1/31/16

Poem | Joy Goswami ( Translated by Ruma Chakravarti )

Easily Pleased

Photo Credits: Lee La


But we are easily pleased,
Why feel sad about it?
The days pass easily enough
With the bare necessities.
The days pass easily enough
Whether in sickness or in debt
Nightly the two of us sit
Brothers over a ganja pipe.
We cannot afford to shop all days
Other times we go overboard -
On my way home from the street
I buy cuttings of rose.
But where do I plant the damned things?
When will they ever flower?
All that will come sometime later
Let me first smoke my ganja pipe.
We really are easily pleased,
Why must we be sad about it?
Our days pass easily enough
Just with the bare necessities.
Sometimes even that is in doubt
We return late into the night;
As we eat our tempers flare
At least give us salt with cold rice we yell!
My anger gets the better of me
I try to beat it down,
Father and son, brothers in arms,
We raise hell throughout the hood.
What if we do break some rules?
After all we are but ordinary folk.
At least with this bland plate of rice
A pinch of salt would have been nice.


Poems| Karan Mujoo

Photo Credits: Lee La

Bukowski stares at me

Bukowski stares at me from the wall.
Scowling, growling, abusing
because I have sold out.

Good morning you fucking idiot.
Go force a shit and run to work he says,
hurling a bottle of beer at me.
I duck, as I have ducked my dreams,
for a pay cheque at the end of the month.

Writing on the weekend is the plan
of a thousand deluded writers around the world.
I think of Whitman wandering in green fields,
sleeping under trees in a drunken stupor,
I think of Hank scratching his balls,
stubbing a cigarette, and gambling.

They never waited for the weekend.
Why should you or I?


Love and smoke

They say
cigarettes
will kill you.
And I say,
so will love.

The world is
teeming,
bursting
at its seams
with people
in love.

So I would
rather watch
these dervishes
of smoke dance.

People love people.
I love white cylinders
of grey light,
that char lips
of lovers
and loners alike,
these silent
orange lighthouses,
that steer our lost souls
through lonely nights.

Poem | Brittany N. Krantz

The First Plunge
 
Photo Credits : Lee La

The First Plunge 

New neon suit stretched tightly across my torso,  
sticky hands gripping the ladder’s warm metal railing.
Sliding foot onto the ladder’s first step, 
heart feeling like it’s about to beat out of my chest. 

My seven-year-old body trembling, I climb the ladder 
to the unsteady rhythm of my intensifying pulse. 

First stepping onto the sandpaper-texture board, 
slowly beginning the descent outwards, 
like a ship’s prisoner about to walk the plank 
and plunge into the abysmal unknown.

Walk forward slowly, keeping eyes focused outward,
not once daring to look down.
Never. Look. Down.
Ever.

Finally meeting my final destination of the board’s edge, 
toes dangle over like ten tiny monkeys hanging on for dear life.

Breathing deeply, I inhale the the aroma of chlorine, inflatable rubber, and coconut oil,
the unofficial scent combination indicative of summer’s long-awaited arrival. 

So easy to turn back, to climb down the ladder,
and pretend I don’t care about jumping. 
No. Not this year, which is MY year to make the transition
from kiddie pool to cool kid,
from sissified to sophisticated,
from cowardly to courageous.

Fists tight-knees bent-resist urge to count-inhale—
My knees straighten and my feet leave the rough textured board.

Reverberations of the board bouncing against the metal springs
confirm the reality of my decision—to jump!  
Speeding downward like a bird with no wings,
my body zoomed straight for the water’s surface. 

PLISSSH!

Shattering the water’s smooth surface,
continuing the descent down,
wondering if my feet will meet the surface bottom
of the pool’s deepest depths. 

Tap. There it is! 
Pushing off the submerged concrete the instant it meets my feet,
body shoots upward towards the water’s surface, 
like a recoiled spring—or a torpedo! flying into action.

Arms and legs flailing clumsily in uncoordinated unison,
a combination of movement chaos, 
the water’s surface—the finish line.

AHHH!
Bursting through the water’s surface,
I exhale strongly, 
filling my lungs with the victorious mixture of oxygen—
and years of long-awaited triumph.    

Poems | Shikhar Goel


Painting by Chintu Das

1. मेरे जैसों के नाम

मार्क्स, देर्रिदा, कान्ट, बोलो,
चोमस्की, हार्वी, सेन, और फूको
बोलो तुम ये सारे नाम,
नाक पर चश्मा सेट करो तो
एक सिगरेट सुलगाओ जल्दी
देखो, अब तुम ज्ञानी हो!

छापो पेपर, किताब लिखो अब
भरी भरकम शब्दों वाली
अंग्रेज़ी भी फर्राटे से बोलो
ग़ालिब के कुछ शेर भी घोलो
देखो, अब तुम ज्ञानी हो!

नाइकी के जूते पहन कर
बुर्जुआ, बुर्जुआ जाप करो तुम
फैब इंडिया के कुर्ते में
अब क्रांति-क्रांति पाठ करो तुम
दारू के संग, चखने में
नेरुदा ओर फैज़ चबालो!
देखो अब तुम ज्ञानी हो.

देखो अब तुम ज्ञानी हो,
देखो अब तुम ज्ञानी हो,
देखो अब तुम ज्ञानी हो!
क्या सच में?



2.  आमन्त्रण पत्र

कटुवे, पाकिस्तानी,
चूड़े-चमार, भंगी
रंडी, रखैल
अबे ओये छक्के!


मैं कोशिश करूँगा,आप सभों के लिए
कविता में बचा सकूँ,
थोड़ी सी ज़मीन,
मुट्ठी भर आकाश
और ढेर सी आज़ादी.
आपका, मेरी नज़्मों में, स्वागत है!

1/28/16

Poem | Charles Bukowski ( Translated by Ishan Marvel )

चिड़िया
(Bluebird)

Photo Credits : Ishan Marvel


मेरे अंदर एक चिड़िया है
जो बाहर निकलना चाहती है
लेकिन मैं कुछ ज़्यादा ही सख्त हूँ
कहता हूँ,
"वहीँ रह! कोई तुझे देख न पाए"
मेरे अंदर एक चिड़िया है
जो बाहर निकलना चाहती है
लेकिन मैं उसे व्हिस्की और सिगरेट के धुंए में डूबा देता हूँ
रंडियों, शराबियों, और दुकानदारों को कुछ पता नहीं चलने देता

मेरे अंदर एक चिड़िया है
जो बाहर निकलना चाहती है
लेकिन मैं कुछ ज़्यादा ही सख्त हूँ
कहता हूँ,
"बैठ जा! मुझे डुबोएगी क्या?
धंधा चौपट करेगी सारा?
मेरी किताबों की बिक्री बंद करवाएगी?"
मेरे अंदर एक चिड़िया है
जो बाहर निकलना चाहती है
लेकिन मैं भी चंट हूँ
बस कभी-कभार रात में उड़ने देता हूँ उसे
जब सब सो जाते हैं
कहता हूँ,
"मुझे पता है कि तू है वहां,
उदास मत हो,"
और वापस समेट लेता हूँ उसे
फ़िर वो अंदर गाने लगती है थोड़ा –
मरने नहीं दिया है मैंने उसे –
और हम साथ सो जाते हैं,
अपने अकेले वादे को लिए
अच्छा तो लगता है,
कि आदमी रो जाए
लेकिन मैं नहीं रोता –
और तुम?



Bluebird

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?


#BukowskiInHindi

Prose | Arjun Rajendran

Unomened



In Madras, sometime in the mid-eighties, I’d accompany my mother to the post office. After addressing her envelopes containing submissions to prestigious magazines in America, she’d hand them over to me to drop into the postbox. In my twisted reasoning, I felt her aspirations were hampering mine- like most children, there was in me, a smidgen of potential for art. 

And I was encouraged; this firangi aunt whose portrait I scribbled away into the night added to that illusion of precocity. I was too young to know I really had zero talent at drawing, or at least  no real passion for it and thus chose to suppress my mom’s efforts at recognition; I’d peel away the stamps on her envelopes before posting her poems. I remember having done this on a few occasions; but for her, those envelopes were stamped, they made it to an editor’s desk in Chicago, or London, and prolonged her hopes, till it struck her they weren’t accepted.  Regardless of whether the poems were good enough to be selected, through my mischief, I greatly reduced the chances. 

At that time, my mother, who went by the nom de plume of Padma Sundari, was one of the few women Indian poets writing in English. I still remember playing with her typewriter ribbons, smearing the ink on walls. It wasn’t until years later, when I’d long forgotten I wanted to be a painter, and when I published a few poems of my own, developing a sincere interest in the art form, that my focus turned to her published work-but why wasn’t I ever conscious of her as a poet before that? It might’ve been because there was no Facebook then; the only platforms were the occasional poetry gatherings, and you usually did not get to read unless you were in the fold-something she’s always been averse to. The reason could be because an illustrious poet from Bombay tried exploiting her position as a bank officer at IDBI to fund his cultural event. Or maybe, her aversion can be traced to a poetry reading she tried organizing at her flat in Colaba in the late 70s. Only two out of the seven or so poets who were invited actually turned up; and by her own admission, “they just bitched about other poets and left-there was no reading at all”.

But the more plausible reason behind why I wasn’t conscious of her as a poet was that she’d long stopped writing poems. And excelled in her “real”career. 

It’s now been more than a decade since she retired from her bank job, and a decade more since she resigned as a writer; but I still carry her visiting card in my wallet. It says, “Padma Rajendran, General Manager”. But there’s no visiting card of her as a poet, with her nom de plume. When acquaintances remember her, they do it because only being a high ranking officer conferred upon her  a status. To confess, predicting her obituary, I bet the few who might recognize her otherwise wouldn’t know who died if I wrote her down as a poet. I’m not even sure if she’d recognize herself as a poet in her obituary. 



During our early conversations about writing, some literary names would turn up. This was when she’d attend to my doggerels for hours, paying them far more attention than they deserved. 

The sessions were always about me, isn’t this line so powerful?  Does that usage make sense?  I’d shrug off the mention of Chandrabhaga, or her tribute to Smita Patil, or when she’d talk about those afternoons at the American Library in Bombay, discovering poets who still ignite her when they’re discussed.  

For a long time, I have wished she weren’t as kind to my endeavors. I bristle now that she nudged me to send a pitiable manuscript to The New Yorker, about 20 poems I wrote when I was 19 and hardly a year into my writing. During my India trips, I cringed when I saw those foolscap notebooks with butterfly covers, as I learned that all my maudlin, amateurish attempts had become five spiral bound ignominies. I understood her need to archive “poems” that were crucial to my growth but there was nowhere to bury my head when I read my utterly nonsensical attempts, including one called “London Buses Wear Bras”. But it now occurs to me that maybe she was aware of the dangers of interfering too much with the creative process; of bringing a critical, objective assessment to my work. But yes, she never held back when it came to introducing me to other poets, and in sharing her criticisms of their poems. If I’m able to spot literary pretensions now, it’s because she drew a clear, and perhaps overly harsh distinction between who’s being clever and who’s the real deal. 


And if yesterday, I shared a poem called “Digging”, and received so many likes for it, I surely failed to acknowledge that my mother introduced me to Seamus Heaney. And T.S.Eliot. And Kamala Das. Keki Daruwalla, Arun Kolatkar, Anne Sexton, this “interstices” poem in the Times Literary Supplement, that brilliant pornography in POETRY, to Carl Sandburg, Pablo Neruda and most of all, Jayanta. 

Even more than Eliot, Jayanta Mahapatra is the poet she’s imbibed-“a silence that tells us the world is not our’s”  is a quote I often hear from her lips. Although they exchanged letters for a few years, it wasn’t until much later that she got to meet him; sometime this millennium, when she happened to be in Cuttack and obtained his number from the operator. The details of the visit that followed are vague, but I’ll never forget her recollection of that brief telephonic conversation, how the octogenarian traced her in a second, as a poet he was proud to have published in x and y issues of Chandrabhaga, and only twenty-odd years ago.   

When today, I see some of the biggest deals in the Indian canon, I’m dizzy my mother was once featured alongside them. I display her correspondences with Jayanta Mahapatra in my album with as much pride as she’s nailed the laminated printout of my first publication in the hall. And almost always, when I share her work with others, I’m asked why she stopped writing. I ask her that too, whenever I’m in India, or over the phone, on those rare occasions without drama, why she stopped writing and there’s not just one reason. They are all valid, and depressingly so. There’s always the fear that what died in her might perish in me too. When I persist in my questioning, she quotes Kamala Das, something about a fever that came and went. 

And to her credit, Kamala Das accepted at least one outcome of her fever in the poetry section 
of The Illustrated Weekly of India (now defunct) that she was curating:

“At 54 a, Lower Circular Road, Calcutta”. It’s a poem about someone who’s also in my poems. The difference being that the identity of the person is shielded in her work; it isn’t exploitative, like mine, but cathartic. 

"Her wrinkled face/holding in its folds/part of my own destiny" is an indictment. The question in
my question/unasked and diffused, however isn’t just aimed at the owner of the wrinkles, who’s Mother Teresa; it’s diffused in what is clear to me now was an effort, a chronicle of her responses to something society perceived as betrayal. It concerns the sadness of seeing an intellectual of the highest calibre renounce her gifts for a holy order. 

And in “THE MUSEUM”, another fevered creation, lines like this: Every nook/proffers an inference, offer me more insight into my mother’s sense of aesthetics, her perception of the exhibits in a museum, than any account outside of the poem; for instance, I remember little of the few excursions we’ve undertaken together-that trip to the Smithsonian; she’s just a photo in it, under a space capsule, and photos are great but they never reveal details like scurrilous delights or resplendency or deductions into the adornments of sixteenth century women to define a few memorable seconds of the interior. A poem like, “In The House of Lawyers” is an invaluable record of ancestry: caliphose-6x/from Grandfather’s homeo chest/or the Allahabad Law Journal, bound in leather.

But in my opinion, the best of Padma Sundari’s oeuvre is the poem, “UNOMENED”.

 It was so easy for me, when I’d first read it as a twenty year old, to dismiss the beginning, Could I have construed? for being cerebral and not the real deal;and now, I applaud her craft. ‘Construed’ is an unusual, startling verb, and it was masterful to position it at the end of the first line, in a dazzling complement to the title. The poem, which is mainly crafted around one familial death, actually refers to two. And elements, like the clock, seep from the first unomened demise into the next. The ending, ‘Does/ it become one— dying so unomened’?encapsulates for me her memory of many deaths and failings: the best friend, who, along with her family was crushed by a sixteen wheeler; a vicissitude that claimed her grandfather’s house— which, through its many retellings, has assumed in my mind a palatial proportion— and many other skeletal interpretations that the poet surely didn’t intend. 

Her body of work now amounts to the few scans shared here, just enough to perhaps qualify as a dog-ear in the glorious history of Indian English Poetry. Sometimes, she jests that she merely needs another fifteen poems for a full length collection, and if I’d be willing to lend them to her. The last time she wrote a poem, she e-mailed it to me. It was her only work in more than a decade:a tribute to her favorite uncle who’d just died. And I probably never replied to her,or if I did, it was terse and professional, as an editor to a poet. A rejection note of sorts.

Prose | Hasan Mujtaba




In Jamshedpur which lies in Jharkhand, an eastern state of  India, there is a shrine of saint Miskeen shah where   visiting pilgrims   leave with thousands of Xeroxed copies of their passports with wishes and aspirations of getting jobs in gulf countries, or IT jobs in America or leisure trips abroad. He is known as the ‘saint of travel abroad’.

But what is unknown to many, Syed Miskeen Shah originally hailed from a village of my native Sindh’s Matiari (you may have seen Matiari in Jameel Dehlvi’s film ‘Immaculate Conception’ where Shabana Azmi is shown to be acting as an heiress of local elderly feudal lord. “I want you to go abroad to be taught more than Benazir Bhutto,” the grandfather tells Shabana Azmi). Miskeen shah, a wandering dervish of Sindh opted for the arduous journey of India by foot in 1920’s. He came, lived, and died   in then Bihar (1934 in Jamshedpur) and is buried there.

Had the travel saint Miskeen shah lived in the times post India-Pakistan rivalry, he would have never made it to today’s India because he would have been most certainly denied  a visa .
The above story about Miskeeen Shah is  also written by Indian Sindhi writer Laxman Koomal in his biography  ‘Wahi Khatay ja Panna’ (The Pages of the Ledger  Book of My Life).  Laxman Koomal, at the age of 12, was forced into  India with his parents during the Partition and recently died in Delhi. His ashes were brought back to Sindh of Pakistan to be drowned into the river Indus according to his will.

I placed his 735 pages book, and Allen Ginsberg’s  ‘Indian Journals’ in my luggage to read during my scheduled 14-hour travel from New York to Delhi when Teamwork Arts invited me as speaker in the recently concluded Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2016 (January 21 to January 25).  An invitation letter was sent to me, my editor, and J.P.Vaswani, India’s renowned spiritual figure and social work celeb who has written the foreword of my book ‘Glimpse of Beloved,’ an English translation of selected poems of 18th century Sindhi poetry Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.  I was scheduled to speak on January 21 on the poetry of Shah Abdul Latif with the book’s compiler-cum- editor and Rita Kothari.
 I went to apply  for my Indian visa to New York Consulate General India through an outsourced company  with all the relevant documents including political clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs and event clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 24, 2015.

The process of applying Indian visa is so sickening and humiliating if you were born in Pakistan with no fault of yours.  You are made to unduly wait at every step and told that this is  because you are of Pakistani origin. It is a really  nasty and nauseating experience I underwent. “Come on”, I told them, “I fled Pakistan some 17 years ago. Never went back, nor willing to going back. I am an American. I am a writer- in-exile from Pakistan.” But you are neither  treated as American, nor as a writer but as ‘Pakistani.’ For the first time in many years, I was reminded by the Indian visa section officials that I was ‘Pakistani’. Otherwise, Pakistanis think I am pro-India and Indians think me a ‘Pakistani’ (suspect, you never know).

 “ After spending so many hours in Ministry of External Affairs, there is a chance you get clearance in a day or so,’ one of my organizers Sharupa Dutta, responsible for clearance of delegate writers outside India told me in her e-mail message. “Here is the good news. Find here No Objection letter from the ministry of External Affairs’’,  Sharupa’s e-mail said on the following day. “Catch a flight of the United Air direct to Delhi tonight”  a friend from Delhi told me.

Carrying No Objection and other forwarded e-mails of MEA officials, I excitedly rushed to the Indian Consulate General’s visa section and submitted the documents to visa office, again. Again, unmoved across the wall of glass, the official returned a paper,  highlighting “A Pakistani national” in red.

 I wrote back to my organizers and their response was: ‘‘We are told by the ministry here nothing more could be done from Delhi.” I met with the cultural attaché next day; she said “No way can you get visa without clearance from Delhi.” So was the answer of visa officer across the glass window.
 Perhaps India is only country in the world whose diplomatic missions single you out on your ‘Pakistani origin’ no matter you abandoned the country years ago. “It is easier for the Japanese to have Chinese visa than Pakistanis to get Indian or Indians to get Pakistani visa,” my 19 year old says to me.

 It is mean spirited and harsh. India is way ahead in IT, still her visa officers don’t google you when it comes to visa. Al least they should have goggled me in their own media in case. 
‘’Indian potatoes can come to Pakistan but not poets’’ poet Ahmed Faraz  has said. Recently, Pakistanis did not allow 10 Sindhi Indian writers to attend a literary conference in Karachi this month. On the other hand India refused visa to a writer and poet like me who was forced to leave the county because I wrote on persecution of Hindu minorities. I also wished to meet many of my former Sindhi Hindu class fellows who left Pakistan either because their sisters or cousins were forcibly converted, or their parents and brothers were kidnapped, hounded and harassed. I wanted to go on tracking the foot prints of Allen Ginsberg in Delhi. I wish they had read the poems I wrote on terror attacks on Mumbai, selling of Amrita Pritam’s house, and love and cricket matches between India and Pakistan, or the earthquake in 2005 in Kashmir. Nevertheless, it is typical ‘saas bahu ka jhaagra’  where I got caught in the cross -fire, and became a ping pong between Indian Consulate New York and the ministries in Delhi.

Pakistan allowed ashes of prominent Indian Sindhi writer Laxman Koomal to be drowned into river Indus but there are many Hindu families in Pakistan who were not allowed to bring ashes of their dear ones to Ganges in India. “Tum bhi hum jaisay nikle” (You also proved to be like us”)  Urdu poet Fahmida Riaz had said a few years ago in India which triggered an uproar from extremists. I would say of Indian diplomats and bureaucracy, “you proved yourselves even worse than us.”

No writer, poet or artist has  ever been found  harming India and Pakistan or spying over them. However,  many Sindhi writers and poets in Pakistan including doyen of Sindhi poetry Shakh Ayaz had to spend months and years to write poems for peace during the wars or intervals of peacetime between the two neighbors.


1/21/16

Poem | Charles Bukowski ( Translated by Ishan Marvel )

भीड़ में अकेले
(Alone with Everybody)

Photo Credits : Ishan Marvel


मास ढकता है ढांचे को,
फ़िर दिमाग डाल देते हैं,
और कभी-कभार रूह

औरतें दीवारों पे फूलदान  तोड़ती हैं
और आदमी पीते रहते हैं

किसी को साथ नहीं मिलता

पर लगे रहो,
बिस्तरों में रेंगते,
अंदर-बाहर

मास ढकता है ढांचे को,
पर ढूंढता है कुछ और,
अपने से अलग

कोई उम्मीद नहीं:

एक ही भाग्य में फंसे हैं हम

किसी को साथ नहीं मिलता

कूड़ेदान भरते हैं
पागलख़ाने भरते हैं
अस्पताल भरते हैं
और कब्रें भरतीं हैं



और कुछ नहीं भरता



Alone with Everybody

the flesh covers the bone 
and they put a mind 
in there and 
sometimes a soul, 
and the women break 
vases against the walls 
and the men drink too 
much 
and nobody finds the 
one 
but keep 
looking 
crawling in and out 
of beds. 
flesh covers 
the bone and the 
flesh searches 
for more than 
flesh. 

there's no chance 
at all: 
we are all trapped 
by a singular 
fate. 

nobody ever finds 
the one. 

the city dumps fill 
the junkyards fill 
the madhouses fill 
the hospitals fill 
the graveyards fill 

nothing else 
fills. 

1/20/16

TSC Interviews | Juliet Reynolds | Part 2

Juliet Reynolds, well-known art critic and wife of the Hungryalist painter Anil Karanjai, met the editors of the Sunflower Collective at their Jor Bagh residence recently for a chat about her husband and his art, the art-world of India and in general, and the Leftist politics and its understanding of art. 

The following discussion was preceded by Juliet Reynolds objecting to Malay Ray Choudhury making certain remarks about Anil Karanjai’s time in the US and his first marriage, in an earlier interview  with us. We would like to note that and make it known that we do not believe in censoring any form   of expression. However, it is also not our intention to cause anyone hurt and we regret any misunderstanding. This is part two of a three part series.  
    
Painting by  Anil Karanjai from the series called  'Solace in Solitude' painted during the last year of his life.


Another landscape by  Anil Karanjai



AS/GB: Anil fell out with the Leftists, isn’t it?

JR:  Anil went to America when the movement was gone.

GB: What time…

JR: He went in 1974. The Naxal movement was over by then. It wasn’t that he was running away which some of the comrades did. Anil did not do anything like that. He just left. Nothing dramatic, like getting chased, escaping… nothing like that. He was quite good at covering his tracks when the thing was going on, except they had raids, they raided the studio and all the material was taken by the cops.

GB: That Malay da mentioned.

JR: So that’s why I have almost no material. I have almost nothing from the 60’s …the police took it and he never got it back. Terrible waste, terrible.

GB: The raid was in Benaras?

JR: They were everywhere but the raid on these guys, yes. The police were following them also. They developed a kind of code in which they talked nonsense stuff to mislead the police… bullshitting you know (chuckles). So, yeah…when he came back (from the States) he continued to meet these people. Kanchan Kumar was bringing out Amukh, so Anil designed the logo; he also designed the logo of PUDR (People’s Union of Democratic Rights), he did the portraits of martyrs… Sometimes, posters and stuff he would do. And most of them would not respect his work. He used to feel really mad about that. But he never went and denounced them elsewhere. All his criticism, he would keep to himself. That hurt badly. Once they had organized an event and they asked him to do portraits of their martyrs and he went to tremendous pains to do these portraits well, black and white, not oil portraits,  but still they were very nicely done and after the rally was over, they were all torn and thrown on to the ground.
And then, when he started painting his landscapes, they really turned against him.

AS: They must have thought it was not “committed” art, or not for the people.

GB: It was probably too existential or individualistic for them.

JR: Yeah.

AS: They have their stock insults for people who don’t toe their line.

JR: Yeah. He used to feel sad or angry about this. He wasn’t at all happy about it. He called them nincompoops, half-educated fellows, illiterates….

GB: It is interesting to know that Benaras already had a communist movement going on there because we did not have much of a clue.

AS: Yeah.

JR: I think because of the Bengal connection. Huge numbers…the fixed population itself when I went there first in the late seventies, was at least 40% Bengali…and others came due to migration and pilgrimages. Now it’s much, much less. There are no jobs and they are going away. Benaras was half Bengali, all these schools and libraries…Anil was educated in a Bengali medium school, and not in Hindi. He learnt Hindi.  I think now they have scrapped that; there is no Bengali medium education in Benaras anymore. But in his time, it was very much there, you could walk out in the streets and every otherperson is speaking Bengali. Even the fish seller who came to Anil’s house spoke Bengali. Anil’s mother spoke no Hindi at all. All the vegetable vendors also spoke in Bengali. So it was mostly because of that.

GB: And he used to frequent Kolkata.

JR: He used to go there. Even after the Hungry Generation…for his artistic quest also.
He came close to Gopal Ghosh. He was a kind of a mentor (to him). Gopal Ghosh painted landscapes. I did not realise till very late how much the Ghosh family knew Anil. One of these dealers that cheated Anil, which I wrote about in the book (Finding Neema), one of the things he was able to get out of Anil was an introduction to Ghosh’s family. They trusted Anil, he introduced them to this man, and he ripped them off. He sweet talked Anil and Anil was not somebody who got taken in by people but he was getting tired and worn out by then. These were the kind of things that were happening at the end. Gopal Ghosh was quite an important figure in his life. When the Naxalite movement was going on – Anil told me this story – some journalist asked him, pointing at a flower painting, “why are you painting this when bloodshed is going on outside?” “You see, my roses are red”, (Ghosh said). The point was, the emotion Ghosh was expressing through his landscape, it was not unrelated to what was going on around him.




Read Part 1 of this interview here

Read Part 3 of this interview here

1/19/16

Poems | Sabahudin Hadžialić

The Symbiont's Incomprehensible Pronouns by Bill Wolak

1. Copy Paste

I am not guilty !
I only obeyed my party line !
And
this goes on
and on
for centuries.


2. Bluz za Moju Bivsu Domovinu/ Otadzbinu
(Blues for my Ex- Country / Homeland)

I had a country.
They took it away.
They did not ask for permission.
The very same people who
now
want to establish
customs zones,
introduce joint parliament sitting
and start to exchange war criminals.
The very same
they
who caused the trouble in the first place.

I can only say
one word
Country/Homeland
One day you will realise
that
people lived there for generations
and not… No Don't Shoot!!


3.Eh Da Sam Mladji
(If Only I Were Younger)

I read
Poetry
written by the young poets…
I
don’t know
if I should
call it
Regressive or Progressive ?


I better shut up
and  continue reading
The poetry written by young writers.


4. Final Solution

How to cut Gordian knot
in B(&H)?
…an educated fellow tosses the question over and over again…
He repeats the question
time and time again
it doesn’t tire him
it spans decades,
even centuries.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
is an answer in itself.

The question will die out
when B&H is wiped out.

1/15/16

Poem | Bhuvi Gupta

addenda (or why my love, i am not docile)
Girl Searching Soldier by Banksy
Source: stencilrevolution.com
[...]

to come back to the point,
i know i should've learnt early
not to be too much trouble
but i [never learning my place]

scratched revolution
into the walls at home
demanding the love that was due,
broke a pane
when taught a lesson in containment

you see,
there's something in me
that didn't learn
to be content with my lot,
always fought,
the quiet propriety

of living too close to neighbours
[middle class safehouses
organised by family name]
in an apartment
built like a panopticon
with an absent centre
and "too many cats"

perhaps i inherited it
like Subhadra's son
listening to my parents converse*
while still in my mother's womb

*[something i've often wondered
is it still a conversation if it's a device
a soliloquy:
bravery on the battlefield
simply another way of taking
from women]

her quiet desperation
at what she knew was now her lot
making my tiny fingers curl
fists inside her swollen belly

[love, i've told you i
was born ready to fight,
though every time i tell you,
you still look surprised]

she was categorical
her first child, she knew
would be hers
a daughter [though brought into the world of men]

[...]

always a difficult child
she tells me
i refused to keep the date;
i was due on her birthday,

but they extracted me forcibly,
three days later
[include here a footnote by a medical anthropologist
on how easy it is to cut open a woman's body]
despite her protests

even then she must've known
or so i've come to think
that the first love i'd give up
would be hers,
with her [would be] my hardest fight

the point of all this,
simply being
i've noticed you're always
quick to make a case
and while i do enjoy
a compelling argument

i ask only that you be fair
and afford me a little history,
while you're busy
erasing your own

i wish i too could do it
[a bit of cauterising here
a convenient proviso there]
for after all these years of fighting
i still bear my father's name

[...]

but it was never going to be easy,
this taking back of what was mine
[rights are never given,
someone, somewhere has had to fight]

...so love, if the shadows lengthen around you,
remember, it's because you are light

1/10/16

Poem | Karuna Chandrashekar

teacher


Photograph : Tilak

dearest,

summer is here / heat has returned to lance / the sky /
in tandem / i decorate my skin with anger / my tongue grows quiet / with many
names /

serving as knives / my own kill list / this mouth, turns cremation site / where
unsaid things / have slow, small deaths / where / memory is a speaking pile of ash /

teach me voice / how to fill the half empty / contents of its glass / slide across
the table / in quick surrender / in the sadness of summer / teach it to leave rings on
wood / around the moon / around the pale knuckle of a finger

teach me / how to hurricane my hunger / to know its wind / but to stay still/
within its eye

teach me how to see / how to dismantle the telescope of desire / pointing toward
the horizon / waiting / for ships sailing / at half mast, / for the prayer in each
arrival / of sea breeze

teach me how to commit / this most vital act / of insurrection / to live with despair/
to not end, each heat-heavy night / closing / fingers around /  flames /  to not
leave this body / a mute witness / to its own wane

against all that I have learned / teach me the hope / of a star disturbed night/
teach me how to collect each collapse/ teach me how to wait / with grace / for
better days

i have so much to learn

yours,

1/9/16

Poem | Mosarrap H. Khan

Pumpkin

Painting : Chintu Das 

Pumpkin.
Because that’s what he said his name was.
A tall, lanky, consumptive man, named Pumpkin.

Pumpkin unties his bicycle, trudges along the concrete sidewalk,
mounts the ramshackle machine, crouching, his thin legs pedaling with effort.

Pumpkin knocks on our door, early in the morning, late into the night.
When the shower clogs, Pumpkin vacuums it. He changes the light
on the ceiling, fixes the curtains. A five buck makes him happy.

Pumpkin hovers around our tiny kitchen door. She senses
and asks if he would like to eat some food. He sits down with the glee
of a child. His African taste-buds flare with desi spices,
 memories of ancestral affinity seep through in his sweat.

I sit on the steps of the brownstone late into the night sipping beer.
Pumpkin pedals his bicycle, ties it to the filigreed railing.
I offer a beer. He accepts and asks for a cigarette.

I prod him to speak of his life, his wife, his children.
They live somewhere close by, he mutters.
I see a woman who comes often and asks me to allow her into the house.
Pumpkin lives in the basement.
He asks me not to let the woman in.

Pumpkin wants to know about her. I hesitate and never tell him
if she would ever return. We play an evasive game.

Some days, I see Pumpkin working at a neighboring house,
sorting through their garbage. He sorts through our garbage, too.
He asks me if I drink Jameson.
I hesitate to tell him that’s a luxury I enjoy.

The night is bright with fireworks. The blind alley reverberates
with loud music and the burnt smell of meat.
An old lady comes and sits on the step,
where I sit and drink beer. She asks for a beer and smoke.
I don’t hesitate to share my booze and smoke with the old woman.

Pumpkin asks the woman to leave me alone.
I feel grateful to him. I don’t know why.

It’s a moonlit night. The faint crescent moon is partly hidden
by the edges of the concrete. The air is still with humidity.
Pumpkin trudges down with his bicycle.
He opens his can of drink. I wonder what it might contain.
He sits at the root of the tree and lifts his t-shirt, airing his bony frame.
His toolbox lies next to him.

I offer him a cigarette. Pumpkin refuses my offer tonight.
And flips open a pack of Newport.

We sit there in silence.

Poem | Mary V Williams

How to hypnotise a Chicken

Photograph  : Leela

Choose your chicken carefully,
a docile one; one who knows you well.
Draw a firm line on the barn floor,
between you and the exit.
Take up your chicken; tuck her under your arm like so.
Let her calm down a bit; you don't want her to flap,
then hold her gently but firmly down so that her beak
touches the line that leads from you to the barn door.
Stroke her with soothing rubs from head to neck.
The chicken will watch the line,
mesmerised by your stroking hand.
Let go of your chicken slowly.
She will stay transfixed, her eye upon the floor.

Choose your person carefully,
the quiet ones with adoring eyes are best.
Draw a firm line on the office carpet
between your desk and the door.
Stand your person in front of you. Use your authority,
like so. Let them calm down a bit. You don't want a fuss.
Give them some compliments. Remind them of their status.
The person will watch the door,
frozen with fear about redundancy.
Allow them to realise slowly,
as you let go, who is the master.
They will stay transfixed, watching your face for clues.

Poem | Dominic James

Painted Testament
The Provocative Pirouette by Bill Wolak

Look at that sky!
                Wouldn’t you say
the cloud pack is squeezed out
of the middle of the tube?

Look at those houses – rooftops,
the village has extended,
in their same old seamy beds
people curl into hutches.

And from the prophet’s pen;
at our final reckoning,
across the land the furnaces
of Los will at last be turned
to fountains on Albion’s
return.
                Then our sins will be
forgiven, as we forgive
those who trespass against us.

How the south wind blows
in this warm clamouring
isn’t it oblivion, better,
isn’t it just fabulous?

Poem | Meg Dolan


voracious 
Sketch by Gayatri Goswami 

hunger is a beautiful thing
when it may be satisfied
without suffering or imposition
mother nature does it
blizzard meets storm, they mingle,
stunning show, a rare event

whether it's flames of romantic desire quenched
flame to amber glow, to ash
or your home filled with aromatics
thy favourite meal,
drops of Egyptian oil placed on your skin

my cats always appear famished
searching for the next tit-bit
sniffing out any newly opened package
whether fit for cat consumption or not
some cream please they say
in cat language humans fully get
consuming delicately their morsels,
involuntary little purring engines
back rolls, exposing fur bellies
cuteness eternally evolving to get what they want
tonight is freshly cooked salmon

and those statuesque men
Statue of David types,
rarely satiated
after many top-ups, don't ever stop
let their hearts be content
or fully spent,
allow them to dive in
the deep end
explains their grins,
wider than flame grilled steaks

and I stumbling upon the sale rack
of exclusive designers clearances so low
i afford with no thinking or remorse
voracity in full force
just do it. being precious is a waste. live full.
overflow.

1/7/16

Poem | Suneet Chopra

Now It’s Time to Move to Action


Photograph: Tilak


Cold wind bites the face and parched earth
below is cracked like eggshells when the
chicks have flown away. In cities
fellow humans huddle under
empty sacks of foodstuff sold at
prices they could not pay, leaving
them to gaze at empty stores that
flash lights for the shoppers forced to
window- shop instead with empty
pockets warming cold hands; but those
who rob banks through loans they won’t pay
make merry in limousines and
night clubs. And I watch them from the
Madras Coffee House where once the
likes of Khushwant Singh and Keshav
Malik drank coffee and wrote books.
Nehru, Lohia, A.k. Gopalan
sat here, jostling hopes and ideals
for an open door for those
left out in the cold still. Now a
juke box plays its thumping music
to an empty room. Nearby
there’s a metro station where the
action is, with people going here
and there, keeping warm for the price of
a ticket, safe under the eye
of a camera that simply
looks at you to give you solace,
but does nothing. Here the
battery chickens wearing glasses
live out force-fed routines , waiting
to be butchered for the market.
No, the next year must be better.
now it’s time to move to action.

1/1/16

TSC Interviews | Juliet Reynolds | Part 1

Juliet Reynolds, well-known art critic and wife of the Hungryalist painter Anil Karanjai, met the editors of the Sunflower Collective at their Jor Bagh residence recently for a chat about her husband and his art, the art-world of India and in general, and the Leftist politics and its understanding of art. The conversation started with a discussion about a previous post on TSC describing Karanjai as "embittered" towards the end of his life. This is part one of a three part series. 

Anil at the Kausali artists' camp hosted by Vivan Sundaram in 1978.
Source : Facebook Page



JR: I was just a bit taken aback by the word ‘embittered’. And I got your point; you clarified it. Anil’s…wasn’t so much embitterment.

AS: I understand.

JR: In the Malay interview, that word comes up again. It hit me…

AS: Has Malay da used the word?

GB: I think one of the questions had it…

AS: Actually, that’s my understanding from reading the book (Finding Neema). I don’t put a negative value to bitterness. I like Bob Dylan; his songs are bitter. I think any reasonable person will feel bitter with this world because it is unfair.

JR: Bitterness was never really in Anil’s character. He could be very fiery; he would express a lot of rage and anger. But he also had a very soft, quiet side; he would feel sad about it then. There was a sad side to Anil…(almost) melancholic. He would feel deep sadness about things that had gone wrong…and then at times, he’d be furious. Maybe, in a way, there was an element of bitterness…

GB (to AS): I think you had meant to say that his experience was bitter…

AS: Yes.

GB: Not that as a man he was bitter.

JR: Ok, we clarified it now.

AS: He had taken to painting landscapes which were not considered highly in terms of concept.

JR: For him, landscapes were his own rebellion against mainstream art which was more and more imitating the trends in the West; he always felt strongly about that…art going into post-modernism, installation, he refused to do it.

AS: What is your view on it?

JR: Very rarely have I seen anything (of this sort) which struck a chord in me…emotional or intellectual. Recently, I was at the Royal Academy in London and I saw Ai Weiwei’s work and it was mostly installations. I was skeptical at first… because he is critical of the Communist regime so the West is making him very big…but I recognised that the man really has something, he has originality. Anish Kapoor is a midget in front of him, frankly.

AS: You don’t care much for his work?

JR: No. Highly over-rated.

AS: And Subodh Gupta?

JR: Also highly over-rated. Ridiculous. And it is not particularly new exhibiting bartan and garbage …even people like Vivan Sundaram, from an older generation, a really well-trained, very skillful artist, even he has piled up garbage at the Lalit Kala Akademi.

AS: Do you think identity is being peddled in the name of art?

JR: Certainly, I think there is tokenism. Anil was not only against it … from deep inside his core he could not do (what others were doing). It did not come from within. If his art did not come from somewhere deep inside him, he wasn’t going to do it.

There were many aspects to his painting landscapes. One was going against the mainstream. But he never protested for the sake of it. He was drawn to landscapes because he liked going into nature. He got a great feeling of solace and comfort from it. There is a film on him…

GB: Which was shown at the Sahitya Akademi?

JR: Yes, and he talks of spiritual loneliness in it. He wasn’t religious though.So that connection with nature he felt. He also wanted to give a contemporary, modern language to landscape while not straying too far from realism. That got him into a lot of trouble. Some called it calendar art. Anil looked at calendar art. He wanted to bridge the gap between high art and low art, to communicate with people. He was not interested in painting only for the elite. He wanted to communicate with as wide a public as possible.. (Of course) no artist is going to produce a masterpiece every time. It takes trial and error, experimentation. That happens to every artist. But everywhere his detractors would be saying  “aah”, “ooh”…“look at him, he’s painting Lodhi Gardens”. Lodhi Gardens was the closest place where he could be in nature. Like Cézanne, he was exploring the forms of nature, something much deeper, something more rooted; like Cézanne painted that mountain in Southern France (Mont Sainte Victoire ) hundreds of times, looking for something, that feeling he would get standing in front of it, how could he capture that feeling?

AS: Do you think he was protesting against the diktats of the Progressive movement and its emphasis on social realism?

JR: He knew about the Modern masters and paid homage to them in his early works. But he was not very influenced by any one artist. Maybe in his early years he liked the old master, Hieronymus Bosch… To be a Modernist, your work had to be full of contortions and distortions, he was also turning his back on that. But it wasn’t just for the sake of it,it was because he felt it also.

GB: It was more organic…

AS/ GB: Tell us about his politics?

JR: The Hungry Generation were anarchists, nihilsts. But Anil did not share that; from a very early stage, he was associated with the Left, the far-Left. I think he became a cadre of one of the mainstream Marxist parties also but they told him that he should wear dirty shoes when going to the people, that he should fill up these forms if he wanted to be promoted up the hierarchy, so he told them to take a running jump.

AS: So he did not favour their dogma and pretences?

JR: Oh no no! Never! But when the revolutionary movement was going on…

AS: You mean the Naxal movement?

JR: Yeah…He wasn't in Bengal at that time but he would go to Calcutta…. Also, there were student movements going on in Benaras, he was involved in all that. You couldn’t just define him narrowly. Anything which was questioning the status quo, something with solid foundation that could overthrow the status quo, anything of that kind had his support.
To come to Malay, they did not really share politics. Anil used to tell me that he did not really share their politics, anarchism and all that…it was because of the anti-establishment stance that he was part of the movement. And also, the energy and their creativity.He joined them for that. He was a bit at odds with their politics although not in any major kind of way. But he stuck to them because the Hungry Generation experience for Anil was life-changing.  I never realised until much later how much he missed it. In fact, Malay came here once, just once…

GB: In fact, he told me about you and that’s how we got in touch.

JR: Anil talked a lot about Malay after that and how much the movement had meant to him. Anil and Karuna (Nidhan, another Hungryalist painter ) were in Benaras at that time, with flower children and hippies…

GB: And the student politics…

JR: Yes, and I don’t know why the Hungry Generation fell apart, maybe there were ego problems…

GB: More than that, I think there were mass-arrests and the government…

JR: …Cracked down on them. But there were some differences between them, between Malay and others…

GB: There are.

JR: Yeah.


Read Part 2 of this interview here
Read Part 3 of this interview here