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Languages: A Ghazal.




“The number you have dialled doesn’t exist,” it says in three languages.
~ Mirza Waheed, Facebook, 7 September, 2019.


“The number you have dialled doesn’t exist,” it says in three languages.
You think it can’t be true. You dial again. You rue the ruse of languages.

They locked the house of prayer. They fear what god may tell you.
Words are homeless, like stones. You risk the barricade of languages.

“Kashmir is a jewel in the crown”: He said, in his master’s voice.
“Uneasy lies the head…” Shakespeare warned kings, across languages.

There’s a hole in every heart. There’s a bullet in every memory.
There’s a grave in every silence. Time is a wreath of languages.

For Salim Tihrani,1 Kashmir was the lazy mole on Laila’s cheek.
Behold the audacity of Farsi by its metaphors, in other languages.

Zafar Khan declared himself the nightingale of Kashmir’s roses.
Delicate aspirations are rare. Even in Persian, of all languages.

The decadent Mughals had an eye for cruelty, another for beauty.
Under the chinar’s shade,2 poetry blossomed in imperial languages.

The moon sinks on Laila’s eyes. They are hunting for nightingales.
Terror is a nervous mole on the cheek. It speaks in many languages.

Will there be respite? Will history ever pause on its misdeeds?
You’ll grow old, Firaq. Such questions will exhaust languages.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is a poet and writer. His poems have appeared in World Literature Today, Rattle, The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, Mudlark, Acumen, The Fortnightly Review, Hobart, Glass: A Review of Poetry, and other publications. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems, was published by The London Magazine in 2013. He is  also the author of Looking for the Nation: Towards Another Idea of India (Speaking Tiger Books, 2018).


  1. The references to Salim Tihrani and Zafar Khan are from Sunil Sharma’s Mughal Arcadia: Persian Literature in an Indian Court, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2017.
  2. Akbar planted the chinar trees in the Kashmir valley, after annexing it in 1586.

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