Monday, August 29, 2011

Best of SAARC Poetry

Abhay K. has listed below some of the best poems from Beyond Borders: An anthology of SAARC poetry edited by Ashok Vajpayee published by Rainbow Publishers in 2002 in association with Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, New Delhi

Fatima Hassan

I can also Live like the Wind 

For you
I am the bitter Neem tree
Its fruit you cannot taste
Even if you wanted to
All you can do is rest for a while
In its shade
For I am also green in colour.
Some time back a jinn used to live in me
But after a long journey
I refused to recognize him as a jinn
And he was offended.

I did not try to placate him
Since the lessons the passing seasons have taught me
Include this lesson:
I can also live like the wind.

Translated from Urdu by Asif Aslam Farrukhi

Perveen Shakir

Where Do I figure in Your Life, My Love?

Where do I figure in your life, my love?
In the freshness of the morning breeze
Or in the sheen of the evening star.
In the reluctant drizzle
Or in the laughing rain,
In the cool of moonlit night
Or in the indifference of afternoons.
In deep thoughts
Or in some casual tune?
How do you take me?
As a puff of cigarette
A toast for weather?
Of that famous temporal tragedy
In which one love affair is dead
And the other not yet born.
Am I your summer resort?
Or just one long weekend?

Where do I figure in your life, my love?
(translated from Urdu by Lesilie Lavinge and Baidur Bakht)

M.A. Nuhman

When I was waiting for the White Dove

I was waiting in my courtyard
For the arrival of the white dove

The hawk came first
And took away my chiks

Came a vulture
And landed on the coconut tree
In my courtyard

It purges a volley of shells
Tearing apart my house and living
My souls withers
And I am refugee once again.

(Translated from Tamil by Sumathy and the author)

Amrita Pritam

The Virgin

When I moved into your bed
I was not alone- there were two of us
a married woman and a virgin
To sleep with you
I had to offer the virgin in me
I did so
This slaughter is permissible in law
not the indignity of it
And I bore the onslaught of the insult
The next morning
I looked at my bloodstained hands
I washed my hands
But the moment I stood before the mirror
I found her standing there
the one whom I thought I
had slaughtered last night
Oh God!
Was it too dark in your bed?
I had to kill one and I killed
the other.
(translated from Punjabi by Kartar Singh Duggal)

Nida Fazli

The Bridge of Words

Quite is
the dome of the mosque
and silent are the bells of the temple
the ideal revealed in the scriptures
enveloped in ornate cases
has long been consumed by moths
no more anywhere
you, on the other side
I, on this
the miles-long gorge between
the bridge of words has broken
you are alone
so am I

(translated from Urdu by Baidar Bakht and Lesilie Lavingne)

Pratibha Nandakumar

Light and Shadow

There are two of me
Like light and shadow
One behind the other
Whispering but never loud enough
They never race each other
Never face each other
One behind the other

This one...
She wants to cross the seven seas
Wants to fly the sky
Find that warm bird's nest
Catch a wink or two
She wants to ride the wild horse
Hold on to mane
Reach the constellation...

This other one...
She feels proud to watch
Her poems marching to school in neat uniform
Her kitchen never closes
Smile doesn't fade
She is the proverbial sandalwood
That gets rubbed to give out a sweet scent
She is content, so she says...

The two don't meet
It's not right
If they ever touch
They burn each other out
After all it's only one body
Not two...

(translated fro Kannada by the poet)

Sharankumar Limbale

White Paper

I do not ask
for the sun and moon from your sky
your farm, your land,
your high houses or your mansions
I do not ask for gods or rituals,
castes or sects
or even for your mother, sisters, daughters.
I ask for
my rights as man.
Each breath from my lungs
sets off a violent trembling
in your text and traditions
your hells and heavens
fearing pollution.
Your arms leapt together
to bring to ruin our dwelling places.
You'll beat me, break me,
loot and burn my habitation
But my friends!
How will you tear down my words
planted like the sun in the east?
My rights: contagious caste riots
festering city by city, village by village,
man by man
For that's what my rights are -
sealed off, outcast, road-blocked, exiled.
I want my rights, give me my rights.
Will you deny this incendiary state of things?
I'll uproot the scriptures like railway tracks
burn like a city bus your flawless laws
My friends!
My rights are rising like the sun
Will you deny this sunrise?
(translated from Marathi by Priya Adarkar)

Attiya Dawood

To My Daughter

Even if they brand you a 'kari'
And condemn you to death
Choose death, but live to love.
Don't sit pretty in the showcase of respectability
You must live to love.
In the desert of thirsty desires
Don't be like a cactus, but live to love.
If somebody's fond memories
Come slowly to you,
Smile and live to love.
What can they do?
They may stone you to death
But in a single moment
You can attain all my life.
You must live to love.
They may call it in sin.
So what? Bear it,
But live to love.

Kunwar Narain

The Neem Flowers

When in bloom
the big Neem tree in our courtyard
used to fill the house
with a bitter-sweet
medicinal smell.

Tiny white flowers
like soap-bubbles
floated in the wind,
one or two would get caught
in Mother's long hair
when she returned from the patio
after watering the Tulsi plant.

Strange, it is always 'flowers'
never 'a flower',
that comes to my mind.
Never saw them withering,
though never so full of colours either
as the Gulmohar or the kachnar.
Yet there was something
more dignified than blossoming
in the way they fell
from the tree
nobly, without remorse.

(translated from hindi by Rupert Snell)

Banira Giri


Without fear
Without shame
Woman stands at the crossroads
in her pure primordial form

A crowd of blind men
are eager
to discover the nature of woman

One stroke her flowing hair
and mutters
Ah! Woman is a waterfall, woman is the Ganges
flowing from the head of Shiva.

strokes her hands and fingers
and announces happily,
Woman is the lotus of Saraswati's hand.

grasps her firm thighs and shouts,
Woman is the trunk of a young banana tree
at the wedding pavilion.

Another touches her lips, which sing
the sweet song of creation and says,
Ah! Woman is a ripe raspberry!

Yet another
strokes the boon of motherhood,
her breasts ad says slowly,
Woman is Mt. Kailash, the gift of Laxmi.

the half-secret place of creation, leaps up and cries,
No, listen to me!
Woman is nothing but a vile hole!

Her eyes stream with tears
at the blind man's revelation
and another man
touches her brimming eyes and says,
You stupid fools!
Woman is not just a vile hole,
She is also Lake baikal, Lake Ural
She is also Lake Gosainkunda, Lake Mansarovar.

(translated from the Nepali by Ann Hunksins)

Uday Prakash


A woman takes a small bill from her purse and buys from the bus conductor a ticket to go home
She has just been raped
On that same bus with a few women of about her own helpless age another woman discusses
promotion and he rising cost of living
In her office today her supervisor had again sent a memo

The woman who observes the waterless fast of Karva Chauth
so she may remain happily married
Wakes up screaming for fear of being murdered by her
husband or mother-in-law
Standing on her balcony in the middle of the night a woman waits
For her drunken husband to come back from a woman likewise
insecure and helpless----

(translated from Hindi by Robert Hueckstedt)


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