Poems of Kashmiri Poet Bashir Athar

“A good translator ought to be a good writer”

To translate from one language into another has never been an easy endeavour.It is an exercise both painstaking and cumbersome and only those who have engaged themselves with translation can realize the complex character of this Art.I have been associated with translation work for over three decades translating from English,more especially from Kashmiri,into Hindi and back.My translations have been widely appreciated and acknowledged and some have earned me awards/prizes and commendations. Besides,translating,I write short-stories and plays too.

Way back in 1997, I was on an official visit to Kashmir where I met Kashmiri poet Bashir Athar in his office-Srinagar TV Centre.It was my pleasure to receive his latest poetry collection ‘Kani Shahar'(Stoney City) to read.The more I read it, the more I was impressed and felt that the poems deserved to be translated and made available for reading to more readers. The theme of the poems was timely and the style excellent. Imagery superb and the language so powerful. I selected some poems (those which impressed me the most) and translated them into Hindi for Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya(Contemporary Indian Literature–A Hindi magazine published by Sahitya Akedmi,New Delhi,India)Athar received lot of attention for the theme he had chosen. Eventually, I thought of introducing this powerful poet to a greater number of appreciatve readers and my choice fell on English language.I took upon the stupendous task of translating the poems into English taking care of the flavour,appeal and suggestion of the original text.I worked hard and revised/typed the pages several times before they could attain the present form.I don’t claim to be well versed in English language.Truly so, because it is not my language,not my mother tongue too.Just my second/third language-enough to converse or express myself when needed.

I am sure that the readers/viewers would love the poems and come out with their reactions.

Former Fellow,

Indian Institute of Advanced Study,

Shimla(India)

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Unclaimed Body

An unclaimed body

Abandoned mercilessly

In a bleak alley of

This dark-drab city.

Battered and shattered

Wrapped in utter helplessness

Aloof, uncared for

Besmeared with blood

Eyes open and firm

Complaining innocently

An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Oh God! could anybody

Come forward and help me out?

But that was not to be

Numbness grew deeper and deadly

Akin to the disasters of

Hiroshama and Nagasaki.

Dogs sat around lethargically

Satiated with human flesh and booty

With eyes half-closed, heads down

Weeping, perhaps, on ‘his’

Approaching death, mournfully

An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Mehndi (Henna)on his hands

Had not faded entirely

Hair of his beard had not

Sprouted completely.

Bubbling with youth

A blossom of promise soaring high.

Sister must have looked around

Mother must have waited at the door

Old father must have gazed around anxiously

An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

A few days later

Quoted a Urdu Newspaper

‘We killed him, he was an informer

An adversary of the Movement, a deceiver’

A reader reacted instantly:

‘Yes, he was a militant

Foe of the nation, enemy agent–‘

Yet another murmured silently:

‘Neither a militant nor an agent

A loved/misguided son of the valley

A Kashmiri youth

Done to death brutally

An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Translator’s note:

(One of Athar’s best poems, ‘Unclaimed Body’ very passionately underlines the curse of terrorism, its consequences and repercussions. The poem stands out both in form and content and touches the very soul of the reader. The images created by the poet are superb and speak of poet’s realistic approach to highlight the fate of the youth in terror-infested valley of Kashmir.)

Broken Plate

Both of us ate

Rice and curd together

Off the same plate, and

Still you preserved your own entity

I my own.

But eventually

The plate broke apart

Spilling rice and curd on the floor.

And then

You established your own house

I my own.

We bought new plates

And thus

Divided became rice and curd.

But alas!

We didn’t care to see

While eating from the broken plate

That underneath was

A snakeling silently thriving

On seeping milky juice

That grew into a huge python.

And

Devoured both of us mercilessly.

Translator’s note:

(The poem is representative of the poet’s observation with regard to the gradual and silent emergence of separatism, terrorism and extremism in the valley.Snakeling symbolizes a hidden enemy bent upon creating mistrust and disorder amongst Hindus/Pandits and Muslims in the valley,who otherwise,had led a dignified and peaceful life backed by mutual trust,love and affection in the past.The unnoticed enemy, in the process,created havoc and both the communities had to pay a price for that.)

Keep on Dividing

You divided the sky

Divided the Universe too

God too you divided,and

Divided the countries all over.

You divided the shade of trees

Divided their greenness and freshness

Our traditions rich you got divided

Bonds ever thick you divided

You divided water,air too

Divided our rich past

Present too you brutally divided

You divided man, his humanness

Divided his soul, his psyche too

You divided the love

Of our mothers;brothers’ and sisters’ affection too

Keep on dividing my friend!

Till you are exhausted.

But tell me

How will you divide my

Motherland,my homeland?

Where you live,I live and

Our ancestors lived!

Translator’s note:

(The poem aims at exposing the nefarious and destructive motives of antisocial elements including extremists bent upon dividing the homogenous/secular character of Kashmiri society.The last four lines of the poem highlight the deep love the poet has for his society and homeland.He is hopeful that no one can divide his motherland.)

Where Will I go?

You thought:

Your exodus

Would make me glad,and

I would

Become wealthier

By grabbing your share.

Seize your soil

In my closed fist,

Destroy your past

Build a dream-house

On your memories, and

Imprint my mark on your

Belongings.

Yes,I did it all-

But in the process

My own self,my own identity perished

Like footsteps on sand.

You thought:

I gulped down your existence

But in the process

Where did my ownself go?

You don’t really know!

I tried my best to put my seal on

Your everything,

Again in the process

Never thought of graveyards

Expanding so rapidly,and

Still falling short.

You will find fire

For your pyre anywhere-

But where will I go?

What will be the fate of my grave

My friend!

This is the worry

Paining me constantly.

Translator’s note:

(The poem hints at the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus in the wake of growing militancy in the valley.The poet recalls his old and fond associations with this community and wants to share the agony/grief and sorrow of Pandits alongwith his own painful moments resulting from growing militancy in the valley.The poet is worried to find that graveyards are expanding and space is shortening day by day in the valley due to killings by terrorists,killings by para military forces and killings resulting from cross-border terrorism.Those who left the valley may find their abode finally but what about those who are destined to live on in the valley?.)

Source by Shiben Raina

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