Thursday, August 30, 2007

ghazal ("the fragile promise")

The open road awaits   it seems
some hand's unbarred the gates   it seems

they hide obscurely   what to do?
we seek absurd playmates   it seems

the assembly-line's not churning out
glib manufactured fates   it seems

the body's stroll down moonlit lanes
the soul anticipates   it seems

as often he destruction wreaks
so often he creates   it seems

the constancy of loving you
begins in fits & spates   it seems

ironic when   abiding loves
comes camouflaged in hates   it seems

the pearl of wisdom's out of reach
where sold at market rates   it seems

past actions' fruit   when it appears
arrives in myriad crates   it seems

when summer's drawing toward its leave
it limns unwonted states   it seems

the fragile promise dawn once draped
re-furls when evening lates   it seems

if happiness Ardeo seeks
he'll lade the China plates   it seems

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ghazal ("black dots")

The writers wear berets   and go their different ways
the waiters bearing trays   all flow their different ways

some come in trams & buses   some ride on bikes & scooters
of course there's cars & walkers   some row their different ways

some greet you with affection   some more or less ignore you
some practice suave rejection   they show their different ways

the wise who look serenely   on all human behavior
discern the inner motive   who know their different ways

bamboo is always stately   the willow bends with languor
the vine's distraught & loving   these grow their different ways

when Raphael departs from   this world & all its hubbub
black dots across the valley   will crow their different ways


[I consider this merely a playful exercise -- not quite a serious poem. It's anyway an experiment with possibilities of writing with cadence.]

Saturday, August 25, 2007

vichitra vina (notes)

In several notes on my earlier blog kirwani, I tried to assemble some web-links for information pertaining to some topics in Indian classical music. One such topic is the instrument called vichitra vina.

For convenience, I am now parking a few further such links on this latter topic here.

Saying bye to Vichitra Veena by Vandana Shukla (article in The Tribune, April 25, 1999).
Now, it is only Shri Gopal Krishan in Delhi who plays the [Vichitra] Veena, sometimes for the AIR and Doordarshan. Ramesh Prem, who hails from Ferozepore, is now settled in Bombay is the other player.
Gopal Krishan passed away some time ago; but this article anyway concerns Ramesh Prem.
... Then, he listened to Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan, the court musician of Maharaja Patiala, playing the Veena on Lahore radio station. The sound of Veena with its deep resonance pulled him to this instrument like a magnet. He knew this is what he had been wanting to play all the while.He would listen to all the programmes of the ustad, which were quite frequent those days, religiously for about five to six years. It goes to the credit of Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan that Veena was revived in these modern times. Otherwise, it would have died long back. Ramesh moved to Lahore and decided to learn under the tutelage of the ustad. After five years of futile chase for the ustad, Ramesh realised he had to look for some other teacher. At the same time, he did not want to compromise on the choice of his instrument.When he met Mohammed Sharif Khan Poonchwale, son of Khan Sahib Rahim Khan, the court musician of the Maharaja of Kashmir, the ustad told him to pursue sitar, since he found his baaj good on the instrument. But at his insistence, he agreed to teach him playing the Veena.Ramesh learnt playing the Veena in gayaki ang. It was at his insistence that his ustad taught him the meend style of playing the Veena. Then came Partition and he had to leave Lahore, but he brought along his love for Veena....

Also --
Ajit Singh
Ajit Singh, my first teacher in India was a wonderful and humourous giving soul. Ajit performs on the rare and ancient instrument called Vichitra Veena, which is a slide veena in the North Indian style. He taught me for 2 semesters of my junior year while I studied at the Woodstock School in beautiful Mussorie, Uttar Pradesh.
-- from the My Masters page of California musician Paul Z. Livingstone's website.

An article (The American on Bhakti Trail) about Chris Hale also carries this passing note about Ajit Singh --
From Nepal to India — Chris’s journey was predetermined. It was at Woodstock in Dehra Dun that he picked up his first bits of fascination for the Indian classical music. “I joined the Indian Music Department at Woodstock and started learning sitar under the guidance of Ajit Singh, the greatest among vichitra veena players in the country. I vividly remember the recital of Pt Ravi Shankar at Doon. The magic of his recital solidified my desire to go on with the sitar. I now learn from Partho Mukherjee.”

Next -- in expounding about raag Todi (The Empire of Todi), Rajan K. Parrikar includes this:
We now reach for the instrumental package. First, an old recording of Habib Ali Khan on the Vichitra Veena -

Then, there's this unfamiliar (to me) assertion about the "creator" (presumably meaning, inventor) of the instrument:
In the field of music, Gujarat has made its own contribution. A number of Ragas bear the territorial names of Gujarat such as Gujaqri Todi, Bilaval (from Veraval), Sorathi, (from Sorath), Khambavati (from Khambhat, Cambay), Ahiri and Lati. These are invaluable gifts of Gujarat to the classical music of India. Jesingbhai, the creator of the Vichitra Veena, a musical string instrument, was from Ahmedabad.
If this is true, it's curious one doesn't find it mentioned in standard information about this instrument.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anchovy Pizza at 3 a.m.   [DC anecdote]

Dear ____,

Went very LATE to Adams-Morgan, hoping to find my falafal place open, but it closed at 2;30AM, seems (I arrived 20 min. or so after that). So I went to one of your Jumbo Pizza places, naturally -- and the guy remembered me! I mean, I asked if perchance he could come up with an anchovy pizza. Sez he,

"Didn't you ask me that the last time you were here?"
"I might have -- I haven't been here for a long time . . . "
"You would be in, with one of the ladies, yes? I told you we were out of anchovies at the moment, but we'd have them when you came next."
"I've been out of the country since January! So you really can make an anchovy pizza? . . . "

-- or something like that. This is the guy who is from Pakistan (though I would not have guessed it either from his looks or from his accent & manner of speech; my guess would be MAYBE Persian -- but he speaks in a rather streetwise / old-world [like old Chicago, old New Jersey, or I don't know what! -- more like a James Cagney movie maybe] manner). He said he was a seaman for 3 years in his early 20s -- somehow that may explain it, hard to say.

I also gave him a few spare Chinese / Hong Kong / Indian currency notes, as he said he's a collector. And told him I'll see him again in a year if not sooner. :-)

He also told me that Ustad Bismillah Khan passed away 2 days ago . . .
He said the [Urdu] prose memorializing the musician (in some media broadcast) was so fine, he was jotting down some of its words....
Then of course he invoked the name of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan . . .

yours truly &c.


dear ____,

continuing my mini-tradition of cannibalizing email for sake of personal blogging, I went and blogged the just-now-mentioned anchovy pizza anecdote. And added on a bit of extra stuff from a different email to a different party. :-)

Life is too short to write everything again from scratch.


ghazal ("interested")

If this is your experiment   I'm interested
through mournfulness or merriment   I'm interested

it's troubling   lacking work on the horizon
while yet to find my element   I'm interested

I went to roam the world   its branches beckoning
where birds may hold their parliament   I'm interested

you pointed to the pale tree   it illustrates
how mildness grows imminent?   I'm interested

not yet has Raphael reduced his argument
to certainties   he's hesitant   I'm interested

ghazal ("many lives")

Every city is a mass   of many lives
every soul a deep morass   of many lives

who could track all the trajectories on the highway?
speeding down the underpass   of many lives

lease a house or rent a studio!   find a job here
rush to school attending class   of many lives

might we pause amid the flow of time & traffic
in the heart wells the alas   of many lives

one must live somewhere   both east & west could claim me
I'm a cricket in the grass   of many lives

Raphael grows vague   uncertain how the game goes
wisdom's stone gells from the gas   of many lives

I'm a fish without its river!   hence my trouble
search for water must the bass   of many lives

that you deign to take in me a kindly interest
cheers along this plodding ass   of many lives

Son of Vayu! in the heart   show bright solution!
bring to glint devotion's glass   of many lives

still I dangle from the thread of strange confusion?
where's the eye the camels pass   of many lives?

brightly ask   what cup makes Raphael so ponderous
see how dark's the demitasse   of many lives?

Son of Vayu: an epithet for the mythic deity Hanuman (who epitomizes the perfection of devotion in action)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

After Kaifi Azmi ("tears have come")   [ghazal transcreation]

When those days I recollect   what tears have come
since a smile I could reflect   what years have come

at every footfall   still backward my gaze turns
in the place where we'd connect   what cares have come

life continues   through this blanketing of pain
to the heart I should protect   what snares have come

in the heart's fine nerves   verging on devastation
in an unbearable respect   what tears have come


Aaj Socha (Hanste Zakhm, 1973, Kaifi Azmi)

Aaj sochaa to aansoo bhar aaye
muddate ho gayee muskuraye

har kadam par udhar mud ke dekhaa
unakee mahafil se hum uthh to aaye

rah gayee zindagee dard ban ke
dard dil mein chhupaaye chhupaaye

dil kee naajuk rage tootatee hain
yaad itanaa bhee koee naa aaye


Thanks to N. Madhavan, as well as to Gazala Raza and Mahendra Rathod, for their translations that allow and help me to attempt this; see this Caferati thread.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"In quiet quarters" (poem)

Back beside Rock Creek Park   in quiet quarters
studying Gandhi's book   to pass the hours
six wweks or so   to dwell in pinetree shadows
pondering life's design   restoring my powers
sitar & surbahar   then we'll take to China?
paintings & films   anon in Delhi & Bengal?
unsure what route to follow   come maƱana
beyond the hill-of-50-years   still single

Saturday, August 18, 2007

villanelle ("the restless night")

I pass the restless night with words-on-screen
why've I come to Los Angeles? what's it hold?
the thing we seek is oftentimes unseen

I've barely lived here since I was a teen
most tales of those times remain untold
I pass a restless night with words-on-screen

in afternoon the Lake Shrine proved serene
the evening's film rather pleasantly unrolled
but the thing we seek is oftentimes unseen

the sea at Pacific Palisades looked clean
I wasn't for wading in (presuming it cold)
I immerse myself at night in words-on-screen

I've not in India gotten to play the bin
nor as yet in China visited Loyang old
the thing we seek is oftentimes unseen

in poetry what more counts is heart than spleen
though every facet of life might be extolled
I pass a restless night with words-on-screen
the thing we seek is oftentimes unseen

Thursday, August 16, 2007

ghazal   ("poems late at night")

I've returned to writing poems   late at night
once again inviting poems   late at night

with the sky gone dark   the summer-realm turns cool
where's the spark for lighting poems   late at night?

poets surface in L.A.   from months in Asia
strolling streets reciting poems   late at night

where the beauty in the heart has turned to ashes
they're inventing biting poems   late at night

must you dawdle at imagination's doorway?
enter in   delighting poems late at night

all the gods have gone to bed   do you still listen?
where are lovers plighting poems   late at night?

limning lines   where the design connotes a doodle
one desires spiting poems   late at night

don't the juices in the fruit require pressing?
loose the tongue for tighting poems   late at night

ink is black your page is white   but not in luneland
darkling leaves show whiting poems   late at night

lost in dream   have you discovered courtly manners
finding pens politing poems   late at night?

in the knoll of never-was   where truth's an echo
shadows dance   dim-brighting poems late at night

should Ardeo ever reach the shore he sought here
he'll no more be fighting poems   late at night

[verses jotted on a pocketed page, strolling Venice Boulevard in L.A.'s Culver City, my first night back in America]

ghazal ("in this world")

If merely a day or two we're given   in this world
how rarely wer're driving often driven   in this world

the human dimension is a mystery   soft or sharp
in strife what is that for which we've striven   in this world?

some say after death   the soul goes up or down for aye
too rare is that soul who lands in heaven   in this world

I sip my tea hot as summe's realm enacts its play
the days of the week we count as seven   in this world

the purpose of life is not   a sentence one could read
but deep in the cell lessons are given   in this world

when Raphael reels from land to land   what's his real aim?
his art is a spool requiring moving   in this world

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ghazal ("Every day I sit")

Every day I sit   determined to love you
ocean bit by bit   determined to love you

near or far   you stay beyond our perception
how to join or quit?   determined to love you

days & months & years   the flow is relentless
tears embellish it   determined to love you

how shall camels pass   (the riddle inquires)
through the needle's slit   determined to love you?

listen to the flute   & hearken the tabla
song is born from spit   determined to love you

who'll explain to me   how pearls & jewels
spring from brine & shit   determined to love you?

every move I make   on destiny's chessboard
shows my reckless grit   determined to love you

bunting is a ruse   but homers are rarer
flyballs flee the mit   determined to love you

noise & mayhem blot   the sky for an hour
breezes sough & flit   determined to love you

don't say spring's the proper season for beauty
autumn's hale & fit   determined to love you

Raphael's unknown   in annals of fortune
still he scrawls his chit   determined to love you

when you brought your kiss   to Raphael's deathbed
joyous flames were lit   determined to love you

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

ghazal ("India far away")

Now lately away from India   far away
I ponder the sway of India   far away

the hustle & bray of India   fade to charm
when out of the fray of India   far away

her vastness could never be mastered   one but bows
who'll blacken the gray of India   far away?

her Bhopal padmas return to life in my mind
I pine for a stay in India   far away

I failed to embrace her fully   but her glance
encouraged this lay of India   far away

her closeness is more than closeness   quoth the soul
I'm gladly the prey of India   far away

if Raphael should be destined to dwell afar?
he'll cherish the clay of India   far away

Monday, August 13, 2007

"As Monday dawns"   [quatrain]

As Monday dawns   my Beijing days   draw soon to an end
on Sunday night   the Ming-tombs sky   lay cluttered with stars
raag Bhairo's tones retrace their ways   as if lifelong friends
the windowed city brings back to mind   its passing cars

"in the countryside"

My friends are looking at real estate
    in the countryside to Beijing's north
you can lease a big 20-year plot of land
    for something like 90 bucks a month
and build your home there!   unconcerned
    with acquisition's imperatives
you'd camp in style   no tent but a house
    sporting all the modern conveniences

one spot is situate next to a lake
    where sunset hues on the water shine
you find fields of corn all kelly green
    you see stands of poplar all thin & fine
after ambling earthen paths beside
    this possible future dwelling-plot
we repair to a country inn and dine
    on birds-of-the-wild & cornbread hot

talk turns to next year's summer games
    that keep Beijing in a tizzy of late
the artist Linhai describes what music
    he'd like to hear the pageant play
its tones should be deep as night   informed
    by cadences of the brooding earth
like sounds of Tibetan Lamas' drones
    but a friend opines it won't come forth


[reflecting on last night's local excursion;
90 bucks: speaking in terms of US currency
summer games: the 2008 Olympics]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

ghazal ("endings & beginnings")

Is this where we celebrate endings   or beginnings?
from stars can you calculate endings   or beginnings?

they often enjoy the fragrance   of the beloved
who seldom anticipate endings   or beginnings

the inception of every idea seems   unexpected
those who ponder should contemplate endings   & beginnings

have you barely commenced to unravel the limitless secret?
at the close you'll lay bare all the endings   & beginnings

the more his mysterious blessings emerge from the deep
the more one must navigate endings   & beginnings

Raphael may be game to endure all the play in your basket
for no more can he separate endings   from beginnings

[written 9 August, in Shanghai -- while dining at the Tandoor]

Thursday, August 9, 2007

ghazal ("in the empty space")

Scrawling poetry on the paper's face?   it's insufficient
till you burn a hole in the empty space   it's insufficient

love's intensity is India ink   but what of error?
save with zeal you mark   and more zeal erase   it's insufficient

when you play the raag   must you lose one note to enjoy the next?
till your world is everything that's the case   it's insufficient

loving friends & strangers equally can seem strange my friend
life's devotion toward idle sportive chase   is insufficient

who is friend and who is foe?   every friend were a foe afore
till the gamut has been transformed   the bass is insufficient

when Ardeo travelled to China   did his saranghi weep?
till in Ritan Park he can find his place   it's insufficient

Saturday, August 4, 2007

a royal music

As Saturday traffic   through morn's window sounds
my Friday's travels   amid near-memory settle
I observed Dashanzi   & wandered the hutangs
do I seek to construct a lotus   petal-by-petal?
when surbahar sitar   & dhrupad come here
autumnal evenings   different for Beijing
new ears will heed   tattoos of an olden drum here
a royal music   friends will be glad to bring

Friday, August 3, 2007

fictive colloquey

"I'm not the fruit   vague passers blithely gather"
"mine's not the sough   of some indifferent wind"
I didn't hear this conversation   rather
it welled up in a dreamy night   my friend

"where do you journey   along the empty highway?"
"ten thousand miles afar   though I'll be back"
"many a shoe departs   treading this byway
I've yet to see return   one gone rucksack"

"mine's not the fugitive tale   and I would send thee
fond news upon the breezes   laughing kindly"
"I'll listen for a spell   where you would lend me
your handkerchief   if tears are apt to find me"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

workspace   [poem]

What if it's you to whom
the circling bird refers?
it's a long flight true but
isn't a sense of the distant
included in the arch of your
pert smile's curl? what if
the steps of the lost bridge
of sighs were changed in their
color values?   hey & what if

the depth of brine ocean were
altered by zooming out or in
in a perceptual workspace?
say graphical design-display
of i love you were softened
into willow-down floating on
a long wind's breeze? what
then my darling? what then?
the beijing morning inquires

ars poetica

The word Poetry arrived   late in the game
weren't poets in the old days known as Makers?
what's in a Rose besides the rose's name?
must answers hover silent as the Quakers?
if I can't say what a rose is   I can scent
the petals' hymn   & feel the thorns' lament

when images with words desire to meld
in olden ways & novel ways & strange
there's magic in the way the thing gets spelled
-- illusion is defined as What May Change
is illusion then the realm where poems bloom
to traipse equivocal garlands thru the gloom?

[as typical for such things -- written responsive to
an online literary network's game in form of posing
the question "what defines poetry?"]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

from Bangalore days (photo w/ saranghi)

thanks to Vasudev Murthy for sending me the picture --
a happy momento (now) of Bangalore days. I'm a barely
beginning student of this lovely instrument, saranghi.
Vasu reminds me, I was allegedly playing raag Bhairav.