Mahnu by Atta Shad

Balochi Poem by Atta Shad, translated by Fazal Baloch

Atta Shad: Photo provided by Fazal Baloch

Atta Shad (1939-1997) is the most revered and cherished modern Balochi poet. He instilled a new spirit in the moribund body of modern Balochi poetry in the early 1950s when the latter was drastically paralysed by the influence of Persian and Urdu poetry. Atta Shad gave a new orientation to modern Balochi poetry by giving a formidable ground to the free verse, which also brought in its wake a chain of new themes and mode of expression hitherto untouched by Balochi poets. Apart from the popular motifs of love and romance, subjugation and suffering, freedom and liberty, life and its absurdities are a few recurrent themes which appear in Shad’s poetry. What sets Shad apart from the rest of Balochi poets is his subtle, metaphoric and symbolic approach while versifying socio-political themes. He seemed more concerned about the aesthetic sense of art than anything else.

Shad’s poetry anthologies include Roch Ger and Shap Sahaar Andem, which were later collected in a single anthology under the title Gulzameen, posthumously published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 2015. The translated poem is from Gulzameen.

Mahnu, you envy of the moon,
I am a wretched of the earth.
My existence is like a dry and barren field.
Lightning scorched it to ashes.
Facing the wrath of the frigid winters,
Forever thirst-stricken,
Eyes seek the sea of fragrant clouds
At the far and unbeknownst threshold of hope.
May the rain of sublime hailstones set the dry field afire.
May there remain no cluster of marrying clouds 
at the far end of the horizons. Nor any desire 
in the hearts of waiting maidens.

Mahnu, envy of the moon,
You're oppressed by the night.
I'm a wretched of the earth.
Like you,
I too am lost in the fathomless expanse of loneliness.
Milky-way illuminates your path,
And mine is dark without a star.
Moonlight is the ecstasy of your beauty's wine,
I'm nothing but a sigh.
Like melody everywhere echo the words of your command,
I've shrunk like a suppressed call.
A world yearns for you.
A fake hope is all my life hinges upon.
You soar high like a lover's imagination.
I'm humble like wisdom.

Mahnu, envy of the moon,
Granted you are light, 
I'm ash and dust.
Yet, if I survive not these fathomless days and nights
Woes and torments of life,
Then, think awhile,
Who in the world 
Will write the songs extolling you?

Mahnu, you envy of the moon,
I am a wretched of the earth.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights of Atta Shad from the publisher.


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