On March 16, the 53rd edition of the Shankar-Shad Mushaira took place at Modern School, Barakhamba Road in Delhi. With over 15 leading poets, the annual event that celebrates the finest Urdu poets from the sub-continent had a crucial difference – poets from Pakistan were not invited in light of tensions between the two countries.

At the mushaira, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar recited a new, unpublished poem for the first time in public that urged writers to speak up and write in today’s dark times.

To speak of that which everyone is fearful, of that you must write
The night was never so dark ever before, write!

Throw away the pens with which you wrote the odes
In praise of the true pen dipped in the heart’s blood, write!

The narrow circles that confine you, break all of them
Come under the open skies now, of a new creation, write!

That which finds no place in the daily newspapers
That incident which happens everywhere every day, write!

That which has happened finds mentions
But of those that should have happened, write!

If you wish to see spring return to this garden
Call out from every branch and on every leaf, write!

— Translated by Rakhshanda Jalil


Jo baat kehte darte hain sab, tu woh baat likh
Itni andheri thhi na kabhi pehle raat, likh

Jin se qaseede likkhey thhay woh phenk de qalam
Phir khoon-e-dil se sachche qalam ki sifaat likh

Jo roznamon mein kahin paati nahin jagah
Jo roz har jagah ki hai, woh waardaat likh

Jitne bhi tang daire hain saarey torh de
Ab aa khuli fizaon mein ab kainat likh

Jo waqeyaat ho gaye unka to zikr hai
Lekin jo hone chaahiye, woh waqeyaat likh

Iss bagh mein jo dekhni hai tujh ko phir bahaar
Tu daal-daal de sada, tu paat-paat likh

Also read:

Javed Akhtar’s poem ‘A New Decree’ may remind you of the world we live in

Nine poems by the ‘other’ Javed Akhtar