Saturday, June 9, 2007

This Above all
Vanishing joys of a journey


I am in a bad temper. I have good reasons to be. I was on the National Highway Number 1 for six hours. It is ironic that 10 years ago I did the journey from the outskirts of Delhi to the Shivalik foothills in under four hours. Then they made it a dual highway to make journeys faster. It added an hour or more to my journey. A few years ago they decided to expand the dual highways, erect over-bridges across crowded bottlenecks like Panipat and other towns. Now it has become a chaos of honking buses, trucks, tractors, three-wheelers, motor cycles and cars. You crawl along most of the way. I have tried alternative modes of transport — train up to Chandigarh or Kalka, and then by car to Kasauli. I could get to my destination by the afternoon. As I aged I found it difficult to schedule myself according to Shatabdi timings, getting on and off the train and walking through crowded platforms. So I went back to car and took my own sweet time travelling from door to door.

This time again in Nanak Kohli’s fancy Mercedes Benz I left Delhi at 8.15 a.m. with gulmohars blazing along the route. I reached Karnal by 11 a.m. The onward journey, particularly after Ambala, was a day-time nightmare. We lost our way three times because there were no sign-boards to indicate which road went to Patiala, which to Chandigarh or Amritsar and which to Kalka and Shimla. I reached Kasauli at 4.30 p.m., more dead than alive. Why I call it disgraceful is because all it needed were large sign-boards to direct travellers to their destinations. It could have been done in one day.

What can we do about over-crowded roads? As it is, almost the entire route is lined on both sides with shops, dhabas, hotels, farm houses, factories, schools, temples and gurdwaras. A few stretches of open farm land remains. At this time of post-wheat harvest, the only thing that caught my eye were squares of golden-yellow of sun flowers cultivated for extracting-cooking oil. It is a drab countryside. It will grow drabber as we continue to breed like rabbits; pressure on agricultural land increases relentlessly.

My mood changed as we entered the Shivaliks at Kalka. Usually this is a chronic bottleneck. This time we glided through the congested bazaar on the road to Shimla. Recent rains had washed the hillsides and every tree and bush was clear and green. It was the blossom time for Neelams (Jacarandas) which were out in all their glory. It is hard to describe them: blue saphhires, lapislazuli aquamarines — all freshly polished and glistening in sunlight. They continued to gladden my eyes till I got to my summer abode.

Omar Khayyam in Punjabi

Omar Khayyam would not have been known to the English-speaking world but for the translations of his rubais by Scott Fitzgerald. Many previous scholars have criticised him for having taken too many liberties with the original but no one doubts that he did a great job in producing the most readable poetry which is at once profound, profane and poetic. Once read, it stays in one’s mind for ever.

S.S. Jogi of Kapurthala has used Scott Fitzgerald’s version in English to translate some select rubais in Punjabi. He has also added some Persian originals to his compilation. He has done a most commendable job; it must have taken him many years working on them. He was born in Quetta (Pakistan) in 1929, graduated from Panjab University, Chandigarh, and worked as paramedic till he took premature retirement in 1978. Since then he has been living in Kapurthala, composing poetry and periodically donating blood to the Blood Bank.

I give a couple of samples of his translations:

Here with a loaf of bread beneath the Bough

A flask of wine, a book of verse — and thou

Besides me singing in the wilderness —

And wilderness is paradise enow.

(Rukh dee thandee chhavein hovey, kole jo kave pataaree

Dey key madh piyaala too mainoo chhohein geet piyaaree

Kisey veeraney vich vee saanoo mil jaavey jo rotee

O veerana jaapey manoo surgaan kolon bhaaree)

There was a door to which I found no key;

There was a veil past which I could not see;

Some little talk awhile of me and thee

There was — and then no more of thee and Me

(Ik booha jo jatnaan bajhon maithon khul na paaya

Ik parda jis apney ohley sagla maram lukaya

Mayree teyree charcha utthey bas kuch pal hee hoee

Teyr meyr da zikar na usdey magron gaya alaya)

Sonia vs Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi: Mummy, aapki vajah sey meri shadi nahi ho rahi.

(The reason for my not getting married is you.)

Sonia Gandhi: Kaisey (How)?

Rahul Gandhi: Har taraf likha hai, ‘Sonia ko bahumat do’ (everywhere it is written: don’t give bahu to Sonia)

(Contributed by Shivtar Singh Dalla, Ludhiana)


Kissa Kiss Ka

Believe it or not, heard Richard Gere murmuring:-

Hangama hai kyu barpa

Kiss hee to kee hai

Daka to nahin daallaa

Chori to nahin kee hai!

(Courtesy: KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)