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How the Indian subcontinent has lost its way

Monitor News Bureau





On the 30th death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan today, it is apt to remember him as the man who challenged the subcontinent’s pet stereotypes. He was a Pakhtun or Pathan from the North West Frontier Province, now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where people are said to still subscribe to the code of revenge. Yet Frontier Gandhi, as Ghaffar Khan was popularly known, led a non-violent movement against the British in the province, his followers refusing to retaliate even as they were mowed down.
Ghaffar Khan embraced the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence because it resonated with Islam, thereby negating the idea that the religion of Muslims was inherently violent. He opposed the brand of homogenising political Islam, represented by Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League in much the same way as Hindutva represents political Hinduism today. That is why he stood with the Congress in its battle against the Muslim League and communalism.
He believed the Congress had agreed to the partition of the country to gain power and, as a consequence, thrown the Pakhtuns “to the wolves”. Yet, the sense of betrayal did not prevent his followers from saving Hindus and Sikhs in the North West from Muslim assailants during the Partition riots.
Indeed, Ghaffar Khan is a reminder of how far the subcontinent has veered away from what it wanted to be.
Critics have doubted his commitment to non-violence. This is largely because, as Rajmohan Gandhi points out in Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns, he had agreed to the proposal of the fiercely anti-British cleric Maulana Obeidullah Sindhi to establish secret bases across the province. One base was even identified but the plan was aborted when Sindhi did not reach there as promised. No one really knows what the purpose of the proposed bases was but it is unlikely it was peaceful. Indeed, in 1981, Ghaffar Khan confessed: “In my youth I also thought [of] violence.”
But by 1919, when Ghaffar Khan was 29 years old, he had become a votary of non-violence. This was demonstrated when he organised a large peaceful public meeting in his Utmanzai village against the Rowlatt Act, which allowed the detention of a person without trial if found in possession of seditious material. Ghaffar Khan was arrested and sent to jail, the first of many spells of incarceration he endured in British India and then in Pakistan, totalling 27 years.
The defining moment for Ghaffar Khan and the Pakhtuns he led was the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930. By then Ghaffar Khan had already raised the Khudai Khidmatgar, or Servants of God. To become a Khudai Khidmatgar, one had to take an oath that included these words: “I shall never use violence, I shall not retaliate or take revenge, and I shall forgive anyone who indulges in oppression and excesses against me.”
The Khudai Khidmatgar more than lived up to their oath. On April 23, Ghaffar Khan was on his way from Utmanzai to Peshawar to take part in a civil disobedience event when he was arrested and sent to the Charsadda jail. In protest, thousands of his followers surrounded the jail and many more marched in Peshawar and other places. To quell the non-violent insurrection, the British resorted to firing on the protestors. Yet, Rajmohan Gandhi notes in Ghaffar Khan, the Khudai Khidmatgar and their supporters, “who were chased down the streets and lanes of Peshawar, all them Pathans raised on the code of revenge, did not hit back. Even more dramatically, soldiers of the Raj’s Garhwal Rifles refused to obey their officer’s order to fire at a crowd of unarmed Pathans”.
This story of the brutal suppression of the Pakhtuns receives, at best, a passing mention in Indian school textbooks, perhaps because Peshawar is now in Pakistan.
Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders were released from prison in January 1931, but not the Pakhtun leader who had inspired his brethren to renounce violence and use civil resistance to challenge colonial rule. It was perhaps because of being singled out in 1931, as well as in later years, that Ghaffar Khan would say, “The British considered a non-violent Pathan more dangerous than a violent Pathan.”
Presumably, Ghaffar Khan’s non-violent movement surprised many, but he though the Pakhtuns were only following their religion. “There is nothing surprising in a Musalman or a Pathan like me subscribing to non-violence,” he said. “It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet, all the time he was in Mecca [before he migrated to Medina]…But we had so far forgotten it that when Mahatma Gandhi placed it before us we thought he was sponsoring a new creed or a novel weapon.”
He argued that non-violence was the “twin of patience”, which is stressed upon repeatedly in the Quran. Citing the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, Ghaffar Khan defined jihad as a Muslim’s duty to speak truth to tyrant rulers, among whom he obviously counted the British. He mocked people who raised the bogey of Hindu rule after Independence. “To those who come to warn me against a Hindu rule, I say, perhaps it may be better to be slaves under a neighbour than under a perfect stranger,” he said.
On Mahatma Gandhi’s insistence, Ghaffar Khan was freed from jail in mid-1931, only to be returned there that December to serve a three-year term. On his release in 1934, he spent time with Gandhi in Wardha. Gandhi said he had a number of Muslim friends who would sacrifice their all for Hindu-Muslim unity, but none of them was “greater than or equal” to Ghaffar Khan.
It was not long before the police arrived in Wardha to arrest Ghaffar Khan on the charge of making a seditious speech in Bombay, tearing him away from his children who had come to meet him after three years. As he walked to the van waiting to take him to jail, he said, “It is all God’s doing. He kept me out [of the jail] to use me outside. Now I must serve from the inside. What please Him pleases me.”
The Khudai Khidmatgar, which merged with the Congress during the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930-31 but retained its identity as a volunteer force, made deep inroads into the Frontier Province, going on to form the government after the provincial elections of 1937. Such was its dominance that the Muslim League could not even win one seat in the province.
The League, however, began to gain influence in the region after adopting the resolution demanding Pakistan in 1940, winning 17 seats in the 1946 elections. It was still no match for the Khudai Khidmatgar – contesting under the Congress’ banner – which retained power by winning 30 seats. This despite Ghaffar Khan campaigning for just a month. In 1946 as in 1937, the government was headed by Khan’s older brother Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan, popularly known as Dr Khan Sahib.
In the mid-40s, even as it became clear that Pakistan would be created with the Muslim League as its party of government, Jabbar Khan did not hesitate to battle the party. Rajmohan Gandhi tells the story of Basanti, a pregnant Sikh woman who, after her family had been killed in riots in Hazara district, had been abducted and married to a Muslim man. The police recovered Basanti and sent her to Jabbar Khan. She asked to be sent to her Sikh relatives and Jabbar Khan agreed. The Muslim League agitated against the decision and made the woman’s return to Islam the principal demand of its civil disobedience movement in the Frontier Province.
When Jabbar Khan fined Hazara villages for rioting against Hindus and Sikhs, the League accused him of repression because no such fines had been imposed on Hindus who had rioted against Muslims in Bihar. To an angry crowd that descended on his house protesting against government crackdown on Muslim League supporters, Jabbar Khan said he would do what he considered his duty.
As the Partition neared and communal riots erupted across the country, Ghaffar Khan accompanied Mahatma Gandhi to Bihar. They addressed people together. At one place, Ghaffar Khan said, “If India is burnt down, all will lose, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christian. What can be achieved through love can never be achieved through hatred or force…The Muslim League wants Pakistan. They can have it only through love and willing consent. Pakistan established through force will prove a doubtful boon.”
In the Muslim-majority Frontier Province, Ghaffar Khan invoked Islam to maintain communal amity. At Shabqadar, he said, “What gains will Islam and the Muslims reap from these riots and the slaughter of children, women and the aged?…These happenings are against the tenets of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. To lay hands on an innocent poor man goes also against Pakhtun tradition.” Speaking about an old Sikh man who had been murdered even after expressing willingness to embrace Islam, he asked, “Is it done for the sake of Islam? I warn the League brethren that the fire they kindle will spread in wild blaze and consume everything in its way.”
But the violence, and realpolitik, convinced most Congress leaders to agree to the Partition Plan, with the Congress Working Committee overwhelmingly ratifying it. Only four leaders held out – Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narain. Years later, Ghaffar Khan recalled he had told the Working Committee, “We Pakhtuns stood by you and have undergone great sacrifices for attaining freedom, but you have now deserted us and thrown us to the wolves.”
He felt betrayed also because the Pakhtuns were only given the choice, to be determined through a referendum, of going with India or Pakistan and not of independence. Believing his participation in the referendum campaign could lead to Pakhtuns killing Pakhtuns, he and the Khudai Khidmatgar left the field to the Muslim League.
They, however, ensured that the province, unlike other parts of the subcontinent, did not witness large-scale riots in August and September of 1947. In his book, Rajmohan Gandhi quotes the Pakistan academician Sayed Waqar Ali Shah, “Despite their desertion by the [Congress], the Khudai Khidmatgar still held strength in the province and…protected the lives and property of the non-Muslims in the NWFP.”
The North West Frontier Province voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Pakistan. In his new country, Ghaffar Khan took to fighting for a better deal for the frontier region and, for this, spent years in prison. In the 1960s, he became an exile in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In 1969, Ghaffar Khan visited India for the centenary celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. He was accorded a rousing reception wherever he went. But he did not let that hold him back from speaking the truth: India had strayed away from Gandhi’s path.
Of this visit, Rajmohan Gandhi writes, “Whether by accident or by design, the Gandhi centenary saw communal riots in different parts of India, including in Gandhi’s Ahmedabad.” Ghaffar Khan fasted for three days for peace. He went to Ahmedabad and was disappointed to see that “Hindus work in Hindu areas alone”. After receiving the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, he repeated to the audience what a Muslim girl in Ahmedabad had told him: “Muslims were being asked by Hindu communalists to leave the country or live like untouchables.”
In his address to a joint session of Parliament, he was brutal in his assessment: “You are forgetting Gandhi the way you forgot the Buddha.”
To that list of forgotten idols, we should add the name of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. It is some recompense he is not alive to visit Parliament, where hangs the portrait of VD Savarkar, the man who inspired Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhi. It is time we revisited the ideals that Mahatma Gandhi and Frontier Gandhi represented and held firm to them.
(This article is based on Rajmohan Gandhi’s Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns.)



Agha Shahid Ali, the timeless poet

The Kashmir Monitor



By Aga Syed Amin Musvi

The Kashmiri-American poet, Agha Shahid Ali (1948-2001) published a new poetry collection “Rooms are never finished” in the same year he passed away. This poignant and remarkable work was shortlisted for the America’s coveted 2001 National Council Book award.

The work revels at the highest of the poet’s powers dedicated to his late mother. It is framed by her death from brain cancer in 1997 and the poet’s own battle against the same illness shortly afterwards.


The poem revolves around the nucleus – theme of life and death in exile.

Shahid employed gigantic metaphors and alluring imaginations.

The songs of the poem are dominated by elegiac tone and each serves as the sequence of poems.

The first from Amherst to Kashmir about the poet’s mother and Karbala are contrasted and binds the time into a narrative beyond time.

The second eleven stars over Andalusia of work exceptionally laced with beauty in an adaptation of MehmoodDarvaish’s “Palestine Poet” original about the expulsion of the Moors from 15th century Spain.

‘Rooms are never finished’ is divided into four parts, but in a brief note the author explains that the conflict in war-torn Kashmir forms the backdrop to his collection and was focusing to his previous volume, ‘A country without post office’.

He and his family took his mother to the devastated land for burial as she had longed for her home during her illness.

In America, she had come to Amherst for treatment and died there. His moving poem Lennox Hill plays on the word mother and describes her last days, overlaid with dream like sequence of Kashmir. He writes.

‘As you sit here by me, you’re just like my mother,’
She tells me. I imagine her: a bride in Kashmir,
She’s watching, at the Regal, her first film with Father.

If only I could gather you in my arms, Mother,
I’d save you—now my daughter—from God.

‘Rooms are never finished’

The book goes on to part one 1, from Amherst to Kashmir a sequence which opens with an exquisite prose poem Karbala: A saga – house of sorrows.

He writes and recollects Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS) on the tenth of Muharram (Ashura) is the rite of Shia’s Islam so central at the funerals those events are woven into elegies every death.

Using Karbala as a leitmotif he takes the reader back to AH 61. In elegant sparse and powerful prose, he reconstructs the story and symbolism of Imam Hussain’s (as) sacrifice as well as sufferings of saviours particularly HazratZainab.

Death had turned every day in Kashmir into some family’s Karbala. We observe the Ashura in the afternoon because of night curfew. That evening at home my mother was sudden in tears. I was puzzled then very moved. Since she was girl and felt Zanib’s grief her own. This was indeed the translation of Kashmiri elegy recited at her mother’s funeral Zainab’s lament In Damascus. This finds the profound contrast with Faiz ‘s translation the Rebel Silhouette.

He goes on to give brief glimpse of Begum Akhter when she sings the meditative poem of MirzaGalib in soppy tunes, then he moves to Muharram and the mourning. The revolving themes of mother, Muharram and Kashmir continue to develop subsequent poems. Interjected with frenzy nostalgia, the whole interposed with a medley of cross cultural references. The poet’s personal anguish becomes an expression of deeper universal emotions and mysteries. Furthermore, these poems written in wide range of poetic style and form, which includes a translation of Faiz’s memory which begins”.

Desolation’s desert. I’m here with shadows
of your voice, your lips as mirage, now trembling.

Grass and dust of distance have let this desert bloom with your roses.

Later he translates the famous Galib’sghazals which Begum Akhter sang

Not all only a few

Distinguished as tulips as rose.

What possibilities has the earth forever

Covered what face?

In this collection the mess of exile separation and loss are layered with several levels of meaning both literal and metaphorical and include poet’s eminent farewell to this earth.

The second section of Rooms are never finished consists of poems which look at the world as a place of limbo, in which the poet is but a passenger, passer-by or guest. In the little poem Rooms are never finished about reality and illusions a voice guides the poet somewhere in space and time and goes on saying:

Come to the window: panes plot the earth apart. In the moon’s crush. The cobalt stars Shed light blue-on Russia the Republic’s porcelain,

The Ural’s mezzotint, why are you weeping

Dear friend!? Hush rare guest.

Agha Shahid Ali has explored many different poetic forms, including canzones, sonnets tetra Zima and he has introduced aspects of Marisa Elegy or elements of shikwaDrIqbal’s (RA) poem . There are several of his ghazals in English too, written in remarkable skill, in which the second line of every couplet repeating a phrase employing the new meaning, culminating with the poet’s name often with a lightness of touch a quite mocking and wit.

Part 111 consists of ‘Eleven Stars Overs Andalusia, a breath-taking adaptation of an Arabic poem, by Palestinian writer Muhammad Darwish. In an end note, Agha Shahid Ali explains that he was sent “a very literal version” and asked to “convert it into poetry”. He finally found a way of tackling it, after reading Lorca (Federico García Lorca Spanish poet 1898–1936).

He adds that the Title of Eleven Stars comes from the Quran and is a reference of Joseph’s dream.

About the dream he say 11 stars and the sun and moon prostrate before him. Joseph was told by his father, “Say nothing of this dream to your brothers lest they plot evil against you.”

But Grenada is made of gold,

Of silken words woven with almonds of silver tears.

In the string of a lute

‘Eleven Stars over Andalusia not only depicts the exile and expulsion of the Moors from Spain and their farewell to their enchanted land but cleverly provides an analogy with the homelands of the author and translator Palestine and Kashmir. These poems also convey the poet’s personal lament for the world that he too will leave behind soon. In the fourth Poem ‘’ I’m one of the Kings of the end

He writes ‘’ I’ve passed over this land, there is no land in this land. Since time broke around me, shard by Shard

I was not a lover believing that water is a mirror

As I told my old friend and no love can redeem me,

For I’ve accepted ‘’ the peace accord ‘’ and there is no longer a present left

To let me pass, tomorrow close to yesterday.

The Eleventh and Final poem, Violins begins and ends with the couplet

Violins weep with gypsies going to Andalusia..

Violins weep for Arabs leaving Andalusia. The fourth and last section of this volume consists of a single poem, ‘I Dream I’m at the Ghat of the only world’ a wonderful meditation work with memories of all that is dear to him_ particularly people such as his mother, poet James Merrill, Eqbal Ahmad, Begum Akhter, all of whom have travelled to the other shore ‘’ the central image holding the poem together is Ghulam Muhammad, the waiting boatman who will ferry the poet across the water.

In this exceptional collection, Agha Shahid Ali has brought English language poetry in the sub- Continent to new heights. He has also conveyed the essence, depth and rage of indo-Muslims culture as no other English writer has, in fact South English poetry has probably never seen anything quite like it.

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The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri:

The Kashmir Monitor



By Tahir Ghani

This is probably the first proper collection of English translations of verse by MullaTahirGhani, or Ghani Kashmiri (d. 1669), a Persian poet from Kashmir who lived during Aurangzeb’s time and whose language was respected even in Iran. A poet whose creations, whose idioms, influenced Indian writers even as later as Mir and Ghalib.

The collection comes with a insightful introductory essay by Mufti MudasirFarooqi on Ghani Kashmiri and Persian language in Kashmir.


The book offers translations of Ghazals, Quatrains (Rubaiyat) and a Masnavi.

As one reads through Ghani’s work, one gets to step into Ghani’s world, his joyous exclamations, his saddening doubts, his dejection of the way world works and his playful jokes at the world.

The compilation comes with English transliteration, so you actually get to read the original work as well the translation (a practice that should always be followed for such work. But somehow is seldom followed). The translations try best to retain the meaning of the original, the only problem is for a reader not already familiar with the way Persian poetry works, particularly in case of some Ghazals where the reader can easily forget the central theme of a composition in an attempt at catching the meaning of translation of an idiom.

One of the most interesting work translated in this book is MasnaviShita’iyahoe Winter’s Tale, a graphic and poetic description of Kashmiri winter by Ghani Kashmir that ends with lines:

Hinduyedidamki mast az ‘ishq bud
Dar javaban gift an zunnardar
nistdardastam ‘inan-e ikhtiyar
rishtayedargardanamafgandah dust
mibaradharjakikhwatirekhwah-e ust
I saw a Hindu drunk with devotion
‘Such striving to what end?’ I asked.

In reply said that wearer of the sacred thread:
‘The reins of will are not in my hand.

“The Friend has yoked my neck with HIs thread
And pulled me by it wherever He wills.”

There is an interesting famous story given in the book. It is said that when Ghani Kashmiri was invited by Emperor Aurangzeb to his court, the poet snubbed him and refused.

The poet said to Mughal governor Saif Khan, ‘Tell the King that Ghani is insane.’ Saif Khan asked, ‘How can I call a sane man insane?’ At this Ghani tore his shirt and went away like a frenzied man. After three days he died.

What is not given in the book is a probable reason for Ghani’s hesitation at joining the royal court. The explanation for this behaviour may be sought in the story of his master ShaikhMuhsinFani.

“Fani was a court poet of Shahjahan and was greatly honoured by the Emperor. But when Sultan MuradBakhsh [youngest son of Shahjahan] conquered Balkh [in Afghanistan] a copy of Muhsin’sdiwan was found in the library of Nadhr Muhammad Khan [Uzbek, happened in around 1646] the fugitive sovereign of the kingdom which contained panegyrics on him. This detection of duplicity very much enraged Shahjahan who removed him from the court. However the Emperor allowed him a pension. Fani returned to Kashmir and spent his days in instructing and educating youngmen.”*

  • From ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of the Hindustani Manuscripts in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras’ (1909)

Also, another thing not mentioned in the book is that his old takhallusTahir is Chronograph for the year when Ghani (his later takhallus) started his poetic career.

The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri
Translated by Mufti MudasirFarooqi and NusratBazaz
Penguin, 2013


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Four poets on exile and being refugees

The Kashmir Monitor



By MananKapoor, Sahapedia

“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home,” wrote the exiled Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in “I Belong There”. Exile has long been a recurring metaphor in poetry and, much like love, has resonated across the boundaries of language and time. From the first-century poet Ovid who was banished by the Roman emperor Augustus, to the 19th-century poet-emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar who was exiled to Rangoon (now Myanmar) by the British, poets have often used their verses to talk about their displacement, respond to migration caused by war and politics, and question man-made boundaries.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the expansion of nation states and the birth of what the Irish political scientist, Benedict Anderson, called “imagined communities”. Numerous mass migrations took place around the world; families were separated and people were left longing for their homelands. The Indian subcontinent witnessed the horrors of the Partition, the migration of Tibetan refugees, the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. Naturally, many poets from the subcontinent reacted to these tragedies. These poets – some in exile, some in translation and others who witnessed calamity befall their loved ones – shed light on the plight of losing a home and the experience



The 1947 Partition caused the largest human migration in recorded history. Around 15 million people were uprooted, and the Punjab region – a part of which was incorporated into Pakistan – was one the worst-affected areas in the subcontinent. Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, born in Gujranwala in modern-day Pakistan, became a refugee as a result of the catastrophe. Like millions of others, she moved to New Delhi and, at the age of twenty-eight, penned her iconic poem “AjAkhanWaris Shah Nu” (Today, I Call UponWaris Shah) on a scrap of paper. She wrote:

A million daughters weep today and look at you for solace
Rise o beloved of the aggrieved, just look at your Punjab
Today corpses haunt the woods, Chenab overflows with blood
Someone has blended poison in the five rivers of Punjab
This water now runs through the verdant fields and glades
This fertile land has sprouted poisonous weeds far and near
Seeds of hatred have grown high, bloodshed is everywhere
Translated from the Punjabi by NirupamaDutt
AjjLakhaanDhiyanRondiyan, TenuWaris Shah NuuKain
UthhDard-MandaanDiyaDardiya, UtthTakApna Punjab
Ajj Bailey LashaanBichiyaanTeyLahoo Di Bhari Chenab
Kisey Ne PanjaanPaaniyanWichDitiZaharRala,
IssZarkhaizZameenDey Loon LoonPhuttiyaZahar

Another poet whose voice is considered synonymous with the Partition is Sampooran Singh Kalra, or Gulzar as he’s popularly known. Like Pritam, Gulzar too was born in Pakistan and migrated to India after 1947. The horrors of the event resurface in his writings, be it his heart-wrenching short story “Ravipaar” (“Across the Ravi”) or poems such as “AankhonkoNahiLagta Visa” (“Eyes Don’t Need a Visa”), an ode to Pakistani poet Mehdi Hassan:

Eyes don’t need visas,
dreams have no borders;
With closed eyes
I cross the border, every day,
to meet Mehdi Hasan.

Aankhonko visa nahinlagta
Band aankhon se roz main
Milne Mehdi Hassan se!


But the embers of the fire that started in 1947 burst into flame again in 1971. The Bangladesh Liberation War, which witnessed the dissolution of East Pakistan, left millions homeless and forced thousands of people into exile. The historical event was not only recorded by writers from the Indian subcontinent, but also caught the attention of Western poets such as Allen Ginsberg, who was in India right after the war. In “September on Jessore Road”, he wrote:

Millions of souls nineteen seventy-one
homeless on Jessore Road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan
… On Jessore road Mother wept at my knees
Bengali tongue cried mister Please
Identity card torn up on the floor
Husband still waits at the camp office door


Another part of the subcontinent, the Vale of Kashmir, has witnessed a continuous exodus since the late 1980s. Since then, over one lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been forced into exile, becoming refugees in their own country, straining the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. In “I See Kashmir From New Delhi at Midnight”, the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali wrote about the homelessness of the Kashmiri Pandits:

One must wear jewelled ice in plains
To will the distant mountains to glass
In “Farewell”, lamenting the loss of the ‘other’, he wrote:
I’m everything you lost. You won’t forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.

Not too far away from Kashmir, another community was being subjected to life in exile. In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, along with millions of Tibetans, fled to India after their homeland was annexed by China. They found temporary shelter in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, hoping to find a way home in the future. But even today, almost 60 years later, “home” is only a memory for most Tibetans. For others like poet Tenzin Tsundue, who was born in exile, home is a distant dream. In “I am Tired”, he sheds light on what it is like to fight for a home that one has never known:

I am tired,
I am tired selling sweaters on the roadside,
40 years of sitting, waiting in dust and spit.

I am tired,
I am tired fighting for the country
I have never seen.

Admittedly, these poems don’t have the power to alter boundaries or change the course of history. But, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, they are what make people sing in dark times.


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