Happy Independence day to the Indian friends and readers!
Today’s post comprises a few poems that may capture several moods and facets of the profound historical event – independence for India and the end of British imperialism. This momentous day was preceded by unprecedented violence, modern world’s largest migration and a boundary -etched with blood -that still divides India and Pakistan.
Ustad Daaman, the legendary Punjabi poet in an Indo-Pak mushaira recited this impromptu poem. I was delighted to find an English translation by Mubashir Hasan:
The original had these immortal lines:
Lali Akhiaa’n Dee Pay-ee Dus-di Aye
Roo-aye Tusee Wi O, Roo-aye us-ee Wi Aaa’n.
Daaman on Freedom and Partition …..
None of us may utter
but you know and so do we
a great deal have you lost
and so have we;
who was to foresee this struggle for freedom
would tear things apart, destroy so heavily
much pain much suffering have you borne
and so have we;
Yet there is hope
regeneration and new life awaits us
though many a death you died
and so did we;
Those who were awake and alert
robbed, exploited, emasculated us
while for centuries you slept in stupor
and so did we:
These bloodshot eyes bear testimony
many a tear
you did shed
and so did we.
Given the fragile peace process I am also keen to repeat what Ali Sardar Jafri said many many years ago:
Kaun Dushman Hai
Tum aao gulshan-e-Lahore se chaman bardosh,
Hum aayen subh-e-Banaras ki roshnee le kar
Himalay ki havaaon ki taazgee le kar
Aur iske baad yeh poochein ki kaun dushman hai?
You come from the garden of of Lahore laden with flowers,
We will come bearing the light of a Benares morning
With fresh breezes from Himalayan heights
And then, together we can ask, who is the enemy?
(Translated from the Urdu by Khushwant Singh)
And finally on a promising note, a song by Tagore – the first Nobel Laureate from the subcontinent. The serenity on his face reflects the inner peace that he sang through his poems…
Where The Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
And I conclude this post with a few lines from a poem “Hum Jang Na Hone Denge..” of the former Indian PM, Atal B Vajpayee. I found this Poem source/translation here
We shall not allow war
Russian bombs or American
The blood spilt is the same.
We have suffered, we will spare our children this fate
Never again will the sky rain fire
Never again will Nagasaki burn
We shall not allow war!
(Vajpayee recited this poem in Lahore (at the Lahore Fort if I correctly recall) during his visit to Pakistan – much has happened since then…yet we don’t where we are headed?)