Sitting on the banks of the Helmand,
swept by thoughts,
I watch as time flows in its currents.
It bends and twists to the embrace of centuries,
holding in its chest an eternity of stories.
I ask you in the language of the heart:
Do you recall the cruelties of your time?
You know well what’s happened at your edges.
You listened as angry skies grumbled
and death rained down with bullets.
You watched blood flow with your waves
as hangmen discarded martyred bodies.
And you witnessed those who looted
the nomad girls’ nose rings:
All in the name of the great lord.
how did you learn to flow with such calm?
Haven’t brutal storms tested you in life?
Haven’t your waves raked in scores of heads?
Haven’t mothers wailed to you at night?
Your bosom remains pretty from blue skies.
Haven’t your waves been coloured red in blood?
Your god-given beauty remains intact
Haven’t you felt the darkness of hatred?
And as ever, you roll up with pride.
Has no one woven a moment of pain to you?
It’s good that you are oblivious
as you flow through our village, our ruins.
You have been shield to our memories.
Come and continue
to keep our tales alive in your currents.
If stories of darkness do not suit you
why shall we remind you of our pain?
why shall we cry to you of our ruins?
How long shall we pollute your waters with tears?
How long shall we engulf you in our flames?
let’s forget the stories of yesterday
and renew our vow with the skies.
let me avenge the cruelties of time
let me subdue your enemies at your feet.
Let me snatch away their sleep,
let me curse their kismet with defeat.
Come, leave the accounts of justice to another day
And, in your soft embrace,
forget our moments of separation.
As you flow today, spread bouquets of flowers
and on your beautiful banks,
let a city of nomad tents flourish again.
Raise a soft cloud above the herds
and return to the young shepherd
his flute of jolly tunes.
I cradle a world of dreams on my wings.
Hold me so tight
that I can flow with your drops, like a story
that I can turn with your waves, like pages.
And as I release myself in your swing of dreams
the rotting blood of love reawakens in my veins.
I have spread my wings above your skies.
Please let them be
so that you don’t awaken the world of my dream-angels.
~ Bari Jahani is a Pashto poet. He is the author of the national anthem of Afghanistan.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
flickr / The US Army
On 1 December 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused the US of cutting fuel supplies to Afghan security forces. Despite US pressure, Karzai continues to stall the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement.
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