Poem inspired by ‘Sea of Poppies’ and Agha Shahid Ali’s Ghazals

September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)





Sent: Saturday, 14 July 2012 8:34 AM

Subject: Poem inspired by your work and my English Ghazal’s based on Agha Shahid Ali’s ‘Real’ Ghazals

Dear Mr.Ghosh,

Greetings Sir! I am a medical graduate from Mysore ,Karnataka and am an ardent fan of your writing. Sir, I recently discovered your wonderful blog and was delighted to find that you spared a little bit of your time to read mail from thousands of fans like myself and could not resist the temptation to write to you about your writings which have moved me even to poetry . Of all your Novels the one that means the most to me is ‘The sea of Poppies’. Disparate stories of several characters blended together in that Novel , Sir , into a dream like narrative vividness that stays with the reader forever. Particularly haunting is the first prevision Deeti has of the Ibis and the way she comes to comprehend it as the tale unfolds. But the scene that forms,  to my mind , the crux of Deeti’s and Kalua’s story is Kalua’s rescuing Deeti from the pyre of the Sati. The description was so vivid and impressive that I was impelled to keep aside the book for a while to think on what might have happened if Deeti would have died on the Pyre. Particularly evocative was Deeti’s first guess on coming to after being rescued as she drifts toward her destiny on Kalua’s raft-‘None of this was surprising , for it was in exactly this way that she had expected to awaken from the flames-afloat in the netherworld, on the Baitarini River, in the custody of Charak, boatman of the dead.’ What if Deeti’s tale would end not with Kalua by her side but Charak ? This thought inspired me to write this Sonnet, Sir-

No one could tell


Above, the light and dark in twilight met,

As her young body ‘pon her pyre did burn;

And then collected in an earthen Urn,

Her ash was ‘pon the holy Ganges set.

It drifted like a mooring lost canoe,

Without a destination or direction;

Where would it come to rest, no one could know,

Perhaps in some very different dimension.


And look! Her soul alike her ash recedes,

With Charak boatman of the dead, upon

The Baitarini, all her thoughts and deeds,

As naked as her body when newborn.

O Does she drift to heaven or to hell?

Souls drift like urns, where to, no one can tell.


Another piece of your writing which inspired me to write , Sir, was the beautifully poignant essay you wrote on Agha Shahid Ali sahib’s death. I first read ‘The ghat of the only world’: Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn’ when I was researching the Ghazal form in English in the hope of writing in the form myself . Your Essay introduced me to ‘Ravishing Disunities’ and moved me to delve into Agha sahibs other work. Reading ‘Ravishing Disunities’ and ‘Call me Ishmael tonight’ opened up a whole new world before me and showed me how powerful the Ghazal could be even in English. I owe you the gratitude not only of a fan but also a student for writing this moving piece on Agha Sahib, Sir, and am glad to gather from other fan mail on your blog that the essay has been included in a textbook that is read by millions of school children in our country. I hope this essay will inspire many others to look into ‘Shahid’s’ work especially in the Ghazal. I have written over these last few years several Ghazals in English and have collected some of these into an e-book collection. I am taking the liberty of attaching this collection to this e-mail as PDF in the hope that it may merit your perusal. You bring out in your Novels ,Sir, better than any other living writer , the fusion of languages and cultures into one another. I hope you enjoy my poetic efforts at fusing the Urdu-Persianate traditions with the English idiom and I would be delighted if you would accept this little work as a gift , a small literary Pesh-kash from a literary novice to a literary master.

Thank you Mr.Ghosh,


Syed Faizan,





Sun, Jul 15, 2012 at 9:45 PM


Dear Syed Faizan

Thanks so much for this wonderful letter. The ghazal is beautifully done – I think Shahid would have liked the way you’ve observed the rules.

I would like to post your letter and poem on my blog if that’s okay with you. Do let me know.

With my best wishes

Amitav Ghosh



Sunday 15th July


Dear Mr.Ghosh,

                    Delighted to receive a reply from you. I am thrilled to know that you liked my poem,  I would love it if the poem and letter are posted on your blog Sir. I am also overjoyed and honored to know that you read my English Ghazals and thought them well done. Even more pleasing is your thought that Agha Sahib would have liked these Ghazal’s. I am honored and delighted by your response Sir,

                                                                                  Thanking you Mr.Ghosh,


Syed Faizan,




Sept 3, 2012

Dear Syed Faizan

I am sorry I have been slow to get back to you. I was busy with a long series of posts, but it is over now so I will post our correspondence on my site tomorrow.

Thanks very much once again.

Wishing you the very best




Sept 3

Dear Mr.Ghosh,

                    Thank you for your reply.I thank you once again for sharing my poem with your readers through your blog.Sir,I am myself among the avid followers of your blog and have found your last few posts ‘On to Baghdad’ a veritable revelation! The deep research, rare photos, your own translations, are almost a Novel in themselves.Captain Kalyan Mukherji’s letter in an earlier post,’I spit in the face of Patriotism’ is truly ‘one of the most remarkable of the 20th century’ thanks for bringing it to us,Sir.Looking forward to the third Novel in the ‘Ibis trilogy’ and Anusha Rizvi’s movie adaptation of ‘Sea of Poppies’ and many many more stories from you, 
                                       Thank you Mr.Ghosh
Syed Faizan,

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