I want to share these two poems with you. One comes from a place far from the site of the massacre and the other from its very neighborhood; one comes from within and the other from without. They are the voices everyone in Pakistan should hear.
Salma A writes:
A Poem by Saqyb Zirvi1
When my heart rains tears in the small hours of the night,
my heart itself is visible in each teardrop.
Perhaps neither I nor this melody of life shall last till morn.
The stars are fading, and my heart is sinking.
I have been so much deceived by smiling faces, that whenever
someone bursts into laughter, my heart overflows with grief.
Neither beauty knows, nor are lovers aware of how the
heart is enthralled by an unknown face.
There are difficulties at every step for noble love. The eyes
commit the crime, and the heart feels the shame.
After all, what has the ship of love have to do with the shore?
Dashed by the billows, the heart tosses to and fro.
In love, O Saqyb, the eyes have a bad name without reason.
I have seen that the heart falls before the eyes do.
I have tried to comprehend the massacre in the context of who we are, as a community, as a “diaspora” and as individuals. And the gentle, noble people we have produced. I do not doubt the love many feel for their homeland, regardless of how it may feel towards them. I sadly, do not share in this love as I have never been, nor is it likely that I will ever be, part of that larger (and exclusive) narrative of belonging that so many take for granted. Instead, I have always tried to focus on the things that I admire about Pakistani culture in order to position myself in the world. It was the beauty of the Urdu language that kept me from feeling alienated. If we (Pakistan and I) had nothing else in common then at least there was this contested language to bridge that gap. Urdu was adopted as the lingua franca of the Ahmadi community a long time ago. It is also the official language of Pakistan. That was my link.
This past week however, I found myself emotionally estranged from Pakistani society and culture, after years of trying to reconcile myself to it, to the point where I had lost the urge to pick up Urdu poetry again. The mind is a funny thing; it makes and forges associations between things without really “thinking”. Until I remembered that one of the greatest modern Urdu poets, Saqyb Zirvi, was an Ahmadi. This is for him, and for all those innocent bodies we lost, and their ever living souls. And for a country I have never really known, that unimagined community.
Naim Sahib posted this in a comment below, but it deserves a space above.
Wajahat Masood writes:
In May 28 attacks, I lost some of my close friends, including the head of Lahore Ahamdiyya Jamaat, Justice (R) Munir Sheikh. He happened to be the elder brother of my life long friend, Jamil Omer, as well. So many families that I have known were personally bereaved. The Model Town attack was just 200 yard from my house…. My 13 year old daughter, Kamini Masood, wrote a poem the day Jinnah Hospital (two days after Mosque attacks) was attacked and I quote:
Today my hope and pride have vanished,
That’s not to be denied
Today I sunk to the floor sobbing
With my arms open wide
The power does not lie with you,
to discuss or decide
who is worthy to be alive, and who
must be made to die
Do not go out to play children,
you may not come back inside
If tear-streaked faces of broken families
begged you to stop killing their sons,
would you reflect and see your wrongs,
or would you still load your guns?
For every girl who lost a father,
every wife now a widow,
I hope you see that you have spilled,
the blood splattered on my window
You do not hear the mourning mothers,
you do not see your father cry
then it is our sons and daughters,
Not your brothers and sisters that die
Do not go out to play children
you may not come back inside
- Translated by Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, Khwaja Muhammad Safi Dihlavi, Hasan Jahangir Hamdani in “A Reader of Modern Urdu Poetry”, McGill University Press: Montreal. 1968) [↩]