Friday, July 11, 2008

Jahanpanah Bahadur Shah Zafar - The Last Mughal

Jahanpanah [1] Bahadur Shah Zafar,
Saw dust over the Bridge of Boats, afar,
Standing on the ramparts of the Red Fort,
With wives, courtiers, ministers and consort.

His heart filled with hope and despair,
A feeling not unknown to a shayar [2],
Will his Hindustan after all be free,
From the White Man’s sword and decree?

To feed them where will he bring money?
Thomas Metcalfe [3] refuses to give him any,
His powers are naught and so is his court,
Quick, fight or befriend as they cross moat.

No, he’s not a soldier or a commander,
He’s a poet, writing verses of great candour,
Though martial blood runs in his veins,
For Timur’s cruelty he has much disdain.

He squandered wealth and kingdom lost,
To wine, poetry, and blank verse riposte,
Too many nights of poems and pretence,
Had left a debt he couldn’t recompense.

Away to his chamber that night he went,
After a message to mutinous armies sent,
You are welcome if you come in peace,
Do not desecrate or our culture disgrace.

But the mutinous army being common men,
Looted, pillaged and set on fire, and then,
Said, “Jahanpanah Where’s all your wealth,
For us to liberate, and live in comfort and health?”

To this Jahanpanah uttered threatening words,
“I will go to Mecca; condemn you to their swords,
I am too old and tired for the war you create,
To spoil my peace and my people alienate.”

“Go ahead; call me coward, that you can,
But I am no traitor like Asanullah Khan[4],
Or, my wife Zinat Mahal[5], or, Mohammed Baqar[6],
They will rot in their graves, those gaddar[7].”

“I’ve only done what a poet would’ve done,
Protected my art, people, wives, and son,
They’re greedy men those who covet and fight,
I am only a bard; my poetry is my birthright.”

[1] Ruler of the world
[2] Poet
[3] British Governor of Delhi
[4] Bahadur Shah Zafar’s prime minister
[5] Bahadur Shah Zafar’s wife who plotted to surrender to the British
[6] Editor of Delhi Aqbar and chronicler of the Sepoy Mutiny
[7] Traitor