Monday, May 27, 2024

'Mohabbat karti aurat'

I took the liberty of doing an Urdu translation of Manglesh Dabral's Hindi poem 'Prem karti stree'. It didn't take much translation to be honest. The basic grammer and syntax is the same in Hindi/Urdu and Dabral's poetic idiom is rooted in the sort of everyday Hindi that is quite similar to everyday Urdu. This poem in particular had very few words that needed translation. I have only changed a few words, substituting everyday Urdu words that are also common to Hindi.


محبت  کرتی عورت دیکھتی ہے

ایک خواب  روز 

جاگنے پر سوچتی ہے کیا تھا وہ 

نکالنے بیٹھتی ہے معنی  


دکھتی ہیں اسکو عام فہم چیزیں 

کوئی ریتیلی جگہ 

لگاتار بہتا نل 

اسکا گھر بکھرا ہوا 

دیکھتی ہے کچھ ہے جو نظر نہیں آتا  

کئی بار دیکھنے کے بعد 


محبت  کرتی عورت  

یقین نہیں کرتی کسی کا 

کنگھا گرا دیتی ہے 

آئنے میں نہیں دیکھتی خود کو 

سوچتی ہے میں ایسے ہی ہوں ٹھیک 


اس کی سہیلیاں ایک ایک کر

اسے چھوڑ کر چلی جاتی ہیں 

دھوپ اسکے پاس آیے بنا نکل جاتی ہے 

   ہوا اسکے بال پریشان کیے بنا بہتی ہے 

اسکے کھاتے  بنا ہو جاتا ہے کھانا ختم 


محبت کرتی عورت 

ٹھگی جاتی ہے روز 

اسکو پتا نہیں چلتا باہر کیا ہو رہا ہے 

کون ٹھگ رہا ہے کون ہے بدکار  

پتا نہیں چلتا کہاں سے شروع ہوئی کہانی 


دنیا کو سمجھتی ہے وہ  

گود میں بیٹھا ہوا بچہ 

نکل جاتی ہے اکیلی سڑک پر 

دیکھتی ہے کتنا بڑا پھیلا شہر 

سوچتی ہے میں رہ لون گی یہیں کہیں 


- منگلیش ڈبرال  


In Roman font:


Mohabbat karti aurat dekhti hai

ek khwaab roz

Jaagne par sochti hai kya tha vo?

Nikaalne baith'ti hai maa'ni 


Dikhti hain use aam-fahm cheezain 

Koi reyteeli jagah

Lagataar behta nal

Uska ghar bikhra hua 

Dekhti hai kuch hai jo nazar nahin aata

kayi baar dekhne ke baad 


Mohabbat karti aurat

yaqeen nahin karti kisi ka 

Kangha gira deti hai

Aaine mein nahin dekhti khud ko

Sochti hai main aise hi hoon theek


Uski saheliyaan ek-ek kar

usey chhod kar chali jaati hain

Dhoop uske paas aaye bina nikal jaati hai

Hava uske baal bikhraaye bina behti hai

Uske khaaye bina ho jaata hai khana khatm


Mohabbat karti aurat

tthagi jaati hai roz

Usko pata nahin chalta baahar kya ho raha hai

kaun thag raha hai kaun hai badkaar

Pata nahin chalta kahaan se shuru hui kahaani


Duniya ko samajhti hai vo

go'd mein baitha hua bachcha

Nikal jaati hai akeli sadak par

Dekhti hai kitna bada phaila shehr

Sochti hai main reh loongi yahin kahin. 


- Manglesh Dabral 

(Urdu rendition of his Hindi poem 'Prem Karti Stree'. The original can be found here: https://www.hindwi.org/kavita/prem-karti-istri-manglesh-dabral-kavita)

Friday, May 24, 2024

An Ordinary Woman and Twelve Ordinary Men

CAN A WOMAN tell the unvarnished truth about what happened to her? This is the central question at the heart of Anand Ekarshi’s Aattam (The Play), the 2023 Malayalam film that was recently adjudged the best film at the 47th edition of the Kerala Film Critics Awards.

The film takes its structure from the iconic Twelve Angry Men (1954), a teleplay that has inspired multiple films since, including the Hindi film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986). A bunch of men weigh in on what appears at first to be a matter of outright criminality, and must decide the fate of the accused.

However, what makes the creative twist in Aattam particularly successful is that it has freed the “judgement” from legal institutional frameworks and moved it into a creative workplace. The “case” in question is sexual harassment. Anjali (Zarin Shihab), the lone female member of a small drama company, has been molested and the other members must decide whether or not her alleged abuser should continue working with them.

I wrote this short essay about Aattam, Indian movies and representation of sexual harassment, especially at  the workplace. My own headline for it was: 'An Ordinary Woman and Twelve Ordinary Men'. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Look out for 'Two Way Street'

Very pleased to hear that 'Two Way Street,' a short film I wrote has been named by Platform magazine as one of the shorts to look out for in 2024. Do look out for it at festivals, screenings or wherever it might be available to watch. 

Here's what they say about the film: 

As a versatile artist encompassing roles as a screenwriter, filmmaker, actor, and stage lighting designer, Asmit has made a significant mark in the film industry. His films have been featured at prestigious festivals such as MAMI, IFFLA, IDSFFK, SASFF, and many others. His recent short film, Two Way Street, garnered acclaim by winning the V Shantaram Golden Award for Direction at the South Asian Short Film Fest. Following its success as a winner at the Best of India Short Film Festival, the film qualified for the Academy Awards 2024. In this compelling narrative, an ordinary taxi ride transforms into a battleground when the Taxi Driver refuses to enter a particular lane. The passenger, in response, decides not to disembark until reaching his destination. The story unfolds as a poignant projection of the taxi driver's inherent bias against a specific community and the passenger's determination not to become a victim of discrimination.

Here's a link to the article: https://www.platform-mag.com/film/short-films-to-watch-in-2024.html

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Three new poems in Usawa

Three new poems in Usawa Literary Review's tenth edition (Jan 2024) . One of them, below. 


There was a country we could have been

 

There was a country we could have been

together – utterly shapeless

and well past reform

 

A laughing country with as many sides

as a well-cut diamond – tumbling valleys

of rusty lakes, rivers above,

seas to the right and left

 

The world would look and lust

for this land glistening emerald and sapphire

sitting in the sun rocking

on its heels with night's cool laughter –

How they'd hate us and how they'd long

for our warmth, our knowing, our winking

and getting by

 

If the mist came down real thick

some morning with the blinding rain

with the mountains plush and forest thick

and the bears standing guard

while everyone was busy fighting –

could we be our country yet?

*

 (c) Annie Zaidi

Link to three of my poems in Usawahttps://www.usawa.in/issue-10/poetry-10/there-was-a-country-we-could-have-been-and-other-poems-by-annie-zaidi/


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Review: Stories about being Muslim in contemporary India

My review of Tabish Khair's latest collection, Namaste Trump and Other Stories

The book’s structure is imaginative, if also unusual. While its contents can be described as split into two broad sections–the novella Night of Happiness, which was published as a standalone in India in 2018, and a set of short stories–it would not be wise to read the novella as distinct from the stories. In fact, it is impossible to read each story as a self-contained whole to the extent that the same characters re-appear in more than one story; the narrative appears to pick up where it had been left off, with a different story inserted in between. 

Why has the author chosen this unusual approach instead of simply writing two or three novellas, and what should we read into the placement of the pieces? To me, it appears that Khair is nudging the reader to look beyond the events of individual stories, to seek out patterns, and to pay attention to the movements of time and shifts of location that the characters undergo. Some characters are semi-rural while others are firmly urban but all are strung together on the twin threads of Phansa, a small town in Bihar, and the experience of being Muslim in contemporary India, be it as protagonist, victim or observer... The horror of violence – past, present or future – repeatedly manifests in these stories in the shape of a paranormal experience. The sympathetic narrator of Night of Happiness must contend with an invisible halwa that leads him to feel “a bony hand” clutching at his heart. 

The titular story, “Namaste Trump” reveals the banal cruelty of a cynical upper-class executive who turns out a domestic worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, an act that has spiritual consequences. “Shadow of a Story” is a proper ghost story where Khair is in his element as a writer of fiction working in academia. Its narrator is a man who takes literature seriously and is able to reconsider positions taken in the context of literary criticism, and reassess his own valourisation of a particular postcolonial aesthetic after an encounter with brute violence in Phansa. Truth appears as a frightening presence in “The Thing with Feathers.” A personal favourite, this is a story about the unravelling of a teacher, Rakesh Sir, who “did things properly, always within limits” but who loses control of his tongue, and thus inadvertently becomes dangerous. The author once again drives us to a junction of reason where the evidence provided by one’s physical senses and simple common sense collides with an intangible, unbelievable world where the rules of our world no longer hold good. 

Through these Phansa-connected stories and their chaotic or uncanny outcomes, Khair reveals to us a landscape where petty cruelty is interlaced with looming threats of violence or destitution, and also with a quiet courage that approaches madness. It is a landscape filled with memorable characters that the reader can carry into, or far beyond, the towns and villages of their own origin. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Eaten by a look

In Western fairy tales, a witch is a scary woman who might ‘eat’ you, cooked or uncooked. In South Asian fairy tales and folklore, she might eat you simply through gazing at you. Worse, she might marry you and then eat you at leisure. I have been researching witches in contemporary South Asian fiction for my doctoral thesis (a work in progress) but in the meantime, I've published this blog post for the Durham University Edible Histories project. It looks at witch appetites in folklore, mainly from India. Do read if you're interested in the subject. Link below: https://staffblog.webspace.durham.ac.uk/eaten-by-a-gaze-witches-in-south-asian-folklore/
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