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‘Letter from NaseemBagh’

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(Written by Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu (Maktoob-e-NaseemBagh)

Abbas Ali

“NaseemBagh, Srinagar

September 3, 1945.

Ask us not about our heartache, since long

We have silenced in front of you, with excuses

Honorable Friend,

Same 4 O’clock soul soothing morning time. I am residing on a houseboat. On the right, the extent of the lake is spread up to the Shalamar and the Nishat gardens. On the left, the lines of the Chinars of NaseemBagh have gone up to a long distance. I am sipping a cup of tea and reminding you.

Despite being poles apart, I shall drink a cup in your honor

Space is irrelevant in the spiritual journey

The last letter I could write to you was August 3, 1942, written in the morning. I was traveling from Kolkata to Bombay. I composed the letter on the train and thought I shall hand it over to Ajmal Khan Sahab on reaching Bombay; he will copy it and send it to you. You would be remembering that he

had insisted upon keeping copies of the letters, and I had accepted this method. However, as soon as I reached Bombay, I was caught in the crowd of

tasks so that I forgot to give the letter to Ajmal Khan Sahab.

On August 9, when I was arrested and taken to Ahmad Nagar, to keep some papers I opened attaché, I suddenly found the same letter. Now all the routes to the world had been snapped. It was dead impossible to post any letter. I took it from the attaché, kept it in the file of manuscripts, and closed the file in the box.

At 2 O’clock, we reached Ahmad Nagar, and within fifteen minutes, we were imprisoned in the fort. Now there was a distance of eons between the world inside the fort and outside the fort.

The next day August 10, I woke up as usual at 3 O’clock. The material for tea which I keep with myself during the journey, that too had accompanied my luggage. I boiled the tea; kept the cup in front of me and drowned in the sea of my thoughts. Thoughts started wandering across different fields. Suddenly, I remembered the letter of August 3, I had written on the train and was in the papers. I longed uncontrollably that I spend some time addressing you, whether you may be listening or not, but my address may be in your direction. Therefore, a letter was penned down in such state of mind. And subsequently, after every second or the third day a letter was being penned down. Afterward, the memories of some other friends and relatives came to the fore. And while addressing them my fatigued nature kept on taking long sighs. All the relations with the world outside the prison had been snapped and future was vailed behind the curtain of mystery. Nothing was known whether these letters would reach their intended addresses or not. However, the demands of the taste of addressing were looming so large on the poor heart that when I would take up the pen, heart would not allow to keep down. People used messengers to take their letters, at times feathers of the pigeons were also used, I got a Phoenix:

This is the new tradition of the poison of our time

May Phoenix not be anyone’s messenger

From August 10, 1942 through May 1943 the series of writing down these letters carried on, but stooped thereafter. Because after the accident of April 9, 1943, my exhausted nature too stopped and was lost in the valleys of fatigue.Although afterward, the drafting of various compilations continued routinely and the ordinary business in the fort of Ahmad Nagar was also carried out without any change. However, I do not want to hide the truth that the exhibition of peace and tranquility was related to the body and shape, and not that of heart and soul. I had saved my body from succumbing to the adversity, but failed to protect my heart.

I have a crazy heart that you think in desert

Then after, from time to time the circumstances would prompt me to work and the knots of the thoughts kept untying, but the speed of writing that had accompanied in the beginning of the emerging situation, had died out. When in April 1945, I was shifted from the fort of Ahmad Nagar to Bankwarda, the readiness of my nature refused to accompany. Now, the finalization work of some compilations was possible however, my health did not allow me to write further. The last letter related to various political issues was addressed to a friend on March 3, 1945. This is the full stop to the pillar less and mountain excavating story. Although the story of life is yet to touch the finish line.

It is a glimpse of our exciting love story

These are the stories related to Shirin and Farhad

If we ponder, the situation of human life and its feelings are eccentric. Be it three years or three days, when it comes to pass, it certainly passes. Before passing, if we think, we are perplexed that how could this mountain-like life shall pass. After passing, if we think, we are again perplexed that whatever has passed, that was not more than a few moments.

After my freedom from the prison, I came to Bombay to preside over the Congress working committee’s meeting on June 21, stayed in the same house and the same room where I had stayed three years before in August 1942. Believe me, I felt that as if August 9 and the events afterward were yesterday’s events and the entire period was not a matter more than a morning till evening. I was astonished if whatever had passed, was a dream or whatever was passing is a dream.

Still, we are in a dream, even though we are awake

On June 15, when I was released in Bankwarda, I brought all the letters, complied and collected in a file chronologically. I had the idea that I shall, as usual, send them for making copies of them and then shall send originals to you. However, when MolviAjmal Khan came to know about the existence of these letters, he insisted upon sending them to be published immediately. Therefore, a calligrapher was summoned to Shimla and the entire collection was given to be handwritten. Right now, they are being handwritten and hope that shortly shall be handed over to the press for publication. Now I shall not send these letters in the form of manuscripts. I shall send in the form of published collection.

The editor of the newspaper “Madina” had come to Shimla and took a copy of the first letter of the series. That has been published in the newspapers and you might have seen it. From the title of “Honorable Friend”, you might have understood that you are the addressee.

Eyes are towards the sky and the speech towards you.

Letters have been divided into two parts: apolitical and political. This collection consists of apolitical letters. This collection’s all the letters are addressed to you without any exception.

I intend to go Delhi day after tomorrow. Because the general of American Army who is residing in Delhi has been kind enough in making the arrangement to send the special aircraft here. Therefore, I shall be saved from the painstaking journey of the motor car and shall reach Delhi in two and a half an hour. After offering the Eid prayer there, I shall leave for Bombay. From the 10th instant to 24th instant, I shall stay there.”

(Gubar-i-Khatirpp 40-43)

The translator is a Sr. Lecturer in Economics

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