Both Ghalib and Rohith alerted us to the equality embodied in being. The ghazal for Rohith and the translation of Ghalib’s work seek to convey this through commemorative offerings. For Ghalib, it is not just god that exists before and after all creation, but man, who is one with him. Rohith reminds us that we are all equally made of stardust.

Stardust – a ghazal

(For Rohith Vemula)

One grew up familiar in India with the magazine of “Stardust”,
Then the word acquired new meaning, the real sheen of stardust.

It will be the aura of lady-killer Khans no more,
Bhim’s descendants call for the whole tureen of stardust.

The bold and reckless, the spotless fear this dirt,
They wish to stifle the power foreseen of stardust.

All of us made up of this substance, some abuse it
More than others, the in-between of stardust.

The Goths took refuge in Antilia, it’s a monstrosity now
In the city of slums, the obscene of stardust.

Some stardust is fed by foie gras, others try and fail
To sell their kidneys, the untouched, unseen of stardust.

Blood is up for spoils, but will it ever boil?
When a light dies, will we careen off stardust?

You inherited it reduced to kitsch, gossip of films, Maaz,
Rohith reclaimed your makeup, made up, pristine, of stardust.


(Translation of a ghazal by Mirza Ghalib)

When there was nothing, was god, if there were nothing, would be god,
My being defeated me, had I not been, what would’ve been?

When I’ve grown blasé of grief then what grief over my beheading?
Had it not been severed from my body, on my knees – it would’ve been.

It’s been an age that he died, but the memory of Ghalib lives,
At every little thing, his saying: what would be if this had been?

The original

Na thā kuch to ķhudā tha, kuchh na hotā to ķhudā hotāā
duboyā mujh ko hone ne, na hotā main to kyā hotā

Huā jab gham se yūn behis to gham kyā sar ke katne kā
na hotā gar judā tan se to zānoñ par dharā hotā

Hui muddat ke ġhālib mar gayā par yād ātā hai
wo har ek bāt pe kehnā ke yūn hotā to kyā hotā