Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Khusro and Nizam: A villanelle

'The real causes of the loss of the Mughal Empire were some mistakes committed by the elders of that king [Bahadur Shah], and the biggest of them all was that they had separated lover and beloved from each other, by burying Muhammad Shah between the graves of Hazrat Mahboob Elahi and Hazrat Amir Khusro' - Ahmed Ali, 'Twilight in Delhi'  




They parted them in their graves,
for a Mughal to be buried in between.
Khusro and Nizam count the days

how long before this city's razed?
Part not the lovers, the curse had been,
they parted them in their graves.

Now look from the ridge, all Delhi's ablaze,
'They exiled the king, what do you mean?'
Khusro and Nizam count the days

till Bahadur Shah looks for a little place
to be buried in, far from home, unseen,
they parted them in their graves.

Setting up the marquee, a worker says,
'They're white as milk, the new king an' queen,'
Khusro and Nizam count the days

till the time another Delhi pays
its ransom to the lovers that had been,
they parted them in their graves.
Khusro and Nizam count the days.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The places that are left - Mangalesh Dabral

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi poem 'Bachi Hui Jagahein' 


These days, I keep forgetting things, keep losing them, 
I misplace my glasses, lose my pen,
a second ago, somewhere, I saw the colour blue,
now I do not know where it has gone.
I forget answering letters, paying my debts,
I forget saying my hellos an' goodbyes to friends,
regretting that my hands remain full with work
that has little to do with me,
sometimes, having forgotten a thing,
I can not even remember forgetting it.

Mother used to tell me to go to those places
where I had last seen, taken off or kept those things.
This way I usually found them and was thrilled.
Mother used to say that these things, wherever they are,
make a place of their own and do not let go easily. 
Now mother is no longer with me, 
only her place is left. 

Things get lost but their places remain,
moving with us all our lives,
We move elsewhere, leaving our homes, our people,
the water, the trees,
like a stone, I had washed away from a mountain,
that mountain must still have a little place left. 
Meanwhile, my city was submerged by a big dam,
they have made another city in its place
but I said this is not it, my city is now an empty feeling. 

Things happen and then pass
but where they happened, those places add up,
those places move with me,
reminding me of all that I have forgotten 
and of all that I have lost.


Manglesh Dabral