Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
April 2021
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In your absence, no pain. And wine? None.
And an answer to my longing, again none.

Once in a while, do pay attention to it for
Other than your heart, a better book? None.

Death, why did you come again today?
For on her secret face, a veil today? None!

They keep counting their good deeds on their hands,
Those whose account of oppression there’s none

Translated, approximately, from the Hindustani of Jagjit Singh's "Tum NahiN, Gham NahiN"


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Sher - Ghalib

"Yeh na thi hamari qismat ke visaal-e-yaar hota
Agar aur jitey rahatey yahi intazaar hota"

It wasn't fated to be, a meeting with the beloved.
Had we lived, only more of this waiting.


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Ghazal - Anand Vivek Taneja

So much time has passed that from my locality a refugee I have become.
So much has happened since, that from Being a refugee I have become.

On this island, in this city of stone, where to look for the beloved’s image?
Years ago, from the believers, the idol-worshippers a refugee I have become.

Heart’s pockets have long been emptied but what I can do,
Friend, for from tight fistedness a refugee I have become.

In a tavern at the square, an account has long been open,
But what use when from intoxication a refugee I have become.

In this city of blazing speed, all the avenues are wide and beautiful.
But what use, now that from wandering a refugee I have become?

Note: As Anand, the poet of cities and I were hanging out in a basement bar off Washington Square in New York last evening, knocking back Guiness, I asked him if he had written a ghazal recentl, to which he replied that, yes, he had written a ghazal, on the backs of visiting cards and bills, and then procceded to unfold one sher after the next in Urdu, all the while giving me a running commentry on the multi-valencies of many of the words he had employed in the ghazal.
For example, take mohajir, that politcially loaded term which in the subcontinental conciousness stands for people displaced by the trauma of the Partition, which can mean refugee (the meaning I have deployed in the translation above) or exile (which Anand employs in his own English translation) or wanderer. Also it was only appropriate that I had, in absence of paper, transcribed his recitation in the brochure for PEN World Voices Festival, for this, doston, was a real ghazal.
I can't wait until May 11-12 when all the ghazal-lers come out of the New York woodwork to begin a bulandi, i.e., a revolt of word, sound, and meaning, in the light of that other revolt of 1857, from some hundred and fifty years ago.


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