For Freedom- #poetry


For Freedom

By John O’Donohue
(1956 – 2008)

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back among
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The right solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.


/ Photo by Kaysse
/

Letter to Raj Thackrey #mustlisten


 

 

 

 

Here is song penned and rapped by @alist,  Ashwini Mishra, must listen

LETTER TO RAJ THACKREY

Just hours after his sensational statement over “infiltrators” and “Biharis“, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chiefRaj Thackeray faced stern criticism from many. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh‘sstatement on him might be the toughest one and hard to digest for Thackeray.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Saturday, Sep 1 claimed that Thackeray family itself belonged to Bihar and had settled in Dhar in Western Madhya Pradesh from where they migrated to Mumbai. Hence, is it true that Thackeray himself is an “infiltrator” in Mumbai, Maharashtra?

Criticising Mr Thackeray and discussing about hisfamily backgrounds, Digvijay Singh said, “If you look at the history of Mumbai, then it is a city offishermen. Rest all have settled there from outside.”

Digvijay Singh‘s shocking statement came when the MNS supremo showed his rage against the Biharis, the people who have migrated from Bihar to Mumbai.

Thackeray, whose party has often launched violent campaigns against Hindi-speaking people in Maharashtra, was reacting to a media report that Bihar chief secretary Navin Kumar has written to Mumbai police commissioner voicing displeasure over the arrest of the youth for vandalising the martyr’s memorial during Azad Maidan protest on Aug 11.

Thackeray said that the Bihar chief secretary had threatened legal action against Mumbai police.

“The letter says Mumbai police has to get in touch with the Bihar government before picking up any person from their state. If Mumbai crime branch picks up people from their state without the knowledge of the Bihar police they would face legal action,” he said referring to the purported latter.

“If the Bihar government tries to become a hurdle in the way of a police investigation, then my party would dub every Bihari in Maharashtra as an infiltrator and would force them to leave the state,” an angry Thackeray said.

 

दो बार विस्थापित चिल्कादांड के संघर्ष की दास्तान


सोमवार, सितम्बर 03, 2012 ·

चिल्कादांड उत्तर प्रदेश के सोनभद्र जिले के शक्तिनगर थाणे में पड़ने वाले उन 5 गावों का एक सामूहिक नाम है, जिन्हें पहली बार 1960 में रिहंद डैम बनाने के लिए और फिर 1979 में एन टी पी सी के शक्तिनगर परियोजना के कारण विस्थापित होना पडा है. दो बार विस्थापन का दर्द झेल चुके लगभग 30 हज़ार की  यह आबादी 1984 से ही एन सी एल कोयला खनन के  विस्तार के खिलाफ आंदोलनरत है. हाल में, यहाँ मूलभूत सुविधाओं की मांग  को  लेकर आंदोलन फिर से तेज हुआ है. पहले से ही राष्ट्र के विकास के नाम पर 2 बार छले जा चुके लोगों ने  “उत्पीडन प्रतिरोध समिति” के परचम-तले जबरदस्त आन्दोलन की शुरुआत की है. पेश है लोकविद्या आश्रम की एक रिपोर्ट: 

नार्दर्न कोलफील्ड्स लिमिटेड और नैशनल थर्मल पावर कारपोरशन के द्वारा पिछले 25 वर्षों से जारी उत्पीडन के खिलाफ स्थानीय जनता ने प्रतिरोध का बिगुल फूंक दिया है. 30 अगस्त 2012 दिन बृहस्पतिवार की शाम चिल्कादांड, निमिया दंड, दियापहरी और रानीबाड़ी के 300 से ज्यादा लोगो ने निमियादांड स्थित बरगद के नीचे 5 बजे से एक सभा की जिसमे एक उत्पीडन प्रतिरोध समिति का गठन किया गया. वर्षों से किसी सांगठनिक पहल के अभाव में स्थानीय जनता में दबा आक्रोश सभा के दौरान थोड़ी थोड़ी देर पर उठने वाले नारों के माध्यम से झलक रहा था और ये नारे इस बात का आभास दिला रहे थे की चिल्कादांड के निवासी सन 85 के उस आन्दोलन की यादें अपने दिलों में संजोय बैठे हैं जब इसी एन टी पी सी से लड़ कर उन्होंने वो जमीन हासिल की थी जिस पर पिछले 25 वर्षो से वे रह रहे हैं और इन २५ वर्षों में एन सी एल और एन टी पी सी के धीरे धीरे होते विस्तार ने लड़ कर छिनी गयी इस जमीन को एक ऐसे क्षेत्र में तब्दील कर दिया है जहां मानव जिन्दगिया तो दूर, कीड़े मकौड़े भी स्वेच्छा से जिन्दा रहना कबूल न करें.

बताते चलें की चिल्कादांड उत्तर प्रदेश के सोनभद्र जिले के शक्तिनगर थाणे में पड़ने वाले उन 5 गावों का एक सामूहिक नाम है, जिन्हें पहली बार 1960 में रिहंद डैम बनाने के लिए और फिर 1979 में एन टी पी सी के शक्तिनगर परियोजना के कारण विस्थापित होना पडा है. दो बार विस्थापन का दर्द झेल चुके लगभग 30 हज़ार की इस आबादी को 1984 में एक बार फिर से विस्थापित करने की कोशिश की गयी थी जब एन सी एल को कोयला खनन का ठेका दिया गया था. पहले से ही राष्ट्र के विकास के नाम पर 2 बार छले जा चुके लोगों ने तीसरी बार विस्थापन के खिलाप जबरदस्त आन्दोलन किया, और अपनी जगह पर जमे रहे. आज चिल्कादंड एक तरफ एन सी एल की खदान से तो दूसरी ओर शक्तिनगर रेल स्टशन से बुरी तरह घेरा जा चूका है.

चिल्कादांड पुनः संगठित हो रहा है. इस बार मुद्दा विस्थापन का विरोध नहीं, एक बेहतर बसाहट है. दिन रात उडती कोयले की धुल, कोयला ले कर 24 घंटे आते जाते बड़े बड़े डम्फर, ब्लास्टिंग से उड़ कर गिरते बड़े बड़े पत्थर, खान से रोजाना निकलती मिटटी से बनते पहाड़ जिनकी रेडियो धर्मिता स्वयं में एक जांच का विषय है, यह सब मिल कर चिल्कादांड को जोखिम और रोगों की हृदयस्थली बनाते हैं. 30 अगस्त को हुई बैठक का मुख्य एजेंडा एक ऐसा संगठन बनाने का था, जिसके तहत उठने वाली आवाज सभी ग्रामवासियों की हो, न की किसी समूह अथवा समुदाय विशेष की.

नयी और बेहतर जगह पर बसाहट के सवाल को उठाते हुए सर्वप्रथम श्री नर्मदा जी ने कहा की कम्पनी का काम रोके बगैर उसे अपनी बात सुनाने के लिए बाध्य नहीं किया जा सकता. उन्होंने कम्पनी का काम रोकने की रणनीति का जिक्र करते हुए कहा की मुख्य गेट से इनकी आवाजाही जब तक बंद न की जाये, बात नहीं बनेगी. उनकी इस बात से वहाँ बैठे सभी आयु वर्ग के लोग सहमत हुए. स्थानीय श्री रहमत अली ने आन्दोलन से जुड़े कार्यकर्ताओं में कटीबध्हता की आवश्यकता पर बल देते हुए कहा की क्षणिक जोश में आकर कोई निर्णय लेने से लड़ाई का नुकसान होता है. निमियादांड के श्री सूरज जी ने कहा की सरकार पर छोड़ देने से कोई काम पूरा नहीं होता. सरकार एक पत्थर होता है जिसे तराशने का काम जनता को ही करना पड़ता है.

30 हज़ार से भी ज्यादा आबादी के बेहतर बसाहट के मुद्दे को समर्थन देने के लिए लोकविद्या जन आन्दोलन की तरफ से अवधेश, बबलू, एकता और रवि शेखर इस बैठक में उपस्थित थे. अपना वक्तव्य रखते हुए रवि शेखर ने कहा की इन पूंजीपतियों के खिलाफ सन 85 में में शुरू हुई इस लड़ाई की दूसरी पारी को आगे बढाने के लिए चिल्कादांड की नयी पीढ़ी को कुर्बानी देनी पड़ेगी. दुसरे राज्यों में जनता द्वारा सफलतापूर्वक लड़ी गयी लड़ाइयों का उदाहरण पेश करते हुए रवि ने कहा की संघर्ष से जुड़े साथियों को अपना वर्ग और अपने हितैषियों को पहचानना होगा. उन्होंने आगे कहा की लोकविद्या आधारित जीवन यापन करने वाले सभी समाजो की दशा दिशा को समझा जाये तो इन सभी में एकता के अनेको बिंदु तलाशे जा सकते हैं, और लड़ाई को मजबूत बनाया जा सकता है. अवधेश ने नौजवानों से यह अपील की आज के बैठक के उपरान्त वे जरूर स्वेच्छा से एक संगठन बनाएं और इसके मार्फ़त तथा बुजुर्गों की सलाह पर आन्दोलन को मजबूत करें. उन्होंने उपस्थित सभी युवाओं के समक्ष यह प्रस्ताव दिया कि अगर युवा लड़के लड़कियां चाहें तो लोकविद्या आश्रम सबके लिए लोकविद्या विचार के माध्यम से एक नेतृत्व प्रशिक्षण शिविर का आयोजन कर सकता है. इस प्रस्ताव को हाथों हाथ लेते हुए नारों के साथ युवाओं ने अपनी सहमती दी. लोकविद्या आश्रम की तरफ से बोलते हुए एकता ने कहा की चिल्कादांड को बचाने की पिछली लड़ाई में महिलाओं का बड़ा योगदान रहा. उन्हें फिर से बाहर निकलने की आवश्यकता है, अन्यथा आधी आबादी की अनुपस्थिति में किसी भी तरह की सफलता की अपेक्षा करना स्वयं और आन्दोलन के साथ बेईमानी है.

चिल्कादांड के युवाओं के तरफ से बोलते हुए हीरालाल, संतोष, राजेश, विजय, धर्मराज, जयप्रकाश, राहुल कुमार, आशुतोष, जोहर अली आदि ने यह आश्वासन दिया कि इस आन्दोलन में सभी 5 गावों के युवा अपनी तरफ से कोई कमी नहीं रहने देंगे. अपने वरिष्ठों से उन्होंने यह मांग की कि वे युवाओं का मार्गदर्शन करते रहे, तो बसाहट की इस लड़ाई में जीत चिल्कादांड की होकर रहेगी.

अंत में चिल्कादांड के ग्राम प्रधान जी के आह्वान पर लगभग 20 लडको ने स्वेच्छा से अपने नाम और फोन न. नोट कराया, ताकि आगे तय होने वाली रणनीति में इन्हें शामिल किया जा सके. सभा की अध्यक्षता कर रहे श्री लक्ष्मण गिरी ने लोकविद्या आश्रम कार्यकर्ताओं के द्वारा चिल्कादांड की लड़ाई को संगठित किये जाने की पहल का स्वागत करते हुए आश्रम से इन युवाओं के मार्गदर्शन की अपील की.

अध्यक्ष जी के इस अपील पर श्री अवधेश ने 12 सितम्बर 2012 को उन सभी युवाओं की बैठक लोकविद्या आश्रम पर बुलाई गई है.

Anti- State- Poem #sedition #censorship


 William Nicholas Gomes; a promising name, a poet, journalist and human rights activist. He is well known for his outspoken, impartial, uncompromising position on the issues of human rights violations. He is an ambassador of peace, who advocates democracy and rule of law, on issues worldwide.

Recently his web site www.williamgomes.org has been blocked in Bangladesh by the fascist government. It is believed that the root cause is very recent poem “Anti State” and “Pen” which were written and published on the website by the revolutionary poet William Gomes.

William’s only weapon is his pen and he penned two poems and that have shocked and challenged the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and her fascist government.

The ruling government is well known for the corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture and growing number of disappearances country wide.

INTELLIGENCE

ANTI STATE – A POEM– by william gomes


I am ANTI STATE!
Yes, I am!
I am against the state, which runs on the bases of injustices
I am against the state which comes out of killings
I am against its every system
I am against its governments
I am against its Presidents, Prime Ministers
I am against its criminal hierarchy
I am against all those leaders of criminals in the parliament

Yes, they are criminals!
They are the traders of injustice,
They are the killers of justice
They are root and reasons of injustices

They are the creator of poverty
They crates poverty
They are traders of poverty
Yes! When people are poor, they are powerful
Yes, they are powerful and I am poor!
Yes, I am people!

They are running the corporate state of injustice
They are traders of hatred,
They sell hatred
They sell riots!
They do everything for power!

They are traders of religions
They sells the ALLAH, RAM , BUDDHA , JESUS !
They have declared war on people
They have declared war on peace
I declared war on these criminals,
I declared war on their System

I declare that I am anti state
For sure, I am for the people!
I am people!
I will burn their RED and GREEN flag,
I will burn the constitution of injustice
I will burn down the parliament
I will burn down all into ashes

I dream no red and green flag
No traders of injustice
But a place full of peaceful of people!
No mater, if need to change the name of Bangladesh
I declare, I will change it!
I will change for peace, for people
I declare, I am anti state!


— 

Let me tell you a story of this place Naxalbari


A capella version of Naxalbari at the poetry open mic that won the first prize, recently . A cappella music  (Italian for “in the manner of the chapel”  )is vocal music or singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way.

This song speaks of the Naxal areas in and around Chattisgarh and how messed up things are for the tribal community with both the police forces and the naxalities exploiting and murdering them.

The song refers to soni sori, custodial torture and rape, Dr Binayak Sen, Anna Hazare and Irom Sharmila  among many others.
The song is sung by  Ashwini Mishra  a.k.a A-List has been a rap artist and performer since 2004 . Since then, he has performed on a number of platforms such as the St. Xaviers and Bhowanipore college fests in Kolkata as well hosted and performed at a number of hip hop shows in club BED.More recently, he opened for Zero and Parikrama at the MICA collegest fest- MICANVAS back in 2008 and has been performing at open mics across Mumbai over 2010. He performed as one half of rapper-drummer duo “Various Artists” at Concert By The Bay in January 2012.
Currently he is working on his second album as a follow up to his 2006 underground EP, “I can’t lose” which was launched in Kolkata.

A-List represents a conscious approach to hip hop, using the music to talk bout more than just nightclubs, alcohol references and skimpily clad women. This is reality rap.

 

For updates on more music/videos, follow

http://www.facebook.com/alistrap
http://www.twitter.com/alistrap
http://www.reverbnation.com/indianemcee

Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry


Seamus Murphy/VII for The New York Times

Saheera Sharif, the founder of Mirman Baheer (upper center); Ogai Amail, a poet and member of the group (bottom left); also pictured are other members of the poets’ group.

By ELIZA GRISWOLD,   NY Times

Published: April 27, 2012

In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn’t working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone’s screen, her face looked wan and worried. When the phone finally bleeped, Amail shrieked with joy and put on the speakerphone. A teenage girl’s voice tumbled into the room. “I’m freezing,” the girl said. Her voice was husky with cold. To make this call, she’d sneaked out of her father’s mud house without her coat.

Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means “love” in the Pashto languagemuska means “smile.”)

Meena lost her fiancé last year, when a land mine exploded. According to Pashtun tradition, she must marry one of his brothers, which she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t dare protest directly, but reciting poetry to Amail allows her to speak out against her lot. When I asked how old she was, Meena responded in a proverb: “I am like a tulip in the desert. I die before I open, and the waves of desert breeze blow my petals away.” She wasn’t sure of her age but thought she was 17. “Because I am a girl, no one knows my birthday,” she said.
Meena lives in Gereshk, a town of 50,000 people in Helmand, the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Helmand has struggled with the double burden of being one of the world’s largest opium producers and an insurgent stronghold. Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access. She doesn’t meet outsiders face to face.
“I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,” she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed. “I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,” she went on. “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.” Meena gulped. She was trying not to cry. On the other end of the line, Amail, who is prone to both compassion and drama, began to weep with her. Tears mixed with kohl dripped onto the page of the spiral notebook in which Amail was writing down Meena’s verses. Meena recited a Pashtun folk poem called a landai:
“My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.”
“I am the new Rahila,” she said. “Record my voice, so that when I get killed at least you’ll have something of me.”
Amail grimaced, uncertain how to respond. “Don’t call yourself that,” she snapped. “Do you want to die, too?”
Rahila was the name used by a young poet, Zarmina, who committed suicide two years ago. Zarmina was reading her love poems over the phone when her sister-in-law caught her. “How many lovers do you have?” she teased. Zarmina’s family assumed there was a boy on the other end of the line. As a punishment, her brothers beat her and ripped up her notebooks, Amail said. Two weeks later, Zarmina set herself on fire.
Like Meena, Zarmina lived in Gereshk, a little less than 400 miles from Kabul. She, too, wasn’t allowed to leave her home. She first found the literary group by listening to the radio, her only link to the outside world. One day, on Radio Azadi — Radio Liberty — she heard a Mirman Baheer member reading poems. With no way to contact the group, she phoned another radio program, “Lost Love,” a popular show that mostly connects refugees to family members or friends they haven’t seen in decades. Zarmina asked for help in finding Mirman Baheer. One of the station’s employees was a member. “Oh, so you thought we were lost, too!” she told the aspiring poet, before sharing the phone number.
Zarmina soon became a regular caller. Whenever she could, she phoned into Mirman Baheer’s Saturday-afternoon meetings at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul. Zarmina would ask Amail if she could read her poems aloud to the group. But the Kabul meetings were crowded with eager poets, vying to be heard. Amail often had to tell Zarmina to wait her turn. “I’d say, ‘No, I’ll call you,’ but she’d call back within a few minutes.”
Sometimes Zarmina couldn’t stand to wait for a meeting to call Amail. When Amail said she was too busy to talk, Zarmina would respond with a landai:
“I am shouting but you don’t answer — 
One day you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone from this world.”
“How sweet it would have been if we’d only recorded her voice while she was reading poems,” Amail said. She picked bits of caramelized sugar and almonds from a glass dish. “Now, when any girl calls, I note down everything — the dates of the poems, the phone numbers, every single thing she says.” (The group still can’t afford a tape recorder.)
In her poems, Zarmina described “the dark cage of the village.” Her work was impressive, according to Amail, not only for its distinctive language but also for its courage to question God’s will. “That’s what our poems had in common,” Amail said. “We complained to God about the state of our lives.” Zarmina’s poems posed questions: “Why am I not in a world where people can feel what I’m feeling and hear my voice?” She asked, “If God cares about beauty, why aren’t we allowed to care?” She asked: “In Islam, God loved the Prophet Muhammad. I’m in a society where love is a crime. If we are Muslims, why are we enemies of love?”
As Amail and Zarmina grew closer, they would talk several times a day whenever Zarmina could sneak access to a phone; but there were periods when they managed to speak only once a month. During the two weeks between her brothers’ beating and her suicide, Zarmina gave Amail no indication of how desperate she was when she called. She did, however, recite another landai:
“On Doomsday, I will say aloud, 
I came from the world with my heart full of hope.”
“Stupid, don’t say that,” Amail recalls saying. “You’re too young to die.”
To the women of Mirman Baheer, Zarmina is only the most recent of Afghanistan’s poet-martyrs. “She was a sacrifice to Afghan women,” Amail told me. “There are hundreds like her.”
Mirman Baheer, Afghanistan’s largest women’s literary society, is a contemporary version of a Taliban-era literary network known as the Golden Needle. In Herat, women, pretending to sew, gathered to talk about literature. In Kabul, Mirman Baheer has no need for subterfuge. Its more than 100 members are drawn primarily from the Afghan elite: professors, parliamentarians, journalists and scholars. They travel on city buses to their Saturday meetings, their faces uncovered, wearing high-heeled boots and shearling coats. But in the outlying provinces — Khost, Paktia, Maidan Wardak, Kunduz, Kandahar, Herat and Farah — where the society’s members number 300, Mirman Baheer functions largely in secret.
Of Afghanistan’s 15 million women, roughly 8 out of 10 live outside urban areas, where U.S. efforts to promote women’s rights have met with little success. Only 5 out of 100 graduate from high school, and most are married by age 16, 3 out of 4 in forced marriages. Young poets like Meena who call into the hot line, Amail told me, “are in a very dangerous position. They’re behind high walls, under the strong control of men.” Herat University’s celebrated young poet, Nadia Anjuman, died in 2005, after a severe beating by her husband. She was 25.
Pashtun poetry has long been a form of rebellion for Afghan women, belying the notion that they are submissive or defeated. Landai means “short, poisonous snake” in Pashto, a language spoken on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The word also refers to two-line folk poems that can be just as lethal. Funny, sexy, raging, tragic, landai are safe because they are collective. No single person writes a landai; a woman repeats one, shares one. It is hers and not hers. Although men do recite them, almost all are cast in the voices of women. “Landai belong to women,” Safia Siddiqi, a renowned Pashtun poet and former Afghan parliamentarian, said. “In Afghanistan, poetry is the women’s movement from the inside.”
Traditionally, landai have dealt with love and grief. They often railed against the bondage of forced marriage with wry, anatomical humor. An aging, ineffectual husband is frequently described as a “little horror.” But they have also taken on war, exile and Afghan independence with ferocity. In the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, when Afghan forces were losing to the British, a Pashtun heroine named Malalai is said to have seized the Afghan flag and shouted this landai:
“Young love, if you do not fall in the Battle of Maiwand, 
By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame.”
Malalai died on the battlefield, but Afghan forces were ultimately victorious.
More recently, landai have taken on the Russian occupation, the hypocrisy of the Taliban and the American military presence. One landai that came into circulation during the Russian occupation is still uttered today:
“May your airplane crash and may the pilot die
that you are pouring bombs on my beloved Afghanistan.”
Like most folk literature, landai can be sorrowful or bawdy. Imagine the Wife of Bath riding through the Himalayan foothills and uttering landai so ribald that they curled the toes of her fellow travelers. She might tease her rival: “Say hello to my sweetheart/If you are a farter [tizan, one who farts a lot], then I can fart louder than you.” She might make a cutting political joke: “Your black eyelashes are Israel/and my heart is Palestine under your attack.” She might utter an elegiac couplet: “My beloved gave his head for our country/I will sew his shroud with my hair.”
“A poem is a sword,” Saheera Sharif, Mirman Baheer’s founder, said. Sharif is not a poet but a member of Parliament from the province of Khost. Literature, she says, is a more effective battle for women’s rights than shouting at political rallies. “This is a different kind of struggle.”
On a recent afternoon in Kabul, Amail looked over her reading glasses at two dozen poets and writers, 15 to 55 years old, convened around a U-shaped conference table at the Ministry for Women’s Affairs. Sharif held her 7-year-old daughter, Zala, in her lap. Zala clutched a white fur pony purse loaded with markers. She unzipped its belly, colored distractedly and played with an iPhone during a brief lecture on the nature of the soul given by Alam Gul Sahar, one of President Hamid Karzai’s speechwriters and the author of 15 books of poems. As Sahar droned on, the women yawned, their exhales forming puffs of gray breath in the room’s freezing air. As soon as Sahar finished, the workshop began. A young woman stood and raced through a reading of her short story in an anxious monotone: a girl whose mother died in childbirth ends up going to college and having to choose between two potential lovers. One suitor attempts suicide but is miraculously revived. The end. The critique started. One of the group’s more senior members pointed out two problems. First, Pashto stories don’t feature two lovers, because that would sully a woman’s honor. Second, the story’s diction was monotonous.
“Since your character is educated, she should speak in a more sophisticated way,” the woman told the downcast author. In judging a work’s merit, members consider the writer’s recitation. Sharif believes that the group’s mission is to teach young women not just to write but also to speak aloud and with confidence.
The meeting turned to poetry next. The women had brought contemporary landai with them. Traditionally, the poems were traded at henna night, the evening before a wedding when women gather around the bride to decorate her body. The landai are sometimes sung to the beat of a small hand drum. (Because singing is associated with loose morals, poetry can be seen as shameful for women, a notion that the Taliban’s conservatism helped foster.) Landai once focused on the godar — the place where village women went to fetch water and where men, who were not allowed to approach them, tried to steal looks at their beloveds from a distance. These educated women used landai to speak of larger issues, like Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s one-eyed spiritual leader who is rumored to be dead, not a guest of Pakistan: “Grass is growing on the blind man’s tomb/Stupid Talibs still believe that he’s alive.” Amail read one about America’s failing military efforts: “Here, they fight the Taliban/Behind the mountains, they train them.”
When I asked who brought this one, Zamzama, 17, raised her hand amid nervous giggles. She seemed both embarrassed and emboldened to be criticizing America to an American. Along with her 15-year-old cousin, Lima, Zamzama joined the group two years earlier. Lima had recently won the group’s literary prize. When she was 11, she began writing poems addressed to God.
“I started reading them to my father,” Lima said. She smiled and glanced around at the others who were suddenly listening. “My father doesn’t know much about poetry.” An engineer, he heard about Mirman Baheer from a colleague and now sends his daughters here weekly to learn to write. “He gave me this,” she said. She held up a blue plastic notebook embossed with the words “Healthnet — Enabling People to Help Themselves.” Lima stood to recite her latest poem: a rubaiyat, the Arabic name for a quatrain, addressed to the Taliban.
You won’t allow me to go to school. 
I won’t become a doctor. 
Remember this:
One day you will be sick.
Following Zarmina’s story meant traveling to Gereshk. I wanted to see how she’d lived, and I wondered what, besides her brothers’ anger, led her to take her life. It seemed impossible that I would find the family of one dead girl among 50,000 people or that, if I did, they would speak about her, but I went anyway, as there was also the slight chance of meeting Meena Muska, the teenager who called Mirman Baheer and invoked Zarmina’s name. I began my search in Helmand’s embattled capital, Laskhar Gah, of which Gereshk is a suburb. Government sources and a local network of traditional leaders called maliks (they belong to an Afghan organization, Wadan, the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan) helped me gather a list of reported cases of women and girls who died violent deaths in Gereshk in the past two years. The list was brief but grim. Was I looking for the girl who was found drowned in the Helmand River in a sack? No. The girl who had her head shaved and then was chopped into pieces by her husband’s brothers? No. Well, then, there was only one left: a girl who in 2010 set herself on fire and died in the Kandahar hospital.
“Ten years ago, no one heard about these problems,” Fauzia Olemi, Helmand’s minister of Women’s Affairs, told me when we met. “Now we have a network of organizations that investigate them.”
It was a balmy afternoon in Lashkar Gah, and Olemi wanted to show me some of Helmand’s modest successes for women’s education, which included a three-day workshop on the health benefits of eating tomatoes, okra and other vegetables. Because Helmand is among the largest poppy producers in the world, there’s a special effort to encourage farmers to plant other crops.
In a squat, cement-block government building, about 50 women sat in front of a whiteboard, which read, “If you eat two kilograms of tomatoes a day, you will be cured of cancer.” This group was very different from the one in Kabul. Many of the women were in their 20s and 30s, their faces deeply lined from working in the fields. It was nearing midday, when the insurgents would begin to explode I.E.D.’s along the road, and the lesson was almost over. As the women gathered their things to leave, I asked if any of them liked poetry. As soon as the question was translated, a wisp of a woman leapt to her feet and began what looked like freestyle rapping in Pashto. She shook her bony shoulders to four-beat lines that ended in a rhyme of “ma” or “na.” Gulmakai was 22 but looked 45. She made up poems all the time, she explained, as she cooked and cleaned the house. She said,
“Making love to an old man is like
Making love to a limp cornstalk blackened by fungus.”
The women roared with surprised laughter, which I, hearing the poem in translation, took a minute to understand (the first, sanitized version offered to me was something like “Being married is like corn”). “I know this is true,” she announced. “My father married me to an old man when I was 15.” She tried to say something else, but the workshop leader, a man, silenced her. Time was up. The participants needed to go home, or their families would worry.
A few days later, I arranged to travel to Gereshk and meet with Zarmina’s parents with the help of a local women’s advocate. Under the Taliban, the advocate worked as a physician assistant in Gereshk Hospital, where her services were in high demand. Paradoxically, since their fall, her life had grown more dangerous: being a women’s advocate linked her to Karzai’s government and to seemingly Western notions of women’s rights. Like almost every local women’s leader I met, she’d survived several botched assassination attempts. “I have six or seven colored burqas so the Taliban doesn’t know who I am,” the advocate told me on the phone. She laughed. “The burqas keep me safe.” Yet she agreed with Olemi that, for most women, violence was more likely to come from home. “Now that Afghan women are aware of their rights, they fight for them in their family,” she said. “If they get their rights, that’s good. If they don’t, they kill themselves or get beaten up.”
The night before we left Lashkar Gah, I dialed Meena Muska’s number, hoping she would be able to meet me the following day.
“Absolutely not,” she told my translator.
She couldn’t leave the house without raising suspicion. She also had reservations based on her family’s code of honor. “Because of the war, it’s dishonorable for a Pashtun to meet an American,” she said. “Please don’t take it personally,” she added. “I didn’t mean to insult you.” Suddenly, in the silence, she changed her mind. “Meet me at the hospital,” she said. “I’ll be waiting.” Her only stipulation was that I and my translator come alone.
The next morning, our miniconvoy — two white sedans flanked by two green police pickup trucks — left town for the 50-mile drive north along Helmand’s main highway to Gereshk. We’d been driving less than five minutes when an oversize rickshaw catapulted out of an intersection and rammed into our Toyota Corolla. Within seconds, a swarm of onlookers surrounded the car, looking at the smashed headlight. It wasn’t a great place to be trapped in a crowd — two weeks earlier, a suicide bomber blew up a truck only yards away. There were sure to be Taliban informants among the onlookers; if anyone hadn’t known we were coming along the road that day, they did now.
We drove on past young boys raking patches of blown-up road, the mangled rebar gnarled like hair; past America’s surveillance blimps hanging cartoonishly low above the salt plain; past a line of camels cruising under industrial power lines. The electric lines were a legacy of a U.S.-sponsored midcentury hydropower project, the Kajaki dam, which, for a while, earned this stretch the nickname “little America.”
An hour and a half later, we arrived at the mud-walled compound of Fatima Zurai, a member of Gereshk’s local women’s council, through whom I hoped to meet Zarmina’s parents. An elderly couple, they were seated in the corner of the room. Zurai ran a women’s business collective that sold heart-shaped, beaded rainbow purses for 10 U.S. dollars to foreign soldiers. Over tea and caramels, Zurai spoke of the losses she and her family suffered, caught between American forces and the insurgents. Zurai sent her daughter to fetch a bundle of cloth, which she unwrapped, holding up a white, blood-soaked shalwar kameez.
“My husband was wearing this shirt when the Taliban murdered him two years ago,” she said. Her husband, Mir Ahmad, was on the Taliban hit list because he worked with the local government as a malik.
Then she shook out a small pair of brown muslin trousers from the cloth pile. Muddy and torn, they smelled like rot, and Zurai’s small daughter held her chador against her nose to block the stench. The trousers, Zurai said, belonged to her 12-year-old son, Ihsanullah. He was walking home from school in the spring of 2011 when a military vehicle driven by a U.S. Marine struck and killed him. The U.S. Marine commander, Zurai said, brought the driver to her house to make amends.
“God gave me this son 12 years ago, before the Americans came,” she recalled telling the commander. Zurai said that, yes, she forgave the driver. This was less a personal decision than a cultural one. Forgiveness was part of the honor code known as Pashtunwali. (The U.S. military said it did not have enough information to verify the incident; payments for accidental civilian deaths, which Zurai said her family received, are common.)
From her seat on a floor cushion, Zarmina’s mother, Simin Gula, a maroon burqa pulled back from her face to reveal a mouth devoid of teeth, leaned into my translator and pointed to me. “Do they have the custom of marriage where she comes from?” she asked. “Is she married?”
“Yes,” the translator lied.
Zarmina’s father, Kheyal Mohammad, remained silent. Zarmina burned to death two years earlier, her mother said. “It was an accident. She was trying to get warm after a bath, but the firewood was wet, so she poured gasoline on it and caught herself on fire.” Zarmina’s father nodded assent. No, their daughter absolutely did not like writing, reading or poetry. “She was a good girl, an uneducated girl,” Zarmina’s mother said. “Our girls don’t want to go to school.”
“The mother is lying,” Zurai whispered.
The parents agreed to take us to see where Zarmina was buried, a five-minute drive away. A maze of rocky hummocks marked the graves. We passed three women kneeling over three smaller, fresh plots. Zarmina’s parents stopped before a grave covered in loose black gravel with no headstone.
Walking briskly back to the cars, we passed the three kneeling women again. Behind me, one murmured Zarmina’s name. “She set herself on fire because her family wouldn’t let her marry the man she loved,” she said, then returned to grieving over the plot that held her son, who was killed in a recent suicide attack.
The early-afternoon sun had swung above us. The local council members urged us to hurry. But before we left Gereshk, we had one final stop to make — to meet Meena. Leaving the entourage behind at the district governor’s office, we drove through the bazaar’s crowded warren of streets and pulled up under the dusty, red-lettered sign of Gereshk District Hospital. A handful of people milled in the parking lot. Meena Muska hadn’t come after all, I thought, my heart sinking. Then the phone rang.
“Why did you bring the police?” a high voice demanded. She was suspicious of our armed government guard. Through the windshield, I saw a woman in cerulean blue glide past. Her burqa was an awkward shape; she was on the telephone. Without glancing our way, she breezed around the edge of the whitewashed clinic. I tumbled out of the car, unaccustomed to the tangle of fabric engulfing me, and shuffled after her. Behind the corner of the building stood a young woman with a diamond stud in her nose. She wore thick black socks and open-toed rhinestone slippers. The rest of her face remained behind a piece of woolen fabric. There was no need for introductions. We embraced. Next to her stood a shorter, rounder woman, with a heavily wrinkled face. She was the girl’s meira: her second mother and her father’s second wife.
“I told my father I was sick and had to go to the doctor,” she explained. But she told her mother and her meira the truth; both women support her writing, at least for now. She led us into a winter garden, where we four — Meena Muska, her meira, my translator and I — knelt facing one another on the faded grass. Our blue, crimson, jade and dove burqas were the only colors in the gray garden. From her plastic purse, Meena pulled out her notebook. The forearms of her dress were black mesh, her fingernails carefully painted. For a girl who couldn’t leave the house, her latest Indian-inspired fashions were surprising. But this was a special occasion, and Meena had dressed in her finest. At my request, she took a notebook and began to transcribe some of her new poems line by line in sloppy, schoolgirl script. She copied a ghazal, a sophisticated form of Persian poetry, then scribbled the following landai:
O, separation! I pray that you die young. 
Since you are the one who 
lights lovers’ houses on fire.
This was her protest against being torn from her dead fiancé, she said. She asked that translations of her more formal poems go unpublished in this article. “My poems don’t deserve this much attention,” she said. “I am just learning to write.” Meena had little hope for her future. She would be marrying one of her fiancé’s two surviving brothers whenever her father and brothers decided it was time. She wrinkled her nose and let the cloth drop from her face, then pulled two mobile phones from her purse. Her brothers, who ran successful irrigation-pipe factories, bought her the phones; they also monitor her call log to make sure she isn’t speaking to boys. I wanted to give her something, but I feared that a book of my own poems might endanger her. If her brothers found it, how would she explain where this American’s poems had come from? Having nothing else, I tugged a scarf from my neck. She reached into her purse and handed me a rhinestone butterfly comb. Then she tugged the burqa’s soft grille back over her face, took her chaperon by the hand and disappeared into the crowd.
In the parking lot, one of the hospital’s doctors, Dr. Asmatullah Heymat, was waiting to speak to me. “I know of this girl you are looking for,” he said. “Her name was Zarmina, and she set herself on fire because her parents would not let her marry the man she loved.” That was all he knew.
“Zarmina’s mother couldn’t tell you the truth in front of her husband,” the girl’s aunt told me by phone once we returned to Lashkar Gah that evening. Zarmina loved to dance and sing. “She loved fashion,” her aunt said. “She loved a good burqa, nice shoes.” She also played the hand drum at weddings and loved to recite landai. “She’d say landai in front of her mother, but never in front of her father,” the aunt said. As for being able to write, “She knew some Koran, but only had a childhood madrassa education.” The aunt could recall little else about her poetry: “I’ve had so many of my own problems, I’ve forgotten the landai she used to say.”
From childhood, Zarmina was engaged to marry her first cousin, whom she’d grown to love. Yet when the time came, the boy couldn’t afford the bride price of about $12,500. Zarmina’s father refused the match, knowing that he would have to support the couple. The boy visited Zarmina’s home several times hoping to win her father’s approval, her aunt said.
Zarmina took solace in writing love poems and reading to the women of Mirman Baheer by phone. Then came the spring day in 2010 when Zarmina got caught reading these poems and her brothers beat her. A couple of weeks later, according to her aunt, when the girl was cleaning the house, she locked a door behind her and set herself alight, a common means of suicide among women in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The custom can be linked to the outlawed Indian practice suttee, when a wife climbs on a funeral pyre. The practice and even the Hindi word — suttee — exist in Pashto, too. In this sense, it is possible that Zarmina saw her choice to die for love as romantic and honorable.
Her sister-in-law tried to break into the room to reach Zarmina, then called her husband, who was working as a contractor for the Canadian military, stationed at the time in Gereshk. Zarmina’s father was at his factory. Her mother was at her aunt’s house fetching water. A young girl came racing into the compound, crying that Zarmina had tried to kill herself. By the time her aunt and mother reached her, Zarmina was nearly unrecognizable.
“Give me water, give me water,” she said.
With one of her brothers as a chaperon, Zarmina traveled by helicopter to a hospital in Kandahar more than 100 miles away. But there was little the doctors could do. Zarmina had severe burns over most of her body. A week later, she died.
After Zarmina’s death, her fiancé tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself multiple times. His friends managed to stop him, Zarmina’s aunt said. (Local leaders confirmed this.) Later, he married and moved to Kandahar.
Zarmina’s family had also dispersed. One brother escaped to Herat after receiving threats for working with foreign soldiers. The day after I met them, Zarmina’s parents were scheduled to join him there. There is little evidence of Zarmina’s life left in Gereshk. After she died, her father gathered up her belongings, including some books and some scrawled-on pieces of paper. “I don’t know if he hid them or burned them,” her aunt said.
But the whole village remembered Zarmina’s story. Her two neighbors, 15- and 17-year-old girls, confirmed details, as did the local women’s leader who recorded the case two years ago. “She was such a good poet,” the 15-year-old neighbor said. “We were the ones who encouraged her to start calling the radio. We were the ones who told her to write down her poems.”
When I returned to Kabul, I went to see Ogai Amail in Microrayon, a row of concrete Russian-era apartment blocks in northeast Kabul. For $200 a month, Amail shares a single room with an older poet and member of Mirman Baheer who took Amail in after a family argument. She had nowhere else to go. Still unmarried at 40, Amail has no husband or children to ensure her position in society. Although she cherishes her independence, she said, hers is a difficult freedom. She has made the women and girls of Mirman Baheer into her family. She calls the younger poets her “little sisters.” Amail was nearly ecstatic to hear that I’d met Meena Muska face to face and that I’d found Zarmina’s parents.
Amail recalled how she learned that Zarmina set herself on fire: shortly after the incident, Zarmina managed to call from her hospital bed in Kandahar. She told Amail that she had burns over 75 percent of her body. “She sounded so normal, I didn’t think she was dying,” Amail said. Zarmina wanted Amail to call her brother and impersonate a doctor offering treatment in Kabul, Amail told me. She thought if she could make it to the city, she could start a new life. Amail did what Zarmina asked, but she knew Zarmina would not make it to Kabul. The next phone call she received from Kandahar came from Zarmina’s sister, who told Amail: “All you can do is pray for her now. She is dead.”
When I told Amail the story of Zarmina and her fiancé, she wasn’t surprised.
“Her poetry was all about broken love,” Amail said. “She asked me, ‘Do you love anyone?’ I said: ‘Why not? Am I not a human being? Do I not have eyes?’ Zarmina only said: ‘I have so many problems, I don’t want to worry you. I’ll tell you when we meet.’ ”
Amail assumed that someday the resourceful young poet would reach the relative freedom of Kabul. “She used to say you are the luckiest people since you can meet with your friends openly,” Amail said. “You can learn from your mistakes and write better poems.”
Flipping through her notebook, she found a poem she wrote after Zarmina’s suicide, called “The Poet Who Died Young”:
“Her memory will be a flower tucked into literature’s turban.
In her loneliness, every sister cries for her.”
This article and the accompanying photographs were financed in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Eliza Griswold is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.
Editor: Sheila Glaser

The feminist poets of Mumbra


Mohammed Wajihuddin, TNN | Mar 4, 2012,

In a modest flat off a dusty lane in the Muslim-majority town of Mumbra, a group of young girls is sitting in a semi-circle. Before they entered the apartment, they were all covered with the black veil, the unofficial dress code of any conservative Muslim mohalla in the subcontinent. But now, faces kissed by the sunlight, they await their turn at something equally liberating: poetry.

The young poets, initiated into the art two years ago, are gearing up to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 with yet another poetry recitation session. Emotions-some raw, others mature beyond their tender years-flow as the girls’ words become banners of dissent. Their poems protest the many inequalities that women face-female foeticide, financial dependence on men, unrequited love and the curses of divorce and widowhood.

The group came into being after Iranian-American poet Roxy Azari conducted a two-month-long poetry workshop for the young women in 2010. Azari, then on a Watson Fellowship, toured seven countries to engage young Muslim women and train them to express themselves through poetry. Her first stop was the 27-year-old Mumbai-based advocacy group Awaz-e-Niswan.

“Three days a week, Roxy would visit Awaz-e-Niswan’s Rahnuma Library at Mumbra and discuss socio-political issues with us. Then she would ask us to pen our feelings,” recalls Saba Khan who coordinated the poetry workshop. Both Awaz-e-Niswan and Rehnuma Library basically counsel and educate women on their rights, and the poetry sessions held now are an adjunct of the same philosophy-a desire to be free from the oppression of men.

Azari, famous for her slam poetry performances, left after the workshop for other destinations and better things, but she definitely ignited the dormant poet in a dozen or so young women. Each member of the group penned several poems, which are now part of a collection appropriately and evocatively titled Bebaak Qalam (Frank Pen). Three of them-Neha Ansari, Rabia Siddiqui and Faiza Shaikh-collaborated on an imaginative poem titled Agar Main Mard Hoti (If I were A Man) which portrays the many things men take for granted. For instance: “Agar main mard hoti/Subah der tak soti/Raat ghar der se aati (If I were a man/I would sleep late into the morning/ Come home late at night). And the poem perhaps expresses a collective feeling when it declares: “If I were a man/I would change the attitude of all men).”

Siddiqui, who studies at SNDT Women’s College, Juhu, says that before she joined the workshop she never realised her poetic talent. “I would occasionally read Ghalib and Faiz, but the workshop emboldened me not just to write poems but even continue my education,” says Siddiqui, who adds that her brother did not want her to study beyond Std 12, but her husband is “quite supportive”. “I am restless if I don’t write for a few days. I feel good after I have penned a few lines,” she says.

Evidently, poetry-writing provides a catharsis to these girls who otherwise have limited avenues to vent their suppressed feelings. They may not take out morchas in the streets but their poems hold aloft banners of protest. Fauzia Qureishi, by far the most accomplished in this young, bubbly group, has many poems to her credit, but the one about zindan (prison) and azm (ambition) clearly shines through the collection. The long poem talks about almost everything that a girl from a conservative Indian Muslim family has to face-early marriage, the threat of triple talaq, the gruelling work at home and the restrictions put in her path. “It is not just my story alone, but my protest on behalf of all the women who are suppressed and oppressed in a male-dominated society,” says the bespectacled Qureishi, quoting a couplet: “Kab tak kisi ki milkiyat main maani jaaon/Ek mard ki pehchan se kyon jaani jaaon (For how long am I going to be considered a property/Why should I be identified with the identity of a man?).

Mumbra may seem like an unlikely centre for feminist poetry but these young women are taking it there.

A concern– India Shining Campaign


The country is shining, people’s health is declining

Tell me, what is draining my people’s health?

Is it so much poverty despite so much wealth?

They smile and inform us that our country is shining.

But everywhere I look, I see public health declining.

From ordinary ailments, so many infants dying.

To save them, are our rulers really, really, trying?

Losing their own lives, while bringing to life another

Why is it still a hazard, to become a mother?

Ranging from womb to tomb, women facing threats to life.

But for a sterilisation, they always take the wife!

Old diseases spreading, and now infections new,

Outbreaks off and on, maybe an epidemic too.

Malnutrition growing, even deaths by starvation,

Export the grain for pigs abroad, aren’t we a shining nation?

Pepsi and Coke aplenty, bottled water some can buy

But most still lack a safe well, or see their tap run dry.

In the public hospitals, no medicines or supplies.

Ask officials what’s going on, all you get is lies.

Pay at every window, stand in every line,

Quietly buy all your drugs; don’t you think that’s fine?

And if you go to the villages, things may be even worse.

No doctor in the health centre, in the subcentre no nurse.

So you suggest I go to, the private clinic next door?

Pay a hefty doctor’s fee, for tests and drugs some more?

And god forbid, if they admit me, after consultation,

Hospital bills, referrals and scans may cause my ruination.

You ask about our taxes, how public funds are spent?

Not for health, but tanks and bombs, is where our money went.

The time has come to ask, some questions loud and clear.

Why life here is so cheap, why health care is so dear.

Why rulers shrug off their duty, for citizens’ health care

Despite the highest growth rate, why state coffers look bare.

Doesn’t every Indian, rich or poor, have a right to live?

Then as a basic service, health care the state must give.

Bring the ‘public’ into public health, this is the need today.

Make the system answerable; and heed what people say.

We know this country can ensure, basic health care for all,

If rulers cannot meet basic needs, then such rulers must fall.

For now the tide is rising, people beginning to assert

Right to resources, right to food, the basic right to work.

Let’s form a broad alliance, all those facing oppression

The toiling and the marginalised, the great mass of our nation.

Let’s join ranks in our millions, and fight for a better life

To end deprivation, exploitation, and communal strife.

As one step in this struggle, now let’s begin the fight

To ensure health, and make health care a fundamental right!

by  Abhay  sukla

P.S.- Did you know ? Prathap Suthan, national creative director with Grey Worldwide (India) advertising agency. came up with the slogan in December  2003 as part of a Rs 65 crore (Rs 650 million), government-funded campaign to promote India. internationally .’India Shining‘ was originally the theme for a 60-second video made by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to highlight the steps it says it took to boost economic growth, slash interest rates, stabilise prices, expand road and telecom and health networks, and offer free basic education.

On Death — Kahlil Gibran


You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Poem for Mehdi Hassan by Gulzar


King of Ghazls Mehdi Hassan

King of Ghazls Mehdi Hassan

aankhon ko visa nahi lagta
sapnon ki sarhad hoti nahi
band aakhon se roz main sarhad paar chala jaata hoon
milne ”Mehdi Hassan” se

sunta hoon unki avaaz ko chot lagi hai
ab kehte hain
sookh gaye hain phool kitaabon mein
yaar ‘Faraz’ bhi bichad gaye hain
shayad milein woh khawaabon mein
band aakhon se aksar sarhad paar chala jata hoon
milne Mehdi Hasan se…
aankhon ko visa nahi lagta
sapnon ki sarhad koi nahi…

Listen to Gulzar recite the poem

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