Dec 13, 2010


        K Rahman
Brian Johnston referred to Dicky Bird's Peacockhen while commentating on the first day during the India-England Test match at Edgbaston. Dicky Bird, according to Brian, was a very worried man as he was waiting for good news any time. The Peacockhen was still sitting on the six eggs and hadn't eaten any yet.
Dicky Bird had a reason to brood over the brooding bird. But I got worried, too, and wondered whether it was possible to say male woman. Since KS wasn't around, I looked up the dictionaries myself. I came across a funnier entry which said -- Peafowl: a female peacock (Longman). I thought, if one applied this sort of lexical logic, Peacockhen  should be possible.
But that was not the end. On Monday, during his first 20 minutes, Don Mosey said that he had received a small note for Brian Johnston from someone in England, saying that there was no such thing as Peacockhen! That certainly roused some extra-cricketing interest and I waited rather impatiently for Brian to come over and take the mike. He did that only in the third session and coolly said that Dicky Bird's  peahen  was still sitting on the eggs. That was simply great, wasn't it?
Maybe, it was just a slip of the tongue as Brian had said  Peacockhen  only once in his references to Dicky's bird and this man, by sending that note was just trying to be too clever by half !
In fact, verbal slips are so much a part of the living language that one comes across many interesting anecdotes built around them.
There was a professor who hadn't quite liked the term paper of his female student. So he said, "It needs orgasmic unity". There was another who said lunder and thightning for thunder and lightning  and yet another threw the window through the clock!
Scientists say that the speaker's mental state can only be guessed at, but the reason for the slip remains pretty much unknown. For instance, a provocatively dressed woman may change past fashion into fast passion for any healthy young man, nine times out of ten! And an electrophobiac might have fears of cursed wattage in worst cottage.
But here in India, we might choose to fight among ourselves over cater to and cater for and then go to the dictionaries only to find that one is American and the other British. Even so, I have heard a British teacher of repute saying cater to. Don't we often create a controversy out of virtually nothing and say CONTroversy is right and conTROversy is wrong, when the fact is that one is right and the other is not wrong! We take pride in catching the other person on the wrong foot. Sometimes we are a bit too fussy -- and I add -- fuzzy, too.
It takes a Brian to be cool in matters as delicate as the peacockhen!

Dec 7, 2010


Ek She’r
Agarche qatra-e-shabnam na paayad bar sar-e-khaarey
Manam  aan qatra-e-shabnam banok-e-khaar mi raqsam
Khaliqur Rahman

We were in CIEFL Hyderabad. CIEFL is Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages. On Saturdays and Sundays the day-and-night residents wouldn’t get dinner in the Refectory. Some of us who needed to work to meet the deadlines would decide to stay back. Most others would prefer to eat out and enjoy themselves.
We would eat fruits and biscuits at dinner time and perhaps make tea. On one of those Saturday evenings we did the same and settled to work. By about 10 or 10:30 every one of us – five – became victims of self-denial which chased us to a point of restlessness that pushed us out of our different rooms and we met surprisingly all at the same time in the corridor to make a confession that everyone of us needed dinner without which perhaps work was not possible. So, we decided to go to a nearby Iranian apology of a restaurant in Taarnaka – a 15 to 20 minute walk from the campus.
When we reached there it was beginning to close down. I was then pushed to speak to the Manager at the counter. A tall and fat Iranian looked tough from the very appearance of his. I went up to him and said we’d like to have biryaani for five. No chance he said as there were only two biryanis left and the kaarigar was just about to leave. I pleaded three times. Three times,he said No. He wouldn’t budge an inch.
OK… listen to a Persian couplet, will you? I said. I noticed the lines on his face were beginning to change as his expectant eyes grilled into mine. I recited the couplet: agarchey…
Aisa she’r to zindagi men naheen suna he said as all of his big fat body ballooned a few inches from and against the gravity of that obstinate managerial chair!
He called the kaarigar and asked him to make five biryaanis.
A drop of dew cannot stay on the point-head of a thorn.( If it does, it loses its existence.) But that dew drop I am that keeps dancing on the point-head of a thorn.
Life is like that!

Dec 5, 2010


It is July, 1979. I am doing a 9 month diploma course in the teaching of English at the Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages, Hyderabad.
I've completed 15 years as a government college teacher in Madhya Pradesh. Here in Hyderabad, I am without salary. But I get a scholarship of Rs 250 every month. I have to pay for food and accommodation. Saturday dinners are eat-outs as the refectory staff has a half- day off.
Most residents go out in groups. They eat out and go to the cinema to refresh themselves. Some do stay back and perhaps eat fruits.
Some of my friends ask me to join. I tell them about my wallet. They ask me not to worry. I go with them. But I am uncomfortable. After dinner, one in the group foots the bill. I've enjoyed the food, the company and the kindness, all right, but when I look ahead, I start worrying. What about next week or the next or the next? I must put my hands in the pocket one day. An Englishman says: a Scotsman has long pockets but short arms! But I’m not a Scotsman!
Next morning, after breakfast, I go into the library.  I pick Newstime. It is a newly launched English Daily from Hyderabad.
I always read the sports page first, and like Hardy, the mathematician, read cricket. Then, I go to the middle on the edit-page. I've been doing this since I was in Seventh Class. My father used to get The Free Press Journal and The Hitavada or The Nagpur Times. I always enjoyed RP's FROM AN EASY CHAIR! Since then, I've been a compulsive reader of Middles. Along with RP, I liked middle writers like Khullar, Menzes , Proudfoot , Raj Chatterjee and Trivadi, just to name a few.
I also enjoyed lugging on to THE LIGHT LUGGAGE of V V John as much as looking into Nergis Dalal's YOUR MIDDLE IS SHOWING. Then I, too, had a secret desire of holding my own NAVEL IDEAS one day!
'Wishes are horses without legs ', I tell myself and move on ... on my own legs!
But last night's dinner is real food for thought. It turns out into quick conception, normal gestation and easy delivery!
I read Proudfoot in Newstime, then Ameenuddin in the same paper as I browse through the back issues.  Quickly, I put pen to paper and write 500 words. I finish ON GROWING A BEARD as I am still running my fingers along the itching twigs. Then I rush to get my prospective debut piece in Newstime typed and sent to the Editor.
Thank the Editor! I get a place in the middle once a week. The day after Proudfoot ... is yours truly ... Proudhead (?)! With four to five hundred rupees in a month I am able to manage the eat-outs without losing self-pride.
Now, in 2010, when I am just one short of the Biblical three scores and ten, eating out is out. I would rather prefer to have dinner with prospective publishers of NAVEL IDEAS – a collection of my published middles. I know the shortest way to one's heart is through the stomach!

Dec 3, 2010



Khaliqur Rahman

Today I wish to tease you with the detestable necessity in education that we call EXAMINATIONS. Do you know Testing and Evaluation in education is a discipline by itself? Even if you do, how many teachers do, who set examination question papers?
How many examinations are there and how many examining bodies? The students take the Higher Secondary Examination to finish school. Now why can’t they go straight for higher education in professional colleges?  Why do they need to take PMT or PET or PAT … I don’t know how many more monstrosities they have to grapple with to take an entry into education of their choice? There is one for admission to IIMs, there is another for IITs. And, they have funny names for one such examination:  CAT! Soon they will let go DOG then TIGER then perhaps COBRA! God save our students even from the existing monsters like AIEEE and GRE and GMAT and I don’t know how many more!!
If your Twelfth Board Examinations have lost their validity or reliability or both, why can’t you do away with them? The nation will save a lot of money. If they are valid and reliable, then, where is the need for any of those silly eliminators I’ve mentioned earlier? To top it all there are State Level Civil Service Examinations and Central Civil Service Examinations, results of which are there for everyone to see! How civil are our uncivil civil servants?!
 What are the results of so many examinations? Quality Control? Well, you can see the quality of education and the quality of the degree-holders? They have the degrees but have they had education? Are they really educated after passing so many examinations? Education should succeed in turning men and women into human beings. The degrees are there but where are the human beings?
Just because there are so many kinds of examinations, there have come up as many kinds of coaching centres. In fact, these coaching centres are SHOPS in the EDUCATION BAZAAR. Like a waiter in a restaurant, the so-called trained or untrained teachers in these coaching classes serve the clientele the menu. The hungry (for the know-how of getting through a required examination) places an order, pays the bill in advance (euphemism for which is FEES!) and gets served!
Look at the SPOKEN ENGLISH classes and their number in the entire country, and you will be amused and amazed. Thanks to the social demand in India and the academic requirement for studies abroad, Spoken English classes and books have come up like mushrooms only to fleece the learners. There are those blessed examinations – TOEFL and IELTS – to clear before one can aspire to proceed abroad for higher studies in the US or the UK. The young aspirants swarm into several shops where incompetent and unqualified apologies of teachers or trainers simply fill their coffers.Why can’t our universities have courses like Diploma in Spoken English or a Masters in Spoken English & Communicative Skills? But for that you’ll have to see that the teachers are very well trained first!
Before I finish, I would like to share my personal views on most of the present day examinations. The very word EXAMINATION has certain negativity built into it. You suspect unfair approach on the part of examinees. The examiners, therefore, for security, go for confidentiality. Then you treat the examinees as thieves and do the policing in the name of invigilation in the examination halls. Evaluation is then done in top secrecy. All this air-tightness and water-tightness are only on paper. In reality everything leaks and you know that. What is the solution? I’d suggest an examination in which nothing is secret. Give them a set of questions, sufficient time for preparation, ask them to take the examination on a specified time and date and allow them to consult books if they wish to BUT FIX THE PASS MARKS AT NO LESS THAN 80%. Award A to 90% and above, B to 85% and above and C to 80% and above.
I’m amazed at the present day pass marks – 33% or in some courses 40% ! Would you buy a mango which is 66% rotten or eat a chapati which is only 33% cooked!!
Lastly, examinations should be able to test the capability to think and solve a given problem or to create something new rather than test the ability to transport knowledge and information.
Hope this moves the authorities enough to do something worthwhile.


How often have you thrown a feast of sight
So soft and sweet and how often have I,
Fondling long the taste of that delicious pie,
Feasted full, still whetting my appetite.
How often have I drunk the deep delight
Of that brooklet that runs from eye to eye.
And often from those slumberous cups you shy
Those love-ly beams on me that love invite.

An incomplete sonnet written in 1965 just after the Masters exam

Dec 2, 2010


The dice of togetherness then was cast.
Life was suddenly warm cosy sublime.
Intense, hectic, priceless but fleeting fast
Were the honey-sweetened moments of Time.
The tide rose, the tide fell, all over soon
For us to remember what is no more.
Memory is both a curse and a boon.
It does bring some pearly jewels ashore.
Our world this is a seething boiling pot
And we are specks agitated in it.
We know not wherefrom whereto we are shot
Or perchance approximated a bit.
For those great little moments we owe so much
To That Greatest Hand and Its Generous Touch.

A disjointed sonnet written in bewilderment of pleasure and pain, loss and gain, but  in memory of your visit to your native land. 1979


The riotous waves of sea, with what uproar,
With passions what, with what tumultuous surge,
They dash against the passive shores and soar,
In smoke and foam, so higher in their urge.

The cosy clouds, to what fallible heights,
With what expectant hopes, they waft,  they swell,
To puffed up skies, so stately in their flights,
And heavy with many a pearly jewel.

Oh! For the not-responding skies, they weep,
They weep and moan and cry their life away;
Oh! For the not-requiting shores, they creep,
They creep, rippling retreat around dismay.

A weeping cloud, a rippling wave, with me,
A secret have, when I recede from thee.

A sonnet written in 1965 summer after the Masters exam.