Noted India-born Pakistani poet and human rights activist Fahmida Riaz passed away following a prolonged illness at the age of 73. She wrote a moving poem in the wake of Babri mosque demolition in 1992. We reproduce the poem here which is a succinct comment on religious sentiment taking over our better humane judgment and identity. In that sense, the poem ‘Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle’ is more relevant than ever:
“Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley
ab tak kahan chhupe the bhai
voh moorkhta, voh ghaamarpan
jis mein hum ne sadi ganwai
aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey
arre badhai bohot badhai
preyt dharam ka naach rahaa hai
qayam Hindu raaj karoge?
saarey ultey kaaj karogay
apna chaman daraaj karogey
tum bhee baithey karogey sochaa
poori hai waisi tayyari
kaun hai Hindu, kaun naheen hai
tum bhi karogay fatwe jaari
hoga kathin yahan bhi jeena
raatoN aa jayega paseena
jaisi taisi kata karegi
yahan bhi sabki saans ghutegi
kal dukh se socha karti thi
soch ke bohot hansi aaj aee,
tum bilkul hum jaise nikle
Hum do qaum nahin the bhai!
bhaar mein jaaye shiksha viksha
ab jaahilpan ke gun gaana.
aage gadha hai yeh mat dekho
wapas laao gaya zamana
bhasht karo tum aajayega
ulte paaon chalte jaana
dhyaan na mann mein dooja aaye
bas peeche hi nazar jamana
ek jaap saa kartey jao
vaaram vaar yahi dohrao
kitna veer mahaan tha Bharat
kaisa alishaan tha bharat
phir tum log pohonch jaogay
bas parlok pohonch jaaogay
hum toh hain pehle se wahan par
tum bhi samay nikalte rehna
ab jis nark mein jaao wahan se
chitthi vitthi daalte rehna
English translation by Shabana Mir:
Turned out you were just like us.
So it turned out you were just like us!
Where were you hiding all this time, buddy?
That stupidity, that ignorance
we wallowed in for a century –
look, it arrived at your shores too!
Many congratulations to you!
Raising the flag of religion,
I guess now you’ll be setting up Hindu Raj?
You too will commence to muddle everything up
You, too, will ravage your beautiful garden.
You, too, will sit and ponder –
I can tell preparations are afoot –
who is [truly] Hindu, who is not.
I guess you’ll be passing fatwas soon!
Here, too, it will become hard to survive.
Here, too, you will sweat and bleed.
You’ll barely make do joylessly.
You will gasp for air like us.
I used to wonder with such deep sorrow.
And now, I laugh at the idea:
it turned out you were just like us!
We weren’t two nations after all!
To hell with education and learning.
Let’s sing the praises of ignorance.
Don’t look at the potholes in your path:
bring back instead the times of yore!
Practice harder till you master
the skill of always walking backwards.
Let not a single thought of the present
break your focus upon the past!
Repeat the same thing over and over –
over and over, say only this:
How glorious was India in the past!
How sublime was India in days gone by!
Then, dear friends, you will arrive
and get to heaven after all.
Yep. We’ve been there for a while now.
Once you are there,
once you’re in the same hell-hole,
keep in touch and tell us how it goes!