Dalit Poetry from Pakistan

Translated from the Urdu by fowpe sharma

The Lover of Harappan Town

Writer and Urdu translation: Ahmed Saleem

We, the stepsons/daughters of this earth of ours,
We, the scavengers, the black-coloured, the dogs, the serfs,
Lighter than the straws on the streets,
For thousands of years we have been lost,
When did we walk, looking in eyes of
The landlords, Syeds, money-lenders, Brahmins and mullahs,
When did we walk with heads held high,
Tossing up sun in the air,
You, the princes, the mullahs, the headmen,
The doers of criminal deeds,
You have hidden our wisdom in the heavens,
For centuries we have met only death,
Our daughters, sisters, wives,
Are crushed like the white sheets spread on bed,
You, the honoured and esteemed ones,
You with king-beds and bed-spreads,
You: the princes, the mullahs, the headmen,
We, the black-coloured, the dogs, the serfs,
True our dawn is engulfed in the veil of darkness,
But a poet, Ahmed
On street after street, wall after wall, keeps on writing,
Listen, keeps on writing,
The day we bridge the gap between,
Broom and gun,
You will not survive,
The dawn belongs to us,
It resides in our hearts,
And smiles in the eyes of poet,
Remember, poets may die,
But their eyes,
Never die,

Written on the Wall

By Fakhar Zaman

Giving us a nipple to suck
We were kept away from the breasts of our mothers.
Instead of letting us stand on our legs
We were forced to walk with the help of walkers,
We did not crawl on our knees nor did we mingle with dust,
Nor catching hold of the collar did we learn to stand on our feet,
We kept on sobbing for a taste of mother’s milk,
We continued to sob for the scent of the soil.
The deception done to us is done anyway,
The treatment accorded to us is done anyway.
But today the mothers’ breasts are flooded with milk,
Today there is an earthquake in the earth’s chest.
Now the sons will not be separated from their mothers,
When we walk, it will be with our own strength,
This has been written on the wall.

Dhola of Miyana Gondal

Auntie Jante! You grew old reciting the Granth in secrecy.
This dark cell is your grave or a gurudwara
Auntie! I, the son of a Muslim,
May I write down your pain

My son! There was a village here called Govindpura
Now it is called locality 26, Islamabad (inhabited on the debris of destruction),
Four miles away from here there was a village Miyana Gondal
Where your grandfather, businessman, Fazal Karim, the cloth seller, used to live.
He was a good man,
Keeping away from the differences between Granth and Quran,
Five times he used to pray,
A good man was he,
When your grandfather closed his eyes
There were furious wind blasts
Blood clouds rained from the sky,
The earth spew out corpses
And Govindpura,
In no time,
Became locality 26, Islamabad.
And my son!
Loyal to my hearth,
I became Jannat Bibi from Raj Kaur,
And my son Ishar Sihaan became Umar Deen,
Today, Umre’s daughter and my grand-daughter tells me,
‘Grandma, I do not want to live as Fatima Bibi,
Let me go to gurudwara to recite Granth Sahib’, 
My son, make this mad girl understand,
What foolishness this ill-fated girl indulges in,
Where is the gurudwara and who goes there?
Today, it is inhabited by refugees from across the border,
There are their cows-buffaloes urinating and excreting,

Come on Fatima! Let’s build a gurudwara,
Your brother Ahmed, a Muslim,
Grandson of businessman Fazal Karim,
Will build a new gurudwara with the material made of his blood,
Will keep his sister happy,
Sikh girl, resting her head on the chest of his Muslim brother,
Said weeping,
‘My God is alive in your heart,
My brother, your sympathetic and warm heart is my gurudwara.’
And Ahmed says,
‘If on the other side,
In the chest of some Singh,
Sakina’s God takes shape, then…'



(Written on the suicide of Sukkhan jam Saaqi)

Faizullah / trans: Ahmed Saleem

Dear people,
Put on a shroud,
On her corpse,
Of banners and pamphlets,
Which appeared,
For the sake of her husband’s freedom.

Ehtesab, 7-8 August 1979.

With acknowledgements to Shamsul Islam.

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