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Tribute to Shaheed Quaderi (1942-2016)

  • Published at 06:00 pm September 3rd, 2016
  • Last updated at 07:33 pm September 3rd, 2016
Tribute to Shaheed Quaderi (1942-2016)

Last Wednesday (August 24), Shawkat Hussain re-posted a translation of a Shaheed Quaderi poem, ‘Saloon e jabar age’, on his Facebook wall. In a note he explained he posted it around this time last year as “a belated gift to Shaheed Quaderi on his birthday”. This year he shared it to “remember the poet as he lies critically ill in New York.” “May he recover soon!” Hussain’s note ended.

I reached Hussain out and asked his permission to carry the translation in the pages of Arts & Letters. He consented and said he’d also send in a translation of ‘Tomake Obhibadon Priyotoma’, which is perhaps Quaderi’s most-loved poem among his readers.

On Sunday (August 28), Hussain sent in the translation of ‘Obhibadon’ around 4:00pm and Quaderi passed away about an hour later in New York. On Monday, when Hussain posted it on his FB wall, he added this apt note:

Yesterday, 28th August, I finished translating this poem at 4:00pm, rushing to meet a deadline. I had no idea that Shaheed Quaderi was meeting his own final deadline one hour later in a New York hospital. Rest in peace, SQ.”

-- Editor, Arts & Letters

Greetings to you, my beloved

Fear not,

I will take such measures

That the army will march past you

With a bunch of flowers

On their shoulders

And salute, only you,

My beloved.

Fear not, I will take such measures

That crossing forests and thickets,

Barbed-wire fences and barricades,

Carrying memories of many battlefields,

Armoured vehicles will come to your threshold

Laden with violins,

Only for you, my beloved.

Fear not, I will take such measures—

Such measures will I take that

B-52s and MIG 21s will zoom overhead,

And like paratroopers,

Chocolates and toffees and lozenges,

Will shower on your lawn,

Only for you, my beloved.

Fear not, fear not,

Fear not…I will take such measures

That a poet will command

All naval fleets in the Bay of Bengal,

And in the coming election

A lover will defeat a Minister,

My beloved.

Know this, all conflicts will end—

I will take such measures

That a singer will easily

Become the leader of the Opposition Party,

Trenches in the borders,

Will be guarded all-year round

By red, blue and golden fishes—

Everything will be banned,

Except the smuggling of love, my beloved.

Fear not,

I will take such measures

That inflation will decrease,

And production of excellent poetry will increase daily,

I will take such measures

That the assassin’s knife will slip from his hand,

Not through fear of the mob’s fury,

But through fear of the mob’s kisses,

Only for you, my beloved.

Fear not

I will take such measures

That like the secret attack of Spring

Upon a wintry park,

Revolutionaries will invade the city

With accordions.

Fear not, I will take such measures,

That when you go to the State Bank

You can exchange a bunch of roses and chrysanthemums

For at least four lac Taka,

Four cardigans for a single jasmine.

Fear not, fear not

I will take such measures

That air, naval and artillery battalions

Will surround only you, night and day,

And greet you, my beloved.

Before Going to the Saloon

My hungry hair flies wildly in the air

Not easily tamed.

Many times, many times,

Have I tried to feed it well

And put it to sleep. “The monster is coming…sleep my baby,”

But nothing works.

My hair stands sleepless

Like a santal sardar with his lean muscular body, unclad;

Or like some motionless, unblinking rebel

Unbent by storms or bowed down by the rain,

He stands for ages, for ages.

This mad, black horse

Terrifies everyone, threatens to disrupt

Afternoon traffic, injure friends and relatives.

Everybody says the same thing,

“It’s grown too long, cut it down to size,”

It’s grown too long, past the ears,

Down to the shoulders.

There’s nothing to do.

It’s my hair, but not within my control.

It grows on its own, moves and scatters,

Flies like a rasping crow,

Invades someone else’s sky

Like its own, uses it with reckless abandon.

My hair is like some truant schoolboy’s

Covered with dust from head to foot,

Obsessed with the dream of possessing a football;

It is like some maverick player

Dominating the field

Like a stubborn monarch,

Heedless of the referee’s whistle.

So this is my hair, my ruffled, unruly hair,

Somehow sticking to my perplexed skull.

Suddenly, like a traffic signal,

My wild, disorderly hair will be tamed

When the barber’s firm, active scissors

Snip them off—And so I would go to the best saloons,

To discipline my hair.

The arrogance of my hair

Is not acceptable to members of civilized society,

It has to be cut, shortened.

My head has to be like ten other heads,

Like ten other heads in society,

And so it must be cut down,

Trimmed and flattened, silenced over my skull,

It must lie quietly plastered over my head

Like a cold mat.

Still, it is my hair!

Blind, silent, and deaf,

It springs up again

Like an injured horse

Even before the month is past.

Shawkat Hussain is Head, Department of English, University of Asia Pacific.