3 minutes reading time (615 words)

Mohenjo Daro Revisited

I.    You are not dead

 

Why do they call you

Mohenjo-daro

“Mound-of-the Dead”?

You are not dead!

You have never been dead

Or buried

Or cremated

By the scorching banks of the Sindhu;

Historians have conspired against you

 

A thousand and one tales

Have besmirched your name

Misguided fools have imagined

Your obituary to be true;

Sentimental fools have sung elegies

By their own graves

Garlanded their own biers,

Cursed the stars and howled at the heavens

Self-piteous tears, in the hope

That some part of their practiced grief would be remembered

As poetry,

A fitting tribute to your eternal face;

Maybe, they would be able to, by their ululations,

Raise demons from the earth

Or bring forth specters

From the darkest shadows of the thinnest air, precipitating

Some prophecy, nameless and foreboding, a small

Tin medal on their pathetic breasts,

Stark in their hunger for inspired flights;

 

Other dust should fashion other jars, not having the consistency

Of ours.

 

It has been foretold that you will not die

That you will not die thus, at the behest of historians

Or for the research of archaeologists

Or even the yapping lap-dogs

Aping the tawny shades of our leonine skins;

It has been foretold,

And we are witnesses to your survival.

 

II.    Priest-Kings and dancing girls

 

The sands have shifted,

As the river has—

You are only abandoned,

“Mound-abandoned-and-shifted”;

Take heart! Be not sad,

The sons of Sindhu are around you;

You cannot die while your sons live,

While the children of the river ply their wide boats

On your consort’s undulating breast;

While your daughters carry their vessels

Fashioned from your clay;

 

In every face, you are alive.

In the mien of priest-kings who have renounced

Their crowns and pulpits for lives of love and freedom—

At Bhit Shah, they sing your songs;

At Sehwan, they celebrate your being;

In every prayer and call to prayer you are revealed

Rising gradually to the heights of Kirthar

Rolling ceaselessly over the sands of Kutch

With every partridge crooning in the cotton,

With every mallard winging over Manchar,

You come forth—

The Breaker-of-the Shackles-of-Tyranny

The-Keeper-of-the-Honour-of-Dancing-girls

Friend-of-the-Imprisoned-Hari

Last-Flower-amidst-the-Thorns-of-Despair!

You are the yellow turmeric staining the red ajrak

Of our wounds

Anointing your martyrs

Healing your casualties

Soothing us with your whispered lullabye

Such as our mothers used to sing us

In our cradles

From the earliest dawn of creation’

 

Even now, your humped oxen plod home in the evening

Of their tillage;

Every day I hear the rise and fall of your undeciphered script

In the cadences of children

In the chattering of women

In the murmur of lovers

In the gestures of old men

In the anger of the young.

 

III.    A Dream Untold

 

It was said, long ago, that you will not die

That forever you will live in the eyes of every child,

That you will rise from your gargantuan sleep,

Arise, woken by the winds!

When the Eastern Gates of your citadel are opened wide

All wars will cease

Your sons will no longer flinch under the lash,

Your daughters will no longer be distraught,

The pillars of fire and smoke will settle down

And the silent waste-lands speak with voices of prophecy;

 

When precious stones will once again etch the bright circumference

Of your ruins

And the heavens shake themselves into fleeting shapes,

Vain and irresolute constellations plunge

Into narrow circles of despair—

 

It has been said that you will flourish again,

When the crashing shores

Of sea and river

Melt into each other

When waves shiver

Into the rock’s embrace.

 

Then I, too, shall awaken, I trust,

And behold you in your truth.

 


Originally published in the Glasgow Seeker, Scotland, UK, 2007

Two in my garden