Enjoy Fuzziness …

Audible Frontiers did a shared universe stories called METAtropolis with John as one of the authors and the editor of the anthology. That was my first encounter with John’s writing and I enjoyed it. So when Powells Books announced John’s visit to their bookstore, I was there.

He was amazing, as I have already mentioned in this piece here.

John was on the tour of promoting his new book Fuzzy Nation, which is rebooting of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I finally got to the book last night (I have a long reading list).

The story is retelling of the 1962 tale, so overall the story has classic Sci-Fi written all over it. Jack Holloway, a debarred lawyer, is a loner. He works as a contractor for an “evil” mining corporation that generally mine on planets across the galaxy, till the planet has nothing to offer. The mining company, by law, can only mine on the planets which do not have sentient life forms. Jack is on the verge of becoming very rich since he helped discover the largest mine of the rare gemstones on any planet. He has also discovered a new sort of “animals” on the planet (which Jack names Fuzzy). This poses a threat to the company who will not be allowed to mine, if proven that these beings are “people” (natives). Jack undergoes an ethical crisis.

The story take a legal turn and the battle between three parties – Jack who wants to get rich, the Biologist community who are excited about this new discovery (who are employed by the company) and want to study these new species, and the future CEO of the company, who wants to stall the legal battle and get the minerals out before anyone can sneeze & to prove to everyone that he is ready to take over the company.

And in this tussle, is suspended the fate of the Fuzzies, that no one has yet decided if they are “animals” or “people”.

A gripping story of legal drama, action, emotions, in an all updated Sci-Fi classic.
Fuzzy Nation is one of those books which I finished in a single sitting in a long time. I generally take my time, and finish the book in couple of days.
Fuzzy Nation was something that gripped me right from chapter 1 and 3.5 hours later, I was done. I could not put it down. The flow of the story maintains the pace, and subtle twists and turns keep the reader guessing.

Audible.com released the audio for the book read by Wil Wheaton, who does an amazing job. After finishing the book, I realized, there is no one else who could have read it better.
Audible book also includes the original H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy.

I never read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. And after reading Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi, which is a sort of rebooting the series, I think I should have (maybe I will listen to it on the audiobook).

A great book, I highly recommend this to anyone – Sci-Fi lover or not.

Check out John Scalzi’s Blog – Whatever.

JPS Nagi
July 2011

We’re more than animals …

Remember those classic Sci-Fi stories you used to read as a kid where robots are alive and they have turned evil.
Robopocalypse brought those memories back for me!

Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is man-versus-machine tale – the story of how the robots turn against the humans. The author weaves a modern and plausible tale, which can happen in next 20-30 years, considering how many smart machines we have in our lives.

The robotic apocalypse is orchestrated by a single central super computer, Archos, who takes humanity by surprise all around the world. Archos takes control over the entire ensemble of machines in the world – smart phones, smart cars, bi-peds, domestic robots, telephones, satellites, machines – anything that has a computer or controller in it. And they start to work against human civilization and start evolving (the learning bots).

The entire novel is in flashback and told from points of views of several survivors from across the world. These survivors start to work on their own in Tokyo, Afghanistan, London, New York, and Oklahoma. As the story progresses, homo sapiens find ways to collaborate against the single enemy that they have created.

The story works at many different levels. Part 1 is grim as humans start to suffer, but engaging. As the story progresses, the action starts to come in. Then the survival instincts kick in, and finally collaboration. But more importantly, it is a tale of humanity and how pressure brings the best (mostly) and worst in people.

I enjoyed the book, because it brings back memories of the Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, the stories I grew up with and stories that fired my imagination as a kid.

This is also the first book I have read that is written in this style – each chapter is written in first person perspective of different characters. You can open any chapter in part 1 or part 2 of the book and read it. It is later, that all these threads start to come together. Many reviewers mention that this style has been used in few other books, but this was my first book in this style, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Daniel H. Wilson is a Robotics Engineer, a television host and a PhD. So many of the robots used in Robopocalypse are based on (or variant of) real world robots that exist today.

The audiobook is read by Mike Chamberlain who takes the book to whole another level. He changes accents based on the character being a Texan oil driller, a British telephone hacker, or a Native American from Okhlahoma among the few. A very well done audiobook. Available from Audible.com.

I enjoyed this book a lot, a fun to read, and to listen. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or to anyone who enjoys reading.
It is available from all major resellers as a book or an eBook.

Lastly, you may want to read this book before Steven Spielberg’s movie based on Robopocalypse comes out in 2013.

Check out Daniel H. Wilson’s blog.

Here is Daniel H. Wilson’s interview on YouTube.

Copyright JPS Nagi
July1, 2011.

Magic is magic … Bramble is bramble …

In Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Alchemyst and Tobias Buckell’s The Executioness we meet characters from the world where bramble has taken over fertile farm lands and use of magic is punishable by death. Once a glorious and prosperous world, where magic was practiced freely; now has bramble everywhere. Bramble has strange affinity to magic; it roots itself where it senses magic has happened.
People are now poor and they live under fear of bramble whose needles are fatal to humans. The governance of the land executes anyone caught doing magic to make an example of.

Paolo Bacigalupi introduces us to Jeoz, in the book The Alchemyst. Jeoz has seen better days with magic, but now uses a small un-noticeable magic to cure his daughter’s cough in a hope that no one finds out. He is a scientist and finds a solution to solve the problem of bramble. It tells a story of ethics of science, a story of a father whose daughter is chronically ill, and an evil “creature”. Jonathan Davis voices the varied cast created by Bacigalupi.

Tobias Buckell opens up a story of Tana in The Executioness, set in the same world. It is a story of a mother, a daughter, and a wife, who stands up when her world is turned upside down. She stands up for survival and to bring her family back together. On the way, she meets raiders, traders in caravans, and a ruler who is a religious zealot preaching that salvation from a bramble infested world is possible only by following path he preaches. The woman and her axe becomes “The Executioness”. Katherine Kellgren brings an exotic acceted performance in this fantasy world.

To say the books are amazing, could be an understatement.
Audible Frontiers once again brings exclusive audio release of these two stories under the shared world experiment (similar to the METAtropolis series, where Tobias contributed too).
The world is dark and grim. Hope and life are fading fast. And bramble is taking over.

The real books are very difficult to come by. The audiobook is available as a set from Audible.com.
A good read, rather a good listen, for the lovers of sci-fi and fantasy genre.

Here are the covers for the two books:

Check out Paolo Bacigalupi’s site here.


Check out Tobias S. Buckell’s site
here.

Check details of the set at Audible.com.

JPS Nagi
June 27, 2011

Keep writing John, and they will come …

Few years back, Audible Frontiers did an experiment – METAtropolis. This was a collection of 5 novellas about our future. John was the editor for these five stories.
That was the (audio)book that introduced me to John Scalzi.

Needless to say, I enjoyed his story. So when Powells Books event showed up on my calendar that John was visiting Powells, I thought, well let’s just see what he has to say.

John was a lot of fun. Very very very (did I say very?) funny guy …
Once he took to the dais, he offered the audience what to read “I can read from the new book Fuzzy Nation, or I can read chapter 1 of my upcoming book which has a working title, and that will be published in 2012, and which I think is amazing, and I will also give you a chance to guess the working title.”

“No pressure”.

“Let me see the hands of people who want me to read from Fuzzy Nation.” Only one (or maybe two) hand(s) went up.

“Who wants me to read from my upcoming book?” All the hands went up.

He started reading and before the sentence was up, he stopped and made everyone swear, that they won’t divulge what he is going to read, and also requested to turn off recording devices (really, I could record that, damn!).

“Raise you right hand, and say with me. I, insert your name here …”.
Audience, “I, insert your name here … “

After the oath swearing ceremony, he did read from his upcoming book, and someone did guess the working title correctly (although I could not hear it, as I was sitting in the back row).
And dude it was awesome !!! (also that he told us, this is how we explain it to the folks who missed his reading).

A quintessential reader; he did the voices, the antics, brings variations and emotions to his reading.
All in all, he made it a lot of fun (John, have you thought of doing your audiobook yourself?). For the next 25 minutes, he kept people laughing, and there was never a dull moment. I felt like I was in a comedy show.

After the reading he gave another anecdote – Tor.com did a survey of best Sci-Fi books of the decade and they found that the books with following words in the name come to the top and catch reader’s fancy – shadow, war, night, dragon, dead, city …
So on April 1 (Ahem!!!), it was announced on Tor.com that John Scalzi was going to write a book called “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons – Book 1 – The Dead City”.
During the Powells book signing, he read the first three sentences, the first sentence is 155 words long, and uses the word black 11 times (you can read it in the link below).

He was contacted for an interview by a well known daily to talk about his switching to Sci-Fi to Fantasy. And his agent was contacted by a well known Hollywood studio who wanted to make the movie on the Shadow War series.

John came out as a genuinely funny person. His anecdotes from his life and family and giving them a funny twist was commendable. He talked about his family, daughter, three very important cats in his life, and his blog – Whatever.
He related an anecdotes from his parenthood (which resonated with my own experience) that kids would pick up anything that they would hear as they are starting to speak.

All in all it showed how much fun a good author can have while doing the thing he or she loves – writing.

I am a fan John, an now I am going to read your works … right after I finish The Wheel of Time (I am more than half way through).

Check out John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation
… and as he wrote on my book Enjoy Re-fuzzyness

Thanks for a great evening, John. Keep writing, and they will come …

Here is a link to the “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons – Book 1 – The Dead City”
http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/04/the-shadow-war-of-the-night-dragons-book-one-the-dead-city-excerpt
I have to be honest here and tell you that I did not know any of this and the links were searched while writing this.

May 2011
JPS Nagi / Sonu

The Mighty Mountain

The Himalayas – the highest mountain range in the world. The place where the temperatures drop way below what humans can endure. The survival becomes a challenge, yet the life sustains under such harsh conditions.
A wonder of the world, the home of the highest mountains of the world.
Take a deep breath and join on a ride that traverse through the Great Himalayan Range and appreciate the sheer geographic diversity – from the verdant, forested valleys to the tropical jungles.

This is my audio-visualization of when I think of the mountains.
Welcome to the roof of the world.

Click Here to listen to The Himalayas (WMA for Windows)

Click Here to listen to The Himalayas (MP3 for Mobile)

April 2011
Copyright JPS Nagi

How Did Tesla Electrocute Himself and Live?

When 10-year-old Nikola Tesla, growing up in Croatia, saw an engraving of Niagara Falls in 1866, he envisioned a giant waterwheel harnessing the water’s power. In 1895, Tesla realized that vision. He helped George Westinghouse, founder of the Westinghouse Electrical Company, build a power plant at the falls. It transmitted electricity using a system that Tesla designed and that made electric power a feasible source of energy for the world.

Thomas Edison was the first person to transmit electric power to homes and businesses, but he relied on direct current, which can only go about a mile before losing potency. To power an entire city, Edison had to build generators for every neighborhood, and often for individual buildings. With that much equipment in operation, power failures and fires were common. Tesla pioneered the use of alternating current (AC), which could be transmitted hundreds of miles from centralized generating facilities, making the transmission of electricity safer and more efficient.

AC posed a threat to Edison’s generating business (soon to become General Electric), so he tried to portray it as unsafe. After one of Edison’s colleagues provided a Tesla-Westinghouse motor for the first electric-chair executions, Edison joked that the prisoners had been “Westinghoused.”

At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Tesla and Westinghouse fought back. Tesla displayed the world’s first neon signs, which were powered by AC and shaped to spell the names of famous scientists. He also shot two million volts of AC through his body, and came away unharmed–partly because he wore rubber shoes and partly because he used a high-frequency current; it danced harmlessly across his skin and bathed him in a blue halo of electric flame. His demonstrations convinced the public that AC was safe, and since then more than 80 percent of the electric devices sold have used alternating current.

The Mysterious Death of Pyotr Tchaikovsky

I am starting a new series - anecdotes from the lives of some famous people. Small snippets that I have collected over time. These are musicians, scientists, inventors - many that you know. Here is an mystery surrounding the death of famous Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

According to official reports, Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) died in his brother Modest’s apartment on November 6, 1893, just days after drinking contaminated water and contracting cholera. But rumors soon circulated that Tchaikovsky committed suicide after a homosexual affair threatened his reputation.

The rumors first surfaced because Tchaikovsky was not treated like a cholera victim. Health laws demanded, for instance, that the body be quarantined and sealed in a coffin as soon as possible. But a composer colleague reported viewing Tchaikovsky’s body at Modest’s apartment while choirs sang requiems and throngs of people looked on. Conflicting medical reports added to the suspicion that friends, relatives, and doctors were hiding the truth to shield Tchaikovsky’s legacy.

An unofficial account of Tchaikovsky’s death suggests that he’d become involved with the nephew of a powerful duke. Incensed about the affair, the duke denounced Tchaikovsky to Czar Alexander III, who convened a “court of honor.” The court, many now believe, sentenced Tchaikovsky to death by suicide, probably by poison.

Homosexuality was illegal in Imperial Russia. It was tolerated if accompanied by discretion, but public exposure could carry harsh consequences. Although Tchaikovsky’s closest friends and relatives knew he was gay, they guarded this knowledge carefully. The composer confided to his brother Modest, for instance, that his sexual desire for other men brought him inner torment, but only later did Modest characterize these illicit passions as the driving force behind his brother’s music. He claimed, for example, that unrequited love for a former classmate inspired Tchaikovsky’s rapturous adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. That same classmate would eventually serve as a judge on Tchaikovsky’s court of honor.

Copyright 2010
JPS Nagi

The Creator and His Creation (Guest Blog by Rana)

Back in the day when we were kids, we never thought where we would be when we grew up. And then we grew up. Scores of years later, I came across Rana, one more time through the internet.

When you walk away from a place, in your mind the time seems to have stopped for that place. In your mind, the images, the people freeze. My mind also had a picture of Rana as that guy I knew during school. I had frozen him back in that time too. As I started interacting with him, I saw him as a person I knew from cryogenic chambers of my mind, yet I saw another side of him. Even being separated by more than 6000 miles, I could easily identify with him. He is like my long lost brother.

Rana writes. And he writes beautifully. What follows here is a piece he shared with some of us recently. It is a well thought, well written piece. So I decided to share it with the world.

This is the first contribution "guest blog" by Gurpreet Singh Rana, and that too without his knowledge. His writings may seem small like marble, but if you look closer, they envelop the universe. I hope he will contribute more "knowingly" in days to come and tickle our gray matter.

Here he is with "The Creator and His Creation"

He sat alone one day thinking
What if I create a world of living beings?
Lo and behold and the earth came into seeing
And came the mountains, the oceans and the spring
Came the stars, the moon the sun and all other things
And all those beauties, emotions and the musings
Then came the greed of the man, the lust and the cravings
Drew they lines; the countries,the continents came into viewing.

Sad He sat as He saw the wars, battles and the deceit
Sad He sat as He saw the poverty, religious fanatics and the people cheat
Sad He sat as He saw the corruption, oppression and the truth taking a defeat.

A man sat alone one day thinking
Who is the one who has made all these belongings?
Is He there or is He not, or all are just imagining
This creation is a chain of reactions, apply some reasoning
How do I believe that He made all which I am perceiving?
I am the supreme; I am the creator, of all these worldly things
I controlled the floods; I carved the mountains, and even did cloning
I have the power to reach the moon and now I am who is controlling

He sat alone one day, but He was not sad
He had a smile on His lips as He saw the human being brag
He reflected and remarked, “Is this the beginning of the end?”

September 10, 2010
Copyright Gurpreet Singh Rana

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

In a midwinter afternoon in 1928, an Indian dressed eloquently in long overcoat, and a formal British attire of the times, walked towards the Lahore railway station. He was wearing expensive clothes, well groomed and wore a mustache as the only facial hair. The mustache was turned up on the ends showing his pride, the head was adorned by a suede hat turned on a side in style. He was closely followed by a lady carrying a small child. The lady was dressed as someone from rich Indian class. Three poor looking servants were carrying their luggage and following them. On their way from the horse cart to train station, they were stopped by the few British officers. Police asked for their identity cards, upon checking and satisfied, they let them go. One of their servants fell behind while carrying a heavy load. He was stopped by the officers. When the Sahib realized one of his servants was stopped, he turned around and kicked his servant. Follow us closely, he told him in anger. Officers were shocked at the sudden reaction by the Sahib, happy the way he was treating the poor servant, smiled at him and let the servant go. Indian Sahib asked the officers why the security is so tight on the railway station. Officers replied that they are looking for a young Sikh guy who had murdered J. P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police few days back. The sahib bid them good luck and walked towards the train going out of Lahore smiling and amused.

Earlier in 1928, the British government created a commission under Sir John Simon to report on the current political situation in India. The Simon Commission was boycotted by all Indian political parties because it did not include a single Indian as its member and it was met with protests all over the country. The commission arrived in Lahore on October 30, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led the non-violent march as a protest against the commission. But the police responded with violence and the police Superintended Scott beat Lala Lajpat Rai severely while the rest of the police force tried to keep the remaining protestors at bay. Lala Lajpat Rai later succumbed to his injuries. Among the people who were kept away from Lala ji was Bhagat Singh, a mere young man of 21 years of age.

Bhagat Singh was born to a family of freedom fighters in 1907. In his teen years he read ferociously about the European revolutions and developed communist viewpoint. During that time he believed strongly in Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. In 1922, at Chauri Chaura, few British officers attacked few members of demonstrators of for the Gandhian movement. In retaliation, the remaining party members attacked the police chowki (police station) and set it ablaze. When Gandhi heard of the incident, he called off the movement. Bhagat was about 14 years of age then, and he was disappointed when the movement was called off. He felt strongly that one should have right to defend one self. He had escaped his home to avoid an early marriage and later joined National College at Lahore where he excelled in studies and dramatics. When questioned later why he ran away from home, he told him mother that he is already married. She was shocked, and relieved when he said he is married to freedom and will one day bring home his bride.

During his years at National College, he became a member of Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Youth Society of India). He became popular and joined the Hindustan Republican Association who was bringing awareness among youth to fight for their freedom. He started writing for freedom newspapers in Urdu and Punjabi. He later organized a meeting of all the revolutionaries from all over India which was held under the name Kirti Kissan Party (Working Farmers Meet). He met and got highly influenced by Lala Lajpat Rai.

Bhagat was one of the eyewitnesses of Lala ji being beaten by Police Superintended Scott during the Simon Commission protest. They were shouting slogans “Simon Commission Waapis Jayo” (Simon Commission Go Back) with their banners saying the same in 4 different languages. Three weeks later, Lala ji died from the head injuries he received. Bhagat was highly moved by this incident and decided to avenge his death. Bhagat joined other revolutionaries – Shivaram Rajguru, Jai Gopal and Sukhdev Thapar in a plot to kill the police chief. They watched the movements of Scott for days. The plan was that Jai Gopal who was posing as a street side vendor, would signal when Scott comes out of the police station in Lahore and Bhagat was supposed to shoot. Sukhdev and Rajguru were supposed to cover him and shoot Scott when required.

On the day of the planning, a British Police officer in a large hat came out of the police station and Jai signaled his fellows. Bhagat fired a shot and pistol rang out in the heart of Lahore. Some guards outside the police station ran in to get guns. In the mean time Sukhdev and Rajguru joined Bhagat and the three emptied their pistols in the officer lying dead on the ground. It was then that they realized that the officer was not Superintendent Scott, but it was his deputy – J.P. Saunders. The three looked around to see if Scott would come out, but they saw guards coming out of the station with guns. The three ran in different directions. Guards got confused whom to follow. and they split after them. The confusion of the police and gave them few extra minutes to escape.

The days that followed, police searched almost every house in Lahore. Somehow the three of them stayed hidden to a pre planned location. When the police searches were conducted, they moved to a home of a fellow revolutionary – Batukeshwar Dutt, his wife and their kid. The three were treated as part of the family during the next few days. Police was getting strict in their searches. On one of the nights, while gazing at the heavens, Bhagat came down hurriedly, and took off his turban and cut his hair using a scissors, He asked his friends for razor and shaved off his beard. He kept his moustache and shaped it to turn up on the ends. “This is my pride” he said. Sukhdev and Rajguru were surprised, as he shaved his beard and cut his hair, a violation of one of the sacred tenets of Sikhism. His answer was “My religion is my country. What kind of religious person am I when I can not get my motherland out of the chains of slavery.”

He obtained some clothes that looked like upper class Indian clothes and a hat. The wife of his fellow revolutionary posed as his wife with a kid, the remaining three as their servants and they made their escape from the Lahore train station via train. The officers who checked their identities did not realize that the family of Sahib that just passed was in fact the very person they were looking for. The police searched more and found no traces of Bhagat Singh. He has excaped right under their noses.

During the weeks that followed, British government enacted the Defence of India Act to give more power to the police. The Act was to combat revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and was defeated in the council by one vote. However, the Act was then passed under the ordinance that claimed that it was in the best interest of the public. Bhagat Singh’s Hindustan Socialist Republican Association planned to explode a bomb in the assembly where the ordinance was going to be passed. The idea was to create noise and make people aware of this act so that they can protest against it. Chadrashekhar Azad attempted to stop Bhagat Singh from carrying out the bombings indicating that assembly would difficult to escape from. Bhagat response was why they would want to escape, when they can get more attention and awareness. Seeing all arguments fail with Bhagat and others have made up their mind too, Azad gave up. It was decided that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would throw the bombs in the assembly and then distribute pamphlets which discuss the Act to bring awareness.

April 8, 1929 is when Bhagat and Batukeshwar entered the assembly silently. And when the act was brought up, they stood up, and threw noise makers in the corridors of the assembly and shouted Inquilab Zindabad! (Long Live the Revolution!). They opened the front of their overcoats which revealed colorful leaflets talking about the Act and started showering and handing out the leaflets. They stood there and waited to be arrested, as they knew the escape would surely kill them due to the security outside the assembly. The bomb neither injured nor killed anyone, Singh and Dutt claimed that they used a noisemaker, a claim later confirmed by British forensics, that the bomb was not powerful enough to kill or injure anyone. Still they were sentenced to Transportation for Life for the bombing on June 12, 1929.

The trial followed for the bombings and eventual involvement with Saunders killing was brought to light too. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were charged with the murder. The rest of the members of their party were also captured one by one and they were all tried together. Bhagat Singh decided to use the court as a tool to publicize his cause for the independence of India and bring the awareness among the youth. They admitted to the murder and made statements against the British rule during the trial which were highly publicized in both British and Indian papers. Singh would quote past European revolutions and British Law and Policies. He would argue how they were wrong and how the British should learn from the history of their continent. Due to their anti-British arguments in the trial, the case was ordered to be carried out without the convicted being present at the hearing. This decision was met with an uproar among their followers as the public was now waiting to hear his views.

In jail, Bhagat and others led a hunger strike advocating for the rights of prisoners and undertrials. British jails at that time were treating murderers and thieves better than political prisoners, who, by law, were meant to be given better rights. The strike lasted more than two months and they eventually got better food for political prisoners, books and a daily newspaper. The British also agreed to provide better clothing, hygienic living conditions. He also demanded that political prisoners should not be treated to forced labor. British succumbed to their wishes which resulted in making Bhagat famous outside the prison walls beyond Punjab. His popularity grew in the subcontinent among the young Indians whom he had inspired. People started to ask to be treated better from their British masters.

Being a ferocious reader from his young years, he devoured books in prison. He also kept a diary. He would read different books and note down quotations that he liked in his diary. He became friends with the jailor and other officers due to his good behavior. He befriended a homicide murderer who is said to have been influenced by him. He would sit down and have long talks with him. He turned from a heartless murderer to a person who was praying day and night to spare Bhagat’s life.

The numerous supporters had been protesting against the hanging. Bhagat’s parents were struggling emotionally outside the jail. They had pride in their eyes from the revolution their son had started and also sadness from the upcoming loss. Bhagat had met his parents and sister earlier that day. His mother was last to see him. He asked forgiveness from his mother as he had not brought home the bride he had promised her. He also asked her not to cry when he is gone. “You are a brave mother who gave up his son to mother India for a bigger motive. You are an example of the big heart of an Indian mother who has given birth and blessed me. You might be loosing one son, but when you look up, you will see thousands more sons. And the mother of such brave sons can not be crying over the loss of just one”, he had told her.

To avoid any violent protest by the supporters who had camped outside the prison for few days, it was decided to hang the three of them at 7 pm the night before they were due. The hanging which used to take place in the morning, was proponed by more than 12 hours. When the jailor came to fetch him, there were tears in his eyes when he told Bhagat “It is time.” Bhagat was reading Karl Marx’s book and he complained that if they had decided to hang him per schedule he would have finished the book. Sukhdev and Rajguru also joined, their hands tied behind their back. As they walked, their heads were held high in esteem, and they were all singing “Mera Rang De Bansanti Chola” (Dye my clothes saffron). This song has been passed on to generation and became a cult song in the hearts and minds of Indians.

When they were about to be hanged, they refused to cover their heads. Their last wish was to untie their hands so that they can embrace one another. Police obliged and they were given their last freedom. They hugged and congratulated one another on having achieved the honor of dying for their motherland. Then they stepped forward and kissed the rope when they placed it around their necks themselves. There was smile on their faces and a hope for a free nation. They held each others hand and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad”.

“Inquilab Zindabad” was heard from inside the jail at 7 pm on March 23, 1931. The shouts sounded happy and joyful. This was the signal of the final curtain dropping. The deathly silence that followed both inside and outside the prison was broken by his sister’s wails. Bhagat’s mother and father did not cry. They held their heads high with pride to have given their son in a struggle to free their motherland. The bodies were smuggled out of the jail by the police who feared that the dead bodies will instigate violence protests. The bodies were cremated by the police (some say cut and then cremated) at Hussainiwala on banks of Sutlej River.

Bhagat Singh’s death had the effect that he desired and he inspired thousands of youths to assist the remainder of the Indian independence movement. After his hanging, youths in regions around Northern India rioted in protest against the British Raj. The Raj made Bhagat a martyr and wrote his name in golden letters in India’s independence struggle.

On the banks of Sutlej River where he was cremated, the Bhagat Singh Memorial commemorates freedom fighters of India. A ceremony is held every year there to commemorate that day. But the ceremony is celebration of youth – inspiring the new generations. There are dramatics contests, debates, singing competition, something Bhagat Singh would have enjoyed.

“The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity – of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.”

– from Bhagat Singh’s prison diary

September 2007

Copyright JPS Nagi

Humne to Nisaar Kar Diya Dil (Here I offer my heart)

Hum ne to nisaar kar diya dil,
Ab jane woh shokh, yaa na jaane.

Here I offer my heart to her,
To accept or say no is upto my sweet.
[Hasrat Mohani]

This was the ibteda (beginning) of my love. A new phase of my life, back then; I felt that it would decide my fate. If my heart is accepted, then aafreen, otherwise my name will join the list of aashiqs whose love story ended before it ever began.

I have lost the count of days since I first saw her. It must have been years and years, I believe. I still remember when I saw that beauteous face for the first time. And all I could say was,

Aap ko dekh kar dekhta rah gaya,
Kya kahoon aur kahne ko kya rah gaya.

I saw you and couldn’t take my eyes off,
What other words can describe your beauty.
[Aziz Qaisi]

I have no words to tell you how beautiful she is. Her glowing face, her long raven tresses, her honey dripping voice, her graceful gait like a gazelle, and her hazel eyes.

Yeh jafaaen gham ka chara, woh nijaat-e-dil ka aalam,
Tera husn dast-e-isah, teri yaad rooh-e-mariam.
Teri deed se siwa hai tere shauq mein bahaaran,
Woh zamin jahaan giri thi tere gaissuon ki shabnam.
Yeh ajab qayaamaten hain teri rahguzr mein guzraan,
Na hua ke mar miten hum, na hua ke ji uthe hum.

This cures oppressive griefs, that delivers the heart,
Your beauty is the hand of Christ, your memory Merriam’s face.
More beauteous than you is the love awakened earth,
Fertilized by dew of your fragrant lochs.
Strange are the calamities in the path of love,
Nor we have will to live, nor the strength to die.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

And not to forget those ruby red lips,

Gharq-e-shaqar hue hain kaam-o-zabaan,
Jab liya hun main nam tuj lab ka.

My palate and tongue get honey drenched,
Whensoever I mention your lips.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And in this way my infatuation began. A strange feeling was all over me,

Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai?
Aakhir is dard ki dawa kya hai?
Mai bhi munh mein zabaan rakhta hun,
Kaash puchho ke mudda kya hai?

What ails thee, my silly heart?
What balm for your ache, at last?
I too have a tongue, I too can speak,
Would that you ask, what I crave?
[Asadullah Khan Ghalib]

I was surrounded by her. She was in my dreams. She still is. I was restless. I started looking forward to seeing her each day; Wali has rightly said,

Dekhna har subah tujh rukhsaar ka,
Hai mutaala matlai-anwaar ka.
Subah tera daras paya tha sanam,
Shauq-e-dil muhtaaj hai taqraar ka.

To see your face every morn,
Is to see the glorious flush of dawn.
I saw you just this morning, Love,
Lo, my heart yearns again.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

One is highly intoxicated when in love. Radiance of light of love spreads its aura all around you. Iqbal farmaate hain,

Anokhi waza hai saare zamaane se niraale hain,
Yeh aashiq kaunsi basti ke yaarab rahne waale hain.

Strange are their looks, out-of-this world they seem!
Wherefrom, O Lord, do these lovers spring?
[Sir Mohd. Iqbal]

I then thought of expressing myself. And thanks to the “Benevolent Lord of the Three Worlds” who arranged that also,

Baam par aane lage woh, samna hone laga,
Ab to izhaar-e-mohabbat barmila hone laga.

She now comes on roof top, face to face we stand,
Love is now proclaimed without least reserve.
[Hasrat Mohani]

But these encounters were unable to put my restless heart to rest. I then pumped all my blood into my heart and approached her, one day. I stopped her. She stopped. Smiled. I opened my mouth and ark! nothing came out of it. Them I stammered & stuttered. Her beautiful radiant face and equally beautiful smile had left me speechless. And before she left, all I could think was,

Mere dil ko kiya be-khud teri ankhion ne aakhir kon,
Ke jion be-hosh karti hai sharaab, ahista, ahista.

Your eyes,at last, have entranced my heart,
As wine benumbs our wits, step by step.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And all I could see was a drop of sweat, from her tresses trickled on her cheek and lo, how wondrous to see sun splashed over with dew. She again smiled and ran away. I stood there. Standing there. Still. And I told myself,

Ibtadaae ishq hai, rota hai kya,
Aage aage dekhiye hota hai kya.

It’s only the beginning, why dost thou groan?
O, wait and see what happens as you onwards move.
[Mir Taqi Mir]

I was captured by the long and deadly roots of love. More I tried to free myself, more I got entangled in them,

Yaad karna har ghari us yaar ka,
Hai wazifaa mujh dil-e-bimaar ka,
Aakbat kya howega maalum nahin,
Dil hua mubtla dildaar ka.

Remembering my Love all the time,
Is all the prayer my sick heart knows,
I know not how its going to end,
I’ve lost my heart to my sweet heart.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

I was then avoided, tracks, streets, bazaars, changed on seeing me. I was sad,

Muddat hui sajan ne dikhaya nahin jamaal,
Dikhla apas ke kad kon kiya nahin nihaal.

For long hasn’t my Love shown her beauteous face,
Nor with her stately presence uplifted my state.
[Wali Mohd. Wali]

And I wailed,

Husn-e-be parwah ko khud bin-o-khud aara kar diya,
Kya kiya maine ke izhaare tamanna kar diya.

Beauty self-oblivious has turned self- aware,
O, why at all did I express my heart’s desire?
[Hasrat Mohani]

The days were tiring; the nights long,

Tum aae ho na shab-e-intzaar guzri hai,
Talaash mein sahar baar baar guzri hai.
Woh baat saare fasaane mein jiska zikar na tha,
Woh baat unko bahut nagawaar guzri hai.
Na gul khile hain, na unse mile hain, na mai pi hai,
Ajib rang mein ab ke bahaar guzri hai.

You haven’t come, nor has the night of waiting gone,
Looking for you the morn has called again & again.
What did not even figure in the tale entire,
To that he has taken very grave offence.
No flames, no wine, no sight of my friend,
In what queer way we’ve spent this spring.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

Nobody heard my cry, but nothingness. All words were lost there. Days passed. Months passed. And even did the years. Nothing was exchanged between us. There was vast, immense, dark and dead silence. My heart was crushed, that was the first time I realized it.

Tujhiko jo yaan jalwa farma na dekha,
Baraabar hai duniya ko dekha na dekha.
Mera Guncha-e-dil hai woh dil grifta,
Ke jis ko kaso ne kabhi wa na dekha.
Aziat, musibat,malaamat, balaaen,
Tere ishq mein hum ne kya kya na dekha?
Kiya mujh ko daaghon ne sarv-e-chiraaghan,
Kabhi tune aakar tamaasha na dekha.

If here we see thee not immanent in thy grace,
What use then, our earthly pilgrimage?
My heart is such a crumpled bud,
None has ever seen it bloom.
Trouble, torture, reproach, disaster,
What all haven’t I suffered in love?
The scars within have set me ablaze,
Alas, you haven’t seen this sight.
[Khwaja Mir Dard]

I had initiated. She had taken a step back. So I coiled all my feelings around myself. Meetings became scanty. On those rare occasions when we used to see each other, I would often think,

Roya karenge aap bhi pahron isi tarah,
Atka kahin jo aapka dil bhi meri tarah.

You too shall weep for hours on end, if your
Heart, like mine, somewhere gets entwined.
[Momin Khan Momin]

Then the sky fell down on my head. She was in love with someone else. The sky had fallen over my head. The world must have reached qayaamat (end of the world). But, I could spare a smile for her,

Donon jahaan teri mohabbat mein haar ke,
Woh jaa raha hai koi shab-e-gham guzaar ke.
Bhule se muskra to diye hum aaj Faiz,
Mat puchh walwale dil-e-naakarda kaar ke.

Having lost both worlds in the game of love,
There goes lonesome man, ending his night in grief.
Today, Faiz, unawares you chanced to give a smile,
O what a swell and surge within my powerless heart.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

Once, when I met her, I told her,

Mera ji hai jab tak, teri justju hai,
Zabaan jab talak hai, yehi guftgu hai,
Tamanna hai teri, agar hai tamanna,
Teri aarzoo hai, agar aarzoo hai.

Your quest is my objective, as long as I live,
Of you alone I talk, while I have a tongue,
For you alone I yearn, if yearn at all,
You are my desire, if I harbour one.
[Khwaja Mir Dard]

And I was reminded of Ghalib’s great ghazal,

Hazaaron khwaaeshen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle,
Bahut nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle.
Nikalna khuld se adam ka sunte aaye the lekin,
Bahut be-aabroo ho kar tere kuche se hum nikle.

Thousand of desires tantalizing one and all,
Many a wish have I realized; yet I yearn for more.
Oft have we heard about Adam’s exile from Eden,
Humiliating much more was my exit from your door.
[Asadullah Khan Ghalib]

And, with what else can I end but,

Hum parwarsh-e-loh-o-qalam karte rahenge,
Jo dil pe guzarti hai raqam karte rahenge.
Ek tarz-e-taghaaful hai so woh unko mubarak,
Ek tarz-e-tamanna hai so hum karte rahenge.

We’ll keep on plying the pen on the page,
Record shall we the tale of our heart.
A style of indifference will be her way,
A style of submission will be our creed.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz]

April 1995/ (revisited) May 1997

Copyright JPS Nagi.

The English translation of the Urdu poetry is taken from the book “Masterpieces of Urdu Ghazals” by K.C. Kanda, Sterling Press, India. This was the first piece of writing I put together. I was under many spells, one of them being the Urdu poetry.