Well, I can’t believe two things. One, Poetry Month is almost over. And two, I still haven’t shared possibly, my favorite piece.
It’s by Sir Muhammad Allama Iqbal, one of the most significant personalities in Urdu literature, as well as in the formation of Pakistan. Born in British India, and serving as politician and barrister, he played an important role in the inception of a separate Muslim state.
His education included a Masters of Arts from Lahore, as well as a Doctorate of Philosophy during his study in Germany. He was said to have been highly influenced by the work of Neitzsche, Goethe, and Bergson, as well as by the work of poet and philosopher Jalal ad-Din Rumi. His literary work includes writings in Urdu, Persian, and English, and is distinguishable by its depth of meaning.
The piece I’m sharing is one I really love, and the second verse in particular (“Ae jooye aab…sahil na kar qabool”) particularly resonates with me. In this verse, the poet, using the allegory of a moving water is giving empowering counsel. The word joo- means streamlet, and aab means water. He is encouraging this streamlet of water (joo-e-aab) to transform from streamlet to a strong, roaring current, and that if the bank, the shore, is offered to it—then do not take it. If the onflow of water were to accept repose at the bank, then it would lose itself and cease to move, cease to exist.
The Urdu/Persian in it is quite stunning, and I’m including a very well-done recitation of it by Junaid Jamshed after the text:
Phir bhi na koi shak na shubah
Niklega phir se sooraj jo dooba
Hairat ho sabko aisa
Ajooba hai mera jahan…
Yet thrives no trace of suspicion nor doubt
Again will rise the sun who sank
Bewildered be all, still and speechless—
such is the miracle, this world of mine
—Prasoon Joshi, Taare Zameen Par
For today’s post I’m sharing something from my grandparents. The first poem is by my paternal grandfather, Mohammed Ibrahim. He wrote this ode to his wife—my grandmother—while he was being hospitalized after a heart attack in 1973. He passed away in 1984 when I was three months old. I didn’t get the opportunity to know him personally, so my most precious memories of him are actually through his very lovely daughter-in-law, my mom:
He may have come off as a quiet father figure if you didn’t know him. But when I got married and went into that home, I got to know him up close, seeing the friendly, radiant personality he was.
He had a great love for reading and writing, and appreciated poetry and verse. He would go on morning walks and bring back flowers that he had picked. Then he and I would arrange them together as we conversed.
He also cared deeply for both Tariq and Kamran (his first grandsons), keeping one on each side of him. Tariq used to have a little slingshot, and his grandfather would collect small stones from outside for him. Then giving me detailed instructions, he had me sew a small pouch just to hold all the little stones for Tariq’s slingshot. He was delighted when I made it for him.
The following is a copy of the poem he wrote called The Lady of the Rock:
The second piece is by my maternal grandfather, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, who recently passed away. My memories with him are many as I have been fortunate to visit Pakistan almost every year to see him. Those memories though are the grandfather-like ones, of when he would give me candy from the jar sitting atop the out-of-reach chamber closet, or when he would bring sugar cane back from the market for me, or that he would make sure he bought me an outfit when I came to visit. However, there was a whole other side to him that I didn’t get to know, and I know a bit of it again only through my mom:
He worked as a railway guard but the way he dressed up, you would have thought he was an officer. His ways were very proper. Until the very end, even if he was going to collect pension, he would change out of his white kurta into pressed dress pants, a collared shirt, and he would put on cologne.
He used to write and recite, and a lot of his verse was very romantic. We didn’t have tape recorders back then when his voice was strong and captivating. But even today I can hear the way he would recite this work of his.
The piece she mentions recalling is a ghazal he wrote in Urdu. The first few lines of it are provided in Roman Urdu.
Like any other translation, what I’ve provided below does not do justice, but I’ve tried to explain it English as best I could:
Teergi-e-hayat kuch bhi na thi
dil tha benoor, baat kuch bhi na thi
The darkness of life was negligible, nothing at all
The heart was without light,
the matter was but nothing at all
Dil tha mabayn, ishtibaa wa yaqeen
nudrat e iltifaat kuch bhi na thi
The heart was in constant battle between trust and suspicion
that even the attraction to beauty had amounted
to what was but nothing at all
Lazzat-e-soz-o-saaz se pehle
meri bazm-e-hayaat kuch bhi na thi
Before these emotions of pain and joy
the splendid gathering in my life
was but nothing at all
Unke aane ka ho raha tha gumaan
dil ki dhadhkan thi, baat kuch bhi na thi
The beloved being nearby felt so overwhelmingly good,
the mere idea alone made the heart race so—
whereas the matter was but nothing at all
“Most of the kids in Kibera are raped, some are neglected by their parents, some are homeless,” she said, fighting back tears after the performance. “Most of them have dreams, but they don’t know how they can achieve them, so I had to write a poem that tells them that they can achieve their dreams.”
I saw the prettiest bug ever today and unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture good enough to capture its beauty. I also unfortunately did not have time to write about it, but I did find a poem about my stance on bugs. Hopefully I can write one on my love for them soon.
Hurt No Living Thing
Hurt no living thing;
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.
On snowy-white, winter days
forests lay open for all to see
and amidst the logs so high and tall
hold my eyes the fallen trees
The miles pass and I stare on
shifting gaze from one to next
petrified from broken stems
I won’t forget what I’ve seen
on those snowy-white, winter days
But today in my neighborhood
I passed a bend and there it was
a fallen tree in the bud of spring
for all to see, held my eyes
And so I beg for time and place
where fallen trees sprout up again
where there will be no ill will
no form of anger and no pain
where compassion will not be maimed
where care is not turned away
where we may be honest
where we may hear the same
But here I am at present day
and the world must be just as it is
But I will love from near and far
across the seas, amidst the rain
walking, sitting, standing
from any place on this sphere
I will love—silently—my hands up in the air:
Let us all be in the Green
where the trees sprout up again.
(dedicated to Jalal Alam — Monday April 20, 2015)
Thoughts across time
You know what I learned very recently:
Oftentimes we love a person a lot, but we can’t do anything about it.
It’s either because they don’t love us back, or because they physically live far away, or maybe because they’ve passed on. But we still love them. We care about them, we long for their company, we’re just crazy about them. And they live in our heart—which is really kind of beautiful.
But this world is a moment. Allah is the only entity that’s Real. And when we die, so does our heart.
So then what’s better than keeping someone in our hearts?
—keeping them in our duaa.
Like everything else, our source of life goes back to llah, so when we ask Allah for someone’s companionship, or we pray to Him for that person, then we’ve communicated something to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We will all die, our minds nor our hearts will last, but before that happens we’ve asked Allah for something.
And so if you think about it, more than someone being on your mind, more than them being physically in your life, even more than someone living in your heart, the strongest connection perhaps may just be that that person lives in your duaa, because the world will not last, but you duaa will remain with Allah, and only Alllah is Everlasting.
With doubt and dismay you are smitten
You think there’s no chance for you, son?
Why, the best books haven’t been written
The best race hasn’t been run,
The best score hasn’t been made yet,
The best song hasn’t been sung,
The best tune hasn’t been played yet,
Cheer up, for the world is young!
No chance? Why the world is just eager
For things that you ought to create.
Its store of true wealth is still meager
Its needs are incessant and great,
It yearns for more power and beauty
More laughter and love and romance,
More loyalty, labor and duty,
No chance–why there’s nothing but chance!
For the best verse hasn’t been rhymed yet,
The best house hasn’t been planned,
The highest peak hasn’t been climbed yet,
The mightiest rivers aren’t spanned,
Don’t worry and fret, faint hearted,
The chances have just begun,
For the Best jobs haven’t been started,
The Best work hasn’t been done.
I had been getting so wary of Buzzfeed commemorative lists as of late. Most subject matter refused to depart from forced Harry Potter references. However, today’s post was just so lovely if you like writing, romance, nature or all of those things.
I thought I would share examples from it but really every selection was so pretty. See link here or click on image-quote above. And Happy Earth Day! 🙂
The first of Fall came tiptoeing to
my window sill
in midnight blue.
I turned my head in fear and doubt
to find who may the culprit be—
a streetlamp glare, sun’s afterglow
light mine own heart had wove
But darkness fell on the horizon
and lamps had dimmed out
The orange stayed in its place
and firmly held my gaze
This young leaf men think to console
“Hang on fella, spring will come”
this first flame, it says:
Fold not as mimosa folds
take this tiding warm
Autumn has arrived.