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Mainstream, VOL XLV No 31

Taj Mahal

Saturday 21 July 2007, by Sahir Ludhianvi


I do not care
- If the Taj means to you
- The great symbol of love;
- I do not care
- If perchance
- You should bear
- Towards its aura of colourful romance
- A reverence deep and true:
- Love, not here, not here
- But elsewhere
- Must be our rendezvous.

What sense does it make
- For the poor to be
- Frequenting
- These haunts of royalty?
- What sense does it make
- For soulful lovers
- To traverse
- A pathway
- So rudely dense
- With the imprint of an imperial day?

Past the trappings
- And the frill work of romance
- You must have peeped, ah Love,
- And noticed how
- Behind the elaborate song and dance
- Lie evidences of less lovely things.
- Into the dark and cheerless interiors
- Of our own houses
- You must have looked-

You whom
- The icy tombs
- Of dead kings
- Divert to ecstasy.

Countless are the people
- Who have loved;
- Nor were their vows contracted
- With less faith,
- Less intensity.
- All that they lacked
- Were the instruments of pomp,
- Because like you and I
- They too were underlings.
- These awesome monuments,
- These tombs,
- These ramparts,
- These fortifications-
- Testimonies to the grandeur of willful emperors-

Oh, what are they
- But festering ulcers
- In the rotten womb of time?
- And into these have poured
- The common sweat and blood
- Of our common ancestors.

Even they must have loved, ah Love,
- Whose deft fingerwork
- Has given to the Taj
- Its beautiful splendour:
- Yet
- Their nameless loves lie buried
- Under nameless graves,
- And no one did ever light a lamp
- Upon their rough and jagged headstones.

These lush lawns,
- This pensive river bank,
- And the palace fair,
- These filligreed walls and arches
- Soaring high,
- These shapely minarets
- And these squares of subtle art-
- Oh, in all these
- I can hear the monstrous laughter
- Of a wanton emperor
- Reverberating with a monstrous insult
- Full in the face of our forlorn loves.

This is no place for us, ah Love,
- This cannot be our rendezvous;
- Elsewhere must we go,
- Elsewhere remove.
- (Translated from Urdu by Badri Raina)
- (Published in Dialogue India 2, Calcutta, 1962)

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