Books and Songs That Carried Us Through 2021 — by Inverse Contributors
December 31, 2021
As we come to the end of this difficult year and enter the new one, Inverse Journal has asked its contributors to participate in a collective piece where they share—with our readers and their fellow contributors—the one book and/or the one song that stayed with them throughout the year or during a considerable part of it. Below are entries from some of our contributors who responded to the online survey and shared their picks for this 2021 as it passes by. In a human world where catastrophe and devastation also wreak their havoc on meaning-making and signification, one imagines that books and songs are imbued with a restorative and restructuring power—with both operating within and outside of human time. It with this thought in mind that Inverse Journal presents a limited selection of such books and songs curated and picked by some of the same contributors who make this space possible.
Omair Bhat thinks of himself as a memory keeper. His poems have previously appeared in Critical Muslim, The Sunflower Collective, Celebration, Cafe Dissensus and Kashmir Lit. In his free time, Omair reads poetry from all over the world while researching international poets and their writings. He is currently finalizing a manuscript of his first book of poems.

When We Cease to Understand the World

by Benjamín Labatut

Three aspects about the book that I was majorly fascinated by:
1) structure and density of the prose, at all once moving, stimulating and concrete
2) a marathon foray into the vivid imagination of Labatut ( reminiscent of – dare I say – Borges?) and we stroll through, although carefully, and yet mistake fact for fiction and fiction for fact – ofttimes – convinced at some point in the book that after the deployment of science we may have tried so much to know about and interpret the universe, its reality – what force or organizing principle runs it and so on – but, then, have we really since as much as we know about the universe is still insignificantly less as against to the knowledge that we know nearly nothing about it. We dwell in the “unknowable”. The “vision of the whole” is an impossible (modern scientific) discovery.
3) it tells us so much ( yet so little) about these acrimonious anecdotal accidents and freakish linkages between science/scientific discoveries /breakthroughs and the devastation they have power to wreak or have wreaked upon general humanity that I was left wondering if we have ever known but, oblivious to the fact, it seems like we’re living through an extended period of condemnation on earth.

Baghon Main

by Arooj Aftab

Or about the singer? Her sheer inventive approach to the South Asian music is offering us a new dimension to experience, to listen to, to ponder upon. It is an experiment in contemplation. About the song? Baghon Main is one such song from her mewling genius. You might even want to listen to it, on a loop, on an early morning in winter while sitting on your window staring into the opacity of biting frost. The true state of being.

Edward Elizabeth likes to think of herself as a writer, one who is deeply in love with the arts and finds her soul lost in them. She is currently a student of the University of Benin where she gets constantly frustrated by the education system but still holds it together by journaling and writing. She has been published previously but went on a long hiatus to maintain her sanity and well-being. In other words, she is here to stay, persist and seek to write more and contribute more of her creative work in this world.

The Tiny Journalist

by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Tiny Journalist is a poetry collection by Naomi who recorded the struggles faced in the war in Palestine through the eyes of Janna, a journalist, who records her own experiences and those of other people,  and especially women. It is a book that sent shivers down my spine and made me feel the pain of war as it is also happening in my country.

Hand of God

by Jon Bellion

I found Jon Bellion the year before Covid-19 arrived. The Human Condition was one of my favorite albums. I generally enjoyed listening to his songs until The Hand of God became very personal to me as it stayed with me during all my tough times in hospital having operations. These particular lyrics did it for me from last year to this year: “Tears at a funeral, tears at a funeral, I might break / Angry at all the things, angry at all the things I can’t change / When you’re lost in the universe, lost in the universe / Don’t lose faith”.

Oz Hardwick is a York (UK)-based writer, photographer and occasional musician, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media: books, journals, record covers, concert programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but a residual West Country accent. He has published nine poetry collections, most recently the prose poetry chapbook Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020), and has edited and co-edited several more. Oz would love to be bassist in a Belgian space-rock band, but makes do with being Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes.

Nostalgia

by Mircea Cartarescu

Strange and wonderful, Cartarescu’s surreal twist on unreliable memories and enchantment is brimming with alternative realities in the perpetual shadow of Cold War Bucharest. Wildly fantastic – an architect consumed by the sound of his car horn, a skull so big that a troupe of children can climb inside, an escalating game of Russian Roulette – it nonetheless rings with absolute emotional truth. Reading this is like being drunk in a hall of mirrors: perfect for such uncertain times.

Levitation 

by Hawkwind

After so long without live music, attending Hawkwind’s small, friendly Hawkfest in August was such a joy – a little under a thousand people in the North Devon sunshine. It’s years since they played Levitation live, so it was wonderful to hear – well, feel – it again. Like all the best rock music, it speaks directly to the body, bypassing the intellect. Ove this, the lyrics are fragmented, allusive and open, but when that first line came in – “In the darkness I will shine,” a line that has always resonated profoundly with me – it felt like it had never been so apposite.
Dustin Pickering is a poet and freelancer residing in Houston, Texas, USA. He is founder of Transcendent Zero Press and founding editor at Harbinger Asylum. He is published in Huffington Post, Cafe Dissensus Everyday, The Punch magazine, and Journal of Liberty and International Affairs. His reviews can be found in Colorado Review and World Literature Today, among other online spaces. He has several poetry collections, a novella, and short story collection, and one fairy tale available on Amazon.

Supernatural Knowledge

by Simone Weil

Simone Weil is a spiritual thinker who was fascinated by psychology, economics, sociology, art, and philosophy. This book compiles writings from two of her World War era notebooks.

Smooth Operator

by Sade

A song about a crafty cheating lover in the lounge style. Popular in the 80s when it was released, it’s singer is one of the most popular in this style.

Mir Yasir Mukhtar is a freelance photojournalist based in Kashmir. He is developing his craft and skillset while looking to learn and further a career in the photographic industry. Yasir has captured day-to-day events in Kashmir, specializing in people’s movement, human portraits, nature landscapes and documentary features. Yasir has recently been published by Free Press Kashmir, VICE Magazine, Inverse Journal, Kashmir Observer, Mountain Ink Magazine, PARI Education and other publications from Kashmir.

The Forty Rules of Love

by Elif Shafak

Though its genre is fiction, this book elucidates much about two things: 1. There are ways of loving and praying to God. 2. It teaches three important rules of life: “respect, love and separation”, for a teacher and a disciple.

Poanso

by Gaekhir Republik

It’s a reality check of a song reminding us that the world we live in is just full of materialistic ambitions and how money drives  humans apart from each other.
Abdulla Moaswes is a researcher and educator originally from Jerusalem, Palestine. His primary area of research is on (settler-)colonialism and global capitalism, with a focus on the colonisation of Kashmir and Palestine. In addition to this, Abdulla has written about the politics of internet memes, chai and cultural production, and is interested more generally in ideas of resistance, liberation, decoloniality and decolonisation. He is also the world’s only Palestinian cricket fan and an avid reader of Urdu and Arabic poetry. His writings on various topics have appeared in +972 Magazine, LobeLog, The New Arab, Express Tribune and the South China Morning Post. He is a graduate of the University of Exeter and the School of Oriental and African Studies.

The Book of Tea 

by Okakura Kakuzō

I have long maintained that each cup of tea represents complexities and simplicities beyond the comprehension of its everyday consumers. It is astounding how this humble, yet elevated, plant demonstrates not only its own history and identity, but those of the hands that prepare it in every context, every day. The Book of Tea, written originally in English by the Japanese scholar and artist Okakura Kakuzō, combines the secular and spiritual components of tea cultures to comment on art, spirituality and international relations. Although some of what he writes feels quite dated, given that the book was written in 1906, Okakura succeeds at offering a proto-critique of orientalism through tea-drinking both as metaphor and practice.

Inn Ann 

by Daboor featuring Shabjdeed

While 2020 will be remembered as the year in which supposed allies of the Palestinian people finally unmasked their own duplicity, 2021 will be remembered for how Palestinians, in our occupied homeland and in exile, broke down the regimes of separation and fragmentation that our colonisers and their enablers have attempted to implement. Daboor and Shabjdeed’s Inn Ann, a song from the new school of Palestinian hip hop that formed the soundtrack to the Unity Intifada, references one of the classical Arabic poet Al Mutanabbi’s most famous lines to articulate the anger and frustration of a people whose struggle for dignity has been consistently undermined and sabotaged by a network of global and local actors parading itself as a “peace process”.
Paray Shahid attended Kurukshetra University (India) for a B.Tech Honors. With an MA in English and a minor in creative writing (IGNOU), Shahid works as an entrepreneur in the IT Systems Integration Sector. His poetry publications include “The First Few Notions” (2015). Shahid can be reached at: [email protected] , @parraysha_ on Twitter

Frank:Sonnets 

by Diane Seuss

Raw, unflinchingly honest — Frank:Sonnets is well-aware of the history behind the form, and alternately considers and subverts it to discordant, often piercing effect. These poems tell the story of a life at risk of spilling over the edge of the page. One would think that these poems had no choice but to be sonnets. Their humor and heartbreak would be too vast, too impossible to write, if not for the limitation of 14 lines. You can’t make it through these poems and not be affected. At least I couldn’t.

Coming Out of the Dark

by Gloria Istefan

A song about strength and courage that should speak to anyone dealing with the struggles of life.
Subhajit Pal is currently doing his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University at Albany (State University of New York). He previously interned with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP Kashmir).

Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment

by Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi

This book deals with a lesser known and discussed aspect Foucault’s ideas. Prof. Tabrizi delves into the concept of political spirituality and helps us understand what the French philosopher meant through his use of the term within the context of Iranian Revolution. It critically analyses how the Iranian revolutionaries utilised discipline and ethics of Islam to sustain the movement. He notes that Foucault’s ideas regarding Iran and Islam have often been underestimated by his biographers, therefore this book stresses upon why these ideas by Foucault can be extended within social science.
L.B. Sedlacek’s latest poetry books are "The Architect of French Fries" (published by Presa Press) and "Words and Bones" (published by Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in publications such as "Pure Francis," "The Broad River Review," "Third Wednesday," and "Mastodon Dentist." Her short fiction has been published in such places as "October Hill" and "The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature." She teaches poetry at local elementary and middle schools, publishes a free resource for poets "The Poetry Market Ezine," and was Poetry Editor for "ESC! Magazine." LB also enjoys swimming, reading, playing ukulele, and volunteering for her local humane society.

The Collected Works of Jim Morrison: Poetry, Journals, Transcripts, and Lyrics

by Jim Morrison

I knew who Morrison was but had never listened to any songs by The Doors. He was quite the all around artist, and not just a song writer. He also wrote poetry and film treatments. This book is the must-have collection to experience the genius of Morrison. I found his words to be inspiring, and love the copies of the pages he wrote out in longhand in notebooks or sometimes on scrap paper. He was definitely one of a kind!

The Window in the Wall

by Olivia Newton-John and Chloe Lattanzi

This is a song of hope and learning to get along and accept one another. It’s perfectly recorded by Olivia and her daughter, Chloe.
E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over 40 years in eastern Sicily, where he taught English at the local university. His poetry appeared most recently in Adirondack Review, Better Than Starbucks, Brief Wilderness, Danse Macabre, Thirteen Myna Birds. Martin is an alumnus of the Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills and Smart Pills, and a chapbook, Exile's Choice, just out from Kelsay Books. A full collection, Method & Madness, is forthcoming from Odyssey Press. Martin blogs at: https://emartinpedersenwriter.blogspot.com

The House on Marshland

by Louise Gluck

When Louise Gluck won the Nobel Prize for Literature I thought: “oh, I’ve heard of her. I think I have one of her books” (embarrassing ignorance). The book was The House on Marshland and I read it immediately and then again later. I finally got to know Louise Gluck and understood why she got the award. The poems seem quiet and then deliver a strong punch. They deserve reading. I want to get her other books when I can. She’s deep and dark.

A Human Touch

by Leslie Mendelson and Jackson Browne

This song was written for a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco (my hometown) in the 1980’s. It was a terrible time when an entire population was decimated. The Covid pandemic is similar in many ways. So tragic, so sad. The song is beautiful and so true right now: “Sometimes all anybody needs is a human touch.”
Christopher Hirschmann Brandt is a New York City writer, translator, and political activist. Also an actor, theatre worker, carpenter, furniture designer. He teaches poetry workshops and Peace and Justice Studies at Fordham University. Poems and essays have been published abroad in, among others, Laterál (Barcelona); El signo del gorrión (Valladolid); Liqueur 44 (Paris); La Jornada (Mexico); and in the US in Poiesis, Syndic, …and Then, Phati'tude, Appearances; The Unbearables; Big City Lit, and in the anthologies Crimes of the Beats (Unbearables), Classics in the Classroom (Teachers and Writers) and Off the Cuffs: Poetry by and About the Police (Soft Skull, ed. Jackie Sheeler). His translations of Cuban fiction have been published in The New Yorker and by Seven Stories Press; his translations of Cuban poets are included in The Whole Island (Berkeley, ed. Mark Weiss), and he translated four collections of poetry by the late Puerto Rican poet and teacher Carmen Valle. In 2017 Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble in New York City commissioned and produced his new translation of Albert Camus’ Caligula. Seven Stories Press published his translation of Clara Nieto’s Masters of War, a history of U.S. interventions in Latin America since 1959.

Economics Unmasked

by Manfred Max-Neef

I surprise myself (a poet) by choosing an economics book! But Max-Neef presents a look at political economy that is so simple and common-sense, and strips away all the mystifications that are meant to keep us ordinary folk from asking embarrassing questions by convincing us that the subject is much too “scientific” for us to understand. This book also made me go back and re-read E.F. Schumacher’s book Small Is Beautiful – another unheard Cassandra. Maybe it’s time we listened!

Imagine

by John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Still one of the greatest songs ever written – so simple, so beautiful and so true!
Danyal hails from Kashmir and is currently pursuing the study of English literature at University of Delhi. He usually draws poems from his conflict-torn homeland. He is working on his debut poetry collection.

Satanic verses

by Salman Rushdie

One of my friends, who likes his photograph taken in front of a tower of Rushdie novels in a bookstore, dared me to read The Satanic Verses. I began to wonder how satanic Rushdie could get after all. I was afraid it would get quite Joycean. It didn’t. Plodding slowly, I spent a week in the realm of butterflies and immigrant violence till I realized there’s more to it than the dream sequences of the blasphemy chapter. Although my restless pursuit to get there—Where is the blasphemy? Where is blasphemy?— did ruin my reading, I spent a good number of days of lockdown in awe of Rushdie’s fiction. I have to say there’s a lot in this novel beyond the fictional blasphemy.
Muzaffar Karim was born in Kashmir and completed his MA from the University of Kashmir. He went on to pursue his Ph.D. from JNU and is currently employed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kashmir, South Campus. Muzaffar Karim also writes poetry and short stories that have appeared in various newspapers and journals. He is a regular blogger at http://muzaffar-askesis.blogspot.in

An Event, Perhaps 

by Peter Salmon

Among the books I read this year, Peter Salmon’s biography of Derrida remains close to my heart. The biography can well be placed in the genre of ‘intellectual biography’ as it traces the varied precursors to Derrida’s thought. Not as detailed as Benoît Peeters’ biography, Salmon’s delivers by being precise and to the point. Although the book makes us travel through Derrida and his thought – fom Charlie Chaplin to Hiedegger and from France to America, for me the most important part is the backdrop of Algeria as a colonial nation under France and Derrida’s peculiar position as a Jew within this territory that somewhow already anticipates Deconstruction as a post(colonial) theory or as a theory attacking centralized thinking.

Enjoy Enjaami

by Arivu, Dhee, and Santhosh Narayanan

In the commercialized mass production of music and being obsessive with flirtatious romance and physical appearance, a song like Enjoy Enjaami by Dhee and Arivu was nothing less than a miracle. The beauty of the song lies in not just the beats and the music but its rootedness with the soil, the territory, the earth- without romanticizing it. Last time for me, the meaningful aesthetization of nature in the popular imagination was done by Shailender in the song Suhana Safar aur Yeh Mausam Haseen. The point where Enjoy Enjaami goes further is its politics and the tackling of caste issues and tribal lineages.
Mubashir Karim was born in Srinagar, Kashmir and completed his Masters in English from the University of Kashmir. He went on to pursue his M.Phil and PhD from Jamia University. Mubashir is currently working as an assistant professor in the Higher Education Department, Jammu & Kashmir. His work has been published in the Transnational Literature Journal, Café Dissensus and Muse India, among many others. He is a regular blogger at http://poiesismubashirkarim.blogspot.com/

Things That Are

by Amy Leach

I discovered Amy Leach’s fabulous book, Things That Are, this year. Through multiple essays, Leach makes us feel the animals, the flowers, the stars, the dandelions, the deers, the sheeps, the donkeys, the beavers, the fishes, the goats, even God within us. And all these are recounted in a style, in a vocabulary that makes one see all these ‘things’ in a light distinct than before. In other words, an ethical cog gets fastened to one’s information machine. The presence of the Other is felt, experienced like never before. And Leach archives that sublimity through her peculiar incantatory style.

Aa Mere Saath Chal

by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

T hat’s what legends possess – a daring ability to surprise one long after they’ve gone. Take The Beatles as an example. Here, in this part of the world, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan still reigns the power to surprise one even after so many years since his passing. This year, I accidentally discovered one of his unreleased song titled Aa Mere Saath Chal. The vocals and the tune of the song prove once again his power to transform an ordinary seeming song into a classic. I’m utterly glad to have discovered it.
Javid Ahmad Ahanger holds a Doctorate in Political Science from Aligarh Muslim University, with a focus on the topic of “Political Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir: From Dominant Party to Multi-Party System.” His writings have previously been published in South Asian Journal, Cafe Dissensus Magazine, Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Life, Rising Kashmir, Kashmir Images and Foreign Policy news among other reputed online and print magazines and journals. He has participated and presented research papers in more than one dozen international and national conferences and seminars in India.

What Happened to Governance in Kashmir? 

by Aijaz Ashraf Wani

What happened to Governance in Kashmir? (OUP, 2019) by Aijaz Ashraf Wani is a scholarly contribution to the discourse around development of the conflict state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). This academic work by a young Kashmiri scholar is a ‘treasure-trove’ of research on policy and planning decisions taken by the different regimes that have governed J&K from 1947 to 1990. The book makes a critical study of the engagement of the Indian state and its clientele governments and patronage democracies in Kashmir in the post-accession era of 1947. This volume unfolds the central question of the relation of New Delhi with J&K and answers multiple queries, like how democracy and governance were continuously guided and controlled in Kashmir. To my understanding, this is a comprehensive scholarly volume on the post-1947 governance in Kashmir and for scholars, the political class and policy makers, this a must-read comprehensive book that will help them in understanding of the Kashmir conflict.
Dr. Chaandreyi Mukherjee has pursued her Ph.D. from Jamia Millia Islamia. She is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Vivekananda College, University of Delhi. She is an avid reader and a book reviewer on Instagram (@paperback.girl).

Tell Me How It Ends 

by Valeria Luiselli

In poignant prose, Valeria Luiselli records the harrowing experiences of millions of children who venture to escape the unimaginable violence in their homelands and cross borders to seek refuge in the United States. While waiting for her green card, Luiselli volunteers as a translator at the Federal Immigration Court in New York, and is engaged to ask forty questions in a form to child migrants.The questionnaire is too limited to intercept the enormity of trauma. It documents the absolute untranslatability of grief, loss and fear. Child narratives and testimonies offer a twilight zone of memories, always slipping, somersaulting, crashing- where linearity and rationality fail. The fragmentation, lacunae in their stories are a direct reminder of the white hatred towards their otherness – seen as criminals, trespassers, freeloaders, partaking in the political and economic resources of the United States. Luiselli’s transcription vocalises their plight and offers a powerful critique against the neo-colonial civilization process of the ‘brown skinned barbarians’ with their “chaos, sickness, dirt.” This book becomes a heartrending appeal to end the bigotry, racial hatred and pernicious ignorance and to offer immediate solutions to this unending nightmare.

Spring Day

by BTS

“Like the tiny dust, tiny dust floating in the air
I could’ve reached you faster
If I was snow flying in the air”

BTS came into my life as an explosion of hope, love and bliss, especially when life felt too much of an unbearable, inescapable, dark abyss. Their Spring Day in its very title ushers in the language of hope, illustrates the imperative necessity of realising that we never walk alone in this world. It is a mellifluous ode to memory, longing and nostalgia. The song’s haunting melody is heightened by the nuanced references to The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. It is also believed to be a brave obituary to the innocent victims of the Sewol Ferry Disaster, a shameful incident deliberately suppressed by the government. In a beloved BTS fashion, the lyrics state, “The morning will come again, no darkness, no season can’t last forever.” The artful simplicity of the lyrics is deliberately complicated by the hidden allusions. Though their pandemic anthem Permission to Dance created an uproar in the white-dominated music world, I would rather clutch Spring Day, released much earlier in 2017, infinitely close to my heart.

Shah Munnes Muneer has a Masters in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University. Her areas of interest include Sociological Study of Society, Cultural Studies, Religion, and Contemporary Women-Centric Issues.

Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak

Edited by Norman Hashim, translated by Yousef M. Aljamal

Throughout the book, the author has tried to focus on the suffering of Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails. The main thrust of the book revolves around the importance of understanding the value of freedom. What attracted me at the first instance was the title of the book in itself. Someone has rightly said that one will never understand someone’s pain until they feel it or the pain happens to them. Therefore no one other than a Kashmiri can better understand the pain of these Palestinian children because of the fact that the people of Kashmir too are undergoing state repression on a daily basis. The terms like brutality, torture, violence, occupation, resistance, etc. are frequently noticeable in the book. If the book is properly contextualized, one can appositely relate the situation of Palestine with that of Kashmir, with both undergoing tumultuous times, and where children are the victims of pellets, torture and routine humiliation. The difference is that the brutality of Israel is already exposed before the world, but the heart-wrenching tragedies of Kashmiris are yet to be heard and acknowledged by most of the world.

Hakeemo 

by Raiez Khan

It is simply a soul soothing song.
Sung & Composed by : Raiez Khan
Original Lyrics : Latro
Music Producer : Susmit Nimbhorkar
Recorded at : Massive Music Studio
DOP’s : Faisal bhat, Suhail Sofi, Eashan khan
Edits and Follys : Suhail Sofi
Creative Edits : Sumeet Mankar & Awrange Digital

Lyrics of this songs with translation:

Hakeemo waare wechtam, doad nai dagg kamich Cham? ~
Dawa dimm kyah gasi kam, doad nai dagg kamich Cham?

(O’ healer, treat me properly, why this pain if I have no malady?
Prescribe something to me, as may like thee, why this pain if I have no malady?)

Tse yikhna soan saal’ai, karai zuv jaan hawaalai ~
Bara’y Gaye zulf-e-kham, doad nai dagg kamich Cham?

(Won’t you attend my function where I’ll handover my life to you?
My tresses have lost their knots, why this pain if I have no malady?)

Be dimiha chaak jaam’an, be khotchaan lukk’e paam’an ~
Sanyomut chum yuhai gham, doad nai dagg kamich Cham?

(I’d tear my robe apart had I no fear of being slandered
This melancholia is eating me up, why this pain if I have no malady?)

Mye gaerr jaame zareenik, andir gamit mye Chem ael ~
Banyam kar aab-e-zam zam, doad nai dagg kamich Cham?

(I wear robes of glittering gold, though inside I’m rotten old
When will I receive my share of Zamm Zamm, why this pain if I have no malady?)

Syetha Chem aash Chaenei, wandai gaash daael daali ~
Yitamo roi haavtam, doad nai dagg kamich Cham?

(I’m pinning a lot of hopes on you, may you always bath in gilding light
Please come, show me thy illuminating face, why this pain if I have no malady?)

Quratulain Qureshi is currently pursuing her postgraduate degree from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Poems by Faiz

V. G. Kiernan

Talking can get overwhelming on some days, as much as listening can. On those days, you don’t need someone to confide in, nor do you need pep talks. I am only reminded of Ghalib’s “rahiye ab aisī jagah chal kar jahāñ koī na ho; ham-suḳhan koī na ho aur ham-zabāñ koī na ho”. So, for each of my “Is it better to speak or die?” days, this year, Faiz came to the rescue- one poem at a time!
I mean, how can one get over his Daulat-e-dil ka kuch shumaar nahin; Tangdasti ka kya gila kije? ?
This book’s a special one, and even if you don’t understand Urdu, Kiernan has got you covered with his beautiful English translation provided for every poem.

Na mann behbuda girde 

by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

I find myself visiting and revisiting this composition ever since I discovered it. This work of Rumi, sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I believe is not for happy times or times of comfort. It is not the go-to song for when you need to feel at home. Listening to it has been more of a pleasurable challenge.

Even though it is in Persian, the vocals and the English translation on the screen always manage to be in sync, somehow. And then plays the line “Khataa kaaram gunah gaaram bahaal-e-zaar mi gardam”, and with it comes catharsis.

Rayit Hashmat Qazi is an independent filmmaker from Kashmir, who is currently working in Mumbai, India. He has worked as an assistant to International as well as Indian directors on TVC’s for the last 6 years. From Jim Sonzero to Rob Cohen and Harvey Brown, Rayit has been a right hand to a wide array of filmmakers while working with Bang Bang Films on brands as diverse as AIRTEL, Tanishq, Britannia, Pepsi, Loreal, etc. In addition to this Rayit has worked as an assistant director on the critically acclaimed Mukti Bhawan that went on to premiere at the Venice Film Festival amongst other international film festival giants. This experience was instrumental in helping him transition from assisting to directing ads of his own. Over the course of the last two years, Rayit has made commercials for brands like Britannia, HUL, BMC, Airtel, etc. His maiden short Do Cup Chai (Two Cups of Tea) which sees the story of two ex-lovers who meet each other to fulfill a promise over a cup of tea, was nominated in the Best Short Film category at the NYIFF (New York Indian Film Festival). It further went on to premiere at Silk Screen International Festival and the prestigious Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival in Assam. Currently, Rayit oscillates between the development of TV shows and advertisements. Rayit has completed his graduation in Audio Visual Production/ Filmmaking from Symbiosis Institute Of Media and Communication.

Make Me a Man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India

by Sikata Banerjee

This was one of the most informative reads of this year. Banerjee redirects the spotlight on the inherent hyper-masculine nature of nationalism all around the world. She uses the prism of Indian nationalism to understand how the role of women in the same is always moderated and pushed to the peripheries. First published in 2005, this book continues to be as pertinent with the growing fervour of the hyper-nationalism seen all across the world.

What a Life 

by Scarlett Pleasure

I found a window into the song through a liberating visual of Mads Mikkelsen dancing his way through his problems and regrets in a popular climax of Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round.

Amjad Majid is the editor and founder of Inverse Journal. He previously worked as a teacher, IT consultant, and research scholar in China, Spain and the US. In his free time, Amjad is a part-time art writer and critic, with writings featured in art catalogues, books, international exhibitions, biennales, art journals and magazines, with some of such writing translated into Chinese. Beyond his work at Inverse Journal, Amjad develops independent projects as a web developer and IT consultant in the creative industry while also teaching IB English literature part-time. His interests include literary theory, Spanish and Spanish-American literature, contemporary art, cultural studies, hardware assembly, information technology and digital studies.

Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology

Translated and Edited by David Hinton 

David Hinton’s (translated and edited) classic anthology accompanied me throughout this year and at every moment I could spare to read some poetry. Even though I have visited this anthology over the last four years, this year in particular it stood out for me, perhaps because of multiple conversations revolving around poetry from a variety of cultures. In its ambition, this book covers entire millennia, allowing a willing reader to travel through time and see what meditations and poetic ruminations shaped the verses of various poets through various eras of Chinese poetic history. The best part of the book is that it does not require you to read it in any given order. With 500 poems in translation that arrive as early as the 15th century BCE, this anthology covers a considerable terrain all the way up to 1206 CE.

Dilgeer (Thok Mut Chum Shah)

by Alif

About six months ago, the band Alif released Siyah – Part 1 and along with it a masterpiece titled Dilgeer (Thok Mut Chum Shah). Since its release, I don’t think there is a single day that has gone by without me listening to this song, so much so that I even learned how to play it on the guitar (and of course, in my own way). Dilgeer is purely a contemporary Sufi song, brought into light against the turbulence of the current times, as a sort of musical catharsis before an actual catharsis.

There are multiple attempts at song writing and composition by musicians that adopt certain styles and genres or fall into a set musical framework that belongs to the formal tenets of particular musical traditions. For me, Dilgeer falls under no such attempts nor any such traditions, because it is pure in its lyricism and its compositional style to the extent of being original at a level where it innovates upon anything preceding it. If one were to ask what a contemporary Sufi song sounds like, Dilgeer by Alif would most likely provide quite a few answers.

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