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Tag: #UmarKhalid

Ghazal Against Bulldozers

Who authorises homes and rites in this city?
Each one who lives here has a right to this city!

Equality under the law is just fiction–
bulldozers show their masters’ might in this city.

Landlords and agents act like sponges and thugs–
private property? A blight on this city.

The cops say, ‘with you, for you, always’– but we know:
they’ll come for us, morning or night, in this city.

Who reads alone in Tihar Jail? Umar Khalid!
Behind the smoke, the moon is bright in this city. 

You ask me what it cost to give up my name– 
Nothing, and now I’m free to write in this city. 
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How Is It We Keep Forgetting?

While reading Ilya Kaminsky, 
   I Think of Umar Khalid

Just outside Qutub Minar
there’s a line of buses and cars

filled with all kinds of folks,
looking for all kinds of things– 

some have come to lose themselves;
some, just want to get home;

walking back to the metro,
we pass flocks of uneasy dogs.

Later, I’m reading Ilya Kaminsky,
under a spinning fan–

we may not live in a mythical town,
but they’ve jailed the best among us.
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‘If they are so mighty, let them snuff out the moon’

-writing from Tihar Jail, 
Umar Khalid quotes Faiz Ahmad Faiz 

In the photos the young lovers post,
they are smiling as they sip 
from the same bottle of cola,
they are sharing a plate of chaat,
they are sitting on a seesaw, 
under the bright, 
winter moon. 
Some nights he says, 
I’m cold, please warm 
my hands. Some nights 
she says, Let us pray 
now for Umar Khalid;
I hear he is lonely inside.
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Failed Ghazal

-August 15, 2021

I spent hours last night 
trying to write a ghazal 

that included this line:
unbroken, Umar Khalid’s still in jail,

and also this one:
they aim to break your soul and will in jail. 

‘School teachers’ and ‘freedom fighters’
figured in it,

but I gave up in the end
because it really all came down to this:

They aim to break your soul and will in jail;
unbroken, Umar Khalid’s still in jail.
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Three Postcards to Umar Khalid

(i)
You don’t know me,
but in the summer of 2019,
you met my friend—
she couldn’t stop talking about you:
a man who knew how to listen,
a leader who spent more time working
out of the spotlight than in it; 
a scholar who’d learned the art
of switching autos mid-journey—
They trail me everywhere,
you told her, smiling,
Why should I bring them to you?
I was envious I hadn’t been there:
for months, I kept hearing your name 
spoken alongside words like hero and hope.
When they put you inside, those words 
were joined by rougher ones, 
but don’t worry; 
we have not forgotten.

(ii)
I thought of you yesterday morning
as I passed by the PM’s residence 
on the way to CP. The wind was cool 
and smelled like a green living thing; 
the Delhi sky was more blue than gray,
and clouds of bright yellow leaves 
rose from a sweeper’s broom.
I thought: it’s springtime today,
but how long will it last?
My phone said Tihar Jail  
was just 12 kms away; 
at that moment I prayed 
that you were near 
an open window.

(iii)
Alone at night, or on Delhi’s borders
we say your name when we pray or shout;
we have not forgotten you or the others,
we’ll welcome you all, when you come out.

I wish we could talk, under a tree,
I’d ask what you’d read, how did you cope?
I’d buy you a cup of special hot tea,
I’d ask what you think of heroes and hope.
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You’ll Join Us, I Know, My Friend

You’ll Join Us, I Know, My Friend
-for Umar Khalid

It was late in a South Delhi warehouse,
it was cold, but I didn’t feel cold;

Umar Khalid was swaying
to jazz, or was it hip hop?

I looked over his shoulder to see
the Ska Vengers laying it down,

I said, Sir, we’re so glad you’re here,
how did I miss the news?

He said, don’t call me Sir, I’m your friend,
yes, this beats Tihar Jail—

he said, soon we’ll be back in the streets;
we’re winning, we have to win.
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Worried Blues Pantoum

-Delhi 2020

Would you still love me, my friends,
if I lost my sense of smell?
Could we still touch from a distance?
What if I had a dry cough?

If I lost my sense of smell,
would I still crave idli-sambar?
What if I get a dry cough?
I don’t go outside; I’m afraid.

Would I still crave idli-sambar?
Would they put a big sign on my door?
I don’t go outside, I’m afraid
I might spread this virus to others.

Would they put a big sign on my door?
Would they jail me like Umar Khalid?
Could I spread this virus to others
like they spread hatred and lies?

If they jailed me like Umar Khalid,
could we still touch from a distance? 
In spite of their hatred and lies,
would you still love me, my friends?
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I Think of Umar Khalid

When I hear the gentle cooing 
of pigeons outside my window,
I think of Umar Khalid,

and when I see crows massing 
against an approaching bird of prey,
I think of Umar Khalid.

I think of Umar Khalid
when I see an autowala shaking 
his head as he reads the morning news

and when word comes that farmers 
and workers are marching again
after so many months of silence.

Just before dawn in Lutyens’ Delhi,
Amit Shah thinks of Umar Khalid;
he fears this time he’s gone too far.
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