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Hamraaz Posts

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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Abrogated

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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