Two Poems : Ahmedabad, 2003
For Adil Mansuri
Adilji, where are you?
Are you well?
Your heart dancing on many-hued waves
Your mind jostling with words
And your bold protests
Is your world
As unbroken as it used to be?
How easily you bade farewell
To your city
And went away to a deceitful world
Beyond seven seas
A Sufi poet likewise arrived in your city
From my village
And made his peace with the Almighty
Nearly three centuries ago
I am talking of Wali Dakhani
Whose grave has been razed to dust
By devils in the armour of power
You know that, don’t you?
Do you still hold a brush in your hand?
Do fond words fluttering their mystic wings
Still descend on your canvas?
Does your conscience
With sad ghazals?
Or, abandoning all deep memories
On the shores of the Arab Sea,
Have you got lost
In a heaven
Where all messengers of God turn into strange passengers?
For Jenab Mohammed Alavi
Jenab Alavi Saheb,
You once said
God is like a lantern thrown into the attic of junk
When there is an outage
This remark of yours comes to mind
Then the lantern is searched for, dusted and
Wiped clean and lit
Till electricity is restored
Jenab Alavi Saheb
This happened probably twenty or twenty-five years ago
Meanwhile how fast everything has changed
God is no more a silent lantern
He is now a blazing torch
That has extinguished the lamps of the entire city
In broad daylight
What are you writing these days?
I ask because
Time is bent upon murdering poetry
Yet human beings exist, living has to be done,
And so does creation.
Safe in a Dirge: Wali Dakhani, Aurangabad, 1986
Is this the same as your city
The same gardens and birds
Canals tanks mountains forests
That awoke in you
The feelings of a poet?
Is this the city where you were born
And after your death
Did your body
Mingle in the dust of this city?
At the age you arrived in this land
Leaving Delhi because of a crazed King
The first time with your father
The Bandanawaz Baba Gesudaraz,
At nearly the same age
Did I arrive in this city of yours,
Half-a-century is about to expire
I have made your city my own
And filled it with my breath.
Under the hovering shadow of death
In every lost battle
This city has given me refuge
Buried under the debris of defeat
I have managed to claw my way out
After these many years
This city of yours
Cannot be wrenched away from my body and soul.
In my youth
A strange madness would possess me
And with my friends at midnight
I would reach the graveyard
Where before the grave of Siraz
We would sit under the neem tree
Looking at the trembling leaves
Playing with moonlight
We would be immersed in our own solitude.
Passing by the graveyard
I would often wonder
How did you transform your life’s humdrum routine, Wali,
Into your ghazals and mathnavis?
How was your evergreen language born
Amid universal decline?
I don’t know
In which city
My last day my last evening
My last night of eternal sleep be spent
But I shall remember this city of yours
Even after my death.
Ever since I have come to my senses
I have drunk the honey and hemlock
Of this your city
I have wandered through the arteries of this city
I have passed through all localities and lanes
Every quarter, each open space of this city
Without fear or worry
I have known each house and each wall, each stone
The magical canals, open gardens
Like my own breath.
The sunshine shying away from
The narrow by-lanes of this city
I recognised how deep the dark was in every quarter.
Having spent my entire life in this city of yours
I have seen
How the winds of language
Inflame the shoals of religion,
How people arrive from alien lands
And terrorised by tongue
Divide the city
Into religious camps.
The terrifying Satan of communalism
Grows each day now in this city,
Its canals are poisoned with
The potion of racial hatred
Carnivore plants breed in its climate
Man-eating beasts emerge from its lanes
In broad daylight
Descends on your city with regular monotony.
Yet this city
Grows incessantly like a nail
As the two banks of a river
Run away from the midstream
Terrorised by a deluge
So are the borderlines
Running away from your city
Look, how immersed in peace this city of yours
Changes into a metropolis
How the crowd has pasted its mask
On its body
How people who belong here are turning strangers
On their own land.
Were you living in the present
You would perhaps have imprisoned yourself in some dark lane
Spat on civilisation and sat down
Before a carrom-board in a decrepit tea-house
Or gambled on a raised platform in the lane
Or got caught
Touting black-market cinema-tickets
Or robbing people on the desolate highway,
Or maybe as a boy you would have become a garage-hand
Mastering the esoteric language of nuts and spanners and screwdrivers
Might have got a driving licence from somebody benevolent for
An auto-rickshaw, a taxi or straightaway of a truck;
Whenever the call of Jihad
Would come riding high on a whirlwind
Your eyes too would be sanguine
Sharpening rusted knives, daggers, spears.
This city cannot be yours now
The people of the city have forgotten your name
And wish to forget even the city’s name
Which they claim hurts who they are
And so should be changed.
This is no longer my city either
Carrying a history of six hundred years
I am collapsing within
Searching for my city lost in this metropolis.
The words I played with my entire life
Do not know what a dirge is
But it is true
That the name of your beloved city can now
Remain safe only in a dirge.