The other day, I translated my poem in Urdu written after the events of 27 December, 2007. It has been published by this blog. I am reproducing it here.

In this island of grief
Where all journeys stand directionless
Fragrant Roses adorn your image
And, We, your murderers, impotent accomplices,
Cast guilty shadows across this barren land

O, the gifted leader, that inimitable image
You had given a new meaning to resplendence
Dragging your worn feet
and covering your bare head
You had borne invective upon invective
And the half-dead people of this city
gaped at your strength

This was the murder of all my visions
And all my dreams cracked
as you entered hades*,
beneath the weight of roses

Though a grave shall unfold its fragrance
We the ashamed,
fighting our tears
holding the placards of our dreams
Will analyse, compose elegies

And the bleeding wound shall scar
all the paths
The moon shall keep waxing
As the illumining candles of your tomb
reveal an endlessly humiliated Yazeed**

There is just a little request
Enact another wonder
what the city of Yazeed could not do
Forgive those
Who could not forgive you
and pushed you over the edge of Euphrates***

And today,
locked in the mist of wistfulness
gripping their torn shirts
they search for their forsaken hearts

* the underworld kingdom in Greek mythology inhabited by the souls of the dead.
** Yazeed (645 – 683), the second Umayyad ruler who established monarchy and killed Husain and his family members, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad who had challenged the principle of rule without the consent of the ruled.
*** The location of the legendary battle of Karbala.

The Urdu version can be read below.

Shehr-i-Qatl ke log

Alam kay iss jazeeray mein
Jahan sab per ujar gaye
Aur saari musafitan be-nishaan ho gayee
Teri tasveer neechay gulab mehaktay hain
Ham, teray qaatil, teray qasoorwar
Doshee thehray

Aye Rehbar-i-ba-kamaal, tasveeer-i-bemisaal
Tu ne roshnee ko ik naya ma’ani diya tha
Apnay nangay pairon ko ghaseetee
Aur apnay nangay sar ko dhanptay
Kiya kiya dishnam na saha that u ne?
Aur is shehr-i-qatl ke neem murda log
Tujh pe hairaan thay

Yeh qatl meray saray manzaron ka hai
Yeh ant meray tamam khawabon ka hua
Tu manon gulabon talay pataal ki nazr hui
Go ik lehad se mehkay ga yeh alam
Magar ham sharminda, apnay aansoo-on se lartay
Apnay khawabon ka sauda haathon mein uthaiye
Tajrubay, tajziyae aur nohay parhtay rahian ge
Is ghao se ristaay rahain ge sab rastay

Ab chand gul nahee ho ga
Jaltee rahe gi har shama-i-lahed-benazir
Aur hota rahay ga yazeed yun-hee be tauqir
Bus ik ist’ada hai tujh se
Jo yeh shehr-e yazeed na kar saka
Tu who kamal bhee kar dey
Muaaf kar de un ko
Jo tujhe ma’af na kar sakay
Aur sar-e-rahay farat tujhe dhakail kar
Aaj azurdagee ki dhund mein liptay
Apnay chaak gareebanon mein
Dilon ko dhoondtay hain

[This poem was composed on January 9, 2008, in Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Baagh, the site of Ms. Bhutto’s assasination]

Image credit

10 Responses to People of this Murderous City

  1. Sidhusaaheb says:

    First of all, it is an excellent poem and I must congratulate Raza for that. I have known him as a blogger and writer and, here, today, I have discovered another aspect of his personality i.e. as a good poet. 🙂

    However, I am somewhat averse to the tendency amongst us i.e. the people of the sub-continent to eulogise our politicians to the extent of raising their status to that of demi-Gods. I think that we should remember that they are/were also human and, therefore, prone to human failings, even as they do/did a lot of things that are/were remarkable.

    An analysis of Benazir’s legacy by noted historian William Dalrymple, published in the Time magazine, is available at,9171,1699877,00.html .

  2. RR says:

    Thanks for the comment.
    Letme also state here that I am also allergic to the process whereby our dead are made demi-gods – let me assure you that I have not lost my mind (as yet)….
    There is sheer tragedy for our country as we did not treat her well – and this adds to the myth of martyrdom here.
    Anyway, I agree with your point that humans should be treated as humans.
    However, let me state that I have always respected Darlymple but his article on BB is pathetic and naive – at the end of the day while he tries hard to understand South Asia from inside, this time he failed. He wrote as a typical outsider and dareisay as an orientalist.
    I intend to write about it later

  3. another discovery….

    staright fom the heart

  4. ammad says:

    Wonderful poem dear Raza. Absolutely wonderful. I m bit surprised by Mr. Sidhu,s choice. Out of hundreds of thousands of essays, articles, poems, video tributes,and audio tributes, our brother has selected the only one single one from William Dalrymple. And I totally agree with Raza. the article never looked like written by some mature writer or political analyst. In fact some of the argumetns he made or so childish and rediculuous that i really had to see the biodeta of this guy. He was making analysis about BB by giving the examples of her way of talking, living and even by her way of walking. How come, how come a person of such repute can write such things. God knows. I would love to know what actually made Mr. Sidhu to select that article.

  5. I’m told by a Pakistani journalist very close to Mr. Dalrymple that the latter is very fond of Mr.Nawaz Sharief for some strange reasons and hence his unreasonably vilish diatribe against the late Ms. Bhutto. Ignore him.

  6. annie says:

    very nice. my urdu being what it is, i wouldn’t have understood bits of the poem without the english translation, but am glad you wrote bother versions. both are nice, although urdu ki baat kuch aur hi hai

  7. Ajit says:

    Hi Raza, all kidding aside, I think the poem suffers from an all-too-literal translation of the Urdu. English is a cooler tongue, more so when read rather than spoken. And phrases such “inimitable image” or “You had given a new meaning to resplendence” come across as florid. Understatement may have served you better here.

    Literary criticism apart, isn’t it over the top to compare Benazir Bhutto to Imam Hussain? Does anyone believe that she will continue to be an inspirational figure thirteen hundred years from today?

    Benazir Bhutto said, more than once, that Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi were among the three great contemporaries she admired best. (Her father was, of course, first on the list.) The comparison is a bit unfair given that neither of those formidable ladies ever had to govern with an all-powerful Army looking over the shoulder.

    It may be fairer to see how she compares to Corazon Aquino, another lady who had to battle a dictatorship. Aquino’s Philippines may be no great advertisement for democracy, but it is a tribute to her that, however fractious its politics, however incompetent its administration, her country remains the democracy that she founded. That is simply not true of Benazir Bhutto, who, for whatever reason, could not implement reforms at a fundamental level as Mrs. Aquino did.

    How does Benazir Bhutto rate when set against Pakistan’s own leaders? Any neutral observer must put Mohammed Ali Jinnah head and shoulders above all the rest, but he belonged to a generation of giants.

    Of all Pakistan’s Prime Ministers, the only others who stand out would be the senior Bhutto and the (sadly ignored) Liaquat Ali Khan. Both men gave bravura performances in knitting together a nation that had been torn apart, especially the former who had to function without the Quaid’s guidance and without the loyal and talented colleagues that eased the task of his Indian counterpart, Jawaharlal Nehru. Bhutto’s actions, not least his foreign policy, were no less crucial in the immediate aftermath of Yahya Khan’s fall; his tinkering with the constitution and the ludicrous rigging of the 1977 polls should not blind anyone to his very real services to Pakistan.

    Set against those earlier Prime Ministers, what exactly were Benazir Bhutto’s contributions? Pakistan survived both the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan and the judicial murder of Z. A. Bhutto; to say that all your visions have been murdered and all your dreams cracked is to do a disservice to Pakistan.

    In all seriousness, I seem to be far more sanguine about Pakistan’s present and future than its own people, who seem to take a perverse pleasure in emotions ranging from utter apathy to total despair, never daring to hope. That, frankly, is more troubling than the sudden death of any individual.

  8. RR says:

    Dear Ajit
    thanks for leaving the detailed comment on my blog. I respect your views and admire the interest that you took in the BB poem.
    I just wanted to alert you to two articles that say much of what I would like to say:
    cheers and more later

  9. Ajit says:

    Thanks for the links, Raza, I particularly liked Mr. M. Hanif’s article, which appears to do the best task of tackling a particularly difficult subject.

    I am reminded of the Chinese leader — Chou? Mao? I forget which — who when asked for his view of the impact of the French Revolution responded, “It is too soon to say.”

  10. Manpreet says:

    A very Befitting Tribute.

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