Vote for Taj! But find for me yet another place!

As India (and the world) goes to vote for Taj Mahal tomorrow, an ugly form of patriotism and appreciation has surfaced utilizing a monument declared to be most beautiful by some.

The claim for “seven wonders” (and one wonders why they need to have it to be only seven, and not thirteen, or a hundred) has been reduced to a competitive exercise where people representing their countries exhibit some version of solidarity to showcase monuments that have absolutely nothing in relevance to either the present, or the future.

Moreover, the past–related to sites like the Taj Mahal–also needs to be investigated further before the glorifications continue in a world where human beings have less worth than marble stones.

In our world where visual appeal and exhibitionism is so rampant as to have become a required criterion for assessment of objects, events and people, it is no wonder that huge architectures are recalled with how they merely have been standardized to generate individualist awe, and not with any form of collective remorse.

To mark this day with regret, therefore, I have translated one song which was written more than four decades ago by the great progressive Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. The original poem follows the translated version:

Taj Mahal

For you, Taj Mahal is no less a splendor of love
Amidst the eldritch, obsessed are you with its trove

My beloved! Discover for me yet another place where we can meet!

Grandeur of royal palace is deliberately contrasted
For the commoners; it’s a sordid message so crafted
We mortals have no permit to tread the paths so strewn
With baits to allure us into that maze, to dream to its tune!

Before being inveigled into the royal sparks, my beloved!
You should have descried the mammoth trickery and fraud!
You could have felt the roars of your insignificant abode!

Countless peoples in our world have showered love in abundance
Who can claim their heartfelt love ever lacked sincere affections
But they lacked the means of advertisement, of crude exhibitions
After all, they were like you and I: submitted by birth to cruel situations

This monument, this mausoleum, this unmitigated embankment
These are apparition of regal wealth and unmerited enchantment
For the records of the wretched, these disdainfully antique afflictions
Were erected upon the toil, labor and sweat of many a poor generations

O my beloved! They must indeed have been in love forever
Those that could shape such magnificence by their love’s labor
Yet not a candle is lighted in memory of those that were enslaved
Nor a lamp they could plant to cherish the love of their beloved
This opulent yard, this palatial lap of luxury that marks the ruler
Bedizened with gaudy presence of stately, colossal architecture
It’s merely an act of mockery on part of an autocratic monarch
Who usurping wealth, has smudged the poor, with this indelible mark!

My beloved! Discover for me yet another place where we can meet!

(Trans. by: Saswat Pattanaya, The Peoples’ Poet)
—-

The original poetry by Sahir Ludhianvi follows:

Taja tere lie eka mazahara-e-ulafata hi sahi
tujha ko isa vadi-e-rangina se aqidata hi sahi
mere mehabuba kahim aura mila kara mujha se

bazama-e-sahi mein gharibom ka guzara kiya maini
sabta jisa raha mein hom satuta sahi ke nisana
usa pe ulafata bhari rahazana ka safara kiya maini
meri mehabuba pase parde tasahira vafa

tune satuta ke nisanom ko to dekha hota
murda sahom ke maqabira se behalane vali
apane tarika makanom ko to dekha hota
anaginata laugom ne duniya mem mauhabbata ki hai
kauna kahata hai ke sadiqa na tha una ke jazabe
lekina una ke liye tasahira ka samana nahim
kyonke vaha lauga bhi apani hi tarah mufalisa the

yaha imarata-va-maqabira ye fasilem ye hisara
matalaqa-ula-hukma sahanasahom ki azamata ke sutum
sina-e-dahara ke nasura haim kahate nasura
jajbe hem una mem tere mere ijadada ka khuna

meri mehabuba, inhem bhi to mauhabbata hogi
jina ki sanai ne bakhasi hai use sakla-e-jamila
una ke piyarom ke maqabira rahe be nama namuda
aja taka ina para jalai na kisi ne qandila
ye chamana zara ye jamana ka kinara, ye mahala
ye munakqasa dara-o-divara ye maharaba ye taqa
ika sahanasaha ne daulata ka sahara le kara
hama gharibom ki mauhabbata ka udaya hai mazaqa

mere mehabuba kahim aura mila kara mujha se

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