Let poems overtake all possible prose, yet again

Poets of the bygone era urged masses to speak up, to speak out and to just about unleash not just words but heady sentiments relaying the pain and sorrow of their times. But that breed is missing now

Strains of rebellion writ large, yet not to be heard potent verse… those lines dripping with provocative passion and emotions. Where are our poets? Nowhere to be seen nor heard poets reciting verse after verse, to gear up the entire atmosphere, to hit out at the anarchy spreading around so very steadily and systematically!

I do wish that as the general elections near, poetic verse overtakes all possible prose, to not just provoke us towards seeing and sensing the reality of the day but also to awaken our dying emotions, nudge us towards marching ahead, not just towards the polling booths but also towards questioning and counter- questioning the rulers of the day.

Correct me if I’m wrong but during of the dark phases in the recent history of the country, it’s the rebel poets and writers who led the protest meets and marches…Where are the rebel poets and writers of the day who should be seen marching ahead along with the masses?

Well, till we hear their voices, its best to sit well provoked by reading and re-reading the best of Kaifi Azmi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi, Josh Malihabadi, Ali Sardar Jafri .. In fact, this entire week I have been sitting re-reading Anthems of Resistance (India Ink/ Roli Books) where the two brothers, Ali Husain Mir and Raza Mir, focus on the powerful verse of the progressive poets of the era gone by.

To quote them, “This book grows out of a desire to reverse this ‘wilful loss of memory’ and to reclaim the legacy of the progressive poets in an age when their words, insights, and politics continue to be relevant…It is an attempt to retrieve the spirit of resistance that once roamed so freely in the landscape of Urdu literature during the progressive writers’ movement. In that sense, this book is more than recounting of a bygone age; it is our own political project. It is not just the history of the past, it is a history of the present, and hopefully, a history of the future as well.”

Though I’d attended the launch of this book several years back, on 17 January of 2006, at the Jamia Millia Islamia, where the two brothers had flown down from the United States, where they were university professors, but its now, this week, as I sat re-reading it, these ‘anthems of resistance’ do hold out, hit and re-hit as never before. Perhaps, more than apt for the dark times we are living in.

Putting forth verse tucked in the pages of this wonderful volume –

This verse of Kaifi Azmi

How long will I live this oppressed
death-like existence

The times are about to change

My blood boils, my brow is sweaty,

My pulse pounds, my chest is fiery

Roar O Revolution, for I am ready.

And these lines of Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Not enough to shed tears, to suffer

Not enough to nurse love in secret

Today, walk in the public square
fettered in chains.

And this verse of Sahir Ludhianvi

That morning, when the veil of night
will slip away from the head of these
dark centuries

When the clouds of suffering melt, when
the wine- glass of happiness sparkles

When the sky dances joyously and the
earth sings songs of delight

Surely, that morning will dawn

Also, Sahir’s this particular verse-

If there is a reason for my angry songs,
it is this

That when I see the hungry farmers

The poor, the oppressed, the destitute,
the helpless

My heart cannot participate in
assemblies of pleasure

Even if I wish, I cannot write dreamy
songs of love.

♦ ♦ ♦

Interestingly, poet after poet of that bygone era urged and pleaded and cajoled and persuaded the masses to speak up, to speak out, to lash out, to just about unleash not just words but heady sentiments relaying that ongoing pain and hurt and sorrow.

These lines of Sahir Ludhianvi

Before your body and tongue die

Speak, for truth still lives

Speak up, say that which you must.

Or as Faiz Ahmad Faiz says in his poem Bol (Speak)

Speak, for your lips are still free

speak, for your tongue is still yours

your body, though frail is still yours

speak, for life is still yours

look, in the blacksmith’s workshop

the flames are hot, the steel is red

the mouths of the locks are beginning
to open

the links of the chains are coming

speak, for the little time you have is

Faiz does not leave at that but furthers; with more absolutely emotion laden lines –

So what if my pen has been snatched  away from me / I have dipped my fingers in the blood of my heart

So what if my mouth has been sealed; I
have turned 

Every link of my chain into a speaking

♦ ♦ ♦

Today, as I’m awaiting to hear the verse of the poets of the day that could relay restlessness that’s brewing by the day, leaving you with these lines of Ahmed Rahi, from this volume-

Our lives were spent in despair; hope
had begun to stir in our hearts

We thought our destiny would change,
but alas, we were deceived.