Cry, my beloved Bareilly

Published on: June 4, 2015

March 14, 2010; Bareilly (UP): The internationally renowned Urdu poet, Waseem Barelvi, is so grief-stricken by the situation in the city that he cried his heart out today. “What has happened to my city?” was all he could say as words failed him and tears rolled down his cheeks uncontrollably. Others present were also left speechless.

Bareilly means home to Waseem Sahib, in every sense of the term. This is where he was born and brought up, educated, where he first won fame and popularity. Never before had any Barelvi seen Waseem Sahib in such a state. At a meeting of prominent citizens convened at Bishop’s House this morning to talk about how to restore peace in the city, Waseem Sahib seemed lost in his own world. When it was his turn to say something, he got up to speak.

But all he could say was, “My city was not like this! What has happened to my city?” These were the only words there were, the rest was a flood of tears. Those present tried their best: “Arre, Waseem Sahib…” But the inconsolable Waseem Sahib wept for the next five minutes. Perhaps his tears, his sobs, said all that he had to say.

The poet’s anguish is not without reason. Bareilly, a city that earned a place for itself on the literary map thanks to Waseem Sahib, has for the first time been under curfew for 13 long days, having witnessed the first ever assault on its syncretic Ganga-Jamuna ethos. Walls of hatred are now being constructed in this abode of peace. It is this pain of the city that flowed from Waseem Barelvi’s eyes.

When approached by this correspondent a little later, the poet said he himself could not understand why he had responded as he did. “Perhaps I’m finding it very difficult to live with my city being besmirched with hatred. These are moments I’ve never experienced before. My only prayer to god: Please give us back our plural Ganga-Jamuna ethos.”

(For those from the Indo-Gangetic plain, Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb/sanskriti is a metaphor for centuries of Hindu-Muslim amity.)

(Translated from the Hindi by Javed Anand.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2010, Year 16 - No.149, Voices
Courtesy: Dainik Jagran; in.jagran.yahoo.com