Friday, June 23, 2006


Travel website ran a contest recently – the application process was simple and I shot off my entry, just like that, chumma. The prize was Rs 50000 with 15 days and 7 destinations to spend it on. Turns out they meant it after all, because I’ve been shortlisted. *Jig*

There’s a profile of moi up here. Go see.

The winner was announced yesterday: Apurv Pandit. I met several of the contestants on Saturday in Mumbai and it was the most fun. We were rather tempted to pick a route and take off en masse.
Apurv is an engineering chappie-turned-writer, and is a dedicated traveller. He has visited nearly every major tiger santuary in the country and edits Cool guy.
Congrats, Apurv! We'll be tracking you, Tiger Tracker.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Splendid Secunderabad

Secunderabad has been celebrating like mad this past week. 200 years of existence and all. Almost everyone has succumbed to the ‘apna shahar, manaooru’ sentiment and attended at least a concert or an army display or something.

The Vyas involvement extended to:

1) Concert by Karunya and Hemachandra, former being runner up in Indian Idol II and the latter a close finisher in the Sa re ga ma pa Challenge 2005 contest. Both chaps sing brilliantly and they’re cousins, what’s more, so we went really hoping to hear them sing together.
Summary: Karunya was seriously good and quite people-savvy – constant banter, new songs and likesuch. Hemu was disappointing – sang three songs, none of them Telugu, which didn’t go down well with the audience. Still, he apparently dashed in and out just for the concert, so perhaps he simply wasn’t as prepared.

2) Heritage tour of Secunderabad, which was a revelation. I had no idea we had so many monuments. Three churches, one mosque, one Parsi dharmashala, two hospitals and a jail in one morning.

3) Splendid Secunderabad Run, which gave me a headache that hasn’t fully gone.
Please allow me to rant here about celebrity latecomers in general and Mr Megastar Chiranjeevi in particular. First, it is not being from Secunderabad – why call it? Second, run was scheduled at 7.00, so people gathered at 6.30. Megastar not arriveth. Organisers show dismal lack of consideration for 10,000-odd people gathered and wait for one man. Some enthu runners set off and were hauled back so they could be flagged off. So we simply flagged while we waited. Man finally shows at almost 8.00, makes matters worse by talking for a goodish time. What was a benign sun had by now turned a little ferocious.

Flag-off happened and chaos ensued. Apparently, the organisers had their finger on the pulse of the public after all: many morons are in fact interested only in the Megastar. As runners tried to get cleanly away, hundreds moved in the opposite direction towards the podium. Groups were torn asunder and women had a rather uncomfortable time of it. The run wasn’t particularly scenic and we finished in less than an hour and went off to breakfast and Pokiri.

Regrets: missing the Hariharan concert, which turned out fabulous, as well as Pt Jasraj and co and Daler Mehndi. Still, one cannot have everything, no?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thoreau-ly impressed

Aasheesh Pittie writes a heart-felt piece on the purifying effects of reading Thoreau on Urban Babblers. His post fired off many thoughts/reminiscences and I’ve put them down somewhat incoherently in this post.

Being rather wordy, me, these days.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Koi Mir bhi tha

'Mir' dariya hai, sune sher zabaani uski
Allah allah re tabiyat ki ravaani uski

In this post, I’d mentioned in passing, Mir Taqi Mir’s ghazal Patta patta boota boota, and commenter Prashant asked if I could help decode it.

I have no authority whatsoever deconstructing Urdu poetry. All I have is love for the form and a few years of listening put away. There is no Urdu in my background, no cultural well to draw from, no teachers: what I have is absorbed very much from the public space. In fact, when I started off, I struggled to find anyone at all who'd help me understand some of the material I came across, a little of which I talked about in this post.

So it felt presumptuous to try translate Mir, and perhaps, interpret him. On the other hand, I thought it would be a challenge and well, fun. So with trepidation, and an awareness that this will fall short of many standards, I’m putting up a translation of sorts of Patta patta boota boota.

This is a long ghazal with, as far as I can discover, eleven shers; there may be more. Only three or four are popular with singers and I hadn’t come across a few of these before.

Patta patta, boota boota, haal hamaaraa jaane hai,
Jaane na jaane gul hi na jaane, baagh to saaraa jaane hai

Every leaf and every shrub here knows of my state
It is the flower that is unaware, but all the bower knows

Aage us mutkabbar ke ham Khuda Khuda kiya karte hain,
Kab maujud Khuda ko woh maghrur khud-aara jaane hai

We prostrated before the arrogant one, called him ‘Khuda’
In the name of God, what does that insolent one know of Him

Aashiq saa to saada koi aur na hoga duniya mein,
Ji ke zian ko ishq mein uske apna waara jaane hai.

There is no one in the world quite as naïve as a lover
The squandering of his heart he sees as ecstasy

Chaaragari beemari-e-dil ki rasm-e-shahr-e-husn nahin,
Warna dilbar naadaan bhi is dard ka chaara jaane hai

It is not their way, to heal: these denizens of the city of love
Yet even the innocent ones know the cure to a sick heart

Mehr-o-wafa-o-lutf-o-inaayat, ek se waaqif in mein nahin,
Aur to sab kuch tanz-o-kanaya, ramz-o-ishaara jaane hai

Not one here knows of kindness, loyalty, grace or generosity
Cruelty, sarcasm, mockery and taunts, of these they know

Aashiq to murda hai hamesha ji uthta hai dekhe use,
Yaar ke aa jaane ko yakaayak umr do baara jaane hai

He is but a corpse, the lover, but see! he lives again
She has come of a sudden and it is another lease on life

Kya kya fitne sar par uske laata hai maashooq apnaa
Jis bedil betaab-o-tavaan ko ishq ka maaraa jaane hai

What disasters our lover brings down on his own head,
That restless, listless soul we had given up as lost

Tashna-e-khun hai, apna kitna ‘Mir’ bhi naadaan, talkhi-kash,
Damdaar aab-e-tegh ko uske aab-e-gawara jaane hai

Parched for blood he is, and ‘Mir’ the simpleton
Thinks the sharp edge of a blade an elixir
As I see it, the play here is on the word ‘aab’ which can mean a knife’s sharp edge as well as cool waters.

There are three other shers and they are beyond me, so what I’m going to do is just supply what the words mean by themselves and leave it to someone else to tell us what Mir meant:
Yaahi shikaar-farebi par magroor hai woh sayyad bachcha
Ta'er udte hawa men saare apni ussaara jaane hai
[Yaahi = this; shikaar = prey; farebi = deceitful; magroor = arrogant; sayyad = hunter; ussara = limitless, endless]
Rakhnon se deewaar-e-chaman ke munh ko le hai chipaa ya'ani
Un suraakhon ke tuk rahne ko sou ka nazaaraa jaane hai
[rakhna = gap; deewar-e-chaman = garden wall; suraakh = hole, aperture; sou = ?; souq?]
Lagne na de bas ho to uske gohar-e-gosh ke baale tak
Usko falak chashm-e-mai-o-khor ki teetli ka taaraa jaane hai
[gohar = pearl; gosh = ear; baale = earring; falak = sky; chashm = eye; mai = wine]
Mir at his most convoluted. An earring, a pearl, a winejar and a star in the sky - there are all these elements; and whether Mir means to see a pearl hanging from an earlobe through the spout of a winejar and perceives it as a star in the sky, or the other way round, I have no idea. I may add, after reading it a sufficient number of times, I no longer care.

That's that. Often, words in Urdu have diverse interpretations and change chameleon-like in context, so if you’re still determined to decipher all this, this dictionary might help. In fact, I’ll add it to the links on the side bar. It’s organised by pronunciation and doesn’t follow a simple-search-and-throw-up but it grows on you.

Yay, that was fun.