Saturday, April 21, 2012

the user of metaphors in indian poetry.. part II

After Sanskrit literature, we find a long time when the major part of the literature was in pali or prakrit.

This article speaks about the literature in general and metaphors in the passing.

but my interest is in the new metaphors brought in from the west - in particular, the middle ages. after this , we come to the bhakti movement, which is full of simple metaphors , taken from everyday life, and being used to explain deep spiritual concepts. these are my personal favorites in indian literature. imho, after kalidasa, the metaphor really saw its days of glory in the bhakti movement.
among others..
To this day, i find modern indian poetry replete with metaphors. Be it Manjeet Kaur Tiwana's "ladkiyaan" or Adee's Ainak and who can forget Gulzar's amazing use of parallels to draw pictures in our minds..

My all time time favorite use of metaphor?
Amrita Pritam's this couplet:

Ek dard hai, jo maine cigarette ki tarah piya hai,
kuchh nazmein hain, jo raakh ki tarah jhaadi hain..

and this one:
nazm kabhi kagaz ko dekhe
aur yun munh mode,
jyun kagaz paraya mard hota hai..


there.. my ode to metaphors and the beauty they bring to life.. is done.. for now.

the use of metaphors in traditional indian poetry

i love metaphors. because, they serve a purpose much bigger than entertainment in literature. metaphors teach us to instinctively do what is called in jargon - horizontal benchmarking. metaphors allow us to pick up lessons from completely unrelated contexts, and to apply those lessons to another context in a meaningful way.

it saddens me that traditional indian literature - both classics and folk, are so ignored by our children and by our education. The natural, spontaneous use of metaphors in our growing up, teaches us to connect dots across contexts as a matter of habit. Thats a skill that a lot of low context cultures will give an arm and a leg to learn. so why do we choose to throw this important learning aid away?

even in religious literature, we find abundant use of metaphors.

Lets start with the oldest book known to mankind - the Rig Veda (the link takes you to only one of the many metaphors that we find in the Vedas, but i thought this one was beautiful)

Sanskrit literature, in general, thrives on metaphors.. In fact, the critics in Sanskrit knew the difference between similes, metaphors, and something in between.

Kalidasa, of course, was the king of is impossible to talk of metaphors in poetry and to ignore Kalidasa, even today.:

O king! you are the finest among men with self-control. It is not fit of you to be struck by sorrow like the ordinary folk. If a great wind can move a tree and a mountain equally, how is the mountain better?

We have an unbroken tradition of THINKING in metaphors. This, imho, allows us to understand related concepts  across unrelated domains.

ps: i found this article on the timeline of indian lit very interesting.

kalidasa ka swayamvara

The story goes that a very erudite princess would marry no one, because she insisted on marrying only someone wiser than herself. the condition was that the suitor must defeat her in a shastrarth ( interpretation of the shastras). the shastrarth had to be mauna (silent, using only actions).
kalidasa, who was a simple fool, was dressed and brought to this swayamvara by some of the rejected suitors. The princess first raised a hand. In response, Kalidasa raised 2 hands. Next, the princess showed him her hand outstreched, to which he replied by flashing his fist in air.
The princess accepted defeat. However, everyone in the assembly was curious and asked the princess to explain. She said: "i first said, there is one sun, and he said, no, there are two - the sun and the moon are cosmic partners. Then, i showed him 5 fingers for the 5 elements, and his reply to that was that they all come together to form the substance, like the 5 fingers come together to form a fist."
Everyone, except the rejected suitors who brought Kalidasa to the swayamnvara, was very impressed. but the suitors took Kalidasa away and asked him for his interpretation of the shastraarth.

First she said, i will pull out one of your eyes, and i said, i will pull out both of your eyes!
Then she threatened me with a slap and i replied to say she will get a punch if she tries that with me!

Moral of the story: All our actions are interpreted by our contexts.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

the witch goddess

are not a girl.
you are
a witch goddess.
it is your religion
to irretrievably break the hearts
placed at ur altar
so they can never
love, or dream, or hope again..

you, the thrasher of
all things hope
and the destroyer of
every ounce of unselfish love
in a heart..

will never know,
or realise, or care
how much bitterness
you brought into the world
when you broke
those hearts
in jest.

ye suno, aur phir ye...