Thursday, Jun 30, 2022
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Exile: A Poem By One Of The Pioneers Of Modernism In Urdu Literature

Jila Watni (exile) was an important theme in the works of Progressive Urdu poets, who were committed to social justice and gender equality.

A poem by one of the pioneers of modernism in Urdu literature.
A poem by one of the pioneers of modernism in Urdu literature. Shutterstock

I, a prisoner of the embers of my own voice
I, imprisoned in the chains of my own creation 
Who in the world will fathom the count of my wounds?
Pray, who’ll be pleased by the torments of the soul on this earth?
Why must anyone come to see the spectacle of my extinction?
Who’s got the time to behold a ravaged world?
Who’ll endear this raging fire that’s me?
Whoever will come, will be burnt along with me
What was that moment that I was exiled?
Not a whiff from the homeland did ever come!
Neither the fragrance of a flower, nor the avalanche of early morning breeze!
None from the garden did ever come looking for me
I’m that pearl that was sold in the marketplace
Once sold, none came asking after me from Yemen,
Remembering the Yousuf who’d been lost.
The walls of my home must have shed tears for a few days
For a few days, the streets of my village would be soaked in sadness
For a few days, my Haarsingaar would not have blossomed
For a few days, everything would have seemed deserted
The spring would have wandered restlessly in the mango orchard
That one tree I had carved my name on 
For a few days, it’d have been fresh like a wound
Upon seeing it, my friends would be wondering 
Poor fellow, what land must he be stravaiging about!
No one keeps anybody’s memory for a lifetime
Everyone would have forgotten me, one by one
Alas! how must they know that that woe-begone
Who had set out as a traveller for life
Has till date not found the fountain of nectar!
He, who has got even the sun steeped in darkness, 
Whatever precociousness and perspicacity he had carried from home
Remained with him as the reasons for his devastation 
My crime: I possess apperception and perceptiveness
My fault: I’m a poet and an artist
I insist I’ll never kowtow
I’m bent on the punishment of being alive
I take pride in that I’m the custodian of truth and righteousness
I boast that I’m self-aware, cognizant
At every turn, there has been a mountain of grief and worries
At every step, I have fought with calamities
I’ve gulped down every poison with a smile
I’ve handpicked and carried all my wounds
I’ve grappled with the chains of every moment
At every breath, I have felt shy of myself
Though it’s not to be voiced, but let me state
I’ve found the mention of love merely in books
Whenever have I extended my hands towards someone
I’ve seen the distance growing even further
Not even a drop of love has anyone been able to spare
Even though I’ve seen the entire tavern being sqaundered! 

(Translated from Banbaas by Khaleel-Ur-Rehman Azmi (1927-1978), one of the pioneers of Modernism in Urdu literature, by Nawaid Anjum)

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