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ArticlesAn apology for literature – Huzaifa Pandit, Jammu and...

An apology for literature – Huzaifa Pandit, Jammu and Kashmir


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Disrobed by an inquisitive glance, the yarns of being,

Dissimilar the panoramas in my sight, now

-Nasir Kazmi

Many a time as the strains of the world demandtheir pound of flesh by compelling me to lie pensively on my bed, I reflect on the vagaries of this world. Among the multitudinous subjects that flash on the mind’s eye is the beauty of the world’s insatiable sea of knowledge. A saunter down the shores of this vast sea reveals a small alluring pebble which the product of earth, water and air labels as literature. The gems of the sea dazzle the sight with their lustrous splendor yet inexplicably the subtle beauty of this pebble arrests my attention. Many a time I have wondered as to the origins of this mystery and many a time I have clutched at elusive straws! However if I might be permitted to venture: my laborious inquests are not entirely devoid of interest as I may have beheld the mirage of epiphany! For many an hour I have debated taking you into confidence , but many a time, I have aborted this thought for fear of tiring you with my imprudent thoughts!Yet today occasion demands that I steelmyself to reveal it to you and must therefore plead for a patient ear.

Keats remarked:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness

How true! It has occurred to me that an appreciation of literature is rooted in its tantalizing beauty.  Like wine its draughts proceed into ephemeral permanency by bettering itself with age. Many a plethora of beauties found themselves inevitably a victim of times scythe: not literature. It stands as a testimony to Spenser’s claim:

Where, whenas Death shall all the world subdue

Our love shall live, and later life renew.

Many an admirer of this pebble embraced the moist earth yet the mellifluous fragrance of their works still permeates the air with the mist of permanence. While this may be true of the sizeable other that choose to dazzle away with the other gems yet it is my belief that none has managed to transcend into the dizzying heights of the ‘people of the pebble’! Who else than a poet, a novelist, a dramatist, a satirist, an essayist has stood his ground with such grace through the ages?  Whose work still fills you with the euphoria of unbridled delight at a fleeting glance? Yet the poet achieves it with consummate ease. Let those who scoff at this read Mirza Ghalib- the producer of such delightful wine as tempts the senses with its effervescence:

partav-e-khur se haishabnamkofanaakitaaliim
main bhiihuunekinaayatkiinazar hone tak

The ferventsun rays hex death to each dew-drop,
I, too, exist until, a glance at me you deign

Dekhotau dilfarebi-e-andaaz-e-naqsh-e-paa


O! Glance at herdeceitful ambling foot trace

The curlicues of gait: for trimming the roses brace!

Was a more delightful indulgence in glorification undertaken?

Ah! Glorification! Is that the sole claim to fame of this pebble? No! The beauty of this pebble lies in its fluidity. Conjure any situation and presto the panacea is here. Try a few, would you please: Love-hmm! Would Brooke satisfy you, for I find it hard to overlook these lines:

I said I splendidly loved you; it’s not true

Such long swift tides stir not a land locked sea.

Show me a chemical reaction that captures the essence of love like this and I’ll show you “a man fit for anything”

Despair, ugh! Well Eliot should suffice:

My house is a decayed house,

And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,

Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,

Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.

Or shall we turn to Ghalib again

dar-o-diivaar sat tapkehaibayaabaa.nhonaa

This ululation that seeks the ruin of my abode,

Wilderness now squats on the walls of my abode!

Or better still Nasir Kazmi:

Na samjhoissayshor-e-bahaara.n,

khizapatoo.n main chupkarrorahiihai

Humaraygharkideewaro.npay Nasir


Err not; this clamor ain’t the advent of spring,

Amongst the verdure lurks winter silently weeping

On the parapets of my dwelling Nasir

Unkempt haired gloom lazes sleeping!

I have Hafiz and Batalvi somewhere in a shaded crevice or two:

Shahr Khali, jadahkhali, koochakhali, khanakhali
jam khalisufrakhali, saghar’opaimanakhali
Koochkerdadastadasta, aashna’yan’edil’ebagh
Baghkhalibaghchakhali, shakhakhali, la’anakhali

Vacuous the City, barren the Paths,

VacantStreets andthe houses famished

Empty corolla, ragged table accouters,

The wine and chalices famished!

Cohorts of the heart forsook in droves

Barren the garden, forlorn flowers,

Ruined branches and the nest famished!

Bhaenbhaensugandhiyaa.n ‘ch–

Banhaa.nphehechaanani de
Taavee.nsaadi peerna save.
KosekosesaahaaN di –
MaeNkaraan je takormaae
Sago.nsaahnukhaan nu pave

Upon them (my dreams) I lay strips of moonlight
Soaked in perfume,
But the pain does not recede.
I foment them
With warm sighs,
Yet they turn on me ferociously.

(Translation: SumanKashyap :apna

Produce a ruin like that by vectors and I’ll lend you a falling star!

Faith, Herbert isn’t too bad:

Methoughts I heard one calling, Child!

And I replied, My lord.

Define this faith biologically and I’ll make you the king of Persia!

How about Batalvi again for fortitude:

HijaraaN da pahkiya,
LekhaaN de niputharetave!
Chat layetarellooni –
Ghamaan de gulaab tonni,
Kaalaje nu hausala rave!

Tell him, mother, to swallow the bread

Of separation.

He is fated to mourn.

Tell him to lick the salty dew

On the roses of sorrow,

And stay strong.

(Translation: SumanKashyap :apna

Knowledge? Pope said:

The growing labours of the lengthened way;

The growing prospect tire our wandering eyes

Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise.

Construct a balance sheet for such knowledge and all the world’s treasures are yours

Is it matter of choice? I have Frost here:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Define this choice mathematically and lo, I proclaim you the inventor of mathematics!

Concede defeat, for I can rant on till such time as your senses are bewildered by the vast prospects in the vistas of poetry. And I’m yet to touch upon the other facets of the pebble. Which mixture of chemicals will lead you to the appealing cauldron of love, passion, deceit, affection, fortune and snobbishness that was produced in Wuthering Heights – the sole produce of an unmournedartist?Which ruse of physics can defeat the masterful intricate working of fate executed through unwitting mortals than in the plots of Hardy? If you are in a mood to be preached upon why turn to Dickens, if it is light hearted banter that you desire I would suggest a generous dose of Saki.  Those with a taste for grotesque may try Kafka, those who find action interesting there is Poe and Doyle! If you are look for a brief sojourn, try O Henry, someone more interesting, hmm! Ah! Roald Dahl should suit you perfectly. A reading of “lambs to the slaughter” and there you are fitted to contemplate about the metamorphoses and dexterity embedded in human mind! Something shorter yet interesting try Virginia Woolf. “The legacy” is the closest you’ll get to a novel in a short story! Tastes for history wouldn’t want to miss on Addison & Steele or better the grand old man Shakespeare himself! Let you read Sir Roger at Church to get a fleeting glance into the vagaries of country life! What else something languid: two tea spoonfuls of Stevenson and Beacon followed by a generous dose of Narayanan.Stevenson’s An Apology for Idlers will delight you with its invigorating defense of the commonly despised trait of idleness which turns all notions of traditionalism on its head! Of great Places should teach you a thing or two about how to balance himself while rising up the winding stair that leads to it! No? Not content yet? Take a sip of Lamb’s “A dissertation upon a roast pig” or Gardiner’s “All about a dog” to realize how the façade of trivial shapes up events of such seriousness as would have been unheard and unthought-of! If you still harbor an appetite consider reading Mohamad Ali Rodoulvi’sBiwiKiasahonachahiye” (What should a wife be like?)! If times are bad and despair hangs heavy upon your eyelids try and laugh it off with a comedy or two: I suggest “The Importance of being Earnest”: the very embodiment of the Monaco ad: life namkeenbanaye (make life salty)! If an escape is being sought and the mood is for a humorous yarn why what is Ibn-e-Insha there for: FaizSahab is a paradigm of the literary genre involving stringing hilarious incredulous events together to provoke uninhibited laughter.  If it is a contemplation you desire try Synge:  Riders to the sea plays upon the Aeolian harps of the soul to produce a profound melancholy! If it is human frailty you desire to study: Death of Salesman is the perfect antidote if you are a modernie! Hamlet for those who have a taste for classics! Well you name it and we have it!If it is unbridled sarcasm you desire, try Rape of the Lock!

So much for variety, now to the other charms! Let us see! What do Newton’s laws tell us about his age other than apples used to fall off trees? Does Dalton’s atomic theory say anything about his era except for its indivisibility? Pray what do you gather from Darwin’s theory of evolution except that he had a soft corner for apes? Now that is not the case with literature! Pick up a literary piece and the history of the era will gush through! From Beowulf to Nuskha-hai-wafa, from Canterbury tales to The Veiled Suite, from Pamela to The Tiger’s wife, from anything to everything the history of the period is embedded in it! it only wants a little effort to dust of the surface and behold you are singing with the Anglo- Saxons, drinking with Queen Elizabeth, travelling to Africa to hunt lions and if you can spare some time try India! With all its limitations, the India of Malgudi Days would be well worth visiting!

Now for the human experience! Pray how hydrogen’s reaction with carbon dioxide, or the process of  differentiation or the calculation of interest reveal whether I’m in a jubilant mood or  a sad mood or an angry mood or a serene mood? No, it can’t tell you! Literature, though, can tell you. As a case example take Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Toofanbadilhaihar koi”:

Aatishbajaahaihar koi sarkaardekhna

Lau de uthehainnaturrahe-taraardekhna

Fire engulfed every soul is, your majesty, see;

Flames spring from enslaved tongues, see.

Jazbe-e-musaafarane rah-yaardekhna

Sardekhna, na sang, nadeewardekhna

Passions of the loiterers, beloved see:

Oblivious of their heads, stones and walls, see.

Do these lines not remind you of the revolutionary spirit that billows through the Arabic lands these days! Isn’t it a stark reminder of the urges that revived the trodden upon people in all ages to establish the law of good natured justice and order?

The next best thing about this pebble: it assumes whatever shape you want it or require to be.  Quotations, love songs, sad songs, speeches, eulogies, requiems, tragedies, comedies, conversations, thoughts, and advices: the list is endless! It is quite pliable unlike other fields: delve into it to find whatever you are looking for. You’ll never return disappointed!

Editorial Team of Indian Ruminations.


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