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A Very Dear Pumpkin

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A Very Dear Pumpkin

By Kamalakar Kadave

Translation: Maithreyi Karnoor

Image courtesy: Vagmi Foods via Google.com

The bazaar swelters under
The afternoon sun, potatoes, aubergines

Weighing stones under umbrellas
And loose change under gunny-sack mats

Tubers sell for three and half rupees
A sheep, caned when its
Mouth strays to coriander greens,
Isn’t spared a mouthful of curses

Durgabai Shinde,
The street sweeper who isn’t filthy
Rich by the municipality’s wages,
Strives long in Popatlaal Pansaare’s shop
To cut each kilo of onion,
Spinach, bitter gourd and carrot
By fifty paise;
All her vegetables are paid for
By the thirty rupees of that lout
Paanwala Gajodhar Mishra’s
Unmet desires
That drove her there in preparation
Of the upcoming occasion

‘How much is the pumpkin?’
If you ask, Poptalal loses his cool and yells
Brigadier Nanawati’s orderly Shankar Pillai,
On a mission to obtain fresh peas for tonight’s dinner
Attempts to bring down the heat
‘Why cook your brains over such trivialities, bhai?
You need a cool head to run the business’
He says and squashes a beedi
Under the heel of a black boot

‘This time summer is killing, nahi kya?’
Miss Katariya of Gita beauty parlour
Remarks to her friend
While picking hot green chilies
In Khomane Bai’s shop
The hag
Khomane Bai unable to cut it
Cackles, ‘there must be an AC in your home,
Of course?’
The sparing teeth arranged like
Jail bars in her mouth
Wink at the raging afternoon sun.

K. Sharifa’s Poems

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K Sharifa : K Sharifa was born in Gulbarga in Karnataka and works as a Senior Auditor in Bangalore. A poet, a literary critic and a feminist writer, she has been a part of women’s and human rights movements. She has more than seventeen books and has received several awards for her works.

Poems of K Sharifa

 Kannada original:  K Sharifa

English translation: Kamalakar Bhat

(http://www.museindia.com/regularcontent.asp?issid=67&id=6565)

Be a Woman, Once, O Lord!

It is rancid kitchens for us.

It is slimy postnatal rooms for us.

No chance for throwing tantrums.

O Lord, shouldn’t you once visit

the sunless cells that is our lot?

 

My son

who went to the town

died in a police encounter;

My husband

who went to war

came back as bloody rags;

And my daughter,

in unbearable shame,

hanged herself after being raped;

To know the depths of my pain,

O Lord, shouldn’t you be born a woman once?

 

If I step out to earn a meager meal

unseen holy hands push me behind the curtains

training the guns on me;

I shudder at the slightest sound,

go pale, become breathless, miss a heartbeat;

I am totally lost;

How shall I live, O lord?

 

To know my indescribable pain,

to know what it is,

O Lord, shouldn’t you become a woman once?

The man who has the world’s contract in his hands

has declared a war at the borders;

How shall I describe the nature of my pain,

my anxious moments;

So, shouldn’t you become a woman once?

**

 

Behind the Veil

 On either side of the two stately minars of the darga

rows and rows of shacks.

Sackcloth curtains hanging at the door —

no colours, no frills, just the gray sackcloth —

speak of her life’s colours.

On feast days, Ma would drape the doors

with embroidered curtains, colourful and adorned

with many-hued beads at the edges.

I too had crocheted pretty curtains

with threads of many shades.

How would I know

one day the same curtains

would be the veil to keep my face hidden?

 

The first time I wore the veil

the heat irritated me till I felt dizzy

and, instinctively I had thrown it away.

My relatives prevailed upon me:

this is the sacred dress of our faith, they said;

God won’t like it otherwise.

And they pushed me behind the veil.

When the veil’s net covered my eyes

the whole world appeared dark.

Even my schoolmate Seeta

found me a stranger.

I felt all my companions falling away from me.

The veil had built a fence around me.

 

Under the protective gaze, dreams became

burnt walls blackening the universe.

In summer heat, I was drenched in sweat and felt stifled.

My face shrouded

inside the veil, I became only flesh.

**

 

Overhanging Swords of Talaak

 

The walls are like in a fort

built with massive stone slabs,

beyond the walls the free pigeon,

within the walls is my caged life

 

Life trots on rocky rough road

while I am the cool flow from the Himalayas

He is like the seething geysers

I have no firm foundation

in the dilapidated corners

 

With three wives and eyeing a fourth

If I even look out the window out of boredom

He screams at me, scared:

“Where is my hookah, Begum?

Are you nuts? Drop the curtains.”

Beware, don’t let your eyes wander

Don’t forget the overhanging sword of Talaak!

 

No milky moonlight for me

No spring ceremony

From within the prohibitive walls

Of the hopeless cage.

 

When the prisoner shakes off and asks

“Don’t’ frighten me with the sword of talaak”.

 

The stones of the walls begin to crumble

A new power in my tired hands

Breaking the fetters, my question rises up:

“It is I you are born of

Don’t frighten me with the sword of talaak

You are but an infant in my lap.

 

**

Herstory

 

Upon the civilizations

She built lovingly

Appears your cruel imprint

 

Upon the cultures

She molded

Why not let her own imprint?

Why not let her erect her own mansions?

Why not let her reveal the dawn of a new day?

 

 

No more may her images

Peep through his-tory

Let her sing a new psalm

Let her fashion herstory

 

Since ages she has been

your companion

always walking beside you

How can your history be

Complete without her?

 

Therefore,

Put an end to your

his-stories accommodating her

 

Let the hands that write be hers

The mind that thinks be hers

And the heart that feels be hers

As she creates her own story

**

 

 

 

Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows

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burnt-shadows

In the film Iron Man there is a scene where Tony Stark, imprisoned by an Afghan warlord, asks his Afghan cell-mate, Yensen, how many languages he knows. Yensen replies by saying that in that place where Afghani, Russian, Urdu, Persian, Pushtu, etc are spoken, one has got to be a polyglot. I find such polyglots, more accurately polyglot scenes, very charming. It is for this reason that Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie interests me. Its protagonists, Hiroko Tanaka and her son Raza Konrad Ashraf are both polyglots – no, even more correctly, they have a special sensitivity for languages, learning them, many of them, quickly. Their mastery of languages decides the direction of the plot more than a couple of times in the novel. However, what leaves me with a sense of wanting is the fact that despite its multilingual setting, especially in its Delhi, Pakistan and Afghanistan episodes, its multilingual characters and multilingual plotlines, the novel is monolingual. I would have loved if the novel had made use of multilinguality, or at least had included reflections on the translation through which it is being narrated in English, it would have been exciting.

There are other beauties about this novel. Most importantly, its cosmopolitanism. Shamsie doesn’t restrict this cosmopolitanism to Manhattan or London, as do some of the other diasporic south Asian novelists, but in fact, finds it in Delhi, Nagasaki, and Karachi. Of course, it makes the characters also (not only social setting) multicultural – product of Japan, Germany, India and Pakistan.

Evocation of the places, especially in the episodes occurring in Nagasaki and Afghanistan, are not always satisfying, though the Dilli and Karachi scenes are better. It has a wide time frame, beginning in the early 20th century in war time Nagasaki, and ending around the time of post 9/11 war on Afghanistan. Thus it revisits several apocalyptic moments in history – bombing of Nagasaki, partition riots in south Asia, Indo-Pak nuclear tests, 9/11, war on Afghanistan.

Use of the perspective throughout the novel is very interesting, as there is that outsider’s view – the one who is a minority in each instance, the one who doesn’t melt into or not allowed to feel belongingness. This exilic perspective is very well handled by Kamila Shamsie as it nowhere gets maudlin, yet manages to maintain certain objectivity as it doesn’t have to mediate between binary oppositions. The use of this perspective undercuts rooted cultural chauvinism.

Kamila Shamsie

(image from cafeletrario.blogspot.com)

All in all, Shamsie tells the story very well. Very readable, colorful, action-filled and has that little foreignness that always makes a novel attractive.

Here is an excerpt:

Later, the one who survives will remember that day as grey, but on the morning of 9 August itself both the man from Berlin, Konrad Weiss, and the schoolteacher, Hiroko Tanaka, step out of their houses and notice the perfect blueness of the sky, into which white smoke blooms from the chimneys of the munitions factories.

Konrad cannot see the chimneys themselves from his home in Minamiyamate, but for months now his thoughts have frequently wandered to the factory where Hiroko Tanaka spends her days measuring the thickness of steel with micrometers, images of classrooms swooping into her thoughts the way memories of flight might enter the minds of broken-winged birds. That morning, though, as Konrad slides open the doors that form the front and back of his small wooden caretaker’s house and looks in the direction of the smoke he makes no attempt to imagine the scene unfolding wearily on the factory floor. Hiroko has a day off – a holiday, her supervisor called it, though everyone in the factory knows there is no steel left to measure. And still so many people in Nagasaki continue to think Japan will win the war. Konrad imagines conscripts sent out at night to net the clouds and release them in the morning through factory chimneys to create the illusion of industry.

He steps on to the back porch of the house. Green and brown leaves are scattered across the grass of the large property, as though the area is a battlefield in which the soldiers of warring armies have lain down, caring for nothing in death but proximity. He looks up the slope towards Azalea Manor; in the weeks since the Kagawas departed, taking their household staff with them, everything has started to look run-down. One of the window shutters is partly ajar; when the wind picks up it takes to banging against the sill. He should secure the shutter, he knows, but it comforts him to have some sound of activity issuing from the house.

Azalea Manor. In ’38 when he stepped for the first time through its sliding doors into a grand room of marble floor and Venetian fireplace it was the photographs along the wall that had captured his attention rather than the mad mixture of Japanese and European architectural styles: all taken in the grounds of Azalea Manor while some party was in progress, Europeans and Japanese mixing uncomplicatedly. He had believed the promise of the photographs and felt unaccustomedly grateful to his English brother-in-law James Burton who had told him weeks earlier that he was no longer welcome at the Burton home in Delhi with the words, ‘There’s a property in Nagasaki. Belonged to George – an eccentric bachelor uncle of mine who died there a few months ago. Some Jap keeps sending me telegrams asking what’s to be done with it. Why don’t you live there for a while? As long as you like.’ Konrad knew nothing about Nagasaki – except, to its credit, that it was not Europe and it was not where James and Ilse lived – and when he sailed into the harbour of the purple-roofed city laid out like an amphitheatre he felt he was entering a world of enchantment. Seven years later much of the enchantment remains – the glassy loveliness of frost flowers in winter, seas of blue azaleas in summer, the graceful elegance of the Euro-Japanese buildings along the seafront – but war fractures every view. Or closes off the view completely. Those who go walking in the hills have been warned against looking down towards the shipyard where the battleship Musashi is being built under such strict secrecy that heavy curtains have been constructed to block its view from all passers-by.

Functional, Hiroko Tanaka thinks, as she stands on the porch of her house in Urakami and surveys the terraced slopes, the still morning alive with the whirring of cicadas. If there were an adjective to best describe how war has changed Nagasaki, she decides, that would be it. Everything distilled or distorted into its most functional form. She walked past the vegetable patches on the slopes a few days ago and saw the earth itself furrowing in mystification: why potatoes where once there were azaleas? What prompted this falling-off of love? How to explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans.

CFP: Negotiating Margins: African American & Dalit Writings

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Osmania University Centre for International Programmes
Osmania University Campus, Hyderabad
International Conference
on
Negotiating Margins: African American & Dalit Writings
17 – 19 December 2012
Call for Papers
The Osmania University Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), Hyderabad, India is organizing an International Conference from 17 – 19, December 2012 on “Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings”. Participants desirous of attending the conference should submit a soft copy of the abstract of the proposed presentation in about 300 words along with a brief bio-note by 5th July, 2012 to oucipprogrammes@gmail.com with a subject heading “Negotiating Margins”. The broad areas covered by the conference include:
 Democracy and Subaltern Consciousness in African American and Dalit Writings.
 Issues and Perspectives of Subaltern Consciousness.
 Literature of Marginality: Dalit and African American Writings.
 Woman, Caste and Race.
 Constructions of Self.
 The Subaltern Consciousness and the Crisis of leadership.
 America and India the Subaltern Renaissance.
 Politics of Empowerment and Subaltern issues.
 Ambedkar and W.E.B. DuBois: Comparative analysis.

It is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter

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Harold Bloom interviewed:

I regard myself as a teacher. I remark in this new book that I have only three criteria for whether a work should be read and reread and taught to others, and they are: aesthetic splendour, cognitive power, and wisdom. And those are not the standards now applied in the universities and colleges of the English-speaking world. Nor are they the standards applied in the media. Everyone is now much more concerned with gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, skin pigmentation, and twenty other irrelevancies, whereas I am talking about what I have never talked about before, and that is wisdom. But I am not a wise man, I am not a sage. I am an aesthete, a very old-fashioned aesthete – I have been realizing that increasingly.

I teach my clases at Yale and what cheers me up are my Asian American students – about half of the students who take my clases are Asian Americans. What in my generation the Jews were – the intelligentsia – these people are becoming. The Jews in this country are now so assimilated that looking at their score cards I could not tell the difference between my Gentile and my Jewish students. The Asian Americans are the new Jews – they are the ones who study hard, they have a real passion, a real drive to understand. If this country has a future, it will be because of the new immigrants, the Asians, the Africans, the Hispanics. Our regime is fascistic, but our constitution is good. The best provision in that constitution states that any child who is born on the American soil is an American citizen, and therefore all these so-called illegal immigrants are now the parents of American citizens. I may not live long enough to see it, but my hope is that this country would be saved by the Hispanic Americans, the Asian Americans – the new waves of Europeans. This is still a vibrant and living culture, whereas the English are incorrigible. They have no minds at all. That little book had a mixed reception in the United States, a terrible reception in England, a very good reception in other countries. The Italian, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Scandinavian readers want to understand me, the English don’t. I really don’t want to go there again, it’s an absolutely dead culture. It no longer has any poets, it no longer has any novelists, it cannot produce a composer or a painter anymore. The French are not much better.

I spend a good part of my life in bookstores – I give readings there when a new book of mine has come out, I go there to read or simply to browse. But the question is what do these immense mountains of books consist of? You know, child, my electronic mailbox overflowing with daily mesages from Potterites who still cannot forgive me for the article I published in Wall Street Journal more than a year ago, entitled “Can 35 Million Harry Potter Fans Be Wrong? – Yes!” These people claim that Harry Potter does great things for their children. I think they are deceiving themselves. I read the first book in the Potter series, the one that’s supposed to be the best. I was shocked. Every sentence there is a string of cliches, there are no characters – any one of them could be anyone else, they speak in each other’s voice, so one gets confused as to who is who.

IL: Yet the defenders of Harry Potter claim that these books get their children to read.

HB: But they don’t! Their eyes simply scan the page. Then they turn to the next page. Their minds are deadened by cliches. Nothing is required of them, absolutely nothing. Nothing happens to them. They are invited to avoid reality, to avoid the world and they are not invited to look inward, into themselves. But of course it is an exercise in futility to try to oppose Harry Potter.

America by Allen Ginsberg

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America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January
17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I
need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not
the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back
it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical
joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday
somebody goes on trial for murder.
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid
I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses
in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle
Max after he came over from Russia.

I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner
candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Business-
men are serious. Movie producers are serious.
Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of
marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable
private literature that goes 1400 miles an hour
and twenty-five-thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of
underprivileged who live in my flowerpots
under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers
is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that
I’m a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly
mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as
individual as his automobiles more so they’re
all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500
down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Com-
munist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a
handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and
sentimental about the workers it was all so sin-
cere you have no idea what a good thing the
party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand
old man a real mensch Mother Bloor made me
cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.
And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power
mad. She wants to take our cars from out our
garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Readers’
Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia.
Him big bureaucracy running our fillingsta-
tions.
That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read.
Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us
all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in
the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes
in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and
psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Berkeley, January 17, 1956

India’s Cricket World Cup victory

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Today, digitised cricket seeks to remould both product and con­sumer to suit its own agendas. More importantly, it attempts to convert quintessential public goods – cricket and its fanatical fan following – into a source of private profit that cares little for either. The IPL’s continued reliance on public support – for stadia, security arrangements, officials, players and a ready-made customer base – while privatising benefits, and its disruptive effect on international and national cricket, are already subjects of bitter controversy across the world. By raising the commercial stakes, the World Cup victory is likely to exacerbate rather than soothe these tensions.

Moving from the commercial to the professional aspect of cricket, India’s second World Cup seems, once again, more dark cloud than silver lining. A healthy professional sport requires that its journeymen players make a decent living. This has never been true in Indian cricket, where the so-called “Mathew effect” – to him who hath even more will be given – works with a vengeance, as the unseemly scramble to shower largesse on the Cup-winning team demonstrates. Despite cursory efforts at improvement, the lives of players at the domestic level are far from enviable. Moreover, feudal styles of cricket administration encourage fixers, influence-mon­gers and other gatekeepers whose expectations are raised by the spoils of victory, further inflating the already high costs of entry and worsening existing inequities among players. In short, the un­obtrusive but demoralising divisions deepened by a memorable victory may undermine its more obvious inspirational impact.

More here.

A radical poem by Pash

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Pash was the pen name of Avtar Singh Sandhu (September 9, 1950 – March 23, 1988), an Indian poet. His strongly left-wing views were reflected in his poetry.

He was born in Talwandi Salem, Jalandhar, Punjab, growing up in the midst of Naxalite a revolutionary movement waged in punjab against the landlords, industrialists, traders, etc who control the means of production. He published his first book of revolutionary poems, Loh-Katha (Iron Tale) in 1970; his militant and provocative tone raised the ire of the establishment and a murder charge was hastily brought against him. He spent nearly two years in jail, before being finally acquitted.

On acquittal, he became involved in Punjab’s maoist front, editing a literary magazine, Siarh (The Plow Line). He became a popular political figure on the left during this period, and was awarded a fellowship at the Punjabi Academy of Letters in 1985. He toured the United Kingdom and the United States the following year; while in the U.S., he became involved with the Anti-47 Front, opposing Sikh extremist violence.

The brilliant journey of poetry was cut short in the year 1988 when Paash who was in Punjab for a holiday from the US was shot dead by a group of terrorists.

Bio note courtesy: wikipedia

image courtesy: facebook

Time is not a dog

* Avtar Singh Sandhu ‘Pash’

If not Frontier, read Tribune
If not Calcutta, talk about Dacca
Bring the clippings from
Organiser and Punjab Kesari
And tell me
Where are these eagles  flying?
Who has died?
Time is not any dog
That can be chained and driven wherever you like
You tell us
Mao says this and Mao says that
I ask you, who is Mao to say anything?
Words cannot be pawned away
Time itself can speak
Moments are not speechless.
You sit in the Ramble
Or drink a cup of tea from a side stall
Speak truth or lie –
It doesn’t matter,
You may even jump over the corpse of silence
——-
And O rulers, ask
Your police and tell me
Whether I am imprisoned behind the bars
Or this policeman standing across?
Truth is not a whore of AIR
Time is not any dog.

Translated from Punjabi by Pratyush Chandra.

Poem courtesy: Radical Notes, here