Friday, April 04, 2014

Anees Salim's Interview in The Daily Star


Interview

Under the Mango Tree

Anees Salim is the author of The Vicks Mango Tree (Harper Collins India), Vanity Bagh (Picador India) and Tales from a Vending Machine (Harper Collins India). His fourth novel The Blind Lady's Descendants is expected to be released by Westland Books (India) very soon. This year, he has beaten authors like Manu Joseph and Amandeep Sandhu to walk away with the prestigious “The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction” for his 'dark comic tale' Vanity Bagh. He is an advertising professional and is based in Kochi, India. Here he talks to ABDULLAH KHAN about his books and his life as a writer. 
Anees Salim
Anees Salim
The Star: Anees, congratulations for winning the Hindu Prize for best fiction. How did you react when you got the news? And how important is this prize for you?
Anees Salim: 
Thank you. I watched the live webcast of the ceremony from my cubicle as the office, oblivious to what I was doing, buzzed around me. When the prize was announced I must have exclaimed aloud, because people in the neighbouring cubicles stood up and eyed me suspiciously. This prize is extremely important to me. There is suddenly a fair amount of interest in the book and it has started to reflect on the sales.
The Star: Tell us something about your background. How did you get interested in creative writing? At what age you wrote your first piece of fiction?
Anees Salim:
 I hail from the beach town called Varkala (in Kerala,India), but I live in the port city of Kochi. I started writing when I was about sixteen, and I began with a short story, which I sent to the Illustrated Weekly of India. I was foolishly optimistic about its chances and started planning my literary career around it. The story came back a fortnight later with a stock rejection letter.
The Star: You have published three novels in quick succession. Please share with our readers how was your journey from an aspiring author to a published one?
Anees Salim: 
Yes, three of my books came out in a span of one and a half years. But they were written in different periods of my life. I had great difficulty in getting publishers and agents read my manuscripts. And those who read them were quick to send me carefully worded rejection letters. In the beginning of 2009, a young literary agent picked up one of my manuscripts, and he sold it in a week and then two more in a month.
Under the Mango Tree
The Star: Your books have serious subjects as their themes but your writing carries a comic tone.  How do you manage to do it?
Anees Salim:
 Well, I am told time and again that there is something humorous about my writing. But I don't choose humorous things to write about. My books are about common people and their everyday struggles, about religious intolerance and violence. The comic tone finds its way into my writing no matter how sombre the subject I am dealing with. I can't help it.
The Star: In your prize winning novel Vanity Bagh, you tell your readers that in every city there is a tiny Pakistan? Is 'Pakistan' a metaphor for something? What do you mean by 'tiny Pakistan'?
Anees Salim:
 In most cities around the world, there is a Chinatown, isn't there? Similarly in many Indian cities you will find minority settlements that are branded as Little Pakistan. And the residents of these pockets are often frowned upon, laughed at and believed to be influenced by Pakistani ideas and ideologies. So, it's not metaphorical at all. It's physical and it can be just across the street from where you live.
The Star: Two of your novels are set in a fictional city called 'Mangobagh' but it has striking resemblance with many north Indian cities with sizeable Muslim population. Did you have any city in mind when you thought of Mangobagh?
Anees Salim: 
Mangobagh is a city I carved out of several other cities. In fact I glued together landscapes from cities I like for their history, architecture and ruins. Probably it is the kind of place I want to live in. I think you will find a bit of Delhi, Hyderabad and Lucknow in Mangobagh.
The Star:  You are known for not attending any book launch or lit fest. Why do you do so? Do you think a writer's role as teller of a story ends with the writing of the book?
Anees Salim:
 It is not just book launches or lit fests that I don't attend. I avoid going to gathering of any size and description. Office parties, weddings, get-togethers, workshops, reunions…I stay clear of all of them.
The Star:  How did your occupation as an Adman help you to evolve as a write? Or was it an impediment?
Anees Salim:
 Advertising hasn't had any impact on me as a writer. I would say it has neither helped nor ruined the writer in me.
The Star: What is going to be your next book? Tell us a little bit about it.
Anees Salim: 
The next book is about two boys growing up in my hometown, doing things I did not have a chance to do in my childhood. But it is too early to say if it will develop into a book. 
Published: 12:00 am Friday, April 04, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

تنہائی:ایک نظم

تنہائی ::: ایک نظم 

-------------------------
تنہائی
عجیب شے ہے یہ

تنہائی
ماضی کے دہلیز پہ دستک دے کر
کھول دیتی ہے دروازے تمام
اور یادوں کا سیلاب بھر جاتا ہے
ذہن کے گلیارے میں

تنہائی
 کبھی کبھی مستقبل کے دریچے بھی کھولتے ہے
اور ہماری نگاہیں دیکھتی ہیں
آنے والے لمحوں کی اجنبی سی تصاویر
تنہائی
کیا واقعی ہوتی ہے کبھی تنہا
شاید نہیں
کبھی كھيالو کا سمندر
کبھی تصور کے لامهدود سلسلے
کبھی درد کہ محفل
اور کبھی یہ لے کر آتی ہے ارمانوں کی بارات

تنہائی کی موذودگي اکثر مهكتي ہے
وسال - اے - یار کے بچے كھچے خوشبو سے
اور کبھی جلے ہوئے ادھورے خواب کہ بو سے
تنہائی کا ذايكا
کبھی ہوتا ہے محبت کہ سرگوشيو کی مٹھاس کی طرح
تو کبھی یہ پرانے تلخ الفاظ کی كرواهٹ لئے بھی ہوتا ہے
تنہائی
اگر سچ مچ تنہا ہو
تنہائی اگر واقعی آزاد ہو
گزرے ہوئے کل کے دستانو سے
تنہائی اگر واقعی آزاد ہو
آنے والے کل کے سوالو سے
تنہائی اگر نکل آئے
خوشی و غم کے دائرے سے
تنہائی اگر نکل جائے
امید اور مایوسی کے دلدل سے
تو یہ تنہائی سفر بن جاتی ہے
خدي کا سفر
 اس خدي کے سفر میں
ہم ناپتے ہیں سانسوں کہ رفتار
ہم اترتے ہیں احساس کے زینے سے
اپنے دل کے صحن میں
اور دیکھتے ہیں
ضمیر کے آئینے میں
خود کو اكش
ایسی ہی تنہائی شکل لے لیتی ہے
عبادت کا
اور ہمیں دیدار کرتی ہے
الانوار - اے - الہی کا

ذرا سوچ کر دیکھو
کیا ہوگا
اگر تنہائی
خود ہو جائے
تنہائی کا شکار

Friday, March 21, 2014

तन्हाई ( एक नज़्म)

तन्हाई ( एक नज़्म) 
-------------------------

तन्हाई 
अजीब शै  है ये 

तन्हाई 
माज़ी के दहलीज़  पे दस्तक दे कर 
खोल देती है दरवाज़े तमाम 
और यादों का सैलाब भर जाता है 
ज़ेहन के गलियारे में 


तन्हाई
 कभी कभी मुस्तक़बिल  के दरीचे भी खोलती है 
और हमारी निगाहें देखती हैं 
आने वाले लम्हों की अजनबी सी तस्वीरें 

तन्हाई 
क्या वाक़ई होती है कभी तन्हा 
शायद नहीं 
कभी खयालो  का समंदर 
कभी तसव्वुर के लामहदूद सिलसिले 
कभी दर्द कि महफ़िल 
और कभी ये लेकर आती है अरमानों की बारात 


तन्हाई की  मौज़ूदगी अक्सर महकती है 
विसाल-ए -यार के बचे खुचे खुश्बू  से 
और कभी जले हुए अधूरे ख्वाब कि बू से 

तन्हाई का ज़ायका 
कभी होता है मुहब्बत कि सरगोशियों की  मिठास की  तरह 
तो कभी ये किसी पुराने तल्ख़ अल्फाज़ की  करवाहट लिए भी  होता है 

तन्हाई 
अगर सचमुच तन्हा हो 
तन्हाई अगर वाक़ई आज़ाद हो 
बीते हुए कल के दस्तानो से 
तन्हाई अगर वाक़ई आज़ाद हो 
आने वाले कल के सवालो से 
तन्हाई अगर निकल आये 
खुशी  व  ग़म  के दायरे से 
तन्हाई अगर उबर जाये 
उम्मीद और मायूसी के दलदल से 

तो ये तन्हाई सफ़र बन जाती है 
ख़ुदी  का सफ़र 
 इस ख़ुदी  के  सफ़र में 
हम नापते हैं सांसों कि रफ़्तार 
हम उतरते हैं एहसास के ज़ीने  से 
अपने दिल के सेहन में 
और देखते हैं 
ज़मीर के आईने में 
खुद का  अक्स 
ऐसी ही  तन्हाई शक्ल ले लेती है 
इबादत का 
और हमें  दीदार कराती है 
अनवार -ए -इलाही का 


ज़रा सोच कर देखो 
क्या होगा 
अगर तन्हाई 
खुद हो जाये 
तन्हाई का शिकार 











Tuesday, March 18, 2014

वक़्त:एक नज़्म

वक़्त:एक नज़्म 

सच है

वक़्त एक खंज़र है 
 हमें ज़ख्म देता
ये पुराने  ज़ख्मो को कुरेद कर  
हरा भी करता है

वक़्त के तेज़ झोंके
बुझा  देते हैं  ख्वाबों के चिराग

वक़्त की चिंगारी, कई बार
नन्हे अरमानो को खाक कर देती है

बह जातें वक़्त की लहरों में
उम्मीद के छोटे छोटे जज़ीरे 

ये वक़्त रहज़न भी ह़ै
लूट लेता है हसरतों का  कारवाँ 



लेकिन...
 यही वक़्त मरहम बनकर
वक़्त बेवक़्त
कई पुराने ज़ख्म़ो को भरा भी करता है 

वक़्त की धूप में
ना जाने कितनी अश्‍क़ आलूदा यादें सूख जाती हैं

वक़्त की ठंडी बूँदों से
ना जाने कितने सुलगते हुये
दिलों  को चैन मिलता है

इसी वक़्त की बेपरवाह तपिश से
बहुत से मूंज़मिद दर्द पिघल जाते हैं

इसी वक़्त कि लपट में 
कई ग़म जल भी जाते है 

कई बार वक़्त , वक़्त पे आकर हमें बर्बादियों से बचा लेता है 
कभी कभी  ये वक़्त ज़र्रे को आफताब भी बना देता 

गोया की
वक़्त रफ़ीक भी है सितमगर भी है 
वक़्त क़ातिल भी है वक़्त चारागर भी है 
वक़्त हर रोज़ करिश्मे करता है 
इसकी हाथों में जादू का असर भी है 

हाँ … 
वक़्त कुछ भी हो सकता है
वक़्त कहीं भी हो सकता है 
वक़्त कभी हो सकता है

पर वक़्त बे-वक़्त नहीं होता

कभी देखा है तुमने दो बजे चार बजते हुए।  

EK NAZM: WAQT

WAQT:

Sach hai

Waqt ek khanzar ki tarah
 Hamen zakhm deta
Aur aksar in zakhmo ko kured kar  
Hara bhi karta hai

Waqt ke tez jhonke
Bujha dete hain  khwabon ke chirag

Waqt ki chingari, kai baar
Nanhe armon ko khak kar deti hai

Bah jaten waqt ki lahron mein
Ummeed ke chhote chhote jazire

Ye waqt rahzan bhi hai
Loot leta hai hamare armano ke karvan ko

Waqt sitamgar hai, Sitam karta hai
Ye dil ke tootne ka nahin gham karta hai



Lekin…
 Yehi waqt marham banker
Waqt bewaqt
Kai purane zakhmo ko bhara karta hai

Waqt ki dhoop mein
Na jane Kitni ashq alooda yadein sookh jati hain

Waqt ki thandi boondon se
Na jane kitne sulagte huye
chak jigar ko chain aur araam milta hai

Isi waqt ki beparwah tapish se
Bahut se munzamid dard pighal bhi jate hain

Goya ki
Waqt kuchh bhi ho sakta hai
Waqt kahin bhi ho sakta hai 
Waqt kabhi ho sakta hai

Par waqt be-waqt nahin hota
Kabhi suna hai tumne Sham ko subah hote huye

Kabhi dekha hai tumne Do baje char bajte huye

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Short Story in Earthen Lamp Journal


The Price of Friendship 

Abdullah Khan



A sharp pain rushed through Arif's heart. I too am responsible for Sukhia's death, he thought. He could have easily saved his friend's life. Sukhia had not been suffering from an incurable disease. But poverty itself is a disease. He felt claustrophobic inside his room with all the windows and the door shut. Getting up from the bed, he pulled a window open. A gust of icy wind slapped his face, and he shivered. Outside, the mist hung like a white silk curtain in the air. The atmosphere reeked of sadness.

As a child, during the winter, Arif remembered, he would visit the outskirts of his village, Alipura, early in the morning, wrapped in a woollen shawl. Sukhia would follow him covered in his threadbare chadar. Sitting on a big boulder, facing north, they looked high up at the gigantic silhouette of Mount Everest. The Himalayas were hundreds of miles away, but during winter mornings when the sun fell on the ice-laden top, it could be seen from Alipura too. The majesty of the mountain thrilled Arif and Sukhia. 'Hey Bhagawan! It's so big!' Sukhia would marvel, almost every time he saw it. They wandered around together, almost always. The village men, seeing these two boys, would whisper: 'See this Pathan boy, a high-caste Muslim, hanging around with a low-caste untouchable Hindu boy.' His Amma and Dadi, however, never questioned his accompanying Sukhia.

Dadi had told Arif that both the boys were born on the same day, or rather the same night. Sukhia's grandma, Ramwatiya, the best midwife of their village, had played a crucial role during his own birth. Attended by a rather inexperienced midwife, the same night, Sukhia's mother (and Ramwatiya's own daughter-in-law), had died minutes after giving birth to Sukhia. Three months later Sukhia's father had remarried. Sukhia and Arif went to the same school, the Government Urdu Middle School. Often, Sukhia visited Arif's house with his grandmother. He sat in the verandah of Arif's ancestral bungalow, on the floor. And every time he came, Amma would come with something for  Sukhia to eat in an earthen pot. Arif knew that the vessel would either be thrown away or kept in some corner, to be reused when Sukhia or somebody from the same caste visited his house. Arif often wondered why Sukhia never sat on the chair or was not offered food on an aluminium plate. He had once asked Dadi. She had replied, 'He is a low-caste Hindu – belongs to the leather workers. Even other Hindus don't eat with them.'

Even in school, during lunchtime, Sukhia sat separately. Arif sat with his cousins and other Pathan boys. The other Hindu boys in their class, Ram Prasad Gupta and Ganga Ram Pandit, also shunned their low-caste compatriot. Ram Prasad said he was a teli, the oil extracting caste, and Ganga Ram claimed that he belonged to the carpenter caste, both much higher than Sukhia's in the caste hierarchy.
At the age of thirteen, Sukhia was a good-looking boy – round face, sparkling eyes and curly hair He always wore the same set of clothes – a striped polyester shirt and white polyester trousers. But, surprisingly, his clothes were always well ironed, and his trousers always immaculately white. Arif wondered how he managed to keep his clothes so neat. Sukhia always sat in the last row with two other Hindu boys and a couple of low-caste Muslim boys. But on the attendance register, his name came just after Arif's. It was some sort of an unwritten rule in that school that roll numbers were allotted on the basis of the students' performance in the last examination. Sukhia had stood second in the class the year before, while Arif had stood first.

Only once in his lifetime had Arif hated Sukhia. And that was in class five, when Sukhia had topped the class. Arif had not done well in mathematics, and that had cost him his first position.
Arif felt humiliated. To add to it, Tazammul Hussain, their mathematics teacher, asked Sukhia to sit in the first row. 'Now, our new maths topper in class is Sukhia with ninety-two marks out of a hundred,' he announced.

Arif was no longer his favourite student, so he felt jealous of Sukhia. He wanted to thrash him, but could not muster the courage to do so. Anyway, the devil planted an idea in his mind. During lunchtime, he approached the head bully of the class, Shams Tabrez Khan, a Pathan, and said, 'Shams, you know ... yesterday, Sukhia pissed towards the west. I told him not to do so because we, Muslims, face west – towards Mecca – while praying. He didn't listen to me, and continued in the same direction. Ever since he has topped in the examination, he has become arrogant.'

'How dare he!' Shams growled. 'Salaa Sukhia, I will show him his place this very evening!' he fumed. Arif smiled, aware that he had been successful in inciting Shams. The same evening, after school hours, Shams caught Sukhia's collar and slapped him repeatedly.

'Shams Bhai, who told you that? Ram Kasam, I have never done that!' Sukhia sobbed, 'Please believe me.' Arif stood a few yards away, looking sheepishly in the other direction.

When he reached home, a fear lurked in his mind. What if Tazammul Hussain came to know about this incident? Then his conscience smote him. 'If you do injustice even to an ant, God will ask you about it on the Day of Judgment. And you'll have to pay for it,' Dadi used to say while teaching him the Holy Quran. 'To make amends, one must repent and ask forgiveness from the person to whom he has been unjust.' Of course, he was remorseful for all that had happened in his fit of jealousy. But the idea of asking for Sukhia's forgiveness did not appeal to him at all. How could a high-caste Muslim boy, whose forefathers were feudal lords, bow down to someone from the leather worker caste? Sukhia's forefathers were servitors to his family. Nonetheless, Arif did it the very next day. Sukhia forgave him in a minute. Arif, to calm his guilt-ridden conscience, gifted his friend his favourite set of crayons, which Abba had brought him from Calcutta.

In the next examination, Arif regained his number one position. But he couldn't relish his success as he felt that Sukhia had allowed him to stand first in the class.

But that incident cemented their friendship further. One Friday, they sat in the verandah chatting when Arif forced Sukhia to eat with him using the same utensils. Arif's aunt, who stood at the threshold of his house, clinging to the curtain, gaped. Abba just smiled and said, 'Arif is a pucca communist.' A couple of passers-by had also seen Arif perform this act of rebellion against the society's rules. There was continuous gossip for many days. A few months later, Arif's family moved to Patna.

Now, Arif had returned to his village in 1993, almost eleven years later. Even this visit to Alipura was forced by Abba. During the rainy season the previous year, the western wall of their house had collapsed and needed immediate repair. His father's income was just enough to meet the basic necessities of his family. So he had withdrawn money from his provident fund and asked Arif to visit Alipura to get their ancestral house repaired.

Once in Alipura, Arif had enquired about his childhood friend. Somebody told him that Sukhia had been bedridden for six months. Sukhia's father, Maiku Ram, had taken him to the Government Homoeopathic Hospital in the nearby village and the doctor had directed him to a bigger hospital in Patna or Muzaffarpur. But where was the money to pay the hospital bill? He shared his problem with the genial-faced caretaker of the mosque, Ali Ahmad, who, in turn, after the Friday prayer, appealed to the congregation in the mosque to contribute for Sukhia's treatment. In response, the newly appointed young imam of the mosque went to the pulpit and screamed: 'Ali Chacha! Have you gone crazy? You are thinking of helping a Hindu, the community who are hell-bent on destroying our mosques! And these untouchables of our village! They are thankless people. I would not advise you to show any sympathy to these people.'

Ali Ahmad sat down, disappointed. Nobody spoke against the imam. Maiku Ram was standing outside the gate of the mosque, listening to the proceedings. Disappointed, as he turned to go, Ali Ahmad took out a hundred-rupee note and pressed it into his hand on his way out. Arif was also at the mosque at that time. He had twenty thousand rupees in his pocket. He could easily give ten thousand rupees to his friend's father. But how would he explain his actions to his father? Abba would go crazy. No, he could not donate such a large amount for his friend's treatment. Ten thousand is too much, and it is not my responsibility to take care of Sukhia.

He looked skywards and returned home.

Ya Allah! Forgive me – he said.

Arif lay in bed for two days, in a state of indecision, and even missed a few meals. Should I send ten thousand rupees for Sukhia's treatment?

Finally, this evening, the news of Sukhia's death put an end to his dilemma. He wept for his friend for hours and then decided to visit his house. He wore a sweater, wrapped himself in a woollen shawl, and put on a monkey cap before stepping out of his house. Then he walked briskly through the chilly alleys and streets, dodging the open sewers.

'Maiku Chacha,' Arif patted his shoulder gingerly.

Maiku raised his eyes filled with tears. 'Arif Babu, Sukhia has left us!' He tried to control his emotions, but could not. Carried away by his emotions Maiku grabbed Arif's hand. Arif began to sob too. Then it occurred to Maiku Ram that he was holding a high-caste Muslim. Devastated by his son's death, he had forgotten his place in the society. Swiftly, he separated himself from the boy, apologising with his gaze. Then they went inside the room. Sukhia's dead body lay on the floor, covered with a dirty white sheet. Sukhia's stepmother sat there silently. She looked more angry than sad. When she uncovered Sukhia's face, Arif could see how his handsome looking friend had become a skeleton. The stubble on his cheeks made him look even worse. Arif's eyes turned moist again as the sorrow mixed with guilt began to gnaw him from inside. For ten thousand rupees he had allowed his friend's to die.

My friend should have a decent funeral, he thought and slipped his hands into his trousers' pocket, extracted a packet of hundred rupee notes, and reached out to Maiku Ram, nervously. 'Maiku Chacha, please take this money.'

'What will I do with this money when I have already lost my only son?' Maiku replied, still crying.

Maiku's wife stood up, walked towards Arif, and snatched the note from his hand. 'If Babu Saheb wants to help us, why refuse him and insult his generosity? He was a friend of our son's. Anyway, we need money for Sukhia's final rites.' She folded the note and pushed it inside her blouse.

Maiku Ram said nothing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

EK Taza Nazm

कुछ यादें  
------------------------------------------------
माज़ी के दरीचे से
कुछ यादें
उतर आयीं  हैं
मेरे ख्यालों के सेहन में

तबस्‍सुम से लबरेज़ यादे
 ग़म से आलूदा यादें
यादें जो पुरसुकून हैं
यादें जो बेचैन  हैं

 मेरे वॉर्डरोब  में रखे कपड़ो की महक में
लिपटीं हैं यादें
बिस्तर के चादर और तकियों की सिलवटों में
सिमटी हैं यादें

यादें चिपकी हैं 
एलबम के हर पन्ने पे
यादें टंगी हैं पर्दे बनकर
हर खिड़की और दरवाज़े पे

सीलिंग फैन के हवाओं में 
सरगोशियाँ  करती हैं यादें
पुरानी कॅसेट्स की उलझी हुई टेपों से
रुक रुक कर, कुछ कुछ बोलती हैं यादें

मनीप्लांट की ज़र्द होती  पत्तियों में बाक़ी हैं
यादों के निशान
किताबों के सफों  के बीच सूखे गुलाब  की पंखुडियों से होती  है
यादों की पहचान

मेरे घर में यादों के अलावा
और भी बहुत कुछ है
जैसे हर तरफ चहल कदमी करती तन्हाइयां
कोने में टूटे हुये कुर्सी पे बैठी  खलिश
दीवार पे तिरछी लटकी हुई बेक़रारी
और बरामदे मे फर्श पे लेटी  मायूसी
यहाँ पे एक नन्ही सी दर्द भी  हुआ करती थी
लेकिन वो अब काफी बड़ी हो गयी है
और उसका नाम  दवा हो गया है

हाँ...
मेरे दहलीज़ पे
दीवार से टेक लगा कर खड़ी है कोई
और सामने रहगुज़र को  तकती रहती है
वो अपना नाम उम्मीद बताती है

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Reviews in WASAFIRI March, 2014






In Alif the Unseen, the American-Egyptian author, G Willow Wilson, fuses Middle Eastern folklores, Islamic mythology, religious philosophy and contemporary history to give us a surreal and gripping novel.
Set in a nameless city of an unnamed and repressive gulf emirate, the protagonist of this story is a young man called Alif, a hacker and gifted computer programmer. Alif runs a clandestine business of providing online protection from the state authorities to anybody (including Islamists and pornographers) who can pay him. Son of an Arab father and an Indian mother, he is in love with a girl named Intisar from an aristocratic family. When his lady love severs all her ties with him after her engagement to a man from her own social class, Alif goes crazy, tries to contact his beloved and in the process he reveals his identity to the state internet security chief, known as ‘the Hand’, who is responsible for all the digital policing.  Meanwhile, Intisar sends Alif a book of stories similar to The Arabian Nights called Alif Youm supposedly written by Jinns, a race of supernatural folks.  ‘The Hand’ believes that the book has secret codes which can help him to write world’s most sophisticated computer programme. So, he wants to possess that book at any cost. Now, Alif runs to save his life and the book.
When it seems that the ‘Hand’ will catch hold of Alif he escapes to the unseen world, the world of Jinns, with the help of a mysterious character called Vikram the Vampire. During this unbelievable and adventurous journey, Alif’s companions  are Dina, the burqa-clad  religious girl from his neighbourhood who secretly loves him, an American woman who is a convert to Islam, a kind hearted Imam and a prince and fellow hacker who helps Alif to escape from the state prison.
The plot sounds like an urban fantasy but it is not. Culturally insightful with political undertones, it is a literary novel which uses the elements of many genres of fiction (fantasy, techno-thriller, Science fiction, to name a few) to meditate on weighty issues such as identity, political freedom, democracy and the significance of religions in our life. Inspired by the Arab Spring in more generally and the Egyptian revolution in particular, the prose of this book is compentent, it is also ornamental and enchanting. The author writes with flair that shows her deep knowledge of Middle Eastern customs and Islamic theology. The characters are drawn with finesses making them not just engaging but also believable-- even supernatural characters like Marids, Effrits and Silas are believable as well as likeable.



Like Alif the Unseen, In Ramallah, Running, is also about a Middle Eastern city but unlike the fantastical city where Alif lives, Ramallah is a real city and the book is a work of non-fiction. It is a project of text and images about Ramallah, the city in the West Bank area of the Palestinian Territory which received widespread attention  during the negotiation of  the Oslo agreement between Israel and Palestine as a possible capital of  a future Palestinian state. The lead essay here is  by Guy Mannes-Abbott, the London based writer, critic and essayist who has co-edited this volume with Samar Martha, a freelance curator of art. The introduction , written by London based art critic Jean Fisher, encapsulates the essence of the book. Other collaborators include writers, poets and artists from Palestine, Europe and elsewhere who write or create images using various media to give an insight in to the state of affairs of this cramped city under  Israeli occupation.
On the page number seven of In Ramallah, Running, a photograph shows two shop signs. One reads Star and Bucks Café (Obviously, a version of the  American coffee chain Starbucks). Divided into four words, it depict the similarity of  Palestinian aspirations with that of other people across the globe. But also it shows how the collective marginalisation of the Palestinian populace by an occupying force and the seeming indifference of the international community are depriving them of even small pleasures.  The other sign (belonging to a grocery store) reads Lulustyle. It is , of course , an attempt by a clever shopkeeper to cash on the popularity of Lulu, the famous superstore chain which has branches in all major cities of the Middle East. Alas, the people of Ramallah have to make do with this impoverished and counterfeit version. The sign also hints at Palestinian yearnings, thwarted at every turn, to be part of the Middle East’s growth story.
The opening  essay is blended with reportarge.  Guy Mannes-Abbott  shares his experience of running in and around Ramallah. Anywhere else,  the act of running sounds like  an ordinary pastime  but in Ramallah—a city surrounded by the  walls, aggressive Israeli settlers, military checkposts and the constant fear of being harassed by Israeli forces— this innocuous  activity is a dangerous  act of defiance. If you decide to take a few detours during your running, you may end up with being shot.  The author relates  his observations while jogging around the city and his reflections on what he saw during those incursions portray a sensitive picture of life in the occupied territories.
            The essay ‘Ramallah Versus Ramallah’  offers   the young Palestinian poet and critic Najawan Darwish’s take  a city he has  been angred by ‘because of its status  as a symbol of an odious political period: the Oslo period.’  Here, he delineates the historical, political and cultural importance of this place.

In addition to these two outstanding essays which form a major part of the book, is also featured a beautifully written excerpt from a novel in progress by Adania Shibli. Plus, there are art contributions from seven European and Middle Eastern (Palestinian included) artists and each of them interpreting the city of Ramallah and the Palestinian story in their own way, making this book a praiseworthy effort to engage, often creatively, with  Palestine and its people. 
to read this article on Wasafiri website please click here

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Chand Ash'aar Ghazlon ke


GHAZAL (1)
अपनी उल्फत को कोई भी नाम ना देना 
हाथ से छुकर इसे रिश्तों का इलज़ाम ना देना 

तेरे दर्द-ए-दिल का तोहफ़ा अभी भी मेरे पास
खुदा के वास्ते अब कोई नया इनाम ना देना 

उनकी आँखों के पिये का ख़ुमार अभी बाक़ी है 
साक़ी मुझे अब कोई भी जाम ना देना 


GHAZAL (2)

अपने दिल की किताब में तेरा नाम लिखूँगा 
सुबह-ओ-शाम लिखूँगा,  सरेआम लिखूँगा 

इस अफसाने का आगाज़ तुमने किया है  
इस कहानी का अब  मैं अन्ज़ाम लिखूँगा