Wednesday, August 10, 2005

work in progress - maps, poetry

Naksha utha ke koi naya sheher dhoondiye
Is sheher main to sab se mulakat ho gayi.

Pick up a map and look for some new city
In this town, everyone’s already been met.

For me, reading Nida Fazli is like walking gingerly through an unmarked minefield with a hangover. A well written sh’er is a killer couple of lines, packed with enough resonant metaphors and allusions to explode like a bomb, shifting the paradigmatic ground from under the reader’s feet. And Fazli is the master bomb maker. He has a special trick up his sleeve, this most reflective of poets. He looks at his experiences and feelings as if at battle scars in a polished full length mirror. Then he shatters the mirror and packs the pieces in as shrapnel. And the next time a disaffected, angst filled ‘sensitive’ city dweller, someone like your or me, hears a song on the radio, turns a page in a book, they don’t know what’s hit them. It feels like being mugged in the most familiar of streets, like waking up to be told you have no legs to stand on. But before you are blinded by the brilliance of the explosion, before the sharp slivers slice through your pretensions, you look into the mirror shards, and see a reflection of your own self you haven’t seen before.

The two lines at the beginning, a terse command, were the sudden eloquent realization of a feeling that had been gnawing wordlessly for years. The feeling that in a city, officially or unofficially, of well over ten million people, the few hundred I was likely to meet in all my time here were, in a sense, pre-ordained. That all my friends, acquaintances, lovers; everyone I converse with and/or drink with; I knew in my first years in the city, or are their friends. We bump into each other in the University, in Barista, at book launches at the British Council and films at Siri Fort, over drinks at Def Col, and occasionally even when slumming at the Nizamuddin Dargah…

Our paths cross so predictably, our city is so small. A friend is obsessed with the idea of ego-centric maps – a map of the world imagined with yourself as its centre. I have wandered this city much, but my map of Delhi still has huge swathes of grey; beyond Patparganj there be dragons.

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