‘Tum Vahin ho’

You’re Where You’ve Always Been

Cigarette
earlier touching my lips
now floats in the Thames
Does the river know
the feel of such a touch?
Touches are never forgotten.

In the midst of chilly, gusting winds
standing before a poster of Marilyn Monroe
Unbidden I salute her beauty.
Beauty mustn’t die.
Beauty must abide for all time.

But no–
I see the young man coming along
Eyes slip away from the poster
to behold beauty in motion.

If
Time hadn’t propelled me so far forward
I would have kissed you.

I light a cigarette
and drop it in the Thames
so the river might extinguish it.

The last of the cigarette-gone-dead bobs
as though smiling at me saying:
You’re where you’ve always been.
 
Time–
Look! it stands behind you.

***

By Azra Abbas, from Hairat Ke Us Paar. Translated from the original in Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Source: the annual of Urdu Studies (pdf format).

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7 Replies to “‘Tum Vahin ho’”

  1. What a fine poem! Urdu poetry finally breaking out of shackles of romanticism! Indian sub-continental languages, despite rich history and heritage, are far behind even smaller European languages with regards to contemporary poetry. Just read few poems from Thomal Transtrommer to taste it!

    Harminder D.

  2. Very powerful images. thanks for posting.

    Harminder: Urdu poetry broke the shackles of romaticism ages ago – N M Rashid, Miraji, Fahmida Riaz and several others rebelled against the traditional sensibilities. Alas, they have not been translated (creatively or effectively) for a wider audience.

  3. I wonder if Urdu poetry is as appealing without its romanticism. The poem posted here could as well have been written in English, it is so both in sensibilities as well as its expression. I speak, of course, without much of a reading of contemporary or post- Faiz Urdu poetry, much less of the names that Raza has mentioned.

  4. I didn’t mean to say this poem broke the shackles for the first time. Yes, there have been fine poems. Perhaps Urdu poetry has become victim of its own success after a century and half of fine romantic poetry. May be, just may be, we are unwilling it accept it in any other form, in any other diction.

    Still sub-continental poetry appears stagnated, overly nostalgic and drenched in over-doze of romanticism. It is rare, indeed, to come across a fresh image and a new idea.

  5. “Still sub-continental poetry appears stagnated”

    Perhaps this is an over- generalization. Given the diversity of the languages and literary traditions, we are not exposed to most of these. I know for sure that Hindi poetry is alive and kicking and there has been a lot of experimental poetry written in the language (I just hope Ishwar happens to read this and pitches in with his insights in Hindi litt). Bangla and Asomiya both have a rich repertoire. I can’t even comment on Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and most other languages.

  6. Bhupinder has rightly aired my response to Harminder’s otherwise eloquent comment. The sad reality is that we have been, albeit to some extent, victims of power that defines the worth of langauges.
    Since the ninteenth century, the rise of English language and its association with ‘progress’ and modernity has meant that we are increasingly not in touch with our regional languages and their literature.
    As a Pakistani, my knowledge of Balochi poetry is limited to the translations that I read but the subject matter of this tiny component of the S Asian mosaic is fascinating and far from the romantic stereotype. Similarly the Sindhi poetry (and Shaikh Ayaz is a leading example) is diverse in its range of subjects, expression and experimentation.

    I guess the challenge in India would be far greater given the numerous languages spoken –

    So we have ended up with Desai getting the booker prize last year and Mohsin Hamid shortlisted for this year’s contest – says it all!!

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