USES OF POETRY

Remembering Nehru, Gandhi, Ghalib: Four poems by Sahir Ludhianvi

As some parts of the country try to erase history, a reminder that it cannot be forgotten.

Jawaharlal Nehru

The death of the body is no death!
With the dying body men do not die.
When the heart stops beating, wishes don’t die,
When breathing stops, declarations don’t die.
With the freezing of lips, mandates do not die.
The death of the body is no death!

He who rejected all religion, from all faith was afar,
Of all faith and all creed, still, he stayed a sympathiser.
Bearing the burden of the sins of all nations
With the mien of Christ, he was crucified.
Who braved the traumas of the partitions of men,
Still remained, of men’s brotherhood, a firm believer.

He whose eyes dreamt of a learned civilisation,
Whose each breath was a new-age builder.

Who did not tolerate the capitalist way,
Of equality – he who was the reiterater.

Respect his wishes, his declarations.
Having dispersed his ashes, now disperse his dreams.

Why be bothered by this merger of life and death,
Take his gift of the tricolour and go forth.

Embrace his lead, which shows you your path,
Follow his footprints as a mark of honour and go forth.

We will end the divide between labour and capital,
Keep this creed, this goal, and this oath, and go forth.

He who was privy to our present and future,
Carry the joy of his dreams, the grief of his soul, and go forth.

The death of the body is no death!
With the dying body men do not die.
When the heart stops beating, wishes don’t die,
When breathing stops, declarations don’t die.
With the freezing of lips, mandates do not die.

May 1964


(The original)

jism kī maut koī maut nahīñ hotī hai
jism mit jāne se insān nahīñ mar jāte
dhaDkaneñ rukne se armān nahīñ mar jāte
sāñs tham jāne se elān nahiñ mar jāte
hont jam jāne se farmān nahiñ mar jāte
jism kī maut koī maut nahī hotī hai

wo jo har dīn se munkir thā har ik dharm se dūr
phir bhi har dīn har ik dharm ka ģhamĶhwār rahā

sāri qaumoñ ke gunāhoñ kā kaRā bojh liye
umr bhar sūrat-i-īsā jo sar-i-dār rahā

jisne insānoñ ki taqsīm ke sadme jhele
phir bhi insāñ ki aĶhuwwat kā parastār rahā

jiski nazroñ meiñ thā ek a’ālamī tehzīb ka Ķhwāb
jiska har sāñs nae ‘ahd kā me’mār rahā

jisne zardār-i-maīshat ko gawārā na kiyā
jis ko āīn-e-masāwāt pe asrār rahā

uske farmānoñ kī, ae’lānoñ ki ta’zīm karo
rākh taqsīm kī, armān bhi taqsīm karo

maut aur zīst ke sangam pe pareshāñ kyoñ ho
us kā baĶhshā huā seh rang ‘alam le ke chalo

jo tumhe jādah-e-manzil ka patā detā hai
apni peshāni pe wo naqsh-i-qadam le ke chalo

dāman-e-waqt pea b khūn ke chhīñTe na paReñ
ek markaz ki taraf dairo haram le ke chalo

ham miTā Dālenge sarmāya-o-mehnat ka tazād
ye aqīdah, ye irādah, ye qasam le ke chalo

wo jo humrāz rahā, hāzir-o-mustaqbil kā,
uske Ķhwāboñ ki Ķhushi, rūh ka ġham le ke chalo

jism kī maut koī maut nahīñ hotī hai
jism mit jāne se insān nahīñ mar jāte
dhaDkaneñ rukne se armān nahīñ mar jāte
sāñs tham jāne se elān nahiñ mar jāte
hont jam jāne se farmān nahiñ mar jāte


Be it Gandhi, Be it Ghalib (Gandhi ho ya Ghalib ho)

(Written at the conclusion of the Gandhi anniversary and the Ghalib centenary celebrations.)

Be it Gandhi, Be it Ghalib,
The celebrations for both are at an end,
Come, let’s bury both of them.

Let’s stop talking civilisation,
Let’s shut down all cultural noise.

Truth, Ahimsa are all nonsense,
You’re a murderer, I’m the robber!

The celebrations for both are at an end,
Come, let’s bury both of them.

What settlement, what village is that,
Where the Harijan is free?

What district, which city is it,
That will not an Ahmedabad* be?

The celebrations for both are at an end,
Come, let’s bury both of them.

Be it Gandhi, Be it Ghalib,
Of what use are both today?

This year too, they have killed ­­–

The teachings of one, the other’s tongue.
The celebrations for both are at an end,
Come, let’s bury both of them.

(February 1970)

*Note from the original: The reference is to 1969’s terrible communal riots.


(The original)

gāndhi ho ya Ģhālib ho
Khatm hua dono kā jashn
āo, inheñ ab kar de dafn

Khatm karo tahzīb ki bāt,
band karo culture ka shor

satya, ahimsa sab bakwās,
tum bhī qātil hum bhī chor

Khatm hua dono kā jashn
āo, inheñ ab kar de dafn

woh bastī woh gāñv hi kyā,
jisme harijan ho azād?

woh qasbah, woh shahar hi kyā,
jo na bane ahmadābād?

Khatm hua dono kā jashn
āo, inheñ ab kar de dafn

gāndhi ho ya Ģhālib ho
donoñ kā kyā kām yahāñ

abke baras bhi qatl huī
ek kī shikshā, ek kī zubāñ

Khatm hua dono kā jashn
āo, inheñ ab kar de dafn


Untitled

We did not live in hiding nor did we live with our heads bowed,
We lived staring into the eye of the tyrant unflinchingly,
If we live a night fewer then so be it,
This is enough that we lived having lit the torch.

(The original)

na muñh chhupā ke jiye hum, na sar jhukā ke jiye,
sitamgaroñ ki nazar se nazar milā ke jiye,
ab ek rāt agar kam jiye, to kam hi sahī,
yahī bohot hai ke hum mashāleiñ jalā ke jiye.


Celebrating Ghalib (Jashn-e-Ghalib)

(On Ghalib’s death centenary)

Twenty-one years of our freedom have passed,
And now we remember Ghalib,
Where is his grave? Where was his house?
Our poetry-bearing minds now think.

The grave that yearned for cover for a hundred years,
Has floral displays now, filled by devout offerings,
The mystery’s not solved with reference to Urdu,
This celebration, the clamour – is it service or trick?

Those towns where Ghalib’s voice echoed for years,
There’s not a mark left of Urdu in those cities.
Since the day that independence was declared,
The language’s been crushed; it stands a traitor.

That politics of the age that trampled a live tongue,
Why does that establishment care for the deceased?
He who is called Ghalib, was a poet of Urdu,
After the cruelty against Urdu, why, for Ghalib, this festivity?

This celebration, this din are interesting toys,
Some people’s ploys, to, other people, satisfy.
Those who will no longer be consoled by empty vows,
May be put off for some time by this jubilant noise.

May this festival be blessed, but the truth is this,
We’re devoid of perceiving our own realities,
Be it Gandhi, or Ghalib, if truth be told,
We are killers of both, we are the worshippers of both.

(February 1969)


(The original)

ikkīs baras guzre āzādi-e-kāmil ko
tab jā ke kahiñ hum ko Ģhālib kā Ķhayāl āyā
turbat hai kahāñ uskī maskan thā kahāñ uskā
ab apne sukhan parwar zehnoñ men sawāl āyā

sau sāl se jo turbat chādar ko tarastī thī
ab uspe aqīdat ke phūloñ ki numāyish hai
urdū ke tā'luq se kuchh bhed nahiñ khultā
yeh jashn ye hungāma khidmat hai ke sāzish hai

jin shehroñ meiñ gūnji thī Ģhālib ki navā barsoñ
un shehroñ meiñ ab urdū benām-o-nishañ Thehri
āzādi-e-kāmil kā e’lān huā jis din
mā'tūb zubān Thehrī Ģhaddār zubāñ Thehrī

jis ahd-e-siyāsat ne yeh zindā zubāñ kuchli
us ahd-e-siyāsat ko marhūmoñ kā gham kyuñ hai
Ģhālib jise kehte hain urdū hi kā shāyar thā
urdū pe sitam dhā kar Ģhālib pe karam kyūñ hai

ye jashn ye hungāme dilchasp khilone haiñ
kuchh logoñ ki koshish hai kuchh log bahel jāyeñ
jo vāda-e-fardā par ab Tal nahīñ sakte hain
mumkin hai keh kuchh arsā is jashn pe Tal jāyen

ye jashn mubārak ho par ye bhi sadāqat hai
hum log haqīqat ke ehsās se a'ari haiñ
gāndhi ho ki Ģhālib ho insāf ki nazroñ meiñ
hum donoñ ke qātil hain donoñ ke pujāri haiñ


Selected poems from Come, Let’s Weave a Dream (Aao ke Ek Khwaab Bunein), 1971, translated from the Urdu by Maaz Bin Bilal.
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