Daily Archives: June 20, 2008

On Amrita Pritam

My article on Amrita Pritam has been re-published by Apnaorg (Academy of the Punjab in North America). I am sharing an excerpt and a translation of her poem here:

Her remarkable affinity with the depths of the Punjabi language adds to her iconoclastic status in India, Pakistan and wherever Punjabi is spoken and appreciated. Yet her audience has been global as well: her work was translated into dozens of world languages.

One of her poems makes the following confession:

Today I have erased the number of my house
And removed the stain of identity on my street’s forehead
And I have wiped the direction on each road
But if you really want to meet me
Then knock at the doors of every country
Every city, every street
And wherever a glimpse of a free spirit exists
That will be my home
(translation by author)

Through the course of her life, this ‘free spirit’ generated controversy but she never concerned herself with the mundane. Outspoken, prolific and deeply spiritual, Amrita existed within self-defined, non-conformist parameters. She lived with her partner for 41 years, shunned religious and sectarian identities and rejected the political divide of the left and right:

No absolutes for something as relative as a human life
No rules for something so tender as a heart..

Read the full article here

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Filed under musings, poetry, Punjabi, Women, Writers

Applause for Samad Khurram

Samad Khurram, a student at Harvard, an activist and also a contributor at the Pak Tea House made a public statement of his reservations against US policy in Pakistan in   a unique manner as he ignored the US Ambassador…

Well done Khurram for standing up for what you believe in; though there is a long way to go for us to become a self-respecting nation.


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Patti Smith’s Tribute to Benazir Bhutto

by Shaheryar Ali

“My Politics is mingled with poetry and Romance”

“I have learned politics from Rivers”

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

I am daughter of Indus, I am daughter of Taxila, I am an heir of this 5000 years old civilization

Benazir Bhutto

“Mein Baghi hoon, Mein Baghi hoon”, “I am a Rebel”

Benazir Bhutto [reciting a poem to millions who came to greet her at Lahore in 86]

Bhuttos were strange people, they became myths in their lives, like the Nehrus, Allendes, Nasirs, Arafats, they were the most loved people of their times. They became the symbol of resistance, their politics merged with folk lore, with music and poetry.

Benazir was perhaps last of this creed of politicians. Every one was angry with her for letting down her father’s socialist policies. No one understood her tragedy, this was the tragedy of the epoch in which she lived. This was the tragedy of Yasser Arafat, this was the tragedy of Hafiz Al Asad. She lived in the epoch of defeat. She lived in the epoch where the Capitalism snuffed out the Revolution of 1917. The dream was dead and the revolutionaries were without history, ideology and support.

In the single day the prophets of “modernism” and “progress” became”outdated” and “relics of the past”. It was this historic compulsion that made gods like Yasir Arafat irrelevant.

What was Benazir’s greatest achievement, she defeated this epoch. She refused to become “irrelevant”. She never led a revolution in Pakistan, but she never allowed reaction to take over either. When Hamas took over Palestine and Hizbollah conquered Lebanon, Bhutto and her party kept the hope alive in Pakistan no matter how weak it was , for the progressive politics. Jamate Islami lost the best opportunity it ever had to take over Pakistan by popularism after 9/11. The slogans of “Al Jihad Al Jihad” were checked by “Roti Kapra aur Makan”.

When she was killed, we understood who she was: ritualistic chest beating started in Skardu and spread to Karachi, the grief and reaction was unprecedented, from small villages and goths poetry emerged, from Jam pur, Bhakkhar, Ghotki, Chagi, Qalat, Waziristan, not the professional poets, but the folk poets, the poets who had sung the songs of 68-69. From Morocco to Korea, From Poland to Congo, From Brazil to Bulgaria creative responses emerged, poetry, music, painting cartoons.

Patti Smith , is also one of those strange people. She is called grandmother of the punk rock”. The western Pop, punk, rock, metal are very political movements, linked with resistence and people politics and peace. This is again the politics mingled with music and romance. Patti Smith delievered an improvised tribute to Benazir Bhutto in New York.

Patti Smith is inducted into the “Rock n Roll hall of fame” and is named a “commander” of “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by Ministry of Culture, France.

Here is the poem by her: Continue reading

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Filed under Benazir Bhutto, culture, Democracy, dynasties, History, Music, Pakistan, Politics