You qualified custodians of the elevated throne of power!
What wisdom will you impart to me?
You who show me the right path, understand this much
You are ensconced on this high chair, and I stand on the earth
You can turn me away from the threshold of your temple of power.
On my platter burns the lamp of my hot blood
The flower that germinated from the unsullied soil of my heart, blooms within
I don’t need your wisdom; keep your temples to yourselves
That which you couldn’t learn despite parroting the sacred texts
This woman has felt in her wounded body.
THE BODY LACERATED
Let this silken night rustle a bit
For it shrouds the corpse of an age within itself
This night is both crime and its punishment
This night, that flows like water from my hair
Sliding, falling down my shoulders
My eyes now cloud with stupor
Yes, I can still feel those kisses on my lips
Which my heart refused even to taste
That liquid still flows through every vein of my body
Which my heart insisted on escaping from
All around me, like moths,
Fly my kisses.
My kisses, heavy with lies
Wounded kisses, splashing drops of blood
Long done is the conflict between my mind and tongue
Gone is that disgusting fatigue
This lacerated body has broken my life
A dark wave carries me along
As if my blood is fast leaving my body
Is it sleep or death or some fainting spell?
I feel my breath stopping any moment now.
TONGUES OF STONE
This, yes this was the solitary hill on which we met
Came together on these very heights
This, yes this is the rock of my fidelity
Ruined, wild, sad, desolate
But I have clung to it for centuries
Wrapping your breath in my torn raiment.
This raiment, which flies madly with the wanton wind
I clutch close to me by clinging to the stones
Which, with time, have sunk so deep in my heart
That everything around me is dyed with my living blood
But I, for centuries have clung to them
And with a bird soaring high in the blue sky,
I send you a missive
That you come and behold
That you smile with happiness to see
These pebbles which have now turned to rubies
And a rose blooms from among the stones
YOU’VE TURNED OUT JUST LIKE US
You’ve turned out just like us
Where were you all this while, brother?
The foolishness and idiocy
In which we wasted a century
Has finally reached your doorstep
Congratulations, many congratulations, brother!
The spectre of religion dances wild
A Hindu raj will you now bring?
Will you swim against the current?
Destroy your garden in spring?
You too will sit and ponder
The preparations have been made
Who’s a Hindu, who is not
Fatwahs will decide their fate.
As you sweat through your teeth
You’ll find it a tough life
Somehow scraping through
You’ll suffocate in all that strife.
Yesterday, my own state saddened me
Today, I laugh aloud at you
You’ve turned out just like us, brother
We’re certainly not nations two.
Let education go to hell
Now praised be barbarity
Ignore what lies ahead
Look behind, not at posterity
Work hard, and you’ll learn
How to walk back in time
Concentrate on the task at hand
Let the future be worth a dime.
Memorise this chant
Repeat again this rant
How great, how brave was Bharat
How magnificent and grand was Bharat
For only then will you attain your goal
That is- the nether world of blundering souls
We’re there waiting for you, so take your time
From whichever hell you live in, do drop us a line.
Tum Bilkul Hum JaiseNikle
Fahmida Riaz (1946- ) counts amongst one of Pakistan’s foremost senior woman poets. She has several volumes of poetry to her credit as well as an acclaimed novel. Her poetic stance is feminist, bold, fearless, and anti-establishmentarian. Exiled for alleged sedition during the regime of general Zia ul Haq in 1981, Riaz sought asylum in India and lived for seven years as poet- in-residence at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, returning to Pakistan only after the end of the Zia regime. She continues to write and speak vociferously on women’s issues in Pakistan, as well as on Pakistan’s religio-political scenario.