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Akhtarul Iman

The Boy

On the hills near villages in the east,
Sometimes in mango orchards, sometimes on dykes,

Sometimes in the lanes, sometimes in the lakes,
Sometimes amongst the merriment of youngsters half-clad,
At dawning, dusk, in the darkness of the night,
Sometimes at fairs, among the pantomime players,
Or lost on quiet by-paths chasing butterflies,
Or sneaking towards the hidden nests of little birds,
Barefoot, no matter what the weather,
Out of school, in deserted abodes,
Sometimes laughing in a group of pretty girls,
Sometimes restless like a whirlwind,
In dreams, floating in the air, flying like a cloud,
Swinging in trees like the little birds,
I see a boy, wandering, carefree, independent,
As the flowing water of mountain streams.
This nuisance acts like my shadow,
Following my every step, no matter where I go,
As if I were an escaped convict.
And he asks me :
Are you really
Akhtar-ul-Iman ?

I acknowledge the blessings of Almighty God;
I admit that He laid down this earth
Like a vast bed of velvet and brocade;
I admit that the tent of skies is His benison;
He ordered moon and sun and stars in space;
He brought forth rivers by splitting mountains;
He created me from dust,
And gave me dominion over the earth;
Filled oceans with pearls, and mines with rubies;
Filled the air with bewitching bouquets;
He is the Master, Mighty, Singular, Wise;
He separates darkness from light,
If I know myself, it is His benevolence.
He has given splendour to the greedy,
And adversity to me;
Made idiots wealthy, and a beggar out of me;
But whenever I stretch out my hands to beg,
The boy asks:
Are you really Akhtar-ul-Iman?

My livelihood lies in the hands of others.
All I still control is my mind which understands
That I have to carry the burden the rest of my life,
Till my elements are dispersed,
And my pulse stops beating;
That subsisting means forever singing
Melody of dawn, or lament of night.
In front of the victors,
I cannot even call my song my own:
I have to smile when they say
I am singing their song, not mine.
My pen's creations, the work of my sleepless nights,
Have to be passed like a counterfeit coin.
When I think about myself, in sorrow I say
That I am a blister, bound to burst one day.
In short, I wander like the morning breeze,
Longing for the morning,
When I seek help from the night,
The boy asks:
Are you really Akhtar-ul-Iman?

When he does so, in a fury I reply:
That depressed, neurotic soul
You keep enquiring for is long dead.
I have wrapped him in the shroud of self deception,
And thrown him in the grave of his hopes.
I tell that boy the flame is quenched
That was bent on burning all the trash of the world.
The boy smiles, and says softly
That's a lie, a fib, a cheat.
Look! I am alive.

Translated by Baidar Bakht and Kathleen Grant Jaegar

The Last Stop Before the Destination

I shall keep on going like this
Through this green and black,
And red and white earth.
Is there someone?
Is there someone with me?
No, no one.
I rid myself of even the dust
That clung to my feet
During the course of the journey.
Whatever was yours,
I have returned to you-
Anyone else should also claim
What belongs to him.
Don't tell me tomorrow
That I was untrue.
Don't tell me tomorrow
That my intentions were evil.

Translated by Baidar Bakht and Kathleen Grant Jaegar.

Pride of Cities

How can you hear a scream in this huge city
among the clamouring buses and thundering trains ?
There is a buzzing of bees in the constant crowd.
Catch someone and murder him in broad daylight, if you please !
Go rob a woman of her chastity, she's yours !
Who will hear a scream in this vast city ?

Big cities, my friend, are for big projects :
speeches of honoured ministers, processions of leaders,
marches, demonstrations, unity and all that.
This is the place for night people, decadence ---
whoever told you this was a centre of learning ?

Look ! just freshly arrived, a royal personage ---
and all the important city gents will lick
his boots and present him with a petition;
then, after that, some president of a bank,
some new ambassador, some new leader,
some manager with plans for industry,
a delegation for cultural exchange,
big plans, big sacrifices, big talk,
functions, parties, big hotels, big big tricks ---
Big cities, gentlemen, are for big people.

But there are those in here who are nameless;
came to laugh at the golden city
but they had a long way to go,
those who came to build this world.
They all had big hearts, big souls,
were full of knowledge, wit,

but in the politics of the world were small.
A big city is for big works my friend !

A breaking heart is not a rocket that you can see;
in a big city, who can hear a scream ?

Translated by Mahmood Jamal


Whenever I kissed her, the smell of cigarettes
entered my nostrils, I consider smoking a vice
but I'm used to the smell now, it's part of my life.
Likewise she is used to my pale, dirty teeth.
Whenever we meet we set aside the words,
only the breathing, perspiration and loneliness
stay in the room. Perhaps our souls are dead,
our feelings are dead or perhaps this story
is repeated again and again. Life always
wreathes in labour pains, new Messiahs come
and go to the cross, one earthly person moves forward
from the back rows and declares from the pulpit
the crucified belonged to us, his blood
is our heritage. Then all the values, ideals
that were censored are consumed
by the deep stomach of that earthly person
and are turned out as fresh commentaries,
new interpretations which are the only refuge
of helpless people, perhaps of all people...
In vain I look for an ideal man.

All people see dreams and ride high winds
then a stage comes when all cry bitterly
and break like branches.
They do find loved ones, focuses
of their desires and lives, they hate them
while still loving them.

I too hate her, she thinks I am low
but when we meet in loneliness, in darkness,
We become like wet clay.
Hate is absorbed, only silence remains:
Silence, which engulfed the earth after creation.
We keep breaking like young branches.
We do not discuss dreams that we once had.
We do not discuss long buried joys.
We just keep breaking.
I am inclined to drinking, she smokes.
We keep getting wrapped in the sheet of silence.
We keep breaking like young branches.

Visualized by MetaNym