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Monday, 29 October 2012

Us and Them - Sualeh Keen

How many amongst us blest them, god knows
That they left behind young helpless widows?

To us their integrity vanity, perception profanity
Ever a competition to what we would never be
But they were like us, part of a wider reality
And we miss their familiar presence on windows
“Tonight, we say, “let there be no heavy heart!
Let the music begin, the merry dance start!
Let there be moonlight to brighten every part!”
But I think we will miss their shadows…

© 1994, Sualeh Keen. 
From the poetry collection Sickman with a Mirror, published in January 1996 by Navdin Prakashan Kendra. 

Exodus - by Sualeh Keen

I stood alone on the plain
Long after the dust cloud disappeared:
The last desperate effort
Of willing these times of trouble
To rewind back those wonderful moments
Wishing for the thousandth time
Had an angry god not butchered the air
The day a bullet gone astray
Shattered my fragile heart
To dust.

Nothing remains now.
Even the chalk-lines
Encircling the pools of blood
Have long back been washed away
By my tears.
Except maybe a heartful of memories
Of the happy and loving days
We had spent together;
Memories so sweet
I would have been happier

I have this recurring dream:
I walk alone
In deserted streets of a ghost town
While the Sun sinks
Behind a burning bridge.
A mist entrails the ruins
Like the plumes of smoke
Decorating a cremation ground…
And from these dreams
Sometimes I wake up
In the middle of the night
To the sound of my name
Whispered by someone somewhere
Only to find no one out there…
Or is it just my imagination?
Yes. It must have been
A part of the dream.

© 1994, Sualeh Keen
From the poetry collection Sickman with a Mirror, published in January 1996 by Navdin Prakashan Kendra. 

Half-Widow's Lullaby - by Sualeh Keen

A lullaby sung by a ‘half-widow’, whose husband went missing in the Kashmir conflict, to coax her son into sleeping with an empty stomach. She continues singing even after her son falls asleep, as she is unable to sleep herself, frightened as she is of an uncertain future…

English transliteration:

Myani gobro, lajiyaa bochhi

Myani gobro, lajiyaa bochhi?
Leji manz logamut aabgosh chhuiy
Daanas manz chhu zyun dazaan
Phuhur maaz khabar kona syanaan

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Modir maachho, thaav wuddun kochhi
Tse na yitho kaanh kyom buchhee
Yeti zan chhi tuluri wudaan
Wuddinis manz modur bacha bachaan

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Myani gaasho, band thaav aechhi
Yina lagee nazar, yina kaanh wuchhee
Nindri manz chha saeruiy dag tsalaan
Ta khaabas manz saeree zakhm balaan

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Nindri matyo, bochhi ha machhee
Pagah khaetra ti bata na mya chhuiy
Daanas manz chha zyun tshevaan
Leji manz chha tshodd aab hokhaan

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Myani badno, gam kya tse chhuiy
Tse hardam khodaah rachhee
Chyanis maelis gamitis gav zamaan
Khabar waraiy chha, kona yiwaan

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Myani jigro, moj waara na chhaiy
Pannini zindagee bezaara ha chhaiy
Raatas chhaiy sa saayan khotsaan
Khabar yim hooin kyazi woongaan

Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe ...

English translation:

Half-widow’s Lullaby

My darling child, are you hungry feeling?
In the cooking pot, aabgosh is cooking
In the fireplace is the tinder burning
But the tough meat isn’t tender turning

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

O sweet honey, let a blanket cover you
Lest a nasty insect come and bite you
For here bees seem to be flying around
Under a cover sweet child is safe and sound

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Light of my life, your eyes close you
Safe from evil eye, let no one see you
In the embrace of sleep is all pain relieved
And inside a dream are all wounds healed

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

My sleeping baby, hunger you have forgot
For tomorrow also, no food have I got
In the fireplace the tinder fire is dying
In the empty pot plain water is drying

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

My body part, what worry have you
Every moment, God will guard you
Been ages since your father went away
He doesn’t return, wonder if he is okay

Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo Lo

Piece of my heart, your mother is unwell
She is exhausted from her life of hell
Whole night the shadows seem frightening
Wonder why the dogs are ominously howling

Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe Woe ...

aabgosh : A delicious Kashmiri dish of fat mutton cooked in delicately spiced milk.

© Original and Translation, Sualeh Keen

About 'Half-widows': http://www.merinews.com/article/half-widows-of-kashmir-unseen-they-suffer-unheard-they-cry/130631.shtml
[The plight of ‘half-widows’, whose husbands went missing in conflicts, is deeply agonising. They are caught between the devil and the deep sea. Society does not approve marriage of these silent victims...]

Portrait of a Pied Piper - by Sualeh Keen

It so often happens that vanity makes men commit an endless chain of blunders to justify the original mistake, maintain an ever-increasing account of the first miscalculation and sink more funds into a doomed enterprise called Greater Kashmir in the hope that it would all make sense when things turn around. If that time comes, then Basic Stupidity will become Original Foresight. Then even the non-believers and Doubting Thomases would laud him, and say, “Wow! What perseverance! What self-belief! Against all odds and all logic did you profit from Free-doom!”

So, under no circumstances must the drawn dagger be withdrawn lest the Herder look unsure of himself or a sell-out. In any case, he has no chance of ever getting elected through a democratic process. So he must not only stick with the original foolhardy plan, he must also get everybody to rally round it. “Judge an action by the effect it has,” or, in other words, the end justifies the meanness. Such lengths do power-hungry people go to satisfy their ideologies and ambitions.

As we all know, many sheep were slaughtered at the altar-abattoir of Greater Kashmir that makes us less of people and more of a dispensable commodity in the form of a revolting picture in a journal that earns brand equity for the Herder’s enterprise. There is always a casual approach to casualties (unless the dead person is an unarmed youth, over which a great uproar can be created). That thousands of armed youth from Kashmir perished is not just accepted but expected and demanded, for they receive salaries towards that end and are doing it for Mother Kashmir, religious and/or regional identity and lack of other employment or all of the above. In any case, on any day in any age, a Just Cause is greater than the individual, and Freedom is forfeiture of individual opinion that goes against the herd response.

What is this freedom really? True freedom resides only at the feet of the Herder, whoever He may be, and true happiness resides in living in His mortal terror, however frightening that may be. So what if the common people resent this compulsory mortification, these daily hartaals and curfews and protests and killing shilling… this uncertainty? The self-styled Herder knows what is good for the sheep; nay, what is good for animal kingdom.

How can one even think of giving up freedom struggle? The deaths of Kashmiri youths must not be wasted and the sacrifices they made to kill others and their own people and eventually themselves must never be forgotten. And if a detractor like some crazy skeptic criticizes the pointless campaigns, the grudging mothers of the martyrs must be brought forth. The weeping wenches should be used as eyewash to make the war seem necessary, when they are its worst victims.

“Did her son die for nothing?”

Nobody has the heart to tell the bereaved mother, “Yes, indeedy, verily, most certainly, such was the case. Sorry, but what a waste it was.” For the foot soldier of the Herder is also his victim and the Salvation Army of Sheep is the Wolfish Army of Destruction; to hell with the law of causation, to heaven with casualties. Does Kashmir need more grieving mothers like them?

We are an emotional people, always on the verge of self-destruction. With help from ghoulish journalists who keep filling us with rage, we let our wounds fester. So, we tell the mother this instead: “You should be proud of your son, who died for a worthy Cause.” And then we tell others: “Fight! Fight for Mother Kashmir! Be a worthy son and die young!”

And if more sons of the soil were to wither to increase the stock of the blood already gone down the drain, so be it. The Salvation Army must bravely face all obstacles, especially obstacles of the logical kind. What if the world is lost for good for a good Cause? This world is a fantasy anyway. Listen ye women, do not grieve for your sons. All mothers should become the mothers of the nation by throwing their sons into the mouth of death.

Buddha, an atheist, had said something like: “It is not death, but attachment that is the cause of all unhappiness.” Herders reinterpret it as: “Do not get attached, do not love your sons and mothers. Do not love people; love your Mother Land, you MF, and die and be happy forever.”

What if, after forty years of Wilderness Wandering, the Herder’s dream comes true and the sheep somehow reach a country called Promised Land (though it will look nothing like what was promised and will already be inhabited)? The incumbents and the aboriginals will be sent to the gallows, along with the odd skeptic who did not toe the hard-line. There will be a coup d’etat, a change of guards, a shuffle of characters, and the introduction of new elite. The exciting times will give people enough material to gossip about for years to come. History will be rewritten and the Herder would attain prophetic proportions. The sheep will bleat happily forever... until next time.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For the time being, 1947 will be the year of Greater Kashmir. As for the Fallen of 1931, too bad they will not get resurrected in Fool's Paradise. But yeah, the Martyr’s Graveyard will become a tourist attraction. Flower shops will open up in the vicinity. Not too far away will loom the Herder’s white palace, made of the pure ivory of human bones and guarded by demons. Once a year, the Herder will step out of his palace and place flowers on the graves, and say, “Thank you.”

Will history repeat itself?

Sure it will. There is no dearth of fools in any age.

© Sualeh Keen

Gonanda II - by Sualeh Keen

A poem inspired by the earliest history of Kashmir. Gonanda I is killed, fair and square, but his son Damodara seeks revenge and is killed as well, leaving the burden of history upon the young Gonanda II. Did the latter break the cycle, or did he die like his father and grandfather? 

Sometimes people just don’t know when to stop letting history ruin their present and future. It is said that when Gonanda II grew up, he too was killed.

Gonanda II

Gonanda the Second is my given name
I say yes, I am Gonanda, even as I am Damodar
I am but a third player caught into the game
Of a family funeral gone on for ever

Outside Kashmira's land, in a battlefield any
As a price for with friendship taking side
Killed by Yudhishthra's friend, his friend's enemy
On the banks of Yamuna, my grandfather died

Then was my father Damodar's turn to burn
With revenge's fire to boil his brooding brain
The reign of this beautiful country did he spurn
A pregnant wife's tears like toil down the drain

Did he ride himself to death or was he driven?
Was he cremated with honour or left for dead?
Family honour doubly lost, oh was it misgiven
Any last regret as a chakra chopped his head?

Burden of birth, the gory mantle now falls on me
A baby king who knows no other way through
Beauty all around, duty of revenge calls on me
Got to kill an old enemy named Gonanda too

© Sualeh Keen

Historical backdrop of the poem:

After the mythical creation of Kashmira by the draining of Satisar, history presents a blank till the reign of Gonanda I at the beginning of the Kali yuga. This powerful king was contemporary with Yudhisthira and a friend of his enemy Jarasindhu. Gonanda I, who ruled in Kashmira, where the Ganges flows cheering the mount Kailaas on her way, was invited by Jarasindhu to help him in his invasion of Mathura, the capital of Krishna. With a large army they invaded that city and encamped on the banks of the Yamuna to the great terror of their foes. On one occasion the army of Krishna was defeated in a battle, but Balarama not only retrieved the confusion of his army, but made a vigorous attack on the allied force. For a long time victory remained doubtful, till at last Gonanda I, pierced with wounds fell dead on the field, and the army of Krishna was victorious.

On his death, Damodara I ascended the throne of Kashmira, and though possessed of this beautiful kingdom, he was far from being happy: his proud heart brooded on his father's death. While in this state, he heard that the Gandharas had invited Krishna and his relatives to the nuptials of some of the daughters of their tribe, to be celebrated near the banks of the Indus, and in which the bridegrooms were to be chosen by the brides. While great preparations were being made for the nuptials, the king moved with a large army of infantry and horse, and interrupted the festival. In the battle that ensued, many of the Gandharas were killed, but the king, pierced with Krishna's chakra, perished.

He left his queen Yasobati pregnant, and she was by Krishna's orders raised to the throne. This step was opposed by his envious ministers, but he silenced them by repeating a verse from the Purunas, to the effect that the girls of Kashmira are Parvatis. "Know," said he, "that the sovereigns of Kashmira are portions of Hara, and they should not be hated by the wise even if they be wicked and worldly-minded. Man does not value the woman he enjoys, but the subjects will see in her, their mother and goddess." In due course the queen gave birth to an auspicious male child, and it was a sapling of a family which had well-nigh become extinct. The ceremonies of his birth and coronation were performed by Brahmans, and he grew up and was named Gonanda II after his grandfather. Two nurses were employed for him, one, his mother, to give him milk, and the other to do all other work. His father's ministers would bestow wealth on those on whom he would smile, though the smile of a child is meaningless. If they could not understand his lisping words, they left ashamed. They would often set him upon his father's throne, his feet not reaching the footstool, while his hair wave in the breeze of the flywhisk, they would administer justice to his subjects in his presence. It was at this time that the great battle of Kaurava Pandava was fought, but he was then an infant, and was not therefore asked to help either of the parties.

Taken from Jogesh Chunder Dutt’s
“Kings of Kashmira"
being a translation of the Sanskrit work
Rajatarangini by Kalhana Pandita

A Garden is Born (Kashmir as a Union of Opposites) - by Sualeh Keen

Once upon a time, millions of years ago, the earth was a single garden island, an emerald studded on a sapphire. And in this garden, there were no fences or thickets dividing it. Nothing was out of bounds for anyone: it was a playground for all the children of nature. The earth was a single and vast clod—the United Continents of Pangaea—as all land masses had coalesced like a group of bubbles that stick together, back to back, to escape the surrounding water. Or, as cowherds would put it, “the land was like a lump of butter that has surfaced after the churning of the primordial ocean.” It was as if nature was forging a deal and making sure that its children—the plants and animals that would thrive in her garden—would play the same game and follow the same rules. But each one would wield the power to build a team or oust some player out. May the beast, er, best one, win. Pop! One bubble bursts and another one is eaten by a bigger one. Or, as our cowherd friends would insist, “If the butter can not be extracted by a straight finger, bend the rules.”

Touch base was over and from this deceivingly unified mass, out emerged two teams: Laurasia and Gondwanaland. The first team took position in the northern hemisphere, and the latter, in the southern. Like the scattered pieces of a colossal jigsaw puzzle, they went to occupy the far corners of this vast playground. The Laurasian team broke in its formation. North America you go there, Europe you take that position, and Asia, don’t let anyone through. The Gondwanaland players also took position. Antarctica, defend from the back with Australia-New Guinea and New Zealand. South America, you tackle North America. Africa, lead from the front and Madagascar, stand by. And India, go attack! Ahem, attach!

About forty-five million years ago, surfing on a tectonic plate, like a sperm on a collision-course with an egg, the northward-bound Indian subcontinent head-collided with Asia, forcing the crust to buckle and fold, forming the tallest mountains in the world, sentinels to the south and north, the Himalayas. In celebration of the reunion between North and South, a vast lake got raised like a flagon by the mountains, a trophy full of clear and bubbling champagne: Kashmir!

Kashmir was a submerged valley nestled in the north-western folds of the Himalayas, kept safe on all sides by grizzly peaks that poured the purest snow-melt sweet water into it. And adorning the vast lake’s beautiful face like a bindi was a volcanic island from which a plume of smoke arose like a serpent to eat the sun.

The greatest creations arise out of a crash landing and some of us say that life itself started after a meteor crashed on earth (true or false, I won’t tell). The point is that birth is never without its accidental big bang, without a ripping and rending of flesh, without the breaking of an eggshell. Rupture to rapture, the collision of India with Asia, this clash of civilisations, led to a unique creation: Kashmir!

Kashmir was an odd-eyed baby—blue in one eye and brown in the other—that had inherited the features of its two parents: North and South. She was a split-personality baby in whose mongrel mind contradictions thrived in the same time, leading to transmogrification and synthesis. She was a place where the crosscurrents of the world met, a place where the four corners of Time folded into a point (so now you understand why I chose the valley). Human had difficulty getting in and, because of its beauty, difficulty in moving out. So it became a place where the refuge of cultures thrived and survived. She was a cauldron of change, an epicentre of unrest that would occasionally rock the world—for India continued moving against Asia—and a microcosm that reflected the gigantic forces that sculpt the collective future of the human species.

Any sentient creature opportune enough to view this virgin lake would have exulted. And, perchance, if the hypothetical creature had any semblance of language, these are the words it would have spoken in its strange tongue:

Here is the central axis of the universal wheel!
Here is the microcosm that reflects
All the grandeur and glory of the heavens!
The omphalos of the divine mother!
It is here, it is here, it is here!

So, for millions of years, this vast lake remained in this pristine form, pregnant with possibilities. Then, one day, her waters broke and a daughter was born. What happened was this. A devastating earthquake opened the mountain wall on the west of this submerged valley and water gushed out of a gorge leaving behind fertile lacustrine mud on the margins of the mountains. Once the valley was drained, the small volcanic island was the first piece of dry land to get exposed, emerging from the receding water was Gopadhri or Takht-e-Suleiman.

Kashmir! Yes it was tiny, but it was an intricate place. This eighty miles long and twenty-five miles wide valley was adorned with Wular—the largest freshwater lake in the Indian subcontinent—and a host of smaller but even more regaling lakes. A placid river called Vyeth or The Way crossed the length of this valley and left the smooth grassy banks, hurrying headlong down its rocky course through the gorge to the southern plains.

There was a saying:

Kailash is the best place in the Three Worlds
Himalaya is the best place in Kailash
Kashmir is the best place in Himalaya

Thus was created the Happy Valley, the faraway Eden hidden in the mountains. So fertile was this oval womb-shaped valley that the human beings who came to occupy it aeons later likened it to Uma or The Womb, the cradle of civilization.

© Sualeh Keen

Cause or Consequence? - by Amartya Sen

The main lesson of Mahabharata that eludes most Indians is that Arjuna's doubts about the 'Great' War were eventually vindicated. The significance of the dialogue presented in Bhagavad Gita is that a defeated dialogue does not die and may turn out to be more pragmatic in hindsight.

The following  is an excerpt from Nobel Prize Winner Amartya Sen's “The Argumentative Indian” tracing the history of India's argumentative tradition and its contemporary relevance. The excerpt was written under the title Dialogue and Significance in Chapter 1.

Cause or Consequence?

The famous Bhagavad Gita, which is one small section of the Mahabharata, presents a tussle between two contrary moral positions - Krishna's emphasis on doing one's duty, on one side, and Arjuna's focus on avoiding bad consequences (and generating good ones), on the other. The debate occurs on the eve of the Great War that is a central event in the Mahabharata. Watching the two armies readying for war, profound doubts about the correctness of what they are doing are raised by Arjuna, the peerless and invincible warrior in the army of the just and honourable royal family (the Pandavas) who are about to fight the unjust usurpers (the Kauravas). Arjuna questions whether it is right to be concerned only with one's duty to promote a just cause and be indifferent to the misery and the slaughter - even of one's kin - that the war itself would undoubtedly cause. Krishna, a divine incarnation in the form of a human being (in fact, he is also Arjuna's charioteer), argues against Arjuna. His response takes the form of articulating principles of action - based on the priority of doing one's duty - which have been repeated again and again in Indian philosophy. Krishna insists on Arjuna's duty to fight, irrespective of his evaluation of the consequences. It is a just cause, and, as a warrior and a general on whom his side must rely, Arjuna cannot waver from his obligations, no matter what the consequences are.

Krishna's hallowing of the demands of duty wins the argument, at least as seen in the religious perspective. Indeed, Krishna's conversations with Arjuna, the Bhagavad Gita, became a treatise of great theological importance in Hindu philosophy, focusing particularly on the "removal" of Arjuna's doubts. The Bhagavad Gita was spectacularly praised in the early nineteenth century by Wilhelm von Humboldt as "the most beautiful, perhaps the only true philosophical song existing in any known tongue." In a poem in Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot summarizes Krishna's view in the form of an admonishment: "And do not think of the fruit of action. / Fare forward." Eliot explains: "Not fare well, / But fare forward, voyagers.'

And yet, as a debate in which there are two reasonable sides, the epic Mahabharata itself presents, sequentially, each of the two contrary arguments with much care and sympathy. Indeed, the tragic desolation that the post-combat and post-carnage land—largely the Indo-Gangetic plain—seems to face towards the end of the Mahabharata can even be seen as something of a vindication of Arjuna's profound doubts. Arjuna's contrary arguments are not really vanquished, no matter what the "message" of the Bhagavad Gita is meant to be. There remains a powerful case for "faring well," and not just "forward." *

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the American team that developed the ultimate "weapon of mass destruction" during the Second World War, was moved to quote Krishna's words ('I am become death, the destroyer of worlds') as he watched, on 16 July 1945, the awesome force of the first nuclear explosion devised by man. Like the advice that Arjuna had received about his duty as a warrior fighting for a just cause, Oppenheimer the physicist could well find justification in his technical commitment to develop a bomb for what was clearly the right side. Scrutinizing - indeed criticizing - his own actions, Oppenheimer said later on: "When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success." Despite that compulsion to 'fare forward', there was reason also for reflecting on Arjuna's concerns: How can good come from killing so many people? And why should I seek victory, kingdom or happiness for my own side?

These arguments remain thoroughly relevant in the contemporary world. The case for doing what one sees as one's duty must be strong, but how can we be indifferent to the consequences that may follow from our doing what we take to be our just duty? As we reflect on the manifest problems of our global world (from terrorism, wars and violence to epidemics, insecurity and gruelling poverty), or on India's special concerns (such as economic development, nuclear confrontation or regional peace), it is important to take on board Arjuna's consequential analysis, in addition to considering Krishna's arguments for doing one's duty. The univocal "message of the Gita" requires supplementation by the broader argumentative wisdom of the Mahabharata, of which the Gita is only one small part.

© Amartya Sen

* As a high-school student, when I asked my Sanskrit teacher whether it would be permissible to say that the divine Krishna got away with an incomplete and unconvincing argument, he replied: ‘Maybe you could say that, but you must say it with adequate respect.’ I have presented elsewhere a critique—I hope with adequate respect—of Krishna’s deontology, along with a defence of Arjuna’s consequential perspective, in ‘Consequential Evaluation and Practical Reason’, Journal of  Philosophy 97 (Sept. 2000).

Kashir Rubaȧyaat (Kashmiri Quatrains)

English translations of some of my favourite Rubáiyat (a 4-lined form of verse or quatrain made famous in Persian by Omar Khayyám). Apparently, freethinking and challenging religious dogma were the staples of the Progressive Literary Movement of Kashmir.

Mirza Ghulam Hasan Beg Arif


Siyaȧsee dostee chhay kaagazee naav
Tsu̇ harfu̇ky paaṭhy ath pyaṭh paan mo saav
Pakun chhuy bronṭh bachanu̇chy thaav soorath
Chhė vakhtu̇chi lahra doraan garzakuy vaav

Political friendship is to be on a paper boat astride
Like an empty word on paper, don’t be taken for a ride
Fare forward you must, but plan your way out
For the waves of time winds of self-interest betide


Shikaslad vȯn yemis sarmaayidaaran
Vȯnus haȧkim siyaȧsee baȧzygaaran
Ditsu̇s humy myȧṭ karu̇s yėmy zȧṭ ti kaamu̇ny
Gareeban rang balaan vuchh ayaaran

He whom the snooty rich man called a loser
The wily political performer called the master
One fed him a crumb, one of rags robbed him
The poor man saw the knaves change colour


Manaavaan jashni shaȧdee vuchh mė ablees
Syaṭha bira baara atsanas logmut fees
Dapaan tsȧjy akli vwony eemaanachee khay
Kȯḍum mazhab panun taȧru̇m bėyan pees

I saw Satan celebrating an occasion of revelry
A large crowd gathered, paying fees for the entry
Saying now mind of rusty faith and honesty is free
Play your religion card and trump your adversary


Kalas pyaṭh vot vȯth mulamaaya traamus
Khwochar aav labna ada ṭaakaara aamus
Ḍyakas aav sharmi hȯnd guma asni lȧjy sum
Pato hasrat chhu apzis doom daamas

When a base copper head lost its golden gloss
Stood publicly revealed, to all exposed was dross
The brow perspired shame, the parting of hair grinned
Such ignoble ends meet pomposity and faked class


Vata band gayi jangiyan hȯnd zor aav
Zyuṭh avaamuk muntakhab az yor aav
Lori tsȧnḍ khėyi phaaka hȧty akh baakh tshȧṭ
Haa khwodaayo az ti bu̇y chhus hor kaav*

The roads are barricaded, the army runs amuck
A senior elected leader has arrived, what good luck
The baton struck the starved fool who quacks in pain
“O Lord, even today I only am the sitting duck.”

* hor kaav: a black and white crow. It has been observed that a crow with freak white feathers is pecked to death by other crows. Hence, hor kaav is a metaphor for a marked man or a soft target. The only English avian counterpart I found was ‘the sitting duck’, though I did also consider ‘the shuttlecock’!


Vuchhum aki vwoṭi mwokha sheran banaan shaal
Yivaan yim labana hȧsy aasaan mȯyi vaal
Pazyuk apazyuk karaan maahol kaȧyim
Vyandaan shastu̇r kalaay aasaan zalu̇ry zaal

Saw in one leap the lion-face revealed as a jackal
Was a tiny hair which an elephant seemed to all
Dissembling an environ of truth and falsehood
A spider web assumes to be a strong iron wall


Gareebay mota bachi saȧlaab gaalyas
Vanday traavyas bichaaras taaph zaalyas
Zameenas aasmaanas ȧmysundu̇y zid
Dohaa banyi heri bwona suy zool zaalyas

A poor man may defy death, the flood will dissolve him
The winter may spare, but the sun’s glare will scorch him
The earth and the sky are so filled with his raging fury
One day, the high and the low, he will torch everything


Aȧrifo pananyis swonas khwȯṭ tsaan mo
Yath naa kaahavaṭ shȯd vanee shȯd maan mo
Yuthna naaras manz gȧlith hyakh traam ral
Daȧny tsaȧlith paan bȧly mwola vaal mo

O Arif, your pure gold turn into an alloy must not you
Don’t call pure what the touchstone won’t pure prove
Don’t melt yourself in fire and mix with base copper
Tolerate even a grain of impurity and you lose value


Zahar khyath zindagee hȧnz aash bekaar
Ȧnyuv pyath aaftaabuk gaash bekaar
Sulaymaan ḍeshanuk yas rėyi na shoku̇y
Tȧmis rėyi kyut pakhan hȯnd vaash bekaar

Having taken poison, the hope of life is useless
Being blinded of sight, the sun’s light is useless
The ant that never yearns to alight on Mount Suleiman
For that ant, unfolding wings and flight is useless


Chhu yȧts bėhtar mė mish suy rind-in-maynosh
Tsuvati pyaṭh pyath yėmis diyi mȧstiyee hosh
Tȧmis darvesha su̇ndi khwota braari buth yas
Yėmis vasi manz bihith Shetaan roposh

Better that drunkard fallen on a crossroad is indeed
Of wisdom in whom inebriation plants the seed
Better than that dervish with a cat’s innocent face
In whose bone marrow Satan sits concealed


Duhul yus raata kruu̇las raat kaavas
Kachhas yus gaavi maza raazas pwolaavas
Vanav kath nazari paȧz, rut kath khayaalas
Ȧkis ywosa eed, swoy dȯymis amaavas

What a day is to the bat, to the crow is the night
Delight a cow finds in grass, a king in pilaff might
Which thought is noble, which is a sharp sight?
One man’s Eid is another’s fasting new moon night


Ajab sodaagaree insaan maalu̇ch
Chhė chaalaakan athas manz kunz khayaalu̇ch
Shahanshaȧhee nyėtith gȧyi, rooz path tsam
Avaamuk raaj tshu̇ni mȧsy looka daalu̇ch

Strange indeed the trade is of man’s material world
Hands of clever men keys to the minds of people hold
Kingship had fleeced us so, only the skins now show
Now people’s rule footwear of human hide will mould


Yi keṅtshaa dyut avaamas inkalaaban
Ajab takseem kȯr tath laajavaaban
Hisas khatsa goli lookan, ṭhela khaasan
Yiman dag dod, human aȧshan sharaaban

Whatever people did from the revolution garner
Was divided by Almighty in a strange manner
People got iron bullets, a chosen few got treasure
These pain and disorder, those wine and pleasure

Abdur Rehman Rahi


Dilu̇ky armaaṅ chhi izhaaru̇ch kaḍaan vath
Vuzu̇ny naagu̇ch hėchhaan paanay chhi raftaar
Kalam phuṭarith agar ȯṅgjan ti hyan trash
Ȧndrimy haal baavan khoona phamvaar

The heart’s longing finds its own way to emerge
Make their own paths streams that from a spring surge
After breaking the pen, if they also cut the fingers
Fountains of blood will still express the inner urge


Sitaaran az kamand laayaan chhu insaan
Syaṭhaa rut gav nazar mwokaleyi yaaras
magar akh pron armaan chhum dilan kȯnḍ
Zameenas pyaṭh ti gȯtsh swokh dyun bahaaras

Wonderful that man can now shoot for the star
That new horizons are lost, can now see beyond far
But an ancient itch I have, a thorn in my heart
That he ensures seasons happy even on earth are


Pagaah myaanyan kathan kaaṅh mane rozyaa
Amyuk phaȧsal karan pagahu̇ky swokhan sanj
Bu̇ zan raṭa naala vyath azalu̇ch ta abadu̇ch
Agar kaasee tsė myon aalav azyuk ranj

If tomorrow a meaning in my words will remain
Only tomorrow's wordsmiths that can ordain
But I’d have found a river timeless and eternal
If my call has relieved you of today’s pain

Ghulam Rasul Nazki

Amis paanas ziyaafȧts jaan pwolaavaah khyȯn kabaabaah chhuy
Mė dȯpnam maali hyas kȧryzi pato aȧkhu̇r hisaabaah chhuy
Rangaarang khyath ta chyath paanas naseehath jaan kyaah kȧrnam
Tsė chhay rahmat yi gurbat phaaka rozun bȯḍ savaabaah chhuy

For himself a delicacy, on kebabs and pilaffs dining he
“O friend,” he told me, “Afraid you must of the final reckoning be.”
Eating drinking dishes dainty, a great advice he was giving me:
“Blest you are with poverty; a great virtue this fasting be.”

Noor Mohammad Roshan

Raboodah hyoo gȯmut Iblees pheraan os aasmaanas
Zameen traȧvith khȯtukh kava yor prutshus yėli zaati Rahmaanan
Araz kȯrnas Ilaȧhi chhapni aas yȯt kaaṅpanyomut chhus
Mė soruy kaari shetaȧni muhit nyoomut chhu insaanan

Reduced to nothing, Satan was roaming in the sky aimlessly
God asked, “Why you left earth and came up here, pray tell me.”
Satan pleaded, “Highness, I am so scared I seek thy sanctuary.
Nothing left for me since humans took off with my devilry.”

Translations © Sualeh Keen

Anaȧḍy Haȧnz (Foolish Fisherman) – by Vishwas

Written by Vishwa Nath ‘Vishwas’ (1926-?). His literary influences were Dina Nath Nadim and the Russian authors. The metaphor and the political satire in this poem is powerful.

English transliteration:

Anaȧḍy Haȧnz


Ithakȧny chhuy ḍyaka phwolavun baasan
Traay vuṭhan hȧnz chhay asavu̇ny hish
Kathi tala chhus raavaan amaapȯz
Zaani khwodaa kam gul phȯlaraavakh

Vucch saa khabaru̇y chhay karanaavyaa
Yath kwoli tez bahaav chhu kath kun
Kath kun chhay karanaav tsė khaaru̇ny
Ath kotaah chhuy taakat laagun

Hȯl ganḍ cheera hyamath kar taamat
Phuchmȧtsi naavi chhu mȧnzilas vaatun
Zor kȧrith jabroothaa haȧvith
Zima chhay naav bȧru̇ts bȯṭh khaaru̇ny

Vwony ta kaḍu̇th luka naav tsė paanay
Nabzas nabzas chhuy hyas thaavun
Kala maa kaḍi kunyi ȯbra lȯngaah hyoo
Vaava lathaa hish maa kunyi traavyas

Khooris yuth na tsalee thaph neerith
Yuth na ḍalee khwor hamatul laȧgith
Yuth na sanyar ḍeeshith dil rave
Graayan yuth na yi naav tsu̇ laagakh

Gwoḍa chee ratsa phȧly atha khwor aȧvily
Vuchh kath kaaras paan tsė loguth
Ati shooban atha traṭa pholaadu̇ky
Khor gatshan pȧtharis vuzanaavu̇ny


Tsė nam naavi rȯṭuth nyabaru̇y kun
Vath hay baȧly ta yȯt kȯt laȧgith
Buthi maa laagakh asi vwonda manzaras
Dokhay maa aȧs tray vuṭhan hȧnz

Tsė zaalaah hyoo aabas trovuth
O ta tsu̇ maa chhukh gaaḍan draamut
Heela kȧrith luka naav tsė kȧḍthan
Manz dariyaavas loguth zaalaah

Haȧnzaa nazar thȧvu̇th gaaḍan kun
Khooris tshu̇n thaph vunyi chhuy aadan
Pȯt hyȯt naavi lamun gu̇thi suu̇tyan
Asi lȧjy gatshni dilan dubaraaray

Aalav saȧny gatshaan chee kȧny pȧty
Mula tala kal chhay ȧthy zaalas kun
Chaanyi diluk vara si maa ḍeshov
Nata kus lagihe yath sȧhlaabas

Ȧchh tul thȯd vu̇chh vaara nabas kun
Vaava mushak hyoo hargaah traavee
Hargaah kȧr maa naagakaȧny davaa hish
Vijavaavan zan koḍ vaashaa hyoo

Hosh tsė maa ḍalanay ku̇ṭa haȧnzaa
Zaal tsalee maa atha manza vyasarith
Zaal valee maa garzuk sodaa
Garza matsar maa kharee daaras

English translation:

Foolish Fisherman (Masquerading as a Ferryman)


Your countenance appears quite cheerful
Your lips break naturally into a smile
However, by your talk I feel a little doubtful
God knows what you will do in a while

Look, you know very well, O ferryman
In which direction does the stream fast flow
Where to pull the ferry, how save it you can
And how much strength it will take to do so

So gird your lions, show some resoluteness
To its destination this broken boat must reach
You are with sheer strength and prowess
Trusted to steer this filled ferry to the beach

Now that you have a boatful of people plowed
Be watchful of every small sign you must
Somewhere an ugly head may be reared by a cloud
Which the wind may kick and make it burst

So, get a grip and hold on to the oar firmly
Punting with the pole, your feet to slip don’t allow
Let not your heart sink when great depth you see
Towards billows the ferry you must never let go

But your hands are so small, feet so genteel
Look what a tough task for yourself you chose
For this job calls for hands of forged steel
And feet whose tread can the earth arouse


Outward bound why you have pointed the prow
The bank we had to follow, whither this way you go
Further ahead would us into deep trouble you throw
Was that smile on your beguiling lips just for show?

What is it that you just cast into the waters
O is it that all along fishing you were after
Tricking into the ferry unsuspecting passengers
Then casting your net amidst the river?

O fisherman, fixed on fish your eyes are, alack
Grab your oar now, for there still is a chance
The current now is forcing the boat to turn back
In our chests our hearts have started to dance

Our cries to your deaf ears don’t much mean
The net grabs all your attention and your sight
If only wickedness of your heart we had foreseen
We wouldn’t have landed in this watery plight

Up to the sky look hard and look long
Smells like the mushk wind may be on its way
Or the naagakon may just start to race along
Or yawn and stretch the vijavaav may *

O foolish fisherman, won’t you fall unconscious
Won’t then from your hands the net slip through
Around you a web weave won’t your selfish business
Won’t greedy obsession on the gallows hoist you?

Mushk, Naagakon: Directional winds, considered dangerous for boats, particularly in the Wular Lake, South-Asia’s largest freshwater lake, which is frequented by windstorms.

Vijavaav: A contrary and stormy wind opposing boats on a navigable river.

Translation © Sualeh Keen

Pru̇tshun Chhum (I Will Ask) - by Nadim

English transliteration:

Pru̇tshun Chhum

Dapaan poory kiny gash lȯg baashi karane
Siyaah bakhtanu̇y mwokhta daamaana barane
Amaa aav panjaran yi maa bar mu̇tsarane
Nabas pyaṭh khasun chum sitaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Tsȧṭith seena baalan pakun tshaala maaran
Palan baaj hyath baaj dyun kohasaaran
Chhu kus shok aabas andar graayi maaran
Mė anahȧrshyanu̇y aabshaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Kasund khooni armaan chhu baalaadaryan manz
Kasund guma chhu larzaan paaṅ tsaadaryan manz
Kasund rath chuu zotaan vunyi hee tharyan manz
Nishaatan pru̇tshun shaalamaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Chhi kȧmy khoon dith choonyi daamaana jȧrymu̇ty
Panun maaz dith saaz-o-saamaana gȧrymu̇ty
Tsȧṭith nam ta tsam kȧmy chhi durdaana gȧrymu̇ty
Vachhav talakyanu̇y mwokhtahaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Khayaalan pyaṭhu̇y ṭhaana kȯt taam rozan
Bėhyas kahar-o-toofaan kȯt taam rozan
Shȯngith myaȧny armaan kȯt taam rozan
Ti magroor sarmaayidaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Jamhooruk hishar aasi yas sholanaavun
Avaamuk bajar aasi thazi shaayi thaavun
Pazyaa shok tas aḍvate nyėndri saavun
Mazooran pru̇tshun kaashkaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Zaras bosh zardaaranu̇y raaj rozyaa
Tsharyan lori kuṭnan saras taaj rozyaa
Akis tsȯr ta hur byaakh mȯhtaaj rozyaa
Vachhas pyaṭh khȧsith taajdaaran pru̇tshun chhum

Chhi aki shaayi dolat ta hashmat ta raahat
Ta bėyo shaayi nȧny tan tsharyar phaaka gȯrbat
Chhi kami shaayi tim hyath kalamdaani gaȧrat
Adeeban ta fankaar yaaran pru̇tshun chhum

English translation:

I Will Ask

Rumours are the light in East is lisping
With jewels the dark robes of downtrodden filling
Is it that the doors to cages are opening?
I will climb heaven and of stars I will ask.

Cleaving bosoms of hills, dancing and diving
Taking tribute from boulders, to mountains giving
Which desire in water is that in waves is moving?
This of the virgin waterfalls I will ask.

Whose dead desires the pavilions are containing
Whose sweat in terraced streams is raining
Whose blood in jasmine flowers is shining?
Of the Nishats and Shalimar gardens I will ask.

Who has given blood and with rubies hems has lined
And with his flesh these garments has fashioned
Rending his skin and nails these jewels has polished?
Of the pearl necklaces adorning breasts I will ask.

Remain lids upon free thoughts will how long
Linger unstirred tumultuous storms will how long
Stay slumberous my aspirations will how long?
This of the haughty rich I will ask.

Equality of democracy he who has to upkeep
Mightiness of masses he who has to high keep
Should mid-way his desires he let fall asleep?
Of the labourers and the farmers I will ask.

Can grain-greedy goldsmith’s rule last forever
Can the turban on an empty stick be hoist forever
One has spare and surplus, can other fast forever?
Standing on their chests, the crown-bearers I will ask.

In one place are wealth and pride and pleasure
In other nakedness, emptiness, poverty and hunger
In which place do they with pens of self-respect dither?
Of my artist and poet friends I will ask.

Translation © Sualeh Keen

About the poet: Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ (1916-1988) was influenced by the freedom movement and the heroism of Bhagat Singh, by Iqbal and Chakbast, T.S. Eliot, Mayakovsky and Gorky, Josh and Ehsan Danish. Arrested during Sheikh Abdullah’s national struggle in 1938, and all his poems were seized by the police and destroyed. Won prestigious awards and held top positions in various artistic, educational and pacifist organisations. The most significant and innovative poets of his times, his entire career as a poet is linked with the political developments in Kashmir and to write about him is to write about the progressive movement in Kashmir.

Karanaavi Taarakh Naa Apor (Ferry Me Across) by Zinda Kaul

Zinda Kaul (1884-1965) was one of the most important literary figures of his age in Kashmir. Teacher, translator, and archaeologist, ‘Masterji’ wrote poems in Hindi, Urdu, Persian, and Kashmiri. Zinda Kaul was one of the few Kashmiri poets of his age who had mastered complex poetic forms, meter, and structure.

This ‘leftist’ Kashmiri poem Karanaavi Taarakh Naa Apor is politically relevant even today. The revolution resides in the change within, and the utopian Ram Rajya and Nizam-e-Mustafa are not reached by religiosity (or by irresponsible materialism, for that matter), but by becoming an active member that shares the collective responsibility of a just society that respects the poor, women, and children, and the environment. But above all, all these dreams are realized by love and kindness.

English transliteration:

Karanaavi Taarakh Naa!

Naakaara gomut nagar son
Basanas na Iaayakh roodmut
Loottas ta havsas baajybatth
Manzbaag miskeen moodmut
               Tsalahaa ta beyi yimahaa na yor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Zaalim zalar zan zaal hyath
Zaagaan gareeban zora vaaly
Khotsan na haakim maari maa
Prutshagaar maa kunyi aasi kaaly
               Chhukh peera phwokh tay dyaara zor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Maanav banyith mohnyuv mazoor
Chhon non malyun achh gaasha ros
Lari Iooka hanzay baadaraan
Nari losanaavaan baashi ros
               Saaraan khara sandy paatthy bor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Day zonmut chhukh jaabiraah
Poozaa tasunz bachanuk chhu tshal
Zevi kiny khwoshaamad chhis karaan
Aase ta anyi maa kenh vwodal
               Aslee chhu ddokh son peera zor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Pazyaary, rahbar, resh, valee
Kar taam asi nish moodymuty
Zuva rasy mary path kun tihundy
Maty, mary ta mandar roodymuty
               Vati raavaraan mulaa ta gor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Sedy saada swondar jaanavar
Asi nish yiman bachanuch chhi aash
Maarith muhith chhikh asy karaan
Tthoolav bachav saan aaly naash
               Chhuna khoona ros vwotalaan ttor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Yeti saarivuy day monmut
Kun daata maalik maajy mol
 Khwokabaaty, taarakh, viginyi, yachh
Traavith baraan tasy yot lol
               Pava nish na dalavuny or yor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Yeti baazy, afsoon, shilpa vyaz
Khurynaava zaanith anyigott
Bakhtee, preyam, seevaa, dayaa
Shod darum maanan tshott ta mott
               Athy vati pyath thaavith chhi khor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Yeti desh voth, zal thal veshaal
An, pan ta phal, mad gyav vophoor
Dyutmut dayan tim baagaraan
Khyath chhukh huraan, zaanan na tsoor
               Swombarun chhi ganzaraan vwolabor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taraakh naa apor!

Kenh kaansi nish yats tsor na kam
Beyi sund vuchhith alyfas na bam
Ada kyaazi traavan topa duh
Ada kyaazi pyan asmaana bam
               Dushman na kaanh, phojuk na bor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Ary dary manush pashy chaava suuty
Yeti kaam kot saaree karan
Path chhakh syatthaa rozan mwokal
Gindan, gyavan, Iekhan, paran
               Asanuk ta vyasanuk dor dor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taraakh naa apor!

Yeti kaanh na vadanaavaan shuryan
Yeti deeviyay maanaan triyan
Yeti koor gobras khwota ttaatth
Yeti nwosh na kaanh karmas duyan
               Yeti baay sreh vuzanas tswopor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Vani, vaari, aangan, jaayi saaph
Shrogy baana bartan, shrootsy shraany
Sedy saada vastur shoobavuny
Ary paan swondar nundabaany
               Kaanh maa kwokaarav kiny kwokor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Kaanh maa hyatsarzad tay bichor
Kaanh maa chhu mot yaa phyor chor
Sworanay na naphsuny dorador
Pashanuk na vwosh, vadanuk na shor
               Santosh vrat chhakh lachh kworor
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

Yeli saarinuy asi ttotthi day
Yeli pheri pay preymuk tswopor
Saaree banan pazykiny manush
Rozee na yeti kaanh hoon bror
Tee gav zi Raamun nagar khor
               Roozith yapaaree tary apor!
               Zuv chhum bramaan gatshahaa bu tor
               Karanaavi taarakh naa apor!

English translation:

Ferry Me Across!

1 – Yapor (Here)

Decadent has become our city
No longer fit for us to live in
Caught in a rut of lust and dacoity
The helpless are dying in between
            I want to run away never to return, alas!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

The sadist their spider webs brandish
Stalk the poor those who have power
Unafraid that the Lord might punish
That they might be questioned ever
            From money and priest’s blessings power amass!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

Human being turned into menial labourer
Bare and bereft, soiled and sightless
Building houses for others’ pleasure
Exhausting their arms and being joyless
            Bearing a burden like a dumb jackass!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

God they take to be a cruel tyrant
Of escaping Him, His worship a ploy
Appease Him with the tongue of sycophant
That in case He exists, He might not destroy
            Our real saviours are the priestly class!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

True leaders, guides, rishis, and sages
Left over are their lifeless relics
Dead and forgotten for us from ages
Leaving shrines, temples, and mad ascetics
            Misleading the masses the Gors and Mullahs!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

Straight and simple, birds so beautiful
After killing them and after crushing them
Of our protection that are so hopeful
Nests, with eggs and fledglings, we destroy then
            Without blood, a feast does not muster pass!
            O ferryman, won’t you ferry me across!

2 – Apor (There)

Where everyone on one God agrees
The only giver, lord, father and mother
And scarecrows, stars, goblins and faeries
Are discarded to love Him and no other
            Deviate do not they hither thither where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Where charms, spells, and magical initiation
Are all notorious as patterns of darkness
Love and devotion, service and compassion
A faith is accepted in its pure plainness
            Foot firmly set on this path is where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

An open country with gushing streams, free and fair
With food, fruit, milk and honey, of no bounty bereft
That the Lord has provided all they share
All get enough and spare, they know no theft
            Hoarding is a meaningless folly where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Nobody has more nor less, of inequality no room
And possessions of others evoke no evil eye
Why would they then let cannons boom?
Why would then bombs fall from the sky?
            Nobody is an enemy, no burden of arms where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Ah, what men and beasts of limbs strong!
Where each and everyone is hardworking
And they find of leisure happy hours long
For playing and singing, writing and reading
            Sounds of laughter and loving echo where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Where no one makes small children weep
Where a woman is worshipped as a goddess incarnate
Where daughters more loved than sons they keep
Where a daughter-in-law curses not her fate
            Love gushes forth from every spring where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Houses and gardens, all places are clean
Pots and pans shiny, though bought cheap
Simple elegant garments with graceful sheen
Health and beauty their whole bodies steep
            None is deformed by evil deeds where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

Nobody is in the grip of depression and despair
Nobody is mad there, no one’s mind ails
And no pangs of hunger, of survival no care
No sighs of remorse and no sound of wails
            Contentment is counted in crore rupees where
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

3 – Kapor (Where)

When God is loved by everyone
When love will roam everywhere
Everyone will become truly human
Remains will no cats and no dogs here
            That’s how the city of Rama is built anywhere!
            While staying over here, we live over there
            O ferryman, my heart yearns to go there!

© Translation, Sualeh Keen

Bu Gyavana Az (I Will Not Sing Today) by Nadim

Dina Nath Nadim (1916-1988), the greatest poet of modern Kashmir, was the first poet to affect structural changes in his works. In 1950, Nadim provided a contrast with the traditional Kashmiri poetic forms by introducing blank verse in Bu Gyavana Az ("I Will Not Sing Today"). This new poetic form caught the imagination of Kashmiris - literate and illiterate. Other poets, considering it emancipation from rigid formal poetic constraints, soon followed this style. Rehman Rahi's Gyavun Chum ("I Have to Sing") clearly shows Nadim's influence. Not only did Bu Gyavana Az demonstrate that blank verse could be used as an effective poetic form in Kashmiri, but in this poem he also showed his subtle feeling for an appropriate lexical choice, and for the proper blend of sound and sense. This effect is created neither by Persianization nor by Sanskritization; rather, he firmly established the process of Kashmirization.

Since Nadim was associated with the political movement, namely, the Kashmiri struggle for independence which it got in 1947, and concerned about scourges of war, exploitation, slavery, and subjugation, his initial poems had an unambigious political stand, e.g. in Jangbaaz Khabardar, which became anthems for the Kashmiri resistance against Pakistani aggression. While these are 'political' poems with a socialist background, the themes have been personalized. The result is that, even as 'political pieces', they do not sound like slogan mongering. In fact, such is the universality of Nadim's political poems that Bu Gyavana Az  can serve the agendas of all types of revolutionaries (as long as you don't specify the 'warmonger' in the poem), including both the Panun Kashmir and Tehreek-e-Azadi proponents (if only the latter knew who Nadim was)!

English transliteration:

Bu Gyavana Az

Bu gyavana az
            gulan ta bulbulan ta sumbalan ta masvalan
                        hunduy khumaara hot
                        ta maara mot
                        modur modur ta nyendri hot
                        su nagma kaanh
            Bu gyavana az su nagma kaanh
            ti kyaazi az—ti kyaazi az
Gubaara gard jangachee khattan chhi rang masvalan
Ta duhy bushanga janga kee tsattan chhi chontth bulbulan
Ta sumbalan apaary yapaary gatshaan chhwony chhu haankalan
Ta vuzmalan bihith achhan chhu zaal zan
Khattith chhi koh ta baal
Ta kaala obur sangaran valith chhu naal zan
Bu gyavana az
            ti kyaazi az chhi jangbaaz jaalsaaz hol ganddith
            Kasheeri myaanyi zaag hyath

Bu gyavana az
Bu gyavana az Nishaat, Shaalamaar, aabshaara, laalazaar
                        kuy naram naram
                        pishul pishul
                        ta sabz sabz shabnamuk su nagma kaanh
            Bu gyavana az su nagma kaafih
            ti kyaazi az—ti kyaazi az
Be vaayi jaayi jaayi taapa kraayi zan chhi zaag hyath
Karan chhi aayi graayi yuth tsalan yi myon baag hyath
            tavay chhu shaah andury gomut gulan
            chhi laala daag hyath
Jwoyan chhu gunguraaya pyatth ti pahra zan
            swoteyi kukili vaah
            ta byootth haari vanachi ahra zan
Bu gyavana az
            ti kyaazi az chhi jangbaaz jaalsaaz hol ganddith
            Kasheeri myaanyi zaag hyath

Bu gyavana az
Bu gyavana nav bahaara baala yaara ke amaara
                        kuy rangaaba rang vwozul ta hor
                        nyool sabaz tot ta shokh
                        nagma kaanh
            Bu gyavana az su nagma kaanh
            ti kyaazi az—ti kyaazi az
Bahaara suy chhi laar harda vaava ke zahaara chee
Vanan. andar avaara taaza shooviyaa chhi naara chee
Sakhar chhi aadamas ti aadamee sunde shikaara chee
Yamburzalan tavay ttapis chhi bana gamuts
                        havaa tshenith pyomut, ta hee chhi
                        thari bichaari tshyana gamuts
Bu gyavana az
            ti kyaazi az chhi jangbaaz jaalsaaz hol ganddith
            Kasheeri myaanyi zaag hyath

Bu gyavana az
Bu gyavana az khaahan khalan ta doorinuy
                        andar su daanda vaaly haaly sund
                        nyandan honduy su guma barith
                        ti nagma kaanh
            Bu gyavana az su nagma kaanh
            ti kyaazi az—ti kyaazi az
Khaahan chhu laavi nyaahli laavi daavi zuv nyumut
Khalan chhu haalavan hande yinuk ti paara zan pyomut
Ddyakan pyatthuy chhu khopha suuty guma zan shitthith gomut
Palan chhu aavalun tswopaary gath karaan
                        ta gaasa taany kretyav
                        moola zan chhu rath haraan
Bu gyavana az
            ti kyaazi az chhi jangbaaz jaalsaaz hol gamddith
            Kasheeri myaanyi zaag hyath

Bu gyavana az—bu gyavana az
                        twotaam ywotaam na
            koh ta baal
            khaah ta door
            gul ta posh
            zag ta pron
            kumir ta kukili
            bol bosh
            harud ta sont
            van ta baag, jwoyi ta aab, hee gwolaab
            shaalamaar, laalazaar, aabshaar, nav bahaar
            Zojibaal, Burzabaal, Nangabaal
Vaara kaara khopha rost ta pahra rost ta ahra rost
Bu beyi vuchhakh
Ta tshimbara melavun
Iraada myaany beyi asan lasan basan
Ta rathi khasan muraad myaany
To ttotth myon— nundabon—baag son
Yohoy panun panun vatan
            yi beyi vuchhan
            aabaad aazaad ta khwosh yivun—bahaar hyoo
            ta lov lwokachaar hyoo

Bu gyava telee—bu gyava telee
            ta sonta phuluyi mot gatshith bu gyava telee
            nata twotaam gyavana gyavana zaanh
                        su nyendri mot khumaara hot
                        bu soz kaanh
Tavay bu near—az bu near—vath bu shera
            batthy ta bera samy karakh
Bil nera tez nov kalam ta shraakh hyath
            ta dushmanan ta rahzanan
            bu nera phera tthaakh hyath
Dwokur kalam ta drot hyath
Iraada vot prot hyath
Bu phera jaayi jaayi shaayi shaayi pananyi aayi
                                                            prath balaayi drot hyath
            Dwokur kalam ta drot hyath
Rumav rumav bu guma kaddith chhalan yi ttotth baag son
            yi nunda bon
            baala yaar—lwokachaar
            chon myon
Ta khoh ta khayi, khwod ta layi bu noora suuty pooravakh
Bu gyavana az
Ba near az
Dwokur kalam ta shraakh hyath
Iraada akh be baak hyath

English translation:

I Will Not Sing Today

I will not sing today
            of roses and nightingales and irises and hyacinths’
                        and like cupid ardent
                        sweet sweet and somnolent
                        any such song
            I will not sing today any such song
            because today—because today
the dust clouds of war conceal the colour of the irises
and a thunderous blast breaks the beaks of nightingales
and the clang and clamour of chains haunt the hyacinths
and it is like cobwebs cover the eyes of the lightning
like the mountains and hills are in hiding
and a black cloud the throats of snow peaks is strangling.
I will not sing today
            because today wily warmongers with loins girt
            have their eyes on my Kashmir.

I will not sing today
I will not sing today of Nishat, Shalimar, poppy beds, waterfalls'
                        soft soft
                        smooth smooth
                        and green green dewdrops’ any such song
            I will not sing today any such song
            because today—because today
with no fear, everywhere, scorching heat waves loom
shaking and stirring to steal away the garden in bloom
            that’s why the flowers from breathing abstain
            the poppy nurses her stain
like there is a guard over the stream’s murmuring
            the dove’s heartbeat is dying
            and like the starlings are trembling.
I will not sing today
            because today wily warmongers with loins girt
            have their eyes on my Kashmir.

I will not sing today
I will not sing today of spring, of first love’s longing’s
                        many splendored colours, red and speckled
                        blue and green, hot and bold
                        any song
            I will not sing today any such song
            because today—because today
the poisonous weeds of autumn are chasing away spring
the wagging tongues of fire in woodlands are wandering
man is venturing to fellow-man murdering and slaughtering.
            That’s why the narcissus’ long hair is tangled
            and the jasmine by the wind is trampled
            the poor flower on her vine is mangled.
I will not sing today
            because today wily warmongers with loins girt
            have their eyes on my Kashmir.

I will not sing today
I will not sing today of fields and fallows, farms and beds
                        in which that ox-owning ploughman’s
                        paddy transplantation’s that sweat soaked
                        any song as well
            I will not sing today any such song
            because today—because today
weeds in the fields suck the life of seedlings so tender
it is like the harvest by locust swarms is torn asunder
like the sweat on every brow is frozen with terror
a whirlpool from all sides is surrounding each boulder
                        and even the grass has withered
                        having withered
                        its roots like blood have poured.
I will not sing today
            because today wily warmongers with loins girt
            have their eyes on my Kashmir.

I will not sing today—I will not sing today
                        unless and until
            mountain and hill
            field and pasture
            foliage and flower
            brown and white hue
            koel and cuckoo
            songs the birds sing
            autumn and spring
            forest and garden, streams and rivulets, jasmine rose and all
            Shalimar, poppy beds, new bloom, waterfall
            Zojibaal, Burzabaal, Nangabaal
safely and soundly, without terror and without watch and without hate
I will see again
and the night and day conjugate
and my plans are again hale and hearty
and my hopes are restored to their primacy
and my darling—sweetheart—our garden
this very our nation our nation
            I see it again
            prosperous, free and pleasing—spring-like
            and innocent child-like.

I will only then sing—I will only then sing
            and drunk with the scent of spring, I will only then sing
            otherwise until then never never sing
                        that somnolent intoxicant
                        any tune I today.
That’s why I will go onward—today I will go onward—repair the road
level the boundaries and partitions across the land
I will go brandishing a sharp pen and sword
            and with regard to enemies and blackguard
            I will go onward and roam with a stop-order in my hand
with a hammer, pen, and sickle in my hand
my intentions on the ready at my command
I will roam here and there, everywhere, without care
                                                with a sickle for every scare
with a hammer, pen, and sickle in my hand
with sweat that will pour, from each and every pore, I will wash this our darling land
            this sweetheart
            old friend good—childhood
            mine and your
and on gorges and chasms and on pits and paths I will light pour.
I will not sing today
I will go onward today
with hammer, pen, and sickle in my hand
with a dauntless resolve and steady stand.

© Translation, Sualeh Keen

Me Chham Aash Pagahuch (I Have Hope of Tomorrow) by Nadim

A simple and powerful anti-war poem by Dina Nath Nadim. While the warmongers bay for blood, people want nothing more than to see a loved one and to partake of the small joys of life. The wannabe martyrs and murderers have their right to die and to kill, but do others have a right to live?

English transliteration

               Me chham aash pagahuch


               Me chham aash pagahuch
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

Dohas gaash huri gul ta gulzaar prazalan
Zameenas susar lagi ta sabzaar prazalan
Vachhas manz humis lola phanvaar prazalan
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

Kazul laaganay me gatshan achh kazaalee
Vasyam dwod ta baba tenddy gatshan me vwozaalee
Ta dahi vuhury dashahaar yiyi son saalee
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

Kanan gatshi me chaan myaan tsalyam vuy ta vaaye
Vachhas tal me tseh tseh karyam aayi graaye
Laban losa kutthisuy khasyam moola maaye
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

Hu bar tsurnyi taly kan thavith bozi lot lot
Ta thaz kaar thaavith su beyi neri pot pot
Ta vanavun hyamas potra maalis yi sot sot
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

Yinam sadra pananyay vadav chhay mubaarak
Bu chhas potra maaj chhatra boony phikri taarakh
Hyamakh kwochhi hyavuny az bu maa kenh ti praarakh
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah

               Dapaan jang chhu vwothavun
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun
               Pagaah sholi duniyaah
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun


               Me chham aash pagahuch
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

Bu doh losanyan hyoo tharyan tshaayi praaras
Ta Heemaal zan lola tay maayi praaras
Gatshyas tser gam kyaah chhu be vaaya praaras
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

Su yiyi maayi mot tshaayi hol graayi maaran
Bu aasay tamis maali kity posh tsaaran
Karyam kath bu roshas ta chhoo lagi ishaaran
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

Syatthaa hwongni rattytan bu thava kaar bwon kun
Ta yeli daly rattyam teli vuchhas ada achhyan kun
Rattyam naala ada osh darun maa chhu mumkin
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

Thavith kaar kwochhi manz diluky daady baavas
Ta rwopa seena kee daag nazaraana thaavas
Prutshas bu tse kava laajythas lola daavas
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

Vanyam doh chhi nazdeek tshoh maari yaavun
Chhu nany paatthy asi lol haavun ta baavun
Patyum path chhu traavun ta nov nechhanaavun
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas

               Dapaan jang chhu vwothavun
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun
               Pagaah vaada chhum tas
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun


               Me chham aash pagahuch
               Shuryan mol vaatyam

Yuthuy boza aalav tyuthuy bronttha neras
Rattan naala mati zora andy andy bu pheras
Navis taaza gaasas pyathuy jaay sheras
               Shuryan mol vaatyam

Thakith aasi aamut gwoddany paad naavas
Ta mwoth dog divaan valy valee nyendfir paavas
Ta nakha chee gatthur bronh kanee nazri thaavas
               Shuryan mol vaatyam

Gatthri manz navee gul ta gulzaar aasan
Me chhitth jaani kana vaaji toomaar aasan
Habeebas khatanhaaj kity dyaar aasan
               Shuryan mol vaatyam

Ivuny eez kity asy palav navy banaavav
Ta kacha pooty joraah ti kworbaan thaavav
Habas tsaatta baajan shiriny baagraavav
               Shuryan mol vaatyam

               Dapaan jang chhu vwothavun
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun
               Shuryan mol vaatyam
               Pagaah gotsh na sapadun

English translation:

               I Have Hope of Tomorrow


               I have hope of tomorrow
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

The day will brighten and radiate will the garden and flower
The earth will ferment and lush become the green pasture
And in his breast will the fountains of love shower
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

My eyes will dark become without kohl and collyrium
My milk will come out and my nipples will red become
After ten years a rare astral confluence will visit my home
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

The baby's cry in my ear, gone is all my fear and doubt
Sucking at my breasts, lapping it up, swilling and spilling out
Covering the walls of my womb with high value and clout
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

He will eavesdrop silently putting his ear behind the closed door
He will tag along behind us with his head held high once more
From my son's father I'll softly ask for a gift for singing the encore
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

Come will my friends upon childbirth to congratulate me
A son's mother now I be, a shady tree, I will make them see
I won't hesitate to demand a fee for holding my baby
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty

               They say war is to begin
               Tomorrow let it not happen
               Tomorrow the world will exude beauty
               Tomorrow let it not happen


               I have hope of tomorrow
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

When the day starts to end, behind the briar I will wait
Like Heemal of yore, with love and with care I will wait
No worries if he is late, without any fear I will wait
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

He will come cavorting, mad for love, to the rendezvous
While I will be gathering flowers I will into his garland sew
He will talk, I will sulk, and signals will be frozen too
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

I won't lift my head though holding up my chin he tries
Only when he holds my knees will I look into his eyes
When he will hold me in arms, one cannot hold back cries
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

Laying head in his lap, I will share my heart's woe
And the stains on my silver bosom to him I will show
Why he put me at stake in love's game, I'll want to know
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

He will tell me the day is near when youth knows no hesitation
And we have to expound and express our love out in the open
Leave the past behind and give what is new high reputation
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date

               They say war is to begin
               Tomorrow let it not happen
               Tomorrow I have promised him a date
               Tomorrow let it not happen


               I have hope of tomorrow
               The father of my children will return

As soon as he calls out, I will rush to receive him
I will hug him tight in my arms and dance around him
On newly grown grass, I will arrange a seat for him
               The father of my children will return

He must be tired from travelling, his feet I will wash deep
And squeezing and massaging him, swiftly I will lull him to sleep
And the bundle on his shoulder clear I will in his sight keep
               The father of my children will return

And the bundle will contain a new flower garden
A printed dress for me, rings and pendants for Ja'an
And some money too for little Habeeb's circumcision
               The father of my children will return

For the coming Eid, we will new dresses make
And pledge a couple of lambs for sacrifice sake
And sweets too for Habba's class-mates to take
               The father of my children will return

               They say war is to begin
               Tomorrow let it not happen
               The father of my children will return
               Tomorrow let it not happen

© Translation, Sualeh Keen

About the poet: Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ (1916-1988) was influenced by the freedom movement and the heroism of Bhagat Singh, by Iqbal and Chakbast, T.S. Eliot, Mayakovsky and Gorky, Josh and Ehsan Danish. Arrested during Sheikh Abdullah’s national struggle in 1938, and all his poems were seized by the police and destroyed. Won prestigious awards and held top positions in various artistic, educational and pacifist organisations. The most significant and innovative poets of his times, his entire career as a poet is linked with the political developments in Kashmir and to write about him is to write about the progressive movement in Kashmir.