Pablo Neruda – A Love Poem

The love poetry of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda continues to stir emotions and is complex and moving. His ‘Twenty Love Poems’ brought him to prominence and became a touchstone for many. Considered on par to Shakespeare, his work is known only by small percentage of the population in the English speaking world. Working as a diplomat, his postings in Spain, France and Indonesia gave his writing much scope, propelling his work to the world stage:

Sonnet XLIV

You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
a word is one wing of silence,
fire has its cold half.
I love you in order to begin to love you,
to start infinity again
and never to stop loving you:
that’s why I do not love you yet.
I love you, and I do not love you, as if I held
keys in my hand: to a future of joy-
a wretched, muddled fate-
My love has two lives, in order to love you:
that’s why I love you when I do not love you,
and also why I love you when I do.

 

The Matter of Whiteness

The recent bill-board campaign by the British National Party in London for the Mayor’s election,  putting ‘Londoners First’ showing a working white class family – semi obese and content brought to mind Richard Dyers book entitled ‘White’.

In the culture of ‘White is Right’ – where the white majority feel they have to fight back to regain their whiteness and britishness, non-whites are beginning to feel the backlash – recently local council’s are doing away with specialist ethnic community groups in favour of ‘services for all’ and in the process losing vital knowledge necessary to combat racism, especially that of a feminist perspective.

Dyer’s ‘White’ seems somewhat time sensitive. Published in 1997 by Routledge as part of their ‘Cultural/studies/Race and Ethnicity’, much of the writing remains relevant – although it could do with a re-visit by Dyer. The publishers state that ‘white people are not literally or symbolically white. Yet they are called white. What does this mean? In Western media, white take up the position of ordinariness, not a particular race, just the human race… while racial representation is central to the organisation of the contemporary world, white people remain a largely unexamined category in sharp contrast to the many studies of images of ‘black and Asian peoples.’ 

Richard Dyer in his chapter entitled ‘The matter of Whiteness’ says that ‘this book is about the racial imagery of white people – not the images of other races in white cultural production, but the latter’s imagery of the white people themselves. This is not merely to fill a gap in the analytic literature, but because there is something at stake in looking at, or continuing to ignore, white racial imagery. As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people.’

 

Moin Shakir and ‘Women in Muslim Society’

Moin Shakir’s ‘Women in Muslim Society’ as it appears in ‘Status of Women in Islam’ edited by Asghar Ali Engineer, demonstrates that very few Islamic countries have in fact progressed at the desired pace. Much of what Shakir writes in ‘Women in Muslim Society’ can still be applied today.

Published in 1987, twenty years ago, the question of the position of women in Islam remains pertinent.

Shakir comments that ‘the practice of seclusion or veil existed in the pre-Islamic times. In the same way a number of customs which are now treated as Islamic have nothing to do with Islam. These customs and practices have been the features f the social and cultural life of the people who did not abandon them after embracing Islam. The example of the Indian Muslim social structure may be instanced here. This may be described the folk aspect of religion which may go or may not go against the letter and spirit of normative aspect of religion. In other words religion, normative or popular, is not and should not be viewed as an autonomous and independent phenomenon.’

Status of Women in Islam, edited by Asghar Ali Engineer was first published in 1987 by Ajanta Publications.

 

Romila Thapar – A History of India and the Absence of Satan

Romila Thapar’s ‘A history of India 1’ is worth every re-visit. I had the good fortune of coming across is some years ago, prior to that, I had very little knowledge of the historical make of the modern India, although her work stops at the arrival’s of the Europeans in the sixteenth century.

Published by Pelican, the book ‘traces the evolution of India before contact with modern Europe as established in the sixteenth century. Professor Thapar’s account of the development of India’s social and economic structure is arranged within a framework of the principal political and dynastic events. Her narrative covers some 2,500 years of India’s history, from the establishment of Aryan culture in about 1000 B.C. to the coming of the Mughuls in A.D. 1520 and the first appearance of European trading companies. In particular she deal’s interestingly with the many manifestation of Indian culture, as seen in religion, art, and literature, in ideas and institutions.

Thapar states that ‘the history of India in the first volume begins with the culture of the Indo-Aryans and not with the prehistoric cultures of India.’ She further says that ‘1526 marks the arrivals of the Mughuls in northern India and they were (amongst other things) actively involved in the future of Europe in India.’

In her chapter ‘The Antecedents’, Thapar says ‘wealth in India, as in every other ancient culture, was limited to the few. Mystical activities were also the preoccupation of but a handful of people. It is true, however, that acceptance of such activities was characteristic of the majority… whereas in some other cultures the rope-trick would have been ascribed to the promptings of the devil and reference to it suppressed, in India it was regarded with amused benevolence. The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.’

 

The New Face of the British National Party

Dear folks, I have been extremely busy with a number of projects so have not had an opportunity to put pen to paper until I came across a BNP bill board advertising for ‘real Londoners’.

I live and work in Southall and last week walking with a group of friends we were confronted with a the BNP ‘real Londoners’ bill board opposite the Hambrough Tavern, a pub that was burnt down by the local migrant community in protest of a meeting held by the National Front.

In recent years, BNP has been successful at getting elected but have failed miserably at running a council with in-fighting being the norm and lack of democratic process which is of course against the grain of the BNP as they are basically thugs.

The malaise and the lack of willingness on part of many voters not to come forward or to stay away deliberately is disconcerting. I know for a fact that a lot of young people in my extended family did not vote let alone register for a vote – they are too angry with the Labour government over the Iraq issue.

Perhaps we need the political and social structures to deteriorate to the levels of the early 70’s with ‘Paki bashing’ being the norm – perhaps then the generation of my nieces and nephews will feel compelled to be part of a political landscape.

Dogs – A Legacy for Pakistan

Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote ‘Dogs’ during the struggle against the British Raj,  but the words are as apt for the state of Pakistan  today. The feudal  system of the rule of the Bhutto’s  to the brutal regime of Musharraf exposes the lack of progress for a country created with a multitude of ambitions for its minorities.

Dogs
These wandering unemployed gods of the streets,
On whom has been bestowed ardour for beggary,
The curses of the age their property,
The abuse of the whole world their earnings;
Neither rest at night nor comfort in the morning,
Dwellings in the dirt, night-lodgings in the drains;
If they rebel, make one fight another,
Just show them a piece of bread –
They who suffers the kicks of everyone,
Who will die worn out with starvation…

If these oppressed creatures lifted their head,
Mankind would forget all its insolence:
If they wished they would make the earth either own,
They would chew even the bones of the masters –
If only someone showed them consciousness of degradation,
If only someone shook their sleeping tails!

Extract from ‘Poems by Faiz’ Translated by Victor Kiernan published by Vanguard Books (PVT) Ltd , South Publications, London

Khuda Ka Liye at the Tongues on Fire Film Festival

I have the pleasure of introducing and discussing Shoaib Mansoor’s directorial debut at the Brady Centre on 13 March at the Brady Centre. Screening starts at 11am and is free and open to all.

Khuda Ke Liye is a ground breaking Pakistani feature on the aftermath of 9/11.

Ras H. Siddiqui writing for Pakistan Link puts it succinctly when he stated that “I had the privilege to view Shoaib Mansoor’s widely acclaimed Pakistani movie “Khuda Kay Liye” or “In The Name Of God” on a full screen at NAZ8 Cinemas in Fremont , California. I call the viewing a privilege because Pakistani movies being shown to the wider public on a full screen in Northern California are something quite rare, even when the theatres screening them like NAZ8 are known for showing Indian (Bollywood) blockbusters. Since this was a 1PM show on a Saturday, we hurried to the venue to get a good seat. There were five of us and when we stepped into the theatre we were surprised that there was plenty of room. Either word about this movie has not circulated or the impact of pirated DVD’s had already been felt. But after seeing it I can write that this movie should not be missed by Pakistanis, Americans or other South Asians. We saw it with English subtitles but a great deal of this movie is already in the English language. South Asian films have overcome many barriers in the United States over the past few years. Most of them have been made by the Indian-Pakistani Diaspora resident in Britain, Canada and the US. Mira Nair, Hanif Kureishi and now Tariq Ali have entered into filmmaking for Western audiences. Mira’s “The Namesake” is being released on DVD and is being considered Oscar material. And indigenous Indian movies such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya are getting international funding. But where does this movie fit in? Khuda Kay Liye is a remarkable film that can compete with any movie coming out of either Hollywood or Bollywood these days. Unfortunately, it will not penetrate the mainstream US movie market because it is going to be very controversial on both sides of “the divide”.  Click here to read the full article.

You can contact Tongues on Fire for further details of screening and discussion on            020 8961 8908.