Thinking out loud

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Madhushala, Dr. Harivanshrai Bacchan's masterpiece and brought to life by Shri Manna De, is one of my favorite pieces of poetry. It's one of those writings which mean different things to different people. Now Dr. Bacchan is not here anymore, and what he had meant when he wrote it will forever be obscured from us.

The first question is what he meant by Madhushala. To some, madhushala would mean material pleasure. To others it would mean spiritual fulfillment and to still others, like me, it would mean the achievement of a cherished goal and the ensuing satisfaction. What one makes of the word madhushala defines what the poem itself means to the reader. To me, it says so many things about finding the way to ones goal, about the hardships one would face, about motivation, about the joy of finding it, about how it would soon lose its lusture... I've picked out a few verses and I'm putting forth my interpretations of the same. If I'm worthy of interpreting such a great work, I don't know, yet I'll do my best.

मदिरालय जाने को घर से चलता है पीने वाला
किस पथ से जाऊं असमंजस में है वो भोला-भाला
अलग अलग पथ बतलाते सब, पर मैं ये बतलाता हूँ
राह पकड़ तू एक चला चल, पा जाएगा मधुशाला

The seeker sets forth on his search for his goal yet he does not which way to go. What must he do to get to his goal? He asks advice from everyone and everyone offers different advice. Yet I (the poet) has only one advice. Pick one path, any path and follow it steadfastly. You will reach your goal.

अधरों पर हो कोइ भी रस जिव्हा पर लगती हाला
भाजन हो कोइ हाथों में लगता रक्खा है प्याला
हर सूरत साकी की सूरत में परिवर्तित हो जाती
आंखों के आगे हो कुछ भी आंखों में है मधुशाला

The poet recommends extreme passion towards one's goal. The goal must so consume the seeker that it becomes his reality. All that the seeker must think of at all times is his goal.

छोटे से जीवन में कितना प्यार करूं पीलूं हाला
आने के ही साथ जगत में कहलाया जाने वाला
स्वागत के ही साथ विदा ही होती देखी तैयारी
बंद लगी होने खुलते ही मेरी जीवन मधुशाला

This could mean two things. This is the seeker's lament. For him, this life is too short and there is so much to be achieved. So much to do and yet as soon as he has begun to move, it seems that its time to go. It could also mean that most people tend to play it safe in life. They refuse to take risks. They live their life as a preparation of death, not as life itself. The seeker laments that he wishes to take risks but that doesn't seem to be the norm in society.

एक बरस में एक बार ही जगती होली की ज्वाला
एक बार ही लगती बाजी जलती दीपों की माला
दुनिया वालो किन्तु किसी दिन, मदिरालय में देखो
दिन को होली, रात दिवाली, रोज़ मनाती मधुशाला

The poet motivates the seeker to move towards his goal. He tells of how for those who reach their goal, everyday is a celebration. Success is desirable and success is good seems to be the import of this verse.

चलने ही चलने में कितना जीवन हाय बिता डाला
'दूर अभी है', पर कहता है हर पथ बतलानेवाला
हिम्मत है ना बढूं आगे, साहस है ना फिरूं पीछे
किम्कर्त्व्यविमूढ़ मुझे कर दूर खडी है मधुशाला

मुख से तू अविरत कहता जा मधु, मदिरा, मादक हाला
हाथों में अनुभव करता जा एक ललित कल्पित प्याला
ध्यान किये जा मन में सुमधुर सुखकर, सुन्दर साकी का
और बढ़ा चल, पथिक, ना तुझको दूर लगेगी मधुशाला

The seeker is tired। He has worked for so long yet the goal seems far off. He's not sure whether to turn back or to go ahead. He's confused and yet the goal is off yonder... In such a situation, the advice is simple. Imagine what joy one'd get when one reaches the goal. Imagine the happiness of success. That will give you strength and the goal will not seem so far off afterall.

मदिरा पीने कि अभिलाषा ही बन जाये जब हाला
अधरों की आतुरता में ही जब आभासित हो प्याला
बने ध्यान ही करते करते जब साकी साकार सखे
रहे ना हाला, प्याला साकी, तुझे मिलेगी मधुशाला

When the desire to reach the goal becomes so overpowering that you begin experiencing the joy. When your every thought is so focussed that the goal seems to materialize in front of you, that's when all other things fade away and you'll find your goal.

हाथों में आने से पहले नाज़ दिखेगा प्याला
अधरों पर आने से पहले अदा दिखाएगी हाला
बहुतेरे इनकार करेगा सकी आने से पहले
पथिक ना घबरा जाना, पहले मान करेगी मधुशाला

Right before you reach your goal, you'll find hindrances. You'll run into problems even as the goal seems so near. Things will seem to go wrong. That is bound to happen. Success will not be yours so easily. But remember, its just a test. Don't be frightened, keep moving. Its the nature of success to be a bit elusive. Keep going, success will be yours.

शांत सकी हो अब तक साकी किस उर की ज्वाला
और और की रटन लगाता जाता हर पीने वाला
कितनी इच्छाएँ हर जाने वाला यहाँ छोड जाता
कितने अरमानों की बनकर कब्र खडी है मधुशाला

Having achieved one goal, the seeker is not satisfied. He craves more and more. His desires will never be fulfilled. They have never been fulfilled for anyone. When the time comes for the final departure, every seeker has left with unfulfilled desire.

As I said before, everyone has their own interpretations. The greatest things about such compositions is that they are open to interpretation. Its much like God himself, meaning different things to different people. Mostly its a source of support and inspiration in an otherwise difficult life...

(You can read the complete poem in devnagri script at Kaavyaalaya. You'll have to download the Shusha font available on that site too).

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sky Rumbled....

An old e-diary reveals that I wrote the following on 27th September, 2004. I still remember that evening. It was one of those days when I get confused whether to feel elated or depressed. It seems I had chosen to be depressed that day. Some of it sounds cliched now, but who can help it. :)

It was cloudy today and the sky was blood red. The country is bleeding and the stars are witness. The country mourns silently. There is not one voice but a murmur of pain and discontent. Its grows louder and the sky rumbles in reponse. A crack of lightening, as if demanding some answers.

A beautiful country torn by a hundred worries. What man can understand, or even hope to understand her completely. Every part is distinct. Every part speaks its own language.

The country looks older than its 58 years. Its back bent, almost broken with misery. Yet somehow its people find the energy to celebrate its umpteen festivals with joy. Perhaps thats the only time they get to forget their sorrows.

Yet their eyes are alight with fire. There is hope. 'Hope', which has kept them going for so long. They work with the hope of a better tomorrow. Yet they choose their leaders going by a few favours for today. But who can blame them. Every day is a struggle to keep away the shadow of despair. Even the promise of a brighter tomorrow is enough. We've learnt to live on hope. A hope which would be difficult to fulfil even for the smartest and most dedicated of men. And despite that, who do we have making those promises?

The sky rumbled today, as if demanding an answer - for how long?
We've been eaten away from the inside and yet we put up a farce of strength. For how long will this go on. We have a lot of strength. But that strength comes from the people in this country. The farmer in his fields, and scientist in his laboratory, the miner in the coal mine and the doctor in the hospital.

We have today more politicians than we probably ever had, and fewer moral principles than ever. We have more political parties, and less patriotism. We have more celebrities and fewer heros. We have more engineering colleges and probably fewer dedicated students. We have more schools and lesser real learning. We think sixteen year olds driving Ford Ikon's is national progress. We think greater number of Finnish cell phones in the country signify economic growth.

The sky rumbled today, as if demanding an answer - who?
Who will take up the responsibility to fix this. "I would", I said, "but what can I do." The rumbling ceased and a voice said. Excel at what you do. And wherever you go, remember that you're a product of this country. You are today what you are, because of the poor sweeper who sweeps the roads for an annual wage you wish to earn in a week. You are today what you are, because somebody decided to plant a tree whose shade they'd never enjoy. Your progress depends on the progress of this country and its doom is your doom.

"It is difficult I said. How will I sustain my energy?"
"Every time you feel weak",said the sky, "talk to me. I have seen a lot. I have seen men die for this cause. I will tell you about them. I have seen the world and there is no place as beautiful as this. I will show you what you're working for."

"I am so insignificant. How will I alone make a difference."
At this the sky smiled. He said, "take a look at the north star. It once asked me the same question."

"I promise", said I; and the sky wept for joy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

CIA, MI6 and RAW

In continuation to Sabarish's post on the bad design of ISRO's website, I have more to say. Atleast ISRO has a website. India's intelligence agency (that's RAW, if you didn't know. I'm sure you know its the CIA for the US and perhaps even that its the MI6/SIS for the UK) does not even seem to have one. Perhaps it is so secret they thought it unwise to put one up. Unfortunately, we know more about American intelligence and other agencies than we know about their Indian counterparts. I know how much effort I have expended in trying to find out more about the RAW. Can we atleast get a glimpse of what kind of intelligence capabilities we have as a nation? Perhaps even what we had 10 years ago?

Even as Hollywood churns out movie after movie about American intelligence and covert operations, Bollywood is stuck up with creating movies showcasing poor shayari and love-struck 18-year-olds. It is time we recognize that no generation works for their country out of sheer patriotism, atleast not in the absence of propoganda. It is time we realise that the aspirations of children in this country atleast are driven very largely by what they see on television and the silver screen. The absence of any solid effort to showcase such agencies (RAW/DRDO/ISRO) by the government, these agencies or the media suggest either of two reasons. One, the agencies are well-staffed with very high-calibre people and they need no more talented people; that they are churning out over-the-horizon technology and it would be imprudent to make such technology public; that they are so good at recruiting under-cover agents that we don't even realise how much work is being done. This is hard to believe. The other is that they have nothing to showcase and are too proud to indulge in marketing. I fervently hope it is the former; or that they shed this false pride soon and do some serious rethinking about their public image.

If one tells big lies...

I began reading a biography of Winston Churchill (by David Irving) today. Its not the most flattering one and someday I'll have to read one that is pro-Churchill before I can form my conclusions about the man. It's a huge two-volume biography, quite suitable for a man of such tremendous influence, and I'm not even sure I'll make it through the whole thing.

So far (57 pages), Irving has pointed out so many weaknesses of the man that my head reels with the kind of hero-like perception I had of him. Of course, we know that Churchill had been against the liquidation of Britain's hold on India but even so it is hard to not respect the man. What is disturbing though is that he may have been partly responsible for the spread of 'The War' to Britain. Apparently Hitler hadn't had ambitions on England but Churchill's persistent exaggerations about Hitler's defence spending and his intention to attack Britain seem to have finally led him to do just that. The thing is that it seems that individuals have such profound influence on the course of history. Its almost frightening.

In any case, the biography mentions a statement from the original Mein Kamph which is supposedly not present in the authorized English translation. It says - "If one tells Big Lies, people will always believe a part."

More on this when I've read more.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

On specialization...

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert Heinlein

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Who runs the world...

Was talking to a friend today. Discussing strange things like fixed and floating currency exchange rates etc... about which neither of us knows much. In any case the discussion led to this friend saying that we shouldn't worry because its the engineers who run the world after all. I was almost knocked off my feet. Did he really think engineers run the world?? Atleast I don't carry around that illusion. I kind of figured its the economists who do. Their policies determine the fates of millions of people of a country. But then, do economists get to implement all the policies they want? I'm not so sure... perhaps their political masters are in control. But they are supposedly controlled by the voters, the citizens. So do the citizens run the world? I don't quite think so. So what makes it go?? Somebody! HELP!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Kite Runner

Just finished reading "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. Depressing novel. A nice one, but depressing. We all heard about the hardships in Afghanistan but the graphic detail in which Hosseini describes the madness that persisted in Afghanistan for so long left me numb. Its hard to believe that this is happening on the same planet we inhabit and by creatures who are supposedly members of my own species. We live such insulated lives while the world seems to be burning everywhere. Except from a few notable exceptions (which may also be hiding a lot of secrets, such as China) cruelty and insanity seems to be the norm. We still sit in our offices and labs and think that building better search engines will somehow fix the world. Will it? What else can one do?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Ghalib still relevant?

Qaumein badshahon se nahin aawam se banti hain;
Aur aap agar aaj bhi kabootar na uda rahe hote to ye qaum kuchh aur hoti, ye mulk kuchh aur hota....

Does this still ring true for us in this time and age? Are we not somehow responsible for what this country is today?

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I have a room next to a superb terrace. However, the trouble is that rain water comes flooding into my room everytime it rains... reason: bad L&T construction. Wrong slopes in the corridor. Anyway, for the last one year I had been trying to convince hostel authorities to do something about it, to no avail. Today I decided to put into action what hundreds of self-improvement books recommned - stop complaining, and start working. So I got myself a packet of white portland cement and created a... ummm... barrier for the rainwater. Here's a picture of my handiwork :) Satisfying!