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On Michael Jackson

By Amrita Rajan

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What on earth can I possibly say today that hasn’t already been said, and much better at that, elsewhere? His life, his music, his troubles, the allegations, the courtcases, the many weirdnesses – you’ll find them all written about in extensive detail pretty much everywhere you turn for the next few days.

But it’s also one of those moments when I’m glad I have a blog because I’d like to think that at some point, if I can just hang on long enough, IndieQuill will be a record of sorts of my life over a certain period – and the passing of Michael Jackson is definitely a milestone that deserves its place here.

As weird as it sounds, Michael Jackson and Talat Mehmood were my introduction to music.

My parents had a deep fondness for Talat Mehmood (here is my mom’s favorite song from her favorite movie!) and would play his songs all the time. I quite liked them although I was almost five before I figured out that those sounds he made were actual words and they meant something. I’m not being mean – I truly didn’t make the connection until one day I was listening to O Panchhi Pyaare from Bandini and realized Asha Bhonsle was telling me a story. Well, not telling me specifically… you know what I mean.

Meanwhile my brother brought home a copy of Thriller one day and the moment I saw the video, I was hooked. Talat Mehmood was nice, sure, but Michael was something else.

It took me even longer to figure out that he too was singing words instead of just stringing together interesting sounds, but it was Michael himself who caught my attention above all else. I don’t know how old you were when you first saw Thriller, and I know you’ve seen it because even my grandmother knew that one (he was the only international – or domestic for that matter – pop star she could recognize, both by sight and by sound), but it’s quite something to see it through the eyes of a five year old who’d never even imagined that things or sounds like that existed.

My brother, being much older, had not only heard it much earlier but had already switched his allegiance to Prince, and as such I was allowed to play and replay the video to my heart’s content – something that was strictly verboten in the norm because he felt a five year old was not a proper person to press buttons on his beloved VCR (remember those things?) or handle his favorite tapes (oh, the battles we fought over The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, our favorite movie to unwind to when we were growing up!).

We’d go down south for the summer and in the evenings, the four of us would visit my aunt, and my brother, my cousin and I would go round back where Michael, my aunt’s houseboy, would put on a performance modeled on his namesake. South Indian Michael’s impression of Beat It was quite something. Not Chiranjeevi-something perhaps, but something! Sometimes, we’d get the dog to play audience while we joined him and the poor thing would sit by, puzzled but game, watching the crazy humans hop around to the music blaring from the ancient tape recorder (yup, it was that long ago!) hooked up to an outlet in the garage, volume on the highest setting we dared without bringing down the wrath of the parents on our heads.

And then, a couple of years later, my brother brought home a copy of Moonwalker. One glimpse of Smooth CriminalMary Poppins in my affections. It was like converting to a different religion. and my obsession went into overdrive. I have no idea if little kids were his target audience with that video, but for a time it even replaced

Eventually, as I became a tween and Michaelmania around me began to reach crazy heights, the contrarian in me started backing off a bit. My best friend got me a copy of The Joshua Tree, an album that’d come out about the same time as Moonwalker and Bad but couldn’t have been more different, for my birthday and once I got over the fact that here was an album that I couldn’t dance to (Why, God, WHY?!), I liked it very much. MJ began to resemble a much loved childhood artifact, now laid aside.

And once the 90s took hold, as he began to get snowed under allegations, tabloid reports and legal troubles, the era of Michael seemed more and more remote. I don’t think I’ve thought of him as a musician in years.

But my childhood will always be set to his music. As an adult, I never know how to feel about him – my childhood icon, the pedophile? My childhood icon, the kid who had the hell whaled out of him so he could come up with the kind of performance that brought so much joy to my own carefree childhood? My childhood icon, the weirdo with the smushed-in nose who made his kids wear masks in public? My childhood icon, who was now a completely different color from the man who’d first captured my imagination? But my inner 5 year old knows better.

Michael Jackson was the 80s. Red coat, epaulettes, jheri curl, the shyest, sweetest smile, baddest beats and all.


Amrita Rajan is a writer, blogger and full time reader. She is currently working on her first novel.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.

Neruda and Faiz
Great poets, close friends, exceptional humanists

By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr Ikramul Haq

(A Kavita Media Presentation. Please email comments here.
You can also contact Kavita with your feedback, by dialing 678-720-1260. Selected comments will be broadcast on our webcast.)

July 12 marks 105th birth anniversary of 1971 Nobel-prize winner poet Pablo Neruda. He was born in Parral, Chile on 12 July 1904. He joined the Communist Party after the Second World War. Between 1970 and 1973, he served in Allende’s Government as ambassador to Paris. He died shortly after the US-backed military coup that ended the Allende Government by Pinochet.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1910-1984)—contemporary poets, intimate friends and outstanding humanists—have left lasting impression on the world of politics and literature. Their work was recognized globally—one was honoured with Nobel Prize for literature and the other with Lenin Peace Prize. Both Neruda and Faiz, like many others, notably Nazim Hikmet and Mahmoud Darwish, were essentially anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists. Their great struggle and work was interwoven—it was inseparable. Their work complimented their struggle and vice versa. The life and work of Neruda has amazing similarities with that of Faiz.

Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Neruda (real name Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto), was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls’ secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily La Mañana, among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia –his first publication– and  his first poem.  In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: CrepuscularioVeinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago. (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic work during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough. The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el Corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterized by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el Corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.

In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico, where he rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto General, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda’s literary work. Shortly after its publication, Canto General was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla’s repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las Uvas y el Viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda’s exile. In Odas elementales (1954- 1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns –things, events and relations—are duly presented in alphabetic form.

Neruda’s work is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras Completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years canbe mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.

Faiz as a young man

Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born in Sialkot in the Punjab, then a part of India under British rule. He hailed from a well-to-do landowner’s family. Faiz’s father was a prominent lawyer, who was interested in literature, and whose friends included several prominent literary figures, including Muhammad Iqbal (1873-1938), national poet of Pakistan. Faiz received his education at mission schools in Sialkot in the English language, but he also learned Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. He studied English and Arabic literatures at Government College, Lahore, receiving in 1932 his M.A. in English, and in Arabic from Oriental College, Lahore. Besides formal studies, Faiz actively participated in the literary circles, which held meetings at homes of established writers. After graduating, he worked as a teacher from the mid-1930s in Amritsar and Lahore.

In the 1930s, Faiz joined the famous leftist progressive movement under the leadership of Sajjad Zaheer (1905-1973. During World War II, Faiz served in the Indian army in Delhi, and in 1944, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. With the division of the subcontinent in 1947, Faiz resigned from the army and moved to Pakistan with his family. Alys Faiz (died in 2003), whom he had married in 1941, later published a book of memoirs, Over My Shoulder (1993). Faiz became editor of the English daily, the Pakistan Times. He also worked as managing editor of the Urdu daily Imroz, and was actively involved in organizing trade unions.

In 1951 Faiz and a number of army officers were implicated in the so-called Rawalpindi Conspiracy case and arrested under Safety Act. The government authorities alleged that Faiz and others were planning a coup d’état. He spent four years in prison under a sentence of death and was released in 1955. Faiz became the secretary of the National Council of the Arts, and in 1962 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. After the military takeover of General Ziaul Haq on July 5, 1977, Faiz was once again under trouble and was forced to exile. After a period of exile in war-torn Lebanon from 1979 to 1982, Faiz returned to Pakistan and died in Lahore on November 20, 1984.

Faiz’s first collections of poetry, Naqsh-e faryadi (1943), Dast-e saba (1952), and Zindan Namah (1956), include his experience of imprisonment. Faiz describes his life behind the walls, in confinement, finding consolation in the thought that "though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed / in rooms where lovers are destined to meet / they cannot snuff out the moon..."

The remarkable thing about Neruda and Faiz was that in spite of their overwhelming revolutionary ideas, they never allowed ideological epiphany to burden their poems with shoddy rhetoric. They were masters of art and craft—a quality lacked by many revolutionary poets of their time. Neruda-Faiz legacy is universal and everlasting—both for nearly six decades inimitably articulated the suffering of their people, the agony of dispossession and exile. Today, Ismail Kadare—winner of 2009 Spanish literary prize who considered as one of the greatest writers and intellectuals of the 20th century—narrates in the same masterly language and style the tragedy of his land (Albania), an incessant battleground. It is, in fact, not a story of one land alone. It is tragedy of millions of others as well—living in troubled lands around the globe where wars, civil strife, hunger, terrorism and militancy are posing problems of day to day survival. Today, Pablo Neruda and Faiz Ahmad Faiz are not alive, but the courage they demonstrated in their work is source of inspiration for all the leading poets and writers of the world.


The writers, ardent readers and admirers of Pablo Neruda and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, during their recent visit to Chile (June11-22) met people from cross sections of Chilean society and discussed with Mr. Burhanul Islam, Pakistan’s first Ambassador to Chile, various vistas of promoting cultural ties between the two countries highlighting past connections like that of Faiz-Neruda.

Huzaima Bukhari, advocate High Court, is researcher and writer. She has authored many books with her husband Dr. Ikramul Haq. She teaches tax laws at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Her detailed work can be seen at

Dr. Ikramul Haq, advocate Supreme Court, is a leading tax adviser, writer and ex-journalist. He worked in VIEWPOINT, edited by late Mazhar Ali Khan, from 1979 to 1984. In his book ’Pakistan: Drug-trap to Debt-trap’, he traced the journey of Pakistan from ’Kingdom of Her

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers/interviewees and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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