In Agra – attending the SAARC writers’ moot

Finally managed to reach Agra to attend the SAARC Literature festival organised by the inimitable Ajeet Caur. It is a lovely event with people from all over the region bemoaning what has happened to the region when it should be taking off.

The news from Pakistan are disturbing to say the least and the headlines here are not all that flattering. Alas, we are in a tight corner once again.

As part of my paper entitled Silhouetted Silences – contemporary Pakistani literature in the ‘age of terror’. While I am still refining my paper, here is an excerpt:

“The current political and social milieu has created deep contradictions for the writers and the poets of contemporary Pakistan. If on the one hand they are bruised by the widespread violence and desecration of humanity, on the other they are equally aware of the public mood on the way imperial powers are playing another great game in their neighbourhood. This is what makes the task of the poets and writers extremely difficult.”

I quoted this powerful poem called A Mourning poem for Bajaur by Pakistan’s eminent poet Kishwar Naheed here:

Coffins have become so numerous
That the city is shrinking

The eye is oozing
And not even a word of association
Like an open wound
On the lips.

The sky looks over everything
And remains silent.
Why does it go on believing
That mankind will awake once again
From its deep slumber
And laughter will ring again
On the threshold of houses.

No, it was not yesterday
But many years ago,
We held hope with our hands
We sat in the shadow of wide-awake walls
And used to think:
Yellow-gold wheat smiles and laughs
In our court-yards

We have the same court-yards, the same threshers
But bullets jump through them,
Riddle holes in my fields
and in the bodies of my children

With my tear-soaked pillow
I sit in the court-yard, watching

Coffins have become so numerous
That the city is shrinking.

Translated by Asif Farrukhi

More later….

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