Never let go of her beliefs and strong options! I shall miss her dearly” – Amal Allana

“Very very sad news. We have lost another great actress. Surekha Sikri left for her heavenly abode. Heartfelt condolences to her family. May God rest her soul in peace” – Satish Anand

“Another great loss to theatre and films. She was a great actor and inspiration to all her juniors at NSD. Will never forget her superb performances. Rest in peace Surekhaji” – Anila Singh Khosla

“Deeply saddened – was always uplifted by her rendering of Faiz’s poem- may she rest in eternal peace” –Salima Hashmi

“Shocking news. She was one of the few who defined theatre for us in our youth. What a great loss for all of us” – Rajiv Bhargav

“Last of the greatest products of NSD..and loved and respected hugely for her talent and principles. Will be sorely missed” – Dolly Thakore

Tail Piece: Surekha Sikri was very fond of poetry. Listen to her reciting poetry by Faiz, Raghuvir Sahay & Sarveshvar




Aneeta Chitale: Sojourn to Maldives – Book Review / Interview

Book Cover: Sojourn to Maldives

Manohar Khushalani: You are a poetess at heart Aneeta Chitale, and, with an anthology to be released soon, how did you think of writing a novel?

Ans.  I have been penning poems since the age of eleven. I used to write and keep them as treasures! I was a bit shy I think when it came to presenting it. But I had strong streaks of an artist; I was very active in theatre and writing, even during my Pune University days. 

Q2. Can you tell more about your journey as an: “ Appreciated Poet-from India”. You have just received “Gujarat Sahitya Academy Certificate from Government of India Year 2020- and Motivational Strips” the largest Forum for writers all over the world.

Ans. I have been very fortunate to write poems on varied topics, especially on the environment, unprecedented times of the Covid 19 – where life has become a challenge to lead a normal lifestyle. I wrote on a wonderful theme: ‘Striving For Survival’ collection of my poems OPA Forum, out of which three of my poems have featured in OPA International Magazine this year. I am happy to say that my poems were selected from more than 600 + poems from Global Poets-

Most of my poems are on Europe’s most acclaimed ‘atunis.portal’. I am most humbled by The Chief Editor Sir Agron Shele’

My poems ‘ The Three Witches’,’ Gypsy’ and ‘Rhapsody’ made waves. The Best Poets almost 162- contributed to a Quarterly [email protected] E- magazine/Print Year-2020 & For the month –July 2020. And the best part was I have got accolades & given an ‘International Spot Light- from The Government of Seychelles – Island and by World’s Largest Forum Motivational Strips.’ My three poems were widely read: Devi, Grasshopper and Himalayas.

I give my sincere ‘Thanks’ to Ms. Maggie Vijay Kumar & Sir Shiju H. Pallithzeth Founder President of (MS) Motivational Strips.

Recently on 17th August 2020, I received the news that my writings; my novel “Sojourn To Maldives” and poems have been ‘Globally’ appreciated and in India as well overseas. I also write in ‘Bi-Lingual’ journals. Have contributed to few journals especially in Egypt and Greece.

Aneeta Chitale : Author

Q3. You have been associated with the teaching profession for the last twenty years in different countries. How did writing happen to you amid such a demanding lifestyle?

Ans. I have been lucky enough to have travelled to different foreign countries like Sultanate of Oman, UK, and The Republic of Maldives during my long service, in teaching filed. When you are working abroad, you have to work hard and cope up with the international standards, and which is highly qualitative work according to the quality frameworks. I have taught to the ‘Sophomores’ which again is very challenging, but at the same time very eclectic I should say. I was always on new locations and amidst the ‘multi-cultural’ society, which provoked me to write. I had been writing in my diary all along. It was only recently, I could write the full novel. I had to write brick by brick, I must admit.

Q4. Having travelled to various countries across the globe; why did you choose Maldives as the setting of your debut novel, ‘Sojourn to Maldives’?

Ans.  The Republic of Maldives  is an archipelagos, it is formed by a chain of tiny islands; one thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine islands. It’s situated to the south west of India, in the Indian Ocean. It has bioluminous beaches and most exotic water villas, in the whole world. I was mesmerized by the turquoise   green waters and the   serenity, and its unique topography. Some islands are absolutely remote and miniscule and situated in the deep ocean. When I saw all this, I was fascinated and I knew this was the going to haunt me.  Much later, it emerged as a backdrop for my debut novel.  Maldives is famous for adventure- water sports

Q5. How is the story of Aari, and Brad in ‘Sojourn to Maldives’ different from the run of the mill romance?

Ans. The protagonist in the novel, Aari is a strong willed woman of today, who has embarked her professional journey on the islands of Maldives. She is an ‘expatriate’ who   faces many challenges in her personal and professional life. She explores the new found land. She meets Bard Marquez, a Spaniard, who is an ‘International Champion’ a wind surfer, on these exotic islands; quite by chance the romance blossoms.  But the islands of Maldives have a political unrest and fate plays its part. Brad is an adventure freak, an   novum and Aari an aficionado of altruism! The relationship has a roller coaster ride! It is for the readers to find out. I would say.

Q6. What kind of research you had to conduct before writing this book which touches on the “political dimensions” between the two counties- India and The Republic of Maldives?

Ans. I had to do extensive research, as my novel is set in the backdrop of the Indian Ocean. The life on the ocean and especially on the remote island; is in total contrast compared to the urban lifestyle I have lived in India. The ocean routes, the seafarer’s and the boat journeys, was minutely, studied by me. The Muslim culture is the fabric woven in this novel. The social, cultural and religious beliefs and sentiments are much valued, respected and penned by me. The ‘Political Crisis’ is the discerning perspective here and it is a glaring reality, portrayed by me.

Q7. As an Indian author, writing a novel of this magnitude depicting an era of ‘Political Turbulence’ how difficult was it for you to incorporate the real – socio cultural milieu in your novel?

Ans.  This writing is not just a piece of fiction but it has charted the ‘International Boundaries and routes’ inked with skirmish between India and Maldives. Being a neighbor, have its pros and cons.

The turbulent times between the years spanning from 2008 to 2014 is presented on the canvas. The relations between the two countries were totally raptured in this era. The entire plethora of Indian nationals and foreigners   had gone berserk. I had to study it in detail and follow it consistently.

Q8. Your bio describes you as a ‘Solo Traveller’ round the globe. How has this helped you groom as a Poet/author?

  I got my highs and lows both in this journey as a teacher.  But ‘Highs’ has a price tag too! One learns to be more independent minded, be more brave and learn to face challenges with a smile! As an ‘Expatriate Teacher’ you have to walk on the unchartered routes be it on an ocean or a desert. You have to walk that extra-mile.  I had to face many obstacles too and the moment you leave your native country, and after the initial euphoria has died, one is left in a vacuum. That time is most difficult and one has to mature as a person. Being solo – as my son was very young that time. And I had to leave him in India with my parents and my husband. One learns from the book of life! There is no gain without pain.

Q9.  With an anthology to be soon published how did you think of writing a novel?

Ans.  I have been penning poems since the age of eleven. I used to write and keep them as treasures! I was a bit shy I think, when it came to presenting it. But I had strong streaks of an artist; I was very active in theatre and writing, even during my Pune University days.  But this novel is a surprise for me. I had my stories talking to me.  Writing a book is a huge task. I had the passion for writing for sure. Being an artist has always paved my way to success. I have done a small role in a Marathi movie when I was 21 years old.

Q10. You have written a story on ‘India’s Bi-Lateral Relations with Maldives’. Can you shed some light on this international relationship between the two countries?

Ans. Maldives is our neighboring country and has got a great strategic importance in ‘The Indian Ocean’. The recent political crisis had turned the friendly ties, into a feud with this nation.  There was a dark patch that altered the relations between the two neighboring counties for more than a decade. But India has always been very helpful and friendly. The other great powers, like China had a major role to play a gambit. But the bilateral relations were handled very sensitively by the Indian High Commissioner and Ambassador India, His Highness Dnyaneshwar Mulay -To the Republic of Maldives. Indian High Commission did a commendable job then. Indian Defence Services did a brilliant job, with the precision of eagle’s eye.

  One has to read the story, to know about it.

Q11. In this book you have touched on ‘global the water’ crisis?  Do you think this is a burning question even in Maldives?

Ans.  The one thousand and one hundred and ninety one islands of Maldives   have its own fate to face. With the sea levels rising everyday a great climatic shift is going to happen any time in future. The land which is habitable is only 300 kms and the mineral   water is most scare here. One has to depend on the two monsoons- this country gets annually. The rain water is the most treasured resource and some islands are totally isolated and if the water perishes there is no future for these islands. Rain water harvesting is a great practice Water is a Global Crisis. Indeed.

Q12. Which authors have influenced you the most in your journey as a writer?

Ans. I have be most impressed with the writings of Khushwant Singh, Girish Karnad, JK Rowling. Poets like Pablo Naruda , S. Coleridge, Maya Angelou and Rabindranath Tagore.

Margaret Mitchell, William Shakespeare. I have always loved reading Henrik Ibsen’s plays.

Q13. With a large number of paperbacks, as well as ebooks being published, how difficult is it for the emerging authors/ poets to sustain the competition?

Ans. I think writing world has got its highest spurt now and the eBooks and paperbacks are both equally, relevant in todays’ fast paced, high tech world.  It is a healthy world, where one has both the choices available. But it’s always a great pleasure, to hold the fresh mint paperback copy in your hands. New authors have to learn to ride over this wave.

Q14.  In today’s publishing world, a constant debate is going on about ‘Traditional vs Self-Publication’, what is your take on this?

Ans. I am sure the new authors/poets have a great choice to make and enjoy the benefits of Self-Publishing too. One can be happy to self-publish his/ her work, than be frustrated about not being approved by the traditional publishing houses.  Both has it’s plus and minus points, I feel.

Q15.  What is the message you would like to convey to the budding authors/ poets?

Ans.  If you have the skill and desire to write you must write and not be in a dilemma, should I or shouldn’t I write?  You must follow your heart’s passion. Writing should be a long term affair. There is no short cut to success.