On Forgetting

Translated from Hindi by Srirupa Bhattacharya


Is it possible to forget

the spent season of countless killings

hung like thick mist

above graveyards, villages and towns still


Those long nights

that we spent in the shadows of fear



The beads of my rosary

that lie muddied in a ditch still

Lost beneath debris and rubble


Those infants who did not know of a world

outside their mothers’ embrace


Mass-graves; tell me, has remembering

been in the nature of man

so that these may be forgotten


What does it mean to live in the engulf of insult of one’s faith

And be crushed by the burden of injustices,

A life of terror cooped in dirty ghettos

and in floating ashes of half-hearted smiles,

In the silence of a rusty loom abandoned by coloured threads,

In the reports that have disappeared from newspapers

and the faces that have disappeared from sight.

Will you be able to forget

The scratches that remain to mark your face

Will you not look at them, every time

Will you not think about the moments

when ominous evenings were spared on you

only so that they could mock you

Rebuild Babri Masjid

Forgetting, is it the same as getting justice?

When even the air we breathe

reeks of murderers

Is it possible to forget

the faces of murderers

Trapped waist-deep in the opulence of land, kingdoms

and their heirs;

On seats of powers

The faces of pimps;

In the Parliament, in the Assembly, on TV and theatre screens

glowing faces

of plunderers and murderers


Not only in the heart of Delhi

But in every corner of the world these faces are being identified

Speak to me, jungles of Chiapas

Tell me, African farms

Rain soaked afternoons of Chile,

Villages of Philippines,

Valleys of Kashmir,

Crematoriums of Vidarbh,

Rising fumes in Dharmapuri, Jhajjar and Khairlanji,

Arid mountains of Afghanistan,

Soaring rockets in the winds of Gaza

and all those catapults that are taking aim


Explain to me the topography of that face

Explain that, this face is of Ram and of Obama


This face is of Netanyahu and of Rajapakshe

Of Pizzaro and of Hitler too

Somewhere in the face there is Reagan and there is Thatcher

Nehru and Gandhi and Hedgewar,

Chidambaram, Manmohan, Montek, Advani, Modi


East India Company and Walmart, Shell and Essar

Vedanta and Posco.


All these faces

All the maps


How will you be able to forget them?

If you forget

Then you will have to forget along with them,

All the battles

That have made history the way it is

History of 1945 Germany

History of 1973 Vietnam



Displaced from history and torn from their voices

Some people, whose

Strength has made our today possible, how can

They be forgotten

Slums of my country, thank you

Your incessant fights have kept the memories of insults vivid

Thank you, harvests of the soil

No one knows the enemies’ faces better than you

Thank you, wise trees of the land, the accounts of burnt houses

Are still sealed in your memory

Dusty roads, thank you too, for our journey to victories

Will march across your chest

Rivers, ponds and seas, thank you, for we

learnt flowing and confluence from you


Raindrops, thanks to you, for the lesson of dogged determination

You gave to us

To all the roses in every garden, new springs will

take our struggles to new lands

Thank you songs, now we won’t let our silence be

Our destiny

Thank you, o moon of my skies, now will never leave behind in the dark

The hope of finding light

Thank you Delhi, your cruelty gives the ways to hate

Thank you Bastar, for the days after tomorrow

We have faith in you

Thank you Manipur for spitting on the face of the enemy

Thank you

Thank you Kashmir, for telling stones

that they are sharp


The lives that breathe in the soil of this land

I am thankful to you, for all great battles begun in the strength

of your wrists

The brave dead, I thank you, for life has

from the manure of your martyrdom

birthed new roses, and honey, and bread, and

New blood

Blood enough

To keep alive memories in our remembering


Now you must say

Tell me, how can you think about forgetting these

But then, if you kept these things in mind

And forgot about fighting

Then the truth of these memories will stand refuted.


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Reyazul Haque Written by:

Reyazul Haque has worked many years with Prabhat Khabar and Tehelka as a journalist and now he is studying Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He runs a well-known Hindi blog Hashiya and interested in poetry, cinema and theatre

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