Modern Punjabi Poetry: Pāsh

Pash-banner-600width

Translated by Randeep Singh

Born Avtar Singh Sandhu near Jalandhar, East Punjab, Pāsh (1950-1988) was a Marxist poet whose poems were critical of neo-imperialism, social conservatism and religious orthodoxy. He wrote three anthologies of poetry in the 1970s during his lifetime, with an additional anthology being published posthumously in 1989. He was killed by Sikh militants in 1988 after his criticism of the Khalistan movement.

The Most Dangerous Thing
(‘Sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundā’)

The most dangerous thing is
Not one’s looted toils
Not a police thrashing
Nor treason’s greedy fist

It’s a terrible thing to be
Seized in the dead of night
Clenched by terrifying silence – but
It’s not the most dangerous thing

The most dangerous thing is
When your soul dies
When you feel nothing
When you bear it all
Home to work
Work to home
To live without dreams
That’s the most dangerous thing

The most dangerous moment
Is when you realize
What others see as moving
You see as standing still

The most dangerous eye
Is one which sees all things as frozen
Which can’t see a world swaying in love
Whose vision is obscured by the fumes of riches
Which is lost in the cycle of days and nights
Which is carried off on the ass of reason

The most dangerous neighbour
Is one who after each chapter of genocide
Peeks over the wall for a glimpse
Into your courtyard
But whose eyes remain unmoved
Even if spices were thrown into them

The most dangerous song
Is that which comes to your ears
Trespassing as a wail
Before the doors of people terrorized
Coughing the sickness of depravity

The most dangerous night
Is the night descending
On the skies of living souls
Where owls hoot and jackals bawl
Which sticks eternally
Barring doors and windows

The most dangerous direction
Is where the sun has set on one’s soul
On the final beam of that dying light
Which pierces the body’s eastern horizon
The most dangerous thing is
Not one’s looted toils
Not a police thrashing
Nor treason’s greedy fist…

Sabh toñ khatarnāk

Kirat dī lut sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundī
Puls dī kuṭ sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundī
Ghadārī-lobh dī muṭh sabh toñ khatarnāk hundī

Baiṭhe sutiāñ phaṛe jānā – burā tāñ hai
Darū jihī chup vich maṛe jānā – burā tāñ hai
Sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundā

Kapaṭ de shor vich
Sahī hundiāñ vī dab jānā – burā tāñ hai
Kise jugnūñ dī lo vich paṛan lag jānā – burā tāñ hai
Sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundā

Sabh toñ khatarnāk hundā hai
Murdā shāntī nāl bhar jānā
Na honā taṛap dā, sabh sahin kar jānā
Gharāñ toñ nikalnā kam te
Te kam toñ ghar jānā
Sabh toñ khatarnāk hundā hai
Sāḍe supaniāñ da mar jānā

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh ghaṛī hundī hai
Tuhāḍe guṭṭ’te chaldī hoī vī jo
Tuhāḍī nazar de laī khaṛī hundī hai

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh akh hundī hai
Jo sabh dekhdī hoī vī nanḍhī yakh hundī hai
Jis de nazar duniā nūñ muhabbat nāl chumndā bhul jāndī hai
Jo cheezāñ’choñ uṭhdī anepan dī bhāf ute ḍul jāndī hai
Jo nit disde dī sādhārantā nūñ pīndī hoī
Ik mantakhīn duharā de gadhī-goṛ vich hī rul jāndī hai

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh chan hundā hai
Jo har katal kānḍ de bād
Sun hoe vihiṛiāñ vich chaṛdā hai
Par tuhāḍīāñ akhāññ mirchāñ vāng nahīñ laṛdā hai

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh gīt hundā hai
Tuhāde kanāñ tak pahunchan laī
Jihṛā kīrnā ulanghdā hai
Dare hoe lokāñ de bār mūhare –
Jo vailī dī kangh kanghdā hai

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh rāt hundī hai
Jo paindī hai jīūndī rūh diāñ ākāshāñ’te
Jihde vich sirf ulū bolde giddaṛ havāñkade
Chimaṭ jānde sadīvī ner band būhiāñ chugāṭhāñ’te

Sabh toñ khatarnāk oh dishā hundī hai
Jihde vich ātmā da sūraj ḍubb jāve
Te us dī marī hoī dhup dī koi chilatar
Tuhāḍe jism de pūrab’ch khubh jāve
Kirat dī lut sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundī
Puls dī kuṭ sabh toñ khatarnāk nahīñ hundī
Ghadārī-lobh dī muṭh sabh toñ khatarnāk hundī

Dreams (‘Sufne’)

Not everyone can dream
Can lifeless dynamite
Dream of exploding?
Can the palm without sweat
Dream of fighting injustice?
History books silenced on shelves
Can they ever dream?
To dream, one needs
An enduring heart
A vision – in that land of dreams
Dreams are dreamed

Sufne
Har kisī nūñ nahīñ aunde
Bejān barūd de kanāñ’ch
Suttī agg de sufne nahīñ aunde
Badī laī uthī hoī
Hathelī nūñ pasīne nahīñ aunde
Shelfāñ’ch paīe
Itihās de granthoññ sufne nahīñ aunde
Sufne laī lāzmī hai
Jhalū dilāñ da honā
Nīnd dī nazar honī lāzmī hai
Sufne is liye har kise nūñ nahīñ aunde

Poems on the Rainy Season (‘Barsāt’)

Clouds rumble
Deep within me
I fear that coming storm
May sweep you away too
With innocents in their nests
The people of my world
So uncivilized even today
They cannot recite the mantra
Of the lightning flash

Mere dhur andar kite badal gaṛkde han
Main ḍardā hāñ us tūfān’ch
Aālianāñ vich masūmtā sune
ñ vī nā kite rul jāveñ
Mere jahān de lok aje aene janglī han
Bijlīāñ dā mantar nahīñ jānde

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