Syed Zafeer is Indian. Of course, he is a Muslim. And he know what it is like to be called a Pakistani for that reason.
In his stirring Urdu poem Woh Kehte Hain Mujhe Pakistani (They Call Me Pakistani), Zafeer articulates one of the new ordeals of living in India as a Muslim. “When I look in the chambers of my heart, I see only Hindustan,” he says (video above). “I am a bird of this land...but just because I read the Namaaz, and because on Eid at home we cook sewaiyan-biryani, they call me Pakistani.”
Zafeer’s poem asks an impertinent but important question:
“On 15 August, with a lot of pride I think
In the evening I will go out wearing my tri-colour Sherwani
But those cruel people, on August 14 itself they come to me and they say
Happy Independence Day, you Pakistani.
My answer is this –
In the tri-colour of the Indian flag I have found my identity
In the success of this country I have found my honour, dignity and pride
If there is one song I know, it is the national song
On my heart with blood I have engraved Hindustan
So tell me this – how, then, can I go to Pakistan?”