Tag Archives: poems

Beatify or Demonify

I am looking for that flawless symbol, like sterling gold,
To place them on a pedestal, and wait for them to show me the light,
Never swayed by temptation and never choosing the line of least resistance.
For faith requires to believe in the unblemished, the wise and the faultless,
In those who when at the crossroad, have made better choices..

Handed to me are stories of their deeds, wrapped in gold and velvet sheets,
Epic tales, mysteries revealed, and miracles delivered
By gurus, prophets, monks, oracles and saints.
With hope and a little trepidation I hope to uncover these,
And peel each layer, tantalized by their moments made indelible by history.

At the fulcrum, I feel the pressure of other faithfuls not to delve too deep,
Close your mind to those nagging questions they say,
And in that instance when you do, don’t let logic get in the way.
Heretics raise questions and let doubts mix in the fray
The light will escape you, the gates won’t open, the answers you seek will fade away.

Don’t talk about the knowledge of Ravan,  the failures of Sita’s husband nor the feelings she hadfor Karan.
Never speak of the tortures that the Imam reigns on his wife.
Nor mention the crimes sheltered by the Church on innocent minds.
Never question holy wars, inquisitions or religious warriors of yore.
Nor debate the decisions made by the woman now crowned a saint.

As each story leads me back to myself and I begin to question not them but myself

Why seek a symbol so unerring, virtuous and clean?

For every inspiring story was of a human somewhere in the past,
Made superhuman by kingmakers and partisans,
Justifying each shade of grey for the greater good.

Why try to beatify them when they never asked to be aggrandized?

For these expectations I have of them,
Are not they a means of justifying my own shortcomings,
Or a sense of resentment fueled by my flaws and blemishes.

Why try to demonize them completely?

For every villain has a heart, something that makes them go soft.
Even as I feel entitled to forgiveness every instance that I falter,
I chose to pick on every culpable fault of theirs.

Can gods, saints, gurus and prophets be all white?

Even though we know of their anger that can destroy the world,
Their act of abandoning faithful wives for the sake of wagging tongues
And watch as the dedicated Mother chooses comfort in her time of death.


This long tirade of words has been simmering inside me for the past 2 weeks, fueled by controversial stories about Mother Teresa of India, a Noble Laureate and the women behind the Missionaries of India movement.

I asked numerous people around me, what they thought about it, and these conversations led to ever more disputable opinions that touched upon different religions and its many icons made dust by controversy. I think what bothered everyone was duplicity, hypocrisy and using human misery to promote either themselves or their faith.

Illustrating once again our own expectations of ourselves and of the others.

We may not fully agree with some of these humans, who by example have shown us their amazing work, inspiring millions around them.  But the operative word here is ‘human’. Every faith-religion-clan defies this logic, by creating reasons such as touched by god, incarnations of that supreme power or holy blood. Thereby reasoning that each of them received some kind of revelation from that universal power up there making them unblemished and obviously better than us the lower mortals.

But I choose to believe that each one of them was human, although an exceptional one, who shone because of their actions and sacrifices, something I can only aspire to do. And like me, imperfect, blemished and aspiring to the best version of themselves.

Before I share the poem of Javed Akhtar on Mother Teresa, where he questions her acts even as he praises and celebrates her, I want to share an excerpt from an essay written by Robert Fulgham about Mother Teresa in his book, ALL I EVER NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN, admiring her work:


There is a person who has profoundly disturbed my peace of mind for a long time. She doesn’t even know me, but she continually goes around minding my business. We have very little in common. She is an old woman, an Albanian who grew up in Yugoslavia; she is a Roman Catholic nun who lives in poverty in India. I disagree with her on fundamental issues of population control and the place of women in the world and in the church, and I am turned off by her naive statements about “what God wants.” She stands at the center of great contradictory notions and strong forces that shape human destiny. She drives me crazy. I get upset every time I hear her name or read her words or see her face. I don’t even want to talk about her.

Read the Full Article here: continue reading


Mother Teresa
By Javed Akhtar

Aye Ma Teresa
Mujhko Teri azmat se inkaar nahi hai
Jaane kitne
Sukhe lab aur viraan ankhein
Jaane kitne
Thake badan aur zakhmi roohen
Kudhedaan mein rooti ka ek tukda dhundate nange bacche
footpath par galte sardte buddhe kodhi
Jaane itne
Beghar Bedar Bekas insaan
Jaane kitne
Toote kuchle bebas insaan
Teri Chaoon mein
Jeene ki himmat paate hai
Inko jo apne hone ki jo sazaa mili hai
us hone ki saza se
thodhi si hi sahi
Mohlat paate hai
Tera lams masiha hai
aur tera karam hai ek samandar
jiska koi paar nahi

Aye Ma Teresa
Mujhko Teri azmat se inkaar nahi hai
Mein thehra khudgarz
bas ek apni hi khaatir jeene wala
Mein tujhse kis mooh se poochu
Tune yeh kabhi kyu nahi poocha
Kisne in bad-haalon ko bad-haal kiya
Tune yeh kabhi kyu nahi socha
Kaun si takat
Insaano se jeene ka haq cheenke
Unko sadko aur kudhagharo tak pahuchati hai
Tune yeh kabhi kyun nahi dekha
Wahi Nizaame-zar
Jinhone in bhukho se roti cheeni hai
tere kehne par
bhooko ke aage
kuch tukde daal raha hai
tune yeh kabhi kyun nahi soocha
nange bacche
bhuke kodhi
bebas insaan
Is duniya se
apne jeene ka haq maange
jeene ki khairaat na maange
Aisa kyun hai
Ek jaaanib mazloom se tujko hamdardi hai
Doosri Jaanib
Zaalim se bhi aar nahi hai
Lekin sach hai
Aesi baatein
Mein tujhe kis mooh se punchoo
punchunga toh
Mujh pe bhi woh zimmedaari aajayegi
Jisse mein bachta aaya ho

Behtar hai khamoosh raho mein
Aur agar kuch kehna ho toh
yahi kahoon mein
Aye Ma Teresa
Mujhko Teri azmat se inkaar nahi hai.

Mother Teresa!
Translation by David Matthews

I cannot deny your greatness.
Who can tell how many
dry lips and vacant eyes
Who knows how many
exhausted bodies and wounded spirits
Naked children searching for a crust on rubbish tips
Old lepers, putrefying and rotting on the pavement
Who knows how many
Destitute human beings, homeless, without roots,
Broken trampled, helpless human beings
In your shadow
Find the strength to live?
The punishment they have received just for being,
From that punishment for their existence
They find some respite
However small.
The touch of your hand is their Messiah
and your kindness is an ocean
which knows no bounds
Mother Teresa.

I cannot deny your greatness
But I am selfish:
All I do is live for myself.
So who am I to ask you this?
Why have you never asked
Who has made these miserable people so wretched?
Why have you never thought
What power
Has robbed humans of their right to live,
Bringing them onto pavement and the rubbish tips?
Why have you never seen
That this very system of gold and riches,
which snatched the bread from the hungry
Because of your word,
throws down scraps
Before the starving?
Why have you never wished
That naked children,
Old Lepers,
Helpless humans,
Should ask from this world
Their right to live
And not juts charity to live upon?
Why is it that
One one hand you sympathize with the oppressed
But on the other
You are not abased by their oppressor?

But this is true,
How dare
I ask you such things?
If I ask,
Then I shall I have the responsibility
From which so far I have escaped.

Perhaps it is better to keep silent,
And if there is anything to say,
Let me say this one thing:
Mother Teresa!
I cannot deny your greatness.

This is my 50th post on Bikhre Lavz…..hope the poets continue to inspire! 🙂



That moment

Life in the city demands from us long rides, sitting ideally as we wait for the traffic to move, or holding the clutch ever so slightly, ready to accelerate as soon as we see any movement ahead of us.

(Image Source)

On days that I find myself looking ahead for far too long at the endless line of cars, I simply turn right or sometimes left in the hope that I might catch a moment in passing. These moments last simply for a few brief seconds before I am on the move again.

Sharing some of these moments on this post:  a mixture of happy, awkward and funny.

-The sun has just set on a busy Saturday afternoon. I look up and see the facade of a popular restaurant that is going to be bustling with activity in a few hours. Within the glass windows sit 15-20 men, all dressed in uniform, some hustling together, others enjoying chai as they laugh aloud, sharing a moment of companionship before the crowds take over. A moment of release before they are going to be on their feet again, not allowed to converse freely with each other or show any sign of familiarity on the dinner floor.

-A young girl walks with her parents into the Far East Asian restaurant where everyone is trying to eat with chopsticks. After endless chatter over the difference between dim-sums and sui-mai, the food finally arrives. As I wait for friends to arrive I look up from my screen and unfortunately catch a movement of fingers. Her mother had dropped the bright red chili sauce on her Saree and had reached with her fingers into the glass of water to soak the spot, so that the stain wouldn’t stick. In that moment the daughter eyes and mine meet across that glass. I look away as she aghast at her mother, starts a tirade of complains on how inappropriate it was for that restaurant.


-At the junction where 4 roads meet, I turn the corner and on the opposite side of the road passes a ‘rickshaw’ lit up like a Christmas tree ; which meant every inch of its insides had sparkling ‘disco’ lights and music that could be heard from 20 yards away. And inside this carnival sat the most traditionally dressed man with a white skull cap,  all white kurta and a solemn looking beard, holding on for dear life. Our eyes meet for a brief second, and he gives me the brightest smile.

Ahmed Faraz talks of so many such moments in this poem and asks, “who is going to see them……., “Dekhay Ga Kon?”.

Transliteration and Translation

Ab Ke Rut Badli To Khushbu Ka Safar Dekhay Ga Kon ?
Zakham Phoolon Ki Tarah Mehkain Gain par Dekhay Ga Kon ?

This time, when the seasons change, who will witness the arrival of spring?
Wounds like flowers will bloom, but who is going to see them?

Dekhna Sab Raqs-e-Bismil Mein Magan Ho Jayein Ge
Jis Taraf Se Teer Aaye Ga Udher Dekhay Ga Kon ?

You’ll see everyone in a trance watching the wounds of an injured man,
The direction from where the arrow arrives, who will see that?

Zakham Jitnay Bhi Thay Sab Mansoob Qaatil Se Hue
Teray Haathon Ke Nishaan Ay Chaarahgar Dekhay Ga Kon ?

All the wounds will be attributed to the murderer,
The fingerprints of Your work, O messiah, who will see that?

Meri awaazon ke saaye mere baam-o-dar pe hai
Mere lavzaon main utarkar mera ghar Dekhay Ga kon?

The echoes of my voice heard on my doorstep-on my ceiling
Who will come within my house through my words and who will see my feelings?

Ham Chirag-e-shab hi jab tehre toh phir kya sochna
Raat thi kiska muqaddar aur seher Dekhay Ga kon?

If we are merely the candle that burns up the night, then why think further,
Whose fate was the night and who will see the morning?

Aa faseel-e-sheher se dekhe Ghameen-e-sheher ko
Sheher jalta ho toh tujh ko baam par Dekhay Ga kon?

Come, from the boundary wall of the city, lets look at the city’s enemies,
When the city burns, who is going to watch you atop your terrace?

Har Koi Apni Hawaa Mein Mast Phirta Hai “Faraz”
Sheher-e-Na-Pursaan Mein Teri Chashm-e-Tar Dekhay Ga Kon ?

Everybody in a trance, enjoying the breeze, O’Faraz,
The heartless city where no one cares, who is going to see your wet eyes?

(Note:This version of the poem and its translation is by Kuldip Salil, a translator and poet himself, who has translated numerous Urdu poems. This version is also slightly longer, with 14 lines, while most of them I read online have a slight variation and are just 10 lines long. I have chosen to go with Salil’s translation found in his book, “Treasury of Urdu Poetry“.)