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Avtar Singh Sandhu (Pash)


We donít want anything for formís sake:
Like muscles pulled in the back of our arms,
Or lashes prominently visible
On the back of the oxen,
Or our future sacred and shrunk
In the affidavits of loans;
We want everything actual
Of life, equality and what not.

As the sun, the wind and the cloud
Remain close to us in houses and fields;
Likewise we want to have
Of polity, belief and joy,
A feel close to our lives,
Mighty ones, we want everything actual.

We donít want anything hoax-like
As a toutís evidence falsely concocted
In a case of illicit distillation;
Fairness that a patwari may profess,
Or the oath the middleman may take Ė
A fact on the palm of our hand we want
Like saltish tinge in sugar-caneís jaggery
Or nicotine in the burning hookah;
Something like skein on the belovedís lips
The lover feels on kissing, we want.

We donít want books to read
Tucked on the lathis of the police;
We donít want to hear
Songs to the tune of military boots declaimed,
With yearning fingertips we want to feel
Songs resonating on the tops of trees.
To taste something bitter in tear-gas,
Or oneís own blood on the tongue to taste,
Is recreation for none;
But we donít want anything for formís sake
We want everything actual
Life, socialism or what not...

Translated by Tejwant Singh Gill

No, I Am Not Losing My Sleep

I am not losing my sleep over
how and when
youíll strike
to finish me off
frankly, I couldnít care less
about it
I donít have the patience
of a watchman
to be on eternal guard
to sift and filter
countless moments
to await
the time slot
your henchmen have fixed for me.
I donít waste my time thinking such trifles
nor am I sentimental about
the memories of my village
and the folks I left behind
No I donít think now about
such things as
the fine hues of red
when the sun sets over the village
nor do I care about
how she feels.

Translated by Suresh Sethi

The Most Dangerous Thing

The life of a pirate is not so dangerous
nor is a bashup in a police lockup
spying too is not very dangerous

to be woken up in the middle of the night
by the secret police
I admit is nerve wrecking
so is the quiet lonely fear
which follows you
and throttles your chest
when you are locked up in a cell
on a framed up false charge
for a crime you did not commit
all this I admit is bad enough
but all these are still not so dangerous

because the most dangerous thing is
to live like a dead man
when you donít feel any thing
when the routine of daily life saps you totally
the fixed life of
home to work
work to home
that is a life without dreams
that is the most dangerous thing

that is when
the hour is alive and kicking for everyone
excepting for you
that life is the most dangerous thing

like the eyes of a dead fish
you stare at everything
but cannot feel anything
about yourself
or about others
thatís why
the most dangerous are those people
who have forgotten how to love people
for such people
live and shift aimlessly
in the ordinary humdrum orbit of their lives
in which nothing happens
nothing moves
like a placid cemetery

these people
are like that cold blooded moon
which feels nothing
no pain, love, sympathy or revulsion
when it goes over the courtyards
of the innocent victims
butchered in a slaughter

the most ugly sight is
that of a debauched old man
who is trying to sing a melody
but only succeeds in racking his weak chest

So the most dangerous life is the one
in which our conscience doesnít prick you
because your soul is dead
thatís why I say

piracy is not so dangerous
spying is not so dangerous
bashup in a police lockup is not so dangerous
the most dangerous life is...

Translated by Suresh Sethi

Everyone Doesn't Have The Propensity To Dream

Every one doesnít have the propensity to dream
thatís why
the fuse of a dynamite
lies dormant in the belly
because it cannot dream
of explosions
otherwise it would explode
by itself

Every one doesnít have the propensity to dream
thatís why
in the palm of the hand
just dries up
without galvanising into action
thatís why
rows upon rows of history books
on shelves
lie mute

because in order to dream
one must have courage and stamina
and the propensity to dream...

Translated by Suresh Sethi

Two And Two Three

I can prove
two and two make three.
The present is liestory.
The human face looks like a spoon.

You know Ė
bills and bills of a hundred
move on in courts, bus-stands and parks Ė
writing diaries, taking pictures,
completing reports.

Sons are made to rape their mothers
in the ĎLaw Protection Centres.í
ĎDacoitsí toil in the fields.

The declaration of accepting demands
is made by dropping bombs.
That loving your own people could mean
spying for the Ďenemy nation.í
And the reward for the greatest treachery
could be the highest seat.

So two and two can make three;
the present could be liestory
and the human face too
can look like a spoon.

Translated by Samartha Vashishtha

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