February 15, 2020
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Kaifi Azmi

Emigre poetry is laden with nostalgia, he says, suggesting a turf for cultural dialogue. More Stories

Kaifi Azmi
Prashant Panjiar
Kaifi Azmi
BEING a card-carrying communist, I was hounded by the British police. During Partition, I was underground in Aurangabad. My parents and my five brothers took the ship from Bombay to Karachi. By the time I surfaced, their ship had left.

Over 20 years passed. Nephews and nieces grew up, got married. I wasn't there. Mother died. I wasn't there. Because Pakistan would not give me a visa. Because I was a communist. Like my friend Bukhari sahib, the Pakistani writer, would say, "Ek hota hai kutta. Ek hota hai bahut hi kutta. Tum unki nazar mein bahut hi kuttey ho!"

Not a mere communist. I was too utterly reprehensible, too arch a communist for that government to risk my presence there. I got a visa during Bhutto's regime. Sub miley. Ek maa nahin thi bas (Met everyone, except ma...) Talking about this is like scratching an old scab, making it bleed.

What can one say about 1947? It was a bloody history we saw being made. One that was to repeat itself with even more animal fury in 1984 after Indira Gandhi died. We lost everything that purportedly qualifies us to be called humans.

What can one say about those who left? That the pain they experienced was nowhere as wrenching as the pain of those they left behind? But who can deny the pain of the emigre?

The Sindhi that came from Pakistan to India is called 'Seth'. The Muslim that left India for Pakistan is called 'Mohajir'. Bade Ghulam Ali was asked by a Pakistani luminary, Mohammed All, to sing. He started "mohe na chhedo Nandlal" and was interrupted rudely with a "kucch Pakistani music gaiye". He retorted: "Mori gardan no marodo (don't twist my neck) Mohammed Ali". Then upped and left, returned to reclaim his Indian citizenship.

The future? We cannot leave it to the hukmaraan (political establishment). The impulse has to come from us, the people. Dono taraf nek jazbaat hain (There's amicable sentiment on both sides). Pakistani shaairi is redolent with nostalgia for India: references to Krishna, Radha, the home they left behind. We should build on those commonalities. Not let a third country exploit our differences. It hurts that the Shankar-Shaad mushaira has been discontinued. Such things accentuate differences.

What I wish for the two countries is expressed in these couplets I wrote on a Karachi-Bombay flight:

Karachi, jahan miltee hai sabko bemaangey bhi deen ki daulat
main us hasti mein apna deen imaan chhod aaya hoon
rahegi dosti hi dosti ab dono mulquon mein
main har dil me apne dil ka armaan chhod aaya hoon.

(Karachi, where everyman is blessed
In your safekeeping my soul I've left
My heartfelt wish that our two nations will live in amity
That's what I've left with my heart, with your fraternity.)

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