The Alternative

We present this work in honor of the 35th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Premendra Mitra
1904 – 1988


Had thought of going somewhere
But I didn’t.
The closed windows suddenly shake
In an abrupt wind.

Let them shake, at least I am at home
Sifting through thoughts for signs of rot.
When it gets to be too much
I swat at flies.
One thing I know,
One wants no more. if one shuts their eyes,

I have learnt to follow the sun
And grow in that direction,
Reaching for any dreams within hooking distance,
Or let them go, blaming their substance.
Who cares what I do, so long as I feed my soul?

For what was never to be, I no longer cry!
Come, let’s talk of what ifs and how I wonder why.

Translation by Ruma Chakravarti

Empty Space

We present this work in honor of Dr. Ambdekar Jayanti.

Amrita Pritam
1919 – 2005


There were two kingdoms only:
the first of them threw out both him and me.
The second we abandoned.

Under a bare sky
I for a long time soaked in the rain of my body,
he for a long time rotted in the rain of his.

Then like a poison he drank the fondness of the years.
He held my hand with a trembling hand.
“Come, let’s have a roof over our heads awhile.
Look, further on ahead, there
between truth and falsehood, a little empty space.”

Cups of Crimson Wine

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 255th birthday.

Mah Laqa Bai
1768 – 1824


Cups of crimson wine are circling in rounds of dance
If the beloved is glimpsed, this party abounds in dance
God made this beloved peerless in my view
Everything before my eyes resounds with dance
You captivate beasts and birds along with people low and high
Each in its way obeys your command in bounds of dance
Leave the party of my rivals and come over to mine
I’ll show you a star whose very name sounds like dance
Why shouldn’t Chanda be proud, O Ali, in both worlds?
At home with you she eternally astounds with dance

Translation by Scott Kugle

A Mother’s Blessing

We present this work in honor of Losar.

Mahāpajāpatī Gotami
600 BC – 480 BC


Buddha! Hero! Praise be to you!
You foremost among all beings!
You who have released me from pain,
And so many other beings too.

All suffering has been understood.
The source of craving has withered.
Cessation has been touched by me
On the noble eight-fold path.

I’ve been mother and son before;
And father, brother — grandmother too.
Not understanding what was real,
I flowed-on without finding [peace].

But now I’ve seen the Blessed One!
This is my last compounded form.
The on-flowing of birth has expired.
There’s no more re-becoming now.

See the gathering of followers:
Putting forth effort, self controlled,
Always with strong resolution
—This is how to honor the Buddhas!

Surely for the good of so many
Did Maya give birth to Gotama,
Who bursts asunder the mass of pain
Of those stricken by sickness and death.

Translation by Andrew Olendzki

Spring in Jallianwala Bagh

We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan
1904 – 1948


Here are no nightingales, but crows crow loud
Dark, black moths make for hum of the beetles
The buds too in half-bloom, meet with thorns here
Those plants, those flowers, are dry or scorched

Fragrance-less pollen is rotting into oblivion
Ha! This lovely garden lies all drenched with blood
Come, dear spring, but come quietly
This is a mourning-place, so cause no commotion

Let the breeze blow, but only mild
So it blows away not, the sorrowful sighs
Nightingale may sing, but only a dirgeful tune
Buzzing beetles here be telling a tale so tough

Bring along flowers, but let hues be not too bright
The fragrance be mild, somewhat wet with dew
But do not carry them with a gifting intention
She just a few for the prayers in memory

Gentle boys have succumbed to bullets here
Bring and lay down here for them a few buds
Hearts full of hopes have also been pierced here
Dear families of ours, have departed from the nation

So make offerings of a few half blooms here
Recalling memories of them let the dew of tears flow
The elderly have died a suffering death of bullets
Let drop a few dry flowers over there

Do all of this, but do come quietly
This is a mourning-place, so cause no commotion

A Village Girl

We present this work in honor of the 45th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Sumitranandan Pant
1900 – 1977

Exuberant with youth,
beautiful as an early monsoon cloud,
on languorous feet
the village girl comes walking,
proud, stately, graceful,
along the snaking path.

She trails her scarf behind
and pushes back her hair;
quick to be embarrassed,
she glances down at the twin pitchers of her breasts.
A woman, restless:
her laughter ripples
like a brook spilling over its banks—
her lips—from teeth as bright as foam.

Along the road she stops,
bending a little
to smooth her skirt; turns her face
when she hears her lover’s footsteps—
a village lad draws near,
her ardent suitor;
while steadily he stares at her,
she shuts her eyes.

Beside the well
enchanted man and woman!
When she draws up the heavy jug
filled to the brim,
her breasts, like overflowing pitchers,
are tensed so that they strain
against her tightening blouse.
She spills the water
in a shower of beauty,
then throws her scarf across her breast,
sets the jug upon her head
and starts the zigzag path for home.

Hibiscus at her ears,
she weaves a garland—
shephalika, white lily, oleander,
and trumpet-flower,
braiding blooming stars all through her hair,
and roams the woodland with her cattle,
calling out with lark and cuckoo.
In the deserted forest
she adorns herself through every season
with jasmine, cassia and fragrant herbs,
forest-flame and mango blossom.

No, I Wasn’t Meant to Love and Be Loved

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 225th birthday.

1797 – 1869


No, I wasn’t meant to love and be loved.
If I’d lived longer, I would have waited longer.

Knowing you are faithless keeps me alive and hungry.
Knowing you faithful would kill me with joy.

Delicate are you, and your vows are delicate, too,
so easily do they break.

You are a laconic marksman. You leave me
not dead but perpetually dying.

I want my friends to heal me, succor me.
Instead, I get analysis.

Conflagrations that would make stones drip blood
are campfires compared to my anguish.

Two-headed, inescapable anguish!—
Love’s anguish or the anguish of time.

Another dark, severing, incommunicable night.
Death would be fine, if I only died once.

I would have liked a solitary death,
not this lavish funeral, this grave anyone can visit.

You are mystical, Ghalib, and, also, you speak beautifully.
Are you a saint, or just drunk as usual?

Translation by Vijay Sashadri

from Madhushala

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
1907 – 2003


He who has destroyed all the creeds
With fire from his burning breast,
He who quits the temple, mosque and church
A drunken heretic, unblest,
Who sees the snares, and now comes running
From Pandit’s, Priest’s and Mullah’s cunning,
He, and he only, shall today
Be in my House, a welcome Guest.


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 80th birthday.

Mamoni Raisom Goswami
1942 – 2011


Oh Pakistan, celestial land!
Give us your heart!
And take our heart in return!
Once we shared the same sky!
Sky with the same sun!
We shared the same pain like twins on the battlefield
to remove the dust.

Now our flesh is ripped apart
By that meandering barbed-wire fence!
Oh they have drawn that
dividing line on a flimsy paper!
That line of agony and tears
Can anyone draw that line
In our raw flesh, inside our heart?

Friends! Be happy where you
are… now!
Memory never fades, poets say
distance only purifies it…
We sat under the same tree,
Enjoyed the fragrance of the
same flower
Till that time
like a dagger
cut those rivers into
several pieces! Destroyed the
mountains and flower gardens where
we had played!

And those banks
where we had counted those
fig-coloured waves!
Like the honey laden
lips of the damsels!
We wore the same clothes
woven by our mothers!
We shivered in winter and in summer our
sweat slid down our backs

We enjoyed the same wine
from the poems of Ghalib
Momin and Zauk
We cried together in pain!
Under the blood stained sky.

Oh Pakistan! Celestial land
Give us your heart
And take our heart in return!
No we need not speak now
Only silence speaks in a clear voice.
Oh Pakistan! Silence can bring
the fragrance of a mother’s soul
Silence can reveal.
The heavenly beauty of Sutlej,
Chenab, and the Red River
Of the East!
Silence can be loud like
a million voices
Oh Pakistan! Celestial land!
Our eyes misted by the
Smoke of blossoming gun powder!
Our soul wounded by the unknown fires!
May these eyes now witness the
new Sunrise
On the banks of Sutlej,
Chenab, and in the Red
River of the East!
Oh Pakistan, celestial land!
Give us your heart!
And take our heart in return