Category Archives: Musings

This year’s addition to the fountain pen collection…

Some of you who are close to me personally or professionally are aware that I use fountain pens almost exclusively for writing and also maintain a small collection. I wrote with my first fountain pen in fifth grade (1977) and in spite of all the messiness of ink all over my fingers, I have always preferred the feel of the ink-and-nib mechanism over the rolling-ball or simple gel mechanism.

While finding fountain pens became difficult over the years and certainly after I moved to the US of A, what became really difficult was getting the right paper that would neither bleed (most standard paper do) nor prevent the ink from drying (too glossy surface).  At the same time, it had to be smooth enough that the pen did not pick up any fibre from the surface that would muck up the capillary gap in the tongue of the nib. As a result, I normally stock up on writing pads once I find them to be fountain pen safe and almost always use a fine point nib only. I do have a very small cache of broad, italics and extra fine nibs for some calligraphic writing. (I am not very good at it though).

Annually, I add a few pens during the Fountain Pen Show in Atlanta. This year I went for some dual-toned bodies with bright colors. The total collection is starting to get close to the half century mark.

Missed my partner in crime Roger Whitney this year…

Old habits die hard!!

She came in to the music room saying she would listen to some music with me…

… and landed up stealing the only one audience member I used to have.

I should have known better, for…

… this is exactly what she had done to my heart too twenty five years back …

Throwback to another evening thirty four years back

I had just finished my tenth exams and my NTSE (National Talent Search Exam – a standardized test in India for earning scholarships for higher education) tests. On a whim, decided to visit Swarup-da in Bishnupur. Swarup-da was my teacher who helped me to appear for my NTSE tests.

I recollect vividly sitting outside his parents’ house in some dim light with his sister Shikha-di, his close friend – Lalmohan Agarwal and of course, himself. We were all sitting out in the open and listening to some unbelievable songs from the movie “Nikaah”. Helped by Lalmohan, we unraveled the meaning of the lyrics that evening. (Hindi was not the forte of any of the other three).

This is one of those great numbers that I listened to again this evening … from the haunting voice of Salma Agha.

“Dil ke armaan aansuon mein bahe gaye
Hum wafaa kar ke bhi tanha rahe gaye
Zindagi ek pyaas ban kar rahe gaye
Pyaar ke kisse adhoore rahe gaye
Shaayad unka aakhri ho yeh sitam
Har sitam, yeh soch kar ham sahe gaye
Khud ko bhi humne mita daala magar
Faasle jo darmiyaan the rahe gaye”

Roughly translated… (improvements welcome)

“My heart’s desires flowed down thru my tears
I was left alone even after putting my faith in you
Life remained for me as as an unquenched thirst
And my story of love remained incomplete for life
Hoping it would be the last blow (suffering) from him
I endured every last blow (suffering) from him
I obliterated my own self; and yet
The distance between us remained as unfathomable as ever”

Erroneous conclusion!!

The way my fellow Indian brethren display haste – you know like getting up from our seats barely after the plane touches ground or crowd at the gate all simultaneously moment they start boarding, you might be tempted to conclude that we are fastidious about being punctual or something.

Far from the truth, I assure you 🙂

We just don’t want you to reach anywhere before we do 🙂

Oh! The inimitable PGW!!

“It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.”

– from “The Girl in Blue” by P.G.Wodehouse

His Master’s Bol: Friday evening… always means some solo time with tabla and the dog

After meeting Sunita last week, I was thrown back to my MBA days this weekend. I remember, when everybody would be out and about during the weekend, I would be in my dorm room with low lights listening to Ghulam Ali. My next door neighbor – Tej Mohan Singh Chhabra – often used to drop by and help me translate the songs. Tej, if you are listening, you might remember this song that we once listened to together…

“Humko kiske gham ne maara
Yeh kahaani phir sahi
Kisne toda dil hamara
Yeh kahaani phir sahi
Dil ke lootney ka sabab
Poochho na sabke saamne
Naam aayega tumhara
Yeh kahaani phir sahi”

As he explained that evening, this means…

“Do not ask me whose sorrow killed me
Let’s talk about it later some time
Who tore apart my heart…
Let’s talk about it later some time
The name behind who plundered my heart
Please do not ask in front of everybody
For your name might just come up
Let’s talk about it later some time”

The World Happiness Report is out!

The Top ten countries are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Apparently, to be very happy, you need to live in shivering cold 🙂

India (my birth country) is at rank #122. Its arch nemesis Pakistan is #80 and every other (much smaller) neighbor – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and get this – Myanmar – has outranked it. Upon reading this, India slipped further 3 ranks this morning 🙂

Finally, there is a curious correlation between per capita alcohol consumption and happiness index. I am not suggesting any causality. Just saying 🙂

For serious readers who want to read the article and how the indices are measured… here it is…

Winding down with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

“Mere rashk-e-qamar tu ne pehli nazar,
Jab nazar se milaayee maza aa gaya
Bara si gir gaii kaam hi kar gaii,
Aag aisi lagaaii maza aa gaya”

Trying to translate this is not going to be easy. The first big challenge is explaining the import of a simple phrase as “maza aa gaya”. Literally it might be said it means “(I) became overjoyed”. But it really conveys a lot more. Elements of “ecstasy” is carried thru in that phrase. And elements of “unparalleled” nature of joy is conveyed thru that phrase.

The second challenge is to translate the construct of Urdu phrases. They are constructed almost the opposite of English phrases, sequentially speaking. “Rashk e qamar” is best understood as “envy of moon”. Basically, he is describing her as somebody whose beauty is the subject of envy by the moon.

Let’s see if this does any justice…

“Oh! You – who is the envy of the moon, your first glance
When it met my own eyes, it flung me into a world of ecstasy

(And in that look) Lightning struck and completely charred me
You lit such a fire that I burnt in a fire of that ecstasy.”

His Master’s Bol (HMB) – Friday evening relaxation

“Mere ashk bhi hai is mein
Ye sharaab ubal na jaaye
Mera jam chhoonewaale
Tera haath jal na jaaye

Meri zindagi ke maalik
Mere dil pe haath rakhna
Tere aane ki khushi mein
Mera dam nikal na jaaye”

Roughly translated…

Referring to the goblet of wine…

“My tears are flowing in this goblet too
Hope the wine does not spill over
You – who is trying to touch my goblet
Be careful that your fingers don’t get singed.

Oh! You – who truly own my life
Place your hand on my heart
(So that) In my ecstasy that you have finally come
I do not run out of breath (and die) !!

His Master’s Bol – Sunday for a change…

“Aaj ki baat phir nahi hogi 
Yeh mulaqat phir nahi hogi
Aise badal to phir bi aayenge
Aisi barsaat phir nahi hogi”

Roughly translated…

“We will not talk about today again
Our meeting will not happen again
We will have overcast skies like this again
But we will never have the rains like this again”