Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Marching past a Million hits: Multi-lingual Urdu poetry website steadily makes a mark, gets popularity among Shayari lovers

BESTGHAZALS.NET
When BestGhazals.Net was initially started as a blog, the aim was to put up the best and representative poetry of famous Urdu shayars.

Also, it was the first site to have poetry in three scripts viz. Urdu, Roman English and Hindi [Devnagri], on the same page.

It was an amateur blog, not for profit, but the aim was just to present selected Ghazals and Nazms on the internet.

Works of 150 poets on the Website

There wasn't a regular and constant effort on it. Still, it now has nearly 300 ghazals and nazms.

It features around 150 Urdu poets. The plan was to put up 'standard poetry'. Literature or Adab was the first consideration, [not ghazals that have been sung and are easily available elsewhere]. But the tough or the 'over the top' modernist poetry was avoided.

Over the years, it got its own domain. In fact, the site had crossed a million hits long back. The 'statcounter' was put up much later and the Google's display of statistics for blogger platform was released years after the blog began. Still, now that the blog shows more than a million page views, I feel quite happy.

Love poetry, Learn Urdu online

The reason I started this blog was that those who can read a bit of Urdu and want to learn the language, wouldn't have to go ask someone for pronunciation, but will see it right there either in Hindu or Roman English.

In fact, if you have know the Urdu alphabets and also can read basic Urdu, you can improve your Urdu, by seeing the same words in Roman or Devnagri scripts. If you can't read the Urdu [nastaliq] script, get a Urdu primer and give it a try.

I was asked by many friends that I should post Urdu in text. But when the blog started, everybody didn't have Urdu fonts. Even today, many people who are used to reading in  Urdu in Nastaliq, find it difficult to read the Arabic font. And, many other sites are using Urdu fonts.

Not just Mir, Ghalib and Iqbal

Most poetry websites feature the poetry of Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and Iqbal. I intended to present works of poets from the era of Wali Dakni to the progressive movement and the modernist poets too. Hence, you can find not just Aatish and Nasikh, but also Majaz and Jazbi, Shakeb Jalali and Irfan Siddiqui too.

The meanings of tough Urdu-Persian-Arabic words are also given to help the reader. The progress of the website hasn't been too fast. However, it is quite satisfactory. Only the poetry that will evoke interest from an ordinary reader, and that can later develop in him, the taste for Urdu poetry, is being posted here. The blog will keep growing, steadily, ever.

Do visit BESTGHAZALS.NET

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mango Mania in Awadh: For 'aam' lovers, it is not summer but the season of mangoes

(C) INDSCRIBE

Summer is the season of mangoes. The mango lovers wait throughout the year for the season to arrive.

Especially, in Awadh in Uttar Pradesh (UP), mango is the most common topic of discussion for a large section of population during these three months.

For many it is an obsession. More so in Malihabad-Kakori belt, which is home to innumerable varieties of mangoes.

As the season approaches, the conversation is mostly focused on mangoes. It is common in joint families to put 40-50 mangoes in buckets or tubs filled with water and sit together to eat them.

People who have no fancy to eating and can't go past a couple of 'rotis', will astonish you by eating a dozen mangoes with ease.

The obsession with mangoes, conversation centred around the fruit

If you hail from this region and you are settled anywhere in the world, the season, the smell and the sight of mangoes, make you nostalgic. On phone calls, you are told how much mango is expected this year or how a particular pest has affected the trees this year.

From the talk about the kind of 'baur' on trees to storms or premature rain, anything that affects the health of mango or the mango tree is talked about and discussed as if it is the biggest issue for mankind. The search for workers, the lack of 'petis' [wooden boxes] and other allied issues are not just for those who own orchards.

But most importantly, one must eat mango to his/her heart's content. Aam, the king of fruits, rules the hearts of people here. There is no dearth of anecdotes about the fruit, history of each variety, local tales and folklore about 'aam'.

'Achcha, aapke shahar mein aam hote hain?'

I remember the expressions of people from other states who came to the region and the first question they encountered was about mango.

Imagine, a person from Bombay arriaves and after the 'salaam dua', he is asked, "Achchha, aapke yahaan mein aam hote hain".

Such innocence. After all, where in India you don't get mangoes? The person posing a question would also be someone who has travelled far and wide, by train and plane.

And when the visitor's reply was 'yes, of course', there was a nod of approval about the person [as if he was a respectable person now] before the next question, about the varieties available in that particular city where he had come from.

But this obsession is understandable. Not hundreds, but thousands of varieties of mangoes were available in the region. Today, one hears about the Dussehri, Langda, Safeda, Badam, Alphonso, Kesar, Totapari or the few other commonly known 'qism'.

In certain cities, you may know a few more but the sheer variety of mangoes that were [and are] still available in the town and rural parts is mind-boggling. The 'tukhmi' aam [that comes up from the seed]is much more tasty and distinct than the 'qalmi' [grafted] which are commercially sold. 

Samar bihisht, Shahad-kuppi, Benazir

The names of these mangoes were also charming. I remember eating mangoes like 'Samar Bihisht' [Fruit of Paradise], Shahadkuppi [Honeypot] and Benazir.

Samar Bishisht, true to its name, tasted heavenly while the Shahadkuppi was too sugary. Benazir's uniqueness was that this variety was sweet even when it was not ripe.

One of my favourite mangoes was 'Parnaala'. It was a huge mango and it was so juicy that if you put a straw into it, you could almost drink the juice.

This variety is nearly extinct now. Further, in all these varieties, the difference in taste and odour is something that is incredible. For commercial reasons, the 'tukhmi' or desi trees are being felled to give way to Dussehri or similar other mangoes.

Commercial considerations: Old trees felled to give way for a few well-known brands

I was pained to see people felling age-old and unique mango trees because these varieties aren't sold in the market unlike the few well-known brands. In place of them, trees like 'Aamrapali' [or Dussehri] which start giving you fruit in 4-5 years, are increasingly being planted.

So there are orchards that have hundreds and thousands of trees of just one variety. What a tragedy. Of course, Haji Kalimullah, will keep appearing in newspapers or TV channels, telling you how he is growing up different mangoes on a tree or creating new variety. 

But the truth is that so much has been lost. Now a days, in city markets, you at the most get half-a-dozen different varieties, depending on the region. 

In one region, you may see Rasaal or Benishan in the market, while in another part of the country, there will be Chausa, Malda, Mohanbhog or Kesar. 

In Lucknow, it is common for people to invite friends for 'aam ki dawat'. There can be poetry alongside to add colour to the mehfil.

You may be used to eating mangoes by cutting them in slices, the ardent aam lover can surprise you with his ability to suck any mango without letting a drop fall of fingers or spoil the dress.

But the fun is for those who enjoy mango amidst the hot summer in the region. The call of the mango groves.

Sell jewellery if you don't have money, but buy mangoes!!!

For people who are away from home, the dreaded question coming from a Lucknow-wala is 'aam ka mausam hai, aa rahe ho na'. To say, that I wouldn't be able to make it this time, fills you with guilt. It is like not being true to your culture or getting away from roots.

One has to say, 'Ji, koshish to kar rahe hain, ho saka to aayenge'. So if one can't go, he/she can at least celebrate the season by eating mangoes. Though it invites scorn from you kin back home [bechare ko kharid kar khane padte honge].

A friend's father [an elderly man] tells his family members, "The season of mangoes has come. If you don't have money, do sell some jewellery and buy mangoes in bulk.

Ornaments can be bought again, later, but what if the mango season departs?" Just loved the line. It really captures the attitude towards mango.

In fact, some people find it strange and get upset with the mango-mania in Lucknow, its satellite towns and other places in UP, where there is a similar culture as far as love for the fruit is concerned.

I have been told, that it is a sort of 'hawas'. Couldn't any other word be used for it? Sigh! So celebrate the season as long as it lasts.

For, Aam is not Aam, but Khaas (special)--the King of Fruits. 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

No public condemnation from Congress chief minister or words of consolation for family of Mohsin Shaikh, the software professional killed in Pune

The killing of Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, 28, a software employee, in Pune has once again brought to fore the failure of state government in Maharashtra in controlling mob violence and dealing with fanatic groups.

Shaikh was killed because he was a Muslim--a terrible signal for the society. His beard made him the target. He was targeted, chased and then bludgeoned to death, on the street.

The objectionable Facebook post was not the handiwork of a Muslim either. Still, it led to violence of such a scale, and it turned against Muslims. [Read about violence & photos LINK and LINK]

Earlier, there were attacks on properties of Muslims apart of targeting of mosques, grave yards and minority owned businesses for a couple of days, over a Facebook post.

Yet, the state government failed to control it. The mob violence was not dealt firmly in the initial stage even though hundreds of buses had been damaged in Pune and Kolhapur till then. As a result, it continued and the culmination was in the form of Mohsin Sheikh's murder.

While there were ripples across the country, there was NOT A SINGLE STATEMENT from the Maharashtra chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan. Leaders from different parties condemned the incident on TV.

But we heard nothing from him about whether he intends to take tough action on the culprits or will take steps to ban the Hindu Rashtra Sena, the outfit, suspected to be behind the violence. HRS and its chief have nearly 20 cases against them.

NO CONDEMNATION, NO CONSOLATION*

What one expected from the CM was that he could have uttered a few words of consolation for the family of the youth who was killed in a racist attack. But neither any condemnation, nor any consolation to victim's kin.

Neither any representative of district administration or major Congress politician visited the household.[UPDATE: There was report (not in newspapers or media though) that CM spoke to Shaikh's kin, but isn't it too late? Till now, there has been no public statement or strong condemnation.]

Days after Shaikh's killing, when journalists asked Chavan about the incident, his reply is quoted as, "police would be investigating 'whether the violence was due to a result in the change in government". [LINK]

On question about 'sending report about the violence to centre', the India Today quotes him that the CM was unaware of it either. SIGH. Nothing about sadness about tragic death or about action, but about 'regime change'. Yes, regime has changed in Delhi, not in Maharashtra.

What is Maharashtra government doing then? The onus is on the state government first. They may say that cases were registered, which the police anyhow do.

But no stringent sections were used against those booked for the murder. The Maharashtra police didn't seem to consider use of stringent sections though it uses UAPA or MCOCA quite often.

But the Congress regime is known to be soft on vandals or extremists. Remember, when MNS cadre went on rampage across the state, there was no tough action.

HISTORY OF SIMILAR APATHY, ARROGANCE IN MAHARASHTRA

There are innumerable cases against MNS and its leader Raj Thackeray but he was never arrested. Perhaps, Congress enjoys pushing them, hoping that the more right-wing groups out there, the more is chance of division of the vote, which may indirectly help Congress.

But in process, the non-Congress space will probably grow and expand to such an extent, that despite the division of votes, the Congress will find itself irrelevant one day. Under Congress rule, Shiv Sena cadre indulging in street attacks never had a tough time.

Even those indicted in 1992-93 riots didn't have to worry much, as the Sri Krishna Commission report was not implemented. MNS was given a free run, as it was hoped that it would cut into Sena-BJP votes. But it is this failure of Congress to act, for decades, that has brought it to the current situation.

How many times it happens in Maharashtra. We saw similar apathy when police fired and killed youths in cold-blood in Dhule, then the excesses in Mumbra recently. There was no talk of compensation or immediate announcement by state Congress leadership.

Is it plain insensitivity and the apathy of arrogant Congress leaders towards Muslims, who are supposed to vote for Congress anyhow. Still, with such attitude, it is clear that there is no way one can look up to this party or think of voting for it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Reluctant politician: Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and his failure to take centre-stage in politics after travelling in Mumbai local train four years ago

Rahul travelled in local train in Mumbai despite Sena warning but thereafter... 
(C) INDSCRIBE

After the Congress' defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, it is natural that the party leaders, especially, the roles of Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, would come under criticism.

But more than the Congress' poor performance, it is the reluctant leadership of Rahul Gandhi, which is truly astonishing.

A look at Rahul's career graph as a politician, one gets perplexed that how he seems to have lost his way, all of a sudden.

FLASHBACK: Barely four years ago, Rahul Gandhi had struck a chord with a large number of people, when in the midst of the 'local Vs outsider' controversy in Maharashtra, he made a surprising appearance in Mumbai.

The Shiv Sena had warned him against coming to the the city, after his 'Mumbai for all Indians' remark. Though he was shown black flags, Rahul reached the city and travelled in the local train. Not just Biharis, people from Uttar Pradesh (UP) too were being beaten up in cities in Maharashtra. Rahul Gandhi took a stand.

Like an ordinary citizen, he travelled in the train, without the strong security. In fact, he had gone to an ATM, withdrawn the money, and then bought the ticket for himself. Though there were strong voices even then, about his being 'young', 'inexperienced' and 'playing politics' and the one whose sole qualification was to be 'born in the Nehru-Gandhi family', his act suggested that he understood politics.

Showed signs of leadership, political maturity once

In fact, not just North Indians, youngsters in Mumbai also lauded him. Girls had flocked to see him and there was a euphoria. Even his critics said that without speaking or replying to Shiv Sena/MNS leaders' statements, his visit was bold and he had successfully made a statement.

This was after UPA had won the election in 2009. Rahul Gandhi had talked passionately about Kalawati in the Parliament. BJP leaders weren't too impressed. He was visiting the houses of Dalits too. Clearly, BSP wasn't impressed. However, it was all having an effect.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi appeared emerging as a mature politician, who seemed to have a conviction, and who wanted to talk about the ordinary Indian citizen. Surprisingly, just when he was coming of age, and the public was beginning to like him, he lost the connect.

Losing connect with the citizens, avoiding media

We didn't see similar boldness in the next couple of years. In 2011, Sonia Gandhi fell ill and rushed to America for treatment. But we didn't see Rahul Gandhi take up the centre-stage or speak his mind. Even as there were scams after scams, what we saw was Congress' spokespersons, but not Rahul.

Either it was the Delhi gang rape or the Anna Hazare's movement, Rahul Gandhi didn't show up in public. There was no out of the box initiative or street-smartness.The 'Mumbai local train episode' was history. What we heard about Rahul Gandhi was that he had his coterie and that he was busy revamping the party.

It was commonly repeated that he wanted leaders to be more accountable, and hence there was stress on inter-party democracy [elections for post of office-bearers etc]. True, but what about the leader himself? Not just the public, he also avoided the media. Why?

No more taking up causes or steps for corrective measures

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was never known to be an orator, the failure of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to speak on important issues, was felt everywhere.

No wonder, jokes about dynasty scion who was party leader just because of virtue of his birth, flooded social media. People in India aren't averse to dynasty rule, as it happens in regional politics too, but one has to do something after getting the post.

There was not a single attempt to redress any of the grievances of the Muslims. However, all the BJP's demands were accepted hurriedly [including Afzal's hanging], so that there was 'no backlash'. Dalits were also forgotten. There wasn't anything positive for the farmers in Vidarbha or the poor in Bundelkhand.

Rahul Gandhi wasn't behaving as a politician at all. You can't keep on getting votes all your life for UPA's flag-ship schemes that were launched a decade ago. Neither inclusive schemes, nor exclusive appeals for castes or groups were visible now. 

It is a big mystery how and why Rahul Gandhi acted in this strange way. Tearing apart the ordinance on convicted politicians, as late, as in 2013, wasn't enough. And once again after this show of anger and attitude, it was back to square one. Silence.

Reclusive: Neither on the ground, nor in the social media

Rahul was reclusive and reluctant. After having enough experience in politics, he should have learnt to act on his gut feeling and acted as a responsible politician. But he appeared lost and out of scene when he was expected to speak his mind.

While BJP leaders were active on Facebook and Twitter, Congress had few politicians who understood social media, except Shashi Tharoor. Narendra Modi got millions of followers on Twitter but Rahul had no account on the website.

Even after the party's loss, we haven't heard him enough. He is not likely to take the role of the party leader in Lok Sabha too. That is all too strange, after all, he got everything on his platter. Why he did it? Why he does it? No one knows it, except Rahul Gandhi.

READ the earlier post, 'Letter To Congress leadership from an Indian Muslim'. CLICK
READ, another post on 'Congress failure to highlights UPA's achievements and its poor campaign vis-a-vis BJP publicity blitz'. CLICK

[PHOTO courtesy NDTV. Link to NDTV report. 'Rahul snubs sena, takes Mumbai local', here]