trans. Meenakshi Jauhari 

I tasted a drop of moonshine tonight
in a cupful of clouds,
from the goblet of the sky divine.

I gave up the world today
to buy an ounce of faith,
an act of blasphemy they say.

I tore off a yard of muslin
from the bale I’d woven of dreams,
to stitch up a few breaths of living.

How will I ever repay this debt?
This life I have borrowed
from the book of death.
Meenakshi Jauhari has been writing poetry and short fiction for more than thirty years. Over the last decade or so, she has focused on writing her own poetry, and translating Hindi and Urdu poetry of modern poets like Amrita Pritam. Her poetry anthology The Fish Who Flew was published in 2019 by Writers Workshop, Kolkata, India. Her poetry and short fiction have also featured in literary journals such as Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), TLM (The Little Magazine), Out of Print, The Poetry Society (India) Journal and others. She is currently working on translating an early-twentieth century Urdu historical fiction into English. She lives in Gurgaon, India, with her husband and son.


Amrita Pritam

अम्बर की एक पाक सुराही,
बादल का एक जाम उठा कर
एक घूँट चांदनी पी है हमने

हमने आज यह दुनिया बेची
और एक दीन खरीद के लाए
बात कुफ़्र की की है हमने

सपनो का एक थान बुना था
गज़ एक कपड़I फाड़ लिया
और उम्र की चोली सी है हमने

कैसे इसका कर्ज़ चुकाएं
माँग के अपनी मौत के हाथों
यह जो ज़िन्दगी ली है हमने

Amrita Pritam was born in 1919 in Gujranwala, Punjab, now in Pakistan, to a hermit-like father who was himself a poet and a mother who taught in a nearby school. Her father taught her the essential tools of her craft – the art of poetic meter and rhyme, kafiya and radif, that are the very soul of Urdu poetic creation. Her first collection of verses, Amrit Lehren, was published in 1935, when she was barely sixteen. She later became part of the Progressive Writers Movement, and in the nineteen sixties, began to focus on women. Over six decades, she produced over one hundred books of poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography that have been translated worldwide.

Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections, and most recently, the trilingual chapbook Femme Ghosts (Publication Studio). She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and is a Translator-in-Residence at Princeton University. Her translations include Octavia Butler’s Kindred into Arabic (Takween Publishing); Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within (The Operating System), longlisted for the BTBA 2017 awards; and Ra’ad Abdulqadir’s selected poems, Except for This Unseen Thread.

Read Meenakshi Jauhari on translating the poems of Amrita Pritam.


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