Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The perfumed fragrance" (Hindustani song -- Gulzar's)

I have seen the perfumed fragrance   of those eyes!
with touch of hand   this relation don't profane
it's merely a feeling   certain souls will recognize
you'd best let love be love!   it needs no name!

Love's not some turn of phrase   neither is love a voice
it is a silence   wherein listening has its say
it shall not cease   no shutting down   no dying flame
its droplet of brilliance   through the ages flows the same
it's merely a feeling   certain souls will recognize
you'd best let love be love!   it needs no name!

The lingering blooming of a smile   amid your eyes
and remnant gleam where light inclined around your eyelids
lips uttering nothing!   but on the trembling lips
we see so many fragments   of arrested legends
it's merely a feeling   certain souls will recognize
you'd best let love be love!   it needs no name!


I've come up with the above translation -- thanks to Pragya Thankur's literal translation, followed by our discussion (with her detailed explanations of words & phrases in the original poem). Here is the original (transliterated):
Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mahakti khusboo
Haath Se chhu ke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do
Sirf ehsaas hai ye rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

Pyar koi bol nahi, pyar aawaz nahi
Ek khamoshi hai sunti hai kaha karti hai
Na ye bujhtee hai, na rukti hai, na thahri hai kahin
Noor ki boond hai sadiyon se baha karti hai
Sirf ehsaas hai ye rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

Muskarahat si khili rehti aankhon mein kahin
Aur palkon pe ujaale se jhuke rehte hain
Honth kuch kehte nahi kaanpte hothon pe magar
Kitne khaamsoh se afsaane ruke rehte hain
Sirf ehsaas hai ye rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

Pragya also points to this link as a place to hear Lata Mangeshkar's version of the song (1969).

ghazal for professor Vasudev

"desperate for poetry"

Desperate for poetry   citizens jog at dawn
barking for poetry   bright as a dog at dawn
pining for poetry   see how they squander fortunes!
mining for poems in Philly or Prague   at dawn
diving from corporate ladders in suicide pacts
landing in clusters like Gog & Magog   at dawn
woozy with language   heady with fine semantics
slumbering   sauced in poesy's grog   at dawn
passing their evenings   heeding Parisian chanson
they blearily forage through Frisco fog   at dawn
hitch-hikers scouring Europe or Asia   scribble
dispatches emailed as "poem-in-prog   at dawn"
somewhere in Ladakh   a poet awakes & types!
another emerges   in Beijing smog at dawn
urban poets congeal   amid parks & alleys
rustics   running the rapids   clog at dawn
one   in Morocco   is pondering rune & quibla
one through the Kerala forest must slog   at dawn
hearkening bulbul & koel   by hour & season
halted by cricket in evening & frog   at dawn
crashing in tent or verandah   crazed for syntax
piling up verses like Lincoln logs   at dawn
Raphael's stunned in the midst of this plangent mayhem
posting anon to his poetry blog   at dawn

Friday, September 28, 2007


"my lines"

I sat in a nook for years   & jotted my lines
ecstatic if wind & tears   had rotted my lines!
I wandered in rain & sun   and rarely I slept
too bad if nor waves nor piers   unclotted my lines!
the eyes of beautiful women   nurtured my dream
the violence of their lashes   dotted my lines
their globes sufficed for religion   heaven & earth
were charting my course   at times I shouted my lines
the clouds and branches became my cinema screen!
who cared if no literatus   spotted my lines?
abandon served for a credo   strife a refrain
alas if hints of ill manner   snotted my lines!
some days   a heavenly thought inspired my pen
some nights   a desolate feeling naughted my lines
distrusting rational speech   I preferred to croon
a caffeine-nicotine frenzy   plotted my lines
ornate casinos   accepted my gambling mood
in glib Mayavic machines   I slotted my lines
my poems came out as flowers   bees   & moonbeams
as ants they crawled   as flies   I swatted my lines
I loathed publication   & loved to grind my ink
lauding the muse   her glimmer alloted my lines
what did we seek? transformation   many expired
an obscure naive mirage   besotted my lines
enough!   the garrulous fantasy swoops & fades
I've meanwhile pruned & watered   & potted my lines
old Raphael!   you were simply passing the years?
I sought unwinding   yet something knotted my lines



Some dawns may afford a chance   to feel the world anew
some pirouettes in the dance   reveal the world anew

the puzzle of our existence   dangles from what thread?
the pressures of happenstance   unreel the world anew

if you are a dark enigma   what will light our way?
can joy hidden in your glance   not heal the world anew?

you set us spinning   uncertain which way's up or down!
while truing our course   you yet unkeel the world anew!

so brisk is the play of time!   so glib the luck of draw
no sooner we fold   again you deal the world anew

I wanted to dive in poetry   that mountain pool
to chill-out my mind   and re-congeal the world anew

I said   "where the raindrops turn to pearls   I'll wend my way
I'll gather from fruitful chance   what peels the world anew!"

I sought Raphael   imploring him to share song's lore
he laughed at my young romance   "you'd steal the world anew?"

Thursday, September 27, 2007


"of the ocean"

I sit on the shore   of the ocean
and watch more & more   of the ocean

some reckon the earth   is a dark house?
some find it the door   of the ocean

the world holds a hundred traditions
all drenched in the lore   of the ocean

some practice the peace of the seabreeze
some battle the war   of the ocean

the curl of the wave waxes lyric
as musics out-pour   from the ocean!

the lion   that king of the forest
expresses the roar   of the ocean

the toil of the world is relinquished
in foam from the chore   of the ocean

Ardeo brings pearls from the market?
he visits the store   of the ocean!


Years pass   in a flurry too swift
slow down!   mustn't hurry too swift

lifetimes   are disposable things?
bodies   people bury too swift!

fifty   and a bachelor as yet
this round   didn't marry too swift

decades   to the office I'd ride
jobless   I'll not worry too swift

fencing   seems a hazardous sport
worsted   if you parry too swift

sentence   with deliberate pause
dubious   if the jury's too swift

listen!   accidental is nice!
found sounds   blend a curry (too) swift

dying   is traumatic like birth
fleeing   as Time's quarry too swift

poems   fill a billion tomes!
arms crack   if you carry too swift

fruitless   chanting Raphael's verse!
life's a   bowl of cherries too swift

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"a voice"

Utter a statement   when you've got   a voice!
what is the statement   when there's not   a voice?

fresh from the market   many wares   you've nabbed
even a face! but   have you bought   a voice?

friends will admonish   whisper soft!   the fruit
softens when sweet! would   softness rot   a voice?

poetry's not just   playfulness!   for what
is it that renders   thick the plot?   a voice

writing is childsplay!   why not mount   the stage?
here's where you use   to prove each jot   a voice

cello & vina     violin   sitar
what to these strings its   beauty taught?   a voice

when we were prodding   Raphael   "recite!"
clear as a mountain bell   he brought   a voice

villanelle (for the Peace Tree in Mumbai)

"First do no harm"
Gandhiji knew
this would disarm

endless is karm!
how to get through?
"first do no harm"

quiet the alarm
cool down the brew
this would disarm

tempers grow warm
what should one do?
"first do no harm"

braving the storm
bringing the new
this would disarm

blessings will swarm
nurturing you
"first do no harm"
this would disarm

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


"a story"

Every pebble on the road   must have a story
every bomb prone to explode   must have a story

there could be no kiss without a lover's narrative
every prince within a toad   must have a story

when you weed out every tale from the garden
how you're carting off that load   must have a story

when the trees are gone   & paper finds no echo
in the silence hides a code that   has a story

figures carved upon an urn   at first seem decorative
when you listen to the ode   they have a story

both the senator & sandwich-maker serve life
both the pie & a-la-mode   must have a story

every venture stands amid success & failure
strands of destiny forebode?   each hides a story

there's an origin   to every hill & river
how our histories erode   involves a story

every stranger whom you meet   requires your data!
doesn't software you download   extract a story?

whether ludicrous or tragic   most are lost!
yet each seed the farmer sowed   could sprout a story

the protagonist's exploits grow incoherent?
every change of an abode   conveys a story

why is Raphael enamored of   old minstrelsy?
how the dying candle glowed   must have a story

Monday, September 24, 2007


"all we seek"

Just to love you   is all that I desire
what but loving   comprises my desire?

in this world where   ten thousand aims arise
what's their ultimate basis?   why desire?

primrose byways of transport   draw the mind
what distinguishes low from   high desire?

such specific   impressions swathe the soul!
coffee socials   but what of chai desire?

repetition   emdemic to each ethos! --
some find solace   in apple pie desire

who at dawn   would invite desire to bloom
were at dusk   heard to murmur "die desire!"

is the hero   the one who wins the girl?
Buddhist victors (I'm told)   defy desire

recognition   which human nature craves
seems a key   that may underlie desire

in the meadow   where creatures gather life
lilies blossom   when breezes sigh "desire"

meditation   requires a private eye
at the crime scene   did you espy desire?

consciousness spreads its cloth without a crease
fresh emerging   when we untie desire

the beloved   embodies all we seek!
resolution   both ear & eye desire

never yet   has my heart's desire been met!
on life's tablet she scribbled   "fie desire!"

Raphael!   as your nature grows refined
you'll laugh off   vapid ghosts who cry "desire!"

those inclined toward   a literary bent
for ironic conceits   show wry desire

the ascetic   who seeks to merge with God
bathes in rivers   maintaining dry desire

apathetic   in end may grow what mind
pondering fretwork   of those who ply desire?

through the shawl of   a January mood
does there furtively glance   July desire?

every color   reveals a differing need
can dispassion   deftly apply desire?

each appendage   a microcosmic zone
arm conception   may balance thigh desire

pithy sayings   suggest protracted thought
flippant feelings   often belie desire

in the discourse   philosophers propound
are the quatrains they cite   anti-desire?

when the wheel of rebirth   is spinning swift
there's a blurring   of girl- & guy-desire

the salubrious grape brings earth's delight
risky whiskey   conveying rye desire

all were sleeping   in summer's heavy torpor
still some shadow   sheltered a sly desire

in the market   you thought to sell your verse?
"dime a dozen!"   but who will buy desire?

all the lanes of the world play theatre's ruse
hello lamp-post!   alas! goodbye desire!

who'll deliver   my screed to Raphael?
bring crisp paper   and I'll supply desire!

every joy is   a fruit of love & patience
flowers blossom   though stems deny desire

limning poems & paintings   artists blush
when they seek to depict   her shy desire

all the books in the world   display one ink
all the fates in the stars   imply desire

this creation   whose genesis is dark! --
ask your question   and I'll reply "desire"

were you seeking   the wisdom of the east?
Raphael! you were hoodwinked by   desire

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ghazal for Modigliani

(writing after a painting)

Say I sit a while   for Modi
not exactly smile   for Modi

like the other girls who come here
all become a style   for Modi

does the chair feel rough & wooden?
would one walk a mile   for Modi?

in the dark blue of my garment
feelings reconcile   for Modi

what one is   gets re-invented
there's but little bile   in Modi

why don't dealers come & visit?
do no patrons dial   for Modi?

simply being here   proves pleasant
drinking chamomile   with Modi

will the colors of   your palette
grow sweetly purile   for Modi?

his simplicity's   deceptive!
there's both Seine & Nile   in Modi!

what he loves   who else would notice?
how the world beguiles   our Modi!

in this cold room   with its dim light
I'm in exile   like Modi

Raphael!   leave off your jotting
poetry is vile   for Modi!

Friday, September 21, 2007


"the maze of life"

If endless aren't   the days of life
when might I muster   the praise of life?

while in its midst   feeling lost & dazed
what mind can fathom   the ways of life?

those few who've grasped   the elusive pearl
alone have burned through   the haze of life!

the mass like me   who are worse than fools
long sit dumbstruck   as we gaze at life!

now what accounts for how   Raphael
intones his pain   while he plays at life?

look Raphael!   what peculiar grace
must tug your soul   through the maze of life!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


"in distant shadows"

Out of a web of words   I weave my poem
unto the sphere of forms   I leave my poem

wasn't I born   desiring to love you?
when I've expired   will you believe my poem?

still I expect we'll meet   in distant shadows
close to your thought   I yet conceive my poem

throughout a cosmic hide-&-seek   souls journey
why should a fraught adventure   grieve my poem?

those who have gambled much   may lose their marbles
do you observe the rules   who thieve my poem?

didn't the leaves of grass   fly flags of wonder?
fresheting ink of dard!   you peeve my poem!

while I yet breathe   my poetry blooms & changes!
when I'm no more   will this bereave my poem?

into my felt beret   I've stuffed my novel
sauntering toward the cafe   I sleeve my poem

babbling thus   grew Raphael demented?
who'll from disordered heaps   retrieve my poem?

still you're alive!   but fail to make a garden?
how Raphael   will you achieve my poem?

[dard (Urdu): pain, spiritual anguish]

miscellaneous links

I will park a few interesting items here . . .

[this is a blog post-in-progress]

1) Windows & Mirrors . . . (an interview): Charles Bernstein in a Bengali poetry context.

2) Essay by Dick Davis -- On Not Translating Hafez. Here is his final observation:
Certain poets are held to be untranslatable, or virtually so, and often they are thought of as those that most intimately express the poetic soul of their people: in Russian there is Pushkin; in German, Goethe; in Persian, Hafez. The fact that it is often precisely the poets who seem to sum up a poetry’s idiosyncratic potential and identity who are those whose works are most resistant to translation can give rise to a kind of romantic, quasi-racial canonization of such poets, an implication that they cannot be translated because what they express draws so deeply on the culture’s specific ethnic soul that it is not communicable in any other terms. This is a variant of the sentimental “To understand, my friend, you have to be Persian/Jewish/Russian . . .” ploy. (Against this ethnic self-indulgence there is a lovely story of Franco Corelli asking Richard Tucker for tips on how to sing Puccini: “Well,” began Tucker, “You have to be Jewish. . . .”) But there is a simpler, more mechanical, less romantic, less racial, and, I believe, truer explanation for why these poets can seem to resist translation.
Such poets can be considered those for whom the local conventions of their poetry are so deeply embedded psychically that they seem to be second nature to them; in their hands the conventions no longer seem conventions but simply a truth of the language, or of the particular poet’s psyche as it functions within the language. Goethe has a remark somewhere that few people realize that a poet’s most felicitous effects are often embedded in the rules of language itself, and we can extend this observation to the conventions of poetry that grow up in a linguistic community. It is the poet able to realize and utilize such conventions most effectively who can seem the most inspired and gifted; what to others is learnt, and obviously so, seems to be what he has been given, his natural mental landscape, the ethos within which he luxuriates and flourishes. But because his poetry is by that fact an endlessly dense tissue of his language’s poetic conventions, he seems by virtue of his very skill to be monolingual, untransferable to a language and poetry which does not share such conventions. And this is why the poets who seem to develop a poetry’s capabilities most tellingly, who seem to their linguistic communities to be the most “poetic” of all, are often precisely those whom it is most difficult to bring over into another language. Certainly, in Persian literature, the example of Hafez, and of the numerous poor poet-translators who metaphorically lie bleeding at his feet, would seem to bear this out.
(from the New England Review)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


"nascent knowledge"

Should I clear my throat to address you   will you listen?
where the mirror seeks to express you   will you listen?

having carried over the mountains   cloudy tales
when the breeze returns to caress you   will you listen?

one will wander roads where the foot is   born for travel
if the hand would gesture to bless you   will you listen?

whether seats are filled or near-empty   holds no bearing
do the poet's manners impress you?   will you listen?

conversation is the domain of nascent knowledge
where the tongue is prone to confess you   will you listen

Raphael has tarried in shadows   pondered echoes
weeping eyes might call for a tissue   will you listen?


"at once"

Novel vistas & old problems   both may emerge at once
where a dozen lines of evidence   can converge at once

doesn't slowness of the cosmos   demonstrate royal pace?
yet that tidal wave is marvelous   that can surge at once

are we frugal or too profligate?   are we flush or broke?
it's pathetic when the abstemious   will splurge at once

what if rustling leaves grow still?   they'll surely resume anon
laughter dies   the lights go dim?   there's rarely a dirge at once

the impression of a road   inspires the wayward foot
facing trackless ground do pilgrims   summon the courage at once?

Raphael would seem ambitious   but does he over-reach?
where's the critic who's both actor &   dramaturge at once?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ghazal on the Inner Harbor

The world exists   for what you know
come clear my mists   for what you know!

some scale the heights of worldly ease
some slash their wrists   for what you know

the water of the harbor shines
my hope persists   for what you know

recruiters spread their poison nets
a lad enlists   for what you know

some copulate in wild desire
some pound their fists   for what you know

some sing majestic hymns   some brood
as parodists   for what you know

some take monastic vows   some visit
  therapists   for what you know

some feed the flame of inward prayer
some lips are kissed   for what you know

the poet chants like some demented
  hypnotist   for what you know

the lover seeks for union
in the secret tryst   for what you know

the wedding is pictorially
a symbolist   for what you know

as years appear & fade   I'm lost
in surging wist   for what you know

the writer's eyes glint glad with
a dramatic twist   for what you know

like Raphael   I'll crush my life
still grinding grist   for what you know

Baltimore, Maryland
(afternoon, 15 September 2007)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

1st draft

From syntax into cosmology   is a step we take
from memory to ontology   is a step we take

the beloved is the recipient of your highest dream
bewilderment to psychology   is a step we take

the framework of an imaginal life tenders key events
this door to phenomenology   is a step we take

Friday, September 14, 2007

ghazal ("O diamond")

Could I but example a line of fire
companions would sample the wine of fire

we're swirling as smoke in an evening sky
may nobody choke on this sign of fire

who cherish your friendship descry both worlds
as embers amid the design of fire

their poetry kindles up forms of flame
who're carving out sandal & pine of fire

this yuga   the furnace is stoked & fierce
who wise would invoke the decline of fire?

the ashes of living are name & fame
O diamond deep in the mine of fire

obscure in its hiding-place   Raphael
sings hymns to your lantern benign   of fire

Thursday, September 13, 2007

ghazal ("a few words")

Every day   I'll write a few words
come what may   I'll write a few words

like the sea   embracing the shore
while I sway   I'll write a few words

hasty cars   compete for Point B
from Point A   I'll write a few words

in dim morn   or deep in the night
half in play   I'll write a few words

when the heart   is broken to bits
to allay   I'll write a few words

where soul's joy   soars high in the sky
some will pray   I'll write a few words

where's the bird   not given to song?
dour or gay   I'll write a few words

every bug   must file its report!
through my stay   I'll write a few words

where the twilight   hovers on dusk
in my way   I'll write a few words

when bright hope   recedes into gloom
in dismay   I'll write a few words

inspiration   joins those who show
perspiration!   write a few words

Raphael   your verse is banal?
that's okay!   go write a few words

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ghazal ("this heartbreaking world")

That blooming is life's deep need   we see
the flower hides in the seed   we see

the cycle of action is   dogged indeed!
each consequence tails its deed   we see

whatever the hand of God inscribes
that story all eyes will read   we see

wherever you run   you match what step
pure destiny has decreed   we see

wherever you tug   it's you who're pulled!
all follow who seem to lead   we see

this heartbreaking world finds Raphael
now laughing   now prone to bleed   we see

who knows when the vanishing hour may knell?
time's arrows show deathly speed   we see

true loving is practiced breath-by-breath
as notes on the flute of reed   we see

the fortunate slave contentment feels
sans loving   no soul is freed   we see

that Raphael's heart depends on you
that thick-headed fool's agreed   we see

one glory alone (life's aims else dross)
he died as your real mureed   we see

bring prayers to the grave of Raphael
God favors the kindly deed   we see

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ghazal ("on your answering machine")

Every journey has uncertainties   how deep are ours!
every mountain path has trouble spots   how steep are ours!

to unite more close   we travel afar   this is our fate
to awaken   we seek deeper dreams   for sleep is ours

if the self is pure   how come we employ   form-&-name talk?
an enigma wrapped in layers   heap on heap   is ours

afternoons I nap   in eve I arise   vivid & bright
every nature has its foibles   what the bleep is ours?

my employer said   though wanting me back   where was the need?
are my paintings showing promise?   what we keep is ours

let us wander in   the luxury of   beautiful thoughts!
quite untroubled if a shirt homespun & cheap is ours

every day one draws afresh   the thematic diagram
you're our premise   when conclusion's wayward leap is ours

we've got questions   that the universe now brings to a head
on your answering machine   what tails the beep is ours

musically our chat   resumes its caprice   from age to age
whereas Bageshri is yours   soon raag Patdeep is ours

doesn't nature's realm   illuminate how love's language grows?
where the cricket's chir is yours   the sparrow's cheep is ours

everything is yours!   the canvas is yours!   each stroke is yours!
what we sow is yours!   who'd then claim   what we reap is ours?

she inscribed the news to Raphael   that his path was clear
catch his summer smile?   whatever rainclouds weep is ours

Monday, September 10, 2007

ghazal ("via the mesh")

I seek you via the mesh of roads   circuitously
unsure what such a dream-march forebodes   circuitously

O you long-hidden in shadowlands! we're scouting you out!
transporting ludicrous varied loads   circuitously

farewells & sudden hellos comprise our commonplace lot
the usual wistfulness implodes   circuitously

where poets literally listen for   dawn's lyrical birds
might nature pilfer the poet's odes   circuitously?

big thoughts if put in small packages   as language breathes
each breath unravels a dozen modes   circuitously

the vina & the sarangi tell   a tenebrous tale
both birth & death will unwind their codes   circuitously

the breeze prefigures God's mercy as the branches describe
trajectories of adjusting nodes   circuitously

who says Raphael but shows himself cold-hearted if he
must seek your face in far-flung abodes   circuitously?

should destiny kindly lend a hand to old Raphael
he'll touch your sandal at each crossroads   circuitously

Sunday, September 9, 2007

rubai ("dawning")

On the blank page   black ink shines
on the bar top   cool drink shines
night-sky feelings   transforming
dawning light   on the brink shines

Saturday, September 8, 2007

ghazal ("not yet done")

The grind of our days is not yet done
the grain of your praise is not yet done

when knowledge appears unknowing fades
this veil of haze is not yet done

the artistry of ten thousand lines
that subtly amaze is not yet done

and down by the shoreline many a palm
that seemingly sways is not yet done

the reed when afar from distant loam
the sounding of neys is not yet done

if Layla is all   what use is he?
confusion in Qays is not yet done

where torpor's a general worldly state
our spiritual craze is not yet done

I've traveled a bit   in recent times
my long pilgrimage is not yet done

the turn in the mind comes slow & slight
the work of the age is not yet done

where Raphael hopes to glimpse your face
his stay in the cage is not yet done

[an imperfect rhyme, ah well . . .]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

rubai ("the very struggle")

The very struggle of life   conceals you?
the very juggle of life   reveals you!
the wary student takes one small stride --
the pull-&-tuggle of life   unreels you

ghazal ("amid cypress shade")

Every sentence is seeking you   in a different way
music's visit comes sneaking you   in a different way

truth if evermore hidden   aren't its scriptures blank?
silence surely is speaking you   in a different way

what's the point about pattern?   all of the thread's opaque!
through the curtain comes peeking you   in a different way

those who argued philosophy   thought to find your news
daily papers yet reeking you   in a different way

you're the ocean!   your universe is pipes & tubes!
every faucet is leaking you   in a different way!

when the raaga gets serious   even stones might dance
every art is uniquing you   in a different way

morning doves sound your lyric hush   canines bark reply
darling house-mice are squeaking you   in a different way

time is precious!   the lumbering years run way too fast
always monthing & weeking you   in a different way

every mood's a novella in the brain's soft mesh
each strand cheering or bleaking you   in a different way

drops that gather grow powerful   like the rush of thought
each stream brooking or creeking you   in a different way

ugly manners discomfit you   in life's carnival tent
perfect beauty is freaking you   in a different way

the beloved's high haughtiness   is her poison stun
pleasant smiling is piquing you   in a different way

you're the author of everything!   but collaborative
every writer is tweaking you   in a different way

olden poets favored kissing   amid cypress shade?
Raphael's cheek-to-cheeking you   in a different way

ghazal ("corners obscure")

Coming around the bend of time   and where are you?
searching my wallet for a dime   and where are you?

one should cry out! but toward what window? please explain!
pulling the cord you hear a chime   and where are you?

prayer is a custom still extant   God's gifts stay hid
throughout the film the hero's fine   and where are you?

silence is where the curd congeals   don't pearls form in
corners obscure? for pain takes time   and where are you?

poetry is for amateurs   like sport and love
amorous turns the ripened rhyme   and where are you?

often I thought I'd caught her glimpse   the fade came quick
parsley & sage   rosemary   thyme   and where are you?

every desire is fractured from   my sweetheart's smile
gather them up in one sublime   and where are you?

I have seen artists baffled at   the weight of years
maybe they lacked a paradigm   and where are you?

Raphael seemed a diplomat   his language smooth
bind him in cuffs for no clear crime   and where are you?

ghazal ("dream's mirror")

You sound every note   if time is enough
you haul in the boat   if time is enough

you study each face dream's mirror reveals
you edit the quote   if time is enough

you hearken to song   pay court to old shrines
espy castle & moat   if time is enough

they toil & they play   make merry & sire
build dwellings & vote   if time is enough

return to the page   reviewing what phrase
fell destiny wrote   if time is enough

the dishes soon served   the flavors prove rare
there's cheese from the goat   if time is enough

in pilgrimage days   you journey by foot
strange thoughts in your tote   if time is enough

the easel wants hue   the landscape needs line
the dancer might float   if time is enough

real questions well framed   like lips fit to kiss
love's gestures connote   if time is enough

from bowl of the sky   where lavish or plain
scrape out the last groat   if time is enough

the line sung but once   were youthful in thought
grow old & emote   if time is enough

Ardeo's not done!   life's well-water gleams
his belly could bloat   if time is enough

for Brian & Shubha

Monday, September 3, 2007

vichitra veena (notes 2): Radhika Budhkar (nee Umdekar)

This continues internet research about vichitra veena players.
[See also the earlier notes, from a week ago; and see also this post (on my earlier blog) from 10 months ago]

photo caption (6 Nov. 2002):
FIRST WOMAN: Radhika Umdekar, the only lady vichitra veena player in the world, performs in city on Nov 8, 2002, as part of the three-day Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Sector 27.

A Times of India article (7 Nov. 2002) --

Of a vichitra girl and her veena
Radhika Umdekar has everything deceptive about her appearance. Her seemingly school-going girl frail looks and a barely audible voice are enough to mislead you into believing that you're meeting an ordinary person.
But probe her and you find a girl who has designed her destiny with the extraordinary, by choice. Not only is she the only woman vichitra veena player in the world, at the age of 22 years, she has already made a few modifications in the veena to lend a contemporary sound to this almost-extinct instrument.
Since childhood, she was fascinated by all the 'first woman achievers' and this became the motivation that lead Radhika to her calling. "When I used to read about the first woman pilot, the first woman space scientist and the like, I used to think I too must do something that no other woman has done. Since I come from a family of royal musicians of Gwalior, my father, who plays the sitar and rudra veena told me to try my hand at the vichitra veena which is a very difficult instrument to handle, and no woman had ever tried playing it. So, I began learning the veena when I was eight. I liked its name, vichitra, and thought I must do something special with it. So apart from playing the sitar and getting lessons in vocal music I began pursuing the veena."
There are as such, only three more artistes in the country who play this difficult instrument, which does not have frets, hence, the notes have to be produced by sheer dint of practice in tandem with a pair of well-tuned ears. Just the handling this large instrument requires strong arms but this is no impediment for Radhika, who has installed an electronic tanpura inside the body of the veena to lend it better resonance. She has also changed the quality of sound produced by the instrument, by giving it a higher pitch, so that it sounds closer to contemporary instruments. She is also attempting to produce from it, sound effects of other contemporary stringed instruments like jhala and tantrakari, something not attempted by any other player of vichitra veena.
"I have got this instrument custom made from Kolkata. Even the girth of the strings has been improved and this gives a better tonal quality. Some people play the veena with a glass paper weight, I play it with shaligram shila, the stone that is worshiped as, for me, each musical note is like a prayer. I know I've a long way to go but if I am able to draw people again to this forgotten instrument, I would think my endeavour was worth it."
Radhika has received numerous prestigious fellowships and has performed at all major sangeet sammelans in the country. She is in city to perform at the Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan on Friday.

And a review (from the Tribune News Service) --
Radhika, Devaki spill magical melodies
Chandigarh, November 8
Taking refuge under the cover of notes is easy, so easy that even before the mind realises that it has surrendered to music, the heart is already on wings of desire. These days music is flowing through the city like a stream. Before one concert ends, the other begins lest the cycle of melody should break.

The 25th Tribune-sponsored Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan opened today at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with a flush of lyrical melodies, as produced from the rare-stringed instrument — the vichitra veena. Playing on with style, precision and power, the young Radhika Umedkar ruled over the audience for almost an hour. As she struck melodies on the instrument which is nearly on the verge of extinction, one realised how difficult it was to create music from the vichitra veena, which has no frets to guide the instrumentalist. Music is produced from a special object called the ‘Shaligram Sheela’, made out of ‘Sangwan’. The instrument, which has no frets for producing notes, requires tremendous concentration, which Radhika maintained in plenty.

Born into a family of musicians, Radhika is the granddaughter of late Pt Balabhau Umedkar who was a great exponent of the Gwalior gharana of Hindustani classical music. Radhika sought training from her father who is a well-known sitar and rudra veena player. Academically strong with a Kovid in sitar playing to her credit, Radhika today set out to explore the variations in ‘raga bihag’. From slow pace to fast, the instrumentalist bared her talent immensely, often drawing applause from music lovers, who craved for more of her music.

Presently pursuing an MA in sitar, Radhika talked about how she felt fulfilled after playing the vichitra veena, which is a challenge in itself. She said, ‘‘Playing this instrument is very difficult because you have to maintain the melody yourself. There are no frets to guide you. It requires single-minded devotion.’’

Radhika Umedkar’s presentation was followed by a vocal recital by Devaki Pandit, who matched the mood of the evening well with her extremely mellifluous rendering of ‘raga rageshwari’. . . . [etc.]

[One incidentally notices that the 1st article above spells the musician's maiden name as "Umdekar" while the 2nd one spells it as "Umedkar." I have also seen it spelled "Umadekar." But suffice to say, the name was evidently most commonly spelled (in English) as Umdekar -- and that the musician now goes by Radhika Budhkar.]

As noted in this list, Radhika was recipient of the Gwalior Ratna award (it doesn't specify exactly what year this was awarded -- sometime after 1992 is all it says. Since her maiden name is used, this I think further locates it to sometime prior to the past several years.

I don't find Radhika's name in this amazing roster of all Hindustani musicians. Her absence from the list most likely can be attributed to the probable date the list was compiled -- i.e., Radhika is a fairly recent entry into the rosters of performing musicians. My guess (thus) is that the list was perhaps largely compiled well over a decade ago.


It's worth noting the names that DO appear vis-a-vis vichitra vina on the above-linked, comprehensive list. In alphabetical order, they are:

1) Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan (also played sarangi) -- early 20th century; he coined the name Vichitra Vina [or Batta Been]
2) Ustad Ahmad Raza Khan (student of Abdul Aziz Khan) (late)
3) Alladin Khan
4) Amiya Chakravorty
5) Ustad Asad Ali Khan (born 1937 -- better known for his Rudra Vina; New Delhi)
6) Ustad Aziz Ali Khan (late)
7) Gianni Ricchizzi (student of late Pt. Gopal Krishan; also plays sitar etc.)
8) Pt. Gopal Krishan (student of 3 gurus, including Pt. Ravi Shankar) [late]
9) Ustad Faqir Habib Ali Khan Beenkar (student of his older brother, Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan Beenkar) (late)
10) Pt. Lalmani Misra (late; was a teacher at Banaras Hindu University)
11) M. Raza
12) Narayan Chakravorty (student of Amiya Chakravorty)
13) Ramesh Prem (Bombay)
14) Ustad Sharif Khan Poonchhwala (Pakistan; also plays sitar) (Presidenet's Pride of Performance medal in 1965).
That's the full list.


Also to note: I've stumbled on a new (to me) website relating to Dhrupad musicians: Apparently the site has been organized by students of Ustad F. Wasifuddin Dagar.

And here's an interesting article (or, evidently, notes for his lecture-demo) by Bimal Mukherjee: Jaipur Binkar / Sitar Gharana. This appears on the India Music Forum website.