Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pakistan and America

Pakistan transformed, really?

From The Statesman
ND Batra

Looking at the election results of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province that hugs Waziristan and Afghanistan, a region notorious for the Taliban and Al-Qaida sanctuary and terrorists’ breeding ground, one might wonder if the earlier intelligence that the whole region has been permanently radicalised and is in the grip of Islamic diehards was nothing but a morbid exaggeration. Religious fanatics do not give up their extremist belief simply because of violence and economic hardship and seek change through the ballot box as the NWFP people have done along with the rest of Pakistan. Wherever there is a free election, people vote in their self-interest. Jihadis have more to fear the ballot box than missile attacks from the United States.

Only five years ago, the frontier people, a majority of them hardy Pathans-Pashtuns who straddle the Khyber Pass and have a shared ethnicity with most Afghans, voted into power an alliance of religious parties, MMQ, letting it form a government dominated by pro-Taliban clerics. With their significance presence in the national parliament, many analysts feared that the MMQ’s influence would spread to the rest of Pakistan. It seemed extremely worrisome that the Taliban and Al-Qaida had finally established a permanent base, a fortress of power from where they would rule the whole region and which would become the source of an endless global supply chain of terrorists.

Although Punjab dominates Pakistan in many ways, the self-governing autonomous region had increasingly become a vortex of chaotic power, a blend of extremism and tribalism, beyond the control of the central government.

The greatest worry has been that the extremist virus might infect the younger madrasa-going generation, about which one might say that the jury is still out. Perhaps because of the Musharraf government’s restrictions on political activities by two major political parties, Sharif’s Muslim League (ML-N) and Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistanis had limited political choices, which they exercised by voting for Islamic parties or Musharraf’s own political faction of the Muslim League (ML-Q).

It is argued that Musharraf’s thinking that the military must supple the country’s capable political leaders that could guide and control political processes, did not work out and might have encouraged the spread of extremism by weakening the moderating forces of the two major political parties.

Partly because of the Pakistan military’s ambivalent attitude towards the Taliban, and some delusional miscalculation that it could still be used to influence events in Afghanistan, large areas of the border region, especially in Waziristan, turned into a suicidal war zone, which has made the life of the people a living hell and tied down thousands of troops in a bloody and humiliating hit and run enterprise.

Last week’s ballot showed that voters were not enamoured of Islamic extremists’ ideology and preferred to choose secular parties, including the Awami National Party and Bhutto’s PPP, who are likely to form a provincial government. The challenge before the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, leader of Muslim League (N), and Asif Ali Zardari, PPP’s new leader, as they push and shove to form a coalition government, is twofold. First and foremost, how to cooperate wholeheartedly with the United States and NATO in the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaida, who are using the tribal region as their hideout and training camps for keeping Afghanistan in a state of perpetual turmoil and have been extending their tentacles into the rest of Pakistan. During the US presidential primaries, the three leading candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barak Obama of the Democratic Party and Senator John McCain of the Republican Party have expressed their differences about the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but they have been firm in dealing with the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Pakistan. Sen. Obama even suggested bombing the tribal areas of Pakistan if it did not fully cooperate with the United States.

Benazir Bhutto was reported to have no objection if the US troops operated from Pakistan’s territory in hunting down the Taliban and Al-Qaida. The new leadership of Pakistan cannot afford to belittle the US interests in the region, including Afghanistan and Central Asia. The second major issue of course is the fate and the political role of President Musharraf, whose political party, Muslim League (Q), got a terrible beating at the poll, including the defeat of its 23 cabinet ministers. Benazir had agreed to a power-sharing arrangement with him, which allowed her to return to Pakistan, unfortunately, as it turned out, to meet her tragic end. Mr Sharif, who returned from his Saudi exile but was barred from fighting elections, is at present dead set against any accommodation with Mr Musharraf and wants him to be impeached. Bringing back the old judiciary hastily might aggravate the situation and trip the apple-cart.

If the coalition has a two-third majority in parliament, Mr Musharraf could be impeached but whether it will be politically wise to do so is a different matter. The greatest need of Pakistan today is to form a secular, progressive government with a strong economic agenda that can sustain the remarkable economic growth of more than six per cent achieved during the last several years of the Musharraf administration; and resume the dialogue with India to bring peace and stability to the entire subcontinent.

The continuation of Mr Musharraf as President albeit with diminished political role will allow the diplomatic, economic and political processes to continue, apart from assuring the United States that war against terrorism will not be adversely affected. There is no indication that the Bush administration has lost its confidence in Mr Musharraf (and the Pakistan military), and whoever occupies the White House next January will build upon the gains of the Bush administration and increase the US influence with the civilian government as well as the military establishment, where Mr Musharraf continues to have a loyal and powerful network.

(ND Batra teaches communications and diplomacy at Norwich University and is working on a new book, This is the American Way)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Building trust in Googlistan

From The Statesman

ND Batra

A recent Pew/Internet report regarding the privacy implications of digital mobility said that many people in the United States “are jumping into the fast, mobile, participatory Web without considering all the implications.”

Of course that is true of other countries too. Just imagine India’s 237 million mobile phone users who keep chirping without any thought of who might be listening to them. As the Pew report stated: “If nothing really bad has happened to someone, they tend neither to worry about their personal information nor to take steps to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online.” But the invisible threat of someone watching and listening is ubiquitous.

The enthusiasm about the Internet among the young and the old all over the world has been increasing steadily. Painful memories of the deflated dotcom era have faded. The digital age is rising again, it would seem, on a foundation of hope, as more and more users begin to realise the Internet’s potential in diverse fields from online teaching to micro-financing to grocery shopping.

The main reason for the growing popularity of the Internet, especially the wireless mobile, is that it makes the users’ lives easier and also creates business possibilities where none existed earlier. Though this is basically an adult view ~ teenagers value the Internet for different reasons ~ the fact remains that its popularity among all sections of society not only in the United States but everywhere else too is multiplying.

The phenomenal rise of Google and the recent Microsoft’s bid to acquisition Yahoo! shows that dotcom companies have not only been growing rapidly but the future is digital and mobile. The users regard the mobile Internet not only as a limitless source of free information available at a click but also a shopping mall, banking street and place to socialise.

Of course, some people still don’t feel confident about trusting the computer screen ~ even if an online store gives free home deliveries; they would rather go to the store, browse and enjoy the sensuous experience of personal shopping.

There is a widely held view that the Internet is a genuine cause of concern regarding privacy, pornography, accuracy of information and accountability. Hopefully as these concerns diminish, the dotcoms would become a pre-eminent engine driving the economy everywhere. The question of accountability is a typical one that the American public normally asks, whether it is regarding a toy manufacturer, pharmaceutical company or a mutual fund company. But since the Internet is not owned by anyone and is impossible to control, the question of accountability becomes intriguing and difficult to handle.

At present very few people feel that there is any online accountability. The American people are worried about the government and private companies collecting information about them when they are online. Data-sniffers do make us vulnerable on the Internet. If in a shopping mall someone watches or stalks you, you become alert and take some action; or maybe you choose to do nothing. On the Internet you don’t know who is watching you and why, which creates a diffused sense of anxiety and consequently reduces trust in the system.

The adult users’ view of the Internet contrasts sharply, in many respects, with what American teenagers think about cyberspace. Teenagers love the Internet’s freedom and anonymity. For them it is a source of empowerment and a zone of unsupervised freedom. Another Pew/Internet December 2007 survey, Teens and Social Media reported that teenagers’ “use of social media ~ from blogging to online social networking to creation of all kinds of digital material ~ is central” to their lives, with girls ahead of boys in the blogosphere.

“Digital images ~ stills and videos ~ have a big role in teen life. Posting them often starts a virtual conversation. Most teens receive some feedback on the content they post online,” the survey reported.

Unlike adults who want the Internet to be regulated somehow, teenagers prefer the Internet to be left alone, lest its freedom be compromised. They are aware of the dangers of meeting strangers and predators online but feel confident of dealing with the situation on their own, a view that also finds expression in other reports about the Internet and teenagers. Teenagers are also not as much concerned about surveillance as are adult users, which seems a little puzzling.

I believe teenagers’ indifferent attitude regarding data mining and profiling is due to the fact that they have very little to lose in material terms, for example, credit card identity theft, financial blackmail, and bad credit.

Fear is a natural emotion and it grows as we grow older. My own students whom I occasionally use as captive focus groups to see which way the social winds are blowing feel that it is the responsibility of the individual or parents, not the government, to supervise the Net. But that does not answer the question about teenagers who come from families where parental supervision is not available.

When the family bonds are not strong and guidance is minimal, how should teenagers deal with the freedom of the Internet, especially with portals like MySpace and Facebook, where kids can do whatever they want, posting personal and private thoughts, and all kinds of pictures? Creating trust in Googlistan is a great corporate challenge.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University, Vermont)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Love on line

"Finding lasting love in the virtual world may be no less certain than in the real world. But millions of singles are turning to matchmaking sites in hopes of meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, and some entrepreneurs believe that both profits and better marriages will result. " More...Dating-Game Theory Finding Love Online
By Bill Snyder

Digital Education for the Millennial Generation

Digital Education for the Millennial Generation

by Michelle A.L. Singer, correspondent Feb. 15, 2008

A laptop for every freshman, a wireless campus, class discussions online and distance learning—this is the face of high-tech campuses. How does Norwich University measure up? Read more...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Digital space to real space

Millennial musings of a non-millenial man

From The Statesman
ND Batra

Our BlackBerrys, the Internet anywhere and wireless global connectivity do give us a sense of freedom but they may also be diminishing face-to-face interactions and engagement from the realities of life. Sometime it takes a natural calamity to bring us back to our sense of humanity.

Last week when most Americans were hooked on Super Tuesday presidential primaries and its aftermath, a cluster of deadly tornados with wind speed 125-150 mph ripped across five states in the US South killing 59 people. Miraculously an 11-month child was saved ~ not by Google Earth but a perceptive human who spotted the child in a mud puddle. And President George W Bush was there too. “I’m here to listen... to make sure that the federal response is compassionate and effective,” Mr Bush said after an aerial tour of the area where he saw first-hand, not on YouTube, homes flattened and fields strewn with trees and animal carcasses.

The identity, cultural values and religious life of a community are anchored in physical space, which MySpace and Facebook cannot replace. But it is true that human bonds, especially of the millennial generation (those born between 1977 and 1994), are loosening. With our cell phones and GPS, perpetual mobility and perpetual connectivity, we are in touch without being in touch.

In this age of virtual presence and transitory relations with disembodied and delocalised groups that rise and disappear in cyberspace, the sense of the place, its physical and cultural intimacy, its diurnal patterns, is becoming very important to people. The feeling of being a New Yorker, the smells and the sounds of the city even in the dead of winter is so desirable. If you live in Kolkata or Mumbai, for example, you know what I mean.

During the grueling presidential primary season, Democrats and Republicans have been going from one state to another on an endless pilgrimage to be with the people, physically connecting with them, touching them, eating with them in local diners, which they could not have done in cyberspace. One of the greatest virtues of democracy is that it churns up society periodically and creates the possibility of renewal through self-examination as it is happening now in the United States as presidential hopefuls, Republicans and Democrats, crisscross the country promising a better America. They love the blessings of borderless cyberspace to raise funds but talk of protecting the borders to stop illegal immigrants who come to seek work while corporate America outsources work to a digital seamless world.

The question is whether the digital age, which gives us the choice to work and collaborate from anywhere, could also revitalise and renew abandoned suburbia, downtowns and slums especially surrounding big cities hit by subprime loan crisis and home foreclosures. Social networks, chat rooms and virtual communities hold the promise of bringing about new social activism in communities and empowering people to demand changes, but so far it has not been happening.

Laws are made to empower citizens to live a life of self-regulated autonomy in accordance with their personal beliefs and values. Can civic responsibility be maintained if one loses a sense of place? Can a civic generation be created in cyberspace? Digital economy tends to make people less committed to their communities.

Closer the world becomes because of globalisation, greater is the need for localism and committed local leaders. Identity that creates bonds becomes crucial. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Americans are so worried about illegal immigrants, who are so essential to the economy and yet are perceived as a social burden. Americans fear dilution of their identity due to the influx of people from across the border.

Yet a serious question arises as to how a country should make itself desirable enough to keep and lure the elite, when a substantial portion of work becomes mobile and could be done from anywhere in the world. The late management guru Peter Drucker saw the digital economy threatening “a new class conflict between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of people who make their living traditionally.”

But you don’t see this happening unless you wonder why Maoists’ insurgency in India continues unabated or why a physician like Amit Kumar is able to persuade poor Indians to sell their kidneys instead of providing them with affordable healthcare. Digital and stock-market millionaires are rising everywhere, in India too.

In spite of digital economy the median family income in the United States has not been going up significantly, while the number of millionaires is galloping. Trickledown economy has been trickling very slowly to the bottom rung of the people. Stock market does not spread wealth, though the number of Americans owning stock directly or through their pension funds has increased substantially. When the top ten per cent own 90 per cent of the stock, market alone cannot provide a cure for poverty.

Migration of jobs from industrial rustbelts to other countries, and the consequent desertion of erstwhile prosperous communities, has been causing pain. Call to reform education, including testing and teachers’ accountability, has been an attempt to halt dislocation when global corporations become increasingly global and mobile and rootless. The need to build a broad-based economy that gives hope to people left behind could have never been more urgent than today. The millennial generation needs to get out of MySpace and YouTube and smell the earth.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University, Vermont. He is the author of Digital Freedom: How Much Can You Handle?)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Smart campuses sans smart professors

Can a smart campus make its professors smart?

From The Statesman
ND Batra

Today an institute of higher education with graduate and post-graduate research programmes needs a sophisticated environment of virtual learning that allows its students and faculty to access not only its own databases but also global intellectual resources. Some universities such as MIT, Yale, John Hopkins, UC Irvine, and others have made available their courses, including audio-video lectures online, which are open to the public. Through their opencourseware, these universities have established global collaborative relations with other institutions and in the process built up their social capital and enhanced their reputation. MIT offers more than 1,800 courses online and many of its faculty members have become global teachers. Its opencourseware site has received 2.4 million visits since 2004.

US campuses are increasingly becoming broadband and wireless, enabling students to use their laptops or mobile devices from anywhere. Classrooms are getting “smart” in the sense that teachers can connect to Internet sources from their classrooms, besides using other instructional tools. I live very close to Dartmouth College and whenever I visit the campus, I see students using their laptops everywhere. Many professors put up their class notes and other teaching materials online. Online discussions and wikis are becoming common teaching tools.

Making a classroom “smart” and globally available requires the university to have a professional studio/staff to help faculty members to digitise and upload their lectures and other teaching materials online, apart from having enough server space to accommodate requests for access from the general public. It is an expensive undertaking.

At the graduate level, some universities have created virtual campuses that are supplemented with periodic on-campus residencies during which students and faculty members make presentations, hold symposia and seminars. For example, at Norwich University where I am a faculty member, the graduate school uses Blackboard Learning System for its teaching and it is working all right at present. But in the age of Second Life, YouTube and video podcasts, I don’t know how long graduate students will be satisfied with the present method of asynchronous teaching.

As a graduate faculty I would like to virtualise my presence through Second Life and offer Web seminars. Last week I attended a live Webcast seminar (http://w.on24.com/r.htm?e=100367&s=1&k=69ADCF54195868AF1164D05CCF308FF4) presented by Dow Jones, “Latest Trend in Social Media: How to Listen Effectively and Engage in the Conversation,” which in its one-hour presentation included voiceover PowerPoint, graphics, instant participant surveys and question-answers. I thought this might be a wave of the future for virtual teaching. Some universities, for example, Harvard Law School, have begun to offer some of their courses in Second Life.

Of the various instructional methods used for teaching by American professors, the use of computer-aided instruction, especially at the undergraduate level, is limited to PowerPoint or video primarily to break the monotony of a long lecture. PowerPoint gives teachers an illusion of mastery of their subject matters but its excessive use can be a barrier to engaging students in class. Some students resent the technology because it tends to shut them out of live exchange. No one has come up with an equally good alternative to lecture-discussion method that has been at the heart of teaching-learning experience since ages.

Lecturing is done partly to establish intellectual and personal relationship with students even if the same material may be available in the textbook. Sometimes lecturing becomes a necessity, especially when a tough topic and fundamentals have to be explained. When the textbook along with supplementary readings is brought to bear upon a discussion topic in the classroom, you see the beginning of learning, which is further enhanced through projects, term papers, weekly essay assignments, and the stimulus of quizzes, and mid-term and final examinations.

But online teaching is raising some interesting possibilities. While in classroom discussions some students, especially girls, hesitate to participate, I have personally found that most students participate very enthusiastically in online discussions. Many of them express themselves freely when I encourage a free-style discussion, de-emphasising grammar for the time being. Online discussion creates a level playing field between the extrovert and the shy type.

Of course students and professors miss a lot when there are no face-to-face encounters, dramatic moments which occasionally result in witticism, humour and other minor confrontations that enhance teaching and learning and make the dialogue ~ the dialectic ~ such a joy.

Information technology causes stress on the campus, simply because no one can always keep up at the cutting edge of technology. Even younger faculty members who have grown up with the Internet feel stressed due to the fact that information technology is not user-friendly.

Teaching online requires a different attitude because communication between students and teachers is asynchronous. Many adult students find working on their own time a great advantage. But how to get your point across without facial gestures and vocal cues is a challenge. Classroom liveliness and vibrancy, the thrill of being with students is absent online. Lecturing is performance and some of us become teachers because it gives us a sense of participation in the learning process. Physical presence and face-to-face meetings can bring out the best in students. The juice rush that one feels in the class when there is something unexpected, the laughter, the body language and voice inflection, and the instant feedback, including sleeping and yawning, all are absent in the virtual classroom. How to bring one’s personality into the virtual classroom is a serious challenge.

Can a smart university campus make its professors smart? Global exposure can be an incentive for some professors to improve their teaching but the jury is still out whether a smart online presentation is all that what we mean by good teaching. Nevertheless, you can’t disagree with the MIT’s motto “Unlocking Knowledge, Empowering minds,” whatever it takes, virtual or real.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University, Vermont)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sagarika: Tagore


A poem by Tagore

From: RAJAT DAS GUPTA: Calcutta: e-mail: rajatdasgupta53@yahoo.com

Thou Hast Made Me EndlessPart XI

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs).More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so.As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”.Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g.William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The followings are presented mostly based on this book.
Tagore as historian (Contd. IV- concluding part)
Seemingly a romantic love poem, ‘Sagarika’ hides a massive chapter in Indian history with its glory followed by ignominy. Reference from the poet’s Java diary quoted below, will surface the true implications of the poem.

Poem: ‘Sagarika’ (the daughter of the sea) of the book ‘Mahua’.

[Translator’s note: Toward the close of 2000 A.D. the then President of the USA Bill Clinton visited India and while addressing a gathering in his honour, India’s the then President K. R. Narayanan had said that it was of late fashionable to call the world a ‘Small Village’, which is of course a fall out of the revolution in the communication system defeating space and time. But, Narayanan had pointed out to Clinton that in the mediaeval age the villages were ruled by the Morols (Village Chiefs) while the modern villages are ruled by the Panchayats (Village Associations) manned by the elected representatives of the people. He had thereby analogized the United Nations (UN) with the Indian Panchayats for the purpose of to-day’s ‘Small Village’ and had implied that its affairs should be overseen by the UN instead of the sole superpower now existing e.g. the USA. Of course he had meant the Big Brother role for which the USA had been aggressive from time to time often myopic to others’ causes besides her own.
History tells us about such aggressive role of some Western nations over several centuries past with their imperialist ambition. Whichever territory they had occupied, they had enslaved the local people there by brute force to enjoy their “Master” status. We ourselves had been victim of the British rule for about 2 centuries till 1947. This instinct of domination has not died even to-day and has rather been found infectious world over with the progressive perfection in genocide technology.
Indian history had been quite different. Indians had taken their voyage abroad in the past to export their humanistic ideas, religious values, music and culture along with their merchandise, but never with imperialist contemplation. The poem was written on the 1st October 1927, soon after which the Poet took his voyage to Bali island, now a part of Indonesia. India’s link with this island is age old. Stamps of Indian culture, religion, music, art etc. have survived time in this island. The Poet recalls all this past link with Bali which dates back to the glorious period of Indian history, but was particularly snapped since mid-eighteenth century when the dark period of our country was at the worst with the advent of the British rule, and the Poet was on voyage to Bali with a heavy mind while the freedom fighters’ suffering was at its peak in his own land. The Poet thus regrets his inability to offer anything precious new to Bali except his humble music.
The following quote from Tagore’s diary recording his thoughts at the time of his voyage to Java will more clarify his thoughts behind ‘Sagarika’.

“The pure dedication that Science has ushered in is for all country, all time and all men; so it has imbibed in man the power of God, to drive out all woe, penury and ailment from human family with its weaponry. The Viswakarma (God of Engineering) for creation of heaven for man is this Science. But when this very Science laboured to shape up man’s desire for fruit to an enormity , it became the Yama (God of Death). If man on this earth will annihilate, it will be for this reason – he knew Truth but not its use. He achieved divine power, but not divinity. In modern time that divine power is manifest in Europe. But has it been so for genocide? In the last war this very question has emerged stark. Europe has become a terror outside her boundaries, as evidenced throughout Asia and Africa. Europe
has not come to us with her Science, but with her greed. So the blockade for manifestation of Europe within the heart of Asia. With impertinence of her Science, hubris of her power and her greed for wealth, for long Europe has cultivated this hassling of man all over the earth. When it boomeranged at her home she is anxious.
She put others’ pasture on fire which has now caught on her wood. She is now wondering where to stop. Is it by halting her machinery? I don’t say so. But they have to halt their greed. Will it be achieved by religious sermons? That won’t be enough. Science also must complement it. The dedication which controls greed inwardly is of religion, but that which removes the external causes of it is of Science.
These two combined, accomplish their dedications. Wisdom of science to-day awaits union with religion’s. But why all these debates are labouring my head on my way to Java? The reason is, India’s erudition once went abroad. But those aliens had regarded it favourably.
Tibet, Mongolia, Malayas, wherever India had preached her wisdom, had been through genuine human relations. To-day my pilgrimage is to witness those historical evidences of man’s holy access everywhere. Also to note is, that India of yore did not preach some cut and dried sermons, but inaugurated the inner treasure of man through architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature, stamps of which remain in the deserts, woods, rocks, isles, rugged terrain and difficult
[Java diary, July, 1927]

I am unaware of any poetry in any other language which better conveys one’s passion for the old link with a country through such a superb love allegory. I also think, evaluation of this poem in the context of goodwill that was in India’s political ethos in the past, as this poem reveals, but largely missing globally, is only relevant.

Bathing in the deep blue sea,
On the pebbled beach sat thee;
Thy garments loose
Left scribbles on the shore profuse.
The affectionate Sun on thy body un-ornate
Left its golden paint.
With crown on my head,
In right hand archery held,
Stood in my royal attire –
Said, “I’ve come, O foreigner!”

Startled, from thy seat of rock,
Thou stood up with a shock –
Asked, “Why did you come?”
Said I, “Let thy mind calm,
Only I want to pluck flower
For God’s worship, in thy bower.”
Thou attended me with indulgent smile;
We plucked Juthi, (1) Jati (1) and Champa (1) to pile. (1)
To sort those in the basket sat together,
Worshipped Nataraj (2) with our earnest prayer. (2)
The mist was over, light flooded the sky,
Facing Shiva (2), Parbati’s (2) smile did lie. (2)

As rose the evening star
On the mountain top there,
Thou alone at home
On thy waist shone
Bright blue sapphire,
Round thy head, garland of flower.
Bangles in thy hands both –
On my way playing flute I quoth –
“Guest I’m at thy door.”
Scared, stretched thy lamp my face to explore;
Asked, “Why did you come?”
Said I, “Let thy mind calm,
Thy charming person I’ll adorn
With the decors I’ve borne.”
Flashed a beaming smile
On thy face, its beauty sparked awhile.
The gold necklace on thy chest
I suspended, the crown on thy head set at rest.
Lit up lights thy mates, their frolic sublime
Flooded the entire clime.
Thy ornate person did flitter
The charm of the night’s lunar glitter.
With my rhyme matched thy jingle,
Smiles at the sky the full moon single;
Light and shade to and fro
As the sea waves go.

Unwittingly, the day was over;
So, my ship raised its anchor.
Sudden was the wind adverse on my voyage,
Unleashed havoc, put the sea in rage;
Drowned my ship in the salt water
In the dark night with all my treasure.

With shattered fate, I’m again at thy door
Attired as destitute, my royal robes no more;
Saw at the temple of Nataraj (2) (2)
As before, was the decor of flowers;
While at night, the festive sea
Rhymes moonlight dance in wavy glee;
With thy silent face down in that fest
I stole a look at my garland round thy chest,
At my paints, listened rhythms of my song
Sway thee in ecstasy, all to me belong.

I implore thee; O bonny,
Once more hold thy lamp to me;
Now I’m no more crowned,
My archery no more to be found;
In the southern wind brought neither
My basket to fill in thy bower;
Only I’ve brought my flute;
Try please to make me out thou astute.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(1) these are Indian names of some flowers.
(2) Nataraj, the Lord of Dance, is the other name of Shiva and, according to the Hindu concept, his dance cycles Destruction after Creation. Parbati is the wife of Shiva.