Von Harris Khalique für Osip Mandelstam and Agha Shahid Ali.
I shall not return the borrowed dust
after the monsoon evening,
darkness began edging away light.
Tadpoles, chairs, pedestal fans
and a TV appeared
in Nana Farooq’s courtyard.
„Let’s tune in Amritsar.“
There were no cables, no dish antennae.
We would be glued to blurred India for hours.
„They made Pakistan on the train stations.
Separate water taps
for Hindus and Muslims.
And they were labelled,
Hindu pani, Muslim pani.
Nana Farooq had said.
Usman stirred the soundscapes
of an Iranian café in Quetta.
„Come off it. You are obsessed with Karachi.“
Like our forebears were obsessed
with Avadh and Kashmir.
But they failed to choose a water tap.
And couldn’t prefer the Indus
over the Ganges,
the Ganges over the Euphrates.
Avadh lives in our lexicon, Kashmir in our taste
we live in the valley of Sindh.
But we fail to choose a name for ourselves
and fail to choose a water tap.
Srinagar and Karachi are cleansed.
We are not given time to bury the dead.
We carry them.
They are heavy.
We are always tired, always thirsty.
But we fail to choose a water tap
and drink tears –
Hindu tears, Muslim tears
Punjabi tears, Bengali tears
Mohajir tears, Sindhi tears –
for our forebears told us,
„Never sell your souls
for the reasons you sell your bodies,
drink tears to quench your thirst,
and what the Koran said
bear in mind,
‚when the sky is cleft,
and when the stars are scattered,
and when the seas are flowed out,
and when the graves are ransacked,
each soul shall know what it sent afore
and what it left behind…’ „