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Posts Tagged ‘Shahjahana’


Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I was born in a Turk* home because I was a kismetwali, they said,

as if I had grabbed an unattainable good fortune

and from that moment, as my folks had decided,

I had become a real Muslim

How low should one bow to each relative

Who should not see you

Why one should stick one's head inside the pallu..

Meaningless rasmo-rivaaj and a half-learnt language:

I became a rolled paan caught between two jaws

but my folks had decided that

I had become an asli Turk girl

Though realizing that I am being sacrificed, when like a dumb animal

I go to some Walima or Gulposhi

Amidst the rustle and flashes of their zari and Urdu

My voice shrinks and shrivels

into a lonely cotton sari

An unseen feeling of helplessness

clasps my mouth like a bridle

I am spun around the hall, even as I stand still,

by the whirlwinds of their stares

blowing through the branches of their eyelids,

Does she or doesn't she– my knowledge of Urdu

is tested by a display of their own skill and aptitude

and as the results show in the smirks on their faces

my tears of embarassment, which can't dare break boundaries,

wallow within my eyes, exactly like me.

No one recognizes me as human,

looking at me as a heap of cleaned cotton

they are always eager to blow me away with mere words

But my folks have decided

that I have become a pucca Turk girl.

Why should I become an answer in inverted commas

About unknown riiti-rivaaj

About unpronounceable Durood Suras–

To the endless question marks on their faces?


When my shouhar doesn't assume my Dudekula-ness**

Why should I bear the stamp of asli Muslim-ness?

When poverty swallowed my dreams and hunger my time,

my childhood, spent sobbing into floor rugs,

learnt only to stitch mattresses,

Why should I grieve

over the Urdu and Arabic I didn't learn?


Ab sau baar sabke saamne chillaaoongii

haan..main Laddaafni hoon..!

Laddaafni hii rahoongii!!


My translation of the Telugu poem 'laddaafni' by Shajahana ( from the collection of poetry 'alaava: muslim samskRti kavitvam' ).


* Turk: or Turaka ( pronounced turaka ); a term used by Non-Muslims mostly, often derogatorily, for Muslims. 

** Dudekula/Laddaf: community associated, traditionally, with cotton carding.

Other Urdu/Hindustani words/phrases used in the poem:

kismetwali: lucky woman/girl; pallu: loose end of the sari; rasmo-rivaaj and riiti-rivaaj: customs, rituals and traditions; shouhar: husband.


Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I said welcome to the guest
He said– I am a refugee
from a certain hunting party.
the dove that's escaped!
regarded him as only a mehmaan
I didn't understand- what do I serve him
didn't understand- what do I serve him
I asked him what he liked
'Eating with my family' he said.
Like a dried well
what did he hide inside?
Is this food?
With frightened eyes that had lost trust,
The smoke's still coming out from somewhere he said!
Pecking at a few fistfuls,
remembering his family with every morsel..
It didn't seem like he was eating- drawing
sorrow from the seas inside
he seemed he's here
but wandering elsewhere..
The brother lost..the sister taken away…
the families destroyed
The estranged watan…remembering in delirium
his lane razed
friends killed
villages disfigured
nation scattered
Because two eyes weren't enough
he seemed to grieve with his whole body!
Finally without making a sound
departing like he came, he said-
'Bloodthirst is a dangerous disease'.

– Naren Bedide's translation of the Telugu poem Mehmaan by Shahjahana (first published in Andhra Jyoti in December 2007). The Gujarat carnage in 2002 forms the backdrop of this poem.

Shahjahana is a young muslim poet who writes in Telugu, her first poetry book, Nakab addresses gender discrimination, culture and communal disharmony. 

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