Voices of Protest in Urdu Poetry – II

Translated by fowpe sharma

Firaq Gorakhpuri (1890- 1982)

The Earth Will Turn Around in its Sleep

The moon and the sun will stretch their limbs for a rest,
The stars will revolve with a greater zest,
Waves and mountains will reach their crest,
When, during its sleep, the earth turns around.

The people are the masters of the land,
The household mattress is the throne,
The cap on one’s head is the crown.
The straw hutment is the royal mansion.

Thou with shovels, matlocks, axes,
Thou with raised hammers will speak out,
Freedom will get a new birth,
Thou who rule the land are the people.

The sins of generations will come to an end,
Who has ruled uptil now?
Kings, clerks, bankers, moneylenders,
Ministers, landowners, police inspectors.

Pundits, thakurs, syeds, sheikhs,
Lords, gentlemen, rulers, officers,
Traders of gold and silver: jewellers,
Commission agents – marketers.

Those with clouts, those loud mouths,
With their fencing bouts, those speculating touts,
And their ilk- those layabouts,
Until today, they have ruled.

With forts and mansions everywhere,
Enthroned on a high chair,
With cushioned seats, with fans blowing air,
Permit and license holders are all there.

This land has suffered under oppression,
As the earth sleeps it will take a new turn,
It will undergo a fresh churn,
A metamorphised India will result from this upturn.

Everybody’s lot will be bright and shining,
Craftsmen, workers, husbandmen,
And India’s young men,
Nameless, insignificant ones, subject to oppression.

This country: they will take over,
Here they will hold the power,
Better than in the golden age,
Better than Ram’s mythical age.

Those without vanity, those with pride will rise,
Whether you like it or not, we’ll descend on you from the skies,
You must know, you must realise,
We are the ones who will take over the works.

Superior to any one’s rule,
Superior to the priestly rule,
Superior to the warrior’s rule,
Superior to the mercantile class rule.

Superior to the Hindu rule,
Superior to the Buddhist rule,
Superior to the Muslim rule,
Will be the rule of the working class.

On the saline land where nothing can grow,
The sun-burnt land, lying fallow,
Those ushering in the paradise will rule.

Those will rule whose hands wield the plough
Those producing goods with the sweat of their brow
Those who make the wealth grow
Plenty and abundance on this land bestow.


Josh Malihabadi (1898-1982)

A Dream About Overpowering the Prisons

The prison of India is now shuddering,
One hears the echoing refrains,
Perhaps some prisoners have grown weary,
And are smashing up all their chains,
Some prisoners have gathered together
Under the walls of the prison,
In the breast flashes of lightning,
The eye the glitter of swords retains.
Lightning flashes in the eyes of the hungry,
The barrels of cannons are now cold,
The tongue of fate is stirring,
In vain all effort now remains.
The eyes reddened by poverty,
The face of ruler is full of gloom,
Subversive banners fly high,
The edifices show their prostrated remains.
What did they know: the oppressors,
About the spirit of the community?
Black serpents will now raise their heads,
Swords will come down when in the sky as it rains.
What did they know those who used to
Steal our blood from the breasts,
Thousands of pictures will get painted,
From these colourless stains.
What did they know - all of those,
Who used to seal our lips:
Thousands of speeches will now leap out,
Silence can put no restrains.
Be steady, the prison is full of echoes,
Swoop down; the prisoners are now free;
Arise so that they do not sit bent down,
Dash out, so that they can break the chains.

Shared Pain

A tree was inundated in a flood, so we hear,
Sitting on it were two luckless creatures - full of fear.
One was a snake; the other was a young man,
They were adversaries: though a common danger they could scan.
True it is that shared pain can give birth to a spirit of unity,
But it is love that brings a change when there is hostility.
Oh Muslims and Hindus, wise you are and sagacious too,
In this flooding of India, situated together in the same branch are you.


Makhdum Mohiuddin (1908-69)

The Soldier

Ask the soldier going to the war:
Where is he going?

Why is that distressed woman a lullaby singing,
Cheering up the children to her clinging.
The odour of burning is foul and stinging’
The shrieks of life in anguish are ringing.

Ask the soldier going to the war:
Where is he going?

Full of fright the sights appear,
Full of fear the stars seem to career,
Young men are getting slaughtered,
Blood red are the head-coverings the women wear

Ask the soldier going to the war:
Where is he going?

The camp of darkness is taking a nose-dive,
Dawn is now just going to arrive,
You now going away from your homeland,
The revolutionary banner will flutter and thrive.

Ask the soldier going to the war:
Where is he going?

War of National Liberation

This is a war for freedom;
Fought under the flag of freedom.

We, the Indian people,
Subject and helpless, with head bent,
Madly we carry on the freedom struggle,,
The worker and the peasant.

This is a war for freedom:
Fought under the flag of freedom.

All the world belongs to us,
East, West, North, South: every direction.,
We are European, we are American,
China is the land of origin.

This is a war of for freedom:
Fought under the flag of freedom.

What war is this, what peace is this,
Where the enemy does not go down the drain.
What kind of world is this going to be,
Where the people are not sovereign.
What kind of freedom is this,
Where the proletarians do not reign.

This is a war for freedom:
Fought under the flag of freedom.

Lo, the red dawn has now come!
It has come for freedom, for freedom.
Melodiously the pomegranate flowers hum:
They hum for freedom, for freedom.
Fluttering flags welcome:
They welcome freedom, freedom, freedom.

This is a war for freedom:
Fought under the flag of freedom.


Noon Meem Rashid (1910-70)

The Eyes of Black Sorrow

In the darkness the eyes of sorrow glittered thus,
As if it had come disguised in a dictator’s dress,
The future tyrant coming down to oppress!
The spider weaves its web over every ear,
All the lips are padlocked here,
Every heart pierced by a spear.

The sparkle of the darkness’ dirty teeth was gruesome,
As if through a backdoor the dictator had come,
Lording over the sons of Adam!
Sorrow too, like the dictator, a comet in the sky,
A burnt out spark, whose end is nigh,
Anybody, who comes by, must die!

Sorrow thundered and careered as dictators thunder and career,
Tremulous, intimidated people were full of an uncertain fear,
Out of their house they then appear!
The townsfolk spoke out! ‘Oh Lord! Our master!
How long must we the weight of this shadow of darkness bear?
When shall we your commandment hear?’


Israr-Ul-Haq Majaz (1911-55)

The Song of a Worker

From hard labour we wear a scar,
From any rest we are kept far,
But we are constrained to go to war,
We are workers, workers we are.

Full of sadness and torment are we,
Not dust, but stars of the firmament are we,
The world looks upon us fervently,
We are workers, workers we are.

To be something is what we desire,
We are always ready to expire
Headstrong we are, we’ll raise our head higher,
We are workers, workers we are.

Even though very unfortunate we are,
We are ready to state in the open bazaar,
In this world nobody is as great as we are,
We are workers, workers we are.

In whichever direction our steps go,
The banners of the emperors to us bow

We are heroes, full of valour we are,
We are workers, workers we are.

Time and again our life was endangered through and through,
Whatever we set out to do, that we could do,
Pure of heart we are, what we say is true,
We are workers, workers we are.

What we are, we are ready to show,
The old order, apart, we will blow,
Heaven and earth we’ll set aglow,
We are workers, workers we are.

Our bodies are made of steel,
Our fiery hearts are full of zeal,
On revolt, we have set our seal,
We are workers, workers we are.

The day the path of revolt we take,
Because of us the earth will quake,
Out of dream, a reality we will make,
We are workers, workers are we.

We will take over all the offices,
We will attack the palaces,
We will shatter the bases of the armed forces,
We are workers, workers are we.

To a Young Lady

Better would it be if this mischief-mongering veil you were to shed,
Better would it be if your beauty acted as a cover to your head.

Your lowered down glances serve as a defence of your chastity,
Better would it be if you assessed its ability to cut down and shred.

Your pale dry lips, your delusion and your fright,
Better would it be if you disperse those clouds hovering over your head.

What is the use of wounding a heart already lacerated,
Better would it be if you wiped the tears and smiled instead.

Under your feet may be a mansion, a palace, or whatever else,
Better would it be if heaven and earth were to under your tread.

If you uplifted your head in seclusion, what use is it?
Better would it be, if in public, you were to raise your head.

The red dot on your forehead is the star of a man’s fate,
Better would it be, if you used it for waking up the dead.

On the daggers of the enemy are seen splashes of blood,
Better would it be, if mixed with it, the colour of your cheek became red.

Spears have been uplifted by the hot-headed youngman,
Better would it be, if you healed the wounded in this bloodshed.

The cloth over your head is magnificent, but all the same,
Better would it be, if you let it like a banner spread.


Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1912-85)

In my heart’s blood I dipped my fingers,
What if they have snatched my tablet, pen and ink;
They sealed my lips, so what! For I have given
A tongue to each one of my chain’s link.


My heart I sacrificed piece by piece; do not let your half-drawn arrows loose,
Scar by scar I lost my body; retain your stones for some future use.
Pass on the good news to my healer; announce it amongst the enemies’ ranks,
My life had been the pledge, but now I have cleared all my dues.
Let my shroud be elegantly displayed, so that my enemies know,
That after my death, my heart, its vows to the wantonness of love renews.
They used the words that could kill; on our side they found excuses with skill,
What I heard I laughed away, what I read I stamped with my shoes.
When we stopped we were immovable, as we walked: death greeted us,
A memorial we erected on every step, on the pathway that we elected to choose.

An elegy written on the death of Mian Muhammad Iftikharuddin.

The Hail of Stones Now Comes to an End

Cut off from the line of my sight, all of a sudden,
Were fragments of the sun and the moon on the horizon.

No darkness or light will be there anywhere,
After my death, who else will on this loyal path remain?
Friends, how will this caravan of pain now fare?

Let somebody else give the garden of sadness its due,
There is an end now, friends, to the moist eyes’ dew.
Passion’s tumult is now spent, the rain of stones ends,
To the lips of the beloved, the dust of pathway – its colour lends.
In the street of the beloved my blood-flecked banner flew,
Let’s see who is given the call this course to maintain.
‘Who can quaff this wine of love that can wrestle a man down?’
This challenge was thrown by the saqi again and again.

Written for Hasan Nasir, the Communist intellectual and agitator, after his murder in Lahore Fort, by the Punjab police.

An Evening in Prison

Amidst the criss-cross intersection of the stars,
Down the ladder descends the night- rung by rung.
Softly the morning breeze brushes by as if
Somebody has given his love a tongue.

The homeless trees in the prison compound, with heads bent,
Are engrossed in creating arabesques,
On the skirt of the firmament.
On the borders of the rooftops glitters,
Moonlight’s hand, with a gentle elegance.
The dust mingles with the starry waters,
The azure dissolves itself in heaven’s refulgence.
In the green landscape the blue shadows
Wave on – as if in the heart,
The pain of parting from the beloved grows.
Time and again this thought comes to my mind,
So sweet and fragrant is my life now,
Those, dispersing the poison of oppression,
Will not succeed today nor tomorrow.
If the candles at the lovers’ rendezvous
You blew out. Show us you can blow out the moon,
Then we will grant that you have it in you.

The Proletarian Anthem

When in the court of this land everybody goes to the Judgment Day,
Some will get their just reward, others their just punishment.
Arise, ye dwellers in the dust! That time is now coming near,
When thrones will be made to bite the dust, the crowns will plunge down in descent.
Now the chains will be shattered, prisons will have a sad end,
No straws will be able to dam this river’s tumultuous current.
Keep on walking, let the heads roll, we have too many arms, too many heads,
Walk on, walk on, on the Promised Land we will peg our tent,
You, the oppressed ones, speak out, how long will you remain silent,
There will be raised a hue and cry, far off will be heard our songs of discontent.


Ali Sardar Jafri (1913-2000)

My Journey

Like verdure I have grown again and again (Rumi)

Soon that day will dawn,
The lamp that are my eyes will die,
Lotus hands will shrivel: become dry,
From the leaf: my tongue, the power of speech
Will, like a butterfly, take to flight.
And from the depths of the dark ocean,
Like buds that bloom,
Flowers laugh: boom, boom, boom,
All the shapes will go awry.
The circulation of blood, the beat of the heart
And all melodies will dormantly lie.
And the blue velvet of the surrounding air,
Laughing like a diamond fragment,
This my earth, this my paradise,
With its mornings and its evenings,
Without knowing, uncomprehendingly,
On the handful dust of a man,
Like a drop of dew will cry.
From the beautiful temples of memory
Everything will carried out outright
Nobody will ask then
Where is Sardar in this assembly?

But I will come along this way,
In children’s voice I’ll have my say;
Like sparrows I’ll twitter away.
When inside the earth the seeds will laugh,
And sprouts with their tender fingers,
Will tease the layers of the dust,
In every leaf, in every bud,
I will open my eyes that day;
Taking verdure in my palm,
Drops of dew I will weigh,
With the tint of henna and the ghazal’s melody,
Poetry’s harmony I will portray;
Like the cheeks of a newly wedded bride,
I will remove the head cloth’s display;
Through the skirt the winter wind
The harvest of autumn will convey;
Under the young footsteps of a passerby
The leaves that have become dry;
My laughter will portray;
All the golden rivers of this earth
And all the azure lakes of the sky
Will be filled with my being in its full array.
Then all the world will see
In every tale my story is spun
And every lover is a Sardar here
And Sultana every beloved one.

Just a passing moment am I,
In the present’s magical getup,
A drop in torment am I.
Engrossed in my journey,
From the core of the jar of the past,
Into the future’s wine cup,
I go to sleep and then my eyes open wide,
Then once again into sleep I glide,
An ancient play of ages am I,
I die and then in eternity I abide.

Law and Anarchy

‘In the garden a new order has come to the fore,
The ring around the dove’s neck becomes the lock on the garden’s door.’

They say that a new directorate has now taken over the floor,
Oppression will become defence, the cities will be without any lock or door.

The innocent will be punished because of the crime of their innocence,
The judges will the charge-sheet totally ignore.

The informers only will called as witnesses in the court,
Only the arrow, the axe, the sword, the dagger, will be relied on to gore.

The torturers will adorn the assembly of mourners,
The executioners will roll out the shroud; the cut-throats carry on mourning chore.

On hearing the counterfeit mourning sounds the heavens will shudder,
The tears of widows and orphans will not cause any furore.

Ropes will fetter the arms of sisters and mothers,
On the heads of the spears will the heads of martyrs roll.

Festivals of joy will be celebrated in deserted ruins,
The dark night will be illuminated by the moist eyes’ downpour.

If this is the interpretation of the ancient dreams of Hindustan,
There will be no Hindustan left, nor any of those who the land adore.

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the 1993 riots in Bombay.


Jan Nissar Akhtar (1914-79)

Bengal and Bihar
(About the 1946 riots – translator)

Who has spread the flames amongst the blossoming flowers?
Who has kindled the fires that in my gardens I now behold?
How many branches in the garden have come to grief?
The hovering smoke has many a nest swallowed.
So many springs of blood were let loose by thousands of daggers,
Blood of millions was soaked as the heads of the spears strolled.
New felicitations are due to the gardener,
Seeds of hatred are now in the garden getting sowed.
The dark depths of politics are now crying out,
No sentinels now humanism uphold.
Those, who rank after rank, carried the banners,
No trace is to be found of that youth — once so rebellious and bold.
On my behalf deliver this message to my land:
Freedom is not in any toy shop sold.
If you do not understand, my people, you’ll cease to be:
When tales are told, yours will remain untold.


Kaifi Azmi (1918-2002)


Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

Flower of war rage today in the womb of time,
Life and time are one today, together they chime.
In the goblets of wine, the ardour of stones is in its prime.
Love and beauty today harmoniously rhyme.

Along with me you must burn in that fire that is blazing red,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

Following your lead we have to culture an access,
In your vision lies the civilisation and its progress
In your lap lies the path of our mind and flesh,
How long will you be imprisoned in your allotted role’s fortress?
Like lightening leap out of your constraining bed,

Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

You play with lifeless toys and become diverted,
The warmth of breath turns you into liquid,
Where ever you step out, you manage to skid,
Like mercury, you take the shape of the vessel into which you are slid.

In an iron matrix you have to be moulded instead,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

Life lies in struggle, preaching of patience retails lies,
Blood of our existence does not lie in the quivering tears of the eyes, quivering
Fragrance does not lie in curly tresses, but in soaring up to the skies,
Besides the lap of a man, there is another paradise.

In this free headstrong way you must raise your head,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

In every nook and corner there has been lit for you a pyre,
In disguise death comes to you, dressed in duties, attire,
All your tender coquetry is for you a bonfire.

Change the times, if you want to flourish and to spread,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

History has, till now, not known your real value,
Thou are not about shedding tears, there is a real fire in thee too,
Not just an entertaining tale, there is a real thou,
Besides thee, thy Self must be given its due.

Thou must overturn whatever this history about you has said,
Arise, my darling! With me you must forge ahead.

Tear down traditions and custom; get out of this cage,
From the frailties of luxuries, from blandishments disengage,
Step down from the framework of self’s limiting stage,
If love becomes a prison, then break also that bondage.

Not just thorns, but flowers you have to that bondage shred,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

From admonitions that break your resolve, thy freedom gain,
Break the chains that are thy imprisonment, let themnot restrain,
Shatter the emerald necklace; it’s a yoke thou wearst in vain,
Flush out the laws of deceitful men; let them go down the drain.

Like a smouldering, seething tempest your life must be led,
Arise, my darling! With me you have to forge ahead.

You are the brilliant pleiades; you are Aristotle-Plato,
The firmament belongs to thee; thou canst kick with thy toe
Yes, lift up thy feet; do not to the destiny bow,
I am not going to stop; time too will not go slow.

How far can you stumble, let thine be a steady tread,
Arise, my darling! With me you have forge ahead.


Kaifi Azmi
The Second Banishment

From his exile when Ram came back to his kingdom,
He missed the jungle a lot, once back in his home.
Once there; he saw this dance of madness,
On the sixth December he would thought, with sadness,
How came here all of this lunatic scum,
When his footsteps were all glittering with light,
The milky way stretches itself out in delight,
So many hateful twists and turns had found here welcome.
Neither their caste nor creed any body could learn,
Nobody would recognise them if my house did not burn,
This crowd which had set aflame my home,
Your daggers are vegetarians, as is well known,
Towards Babar you threw stone after stone.
It’s the fault of my head ( my dome ) that the wounds were so gruesome.
Not yet had Ram washed his feet in Sarju’s waters,
He saw deep stains of blood at close quarters;
Feet unwashed, he left Sarju’s shore,
Ram was heard to say as he left his door,
The new ways of this capital city do not suit me,
On sixth December I got the second banishment decree.


Sahir Ludhianvi (1922-80)

The Lanes of the Red-Light District

These crooked lanes, these auction houses of pleasure,
Here the caravan of life is despoiled of its treasure,
Where are those who defend the East’s great measure,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

These serpentine streets: the bazaars without a dream,
The nameless wayfarers- their jingling coins scream,
Bargains over chastity —disputing as per scheme,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

These semi-lighted streets — full of a foul smell,
Where half-open buds get mangled, causing them to shrivel,
Hollow revelries are all that they here sell,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

In these lanes one hears their laughter resound,
Why on these windows, a crowd is to be found?
As they tug the cloth covering the head, comes the taunting sound,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

With betal-leaf spittle, wearing a flower-bracelet as an ornament,
Bold are their glances, remarks made with a rude intent,
Consumptive faces, bodies worn out and spent,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

Towards beautiful faces they cast a hungry glance,
Their hands eagerly towards the breasts advance,
As they go up the stairs, their feet prance,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

Here come young men, followed by those much older,
Sturdy sons, and then comes the father,
She is the wife and the mother, she is the daughter,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

These daughters of Eve- your help they need,
Yashodha’s kinswomen — Radha’s seed,
Zuleikha’s offspring, following the prophet’s creed,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

To this place, the leaders of the nation invite,
Let them see these lanes, these streets, let them see this sight,
Bring here all those who their praise-songs for the East recite,
Where are the praise-singers of the sacredness of the East!

Oh, You Gentle Folk!

(Written keeping in view the Indo-Pak war and broadcast on the first anniversary of the Tashkent Pact. Poet’s note.)
(War of 1965. Translator’s note.)

Blood that is shed may be theirs or ours,
It’s Adam’s progeny that is bled,
War may be in the East or in the West,
Blood of harmony amongst nations is shed.

The bombs may fall on the frontiers or on homes,
The wounds are borne by the spirit of progress,
Burning fields may belong to them or us,
Starvation follows: life frets in distress.

Tanks may advance or retreat,
The womb of earth becomes barren,
Joy over victories: sorrows on defeat,
Life laments over the bodies of dead men.

War in itself is the problem,
A way out it can not show,
Fire and blood it offers today,
Hunger and destitution tomorrow.

Therefore, you gentle people,
Better this war you postpone,
In your and our courtyards,
Let the candle burn — on and on.

... But Against Tyranny

Peace we desire, but against tyranny,
If war there is to be, then let there be war.

He who does not restrain the tyrant is a part of tyranny,
He, who does not curb the cut-throat, takes with him his stand,
Our heads we have staked, so that truth may prevail,
Tell it to all those who follow the liar’s hand.
If this is the path you have chosen, then there is for
us no bar.

The tyrant has no caste, no faith, no nationality,

When the tyrant talks about these, he commits a crime.
The tree of oppression can not flourish on this earth,
History is aware of this, witness is the time.
Some fanatical eyes may not see thus far.

This is not a war for pelf, nor for any lands,
This war is there so that the principles of life come to power;
The blood that was our gift to this earth,
That blood was so that roses can flower.
The peace will dawn; even though it carries a crimson scar.


Ahmed Faraz (1927- )
The Black Granite wall

Yesterday, I went on tour around Washington town,
In the world its triumphant glory had won renown.

Like gypsies we had gone around many places,
But its elegance was reflected in its enchanting faces.
Everywhere multi-coloured lights, it was difficult to see the way,
Even one with his mind’s eyes open, could blindly go astray.

High rise buildings, streets full of light, markets full of beauty,
Even with our open eyes, a dreamworld we could see.

I saw a great power with its seat in a white mansion,
Buying and selling small nations was its profession.

Sitting here, he moves his strings: this magician, this puppeteer,
All the cities like Nagasaki and Hiroshima disappear.

Not far away from this mansion was a black wall,
Such a crowd had gathered there, one could not walk at all.

Engraved in this wall were engraved many names one could spell,
Amongst these names was written: ‘Martyrs, in Vietnam they fell.’

People had assembled here from far-off places,
Desperation was reflected in their eyes, sorrow in their faces.

Anxious sisters, traumatised mothers and the widows’ moan,
In which land are you now, where have you gone?

They seek to find the faces of their loved ones, which remained concealed,
On the black wall they seek to find a bit of their names revealed.

Hearts full of sorrow, dew drops in their eyes, carrying flowers in their hands,
The mystery of this names graveyard nobody can understand.

No sepulchre, no inscription, flesh and bones — a mess,
But crazed eyes hope to meet the loved ones, nonetheless.

Here and there, painted on the wall, a white flower one could see,
As if it were a mother’s tear, or could it a father’s dream be?

Like a thorn that pricks the heart, every body questions,
Why did we turn to dust our heroic sons.

In the land of yellow people, how much darkness did we spread,
But its brave sons, sacrificing their life, brought to it light instead.

So many faces looking like the moon were lost, what did we gain,
Unlucky we, we sought a place in the shade or sun in vain.

Having offered so many pearly faces we got a wall: black,
This black wall, wall which is just an empty wall, alack.

This black wall of names, where just the names are entered,
In history of Washington how many yearnings are interred.


Habib Jalib

Tale of a Broken Heart

The village on the shore had beauty and grace,
On the waterside, green was found this place.

The life in the town was wonderful and carefree,
Full of merriment, despite its poverty.

How very hearty and loving were our friends,
Those helpless, those long-suffering friends.

We had this congregation of our friends, we had our soil,
Our life was spent without any turmoil.

Tales of Joseph and Zuleikha we would recite,
Its melody would fill us with delight.

The palaces of kings would begin to totter and reel,
Our lacerated hearts would start to heal.

Songs we would listen to and we sang the lays,
Filled with melodies were all our days.

There, then, the flames of hatred blazed,
From our lives colours and melodies were erased.

Such pleasant dreams we began to see,
A dream these our nests turned out to be.

True, for moving around we had just our feet,
There was more shade than the sun’s blazing heat.

From the branch we fell and we got battered,
From that lane we were exiled and we scattered.

Strange people, pathways unknown,
Our lips became a sigh — a groan.

Facing the western powers our masters began to bend,
The night of sorrows had no end..

Vile people were the ones, who became the upper crust,
Priceless people were ground into the dust.

Love for one’s country became a crime,
This agonised night lasted for a long time.

Those who were lost to all sense of shame,
Only they respect and honour could claim.

Those who the despots eulogised,
Were rewarded, applauded and highly prized.

Like the dacoits who held us for loot,
The leaders gave us not a hoot.

Once again we were sundered apart,
Once again were left with a broken heart.

This is the tale of those who guarded our borders,
Smartly turned out — young soldiers.

Miserably they failed as border guards,
Shooting at us — they got their awards.

How should I the tale of this time narrate,
Terror, tyranny and prices extortionate.

Now commissioners contribute to charity,
And get applauded on the TV.

Countries, begging for alms, do not thrive,
This is not the way live and kicking nations strive.

Cast a glance at yourself and see,
Thon cast a glance toward your orderly.

Sense the difference in your and his grade,
Do not take Islam on a parade.

This land is so utterly beautiful,
Evil are the designs of those who rule.

So long as these callous people reign,
This land will continue to live in pain.

Until we take this country in our hands,
Sorrows will continue to flourish all over these lands.

A roof we will provide over every head,
In every heart, love will its light shed.

People, for ages oppressed,
Will not wander so distressed.

A place to live we will provide, clothes and food too,
The labouring class will get the dignity that is its due.

We will put an end to this season of decay,
Spring, the flowering season, will have then its heyday.


Ikram Khawar (1960 – )

Yes, I am a Mussulman.

Yes, I am a Mussulman
I will not say,
The same way you are human.
I am a Mussulman.
Without any shame, not crying for mercy,
Myself I refuse to see,
With your eyes.


I am a Mussulman,
The way there is wind,
The earth rotates,
The way time has its being,
And time changes too:
So I too can change;
I will change too,
Not just, in order to please you;
I will change according to my desires and needs,
And not according to your edicts.


I am a Mussulman,
In nineteen-sixty I was born,
In this way —
A man is born!
Not in nineteen forty-seven riotous tumults,
Not in Mahmud Ghazni’s assaults,
In Gopalgunj!
In this twentieth century!
(Where, they say, Sita’s bridal litter had passed)
In Bihar!
In free India!
I was born,
Against your desires.

Why do you indulge in such violence?
When time and again,
You make me be born in forty-seven’s violent tumults,
In Ghazni’s assaults?
Am I Ghazni’s progeny?
Am I Babar’s progeny?
You may be the offspring of some violent despots?
I am not!
I am a farmer’s son,
Not the son of some king!
Yes, I am an offspring of Hussain,
Of those who were martyrs on the shores of the Euphrates,
In the plains of Kerbala,
Against despotism,
On the republican path.


Yes, I am a Mussulman,
Because my father, too, was a Mussulman,
Because his father, too, was a Mussulman,
In the same way, too, whatever you are,
Only because of this fact,
Your father had the same faith,
And his father had the same the faith,
No option had we,
Neither you nor me,
On our being, or non-being,
And if I am a Mussulman,
I remain unaware of this generally,
As I remain unaware of my body parts,
Till some pain tears them apart.


Shall I tell you the truth?
I am not a Mussulman, forsooth.
In view of history’s thundering tide,
Why should I a Hindu or Mussulman be,
I am only human!
I am an inhabitant of this earth!
All of the earth I inherit!
I am the son of that outstanding danseuse,
Who, cavorting in a certain style,
Romps over the universe.
But resting on the flitting, mincing
Thighs of the aboriginal female,
In India!
In 1990!
Because this is not the time,
To deny that, by chance I happen to be a Mussulman,
When it’s a crime in your eyes,
That somebody is a Mussulman.


I am a Mussulman,
My allegiance to Mohammed I declared,
But there I did not stop:
Because I could not stop.
And after my allegiance to Mohammed I declared,
I became Marx’s follower,
But you, who can not differentiate
Between ‘Maududi’(1) and ‘Muzaffar Ahmed’.(2)
Recognise me only through my checked waist cloth,
But I wear tunics, pyjamas, pants, shirts too,
Jeans too I wear.
Like the hero of some film I grow thick moustaches,
And sometime I let my beard grow,
Just so!
Why do you stubbornly insist,
On seeing me in Turkish cap or a beard,
And presenting me in this fashion?

Every body knows,
That human blood, splendorous,
Luxuriating in the western shores,
Shed, as in a dying bull,
Is enough to make you ecstatic.
Children, you can throw,
From fast moving trains,
Like some banana peels!
It’s well known these days you issue certificates about Indianness,
On these I shit.
I am an Indian, without these permits:
More Indian than you are!

Who made you the master of this India,
Where my umbilical cord is buried,
Where generation after generation,
My ancestors are buried.


Yes, I am a Mussulman,
Born in 1960.
And I think,
Not just about Pakistan, I think,
About Nepal and Nicaragua, I think,
About eastern Europe and South Africa too I think,
About Bangladesh too
About Indian people I think,
(Not just about the nights spent at the boat club).
And I think about some girl.
Mines explode on the sea-shore,
An earthquake rages in me,
I get rattled for a long time,
(But why am I telling you this?)
You, who cannot love a woman.

Yes, I am a Mussulman,
In spite of everything,
Shameless, with no pleas for mercy.
(Why should it make you angry?)

And whatever you may be,
A Hindu you are not.
Because Hindus are the vast Indian people,
Simple — Just like water!
Immovable, just like a mountain!
Common people who are just like me,
And I am like them.
And without whom I can not be,
(This is not some nationalist slogan,
This is my whole being.)
As such I exist!
A Hindu you are not.

I recognise you all too well,
This is not the first time you have come,
Whose was that black shadow,
In the dilapidated ruins of history,
Searching, searching for weapons.
I am not so very forgetful,
That I should not recognise you,
It was just yesterday,
That you came,
And gave a call:
Kill the Jews!

I will not honour you by calling you a Hindu.
I refuse to see myself,
With your eyes.

(1) The founder of Jamaat-e-Islami who later migrated to Pakistan.
(2) A leading communist in India.

With acknowledgements to Manpreet Kaur

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