This night of mine

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Amrita Pritam loved deeply – life, her country and all of humankind. Her words could wind their way around all of these with consummate ease, and the elegance that was her signature, an ‘Amrita essential’ across all her poetry.

In the Hindi poem ‘Raat meri’, of which this is a reinterpretation, she interleaves her personal love with nature’s cyclical moods and colors. It is a navel-gazing Pritam we see in this piece… her words covered with the acid of torment and a trace of indignant self-pity.

Through this night, endless night –

your thought falls asleep,

Helpless, I stay awake.

 

The sun-tree stood tall

as someone plucked its rays –

Someone else tore the moon-lace

away from heaven’s face.

 

Why did someone’s sleep

get lured away by dreams?

The bright-faced stars felt stood up

when the sky slammed its door shut.

 

I had threaded your memory

to sew up my wounds of love.

Today I undid those stitches

and your memory-thread gave up.

 

The sacred book of your love

is thick with pain.

I have torn up every

page from it that waits.

 

The earth hid its sigh

the sky choked back a cry

when a caravan of happy flowers

passed through the desert of life.

 

The fragrance of wheat

is lost in gunpowder heat.

Peace that used to be a faith

was traded wantonly someplace.

 

The ages complain

to the light of the world:

“How was hatred sown

in the season of love?”

 

The conscience of man

asks the conscience of man:

“Why did the crucifix kiss

a gentle Messiah’s lips?”

 

What a night that was

as it rushed to the other side,

crushing beneath its feet

the moon-flower bright.

 

The sun-god’s horse neighs

and the reins of Day fall away,

Earth’s wayfarer despairs

as life’s dues he pays.

 

Why does the night stand still?

Its dark body trembles…

Somewhere, perhaps, a little glow worm

of someone’s faith glows on…

 

And now, the night eye twitches

a good omen it is said, or a sign

that on the sky’s high reaches

a ray of light is about to shine.

 

Can a tree help its love for flowers?

Even if the love gives it pain.

The heart of man

tells man:

“Men and women of love,

return! Return once more,

go where even one traveler of faith

has gone before

this night, this endless night.”

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