Tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley – Fahmida Riaz

Guest Post by Raza Rumi

After reading some of the recent posts and comments on the communal politics and the [ab]use of religion, I recalled an interesting article (published in the Hindustan Times November 2005) by Khushwant Singh entitled Voice of Sanity.

The highlight of that piece was a translation of a poem by the Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz.

The inimitable Fahmida Riaz, who is a favourite of mine, was disappointed during her stay in India (during the 1980s) with the growing trends of exclusion – an anathema to the plurality of India. Fahmida is an outstanding poet and is now a leading literati, activist and prose writer in Pakistan.

Here is a poem that is rather well written and terse.

Naya Bharat (New India)

Tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley
Voh moorkhta, voh ghaamarpan
Aakhir pahunchi dwaar tumhaarey

You turned out to be just like us;
Similarly stupid, wallowing in the past,
You’ve reached the same doorstep at last.

Preyt dharma ka naach rahaa hai
Saarey ultey karya karogay
Tum bhee baithey karogey sochaa
Kaun hai Hindu, kaun naheen hai
Ek jaap saa kartey jao
Kitna veer mahaan tha Bharat

Your demon [of] religion dances like a clown,
Whatever you do will be upside down.
You too will sit deep in thought,
Who is Hindu, who is not.
Keep repeating the mantra like a parrot,
Bharat was like the land of the brave

(translated by Khushwant Singh)

For more poems, biographical information on her please visit this link.

Published by

Raza Rumi

A Pakistani blogger. Also writes at www.pakteahouse.wordpress.com and www.lahorenama.wordpress.com

12 thoughts on “Tum bilkul hum jaisey nikley – Fahmida Riaz”

  1. I really marvel at these outspoken women poets in Pakistan. Either Fahmida, Ada Jafri, Kishwar Naheed, Parvin Shakir or even those like Sara Shugufta.

    All of them have taken on chauvinist male society, celebrated the femininity and still their poetry is enchanting and not reduced to feminist sloganeering. Sadly in India we don’t have such progressive women poets in the last couple of decades. yahaan auraton ki koi kamii to nahiin hai, phir aisaa kyuun?

  2. Adnan bhai,

    I was wondering about the same thing. Is it something to do with the different socio-political setup in the two countries?

  3. Mohib and Adnan Bhai,

    I think one of the reasons I can sight as Pakistani and having met Parvin Shakir, I can say these women belong to middle and upper middleclass migrant community and they had some sort of liberal values. I know Parveen Shakir was a Civil Service Officer similar to ICS in India and before that she was lecturer at a Girls College.

    Ada Jaffery was also the wife of a prominent Civil Servant. They showed their best during the oppression of Martial Law of General Zia when they became progressive and came out to resist the policies which they did not like which is against women in their sense.

    I believe Pakistan’s revolutionary poetry by the likes of Habib Jali , Faiz, Faraz, and other was one of the good fruits of Martial Law and dictatorship and even that caused women to be become more progressive in their writings. I think the modern day women poets such as Gulnar Afreen , Rehana Roohi has also written very interesting inquilabi poetry.

  4. I think Urdu has a still living tradition of poetry. And one thats been poured life by many of the great poets of the last 100-200 years. This serves as an example as well as inspiration for future poets. That they are women is incidental I think.

    In India, we have women activists and champions of progressive values, but not many poets. I think its because unlike Urdu in Pakistan, our vernacular languages not particularly prone to poetry.

    Someone correct me if my head is messed up.

  5. Dear Mahi,

    I think the emergence of strong Urdu poetry from women although India has more progressive activist is not incidental but I still think it is because of the absence of democracy so I think instead of actively working some women chose this way which is a bit more less prone to backlash or reprisal from the dictators.

  6. Dear friends
    Glad to see that this small post generated quite a bit of discussion here. I think there is no dearth of progressive poets and writers across South Asia as the social and political conditions (democracy or lack of it notwithstanding)are pretty much the same. Let’s face it that poverty, exclusion and discrimination are common to the entire region and people are speaking against these endemic trends that have refused to disappear despite the end of colonial rule nearly 60 years ago.

    However, the central point of Fahmida’s poem was the disappointment with religious bigotry and its ultimate pointlessness with respect to real issues that face us. This poem narrates Fahmida’s reaction to what she saw in India while drawing a parallel to her own context in Pakistan.

    Actually, I loved the title of the poem!

  7. Raza:

    Thanks for sharing this poem. It is useful for us to be shown our self-image by somebody looking from outside, particularly when that somebody has prior experiences that are similar to ours. The mocking tone of the poem should make us self-reflect on the direction our politics and society has taken in the last few decades and the consequences of these changes in direction.

    I was also interested to see that there is a poets in Pakistan who is familiar with the more Sanskritized version of the Hindu-Urdu language that has gained in prominence in India since independence and has simultaneously lost most of its significance in Pakistan. I have often seen instances of the opposite – of poets who write in Hindi attempting to write in Urdu or at least more Urdu than their usual style (e.g. Vajpayee in “ja.ng na hone de.nge”) but not of Urdu poets attempting to write in Hindi. (I use the terms Hindi and Urdu loosely to refer to the more Sanskritized and Persianized/Arabized versions of the language).


  8. Girish
    You are right. The langauge of Fahmida is unique in this poem as she has used many Hindi words and expressions. This is not common among Pakistani/Urdu poets. However, in Urdu prose there is now a mix of local languages with the Urdu idiom. There are several Hindi words that are used in prose particularly by the senior writers who cherish their past.
    In particular, the senior most writer Intezar Hussain is heavily influenced by Hindu mythology and uses such references in his short stories and novels.

    Fahmida also used the linguistic style to communicate, play with words as well as use the nationalist idiom.

  9. Urdu poets have always used Braj, Awadhi and words of local dialects in their poetry.

    The use of words with Sanskrit roots in Urdu poetry became quite common long ago. It is not just Firaq and Janisar Akhtar who used Hindi words in their poetry.

    Krishan Mohan’s is always considered an Urdu poet though most of his vocabulary is from Hindi. Ameeq Hanafi also falls in this category. In fact, Nida Fazli and Zafar Gorakhpuri who are considered contemporary due to the lack of familiarity of people with Urdu poetic scene, used Hindi words generously.

    And Nida is now a veteran (he is 1938 born). At least two generation of poets after him, showed no hesitation in use of Hindi words. If you read couplets in literary magazines then Sameep, Nikaas, Ateet, NikaT and even tough words used commonly.

    Of course, words like nitaant, nishprabh (are they Hindi?) would appear jarring. But wherever it suits, nobody is averse to using them. Magazines like Shesh (Jodhpur) that are Urdu but published in Hindi script are doing great work.

    Mohib has named Urdu doha writers. And apart from them there are so many writers. Have you read Pakistani writer Asad Mohammad Khan? Who can write a better Hindi, Malwi and Bundelkhandi than him. Not even in India, you can find a better writer.
    However, the Urdu poets invite Hindi poets and writers at mushairas and other Urdu stages, apparently to prove that Urdu is not a Muslim language. This has been going on fore decades. And though there are less platforms of Urdu in most cities but Hindi writers are less generous on this count. Unless it is a Gulzar or say Javed Akhtar, Urdu poets and writers are not invited.

    Muslim writers in Hidni faced this attitude for decades. Even the great humanist writer Shaani (Gulsher Khan) who wrote the masterpiece Kala Jal, was hurt. Asghar Wajahat faced it though his powerful writing forced others to notice him.

    In fact, there is an entire crop of Muslim writers, Manzoor Ahtesham, Abdul Bismillah, Asghar Wajahat, Mehrunnisa Pervez, Nasira Sharma, who found expressing themselves in Hindi and made their identity as Hindi writers.

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