Tuesday, September 24, 2013

धीरे धीरे

गाते व़क्त बेगम अख़्तर पत्ती लगाती थीं धीरे धीरे,
गोया ओस को छान-छान चांदी बनाती थीं धीरे धीरे।

आवाज़ ऐसी, मेरी मानो, ख़ुदा किसी को भी ना दे,
अल्फ़ाज़ संग, अख़्तरी, खुद को गलाती थीं धीरे धीरे।

चाँद जलता था जब भी जाता था वो बेगम के कूचे से, 
अपने हीरे की नथ से चाँद को वो जलाती थीं धीरे धीरे।   

इश्क़ में ज़ोर नहीं चलता है किसी की जल्दबाज़ी का, 
तो ग़ालिब को ज़ीने-ज़ीने, अख़्तरी चढ़ाती थीं धीरे-धीरे। 

आग से बहुत खेले, अखिल, फिर जो शाम हो आई, 
उस शाम को भी अख़्तरी यूं सुलगाती थीं धीरे धीरे। 

(अख़्तरी बाई के लिये)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reykjavík

the city that could have been
if I had crossed over to your side,

smoke-screened
smoke-eyed
holding, in my hands, ash that was always becoming
more ash

- you had booked the tickets through Reykjavík -

the city where light changes hands
where any one can buy fireworks on New Year's eve
where the sky is green (Borealis!)
jealous, because the earth
forgets to spin - unseen -
in Reykjavík

because, in Sjon's words, the city like snow buntings
over snow
in a snowy winter
like snow buntings
over a snowy winter
on snow
like snow
over snow buntings
in a snowy winter
like snow

I know that if I had crossed this city once
what would not have been possible
in the world.

Even the ash then
curled in my hands -

when my friend told me 
that - whenever a passenger's name
is called one last time before the airplane doors are shut,
she likes to think they chose love.

Reykjavík, pirate city stolen from ice
- where airplanes first landed during war -
where the Hallgrímskirkja
is piercing ice that is always becoming more ice

where, when the window opened
- will you believe me? -
even the Atlantic was not big enough
then

from Reykjavík,
the Atlantic was a small stream
flowing in my hands
then

the small stream,
- now ice - that could have been
flowing in my hands, but -
when the name was called one last time before the airplane doors, 
like window-panes, their glass all ash,
were shut.


(thanks to Aditi Angiras, Agha Shahid Ali, Momin Khan Momin)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

स्टेडियम में

tr. from Joan Jara's English tr. of Victor Jara's Spanish song 'Estadio Chile'

Soon after the U.S.A. backed Chilean coup on 9/11 (1973), that overthrew the elected President Allende, singer-poet Victor Jara was imprisoned, with thousands of others, in the Chile Stadium. In the following days, the military tortured and killed many in the stadium. Jara was beaten, his hands and ribs were broken and 44 bullets pumped into his body. Before his murder, Jara wrote 'Estadio Chile' on a piece of paper that was then hidden inside a friend's shoe and smuggled out.

अभी हम पांच हजार हैं
शहर के इस छोटे हिस्से में,

यहाँ तो पांच हजार -
पर मैं सोच ही सकता हूँ
कि हम जैसे और कितने हैं
और शहरों में

अकेले इसी जगह
कम से कम दस हजार हाथ हैं
जो बीज बो सकते हैं,
जो कारखाने चला सकते हैं

पर आज इंसान को यहाँ जूंझने के लिए छोड़ दिया है -
भूख से, ठण्ड से, दहशत, दर्द, हौसलों के टूटने से, आतंक
पागलपन से

हम में से छे तो खो हि गए
जैसे आकाश के सितारों में से -
एक मारा गया
दूसरा ऐसे पीटा गया, कि मैं सोच भी नहीं सकता था किसी इंसान को ऐसा पीटा जा सकता है
बाकी चार अपने डर को मिटाते-मिटाते -
एक कूद गया शुन्य में
दूसरा दीवार पर अपना सर पटके जा रहा है
लेकिन सबमें, इन सबमें, मुझे मौत का निश्चित रूप दिख रहा है

देखो कैसी दहशत पैदा करते हैं तानाशाह 
चाकू-जैसी धार लिए, वो अपने इरादे पूरे करते हैं, 
उनके लिए कुछ मायने नहीं रखता     
उनके लिए लहू ही पदक है
मारना ही वीरता है

क्या यही जग बनाया था तुमने?
क्या इसी के लिए था तुम्हारे सात दिन का वो सब काम, वो सारा विस्मय?

अभी इस चार दिवारी में
हम सब बस एक संख्या बन कर रह गए हैं,
एक संख्या जो अब बढ़ नहीं सकती
केवल उसकी मौत की लालसा धीरे-धीरे बढ़ रही है

लेकिन फिर एकदम से
मेरी रूह जाग उठती है और मुझे दिख पड़ता है
के हत्या के इस भारी ज्वार में कोई धड़कन नहीं है
केवल मशीनों सा स्पंद है  
और मिलिटरी कितनी मधुरता से हस रही है, 
इन्तिज़ार कर रही है

मेक्सिको, क्यूबा, पुरे विश्व -
इस क्रूरता के खिलाफ आवाज़ बुलंद करो
यहाँ दस हजार हाथ हैं जो अब कुछ नहीं उगाते
हम जैसे कितने होंगें इस पुरे देश में

हमारे लीडर, हमारे कौमरेड का ये लहू
अब बम और मशीन-गनों से ज़्यादा चोट पहुंचाएगा,
इस लहू में रंगी हमारी मुट्ठी फिर जुटेगी, फिर बोलेगी हमला

गाना कितना मुश्किल होता है दहशत का गीत
दहशत, जिसमें मैं अब रह रहा हूँ
जिसमें मैं अब मर रहा हूँ,
अपने को इस तरह देख,
यहाँ इन अनगिनत लम्हों में
मेरा गीत सिर्फ इक खामोशी है, सिर्फ इक चीख है

जो मैं अब देख रहा हूँ वो आज तक नहीं देखा
जो मुझे एहसास था
जो एहसास अब हो रहा है
वही जन्म देगा एक ऐसे समय को…


Victor Jara (1932-1973)



Friday, September 6, 2013

That evening

in Kamani,
- we had gone for
a Hamlet adaptation
as the sky outside had rained grey -
and the actor playing Fido (Polonius)
had said - 'Imagine Gertrude,
all of us will die, everyone today
sitting in this theatre
will one day be gone. All
of them.'

Outside in the lobby
as we had waited to be ushered in,
I had known three faces in the crowd.
Two were old students
and one
was a woman who on the metro once,
fortyish, spectacled,
had asked me about the book I had on my lap -
Dorothy Parker's 'Enough Rope' - 
she had said her poems are so clean.
She stood near the door now
holding her ticket,
by herself, a face that I had once seen.
(Gertrude: What will the next century look like, Fido?
Fido: It will be, Gertrude, unfamiliar.)

That evening
in Kamani, as the DMRC cranes outside
dug deeper into the ground,
the under-study stole the show,
walked on air, an' ended his song -
after the music, after the ball, 
a cold ground awaits us all.
The idea is so neat - all in the audience
will be gone, nothing
could be easier than this, nothing
was simpler than this,
this - our doing the rounds -
old students, old friends.

There was a standing ovation
(the actors did not come twice for the bow)
and, at the end, moving out -
no ground beneath our feet, in the crowd
I once again spotted her, on the stairs
(should I go and say something)
and before I decided, on the last step
she had turned to me,
her spectacles hanging on her neck,
and said - 'Dorothy Parker!' - and I felt,
at that moment, somehow, that I could embrace her,
even in this crowd, even in this city, if only I try -
both of us will one day be gone.
'A whole world lies in the goodbye,
and no matter what you tell me, Fido,'
Gertrude had said,
'I don't 
want to die. 
I don't want 
to die.
I don't want to die.'



(thanks to Rajat Kapoor)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kiss

tr. from Mangalesh Dabral's Hindi prose-poem 'चुंबन'

The history of the kiss is as old as mankind but it is usually nothing more than dry descriptions or adverts of the famous, or the longest or the shortest kisses. A kiss always happens outside history. In that false world, the incandescent lips of two people come so close to each other that you can hear them tremble. All the blood from the body runs to the lips, all thoughts already gather on the lips, softly the heart reaches there and the soul finds there, a home. This is that moment when a flower blooms small bird takes flight stars shine somewhere from under the earth you hear the water flowing but each of these usual events occur in a way that shakes the ground you stand on. At last, the blood returns and the heart resumes its old role of pushing it through the entire body. Thoughts come back to mind and the soul returns to the wilderness. Now everything is ordinary again. We have narrowly escaped a storm, or a fire. We are alive and have returned to history, and are heaving a sigh of relief.    


Mangalesh Dabral

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ten years

to the day,
that's how long it took
for me to know
that growing-up
is letting misunderstandings stay,
is always keeping the blame
crazily -
gift-wrapped in paisley -
to give to others,
and of love, to speak
always, haltingly,
hazily.