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As I listen to Ham Deḳheñge,

June 2020

Dipanjali Singh

Woh din keh jiskā wā’dah he,

Jo loḥ-i azal meñ likhā he

Jab zulm-o sitam ke koh-i girāñ

Rūi kī taraḥ uṛ jāeñge,  

If on a loafing March morning you were to enter the gates of the Delhi School of Economics,

and walk further down, you’d find a mulberry tree. The ground below would be smeared

red, or blue; purple, or reddishly blue- we never could settle upon an answer. It’s strange

now, the abundance in these talks: bursting, leaving the palms sticky with sweetness.


Ham maḥkūmoñ ke pāoñ tale

Jab dhartī dhaṛ dhaṛ dhaṛkegī

Aur ahl-i ḥukam ke sar ūpar      

Jab bijlī kaṛ kaṛ kaṛkegī,   

Strewn all over the scene would be students and teachers in conversation, iced-tea in hand,

sitting inside the badly ventilated canteen with fish-shaped mutton cutlets and glass bottles

of Thums Up. Pasted in the corner somewhere is a flimsy sheet with a statement- some

young things will have you know they are watching. They decipher the pulse of the earth

simply; they ask you to put your ears to the ground.


Jab arz-i khudā ke kā’bah se

Sab but uṭhwāe jāeñge

Ham ahl-i safā mardūd-i ḥaram

Masnad peh biṭhāe jāeñge

Professors have begun to disappear. They have been made into sinister, threatening, seditious scribes. The tyranny of lawful desires- wronging of rights- sentries galore. When does this

end? Who knows! God knows! Those forsaken by the aegis of the mighty- only their God.


Sab tāj uchāle jāeñge

Sab takht girāe jāeñge

Bas nām rahegā allāh kā

Jo ghāeb bhī he hāzir bhī

Jo manzar bhī he nāzir bhī

They asked questions- too damn much. Just who could risk answers? Not now, not here.

A single snag and the whole edifice could crumble. Inside a classroom, a professor looks at a

group of 250 students herded inside a room with 150 chairs. The sun dips, the class

ends. The students have learnt their lessons well. And demand: a course intimidated out of

the currciculum be brought back, a torrid day thrown into relief, a movie screening, more

chairs, some risky answers.    


Uṭhegā ‘an-al haq kā nā’rā

Jo maiñ bhī hūñ, aur tum bhī ho

Aur rāj karegī khalq-i khudā

Jo maiñ bhī hūñ, aur tum bhī ho

Witness, Iqbal Bano sings. Her black saree fetches fire and tyranny burns- who knows for

how long. Listen, she holds the promise like marigolds locked in the palms and breaks it

open as quietly as prayers to the river. Look how the marigolds float!


Ham deḳheñge

Lāzim he keh hum bhī dekheñge



Dipanjali Singh is currently pursuing a Master's degree in English at the University of Delhi.

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