A Village Girl

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

Sumitranandan Pant
Indian
1900 – 1977

Exuberant with youth,
beautiful as an early monsoon cloud,
dark-skinned,
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,
surprised,
rejoicing,
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.

Ghalib
Indian
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
Indian
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.

Pakistan

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

Mamoni Raisom Goswami
Indian
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

Where the Creature Is

We present this work in honor of Vikram Samvat New Year.

Akha Bhagat
Indian
c. 1615 – c. 1674

 

Where the creature is
there is the Creator,
but you wander elsewhere,
search in faraway places.

The first false step, says Akha,
was that you forgot
to look within.

So you forgot.
Go then, study
with a saint. What’s gained
by shows of piety:
one day all whiskers and beard,
the next day tonsured, sheared?

I Did Not Come on This Earth as a Seed

We present this work in honor of Diwali.

Rupa Bhawani
Indian
c. 1621 – c. 1721

 

I did not come on this earth as a seed,
To fall in the circle of births,
I am not the elements
Earth, water, fire, air and ether
I am beyond the primordial universal self and the individual self,
I am the Supreme Consciousness.

Translation by Jankinath Kaul Kamal

Engraving of a Bison on Stone

We present this work in honor of Gandhi Jayanti.

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
Indian
b. 1947

 

The land resists
Because it cannot be
Tempted, or broken
In a chamber. It records,
By carefully shuffling the leaves,
The passage of each storm, rain
And drought. The land yields
In places, deliberately,
Having learnt warfare from the armies
It fed. The land is of one
Piece and hasn’t forgotten
Old miracles: the engraving of a bison
On stone, for instance. The land
Turns up like an unexpected
Visitor and gives refuge, it cannot be
Locked, or put away. The land
Cannot sign its name
It cannot die
Because it cannot be buried
It understands the language
It speaks in dialect.

Jiviche jivlage majhe Krishnai Kanhai

We present this work in honor of Janmashtami.

Kanhopatra
Indian
15th century

 

O Krsna
mother
heart of my heart,

O dark one,
with beautiful eyes,
have mercy on me,
my birth is low,
my reputation black as night.

O dark one,
with beautiful eyes, please,
have mercy on me.
The Vedas proclaim you
champion of the low
savior of the downtrodden
like me.
Kanhopatra surrenders
again and again,
O dark one,
have mercy on me.

Translation by Sarah Sellergren