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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

29 March, 2007

We Steal Your Senses: The Initiation

With words we construct
a sarai ten feet by eight,
a river of magic,
fire, blood with
a bridge of smoke,
a building of three tiers
stacked over it
with fairies in it
throwing pearls
at the piranha
in the river of magic –
With words we create
all this and more
on the proscenium
of an auditorium.

But beware!
These are not tales
of horses and mare,
of fairies and angels,
of Lord-smudged gospels.
Here desires heathen
would deepen with
every twist of the tale
that you choose to veil
your senses with –
Your senses Ha!
Like some former lover
are no more
a part of your tale.
Like a bedouin’s loot
in this bazaar of lies and truth
they’re up for sale.

So we wait at the gates
of the kingdom of Afrasiyaab,
the sorcerer supreme,
the king of devils and djinns
before whom sixty-thousand
each with an army
of a hundred thousand
or more
genuflect, kiss his girth,
wash it with their blood.
He, The Arrogant One
whose kingdom
runs from The Upper West Quarter
to The Lower East Trough
even he,
even he bows
to Zammurad Shah Bakhtari,
also Laqa, the ultimate in sorcery
but only a wily old bastard
with fungus in his teeth
and beads in his beard
who sits on a throne
smelling of his own faeces.

Together they fight
Amir Hamzah
The Lord of Conjunction,
before whom the moon
and the sun both bow,
whose valour instills fear
in many who’d kill, tear
with their swords and their spears
and not once show remorse
even they, when they’d hear
his name their pride would run
like a disease from a medicine.

But the point where
we choose to enter –
our senses surrendered –
the point where we
let ourselves be
in this magical world,
this magical world
where the difference
between the real
and the imagined
is perhaps a trick
between the awake you
and your sleeping self,
the point where we enter
is the one where Amar Ayyar,
confidant, friend, chief trickster
Amir’s lieutenant, masquerader
has murdered Mahtaab Jadoo
and has in a jungle taken refuge…

© Dan Husain
March 27, 2007


27 March, 2007

The Lost People

“People, people, people,
listen, listen well to this song
passed on to me by our fathers.
It is about the pale men
who came to our shores
in big brown boats.

They doffed their hats and proclaimed, “Dear sirs, this land is ours”.
We laughed at their funny names and
wrinkled our noses at their peculiar fish smell.
They came up to us and said, “Give us your gold”.
We smiled and asked why.
“To protect you sirs.”
So we laughed some more and opened the temple doors.
We were children of the sun. We didn’t need gold, did we?

Years passed and their numbers increased with every boat load
while our numbers dwindled due to diseases
brought by those greedy men and women.
One day they came and put chains on our hands.
We sighed and asked why.
“To teach you civilization sirs”, they said.
So we bent our backs and tilled our/their lands.
Our sweat turned brown land into green fields.

Years passed, and our last chief
was murdered in the battle of bended knee.
Then they came and took away our children.
We cried and asked why.
“To build a new nation of equals sirs”, they said.
So we broke our hearts, sat around the fire and sang sad old songs.
What else could we do?
The laughter of our children had been swallowed by the molting moon.

Years passed and our faces were scarred
by the scattering of our nation in the ill wind.
They came and put a fence around our homes.
Our silent eyes voiced the unspoken question.
“To protect your culture sirs”, they said.
So we took to the false comfort of their moonshine
and burnt our bodies in a drunken rage.
Our young were converted to the religion of the crucifix.

Now, I’m the last of the bards left,
singing this forlorn song of our frustrated history.
Times have changed, promises on paper
have turned to powder, and you are all that is left of a glorious tribe.
So will you remember? Will you remember?
Will you remember to sing this song when the wolves dance and the coyotes cry?”

(First posted here)


10 March, 2007

List of lists

Let's not mince words: literary lists are basically an obscenity. Literature is the realm of the ineffable and the unquantifiable; lists are the realm of menus and laundry and rotisserie baseball. There's something unseemly and promiscuous about all those letters and numbers jumbled together. Take it from me, a critic who has committed this particular sin many times over.

But what if—just for argument's sake—you got insanely rigorous about it. You went to all the big-name authors in the world—Franzen, Mailer, Wallace, Wolfe, Chabon, Lethem, King, 125 of them— and got each one to cough up a top-10 list of the greatest books of all time. We're talking ultimate-fighting-style here: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, modern, ancient, everything's fair game except eye-gouging and fish-hooking. Then you printed and collated all the lists, crunched the numbers together, and used them to create a definitive all-time Top Top 10 list.
So says Lev Grossman in Time, writing about The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. He goes on to say
There are several lifetimes' worth of promising literary leads here—544 books in all. An 85-page appendix providing enlightened summaries of all the works mentioned is worth the price of admission all on its own.
He also gives away the punchline, so to speak, with "the all-time, ultimate Top Top 10 list, derived from the top 10 lists of 125 of the world's most celebrated writers combined." Here ya go:

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
9. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
10. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Oh yes. J Peder Zane, the editor of the book, has a website up here, complete with blog and a page where you can go list your personal top ten. As of this post, the people's voice says that the top 10 books most mentioned from all the top 10 lists posted are:

Anna Karenina
The Great Gatsby
Crime and Punishment
To Kill a Mockingbird
War and Peace
Moby Dick
All Things, All at Once
The Sound and the Fury
The Brothers Karamazov
Pride and Prejudice

(Yes, yes, 12 books. There was a three-way tie at number ten.)

The list of 544 books is here, by the way, all neatly linked up to Amazon "buy" links. That should pay the hosting bills!

And for the list of writers who contributed their lists, scroll down to the bottom of this page. (Chitra Divakaruni was the only Indian name I could find on the list before the wee type began to blur. No Sir V. No winner of the Booker of Bookers.)