A searing jeremiad from Zehra Nigah to mark the Global Climate Strike


It is worrying that in a country like Pakistan, which is massively dependent on fossil fuels, like oil imported from countries such as Saudi Arabia, the debate over climate change and how it will affect the most vulnerable sections of society has barely broken past the surface

The vagaries of climate change are further compounded by the fact that Pakistan is one of the most populated countries in the world

While researching for a paper on eco-feminism in Urdu literature, I recently came across a searing jeremiad by one of Pakistan’s greatest feminist poets, Zehra Nigah, on water scarcity and the threat it poses to biodiversity in Thar

This poem, titled Baccha Aur Mor (The Child and the Peacock), subtitled Thar Ki Musalsal Kahani (A Connected Tale of Thar), is from her latest collection of poems Gul Chandni (Jasmine, Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2018), and offers a prophetic window into climate change, which is rare among Pakistani Urdu poets – hence my urgency in wanting to translate it into English to mark the ongoing Global Climate Strike

[caption id="attachment_88373" align="alignnone" width="251"] Photo: Raza Naeem[/caption] Notice how the mother of the eponymous child represents Mother Earth, who insists on protecting both the child and the peacock, thus signifying that climate change threatens all forms of life, whether human or animal, and survival entails creating bonds between both

The horrible denouement of the poem, where water scarcity has emptied the forests, branches and the earth itself, is a sobering reminder of the climate apocalypse which awaits us if we do not heed the call of nature and brave activists like Thunberg

  The Child and the Peacock by Zehra Nigah The mother taking the child in her lap Put kohl in his eyes Tied black thread in his hand Then said, now come my moon Let’s go see the peacock dance soon The child laughed a lot watching the peacock dance As if in those large eyes Filling all the peacock’s colours The light beating of the awakened tiny soft palm Broke the swaying jungle’s calm

  Mother told me The peahen is your sister, son The peacock her husband Your relation with the peacock is very old You too must fulfil it Do not forget A poisonous storm arrived The peacock and peahen both died All the colours of the wings shrunk becoming dusty The taut proud necks first bent And then tipping down they went Hung among the dried branches

  The child lying in the mother’s lap Pining for water and every food scrap Died too like the peacock Left the black string, the wrist dried The taut neck too tipping down to a side The soft palm like a bud became barren

  Empty jungle Empty lap Empty branches Empty swing All the colours of the jungle scattered All the mother’s children dead, not that it mattered



Date:28-Sep-2019 Reference:View Original Link