Chadur And Char-Diwari

Poem By Fahmida Riaz

Sire! What use is this black chadur to me?
A thousand mercies, why do you reward me with this?

I am not in mourning that I should wear this
To flag my grief to the world
I am not a disease that needs to be drowned in secret darkness

I am not a sinner nor a criminal
That I should stamp my forehead with its darkness
If you will not consider me too impudent
If you promise that you will spare my life
I beg to submit in all humility
O Master of men!
In your highness' fragrant chambers
lies a dead body
Who knows how long it has been rotting?
It seeks pity from you

Sire, do be so kind
Do not give me this black chadur
With this black chadur cover the shroudless body
lying in your chamber

For the stench that emanates from this body
Walks buffed and breathless in every alleyway
Bangs her head on every doorframe
Covering her nakedness

Listen to her heart rending screams
Which raise strange spectre
That remain naked in spite of their chadur.
Who are they ? You must know them ,Sire.

Your highness must recognise them
These are the hand - maidens
The hostages who are halal for the night
With the breath of morning they become homeless
They are the slaves who are above
The half-share of inheritance for your
Highness's off-spring.

These are the Bibis
Who wait to fulfill their vows of marriage
In turn, as they stand , row upon row
They are the maidens,
On whose heads , when your highness laid a hand
of paternal affection,
The blood of their innocent youth stained the
whiteness of your beard with red
In your fragrant chamber , tears of blood,
life itself has shed
Where this carcass has lain
For long centuries, this body spectacle of the murder
of humanity.

Bring this show to an end now
Sire, cover it up now
Not I, but you need this chadur now.

For my person is not merely a symbol of your lust:
Across the highways of life , sparkles my intelligence
If a bead of sweat sparkles on the earth's brow it is
my diligence.

These four walls , this chadur I wish upon the
rotting carcass.
In the open air, her sails flapping , races ahead
my ship.
I am the companion of the New Adam
Who has earned my self-assured love.

[Translated form Urdu by Rukhsana Ahmed]

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