a prayer

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

mera dard naghma-e-be-sada
meri zaat zarra-e-be-nishaan
mere dard ko jo zabaan milay
mujhe apna naam-o-nishaan milay
meri zaat ka jo nishaan milay

mujhe raaz-e-nazm-e-jahaan milay
jo mujhe ye raaz-e-nihaan milay
meri khamoshi ko bayaan milay
mujhe kaainaat ki sarwari
mujhe daulat-e-do jahaan milay

– faiz ahmed faiz

Our hidden sorrows are also the meanings of our lives. May they find a voice. May we discover, in that voice, our true destinies. If there is a god, may he illuminate for us the secrets of existence. Perhaps then, when silence speaks, when that which is unknown becomes known, perhaps then, we are truly alive, awake, attuned to our destinies.

Like nobody else, Faiz knows the mysteries of the unknown and the known. How the unknown is always the companion of sorrow. How sorrow is always the companion of the unknown. How, to fully live our sorrows, is to also find beauty and illumination in our lives.

In a metaphor that is deeply steeped in the Sufi way of life, the poet lets himself be soaked by the unknown. The poet is not afraid to suffer, but in fact sees suffering as the fire that will purify him, as the water that will evoke a thirst for the eternal. All is surrendered in the face of the truly real, that which truly is. There is only surrender.

The poem is mysterious in its sounds, and in its meanings. There are no concrete interpretations to take home, but only that sense of a deep, abiding, beautiful mystery that makes our lives worth living, for our short time on this planet we call home.




•October 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

When it emerges, there is nobody around.

Who knows what it is? Nobody knows.

Nothing can be said about it.

As if newness is only what is. As if the old has passed on.

Life begets life. Death is perennially present.

It is trauma, it is gift. It is blessing, it is curse. It keeps one alive. Deeply alive. Too alive. It makes one die.

A free fall, with no ground to fall on.

Words fail.

Mystery remains.



The inner flame

•September 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

pehle bhi yun to barse thay baadal
pehle bhi yun to bheega tha aanchal
abke baras  kyun sajan
sulag sulag jaaye mann

bheege aaj is mausam mein
lagi kaisi ye agan

The heart has reasons that reason knows not. While the world around goes about with its practicality, its businesses, its rushed ways, its concrete buildings and its crowded streets – the heart burns with a pure intensity that none of these accretions of humanity have.

It is this flame that keeps us alive. It is this flame that is the meaning of our lives. Divorced from it, we are worse than dead. Because apart from being dead, we are also living a lie, our true destiny remaining unfulfilled – which is to discover and live out the true meaning of our lives.

Either one lives with the implosive intensity of being or one does not live at all, but merely exist, as an automaton pushed around by the forces of society.

True individuality is the heart of being alive – individuality which is not an amalgamation of various social pressures, various forms of conditioning, various actions of habit that one has acquired in the past. True individuality is the passionate aliveness of this moment. Even as it rains outside, the heart remains afire and ablaze. And looks for others similarly aflame, for fire seeks fire.







The archetypes of Garam Hawa

•August 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Garam Hawa is not a film merely about characters. It is a film about experiences that we have all had, generation after generation, and have settled as archetypes in the soul of this piece of land that we call India. For this piece of land is not mere land, but the feelings, sensations, dreams, and traumas that move the hearts of those who walk on it, and those who have walked on it through history. The film expresses something of the essence of that soul of India.

The sorrow of Salim Mirza is the sorrow of every Muslim who has been made to feel that this may not be his own country. When Salim Mirza, scarred and fatigued by the ravages of the times, goes to see the Taj Mahal for the last time before leaving the country he thought was his own, his sorrow is the sorrow of an entire culture.

It is the sorrow of my father, who, as an academic and writer,  spent all his life arguing for an Islam that is more open to the rest of the world, and for an India where harmony prevails over all religious divisions and all dogma. It is his sorrow, as he now spends the last years of his life seeing the nation being taken over by the Hindu nationalists, the lynchings, the frequent abuse of the Muslim. It is the sorrow of a dream crumbling.

The hopes of Sikandar, Salim Mirza’s youngest son, are the hopes of every young Muslim – practically every Muslim of my generation that I have been friends with – to live, to make friends, to work, to make a creative contribution in this confluence of streams that is our nation, and not apart from it. For we know no other nation. We have never been to Pakistan. It is quite another land for us.

The love of Amina, her longing, her innocent desire to spend her life with someone who truly loves her, is the love that palpates in the hearts of each one of us, young and old, Hindu or Muslim, or otherwise. Some of us are destined to experience the fulfillment of that desire, and some of us are not. Amina is a symbol of those among us for who the desire remains a desire only.

In her very relatability, in her tragic humanity, Amina emerges as far more than a Muslim woman. She is a human being whose heart is crushed by the brutalities of fate, brutalities to which no living person is a stranger. In her, the ‘other’ becomes uncannily identical to the ‘self’.

The film’s opening credits begin with an image of the map of India, now divided into two. It is followed by a picture of a smiling Gandhi, and then comes a series of pictures of partition. As the opening credits end, we see Gandhi again, this time lying dead as his funeral procession moves to the cremation ground. The birth of a nation is also the death of a dream. A dream that imagined India as a land where people of diverse ways of life live together. Gandhi, a man whose prayers included passages from the Gita, the Quran, and the New Testament, is a symbol of that dream, in his life and his death. The film that follows these images is an effort to recover that dream, if not in physical actuality, then in the actuality of the hearts of those who are moved by it.

All the other characters – the Hindu friend who unceasingly supports Salim Mirza, the refugees from Pakistan who desire revenge,  Salim Mirza’s wife who strives to hold a crumbling home together while her own heart crumbles, the youth who fight for their right to livelihood, the rickshaw driver who is oblivious to deeper political currents – these are not particular persons but archetypes, symbols of particular responses to the violence in our hearts, and to partition which manifested that violence in the physical world. They are the forces in us which either become complicit in that violence, or which refuse to give in to that violence, and therefore, remain rooted in goodness in the face of the harsh tragedies that history inflicts on us.

The film, then, remains a testament to our times, our lives, the dreams that we dreamt for ourselves as a culture. It has thus survived the death of most of those who made it, and lives as intensely, if not more, in the hearts of many who came thereafter.


The fountain of life

•August 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“I was supremely happy, for I had seen. Nothing could ever be the same. I have drunk at the clear and pure water at the source of the fountain of life and my thirst was appeased. Never more could I be thirsty, never more could I be in utter darkness; I have seen the Light. I have touched compassion which heals all sorrow and suffering; it is not for myself, but for the world. I have stood on the mountain top and gazed at the mighty Beings. Never can I be in utter darkness; I have seen the glorious and healing Light. The fountain of Truth has been revealed to me and the darkness has been dispersed. Love in all its glory has intoxicated my heart; my heart can never be closed. I have drunk at the fountain of Joy and eternal Beauty. I am God-intoxicated.”

– J. Krishnamurti, August 1922.



A temple of ancient ceremonies

•August 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The body and mind are a temple with ancient ceremonies taking place in them. Every time a limited thought is replaced with simple awareness, every time our entanglement in thinking is replaced by the refulgence of pure, unbounded energy, a ritual is initiated.

The sounds of the ancients come alive, the deep lights of the heavenly bodies illuminate what is there in this body, the ethereal priests come in and do their work.

The body-mind is a temple of ancient ceremonies. The energies flow through it, upwards to the sky, the tremour and power of the energies shakes up the body-psyche, destroying the dull, allowing for the old to die, evoking new life.

In the temple of the body-mind, suffering is not fixed, suffering is not avoided, but suffering is the offering to the  sacred fire of awareness. In the innermost heart of this temple, this fire burns, quiet and refulgent, and receives the offering of sorrow, transmutes it into sacred energy, which is then offered to the universe. The regeneration of man and woman takes place in this innermost sanctum of the temple.

It is a temple in darkness, which the blinding lights of the world do not see. It is a temple seen by those who dare to be quiet, dare to be alone, not physically, but psychologically. Free from the influence of the world and thus, truly an individual.

When two persons meet with authenticity, openness, the temple’s ceremonies begin for the two of them. The ancient ritual comes alive. The priests function again and the celestial lights illuminate all.

The fragrance of the temple, the invisible temple, goes out to the world and heals our wounds. The wound of separation, the wound of being a separate individual who must reach somewhere, the wound of the noise and ugliness of the world. The wounds heal in this scent, as the ceremonies continue.

The temples are the only sanctuaries of the sacred in a world gone awry.


Children of the universe

•August 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

tvameva mata ca pita tvameva

you alone are our mother, you alone are our father

We are children of the universe. Through its pulsating power, it brings us to life, our earthly parents only its final instruments in our manifestation.

We are children of the universe. From its silent depths, it manifests dazzling complexity. We are part of that complexity, yet holding the silent depths of the universe in our hearts, in the sacred recesses of our hearts.

We are children of the universe. Its ancient, billions of years old heritage is our legacy –  stardust, light, dark, silence, terror, beauty – they are our own experience, they reside and resonate in our own hearts, as they have resonated in outer space much before we were born.

As true inheritors of this legacy, we can bring our lives to resound with the order of the universe. To rise with dawn, the rest with darkness. To caress the beauty of twilight, to manifest our energies in the splendour of the sun.

Perhaps most of all, to adore the quiet, dark night, that cleanses all the disorder of the world.

The ancients were true children of the universe. They had not forgotten their real roots, where they came from. For them, the order of the universe was the order of their own lives. They called it rta, the cosmic order, which human beings are the final manifestation of.

As we go out into the world today, will we live as children of the universe? Or will we, having forgotten our spiritual home, live with the greed of modern man for more experience, for more work, for more achievement, forgetting the quit still spaces that we come from.


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