Defenseless (1947)
trans. Meenakshi Jauhari 

My mother was in disgrace…
I am a person caught
in a clash of freedoms…
a scar of distress,
a line on my mother’s face,
hastily, painfully etched –
my mother was repressed.

I am the dark blot
that stained mankind,
born in a time
when stars were falling,
when the sun was dying,
and the moon’s eyes were lifeless –
my mother lay helpless.

I am the mark of a wound,
I am the blemish,
the burden of hate
she silently carried,
sickened by the stench
from her own body.

How can anyone know what it is
to nurture oppression,
to bear fire in the limbs,
burning in the bones –

I am the fruit of that hour
when the freedom tree
was in flower,
when liberation was at hand,
and liberty was far –

For ever,
my mother… I… was scarred.

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.


मजबूर (1947)
Amrita Pritam

मेरी माँ की कोख मजबूर थी...
मैं भी तो एक इन्सान हूँ
आज़ादियों की टक्कर में
उस चोट का निशान हूँ
उस हादसे की लकीर हूँ
जो मेरी माँ के माथे पर
लगनी ज़रूर थी
मेरी माँ की कोख मजबूर थी

मैं वह लानत हूँ
जो इन्सान पर पड़ रही है
मैं उस वक़्त की पैदाइश हूँ
जब तारे टूट रहे थे
जब सूरज बुझ गया था
जब चाँद की आँख बेनूर थी
मेरी माँ की कोख मजबूर थी

मैं एक ज़ख्म का निशान हूँ,
मैं माँ के जिस्म का दाग हूँ
मैं ज़ुल्म का वह बोझ हूँ
जो मेरी माँ उठाती रही
मेरी माँ को अपने पेट से
एक दुर्गन्ध-सी आती रही

कौन जाने कितना मुश्किल है
एक ज़ुल्म को अपने पेट में पालना
अंग-अंग को झुलसाना
और हड्डियों को जलाना
मैं उस वक़्त का फल हूँ –
जब आज़ादी के पेड़ पर
बौर पड़ रहा था
आज़ादी बहुत पास थी
बहुत दूर थी
मेरी माँ की कोख मजबूर थी...

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.
Read Meenakshi Jauhari on translating the poems of Amrita Pritam.

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