Personal Historian and Chronicler. From Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Your average writer, trying to be better

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  • afzalhakim 4w

    This piece is inspired by the indignant tales of the imaginary city of Gotham of the Batman and DC Comics fame. I remember being asked by someone once, why do you even bother reading works of fiction when there is a plethora of literature available that can contribute to your pool of knowledge? To my mind, it was a rather strange question to ask because it is in human nature to use imagination as a medium to sharpen ones mental faculties. But, if I tried to explain it to him using this line of argument, I was certainly putting myself at a position of bias and prejudice. So, I tried to convince him through a different tactic. I said -

    "See! A work of fiction might not be placed in a setting that we relate to or know, like our own city or any other popular city, but it is based in a setting that could be identical to either one of those. That's because even if the author is penning at the whims of his imagination, these imaginations stem from real and pragmatic models that mimic the human world, its cities, its people, its emotions and everything that it represents. In that sense, even if a work of fiction consists of imaginary magical creatures like satyrs and goblins or cunning seemingly invincible mafia dons like Falcone and Maroni (of the Gotham fame), their actions are also subject to human morality because its the human author's way of projecting it onto his works."

    In that sense I believe the disclaimers we often come across before the start of a movie/series become so necessary. "This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental." How often have you read this statement etched in white against a large black screen? This is one of the reasons that I particularly enjoy reading historical fiction novels. They put forth a very beautiful and balanced mix of historical facts with imaginary characters. While we're at it, I urge those who are interested in the same genre to read the novel "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova.

    #wod #chastushka

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    Crime and Punishment

    The parsimonious care not for sobriety
    The sanctimonious condescend propriety
    The prayer of the destitute is what begets gaiety
    In crumbs and in smiles they find satiety
    Bloated bellies against an existence of notoriety
    Deep rooted are the inequalities of this society

  • afzalhakim 4w

    @miraquill @writersnetwork

    @windingpaths You wanted me to etch some more, here it is. I've been quite alright, thank you for asking. Hope you're doing well.

    Thank you @writersnetwork for the repost. ❤️

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    A Stretch of the Night

    I ache for that warmth,
    that comfort;
    rendered to my heart
    by the blazing fires
    of your benevolence;
    rescuing me from
    the dark silhouette
    of the night, ever so
    ominous and plodding

    I smoulder in its flames,
    its infernal splendour
    a dab of ash
    peppered into eternal smoke;
    I soar into
    the unfathomable mist
    leaving behind
    an untraceable trail
    and a musing enigma

    The evenfall swamping over,
    snuffing out,
    the wicker of life;
    Its expanse filling up
    the void of corporeality
    wiping away
    the omnipotent light
    like a thief in action
    pilfering and looting
    in silence and in stillness

    #night #darkness #gloom #cold

  • afzalhakim 10w

    I have placed a deliberate homonym in the title and all puns are intended for the purpose of satire. We live in times when we're already fighting a war on several fronts without us realising how or why. The society collectively is undeterred and unfettered by what's happening all around and I feel it to be most unfortunate. So, this is perhaps a shout into the void and possibly an appeal to the silent that before humanity is thrown into the oblivion, we really need to rise up as one and rebel.

    #resist #desist #rebel #wod #combination

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    Rule of Flaw

    When the world fights a war
    And people seek solace in denial

    When mankind is set for obliteration
    And humanity seethes in collective trial

    When the frenzy has clouded the judgement
    And every attempt at reconciliation is futile

    It is in a sordid kingdom like this
    That a monarch is proclaimed to be vile


  • afzalhakim 17w

    The great poets and writers of the old have always found a compelling urge to personify human beauty with fragrant, soft and aesthetically mesmerising flowers. Had it not been for William Wordsworth, daffodils could never appeal to us the way they did, from the gaze of a "lonely", "solitary" and "observant" young cloud just floating over the margin of a bay. Had it not been for Shakespeare and his romantic epics like "A midsummer night's dream" or "A winter's tale", we would have never felt the same way about the various types of wild flowers and herbs like the "nodding" violets or the "luscious" woodbine or even the red blood that "reigns" in the winter's pale.

    These wild flowers acquire this invaluable place in a writer's journal because of two predominant reasons. One is that they are scientifically hard for the human eye to miss. A lot of these flowers grow in the wild where all you can see is either the green of the shrubs and leaves or the brown of the tree bark and soil. In such a visually constrained environment should you chance upon something that is fairy white or blood red, it is natural for you to be attracted to them. The second reason is that their visual manifestation is complimented by the other attributes they emanate. So, flowers can be extremely fragrant and have the most intricate of designs, something you have never seen before in life.

    In this particular context, if you deconstruct the writings of poets and writers, particularly those writing a romantic piece, you will realise that the personification of the counterpart is often very similar. She is a rare beauty, standing out in a crowd of people so elegantly dressed, she has a charm about her and an aura that is rather inexplicable. As she offers you her hand, it is soft and delicate and the skin is smooth to touch. Her scent throws you completely off-guard and it engulfs you like a wilted flower engulfs the anthers inside of its bough. However, the emphasis here often lies in the fact that she attracts you the most because you find her traits to be rare and that is exactly the case with some of the flowers in the world.

    One such flower is the Epiphyllum Oxypetalum, an extremely rare breed of cacti flowers found growing in the tropical jungles of India, Sri Lanka, China and even Japan. This beautiful white and yellow coloured rare flower goes by many names in these regions. While it is known as Kadupul or Kadupul Mal (The flower from the heaven) in Sri Lanka, it is known as Gekka Bijin (Beauty under the moon) in Japan and in India it goes by the name Brahma Kamalam, after the God Brahma himself. But, why "beauty under the night" or "Queen of the night". The answer lies in the very nature of this flower as it blooms only at a particular hour at the night and wilts back before dawn and also it blooms only once in a year. So, imagine this, you're looking for an extremely rare flower, which blooms only around midnight for just a couple of hours and only on one specific night of the year.

    It is because of this exceptional quality that this flower is known to be World's most expensive flower. However, there is no price tag upon it and does not sell anywhere in the market because of a very short life cycle and also because it just blooms once in its entire life cycle. What I found interesting about this flower though is that in many different societies there is a lot of folklore and stories that surround its discovery. In the Chinese tradition for example, it is believed that whosoever chances upon Tan Hua (it is a Chinese four character idiom meaning - impressive but brief moment of glory) in its bloom, he/she will be blessed with perpetual and unceasing luck. This myth has found its way down to the Indonesian community as well and each year, people go into the wild looking for this flower to watch it bloom, in the hopes that their lives will turn around for good.

    Similarly, in Sri Lanka, this flower is known to bloom around the Sri Pada season, which has a huge religious reverence, not just among locals but believers around the world. People throng to the Holy Mountain Sri Pada for devotion and it is said that the presence of these flowers in their bloom releases such tantalising fragrance in the air that it is almost considered as part of the divine miracle. It is believed that Kadupul is the legendary flower of the celestial Nagas. Each year around the time that they bloom, the Nagas descend down from their celestial abodes to offer these flowers to Lord Buddha at the mountain.

    A very interesting thing about this flower is that it first found its reference into popular culture through a movie adaptation of the book "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan, where the grandmother of the protagonist is seen celebrating the blooming of this flower. It is believed that the flower actually originates from Guatemala and it was in early 1600s that it was first brought to China. While reading more upon it, I encountered a very strange tale that took me back down nostalgia lane. Many years ago, my mother narrated to me a story of an enchanted flower called "Gul-e-Bakawali" (rose of the fairy named Bakawali), which apparently has been drawn from the magical tales in the "Arabian Nights" and adapted on screen in a pre-partition Bollywood film by the same title. It turns out that the story is talking about this very same flower which I had to dig up a lot of online literature to find out.

    According to this story, there once was a very wealthy king Zayn ul Mulk who just had a baby boy. However, his astrologers foretold that if the king glances upon this baby, he will lose his eyesight. So, the king sends aways his wife and his new born son to a distant land while he remarries and has four other children. As this forgotten child, now named Taj ul Mulk grows older, he chances upon the king in the forest while hunting. Impressed by the young boy's skills, the king wishes to have a look at his face and as soon as he does, he goes blind. The astrologers share with the sons the only remedy that can bring back the king's sight, but warn them that this journey is going to be treacherous. They are to visit the fabled realm of Paristan (fairyland) and get hold of a very rare white flower that blooms only at night on a very specific night.

    As the story progresses, the young Taj ul Mulk faces many perils, including the courtesans who can honey trap people forever (much like lotus-eaters from the Greek Mythology) and a Djinni whom he helps escape and in turn befriends. At the end of his journey, with the flower in sight, he encounters the fairy Bakawali, who is the keeper of the flower and can only allow a virtuous and smart person to take it because in her own version of the prophecy, whoever is able to secure it from her will be the person she is to marry. With his wits and his charms, Taj manages to win the flower and also win the heart of fairy Bakawali. However, on his way to treat his father, he encounters his brothers who thug him and take away the flower, returning gloriously with a cure to their father's loss of sight.

    Meanwhile, Bakawali and Taj build for themselves a palace of enormous wealth and the tale of their wealth and fortunes spread across lands, reaching these greedy brothers as well. The father gets to know about their ploy and is disappointed. He ends up visiting his son and apologising to him, seeking his forgiveness for everything. They go on to live happily ever after.

    I never imagined that while reading about the Epiphyllum Oxypetalum flower, I will chance upon this very old story. What's really fascinating is how one small rare flower has the power to bring so many different cultures together. How many other such stories are hiding in the most unexpected places and unassuming objects of the world. It took a literary tool like a pathetic fallacy for me to find out about such a thing. What is to say that such tools were not developed specifically because the writer observed such uniformities across diverse cultures?

    #patheticfallacy #wod #lores #myth #flowers

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    Epiphyllum Oxypetalum (Queen of the Night)

  • afzalhakim 18w

    Miniscule Exceptions

    Not all poems are written to be read
    Not all feelings have words to be said

    Not all appetite translates 'to be fed'
    Not all grain should be turned into bread

    Not all paths are sure to be checked
    Not all trails are meant to be tread

    Not all leaders are noble to be head
    Not all followers are worthy to be led

    Not all faiths are wise to be shed
    Not all scriptures should have to be shred


  • afzalhakim 19w

    Before we get to the inference of the excerpt from this book, I felt it was important to set the context in which this excerpt has been placed. It was important to mark the contours of the intellectual thought behind this marvellous piece of literature by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book is based in an imaginary utopian world which she has very casually named Omelas. I say casually because the idea just struck her passing through a road sign on the highway leading to Salem, Oregon. She just reversed the letters and engineered an entire city out of it, a city of dreams, a city at the zenith of human imagination.

    If you understand Utopia from its Platonic roots, you'll realise that it is that one optimum that human beings can never be capable of reaching. When the great philosopher Plato laid the foundations of his 'ideal state', he served it with a disclaimer. The disclaimer simply reiterated that while every state should persevere towards being the ideal state, no state could actually reach that summit of perfection. Then why was there a need to idolise something that could never be attained? The answer lies in human advances throughout history if you are willing to look at the bread crumbs for the clues that they are.

    The perpetuity of striving for the best gives people two things that turn out to be incredible driving forces for the human will. One of them is a purpose. Human beings breathe and live to serve a higher purpose and this could mean anything from upholding their beliefs to providing for their family or rooting out for their own ambitions. Unless their lives get a meaning through a purpose, they feel lost and perplexed and are constantly depressed. In this regards, we humans become entrapped into our own mind and it is then next to impossible for us to attain freedom.

    The other driving force, which perhaps is the single largest reason for human survivability is hope. This could mean anything from the hope of a better life to the hope of a better afterlife. What's factually interesting about this particular phenomenon is that while purpose is more atomised, in the sense that it could mean anything for anyone, hope is a more collective state of mind. Hope can be similar both in its very nature and its ultimate outcome. When Genevan thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau coined the famous term 'General Will', perhaps he had this very understanding in mind because he did define the purpose of general will, which was the common good or common interest of humankind. According to him, individuals exhibit two kinds of wills, a real will and an actual will. An actual will is his/her desires and stem from his lesser self, while as a real will emanates from reason and rationality and therefore is much more noble.

    While the general will is a sum total of all the real wills of individuals, we can put this in a more contemporary connotation by calling it 'collective conscience' of the people. This enables people to decide upon what propagates a good life or a bad life, just like how it does for the inhabitants of Omelas. But, what is good life? In a purely Benthamite sense, it would simply mean "the greatest happiness to the greatest number" or otherwise known as 'utilitarianism'. Throughout history, we have actually witnessed civilisations after civilisations only ever aspiring for that. A great king or a great emperor was one who provided the best for his subjects, even if it meant obliterating the subjects of another king or emperor. You can ask this to every rock and every crevice of Jerusalem, a city which has seen the most brutal massacres and if one were to point in any direction, there would be a remnant of this bloodshed.

    It is this very philosophy that is highlighted in this particular book because while everything is perfect in Omelas, the city of dreams, there is just one imperfection that is capable of undoing everything. I find this very fascinating, because in order to keep this story grounded in human reality and not just some clear fiction, the author introduced an element of chaos. If unleashed, it could mean the destruction of the city that people have come to epitomise as unblemished. People are ready and willing to sacrifice their conscience and their morality just to see this piece of "eden" survive and provide for not just their future but the future of their children. Even if it means to stand by and watch a child, an innocent child being mercilessly tortured as part of a sacred ritual.

    Coming to the inference from this excerpt, I believe it speaks of two things that are definitive outcomes of a thought process like this. One is 'banality of pain' and the other is 'glorifying evil'. Both are extremely vested in the utilitarian chain of thought. The former simply means that this "ritual", no matter how grotesque and no matter how inhumane, has been justified in such a way that watching someone in pain has absolutely no effect on the people who have become mute spectators to it. It reminds me of another Platonic idea called 'cave allegory'. If you make people believe in a lie for a long long time, they will forget that it ever was a lie just like how cavemen living inside of a cave believed that their own shadows cast from the sunlight that they had never seen was some form of magic that kept them alive. Similarly, these pendants and these totems and rituals start to seem spiritual and magical because those in power want you to believe that they are necessary evil.

    The latter becomes the vassal for seeing this through without anyone questioning. The ritual here becomes so sanctified for the people performing and participating in them that they start to glorify it and defend it. So, when a child is being tortured in front of their eyes, they are jeering, they are wolf whistling, and they are clapping their hands. If you have read George Orwell's "1984", you can relate this to the 'two minutes hate' ceremony against the "traitor of the state". I would be lying if I said that this is just something you read in a novel and human beings cannot celebrate torture or hate. Salem witch trials so many centuries ago, where women of all ages were burnt alive on large pyres, had this exact plot being materialised. Why did Joan of Arc meet a similar fate when ironically she was the hero that won French soldiers an impossible war? This is because the clergy could not handle a woman challenging their authority, an authority which was built upon a certain cave allegory or myth.

    So, you see, it's more than about physical freedom for humanity in toto. That is the irony being pointed out in this novel if you ask me. While the Omelas offer you everything that your heart could desire, it takes away that one thing which should matter the most, and that is freedom of conscience. The freedom to choose the right thing when everyone else has sided with the wrong. It takes tremendous courage to do something like that, to go against the flow of the tides and be steadfast in what you believe is right. This is where Rousseau fails for me, when he propagates the message that the general will is absolute and that should anyone go against the general will, "he/she will be forced to be free".

    P.S - If you want to watch something that very cleverly puts this into perspective, I recommend you watch the series "The 100" on Netflix.

    #wod #inference

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    A Dystopian Utopia

    "Whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole of society, which means nothing more or less than that he will be forced to be free."

    - Jean-Jacques Rousseau; The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762)

  • afzalhakim 19w

    This one is for you @miraquill. Happy Birthday. Thanks for giving us this space to express and watch others express. Much love. ❤️

    #jingle #wod

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    For Miraquill

    If you're seeking
    and you're searching
    and you don't know where its perching
    Come on one, come on all
    Pick the quill and write, write, write
    For Miraquill.

    If you're curious
    or just mildly furious
    and those around you are impervious
    Come on one, come on all
    Pick the quill and write, write, write
    For Miraquill.

    If you're ecstatic
    and so haplessly romantic
    and you want to try some semantic
    Come on one, come on all
    Pick the quill and write, write, write
    For Miraquill.

    If you're shy
    yet still want to try
    and don't want to end up in a fry
    Come on one, come on all
    Pick the quill and write, write, write
    For Miraquill.

    If you love poetry
    and you appreciate prose
    think of this as the destination close
    Come on one, come on all
    Pick the quill and write, write, write
    For Miraquill.


  • afzalhakim 19w

    We were lucky to have survived the mind-twisting maze of philosophy and metaphysics, because our professor understood that our minds would crack trying to crack the minds of philosophical giants (no puns intended here). So, he brought them to our level, going from concrete to abstract and it was much like watching a tree grow down to its seedling form. I will not lie, it did still feel like torture to us but he gave us the patience to bear it with enthusiasm. I still failed miserably, but I was a proud failure for having to engage with philosophy in such an innovative and unique way.

    #pod #pun

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    Existential Anomaly

    In my classes on metaphysics
    I used to really struggle
    trying to think like the thinkers.
    To me,
    they were all but the same
    and they brought me nothing but shame
    because honestly I "Kant" get "Marx"
    for trying to guess
    if Schrodinger's damn cat
    was dead or alive.


  • afzalhakim 19w

    Implacable Poverty

    Oh ye men boastful of your quintessential world
    I come before you bearing news of adversity!

    I am the blueprint of your future as was foretold
    And I am the reckoning of your obstinate profanity!

    Rising from the squalor, your retribution behold
    I am the judgement of your dissipated prosperity!

    What good was the mighty Midas with all his gold?
    A whole lot of wealth and a whole lot of austerity!

    My arrival twists fortunes and draws a new mould
    The affluent fall prey to my unforgiving calamity!

    You beseech and you implore, I am still not cajoled
    I am ruthless and I am malevolent, I am poverty!


  • afzalhakim 20w

    Talking about paradoxes, there are some which are pretty evident and wait for us to call them out. These seemingly apparent paradoxes have been time and again evoked to question and counter-question and therefore feature well into our common vocabulary as well. However, there are certain paradoxes which are not as apparent and hide in plain sight. These hidden paradoxes are subject to how an individual perceives them and therefore often become a topic for moot. In the first instance, it is quite challenging to identify them for what they are and then the onus of proving rests completely upon the individual who has identified them.

    Having said that, these paradoxes often result in controversies and that is perhaps part of their very nature. Let me substantiate this with an example. Suppose you're walking down the road at your own merry pace, living inside of your thoughts and suddenly from the behind loud honks disturb your zen and peace, what would be your immediate reaction? In your head, you'll be like - "does this person have no patience at all? Does he own the road and do we not have the right to walk in peace?". Now, let's reverse the situation. You're driving a car and are late for work when you see a person walking in the middle of the road at his own pace and no amount of honking is having any effects. What would be your response now? Now, you'll be thinking - "Does this person own the road? He is walking as if this were his garden?"

    This is a classic example of what we refer to as the postcard paradox. Here, the sentence on one side of a postcard reads "the sentence on the other side of this card is true" and as you turn around, a sentence on the other side reads "the sentence on the other side of this card is false", thus creating a loop for which one is right and which one is wrong. Any how, without further complicating this for you, let's get to the thick of how this paradox is applicable to the following story. More often than not we find ourselves in the midst of a situation wherein we are confronted with two options - either we place emphasis on the end or the outcome and don't worry about the means of reaching that end or we place emphasis on the means and not worry whether the outcome is in our favour or not.

    We go back to history and delve into one such story of a man who was confronted by this paradox of righteousness and falsehood. The name of this individual was Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, a lawyer born in 1857 in Kerala, India. Imagine being born around 1857 when most of India, including the large Madras presidency was embroiled in a brave and violent mutiny against the whole might of the British Empire. India was yet to be declared a colony and much of India had no premonition to being end up colonised by a foreign empire. A young Mr. Nair was privileged enough to receive education from young age and he end up joining the Presidency College Madras for a degree in Law.

    Like the trend was among Law graduates in India hoping to have their own practice, Mr. Nair also gave the British Bar exam and became what we call a "Barrister" (someone who has received the license from the Bar to practice law). He was an exceptional gentleman and presided over cases that were complicated. He vociferously fought for the rights of individuals and won many battles in the court which put him on the Empire's radar. Sensing an opportunity here, he was made 'Companion of the Indian Empire' in 1904 and later knighted in 1912. Now, to many leaders and freedom fighters back then, he was a collaborator who sided with the British and thus looked down upon.

    However, Mr. Nair kept true to his beliefs and continued to serve the people. He saw this gesture of trust as an opportunity to strike a bargain with Britain on the future fate of India and its subjects. So, not any later than being appointed as the Companion, he launched an official and formal campaign to ask for a Dominion Status for India. This meant that while India would continue to stay a Subject of the the British Empire, administration of all of its affairs would be run predominantly by Indians themselves. He published two short minutes in 1912 which challenged many aspects of the British rule in India. Many of his recommendations were accepted and it was then that viceroy Montagu quipped that he was an "impossible man" to deal with as he would shout on top of his lungs and would never give in to any kind of pressure.

    The real twist in the tale came after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre which shook the very fundamentals of Mr. Nair's beliefs. He had already served as the President of the Congress party and time and again been vocal for the rights of Indians but this came as a personal shocker for him. He made it his life's point to avenge the death of these innocent lives in however way he could. So, he dragged the only person he knew who had a hand in this massacre O'Dwyer to the British jury to be held accountable. This is where the paradox really lies. He was an Indian Barrister with a British license to practice law in a British court, presided over by 12 British judges, and a jury full of Britishers to convince them of crimes of a British national, acting on the dictums of the British empire. We all know how that went but this trial worked magic for the morale of fighters back home who lauded Mr. Nair's grit to take the fight to the courts of the Empire.

    When asked if he would go for a re-trial, he resentfully replied - “If there was another trial, who was to know if 12 other English shopkeepers would not reach the same conclusion?” After returning to India to a hero's welcome, he did not pause. He kept exposing the Empire for all their atrocities and oppression while they kept calling his acts seditious and belittling him for being a traitor. The fact however is that he had freed himself of the paradox that he could reason with the oppressor. In words of the slain Palestinian author and activist Ghassan Kanafani, such a conversation was like that between the axe and the neck. There was no reconciling with the coloniser and the only other way out was to fight for ones right to self-determination.

    His book "Gandhi and Anarchy" is perhaps one of the most strident and forthright critiques of Gandhi's concept of "Swarajya" or self-rule. Not every individual is capable of shaking off such metaphysical paradoxes that often take grip of him/her and leave him/her incapacitated to make a righteous decision. In that sense, what Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair managed to do is rather exceptional and extraordinary.

    #wod #paradox

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    Postcard Paradox

    "He was an Indian Barrister with a British license to practice law in a British court, presided over by 12 British judges, and a jury full of Britishers to convince them of crimes of a British national, acting on the dictums of the British empire."