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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 4 January 27, 2024

Poem: ‘The nation is not a map drawn on a piece of paper’ (1948) | Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena

Saturday 27 January 2024


’Desh Kagaz Par Bana Naksha Nahin Hota’ (1948) by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena

(Translation from Hindi by Ayesha Kidwai)

If one room in your house
is ablaze
Can you
just go sleep in another one?
If in one room of your house,
corpses rot and decay,
Then can you
just pray in another one?
If yes,
Then I have nothing
to say to you.
The nation is not a map
drawn on a piece of paper
so that even if an edge frays
the remaining parts stay intact;
and rivers, mountains, cities, villages
hold fast to their places
If this is not your belief,
Then I do not want to live
with you.
In this world, there is nothing greater than a man’s life
Not god.
Not knowledge.
Not elections.
Any text written on a piece of paper
can be torn
And buried under
the seven folds of the earth.
A judgment
that stands bolstered by corpses
is blind.
A reign
that flows from the barrel of a gun
is the trade of assassins.
If this is not your belief,
then I no longer
have to bear with you,
even for a minute.
The murder of a child
The death of a woman
The gaping wounds on the body
of a man rent by bullets,
are the defeat of not one regime
but the whole nation.
Such blood does not flow
to soak into the earth.
It rises to stain black
the flags that flutter in the sky.
The earth that bears the imprint of army jackboots
on which corpses fall
If that earth does not become fire
and course through your veins,
Then understand
that you have turned into a wasteland.
You have no right to even take a breath here
This world is no longer for the likes of you.
A last word
Straight up.
Do not ever forgive
a murderer.
Be he your friend
Or the stakeholder of religion
Or the renowned chowkidar
of your democracy.
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