Home > 2019 > For Lalleshwari - Kashmiri Poet (1320 - 1397)

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 12 New Delhi March 9, 2019

For Lalleshwari - Kashmiri Poet (1320 - 1397)

Monday 11 March 2019

Go, fetch water from the river!’

She commanded,

But you resolutely rowed the ferry

Further downstream.

The pot balanced carefully on your head

You returned, to your mother in-law screaming,

Accusing you of infidelity;

Then she hit you with a stick.

The pot broke,

The weeping waters fell to your feet,

Turning riverwards;

But your poetry is where the water

Still flows, Lal Ded.

Naked, you wandered,

Searching and searching,

Discarding all codes;

While we armed ourselves

With yet another ode.

Embarassed, a merchant offered you

Two bales of cloth

To cover your naked body.

You carried one on each shoulder;

For every barb, you twisted a knot,

For praise, you entwined another.

Returning, you asked him,

‘Which is heavier?’

With every bullet the vales of your breasts bruise,

With every savage explosion

Your thighs ravage;

I ask you O Lalla,

How much cloth do I need

To cover my own shame;

For is it not my fellow-being

With another name

That they maim?

Your Sufi spirit lives

In the rustling of Chinar trees

Whispering your name,

Rivers carry the water that

Floated from that smashed urn;

Only a poet can turn,

The gory events into peace.

That smashed urn—broken pieces—

Over which we wage war;

Staggering over barbed wire,

Interspersed with staccato fire;

It’s only your deep words of love

That live on, still inspire.

You who worship at the temple of stone

To an idol set in stone,

Can you possibly atone

Your sins towards humanity?

Your words to the malevolent priest

Of authority, 

Are a feast

To my ears,

Deafened over the years by

The siren of war;

O, what a charade they play

As they flay,

Your spirit,

The soul of Kashmir.

Sagari Chhabra

[An award-winning author and film-director]

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