Poetry

'Dara Shikoh' and Other Poems

By Abhay K. | 1 May 2014

ABOUT THE POEMS Central Delhi now seems merely a neatly laid out city of government abutting the old walled city. But in and around the architectural work of Lutyens one may imagine the ghosts of many governments past. In these poems by Abhay Kumar, a cavalcade of disenchanted spectres walk the streets of Delhi, and the long passage of centuries has not diminished the regret or rancour of their thoughts. Till time itself has come to an end, it appears, they will continue to broadcast their claims about legitimacy, treachery, history and fate.

Side by side, in another landscape, Russia, the souls of Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky wander, one dispersed amongst his fictional creations, the other towering like a colossus over his own body of work and aflame with the drama of both life and literature.


Dara Shikoh

I wander the streets of Delhi
seeking my name
Dara—the scholar, the Sufi
Shahjahan’s licit heritor
I was trapped and assassinated
by my own treacherous brother

I see, masters of Delhi
have named streets
after murderous Aurangzeb
but Dara Shikoh
the people’s prince
no one remembers, no one cares.

 

Ghalib

Na tha kuchh to khuda tha, kuchch na hota to khuda hota,
Duboya mujhko hone ne, na hota main to kya hota?

(When there was nothing there was God, if there had been nothing there would have been God,
Being has ruined me, if I did not exist what would have been?)

Months of journey
on bullock-cart, palki, boat
tonga, ekka and what not
Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow,
Allahabad, Banaras, Banda,
Patna, Murshidabad,
finally Calcutta, then endless wait
to petition Lord Amherst—
‘double my paltry pension (of rupees sixty two)’

I returned Shahjahanbad
scorned, derided
my family debt-ridden
my dignity robbed
my brother died in my arms
none of my sons survived
I turned into a stone wrapped in human skin
then came the worst
the massacre of Delhi
my friends were butchered
I alone survived
to take down their corpses hanging
from the trees, the lamp-posts
to usher them into their graves
to lament my destiny.

 

Iltutmish

Raised heads in awe
murmur, hushed voices, sighs of relief
in admiration of the Qutub
I, the Slave King
calmly quiver in my tomb
in oblivion.

 

Zauq

Cynosure of the eyes
of the last Mughal
the lion’s rival
the poet-laureate of Delhi
time is the greatest judge
it has judged Ghalib the best
I accept it
turning in my grave.

 

Gogol

Your long nose
and even longer overcoat
still wander
at odd hours
on the Nevsky Prospect
guarded by an army of dead souls,
are you still enamoured
with heaven
on a marshy land?
Why disguise yourself
as an inspector general,
a police chief,
or a lowly clerk,
don’t you know
the tsars and communists have left
St Petersburg?

 

Dostoevsky

Harrowing prophet,
impassioned, irrational
sick and spiteful
how could I be otherwise
my father murdered by his own serfs
I and my Petrashevskian friends
arrested for treason
sentenced to death
to face the deadly bullets of the firing squad
I miraculously escaped
seconds before triggers were pulled
was shipped off to Siberia
for metamorphosis, to live
in the house of the dead
I came out a believer
to return the world to God
I fought heroic battles on blank pages
with an army of charismatic devils, saintly prostitutes, mystic terrorists
possessed idiots and deadly demons in a fallen world
I became tormented Raskolnikov,
chafed Stavrogin and atheist Ivan Karamazov.

Abhay K. is an Indian poet-diplomat whose idea of an official Earth anthem has been hailed by UNESCO as a thought that could contribute to bringing the world together. Winner of the SAARC Literary Award 2013, he is the author of five collections of poems and two memoirs. His website is at www.abhayk.com.

ABOUT THE POEMS Central Delhi now seems merely a neatly laid out city of government abutting the old walled city. But in and around the architectural work of Lutyens one may imagine the ghosts of many governments past. In these poems by Abhay Kumar, a cavalcade of disenchanted spectres walk the streets of Delhi, and the long passage of centuries has not diminished the regret or rancour of their thoughts. Till time itself has come to an end, it appears, they will continue to broadcast their claims about legitimacy, treachery, history and fate.

Side by side, in another landscape, Russia, the souls of Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky wander, one dispersed amongst his fictional creations, the other towering like a colossus over his own body of work and aflame with the drama of both life and literature.


Dara Shikoh

I wander the streets of Delhi
seeking my name
Dara—the scholar, the Sufi
Shahjahan’s licit heritor
I was trapped and assassinated
by my own treacherous brother

I see, masters of Delhi
have named streets
after murderous Aurangzeb
but Dara Shikoh
the people’s prince
no one remembers, no one cares.

 

Ghalib

Na tha kuchh to khuda tha, kuchch na hota to khuda hota,
Duboya mujhko hone ne, na hota main to kya hota?

(When there was nothing there was God, if there had been nothing there would have been God,
Being has ruined me, if I did not exist what would have been?)

Months of journey
on bullock-cart, palki, boat
tonga, ekka and what not
Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow,
Allahabad, Banaras, Banda,
Patna, Murshidabad,
finally Calcutta, then endless wait
to petition Lord Amherst—
‘double my paltry pension (of rupees sixty two)’

I returned Shahjahanbad
scorned, derided
my family debt-ridden
my dignity robbed
my brother died in my arms
none of my sons survived
I turned into a stone wrapped in human skin
then came the worst
the massacre of Delhi
my friends were butchered
I alone survived
to take down their corpses hanging
from the trees, the lamp-posts
to usher them into their graves
to lament my destiny.

 

Iltutmish

Raised heads in awe
murmur, hushed voices, sighs of relief
in admiration of the Qutub
I, the Slave King
calmly quiver in my tomb
in oblivion.

 

Zauq

Cynosure of the eyes
of the last Mughal
the lion’s rival
the poet-laureate of Delhi
time is the greatest judge
it has judged Ghalib the best
I accept it
turning in my grave.

 

Gogol

Your long nose
and even longer overcoat
still wander
at odd hours
on the Nevsky Prospect
guarded by an army of dead souls,
are you still enamoured
with heaven
on a marshy land?
Why disguise yourself
as an inspector general,
a police chief,
or a lowly clerk,
don’t you know
the tsars and communists have left
St Petersburg?

 

Dostoevsky

Harrowing prophet,
impassioned, irrational
sick and spiteful
how could I be otherwise
my father murdered by his own serfs
I and my Petrashevskian friends
arrested for treason
sentenced to death
to face the deadly bullets of the firing squad
I miraculously escaped
seconds before triggers were pulled
was shipped off to Siberia
for metamorphosis, to live
in the house of the dead
I came out a believer
to return the world to God
I fought heroic battles on blank pages
with an army of charismatic devils, saintly prostitutes, mystic terrorists
possessed idiots and deadly demons in a fallen world
I became tormented Raskolnikov,
chafed Stavrogin and atheist Ivan Karamazov.

Abhay K. is an Indian poet-diplomat whose idea of an official Earth anthem has been hailed by UNESCO as a thought that could contribute to bringing the world together. Winner of the SAARC Literary Award 2013, he is the author of five collections of poems and two memoirs. His website is at www.abhayk.com.

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