DUNKIRK AND BEYOND

Risaldar-Major and Hon. Major Muhammad Ashraf Khan, Bahadur, OBI, IOM, IDSM.

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Super Houdini

We all know of H. Houdini, the late and famous ‘escape artist’. Amazing sort of bloke, by all accounts, able to perform the most outrageous and daring feats.

But as far as I am concerned, I will always cherish the memory of a little wizard that could at all times, in my humble opinion, ‘Out-Houdini Houdini’!—this was Ranji, the little mongoose.

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Review: John Stevens on Morihei Ueshiba

“The purpose of Aikido is to remind us that we are always in a state of grace”. If any one person embodied that state of grace in recent times, it was Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), perhaps one of the greatest martial artists ever, and a great exponent of Japanese Zen philosophy in the 20th century. Aikido—or more correctly Aiki-do, “The Way of Peace”—is a distinct martial art and system of self-defence created by Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei (the Master) himself. The ‘Way of Peace’ is amazingly non-aggressive as a martial art and teaches that the best way to counter opposition/opponents is to turn the energy of their aggression against themselves. The art embodies not just a simple martial technique or style but a profound set of philosophical and ethical principles which relate directly to the laws of Nature i.e. achieving the ultimate goal of ‘naturalness’, of becoming the ‘natural/perfected being’; of obtaining release from all aspects of duality, in the finest Zen Buddhist tradition. But who, indeed, was the man, O-Sensei, the Master of the Age, who created this Way of Peace? What principles did this ‘warrior of peace’ espouse? And how did the Founder’s own actions, thoughts and movements embody the high standards of humanity that he set out for himself and others?

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In Memoriam: Taufiq Rafat (1927-1998)

Taufiq Rafat was a pioneer, one of the ‘fathers’ of English poetry in Pakistan. He legitimized the writing of this unique and productive genre at a time when it was much reviled by a so-called ‘literary intelligentsia’ paying lip-service to Urdu literature and toeing the official line which proclaimed that all ‘good and loyal Pakistanis’ must, perforce, think and act and speak and write only in Urdu. Rather typical of our rulers’ Orwellian mindset/s.

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Annemarie Schimmel

With the passing away of Professor Annemarie Schimmel (1922-2003) a vital ‘link’ has indeed been severed between the West and its Islamic ‘Other’, as so aptly pointed out by in his memorial article by Dr. Tariq Rahman (The News, Feb. 7th 2003)—or between Muslim civilization and its sane assessment in present Western conditions.

In any case, a number of articles, tributes, reports and ‘references’ etc, have been appearing quite regularly in our newspapers following Professor Schimmel’s demise, analyzing her life and work from all sorts of perspectives—her ‘pioneering’ studies of Mevlana Rumi, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast and other Islamic mystics; her work on Iqbal; her history of classical Urdu poetry; various dimensions of Islamic worship; of the languages and culture of Pakistan and elsewhere—the sheer scope, versatility and depth of her ‘genius’ as a scholar and researcher and bridge between East and West, and so-on. It is a pity that no one has said or written anything about Annemarie Schimmel, the Sufi.

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The Romantic Road to Heidelberg

As we passed through the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) it seemed as if centuries had rolled away. The countryside was enchanted with lush undergrowth rising to meet the dark, whispering pines.

 

A little further, we found ourselves in a silent glade where a stream bubbled out of the ground and meandered its shining course through the foliage. A half-timbered watermill dozed in the sunlight. Little brown-and-white ducks bobbed in the water. “Any minute now:, I thought, “The Wicked Witch will step out of her secret abode”, half expecting to see her come out of a woodland cottage, or to see all manners of demons and trolls and ogres lurking behind the trees, or to see a knight to canter up on his white charger, his pennants resplendent in these lost shades.

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The River Bridge at Askole*

What are they laughing at?
The clouds making no vows,
In the morning, in the evening,

How easily they pass over
The stone bridge spanning the valley.
( Japanese Waka, 18th C)

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Beyond

Beyond Being;
Beyond Doing and Not-Doing
Beyond Change and No-change
Beyond Witnessing and Unwitnessing
--What is? Or is not?
Why don't you jump over the wall
and find out?''

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Dancers

Each gyrating
gesticulating
moving
turning
sweeping
swaying
stamping
flowing
flying 
fleeting
gesture comes from above, or within

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Day after Day I Turn

Day after day I turn

Where no turning goes;

Then some knowledge stops me

Where I stand, or lack of it, I don’t know.

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Where elves lived

Elves lived here, once,

where today the blanched shells lie

of snails

who have outlived their selves;

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Excerpt 1

Rubies and pearls had they none,
but all the talismans of faith;
and had you but seen them
then eternity was no longer a promise
but a fixed abode, serene, like some great ship
of cedar hewn, sailing silently along silent shores ...

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Excerpt 2 --- Quiet Movements *

''Not many people have heard
the angels singing at dusk'',
he informed me in his quiet way,
''Some have only heard of them''.

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Teaching Ezra Pound's Cantos

'Was he a hero?

'Was he a villain?

'He was modern

'Madman.

'No he wasn't, was he?

'He was - old- ancient - eternal-- 

Aeneas come from the shades of Avernus

Odyseuss out of Circe's ingle

Dionysus at Naxos

Metamorphosized 

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How *

How can I define this passion?
It s tempo and motion?
Its deep laments and pain?
It is something unspoken but felt,
Hidden but not-hidden- ‘’the Open Secret’’ says Rumi-
In the darkness I am lighted by it towards some oracle, some worthy and high
Pilgrimage, to Olympus or Delphi I do come.
My eyes are fixed upon something just beyond this horizon, some grave scene or word that is meant to ring out and grip me, to enthrall and burn to the very bone.

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In Memoriam (July 2018, Muslim Peace Memorial, Woking, Surrey, UK) © 2018

The saplings are reflected, shimmering in the pool, the calm shallows rippling; 
A little white bird flies suddenly, spectral. 
In this calm and lonely park, in this quiet coppice, the marble tablet glows with that long roll of names;
your name is on it, too, dear uncle Sikandar, along with the rest of that gallant band from two great wars.

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It has been some time

It has been some time, since we spoke in rhyme

my love;

 

And tonight I behold you anew

Burning with your adored endlessness

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JOURNEYING

This journey is never-ending –
And that’s the whole point of it, too, fresh explorations of the self
With every passing moment, every breath that rises and falls,
Sudden illuminations mingled with step-by-step progressions
All grist to the celestial mills.

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Kingfisher (The Mahals, Wah village, 1990)

Note: The memory of Jalal Khan’s humble village has been lost in the palace and serai built close at hand by the Emperor Shah Jehan in 1645…(Griffin & Massy, ‘Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab’)

 

Blue dipped with startling accuracy and darted;
‘’Look, a star has fallen!’’, the child shouted-
Dragonflies flitted, enmeshed in translucent skeins;
Dip, dip and flit;
I saw a sudden sparkle of turquoise, caught by sun,
Opaque brilliances radiating cobalt confidence;
Something rose, something silver flashed--fish, beak and bird?

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Lawrence Gardens, Lahore *

After the rain everything seems different.
The road under the jacarandas has
A new border of purple
Pale halos of light 
Encircle the air
Clouds of leaves drop down
From old, gaunt trees, and
Ferns reach out like exiles
To the spectral columns
Of the library;

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Mother

You, dear mother,
are all women, all wonders

and of your form flow
rivers of grace

your gaze sets forests
ablaze with love

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One to Four

I

 

One quarter of a century has elapsed

the diurnal movement of a life-cycle

rotating on its own axis

turned inwards and away from

hung by a nail upon the casement

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Railway Tracks

Twice or thrice they crisscross

Across the level crossing

And the nettles cling

Stubbornly to their sides

Spreading their displeasure

Upon the broken ridges

Of crumbling soil;

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Requiem

You draw your breath

yearning

a sadness infinite

in its contemplation;

 

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Riverbeds flowing

The rocks stretch out their arms
To homeless pebbles in the sand
As the white waters leap
Downhill in headlong pursuit
Of happy, lapping hours.

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Sea Gull (Leith Docks, 1995)

Once before I've heard this

anguished cry

 

A long-drawn note of many-lettered woe,

The great open beak straining

against the roar of raging surf;

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Shandur Polo

Had I seen the ghosts of this place

They would dance their victory dance;

Glorious vale

Cup, chalice,

Basin;

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A Model for the Nation: The Early Victorian Era and the Marital Life of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1840-1861.

Today, the term ‘Victorian’ has come to mean all things conventional and restrained, heavy with solemnity, even hypocritical and self-consciously materialistic at times. The ‘lead’ for such social attitudes supposedly emanated from the example of Queen Victoria (r: 1837-1901) and her family.

 

When the young Victoria married her distant cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a small German principality (See Appendix), she married for love (1). To the 20-year old Queen, Albert was an incredibly handsome, dashing and charming beau, rather “incomparable”, for whom she felt a deep physical and emotional attraction, which she expressed quite frankly in some of her family letters (2). Her standards of marital idealism and of male beauty were very high indeed but Albert “fulfilled” all her “hopes” and charmed her to distraction with, “his beautiful blue eyes, an exquisite nose & such a pretty mouth with delicate mustachios & slight, but very slight whiskers” (3).

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Sufi Poetry of Hazrat Syed Meher Ali Shah

Omer Tarin  (Muse India, Delhi, India, No 73, 2017)

The Sufi poetry of Hazrat Syed Meher Ali Shah, Chishti-Nizami, the Saint of Golra: A brief overview

Pakistan is the land of the Indus River, ‘Sindhu’ or ‘Abasyin’, and as this great river flows from North to South, down to the sea, it runs the length of this entire country. The Indus has seen the growth of many ancient civilizations along its banks and those of its main tributary rivers- the Indus Valley civilization, the Gandhara civilization, and so on—and the land, the long basin or valley of the Indus, has long remained one of the world’s major spiritual-mystical centers (Quraeshi, The Introduction, pp 21-22, 27 and 29). It has nurtured the ancient Hindu Vedantic practice, the Greater Path of Buddhism and Sufi Islam.

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Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya, ‘Mahbub I Ilahi’ (Beloved of God) RA, of Delhi, and the Chishti-Nizami Sufi Order

A writer once said that, ‘’In every age there are the Wise Ones, the Great Sages and Saints, who shine like beacons of light in the darkness around them’’. This description fits the life of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (RA) exactly. He was undoubtedly one of these saints and beacons of light , a source of wisdom for all of medieval India and for the rest of the world, too, thereafter. One of the great luminaries of the Chishti Sufi Order, he was also the founder of the branch of that order that is today known as the Chishti-Nizami. His predecessors were Khwaja Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtyar Kaki and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Ajmeri. In that reverse sequence, they constitute the initial spiritual chain or ‘silsila’ of the Chishti order in the Indian subcontinent.

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A List of Chaplains at St.Luke’s Church, Abbottabad, and for the Hazara region, NWFP, Pakistan, in general, c. 1859-1947; Excepting Nathiagali-Dungagali-Kalabagh in the Galiyat Hill Tracts

St. Luke’s Church1 and the Old Christian Cemetery (OCC), Abbottabad2, in the Hazara region of the NWFP3, Pakistan, holds special interests for historians of the British colonial period; especially because of the military-historical connections of Abbottabad’s old cantonment to the British Indian Army of yore, the predecessor of the present Pakistani and Indian armies.

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The Northumberland Fusiliers in Abbottabad, 1879

In Abbotabad’s Old Christian Cemetery (established around the same time the town was, c. 1853), there are many old and fascinating graves of European people dating from between the 1850s to the 1940s—each grave telling a story, or in some cases, linked to broader historical contexts of the British colonial period. While many of these graves have either some inscription/s identifying them, or some sort of record in the old registers at nearby St. Luke’s Church, there is one very interesting monument that has remained unidentified for a very long time, until only a short while ago.

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A King’s (True) Story-Film Review

The recent success of the movie, The King’s Speech, gives one plenty of food for thought. Undoubtedly a slick, sophisticated Hollywood production with some good performances by the cast, at times it takes woeful liberties with certain historical facts. Particularly biased is the movie’s depiction of Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor after his abdication in December 1936), elder brother of King George VI—shown as an extravagant and callous young man, with a slightly malicious attitude towards his younger brother.

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Postcolonial English and the Prospects of Change

One particularly controversial aspect of literature is its relationship to history. According to literary critic and scholar Satish C. Aikant, “The bond [between literature and history] is both inextricable and problematic”, as a “…study of literature inevitably involves a study of its history and a determination of its sites and modes of discrimination…” (In ARIEL, Vol. 31-1 & 2, 2000, p.337).

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The Iraq War, Tony Blair and the Shopkeeper’s Discourse*

A big prisoners’ fiasco in Iran showed to the world what exactly the so-called ‘UN Mandated’ US-UK alliance in Iraq is really up to. Trying to incite the Iranians into war, via provocative steps. As if the world hasn’t had enough of the sort of thing that is making a hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq, at this very time.

 

“I have no regrets [about the Iraq War]”, insisted British Prime Minster Tony Blair, very barefacedly, in a recent Interview (Sky News TV, 14th March)—despite all the chaos, anarchy and bloodshed that he and his ‘senior partner’ President Bush of the USA have been responsible for.

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Some Lecture Notes on Poems by John Keats

  1. “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

The poem, a ballad written in imitation of the traditional medieval ‘Troubadour Poetry’ of Provence (France), was probably written in April 1819. The title of the ballad is from the Old French and means literally, “The Beautiful Maiden/Woman Without Mercy”. It is interesting that in “ The Eve of St.Agnes”, in stanza XXXIII, Keats mentions Porphyro singing a ballad with the same name to Madeleine. There is no evidence of any such poem actually existing in medieval Provencal poetry so we can conceive Keats as having created this as a figment of his imagination, later being inspired to create a poem in this mode and with this title.

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Scott’s Folly

If you travel from England to Scotland, you will cross the River Tweed (which also gives its name to the cloth) which runs across the famous border. Right along its banks, you will find a number of quaint little towns and hamlets, and tucked away in a green, romantic glen, the manor house of Abbottsford. This was once the home of famous Scots novelist, poet and historian, Sir Walter Scott.

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Mists over Thandiani*

Tonight on the veranda
I behold 
The crystalline hilltops 
Sublimate into an avalanche
Of snowflakes, in turn
Dissolving into the haze
Of silent mists;

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For Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan , RIP (5th January 1925-23rd March 2015)

Some souls pass away so quietly that not even the suspiration of their fleeting wings

is heard, or known, to us, among so many other activities, so many other things;

 

so, this was one such soul, that breathed its last, effortlessly and without pain,

melting away into the unknown, rising to the snowy Himalayan heights, shining forth beyond these dusty plains;

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Two in my garden

They stand together

The twin stalks

In my backyard,

Sometimes reminders

Of some things not done,

Some weeds not plucked

When it was time to do so;

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Mohenjo Daro Revisited

I.    You are not dead

 

Why do they call you

Mohenjo-daro

“Mound-of-the Dead”?

You are not dead!

You have never been dead

Or buried

Or cremated

By the scorching banks of the Sindhu;

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