Saturday, February 28, 2015


Wo charagar nahin hai,ke wo tujhe dawa dega
Ilaj  uska, tere zakhm  ko  aur  badha  dega

Bhale sara zamana ho dushman tera kyon na
Lekin tera koi dost hi tujh ko daga dega

Kai sadiyon mein wo zarre se aftab hua hai
Khuda ne chaha to ek lamha use zarra bana dega

Mere zehan mein rahega wo ta-umr ab to
Aur wo mujhe pal do pal mein hi bhula dega

Zindagi se na koi ummeed to na hi sahi
Azal ek din tera har dard mita dega

Friday, February 27, 2015


Aaiye  zara raqs-e-zulmaat   dekhiye
Siyahi  mein lipta hua aftab dekhiye

Roz-e-mahsar  jab  ayega, tab dekhenge
Aaj  to bas  qayamat  ki raat dekhiye

Na sochiye ki lafzon ka matlab kya hai
Sirf alfaz mein chhupe jazbaat  dekhiye

Apki batein hum ne  suni hai bahut
Ab mere bhi to kuchh sawaalaat dekhiye

Aap to afsurda hain mausam ki be-rukhi se
Apne aas pass ke bhi zara haalaat dekhiye

Sunday, February 01, 2015

An article about JLF in The News International

TNS – The News on Sunday

Literary pilgrimage to the pink city

Monstrous in its size, this year the JLF 2015 hosted more than 400 writers, poets, journalists, film personalities and musicians from all over the world and witnessed a total footfalls of almost a quarter million
Literary pilgrimage to the pink city
Literary jamboree.
Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF) is the largest literary festival of the world which has become some sort of an annual literary pilgrimage for the connoisseurs of literature and book lovers. Monstrous in its size, this year the JLF hosted more than 400 writers, poets, journalists, film personalities and musicians from all over the world and witnessed a total footfalls of almost a quarter million.
Spread over five days (January 21-25), the eighth edition of JLF had 170 sessions at the lawns of the beautiful Diggi Palace hotel which remains to be the main venue of this literary jamboree.
Like every year, the literary enthusiasts from every nook and cranny of the globe gathered in the pink city to participate in the JLF 2015.
But what brings so many people to this festival? Reply comes from the young banker and poet Mohammad Zahid who hails from Anantnag district in Kashmir — “For the booklovers it is a rare opportunity to meet the writers they admire. And for aspiring writers, the festival provides a platform to have a chance to interact with their favourite authors and learn the tricks of the trade. Some people also come to see their favourite film stars or celebrities from other fields”.
Zahid’s friend, Jose Varghese, standing next to him, from the Indian state of Kerala seconded his views and added that he had been to other literary festivals also but they were nowhere near to the majestic JLF.
This year, the famous names that attracted the maximum crowds at Jaipur were Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul and actress Waheeda Rahman.
On January 21, the festival was inaugurated by Vasundhara Raje, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, followed by keynote speeches by three well-known poets, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Ashok Vajpeyi and Vijay Seshadri. The Pulitzer Prize winning Poet Seshadri said that “imagination is the foundation of a democratic society because it permits us to act as equal partners in nature and society.”
This year, the famous names that attracted the maximum crowds at Jaipur were Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul and actress Waheeda Rahman.
Later, a session on V.S. Naipaul’s much celebrated novel A House for Mr. Biswas drew a packed house as four eminent writers, Paul Theroux, Hanif Kureishi, Amit Choudhuri and Farukh Dhondy, discussed the book. Paul Theroux, the novelist and travel writer, who once used to be Naipaul’s friend and then fell out with him, had all praise for the Nobel Prize winning writer. In his words, A House for Mr Biswas was the most complete novel he had ever read.
Another session which was hit with the visitors on the first day was a show titled Gata Jaye Banjara of Javed Akhtar which was about the lyric writing in the Hindi film industry. The lyricist and poet lamented that there was decline in the quality of lyrics as poetic imagination has been replaced by vulgarity.
The second day of festival was marred by intermittent rain and all sessions had to be conducted indoors. Despite bad weather, there was marginal decline in the number of visitors. In the middle of the drizzle, an interesting discussion titled Descent into Chaos — Pakistan on the Brink featuring Ahmed Rashid, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, G. Parthasarathy, Anatol Lieven was moderated by Indian journalist Suhasini Haider. During the discussion the former foreign minister of Pakistan said that the expectation of talks between India and Pakistan and a resolution of conflicts was “not just a glimmer of hope but a lot more.”
The main highlight of the second day was the announcement of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. To everyone’s surprise Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri walked away with the prize money of $50000 which had contenders like amazing Sri Lankan-British writer Romesh Gunasekra and the renowned Urdu novelist from India, Shamsur Rahman Faruqui. Two very talented Pakistani writers, Bilal Tanveer and Kamila Shamsie, were also in the shortlist. Later, when Romesh Gunasekra was asked to comment on the DSC Prize, his reply was: “What can I say? I was there. Hopefully the books gained a few readers.”
The JLF is also known for promoting new talents. And in this series, a session titled A Thousand Stories: Tales of Hope & Dispossession had two debutant novelists Aruni Kashyap and Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar. Both the authors have got rave review for their respective novels. Sowvendra Shekhar who was shortlisted for this year’s The Hindu Prize for Fiction for his novel about the tribal life The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, feels that the JLF provides a huge platform for the authors like him and helps them to reach out to the wider readership.
On the subsequent days, there were many exciting and insightful sessions, including a discussion on the Pakistani contemporary art with Salima Hashmi and Kamila Shamsie, Nissim Nicholos Taleb’s delineation of his famous ‘Black Swan theory’ and Farukh Dhondy’s conversation with V. S. Naipaul.
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was cynosure of all eyes as all his programmes were overcrowded and at times there were chances of stampede. The debate on Israel Palestine issues saw Israeli Journalist and Haartez columnist, Gideon Levy, lashing out at the Israeli government for its illegal occupation and inhuman treatment of Palestinian people. Famous tv journalist Ravish Kumar attracted huge crowd at the book release of his short story collection Ishq Mein Shahar Hona was released. Later, young readers were seen thronging the book signing counter.
India’s top two bestselling authors in English and heartthrobs of the generation X, Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi had also been part of this year’s JLF. Tripathi, the author of The Shiva Trilogy, was part of two well attended panel discussions about mythology and faith. Tripathi also announced his next book series which is going to be based on Ramayana, amid thunderous applause of his fans.
Chetan Bhagat, on the other hand, arrived in Jaipur on the last day of the carnival to talk about a wide range of topics and that included his writing and its impact on his readers, and also about the political scenario in India.
This year two new prizes related to art and poetry were instituted. Mumbai based poet Arundhati Subramanian was awarded the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry for her poetry collection When God is a Traveller and Artist Bhajju Shyam became first winner of Ojas Art Award.
The JLF ended with the news that the festival would now travel to international shores as the festival would have a British incarnation at the South Bank Centre in London in the month of May and also have an American edition in Colorado, USA in autumn season.

Abdullah Khan

The writer is based in New Delhi and is a literary critic. He can be reached

Sunday, January 04, 2015

My Review of One Thousand and One Nights in The Hindu


Updated: January 3, 2015 19:04 IST

Bedtime tales

COMMENT   ·   PRINT   ·   T  T  
One Thousand and one Nights by Hanan Al-Shaykh.
Special Arrangement
One Thousand and one Nights by Hanan Al-Shaykh.

An engaging retelling of stories from the Arabian Nights with an erotic twist.

The timeless Arabic classic One Thousand and One Nights has enthralled people all over the world for more than a millennium. Most of us are charmed and captivated by characters with magical powers and quirky idiosyncrasies, but how many have realised that erotic love and adultery are common themes that run through this magnum opus?
Yes, it is true and the author (or authors) of these stories inserted those elements so slyly and discreetly that they escaped the eyes of the censors of that era. In this latest retelling, Lebanese author Hanan Al-Shaykh removes the veil of discretion and gives the stories an erotic twist. Her retelling of 19 Arabian Nights stories is strictly for adults only, though the framework and the characters are retained.
As in the original, the King Shahreyar discovers that his beautiful queen whom he loved dearly is unfaithful to him and has been sleeping with a slave. The furious king kills his wife and her lover. Subsequently, believing that a woman is deceitful by nature, he announces that he will marry a virgin every day and kill her the next morning. The Vizier’s daughter, Shahrzad, decides to marry the king hoping that with her wisdom and knowledge will stop the king from his bloody path. On the first night, Shahrzad, offers the king to tell a story. The story is so powerful and engrossing that the king puts off her execution by a day in order to listen to another story. For the next few years, the king keeps postponing the killing of Shahrzad and keeps listening to her stories. A few hundred stories later, the king finds himself in love with his new queen and finally forgets the idea of executing her.
The stories chosen by Al-Shayk for retelling are the ones with strong female characters in which men mainly play second fiddle. The women are independent and intelligent, understand their sexuality and are also sexually liberated. Each story also teaches us something about love, faith, relationship and other aspects of human existence.
The language is ornamental and colourful, and effectively conveys the sense of time and the sense of culture. The descriptions of sex are beautiful, but explicit. The scene of orgy, for example, at the beginning of the book is so graphic in its detail that it appears to be straight out of a porn movie. Nonetheless, it is an entertaining and engaging book.
One Thousand and One Nights; Hanan Al-Shaykh, Bloomsbury India, Rs. 350.

Thursday, December 25, 2014


 Raat  hoti hai par dareeche pe chirag nahin hota

Zulmato ke shahar mein koi mahtaab nahin hota

 Bas khar hi khar ugte her shakh pe yahan

Is shahar mein kisi dal pe kabhi gulab nahin hota

 Hazaron farishton ka khoon baha hai yahan

Ya illahi kyon is shahar pe nazil azaab nahin hota

  Wo hakim-e-shahar hai aur munshif bhi hai

Isliye uski gunahon ka koi hisab nahin hota

 Sabhi ko shauq hai insanon  ke lahoo ka  yahan

Is shahar mein kisi paimane mein  sharab nahin hota       

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Khuli ankhon ka ek khwab mila mujh ko
Kitab-e-jist ka ek naya baab mila mujh ko

Ham ne si liye the har jakhm sabr ke dhagon se
Lekin phir ek dard-e-nayaab mila mujh ko

Bas ek tisnagi tari rahi musalsal yun hi
Zindagi sehra rahi aur saraab mila mujh ko

(Saraab= mirage)

Uska lahza shokh tha aur hothon pe tha tabassum
Phir kyon uski ankhon mein aab mila mujh ko

Teri qismat mein gham-e-hizran hai to main kya kroon
Aaj zindagi se kuchh aisa hi jawab mila mujh ko

Friday, October 03, 2014

My Short Story in The Daily Star



Abdullah Khan
Untitled, Sir Anish Kapoor.
Untitled, Sir Anish Kapoor.
The SMS sent by Mr Agarwal clearly says that she has to sleep with him in exchange for a life insurance policy worth one million rupees. Shocked and furious, Nasrin Khanam wants to call the bloody lecher and give him a piece of her mind. But she doesn't. Instead, she throws herself on her bed and starts crying. The memories from the past begin to inundate her thoughts. She remembers the day in her home town, Patna, when she told her father, Abba, about her intention to pursue an MBA from a college in Delhi called IIAM. She also remembers the fateful day Abba mortgaged their only house to raise a loan for her study despite her mother's protest.
The moment Nasrin set her feet on the premises of IIAM, she could sense that the college was not what it had claimed to be in its brochure. Within a week, she also came to know that she had been cheated. The college was nothing but a set of 10 rooms at the outskirts of Delhi and was not even recognised by the University Grant Commission. The teaching was substandard and the claim of the institute for 100 percent placement was manipulated. Most of the graduates joined C-grade companies for salaries as meagre as Rs 4,000. She didn't know how she was going to repay her education loan with the meagre salary she would get after finishing her course at IIAM. Heartbroken, she wept in her bed for a week and didn't attend the classes. But she didn't say anything to Abba. She knew that he would die of this unexpected blow.
Abba died in an accident ten months later. After the funeral, when Nasrin left Patna and her grieving mother and sister, she felt light headed and her thoughts were fuzzy. In Delhi, she remained disoriented for weeks and then busied herself in studies knowing that she had to be amongst the top two to three students to give her a chance of a decent placement She also knew that her failure would have serious implications on the future of her family. The inheritance Abba had left for them was a single storey house in Raza Bazar, an old scooter and an insurance policy of Rs Seventy Five Thousand. The private firm Abba had worked for sent a cheque for Rs One Lakh.
But how long would that money last?
After finishing her MBA, Nasrin was happy to get an offer from United International Bank, the fastest growing private bank of India. Initially, she was appointed on contract basis, and if she performed satisfactorily she would be absorbed in the bank as a permanent staff. She would get a fixed salary of Rs.15000 per month plus monthly incentive. Incentive, they said, came to be minimum 10-15 thousand per month and if she worked hard it may be even more. After deducting her own expenses and the education loan instalments, she would able to send some amount to her mother. She was posted in Ludhiana, Punjab.
The branch head and her boss in Ludhiana was a burly looking man, who explained what her responsibilities were. She was to look after life insurance or LI business of the branch. By 'looking after' he meant that she had to sell LI products of third party companies to the bank's customers. He also told her that good business meant good incentive for her too. As it happens with every new employee, her motivation was on zenith. She took her seat in the corner of branch after a formal introduction with all staff. That day she got a new moniker, LI Girl. The soft-spoken girl who sat next to her was Neha and was a front desk officer for deposit products.
With help from Neha, Nasrin found accommodation in a working women's hostel near Kitchulu Nagar. For Rs 4000, she got a room on sharing basis and two meals a day. Her roommate was Simran Singh who was very friendly and an easygoing girl, full of laughter and always ready to help her. Nasrin began to like her, and a bond of friendship developed between them very soon. Simran was from a small town of Punjab called Batala. She wore expensive clothes. Her visits to beauty parlours were too frequent. She told Nasrin that she worked for an event management company. When Nasrin overheard whisperings of some girls about her roommate, she began to keep an eye on her. Nasrin observed that quite often she would be away from the hostel during the night. In the morning when she returned, she would be exhausted and had bloodshot eyes as if she had not slept during the night.
Recently, Simran had bought a laptop and spent a good deal of time surfing the net whenever she was in hostel. Occasionally, she would allow Nasrin to use it. But, every time, she handed over her lappy (Simran called it so), she would delete the browsing history. Nasrin suspected that Simran was hiding something from her. One evening, while leaving the hostel Simran forgot to switch off the laptop. It was sitting on her table, in hibernation mode. As soon as Nasrin touched the touch pad, the screen lit up with the images of naked girls. It was a website of an escort agency. The home page of the site read: Welcome to Indian sexy escorts at Delhi Hot Escorts. Exciting world of dating, fun, romance and unique companionship that is all present right here. She clicked a link called Our Girls. There were photographs of ten girls in the different states of undress. The face of each girl was blurred for securing their identities. And to her horror, she could recognise one of the girls. She was tall with light brown hair. There was a green birthmark on her back. Of course, she was Simran. She had seen the birthmark while helping her to hook a blouse a few weeks ago.
“Tauba Tauba! How can one stoop so low for the sake of money?” she said to herself. “I have been living here with such a dirty girl for last two months. I should change the room immediately.”
The following day Nasrin told Simran in clear terms that she knew all about her vocation with and she didn't want to continue to share rooms with her. Simran tried to explain her position but she refused to hear anything from her. In the evening, Simiran left the hostel. The very next day, Nasrin received a long email from her.
Simran< >
4 August 2007, 04:24
To: Nasrin
Dear Nasrin,
I am really sorry for causing an emotional distress to you. You are like my own sister. So, I am going to share with you my story. Please don't think I am trying to justify whatever I am doing nowadays for living. I just want to tell you that at times circumstances force you to do certain things.
Let's start from the beginning.
Two Women, MF Hussain.
Two Women, MF Hussain.
My father was a small businessman of Batala in Punjab and he used to run a provision store. When I was in B Com finals, my father met with an accident. He survived but was left bedridden. My mother tried to run the provision store but the income was not enough to cover household expenses as well as the bills for our father's treatment. To help my mother, I came to Ludhiana and was lucky to find a job in a garment export company. A year later, one day, I had to stay late in the office. Finding me alone the owner of the company forced himself upon me.
The whole night I kept crying. In the morning, I decided to file an FIR in police against the company owner. When I arrived at the police station, I was shocked to know that a case of fraud and misappropriation of money had already been filed against me. The fierce looking police inspector made me sit in the police station and told me that I should not file any FIR against him. Otherwise, the owner of my company could get me implicated in a case of fraud and forgery. I was helpless; he was a big and influential businessman of the city. I made a compromise and he withdrew the complaint against me. After, a week or more I tried to find another job but could not. The recession had already hit Ludhiana and finding a decent job was difficult. But, I needed money for my father's treatment. I needed money for my brother's study. One day, I was just browsing through the net in a cyber cafe when I came across this escorts service site. Soon after I joined the agency and stated making good money. After that, there was no looking back. Now, honestly speaking, I don't regret my decision. What do the people in our society do to earn money? They sell their soul and conscience for financial benefits. So, it is better to sell one's body for living.
I hope you understand. You have my personal mobile number. Whenever you need my help, feel free to call me.
Sisterly yours,
As Nasrin finished the email, she was drenched in tears. She remembered her time spent with Simran. She remembered Simran's habit of bringing Nasrin a gift every time she returned from her business trips. When Nasrin had been down with fever, it was Simran who had taken her to the doctor and nursed her back to health. How harsh she had been to Simran! Nasrin felt sorry for that. But she did not respond to her email.
Two months after Simran left the hostel, Nasrin's problems started to prop up, one by one. First, her mother fell in the bathroom, getting her left leg fractured. And then her boss began to pressurise her to do more LI business. During the first three months, she was able to cross sell some of the LI products to the existing customers of the bank with the help from Neha, but sustaining her performance was proving to be difficult. Most of the insurance products were not designed to benefit the purchasers of the policies and it was very difficult to sell them to the customers who could read the fine prints of the offer documents.
Adding to her woes was Nidhi Minocha, the LI girl of the other branch of the Bank in the city. She had been surpassing her monthly LI budgets with comfortable margin for the last six months. In the quarterly Zonal office meeting in Delhi, Nasrin was publicly humiliated by her domineering LI zonal sales head, Sunita Sharma. Sunita told Nasrin, 'Make sure that this month you bring the minimum business of two million, otherwise you should be ready to quit your job.'
Shaken, Nasrin cried all the way from Delhi to Ludhiana. At the hostel, another bad news was waiting for her. She had received a notice from the Bank. Since she joined the bank she was not able to save any money to start repaying instalments as whatever she saved from her salary either went for her sister's education fee or her mother's treatment. In fact, her speculative calculation about incentive had gone horribly wrong and she did not get any incentive at all because the threshold limit of the budget allocated was not crossed. The notice clearly said in case of the failure to repay the regular instalments of the education loan, their house mortgaged to the bank would be sold in an auction. If their house is sold where Ammi and her sister will go? She thought for a while to end her miserable life, but then brushed the idea aside. Looking skyward, she prayed hoping that God will send His divine help to bail her out.
Two days later, the branch head called Nasrin in his cabin, and warned her in veiled language, “See Nasrin, four months have passed, and you have done a total business of eight lakh only. During same period Nidhi had collected seventy lacs of premia. You are not able to achieve even 25 per cent of your budget. The bank has given you the last chance to redeem yourself. There are 4 days left in this month. Try your best. Even if you are able to get policies worth ten lakh against the budget of twenty lakh, I promise, I will save your job. But if you don't cross the million mark, I am afraid, you have to pack up.” As Nasrin was leaving the cabin, he added with a shrewd smile on his face, “You are aware how bad the financial sector job market is in these days. It is very difficult to find a new job. Your degree from IIAM will also not help. You know MBA from IIAM is not even recognised by government agencies. It is a fake degree.”
Nasrin came out of the cabin, sobbing. Neha came to her seat and consoled her.
“How is Nidhi able to sell so much of policies?” Nasrin asked innocently.
Neha replied, “You can't compete with her. She does a lot of unethical and immoral things.” They were still talking when a plump middle aged man with an iPhone in his hands came near Neha who greeted him.
“So, sir you promised me a LI policy,” Neha asked tentatively.
“Yes, I did. I guess you needed that policy for this new beautiful LI girl,” Mr Agarwal said while staring at Nasrin. “But, Nidhi came yesterday evening with some offer and got a cheque for Rs Five Lakhs.”
“Sir, you are a client of our branch. We would have given you a better discount,” Nasrin intervened.
“But, you can't give personalised services like Nidhi does,” said Mr Agarwal, a sly smile came on his lips for a moment and then disappeared.
“I can also give you personalised service. Just give me a chance to serve you,” Nasrin replied swiftly.
“Yes, you can. You are so graceful,” Mr Agarwal told her, smiling cunningly. “Why don't you come to my office today evening? I will certainly do something for you.” He placed a visiting card on Nasrin's table and left.
While Nasrin was talking to Mr Agarwal, Neha looked uncomfortable and was discreetly signalling her to stop the discussion. And just after Mr Agarwal was out of the branch, Neha pulled Nasrin to one side of the office and told her, “What do you know about personalised services, you fool? I told you that Nidhi does a lot of bad things to sell policies. She sleeps with big businessmen to get big policies. Can you do that? Then why are telling Agarwal that you can do things like Nidhi?”
Nasrin was shell-shocked. She felt her knees had gone week. She came to her seat and rested her head against chair and closed her eyes. “How can a girl offer her body to somebody to sell an LI policy. Ya Khuda, how bad this world haa become. First Simran and now Nidhi.” She prayed silently, reciting from the holy Quran.
Back to the hostel, she sat in the shower for half an hour and when she came out, her sister was on phone. She told her that the Bank people had visited their house and asked them to deposit twenty thousand rupees immediately to escape legal action. Further, she needed money to take their mother to the orthopaedics for check-up and also for her college fees.
Nasrin is lost in the cobweb of her thoughts. The mobile begins to ring. Its display says Mr Agarwal calling. She pushes the button to reject the call. Nasrin pulls a chair to sit on it, finds an A4 size bond paper and a pen from the drawer of the table. As she writes her resignation letter addressed to her branch head, her facial expression hardens.
Then she starts dialling a number while tears well up in her eyes. She bites her lips as an unbearable pain cuts through her heart.
The voice on the other side says, “Simran speaking.”
Nasrin replies in a dejected voice, “Simran didi, this is Nasrin. I need your help.”