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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

22 September, 2007

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation announces the inaugural 2008 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize

Sept 27, 2007
7 PM
Charbagh, British Council

September 27 would have been the writer and editor Shakti Bhatt's 27th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, her friends will read from her work and remember her with poetry, short fiction, and music.

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation will announce the inaugural 2008 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

All are welcome.


The Shakti Bhatt Foundation is a non-profit trust set up by her family to keep her memory alive. It wishes to reward first-time authors of all ages.

announces the inaugural

2008 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize is a cash award of one lakh rupees.

A 3-member panel of judges will shortlist entries. The 2008 panel of judges includes William Dalrymple and Kamila Shamsie.

We invite entries in the following genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography, and narrative journalism) and drama.

Open to first-time authors of all ages.
The book must be published between June 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.
Only books published in India are eligible.
Publications must be in English or translated into English from an Indian language.
Vanity press publications are ineligible.

Deadline for entries is July 15, 2008.

Jeet will be happy to answer specific questions.

If you would like the mailing address of the foundation, to send in your book, or if you have queries for Jeet, please leave a comment with your email address here.

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19 September, 2007

The Kural

There is a form of poetry called the kural in Tamil. It is best known by the classic Thirukural, a book of 1330 kurals written by Valluvar in the 1st century BC. A kural is a poem of seven words, four in the first line and three in the second, and addresses a wide variety of subjects. The first (and most famous) kural is

"Agara mudala ezhuthellam adhi
bagavan mudatrae ulagu."

A-kara (the letter a) is the first of all writing
God is the first of all being.

One feature peculiar to Tamil compared to English is that two words can be merged into one, while they must be hyphenated in English, whicha allows the seven-word rule to be applied rigidly.

Here's a link for more information.

In reply, David Israel said
The Wikipedia item about the Kural points, in turn, to Venpa for a discussion of the metrical form used by the Kural.

It is explained to be this sequence—
cheer cheer cheer cheer
cheer cheer eetru-cheer
mdash;where "cheer" is explained to be roughtly equivalent (in effect) to the English iamb. My question: what is the eetru cheer roughly equivalent to, in terms of English prosody? Also, besides just the metrical verse form, what should one know about the formal grammar of the sentence?

Establishing that, it could be possible to attempt writing
something like an English Kural, maybe. :-)
Ozymandias replied:

The kural is a form of venpa poetry, consisting of 1 and 3/4th feet. Venpa can go upto 11 and 3/4th feet.

The basic Tamil poetic unit is the asai, which can be can be monosyllabic (ner) or bisyllabic (nirai). 1-4 asais make a cheer, though 4-asai cheers are not used in venpa poetry.

Four cheers make a foot or 'adi', which is the line of the poem. A a venpa poem is one where the last line is just 3/4th foot (eetr-adi). An eetru-cheer is a truncated cheer.

1-asai cheers: These can only occur in the end, and that too they must be either a naal (1 long vowel) or a malar (2 short vowels).

2-asai cheers: 4 types are possible (nerner, nernirai, nirainer, nirainirai) and all are allowed except in the last cheer. The last cheer (which is truncated) must be either naal-short (long-short) or malar-short (short-short-short).

3-asai cheers: Though 8 types of asai combinations are possible, only the nirai-X-ner cheer and ner-X-nirai cheer are allowed. Both long and short vowel ners and nirais are allowed.

Three rules govern the assembly of cheers:

a)X-ner must be followed by nirai-X or nirai-X-ner.
b)X-nirai must be followed by ner-X or ner-X-nirai.
c)nirai-X-ner must be followed by ner-X or ner-X-nirai.

I hope with these rules once can make up an English venpa quite easily.

© Ozymandias.


The Keh-Mukarni

The "Say-and-Deny" Riddles of Khusrau

Keh (say) Mukarni (denial) is an interesting genre of riddles played between two young women, where one of them describes something in a way that it is mistaken by the other girl as a reference to the first girl's beloved, but which finally turns out to be something completely different.

Here are a couple of examples from Amir Khusrau himself.

Lipat lipat kay wa-kay soyee,
Chhaati say chhaati lagakay royee,
Daant say daant bajay to taada.
Aye sakhi saajan? Na sakhi jaada!

(Cuddled up in his arms she slept,
Bosoms pressed against each other, she sobbed,
When the teeth started clattering, she saw.
Was it the beloved? No my dear. Winter!)

Oonchi ataari palang bichhayo,
Main soyi meray sir par aayo;
Khul gayin ankhiyan bhayi anand,
Aye sakhi saajan? Na sakhi Chand!

(Had my bed on the roof top,
and was off to sleep, when he came;
Could not sleep any further, it was such a pleasure.
Was it the beloved? No dear, it was the moon!)

© Manjul Bajaj.

Manjul Bajaj's "Modern Day Keh Mukranis."
David Raphael Israel's Keh Mukarni thread (open to contributions from other writers).


The Anthadi

As the name suggests (Antha- End, Adi- Beginning), the last word of the first verse forms the first word of the second.

An example is a famous poem in Tamil composed of 100 verses, Abirami Anthadi, dedicated to the goddess Abirami, the deity in the southern temple of Thiru Kadayoor in Tamilnadu.

Found a translation of the verses in a site (as usual, something is lost in translation, but it suffices as an example):

First two verses:

She who has the reddish sun as a tilaka,
She who is the red gem for those who understand her and worship,
She who is like the tender bud of pomegranate,
She who is the first ray of lightning,
She who is the reddish liquid made of saffron,
She who is like the Lakshmi sitting on red lotus,
She only is my life�s all help.

Help thine is needed from thee,
Oh, most beautiful one in the three cities,
Who has the cool flowers as her arrows,
Who uses the sweet cane for her bow,
And who has the rope and the ankusha in her hand,
To know that you are in the Vedas,
And in its different branches,
And as holy drops in Upanishads,
And as Pranava in its roots,.
And Oh mother, make me realize.

The same form of the word need not be used; as in if "help" is the last word in the first verse, "helped" can be the first word in the next. This serves to give some latitude for composition.

The last word of the last verse, will be the first word of the first, completing the entire cycle.

There are other Anthadis, dedicated to other gods will try to find those examples too.

Someday, a medium would be found, where we can translate everything, the beauty, the piety without losing those essential qualities. Till then...

Link to Sridala's anthadi.

© Sruthi Krishnan.


17 September, 2007

The Ghazal

What is a ghazal?

For the uninitiated (like me, so forgive me, oh scholarly ones, if I mess up any of this explanation), here are the basics.

• A short poem of between five and fifteen couplets in the same metre.

• Always opens with a rhyming couplet called matla. The opening couplet of the ghazal is always representative. It sets the mood and tone.

• The rhyme of the opening couplet is repeated in the second line of the other verses. So, the rhyming pattern is AA, BA, CA, DA, and so on. But it's not that simple.

• The entire ghazal uses the same rhyme and refrain. The rhyme (called the qaafiyaa) must always immediately precede the refrain (or radif). The refrain may be a word or phrase.

• Each couplet is a unit which can stand on its own, as a sher in its own right.

• There can be no enjambement across the couplets in a strict ghazal; each couplet must be a complete sentence (or several sentences) in itself.

• In the maqta, which is the last sher of a ghazal, the poet's takhallus, or pen name, traditionally appears, often in very creative ways.

This is what a ghazal looks like:

Couplet one:

------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)
------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)

Couplet Two, Three, & so on:

------------------------------ rhyme A (Qaafiyaa)+ refrain (Radif)

References and further reading (Some of these did not appear in the original post)

(Thanks Annie, who suggested this exercise, and provided the first three links.)

What is a Ghazal? by Abhay Avachat

Elements of a Ghazal, in Urdu Poetry Archive

Urdu Ghazal: an introduction, by K C Kanda in Urdu Poetry Archive

Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001 a Kashmiri-American poet who wrote original ghazals in English, and translated Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

Basic Points about the Ghazal, by Agha Shahid Ali

The Wikipedia Ghazal page

Jeet Thayil's Ghazal in Salt Magazine.

That Bastard Ghazal, by Andy Weaver, in

The Ghazal: An Inevitable Unity, by Jenny Burdge in Trilopia

The link to the original post, below, will take you to a Ghazal exercise on the forum.


13 September, 2007

Coming soon: the Caferati blog, Version 2

As some of you—very few, alas—have noticed, we have temporarily closed the Caferati blog.

Why? Well, we found that some posts on the blog had never appeared on the forum. It seemed to us like some members were now completely ignoring the forum that is this blog's home. Many others hadn't posted for over a year. And we think that some of what was posted is really rather far from being the best of Caferati.

So we did a rethink.

The blog will soon reopen in a new avataar, one that will bring back its initial focus, to be a Caferati showcase to the world. The moderators, with a selected team of curators/editors* (which we will announce soon), will select what we think is the best writing from the forum and post those to the blog. (The posting page on the forum has been changed to notify all members about this.)

In other words, the only writing that will appear on the blog from now on will be writing that has been selected and voted for by the curating team.

Of course, since many of the original members were invited to the blog because we liked their writing, we're sure you will continue to read work by some of your favourites.


Peter (and also for Annie and Manisha)


Meet the new curators of this blog:
Ashwini Ailawadi
Rohinton Daruwala
Peter Griffin
Priyanka Joseph
Manisha Lakhe
Sridala Swami
Anita Vasudeva
Annie Zaidi

Posting will start soon.