By Shailaja Bajpai
This is the story of men — along with a few women — and their goals in life.
Now, the men and women, like their goals, came in different shapes and sizes: Tennis player Kevin Anderson stood the tallest, perhaps, at 6’8’’, with Queen Elizabeth II possibly the smallest at 5’4’’ — or was she simply dwarfed by the 6’3’’ President of the United States of America, who, as the world saw, had the temerity to walk, yes indeed, before Her Majesty during the inspection of arms and then looked about him as though he had misplaced her. You could almost hear the BBC anchors sing, “God save the Queen”.
A few days later, Trump, no doubt inspired by the World Cup final, scored a self-goal. When Vladimir Putin handed over a football to Donald Trump at Monday’s press conference after their Helsinki summit, commentators on BBC and CNN cried foul. “Incredible performance,’’ said James Clapper, former American National Intelligence Director angrily, accusing the US President of failing to defend his own intelligence services before his Russian counterpart. Trump calmly lobbed the ball to his wife — catching practice?
Late Tuesday, the US President admitted he was caught between “would” and “wouldn’t” in his assessment of Russia’s involvement in the US election process. Goal!
The game plan of all the men — and a few women — on view, was identical: To win, of course, but at the soccer extravaganza in Russia, it was to put the ball inside the goal mouth. Which many players did with considerable aplomb and some with unfortunate consequences. In the words of the Sony 6 TV commentator, the final between Croatia and France was “a curious game of football” which had it all: A self goal, a gift goal, a dubious penalty and three good goals.
Sony 6 scored an own goal of its own like the hapless Croatian Mario Mandzukic. The single commentator format spared it money, no doubt, but not its blushes. We longed for a little “je ne sais quoi” as the French would say, in the commentary box, a few delicate passing shots and deft verbal tiki-taka.
And while we love our very own Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri, they didn’t exactly hit the sweet spot; their often excellent views were delivered without the panache or style they display on the field. After France took home the 18-carat trophy, the studio discussion reduced a shining moment to a dull affair. News channels didn’t fare much better: India Today fielded Boria Majumdar, Monday — doesn’t he do cricket? — who said the turning point for France came against Argentina. ho-hum. As for WION, they had their political editor Kartikeya Sharma describe French celebrations looking and speaking so sternly you thought he was reporting the Trump-Putin meeting. You’d have been much wiser to watch the French channels, France 24 or TV5 Monde-Asie, for the delirium on the streets of Paris. On Sunday and Monday, the Champs Elysees resembled Delacroix’s “Liberty” painting, bathed as it was in a sea of people and waves of French flags.
During the last four weeks, we have learnt this: A goal is a goal in any language, never more so than after listening to the Malayalam commentary (Sony) when a goal was scored, especially by Brazil or Argentina, and the Panama TV commentator (courtesy YouTube) when his team scored its first World Cup goal: He was in tears and you could hear him standing to attention, honestly, even as the scoreline read, England 6, Panama 1.
We also figured out that a goal is a goal by any other name, too. For instance, when the Sony commentator went, “Pogba. Pog-ba!”, you knew the Frenchman had scored France’s third goal against Croatia. (Similarly, when the commentator during the Wimbledon women’s tennis final, said Angelique Kerber did “a Pat”, she meant the winner had climbed up to the box where her mother and team were seated. Star Sports)
Ah names, sometimes we didn’t know who was who, or more accurately, vic was vic (pronounced vich) for Croatia when there were as many as nine of the field whose name concluded in “vic”. So when the commentator said, “Strinic”, you heard “Spinach” and experienced a Popeye moment.
Other things learnt? That a ball can be a weapon off the racquet of Serena Williams as she smote it across the net at Kerber, to cries of “Oh watch out!” from John McEnroe.
Meanwhile, Hima Das sprinted around the final bend in the 400m, passing all comers at the U-20 World Athletics Championships (Star Sports) and the US 400mx4 relay team dropped the baton, giving the Italians “a glorious moment in the sun” as it won gold.
That’s it for now from this commentary position where the goal was to have a ball. And so it came to pass.
INDESCRIBABLE JOHN ELI
By Shabbir Aariz
This indeed is proverbially a herculean task to describe or define John Elia in any particular frame. Whosoever while mentioning him, is either trapped in contradictions of one’s own opinion or is able to confine to a few verses of John Elia to judge him. But the more one tries to understand John, the more confused one is and I believe that you need another John Elia to explain him. He is a phenomenon, a thing like a live fish to hold in your hand or an elephant amongst blinds to be described. Wusatullah Khan, a noted broadcaster, holds that knowing John is as good as dating with a liberated lady. And it is quite obvious that a man who in him is a philosopher, a scholar, a biographer, a linguist with command over Urdu, Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew and needless to say that the Ismaili sect of the subcontinent could not find anyone other than John to translate Ismaili treatises from Hebrew, it becomes a tedious affair to be conclusive about John. Common perception though with an element of truth is that John is a progressive Marxist, an unconventional poet and always in denial of everything including himself while himself saying in three line verse,
“KISKO FUSAT K MUJSAY BAHAS KARAY…..
OOR SABIT KARAY K MERA WAJOOD….
ZINDZGI K LIYAY ZARORI HAY
(Anyone prepared to argue and prove that my existence is imperative for life). His poetry is admittedly very close to life and his verses in the words of a legendry poet, Majrooh Sultanpuri, are like a dialogue which no other poet has the distinction to be capable of. John has an extra-ordinary craft of connecting with his audience that has created an unprecedented fan following which no other contemporary poet can claim to have. So magical is his poetry and its rendition that it has created a cult of his admirers with such an obsession and longing for the life of melancholy lead by John Elia himself. It is no secret that he was never a happy man with defiance and protest against everything and anything around. Loudly a nonconformist when he says
“unjaman main mayri khamooshi…..
burdabari nahin hay wehshat hay”.
His style made him famous and popular. He appears to be disgusted even with creation when he says … “HASILE KUN HAY YEH JAHANE KHARAAB….
YAHI MUMKIN THA AYSI UJLAT MAIN”.
His admirers strangely wish to pass through the same pain and despair that is hallmark of John’s poetry besides satire and the disdain for the system which contributed to his sadness in life. He has so glorified and romanticized the pain and sadness that it leaves his audience in frenzied ecstasy.
John Elia was born in the year 1931 and died in 2002. He originally belonged to Amroha in the state of Uttar Pradesh, younger brother of Rayees Amrohi, a known journalist and writer. John migrated to Pakistan in the year 1957 and settled in Karachi where he is buried now. But Amroha never left his heart and mind. He never felt comfortable after leaving Amroha partly because his stay in Karachi brought him in conflict with the system too. Many other things have also contributed to his sadness in life. He was married to a well-known writer of Pakistan, Zahida Hina but in mid-80’s , the relation between the two became bumpy and ended up in divorce which left John devastated and for ten long years thereafter went in depression without writing a word.
As is true about many in the history of literature, John earned his name and fame more after his death than in his life time while he was not received well and felt a strange type of suffocation when he says,
“AAP APNAY SAY HUMSUKHAN REHNA…..
HUMNISHEEN SAANS PHOOL JATI HAY”.
Thanks to the electronic boom and You Tube that brought him to the lime light and enabled audience to reach him and his works. As if this was not enough that his first poetic collection only came to be published when he reached the age of 60. It is worthwhile mention that he has as many as seven poetic collections to his credit namely SHAYAD, YANI, LEKIN, GUMAAN, GOYA, FARMOD and RAMOOZ. Except one, all other are published posthumously. This is besides his scholarly works in prose which may require greater insight to go into.
John all his life remained honest, direct and straightforward in expressing his views on matters of public interest. He also never demonstrated any pretentions or reservations while expressing the truth of his personal life. He never made any secret of his fantasies, love affairs or drinking habits. Yet he was never at peace either with the times or with himself. John Elia, in my humble opinion lived ahead of times and even the desire of dying young without being bed ridden was not granted to him except that he strangely enough wanted to die of tuberculosis and which he did.
(The author, a senior lawyers, is a well known poet and writer. Feedback at: [email protected])
Manto: Why I wanted to read a ‘lewd’ writer
By Naveed Hussain
I first read Saadat Hasan Manto as a teenager and the spirit of what I’m writing now was etched on my memory in those years.
I was too young to understand the intricacies of his stories but I enjoyed what I read and craved for more. Back then, Manto wasn’t available in the small town of Haripur where I lived. A friend introduced me to a schoolteacher, a bibliophile who had a modest collection of Manto in his personal library.
“Why do you want to read Manto, he’s a ribald, lewd writer,” he quipped. “This is exactly why I want to read him,” I replied, almost impulsively. He smiled and agreed to lend me Manto’s books. Thus began my journey to explore Manto. The more I read, the deeper my love for him became.
Manto was a nonconformist, an unorthodox and ruthlessly bold writer. He didn’t believe in the so-called literary norms of ‘decency’ and ‘civility’ set by didactic writers of his time. For him, truth is truth. No matter how bitter and despicable the reality, Manto never dilutes the truth. Like a muckraker, he pokes his nose into the muck, rakes it, and then holds it up to the reader – in all its profound ugliness and twisted beauty. “If you don’t know your society, read my stories. If you find a defect, it’s the defect of your society, not my stories,” he says.
Manto wrote on socially taboo topics like sex, incest and prostitution, which earned him the wrath of contemporary traditionalists, conservatives and even progressives. For some of his ‘lewd’ and ‘obscene’ stories he had to face lawsuits – among them were great stories such as