It’s akin to visiting my foster mother, today,
That I am returning to you, mother city, after twenty years,
I look at your broad, bereft blood-stained streets, mater,
Through which emperors, prime ministers cavalcaded,
In victory and defeat, through gates and triumphal arches,
That murmur of the pains of your rape and impregnation.
The sudden shock of your poverty upsets me,
It is evident in the desperation of the cycle-rickshaw puller,
His eyes intent on the ground, standing on his pedals,
He pulls his woes, as if there is no halcyon tomorrows.
Your grimy streets are dusty, high walled, impenetrable,
As if you wish to guard the gory secrets within.
Is this where histories, dynasties were erected, to fall?
A dynasty now rules by proxy the city of the great Akbar,
And a fratricide of a politician now fills you with awe,
When you are the city of kingly fratricides and parricides.
Remember how Dara Shukoh was marched and beheaded,
In your own street of Chandni Chowk, of not long ago?
The secrets of your devious present and past mingle,
Where now stand glitzy malls, I know, blood had flowed,
In your dark corners soldiers, spies, princes plotted to kill,
You witnessed the dethroning of emperor Shah Jehan,
And the ascendance of his wily progeny, Aurangazeb,
And you covered your face in the folds of your veil.
Yet, now, mother city, your tears are dry, your sobs silent,
Slowly you die, spent and ravaged by your many lovers.
Though it is kitsch melodies that you hum today, you were,
Serenaded by Tansen, and Amir Khushro Dehlavi,
In your parlor once, poets and artists did conclave,
Over the “daughter of grapes” and the smell of hafim!
Top John Matthew Poems