let the mourners come…

Very few people have born who may be called ‘great’ in its real sense – one great man died on August 9, 2008 leaving hundreds of thousands of his fans with tears!!

Born in 1942 in the same village where Hazrat Issa (May Allah be pleased with him) had born (i.e. in Palestine), life’s hardships started to shower on his innocent face in the early age of 6 years. His family had to migrate to a Lebanese camp where they had to survive on the food given to them as charity by the Red Cross. His anguish can be witnessed from the poem he wrote at that tender age.

When the circumstances changed and they came back, they were treated as immigrants. At this, this great man expresses his feelings as, ‘Living in one’s homeland as an immigrant is a terrible experience.’

Those who do not know the value of having their homeland safe and independent have a lot to be given by the life, and poetry, of the great man who we know as Mahmoud Darwish – the great nationalist poet from Palestine.

I being among the people who, like Darwish, are suffering from no different situation in my homeland can relate to his poetry easily. Glimpses of life in Palestine seem exactly from reflections of life of Sindhis! This can be understood easily from the following lines from his diary:

“Although I was present here before the creation of this country, my presence is not accepted here. I feel resentment. Without backing of the power, my basic rights seem merely ideal, and (it’s) only power which can turn them into reality.’

How would you feel when you’re treated as an outsider, albeit you are among the natives of the land? How would you feel if you are required to have a ‘passport’ in your own homeland or you’d be treated as an immigrant who has nothing to do with the land? Darwish had an experience of it, and he expressed his feelings in his famous poem, titled Passport:

They did not recognize me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognize me,
Ah . . . Don’t leave
The palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognize me
Don’t leave me pale like the moon!

All the birds that followed my palm
To the door of the distant airport
All the wheatfields
All the prisons
All the white tombstones
All the barbed Boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passport

Stripped of my name and identity?
On soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make and example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
From my forehead bursts the sward of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!

He wrote ‘National Identity Card‘ which made him famous throughout the world, in 1960s. Edward Said called this poem of Darwish as ‘National Poem‘. In this poem the poet is speaking with an Israeli policeman, and one can easily witness his national honor and pride which he held in his chest for his nation.

Here is the poem:

Record! I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged . . . I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper’s flesh will be my food
Of my hunger
And my anger!

No matter if hundreds of poets write poems about their beloved or anything, there are several issues which are far more serious to write about and read:

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird’s sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to
her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a
single word: Home.
(Title of the poem: I belong there )

His death has caused many eyes twinkling with happiness shed tears in sadness. I, being a Sindhi, have great reverence for the people who are nationalists and think first about their homeland than anything else…

May his soul rest in eternal peace and harmony! (amin)

(The title line has been taken from Funeral Blues by W H Auden. Image creadit: abro)