Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All was good, amma!

(tr. from Anshu Malviya’s Hindi poem)

On the 28th of February, 2002, a violent mob attacked the Muslim residents of Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. Those killed included a pregnant Kausar Bibi and her unborn baby that was wrenched out from the womb and flung into the fire.

All was good, amma!
Often, the sour pickle you ate,
or the mud you tasted
used to come to me…!

The sun, filtered through your womb,
used to come to me.

I was so happy, amma!
Soon, I was to take my share of breath,
Soon, I was to feel my share of hunger,
I was to see my share of light.
I was so happy, amma!

I had once seen the shadow of abbu’s hand
on your belly.
I was to see his face,
I was to see my share of abbu,
I was to see my share of this world.
I was so happy, amma!

One day
I shuddered a little…trembled
like a fish…
in the waters of your womb,
what strange shadow was this?

It seemed to me,
you were not walking, amma,
it seemed you were pulling yourself!

Then I do not know what happened,
suddenly, I was out from the soft, warm darkness
of your womb,
and into the sun
into the fire.

That was a very big operation, amma.
With mine eyes,
that had never opened,
I saw
these big doctors that were
bending over you,
and in their hands, there were big
three-headed knives, amma…

On seeing me, they yelled!
Why did they yell, amma…
Were they happy seeing me
now that I was out?
They gave me fire to play with,
Then I got so busy playing
that I did not see you.
You too, with your last hiccough,
must have sung the Sohar song
to welcome the new born!

I was never birthed, amma!
and in this way, I never died,
like those unborn babies
kept in the hospitals
in that colourful water,
like them, I became immortal, amma!
But here, there is no colourful water,
there is only fire.
For how long will I burn, amma!

(Thanks to Anshu Malviya and Saba Dewan)

Anshu Malviya

Thursday, February 23, 2012

One of the last things

‘…she had a song of 'willow;'
An old thing 'twas, but it express'd her fortune,
And she died singing it: that song to-night
Will not go from my mind’

One of the last things she dreamt about
was her classroom
but only as someplace she could not find.
‘I am walking in the corridors, Akhil,
I have to take my class
but I keep on searching for my classroom,
there are so many rooms here,
and doors, but none which are mine,
I am lost in the corridors
that I have walked in all my life’

Half waking, through that haze of medicine,
one of the last things she dreamt about
was water,
was being thirsty.
They had stopped it in her diet.
‘It interferes with the kidneys,’ the doctors had said,
‘it obstructs recovery.’
On the ventilator, delirious, she had told her sister,
‘I have become so poor
I cannot even afford a glass of water.’
How do I claim, Lalita,
how tonight my eyes itch and it bodes weeping,
a sea brims in the eyes,
and all this water, your wealth,
all this, while you are sleeping.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

दुनिया में बहुत हैं

'Tavay mey hyotum nagay natsun'
('Naked I began to roam')
- Lal Ded, Vakh 21

दुनिया में बहुत हैं हया समझाने वाले
क्या नहीं जानते कि हम बेहया और भी हैं
जो ढकेले है हमें फिर ये तमीज़ कि ओर
जान लें कि हम बत्तमीज़ यहाँ और भी हैं     
मेरी लल्ला, ज़रा आकर समझाओ इनको,
जो दुहाई देते हैं ये सब कुछ ढाप रखने कि
जो 'बेढंगे' कहते है हमें, अपना वाख सुनाओ
इनको, कि तुम जैसे नंगे यहाँ और भी हैं

Friday, February 3, 2012

Your small hands: A Song

Your small hands have been in mine
and your words have been warm against me,
we saw, as we entered, this had its time,
I tied your shoelaces, you mine,
but it wouldn’t do if it was all like that.

I creased your shirt in that last hour,
do not smoothen it right away, reach 
the door, till then, let the folds reckon
against your body that it would not do
if it was all like that, it would never,
yes, if it was all like that?

You’d be all right, I never doubt, you’d be
counting only the first few hours, love, 
know that days take over the night
(if it is summer) and you’d be all right
because all along you knew, that
it would never do if it was all like that.

(Thanks to Nigel Kneale and John Osborne)