Kashmakash: Ode to War

The monsoon has arrived, and bought with a respite from hot summer afternoons and muggy days. For anyone in Bangalore the downpour means cool winds, beautiful evenings and a weather that is envy of most cities in India.

I bask in the moments of unexpected showers at 3 in the afternoon, scout for my raincoat as we prepare for a wet weekend walk in the park and get those blankets out, that were safely hidden for the past two months. I am instantly transported to wet school mornings when soggy socks kept us company all day or long college afternoons when a scooter ride with that ‘special someone’, keeping each other warm when drenched and cold was an unanticipated delight.

baghdad_Hulagu_army
Hulagu’s army at Baghdad “For five hundred years, Baghdad had been a city of palaces, mosques, libraries and colleges. Its universities and hospitals were the most up to date in the world. Nothing now remained but heaps of rubble and a stench of decaying human flesh,” recounts Sir John Glubb in A Short History of the Arab Peoples.

As I walked towards my bookshelf I was hoping to find a poem on baarish: the rains, but as my fingers flipped through the pages of Gulzar’s Poems, the first poem to appear was Baghdad. I first heard of the Iraq War during my school days and faintly remember my politically active second cousin speak about it to my parents. As I follow reports on BBC and watch Gaza being flattened slowly by air strikes, some conflicts may not see their end in my life time even as new ones enter our line of sight: Ukraine-Nigeria-Burma…. I do not have the exact date when this was written, by his words are ice cold, real and painful even today…Baghdad by Gulzar. I end with a poem about rain, but that ends in tears…….. “Aise hi ashko se bhiga ek khath shayad, tumne pehle dekha ho”……the familiar tear-drenched letter….


Transliteration  Baghdad by Gulzar 

Jung ka kuda ek jagah par  jama hua hai
pehli baar hai…..
etne sare baazu, taange, haath aur sar aur pau
aise alag-alag bikhre dekhe hai
bache-kuche purse lagte hai ‘spare parts’ hai
baazu ek julahe ka, hilta hai ab tak,
kaanp raha hai  ya kuch kaat raha hai
taang hai ek khiladi ki…’run out’ hua hai
ghar tak dhorate-dhorate raah main mara gaya

sar hai ek, jo lurhak raha hai
tute-phute sher abhi tak sar main kharh-kharh bajte hai
nazmoan ke jhand toot gaye ha
ungiliyan reang rahi hai kuch
mitti mein taarikh darj karne ki kooshish lagti hai

purza-purza khool ke ek mechanic ne
unki maramat chahi thi….
bura laga tha usko yeh purze awaaze karte hai!

Translation by Pawan K Verma

The debris of war has collected at one place
for the first time…..
So many arms, legs, hands, heads and feet
Can be seen separately scattered about like ‘spare parts’.

A weavers arm still moves
trembling, or perhaps still weaving
Here is the leg of a sportsman, run-out,
killed while he was running home.

There is a head rolling around
broken couplets still rumbling inside,
the verses of poems have come undone
Fingers grovel about
trying, it would seem, to inscribe
the date in the mud.

Opening each and every part
a mechanic wanted to repair them….
he was offended to find
that these parts still have a voice!


Baarish Hoti Hai Jab

Baarish hoti hai jab
Toh in gaadi pathar ki deewaroan par
Bhige-Bhige nakshe banne lagte hai
Hichki-hichki baarish tab
pehchani si ek lekhai likhti hai
baarish kuch keh jaati hai
 
Aise hi ashko se bhige
ek khath shayad, tumne pehle dekha ho?
 

Translation 

When it rains
Drenched figures begin to emerge
on these mud and mortar walls;
Then the rain, falling gently, like muted hiccups
Writes a familiar script:
The rain conveys something.

 
Perhaps you may recall having seen
A letter drenched in tears
that looked something like this?
 

Rain

 

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