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Saturday, January 22

On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty-three !!

I know it is a little late but how often do you find somebody like John Milton writing a sonnet about turning 23.

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arrived so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits indu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven.
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Task-master's eye.

-- John Milton


Now at first look his poetry seems to be rather terse and lacking in warmth but I have found that it does has a way of growing on you over the time . "On His Blindness" makes much more sense now then it used to back in school. Following is an excerpt I found on the net while searching for Milton. I guess I am not too off the popular opinion here.

"Milton both in his life and work was cold and lonely. He was a master without scholars, a leader without followers. Him we can admire, but cannot love with an understanding love. Yet although we love Shakespeare we can find throughout all his works hardly a line upon which we can place a finger and say here Shakespeare speaks of himself, here he shows what he himself thought and felt. Shakespeare understood human nature so well that he could see through another's eyes and so forget himself. But over and over again in Milton's work we see himself. Over and over again we can say here Milton speaks of himself, here he shows us his own heart, his own pain. He is one of the most self-ful of all poets. He has none of the dramatic power of Shakespeare, he cannot look through another's eyes, so he sees things only from one standpoint and that his own. He stands far apart from us, and is almost inhumanly cold. That is the reason why so many of us find him hard to love."

-- H. E. Marshall


Is there some similarity to Bachchan here who is also called a Aatmvaadi kavi ? Unfortunately for most of the part, Milton is still pretty hard for me to read and comprehend on my own. So this comparision will have to wait.

Thursday, January 20

Language and Education - III : Arts

The arguments of last two posts seem to indicate that the future of human languages is quite bleak. There is however a silver lining in the black clouds.

As I see it now, the previous arguments fail if you want to apply them to things related to art. I am using this word in the broad sense of meaning most of the creative activities. Now in art, there is little role of "building on top". Surely to become a good writer, as anybody would tell you, you must read a lot or to produce good music, it helps to listen to a lot of good music. It helps but again whenever you start, you are at ground zero. You have to start on your own and buildup. The fact that Ghalib wrote very good sher-o-shayari, makes it no easy or no less creative for a new shayaar to start writing. Similarly Picasso's paintings might have influenced a lot of painters but each and every one of their works is a result of a journey they did alone.

Another point is that I think most of the art is very personal. A true artist creates and lets the creation go but that in way takes away the individuality that resides in those creations. And so something like "collective feelings" won't do. It just doesn't fit my concept of creativity as of now.

Now the problem of channel remains true even in this case. You will find no artist who will say that he has been able to convey exactly what he wanted in his creation. Because if he had been able to, there will be little motivation for that next one. However this vagueness is the biggest asset that languages and other mediums of artistic expressions have over a better channel. They allow the artist to keep his individuality and still give enough to the world. Naked feelings are too crude to be conveyed around. And anyway, we have always had that means of communication called inspiration that sciences lack so much. I think this combinations is very good for the purpose at hand.

Someday in retrospect, it will seem ironical that the first ones to dump languages were the sciences whom it served beautifully always and it took arts to save it and nurture it who always complained about its inadequacy for their purposes.

Language and Education - II : Future

While writing the last post, I again got a direction that led to my favorite theory of future evolution of human race, namely gaia or collective intelligence. I am not sure how much time it will take us to reach there and the chances of it happening in my lifetime or your are quite bleak. We are talking of evolution here guys :) !!

If you again consider the argument of last post and I would stick with the mathematics, today one needs to study a lot before he gets to the point where he can start making new contributions to a field and even then he/she ends up in a very specialized field. Now there are two things that make this model of progress inherently doomed.

First one is a little silly but it stands none the less. Most of the major contributions of a mathematician come at a young age and in the first half of his career. There are very few examples of ground breaking works from old mathematicians. For more on this, Hardy's "A Mathematician's Apology" is a good read. Now as the amount of the knowledge to be gained increases, the time you need to study and learn that increases and so the amount of time you have to contribute decreases. The solution lies in a way of quick learning. More on this in a while.

Second reason is that as we get more and more specialized and focused, we struggle to keep the big picture in mind and as a little look into the history of science and maths will tell you, real progress, real breakthroughs mainly come about from inter field explorations. Examples are Coordinate Geometry and most recently, proof of Fermat's last theorem that was the result of a beautiful result connecting the fields of Elliptic Integrals and Modular Forms. Remember, it took a life long ambition and decades of hard work on the part of one man to achieve it.

Now the obvious solution to this problem is collaboration but the effort needed to collaborate can be huge. It is tough for a professional topologist to understand more than 30-40% of a Number Theory Journal (okey, NT's language is easy but take any other field for that matter). And to look for the right techniques and keep track of all the work going on can be out of bounds for a human. If it is not yet, it will be very soon.

The common problem in both the above cases is that the communication between humans happens through language and words right now which if I go by information theory, is a channel that adds noise to the information being conveyed. Moreover the capacity of this channel is limited and we seem to be approaching that limit(think in terms of 100-200 years here). What is needed is a way to be able to communicate better both in quantity and quality. And as the whole evolution story tells us, if it is needed, it is going to comeup.

Some indications to that is already here in form of internet or cyberspace. It is nowhere near to what will come up eventually but it is a beginning in that direction. Machines still do not work as an entity but they can connect and in a way, even humans connect through them. May be this is just an experiment before the actual game with humans begins.

It is sad that languages whom I love so much and which have been so useful to us all this time, will have to phase out to allow for future things but may be not. That will require another post. Meanwhile Future looks exciting and I just can't wait !!

Language and Education - I

If one has to name one skill of human race that has enabled it to survive and prosper on earth, it will have to be the ability to build up on top of existing knowledge. And if we stretch the point a bit more, even the evolution of life is dependent on this very ability. The difference is that before the evolution of primates, this ability was mainly hidden in the genes, completely in the hands of nature, something called Natural Selection. But as the evolution happened and the brain size increased, species started to use this ability consciously and then came man and devised language.
Normally when we talk about language, we think of it as a medium to communicate information. But language also enables us to store information. The capability to store information protects against the attrition of knowledge and allows the coming generations to build on top of what has already been done.
And this is one of the aims of education that the champions of creativity sometimes completely forget. It is good to have creative, innovative people but for pushing the frontiers and for filling the details, we also need people who are knowledgeable.
Consider the example of Mathematics. A large number of people never get interested in this queen of sciences because they have to suffer a bad teacher early on in the education. But this doesn't undermine the importance of education. The amount of mathematics that has already been done and is being generated everyday is enormous. The probability of one person mastering all the 3 main branches of mathematics had become negligible in the beginning of this century and currently the situation is that mathematician as a profession name is nothing more than a crude generalization. Now a days we have professions like algebraic topologists, functional analysts and so on. Now before you can start making any significant contribution to the mathematics, you have to study a lot and that requires many of the habits that education, and I mean "regular classroom education" imparts us. It can be a matter of debate that had Ramanujam got proper school training what would have happened to him but we are all aware of the problems he had to face because of lack of it. He discovered a large part of work done by Europeans in the last 200 years and then started building on top of that. Had he been able to pick all that up in a proper training, he might have proved to be much more productive.
The idea is that education saves us from reinventing the wheel. Inventing it might be a fun and most innovative thing to do but not very useful !!

Saturday, January 8

Ek Ghazal

This one is a proper Ghazal following all the rules of form of Ghazal. The meter of different shers might be a little off but I hope it is bearable.

kabhi hans ke thodi shikayat karenge, meri jaan sun na
ki sapno ki tanhai me kuch kahenge, meri jaan sun na.

range kore kagaz the pahle bhi maine, magar tumse mil ke,
ajab dard aaya hai nagmon me mere, meri jaan sun na.

Machalna to hai dil ki aadat purani, magar is dafa to,
buna dhadkano ne bhi hai ek tarana, meri jaan sun na.

jo taareekh me darz ho na sakin, aisi kuch daastanen,
shab-e-taar me gungunaate hain taare, meri jaan sun na
[shab-e-taar - dark night]

hawayen kahengi khalish mere dil ki , magar apne muh se
kah na sakoonga main tumse abhaga, meri jaan sun na.
[khalish - pain]

Wednesday, January 5

Na uthe sitaaron ki paalki !!

kabhii yuu.N bhii aa merii aa.Nkh me.n ke merii nazar ko Khabar na ho
mujhe ek raat navaaz de magar uske baad sahar na ho
[navaaz - to grant]

vo ba.Daa rahiim-o-kariim hai mujhe ye sifat bhii ataa kare
tujhe bhuulane kii duaa karuu.N to duaa me.n merii asar na ho
[rahiim-o-kariim - kind & generous; sifat - talent]

mere baazuo.n me.n thakii thakii , abhii mahav-e-Khvaab hai chaa.Ndanii
na uThe sitaaro.n kii paalakii, abhii aahaTo.n kaa guzar na ho

ye Gazal ki jaise hiran kii aa.Nkho.n me.n pichhalii raat kii chaa.Ndanii
na bujhe Kharaabe kii roshanii, kabhii becharaaG ye ghar na ho

vo firaaq ho yaa visaal ho, terii yaad mahakegii ek din
vo gulaab ban ke khilegaa kyaa, jo chiraaG ban ke jalaa na ho

kabhii dhuup de, kabhii badaliyaa.N, dil-o-jaa.N se dono.n qubuul hai.n
magar us nagar me.n na qaid kar jahaa.N zindagii kii havaa na ho

kabhii din kii dhuup me.n jhuum ke kabhii shab ke phuul ko chuum ke
yuu.N hii saath saath chale.n sadaa kabhii Khatm apanaa safar na ho
[shab - night]

mere paas mere habiib aa zaraa aur dil ke qariib aa
tujhe dha.Dakano.n me.n basaa luu.N mai.n ke bichha.Dane kaa kabhii Dar na ho
[habiib - beloved]

--Bashir Badr

And to really appriciate it, you have to listen to its rendition by Hussain brothers who bring out the magic hidden in these words beautifully and make it almost palpable. If you are a Ghazal listener and you have not listened to Ustaad Ahmed Hussian and Mohammed Hussain, you have missed out on something big. Just rush and grab a copy of one of their albums or if u can, listen to them at www.musicindiaonline.com in Ghazal section.

Tuesday, January 4

Pune Visit

One of these days I may write more about it but for the time being, he said it all.

Monday, January 3

From last year !

3.

chalo mere saath jab tak raaste apne judaa hote nahi,
musaafir chaar din ke hum, kisi ko bevafa kahte nahi.

hain is umeed me kayam nafas ke silsile ab tak,
ki mera muntazir hoga, liye voh haath me khanjar kahin.
[Nafas: breath,saans Muntazir: one who waits]

asar deedar ka hai ya ki kaafir ho gaya hoon main,
tamanna-e-parastish hai magar koi khuda bhata nahi.
[parastish: worship]

bahut si khwahishen aayin humaare darmiyan lekin,
na main badla abhaga, na meri aawargi badli kahin.

1.
Zinda rahe to fir milenge,
haal-e-dil tumse fir kahenge,
aur karenge umeed,
ki kabhi kisi udaas shaam me,
tumhaari aankhon se ek aanson humaare naam ka bhi bahega.

Zinda rahe to fir milenge,
haal-e-dil tumse fir kahenge,
aur karenge umeed,
ki kabhi kisi andheri raat me,
taaron ki us barat me ek chehra tumhe humaara bhi dikhega.

Zinda rahe to fir milenge,
haal-e-dil tumse fir kahenge,
aur karenge umeed,
ki chahe tum mujhe bhool bhi jao,
tumhaare dil me thoda sa dard humaare naam ka fir bhi rahega.

Zinda rahe to fir milenge,
haal-e-dil tumse fir kahenge,
aur karenge umeed,
ki yon to mahfil me ashraar bahut se pade jaayenge,
humaare dil ke chaalon per bhi koi to wah wah ker uthega.