Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lest we forget

Poetry, it is said, is called into service when other, words fail you. When newspaper reports, essays, stories, conversation itself fails. Poetry speaks the unspeakable.

Gujarat. Five years ago, it turned into a word for which I have no words. Now that it is a time to remember, lest we forget, I turn to poetry. Hindi poetry. Or call it Hindustani poetry. There is a collection of poetry in two volumes, titled 'Das Baras - Hindi Kavita Ayodhya Ke Baad', a compilation of contemporary poems about the identity, about poetry, about writing and speaking up, fear, denial, love. The tragedy is that you could easily replace 'ayodhya' with 'gujarat'.

(Am putting up two poems; I can find no English translations on the web, and so am attempting rough translations myself. Let this be my way of remembering.)

Against Forgetting - by Manglesh Dabraal

Not the first, always the second
Second life, second light, always the second darkness
Because I am the second, not the first, each time the second
The first is always absent, always forgotten
The first is always lost, always missing, shifting places
I am the second, in the memory of the first, always taking his place
The first is always pulled down, destroyed
I am, like the remaining rubble, the second
The first is burnt, dead, always a corpse
I am the second, rising from the ashes of the first
Answering to the rollcall in his stead I am, I am, I say
I am the second, a foggy shape of the first, a feeling of the first
For I am not the first, but the second
The scream of the first, the grief of the first, the love of the first
An eternal calling out to the first, a second.


No poem is mine - by Bodhisatva

They wanted to measure
the depth of my eyes
with a trishul
my heart
with a spear.

They say
I must not love and
I must set my home alight
like a diya and perform an aarti
for them
and I must sacrifice my wife and kids to them
and sing their praises.
They say
I must salute them. Or
even better, not say anything at all,
give up my tongue in exchange
for the badge of life
and go about, happy. Or
better still, dig my own grave
and settle down in it
along with all my dreams.

They are dear to Khudaa
They are beloved to Bhagwaan
They are pure.

They make offerings to the sun.
The sun becomes theirs.
They bathe in the Ganga
The Ganga becomes theirs.
They run the country
The country becomes theirs.

I am asking, over and over
sleeping and waking, they keep calling me
an outsider
Does that make me one?

They want me to leave
my land, my possessions
my full moon
my sown fields and
the country dissolved in my blood.
They want me to say
that the Ganga is not mine
this country is not mine
But then,
the sunshine is not mine
the full moon is not mine
no poem is mine.


Me said...

The poems are beautiful, Annie. And though I haven't read the original works, the translations seem to convey all that there seems to be conveyed. Great job!

Anonymous said...

a beautiful tribute to remembering what we have so easily forgotten....

Annie, I happen to be visiting Delhi doing some research and would greatly enjoy chatting further - if you have the opportunity, drop me an email and I can explain more.


Vesper said...

gorgeous poems! thanks for sharing.

Nabila Zehra Zaidi said...

Nice Poems Ann...loved them both...but liked Bodhisatva a little more :)

Do post some more!!

Master piece in India said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
annie said...

me, vesper, nabila: thanks. will do more when i have some spare time
chad: where would i be dropping you a line?

Raza Rumi said...

Dear Annie

I will cross-post these poems on my blog with credits of course..Hope that is OK with you?

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