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‘You turned out to be just like us’ –

By Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz.

The inimitable Fahmida Riaz, who is a favourite of mine, was disappointed during her stay in India (during the 1980s) with the growing trends of exclusion – an anathema to the plurality of India. The poem is also […]

August 20th, 2014|India, India-Pakistan History, Pakistan, Poetry|0 Comments

Countless walls that divide the hearts – by Majeed Amjad

I had written about Majeed Amjad, a forgotten but outstanding Urdu poet of twentieth century. Today, a friend tagged me (on facebook) with another of his wistful poems. There is a translation along with the poem. I am posting both for readers here. Majeed Amjad’s style is difficult to render in any other language; however, the effort by Yasmeen Hameed (below) is quite competent. Once again this is a powerful, stark poem leaving you immensely moved. The hallmark of great poetry is that it has a unique impact on the reader/listener. Majeed Amjad leaves the reader standing in the ruins of the heart, he often writes about. I also found an audio archive of Amjad reciting his poems in a deep, soulful voice with a slight Punjabi accent.

Its a shame that Pakistan has not acknowledged this great poet. He died in oblivion and the literary establishment is divided about him. Amjad lived and died as an individual in a society that functions along groups, camps and clans. This is why he is so different from most of Urdu poets of his age.

Here is the poem:

These neighborhood dwellings, these little homes, these casements, these courtyards, even before us were as tranquil, as resplendent. 

Those who left did not deny the homes their love, were not so eager to leave. Who could have held them back, though, the stooping arches had no arms. 

Hordes, bound by the chain of fate, could have taken them along, but for the walls which had no feet. 

Their spirits now wail and sob, one with the echoing, dusty winds. To them belong these dwellings: biers burning on the debris of fallen eras. 

Moulded of a hot mixture of ashy bones and tears, only these bricks can recount the magnitude of our defeat. 

It changed us all: the distress of the fractured bricks; our own suffering we dismissed, entrapped in the mesh of stone and hay; we clashed with each other. 

These neighborhood dwellings, their edged roof-tops, the palatial houses, the tent-homes, but for the countless walls that divide the hearts. 

— Majeed Amjad (translated from Urdu by Yasmeen Hameed)


June 6th, 2014|Poetry|1 Comment

Shehr-i-Qatl ke log (People of this Murderous City) – a poem

Reposting this 2007 poem:

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 […]

December 27th, 2013|Poetry|2 Comments

“What the heart is like” – a poem by Miroslav Holub

Today, my friend Khalid Mir told me rather casually that he had been reading poems by Miroslav Holub. I had heard his name; and when K sent me this poem, I could not resist posting it here. Have read it again and again. For sometimes, I tell myself similar lines – of course in a highly unpoetical fashion. Yesterday,  I tweeted this verse from Ghalib: “Meri kismat meiN gham gar itna tha. Dil bhee ya rab kai diye hote“. Indeed many different ways to understand the heart and the one below is unique for its gritty imagery as well as playfulness.

Officially the heart

is oblong, muscular,

and filled with longing.


But anyone who has painted the heart knows

that it is also


spiked like a star

and sometimes bedraggled

like a stray dog at night

and sometimes powerful

like an archangel’s drum.


And sometimes cube-shaped

like a draughtsman’s dream

and sometimes gaily round

like a ball in a net. […]

December 9th, 2011|Poetry, World Literature|8 Comments

Taj Mahal – a poem by Sahir Ludhianvi (reposted)

Today is Sahir Ludhianvi’s death anniversary. Am reposting this poem for the readers.

Sahir Ludhianvi’s immortal poem Taj Mahal has always fascinated me. It takes a most unconventional take at this beautiful monument where the poet protests at the choice of a romantic rendezvous.

Today, I found a lovely translation of this poem. I am reproducing it below – but first a few lines from Urdu:

Yeh chaman zar yeh jamna ka kinara yeh mahal
Yeh munaqqash dar-o-deevar yeh mehrab yeh taaq
Aik shahanshah nay daulat ka sahara lay ker
Hum ghareebon kee mohabbat ka uraya hai mazaaq

Taj Mahal

The Taj, mayhap, to you may seem, a mark of love supreme
You may hold this beauteous vale in great esteem;
Yet, my love, meet me hence at some other place! […]

October 25th, 2011|Arts & Culture, Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|7 Comments

Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem composed on Ghalib’s centenary celebrations

 Sahir Ludhianvi laments the way Urdu was treated by Indian nation-state as it became alien overnight.


Ikees baras guzray aazadi-i-kaamil ko

Tab ja kay kahi’n hum ko Ghalib ka khayaal aaya

Turbat hai kaha’n us ki, maskan tha kaha’n uska

Ab apnay sukhan-parvar zahno’n may sawaal aaya



October 9th, 2011|Arts & Culture, India, Poetry, Urdu|3 Comments

Waiting for the Tomorrow’s Happy Dawn – Ali Sardar Jafri

The setting imperial sun broke into two parts On this very Border, yesterday

August 24th, 2010|Indo Pak peace, Poetry, Translations, Urdu|4 Comments