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Hamraaz Posts


You tell me that you’re always sad;
you want to run away, but ask,
How can I run from myself?

I want to say you’re not alone;
lakhs, no crores are asking
questions just like this—

all over the world
rich and poor are asking them,
the children of refugees

and rulers are asking them,
academics and experts
are publishing reports about them,

pharmaceutical representatives,
psychiatrists, and self-help gurus
are making their living off of them.

This is not new, but it is urgent

and growing; and the darknessthat has fallen around us now

is just one sign of a larger,
grinding thing: we all sense
we’re approaching a rupture

that the old tricks of war,
debt and growth may finally
fail to delay—

and none of us can imagine
what lies beyond that horizon.
Friend, I can offer no clear

answer to your question,
but it has something to do
with solidarity and love,

how we’ll all have to
cross over together.

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For an Undecided Autowala on Aurobindo Marg

Yes, there have been many disappointments.
No, Ola and Uber were not defeated.
In spite of what you see as good intentions,
you feel the broom gave up too soon, retreated.
And who will find good jobs for those in need?
No one I know has convincing answers.
We dreamed last time we’d sweep the city clean
of inequality and other cancers!

No single man or party has the strength
to stand against the ones with the real power—
yes, all of us together may well fail,
but divided, we’ll be forced to bow and cower!
This vote is not a cure, friend, let’s talk straight—
now is not the time to vote for hate.

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It Is Difficult To Remember What Comes Next

It is difficult to remember when it was or could be, but the
August sun was low, the air was clear and damp, and the roads
were still, except for the rattle and ring of cycles and bells. We
were walking through narrow lanes, offering to sing songs
about the songs we’d all sung during the darkness. A few doors
declined to open, and from time to time insults fell on us from
behind shuttered windows: immigrant, infiltrator, anti-
national, traitor—
and other hard words which no longer
possessed any power or meaning. But on most corners, small
crowds greeted us with slaps on the back and many joined in
when we sang. In the late afternoon, as we crossed a muddy
field newly planted with tomato and pepper seedlings, a boy
ran up from behind us and demanded to know if we
remembered the song we’d been singing on Rajpath when the
police threw down their lathis and guns and melted into the
rising sea we’d all become. We solemnly nodded, then one of
us sputtered, and we all started laughing and shouting and
singing together. Later, we agreed that the song still tasted cool
and sweet every time we sang it, like water drawn from a hand
pump, like freedom.

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Tender Comrade

In your dream, thin corpses
hang in a cold, dark room.

Strong men come and silently
slit them open—

they are harvesting handfuls
of organs or pearls.

As you tell me this,
news of another Jamia shooting

and more election rally hatred
streams across screens all over Delhi.

What have I to offer,
tender comrade, friend?

Night has fallen,
the horizon is near,

we’re all fighting
and longing for light.

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Striding Man

-for Shadab Najar

In the video, it all moves so fast,
but when the frame freezes,
some things become clear.

We see a boy or young man,
mouth wide, as if he
is smiling as he shouts—

in his right hand, a pistol;
it is pointed towards
the sky. Behind him,

a line of police look on,
one is leaning on his lathi;
to one side, a cameraman films.

And now look at the man
with the long, wavy hair, striding
towards the man with the gun—

his arms are down,
his body open, as if to say,
I am not afraid of you,

and you have nothing
to fear from me,
as if to say,

Hold on—
come, let’s sit and talk.
There is one more thing

every parent will see
when they study this photo
of the striding man:

someone, somewhere
raised this one right,
this one is one to be proud of.

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‘A girl, as part of the play’s dialogue, spoke
of beating anyone who would ever dare ask her
for her documents with a chappal’. -The Wire

The Emperor has no clothes:
every child knows the story;
our rulers have also learned it—
they understand its great power.

Every child knows the story:
the bully who’s secretly weak;
our rulers have also learned it—
why else charge a school with sedition?

A bully who’s secretly weak,
or wolves or demons disguised;
why else charge a school with sedition?
What do they fear? A chappal?

Wolves or demons disguised,
our rulers know what they’ve hidden.
What do they fear? A chappal—
or unafraid people who speak?

Our rulers know what they’ve hidden;
they understand its great power.
But unafraid people will speak:
The Emperor has no clothes!

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A Seditious Song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
I’m loving my neighbors,
don’t care where they’re from—
let’s abolish all checkpoints
and borders…
as we sing a seditious song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
I’m praying for freedom
from fear and from want—
let’s plant crops, not walls,
on our borders…
as we sing a seditious song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
I’m reading Ambedkar,
he makes perfect sense—
let’s annihilate things that
divide us…
as we sing a seditious song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
Some days let’s be boys,
some days let’s be girls—
let’s fall in love when
we want to…
and we’ll sing a seditious song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
Let’s open a library,
we’ll read what we want—
we’ll argue, and think
as we sing a seditious song!

I’m dreaming seditious dreams,
I’m singing a seditious song!
It’s natural to cry,
to feel anxious and scared—
let’s heal each other
and struggle…
as we sing a seditious song!

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The Anti-Corruption CM Speaks his Mind

Meanwhile in the capital, the CM speaks
at a town hall about unemployment,
the price of onions, and the danger
of Hindu spies from Pakistan.
He does not mention the possibility
that torture, custodial rape,
and preventative detention
of citizens and politicians
might be among the gravest
forms of modern corruption.

The next evening, at a Golf
Links wedding reception,
guests sipping wine
and Kashmiri Kava
murmur and sigh as he
and his entourage sweep
in to greet the happy couple.

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That One is an Animal

There are some who give off an evil glow,
no matter what colour clothes they wear.

In a state just a bus ride from here,
a leader shouts promises of revenge;

what he says quietly, we can only guess.
I have not been home to see my children

in two weeks, says the man selling peanuts
on the dusty road that runs along the drain,

but I hear things are bad
they come in the night and take away

our young men, and they gun
us down in the streets.

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In Praise of Azadi

-after Bertolt Brecht

It’s simple,
anyone can grasp it.
It requires no force
or violence.
The exploiters tell us
to sell, borrow and buy it;
pandits and priests
disguise it with dogma;
and tyrants call it ‘sedition’,
when the wrong people say it.
It is against buying, selling,
debt and dogma—
and ‘sedition’ sheds
all meaning in its presence.
The rulers call it worthless,
but we know:
it is priceless.
They have never
given it away freely—
we’ve had to seize it,
again and again.
It is the simplest thing,
so hard to hold on to.

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Republic Day Bad Translation Blues

Friends, these are confusing times and everywhere
I go I hear people using words in confusing ways—
it’s like we’re living in some kind of twisted fever dream
or a second rate postmodern language poem. In Kashmir,
torture has long been known as ‘interrogation’,
but now martial law is called ‘development’,
and if you chant or write azaadi in bold letters,
in many states, it’ll be translated as ‘sedition’.
Almost everyone refers to police lynchings
as ‘encounters’ or ‘rough justice’, but at JNU,
the police and their masters now say ‘accused’
when referring to victims of a crime,
and at Jamia they seem to understand library
to mean a ‘place to lob tear gas’,
not a place to read and discuss books—
and speaking of reading, if you’re a Dalit leader,
the police now says reading aloud the constitution
on the steps of a mosque is ‘instigating violence’,
and that, my friends, can land you in Tihar Jail!
(In a related matter, to celebrate the approach
of Republic Day, the Lieutenant Governor
has decreed that if you do land in a Delhi jail,
you can be held without lawyers or charges,
at least until April. But don’t worry; our leaders
have assured us that this is a ‘routine matter’.)

Yes, friends, these are confusing times—
but between us at least,
let’s try to be honest and clear:
when used together,
inquilab and solidarity mean
‘a meeting of power and love’,
and as long as we remember that,
they won’t divide us,
we’ll win.

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There are Other Names For These Things

Before the darkness,
you used to laugh

when your Communist
friends warned you,

Never forget the Golden Rule:
he who has the gold makes the rules!

In UP, newspapers report
that police raided a madrassa

and arrested 1oo young students
and a 66 year old cleric

who they stripped naked
in the cold and tortured all night.

After their release,
some of the students said

they’d been beaten and forced
to chant Jai Shree Ram,

while others came out crying,
bleeding from their rectums.

No one expects an investigation.

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-December 26, 2019

I dreamed a group of us
were kidnapped by a pair
of sociopaths—

they explained they were
conducting an experiment:
they would blind half of us

in one eye and half of us in both
to see how this would affect
our ability to love.

When I told you, you said:
That’s just a dream about
the leaders of our country.

Later, the owner of a tea shack
handed us an X-ray of a broken foot
and gestured at the half-eaten sun.

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December 20: Rising

-for Chandra Shekhar Azad

When they finally write the history
of how we won this fight,

they’ll say the tide turned
at Jama Masjid

when Chandra Shekhar Azad
held up the constitution,

and a photo of Dr. Ambedkar,
before leading the charge that freed

first Daryaganj, then Delhi
from the idea that we could be

so easily cowed and beaten.
That evening we all somehow knew

that somewhere in Lutyens’ Delhi
the Home Minister was pacing

and pounding his fists on a wall—
and though the Chief

later turned himself in,
by then we all understood

that neither police, nor army—
nor the devil himself

can turn back the sea
when it rises.

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Mandi House

-December 19, 2019

Though we had seen what
they’d done to the students,

something changed
that day in Delhi;

the police filled bus after bus
with people like us

who had come simply
to stand for our own rights

and for those of our neighbors.
Dropped on the edge of town,

hundreds returned to be taken again.
It is worse than we thought,

but I am fine now—
many have it much harder,

is what you told the children.
Later you showed me

the boot-sized, black bruises
on both of your legs

and confessed
you had cried while bathing.

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Not a Poem or a Song

—for Shaheen Bagh

Yesterday, you asked me to write a poem
or a song about the women of Shaheen Bagh,
and I laughed and said,
that’s not possible—
the women of Shaheen Bagh
are a poem and a song—
but last night as I drifted
off to sleep in my warm bed,
it came to me that I’d been wrong—
the women of Shaheen Bagh
are not a poem or a song,
they are women who have been sitting
for weeks, night and day, on a road
in spite of cold wind and hard pavement,
in spite of the threat of lathi’s,
tear gas and jail—
they’ve been sitting because they won’t stand
to see students beaten by police,
to see unjust laws divide the land—
because they are stubborn and right and strong—
and that, my friend, is more powerful and beautiful
than any poem or song anywhere.

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In the Beginning

I kept hearing people say
the same words over and over

wherever I went—
sometimes in greeting

or farewell,
sometimes in prayer—

the neighbor downstairs,
the electrician in the market,

the man who cleans
the toilet in the park.

The more it happened,
the more anxious I felt.

When I mentioned it to the chemist,
he lowered his voice and said,

Yes, it’s no longer just
a greeting or a prayer,

it’s become a celebration—
and a challenge.

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Changing the rules without consent: the true aim of development?
Political gain or property grab, in the name of development?

Lock up the kids before they hurl stones in protest or anger.
Preventive detention: just a move in this game of development?

Jail the leaders, shutter the press: speech and sight are dangerous—
lead pellets rip through retinas and fan flames of ‘development’.

Markets are closed and, friends, I’ve heard, freedom is now an outlawed word;
do dreams deferred wilt or explode in the shame of development?

Healing old wounds takes time and care; tear gas obscures the things we share—
brothers and sisters, please beware of false claims of development.

You say, Hamraaz, you’re so naive; it’s more complex than you perceive!
But we won’t right wrongs by hanging them in warped frames of development.

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