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The Clay Toys and Two Boys

By Haneef Shareef, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Courtesy: Creative Commons

The boy smashed his clay toy and threw its pieces into the sewage water. He did not like his friend’s father at all because he never bought toys for his son. He loved his clay toys because his friend always lamented that he did not have any kind of toy. But despite his insistence he refused to carry his toys home. Not even once.

They always met at the corner of the street and played there by the sewerage line in front of his friend’s house. His mother took all household chores upon herself and deputed the servant at the door to keep an eye on her son.

His friend lived somewhere in the western side of the street. He always emerged in the western corner of the street and went back in that direction. He always said that the sewage water flew by their house. If something fell in it, it would resurface by their house. But he never told his friend exactly where he lived. Nor did he ever reveal if the window of their house opened to the south or north. Nor did he say, when the wind blew, in which direction the jujube fruits would fall. He also did not reveal if they lived in a government quarter or in a rented bungalow or had a house of their own.

They just met at the corner of the street and played there and smiled at being the co-owner of the sewerage line. A few times they made up their mind to step into the water and retrieve the toys lying buried in its bottom but every time, at the last moment, courage failed them. The sewage water was dark, full of waste and it also ran deep. And on top of that, they were just two small boys ironically looking for clay toys and that too in the bottom of sewage water.

They sat at the edge of the drain and played there. They built kingdoms and ruled over them like kings. At times they made fields and meadows, raised their hands to pray for rain. some other times, they became herd owners. Every day they scored new marvels. Shopkeeper, street vendors and people around them smiled even at times they laughed at their innocent adventures. It was small world — transparent like water — hung by a thread. As the sun went down the horizon, they took leave of each other hoping to meet on the next day. His friend had aligned his routine with sun. The moment the sun set, he would say goodbye to his kingdom and leave for home. Thereafter, his friend piled up the toys and the servant put them in the basket and carried his little master against his chest leaving behind the kingdom of two little kings in darkness.

Heaven knows which day of the month it was, when for the first time his friend did not turn up there. He piled up his toys, laid down rules and roadmaps for his kingdom but the second king had not arrived yet and his subject was nowhere around the kingdom. He waited for him till dusk, but he did not come. Then along with his servant he went looking for his friend’s house. They passed through several lanes and streets and finally stopped at a door by the edge of the sewerage line. The branches of a jujube were dropping on the wall. It was not obvious if it was a rented house, a government quarter or someone’s private property. The boy assumed it was the house his friend lived in. But its doors and windows were closed. Lamps and light had been blown off. They put their ears against the walls, but they could not hear any human voices. A flock of sparrows were singing in the jujube tree. Otherwise, everything was shrouded in silence. An old rusty lock was hanging on the door bearing witness to all past seasons.

For the next three days the boy waited for his friend, but he did not turn up. He spread the toys on the ground and waited for him. As the sun set and dusk fell, lamps were lit in the neighborhood. The young boy held his servant’s hand and went to the closed door where he thought his friend had lived. As usual, the place was shrined in silence. They stayed there for a while and then the boy looked at the servant. They exchanged gazes. The servant carried the basket of toys on his head. His little master followed him.

However, one Thursday, the two friends ran into each other at the corner of the street by the bank of the sewer line. He did not tell his friend where he was all that while nor did the boy reveal that he had found his home silent and locked.

A few days later, the young master’s father took him to the school. His mother insisted that he was five years old—still too young for the school but his father believed he was seven. They argued with each other. His father won. The boy insisted on taking his friend along. However, his friend had never appeared in the mornings. A few times, he thought he saw his friend at school. He seemed to be wandering alone in middle of the noise of hundreds of children. After that, he disappeared.

The two friends always met in the evening. No questions were asked by either of the young boys focused on their games.

One day when his friend arrived in the evening, he noticed tears in his eyes and his face looked pale. On that day, he went home early taking his friend’s clay bull along. The next day when came, he looked a little anxious. The bull was broken into two pieces. His friend did not ask him what had happened to it. Nor did the boy tell him anything about it. They tried a lot to join the broken parts of the bull, but they failed in their attempt. For a moment, the boy felt like crying loudly but he held back his tears.

They dug a little grave by the sewage water and buried the remains of the bull there. On that night the boy cried incessantly. In the morning, he told his teacher that his bull died the day before and that was why he was late. But his teacher was angry that he failed to distinguish between a truth and a lie. He thought the boy was too young to own a bull. Thus, he thrashed him like other naughty children.

In the evening the boy wanted to tell his friend that he was beaten by the teacher, but he could not. The boy plastered the grave with clay and erected a little epitaph on it. His looked at him and smiled. At dusk the boy called his brother, who in the glow of the lamp wrote on the stone ‘My Bull’. When they reached at the door, the boy halted, as if he remembered something. Thus, they turned back to the grave. Now, the epitaph on the grave read ‘Our Bull”.

My Bull…. Our Bull….The crowd….The door….The servant….The clay toys and two boys and the drain. It was a different world.

A few days later, the gap in their friendship began to widen. The boy stopped coming regularly but his friend always waited for him at the corner of the street with his clay toys piled up before him. Perhaps his companion had forgotten someone was waiting for him at the corner of the street. He felt quite lonely in the middle of the clay toys.

One day when the boy did come, he was shocked to discover that the grave of ‘Our Bull’ had been dismantled by someone. The remains lay scattered. He anxiously looked at the crowd bustling around. There was no trace of his friend. He picked up the pieces of the clay bull and threw them into the drain. Now, when there was not any trace of the ‘Our Bull’ he desperately wished not to have his friend over. Not in that hour of grief at least. He sat at the empty grave of the ‘Our Bull’ fearing the arrival of his friend. But he did not turn up.

The next evening when his friend arrived, he found the grave had been renovated. He scanned the heap of the toys, but the new clay bull was not there amongst the toys. His friend told him that he broke and buried it in the very grave. His eyes welled up and voice almost chocked. He admitted that it was he who dismantled the grave. His friend was shocked to hear it. For a while the whole world came to a halt, the sewage water stopped flowing and he felt himself all alone in a never-ending labyrinth. He could not ask him why he dismantled the grave nor did his friend tell him the reason. On that evening they did not play at all. They did not build kingdoms and did not dispatch emissaries to the neighbouring kingdoms. The boy had his eyes fixed on the pile of the clay toys and his friend sat by the grave and vacantly gazed at sewage water flowing in silence. The evening passed into dusk and on the foundation of the dusk, the night eventually erected it walls around the neighbourhood.

The next evening, the boy waited for his friend, but he did not show up. The street was crowded. Indifferent people were treading back and forth. For a moment the boy tried to find his friend in the jungle of people but, in the next moment, he gave up.

A month passed by but there was again no trace of his friend. One day, he took his servant and went to his friend’s house. They sat for a long time at the door, but nobody came out. Then they knocked the door, called out loudly but nobody responded. As the evening shadows lengthened, the boy for the first time realised that there was not a single house by the bank of the drain. Rather it flowed through the entire neighbourhood, bustling with young and old men and women, children, boys and girls and flock of goats. But the companion of his evenings, the co-owner of the ‘Our Bull’, was nowhere to be seen.

Nobody in the neighbourhood knew the boy. They believed he did not live there. Rather he came from somewhere else. But from where? Nobody had the answer. The boy did not know anything about him either.

The sun was setting. The boy started musing. He cast a look at the crowd and started crying loudly. The servant tried to console him but to no avail. He carried him back home. He continued to cry inconsolably. Then he told everybody that he knew where his friend had gone. He told them that he knew why he did not come back. Thus, he asked the servant to step into the sewage water. The servant was knee deep in the drain with stones, pebbles and pieces of broken glasses under his feet. He could not find anything. The servant grumbled and so did boy’s mother. The shopkeeper and the customers smile and laughed. But the boy was sure that his friend had stepped into drain looking for the pieces of the clay bull.

From then on, the boy broke his clay toys and threw them into the sewer hoping that they would be flown to his friend so that he would know he, his friend, was alive and waiting for him beside the grave of ‘Our Bull’.

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Dr. Haneef Shareef, a trained medical professional, is one of the most cherished contemporary Balochi fiction writers and film directors. So far, he has published two collections of short stories and one novel. His peculiar mode of narration has rendered him a distinguished place among the Balochi fiction writers. He has also directed four Balochi movies.

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. He has the translation rights to Haneef Shareef’s works.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

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Hasan Sol: A Balochi Folktale

Translated by Fazal Baloch[1]

Balochistan. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a poor man. Despite all his efforts, he could not beget any offspring. The grief of being childless had almost emaciated him. Most of the time he remained grief-stricken.

One day he left his home and took the route to the jungle where he reclined against a giant jujube tree. He decided not to move unless he was blessed with a child. A couple of days later a voice in the tree addressed him: “Man! Why don’t you leave me alone? I’ve named this tree after my own name. It is my dwelling. I have left the entire world for humankind and spared this tree for myself. Here I worship my Creator. Please leave me alone.”

The poor man said: “O, holy fakir! I am an unlucky man. I have no child. I have decided not to leave the tree unless I am blessed with a child. No matter if I die of thirst or hunger, I’m not going away”.

The fakir said: “Go home you will be blessed with a child, If it happens to be a boy, it is all yours but if it turns out to be a girl, you are bound to marry her with me. I will be your son-in-law”. The fakir continued, “If he’s a boy, his name will be Hasan sol, and in case of a girl, her name will be Nokmadina”.

The poor man replied, “Master! I am a Baloch. I will honour my promise”.

Nine months later he was blessed with a girl. As advised by the fakir, he named her Nokmadina. Time passed by and Nokmadina grew up. One day, along with other girls and womenfolk of the hamlet, she went to the jungle and walked over to the giant jujube tree to pluck its ripened fruits. The moment she stretched her hand, she felt her scarf had entangled with a branch of the tree. Despite all her efforts, she could not free it. She heard a voice addressed her: “Nokmadina! Ask your father to honour his promise”.

She immediately left for home but forgot to convey the message to her father. The next day when she went to the jungle, the same voice echoed again but Nokmadina couldn’t remember either. On the third day, when the jujube branch held her dress, Nokmadina apologised to it that she couldn’t remember his message.

The voice emanating from the tree said, “If you put your hand in the jar to pick up a dry date, a wasp will sting your finger and remind you of my words.”

She freed the hem of her scarf and quickly rushed towards home. Unmindful of the fakir’s words, the moment she ran her hand into the jar, the wasp stung her, and she broke out crying. Her father rushed to her and asked her what had happed to her. She recalled and told her father what the fakir had been telling for the past three days.

Her father did remember his promise. Though he did not want to marry his daughter with the fakir, he still wanted to fulfil his promise. His wife said, “May the Holy Quran cripple the old fakir! Do you have the heart to abandon your grown-up daughter in a jungle at the mercy of wild beasts? I am not going to allow you”.

The poor man said: “I’ve to honour my words. Let’s settle with whatever our fate has for us. First, we didn’t have any child. When we were blessed with one, it turned out to be a girl. And I have to marry it with the tree”.

Then he turned to his daughter and told her to be ready for he was going to leave her in the custody of the jujube tree the next morning. Everyone in the house including the girl and her mother cried inconsolably.

The next day he held Nokmadina’s hand and walked down to the jujube tree. Hasan Sol descended from the tree and they solemnised the marriage accordingly. Nokmadina’s father took the road back home.

Hasan Sol had already two ghoul-wives whom he visited every Friday in Mount Qaf and stayed with them for three days. He asked an old crone to stay with Nokmadina during his absence. Feeling envious of her, the old woman put Nokmadina in an underground den nearby and placed a huge rock on its opening so that she could not come out. When Hasan Sol returned, she produced her daughter before him and said, “Your wife has grown prettier than ever.”  On the other hand, she secretly fed Nokmadina with just a few morsels.

On a Friday morning, when Hasan Sol was about to leave, a dove perched on the tree. He shot at the bird and put it in the oven to roast it. Suddenly, the birds said: “The old woman has put Nokmadina in the den and brought her daughter in her place”. The bird repeated it over and again.

Hasan Sol thoroughly scanned her wife to determine the truth. He concluded that the bird was right.  Hence, he held her hand, spun it in the air and hurled it off like a stone in the sling. She landed beyond seven mountains. Nobody found any trace of her. Then he called out the old woman. He seized hold of her legs and thrusted them beneath the ground. Then he went to the nearby mountains to look for Nokmadina. He searched in each cave and cavern but could not find any trace of her. On his way back, he heard someone’s groan coming out of a jackal-den. He removed the rock from its opening and helped Nokmadina out and carried her home. When she fully regained her senses, Hasan Sol told her that he was going to Mount Qaf to visit her ghoul-wives. He warned her thus, “Never follow me. The road to Mount Qaf is long and tedious. You will wear out seven pairs of shoes made of steel, till you reach there. The ghouls will kill you there.”

When Hasan Sol flew off, Nokmadina made it to an ironsmith and ordered seven pairs of shoes made of steel and set out for Mount Qaf. After a long and tedious journey, having worn out all seven pairs of shoes, she finally reached the Mount Qaf.

A few children were playing at the door of a garden. She asked them if they knew anything about Hasan Sol. One of the children said that the very garden belonged to Hasan Sol and he would come there for his ablutions. She put her ring in the earthen jar, which he used to store water for cleaning himself, and hid behind a tree.

A little later, Hasan arrived there. When he noticed the ring in the bottom of the jar, he overturned and spilled the water on the ground to retrieve the ring. He assumed Nokmadina had disobeyed him and made it there. He asked the children if they had seen someone around.

The children told him about Nokmadina who was hiding behind a tree.

Hasan Sol walked over to her and asked her why she came there. He advised her to be careful otherwise the ghouls would eat her flesh. Hasan Sol transformed her into a knife and slipped it into his pocket and went home. The moment he got there, his ghoul-wives blurted loudly, “Human Smell! Human Smell.”

Hasan Sol said, “Where is the human? There’s no human but me. Are you want to eat my flesh?” He picked up spear and with great effort, he managed to silence them. He took his meal and strolled towards the garden where he transformed Nokmadina back into a human and together with her, he ate his meal. Then Hasan Sol transformed her into a pomegranate and tucked in a tree and told his ghoul-wives, “This pomegranate is meant for a sick man. Whosoever lays her hand on it, I will gouge out her eyes”.

When Hasan Sol left, the wives suspected it was a human. Thus, they cut a small piece and shared it together. When Hasan Sol returned, he asked them who spoiled the pomegranate in his absence. But they feigned ignorance. In the very instant, Hasan Sol transformed her back into a human and found out her that the ring on her little finger was missing. Infuriated, he shouted at them and said, “I swear by my sanctity, next time if you even touch her, I will tie you with chains and throw you before the dogs.”

One day when Hasan Sol had gone on an errand, one of the ghouls called Nokmadina and said, “You damn good-for-nothing human! Go to our mother’s house and bring us hair oil, comb and mud-soap.” They also gave her a letter as well. She complied and left. Midway through, she saw Hasan Sol who asked her where she was heading.

“I am going to deliver the letter to your mother-in-law,” she replied.

Hasan Sol asked her to show him the letter.

It read, “The moment this daughter of human delivers you the letter, kill her.” Hasan Sol changed the letter and wrote instead: “She is your granddaughter from your youngest daughter.” He further advised her thus, “Down the road you will see a dog with some grass before it and a goat with a piece of bone before it. Place the grass before the goat and the bone before the dog. Some distance further, you will find a mosque, replace its old mats with new ones. Then you will come across a dry pond. Unblock the watercourse and fill it with water.”

Nokmadina did exactly what Hasan Sol had advised her. When she delivered the letter, the ghoul woman hugged her and showered her with boundless love and affection. Nokmadina noticed a cage with four doves in the house. She asked her about them. The woman said: “One is my spirit; second one is your mother’s; third one is your stepmother’s and the fourth one is their grandmother’s”.

She took the cage and trampled the dove that was her co-wife’s sprit and ran off. The woman chased her. When she reached near the pond, she called the pond to stop her but the pond told her that she filled it with water a while ago so it would not stop her. When she drew close to the mosque, the woman asked the mosque to not let her go, but the mosque said that a while ago she replaced its mats, so it let her go. Then she asked the goat and the dog for the same, but they too refused as she fed them a while ago. At last, she reached Hasan Sol’s garden. When he saw the cage in her hand, he said, “Lo! You brought the cage along”.

“Why shouldn’t I? They don’t let me live. So now I’m not going to spare them either”, remarked Nokmadina.

“Alright. Kill all of them,” said Hasan Sol.

So, the story ended. And they headed home.


[1] This folktale is translated with permission from Geedi Kessah-4(Folktales Vol: 4) compiled and retold by Gulzar Khan Mari in Balochi, published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 1971.

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.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

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Fakir Khizmil & the Missing Princess

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Balochistan. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there ruled a king over a certain land. In the outskirts of the land there lived a rich man. A few days later the rich man died leaving a huge sum of wealth and property behind. His widow made it to the palace and told the king: “My husband passed away a few days back leaving enormous wealth behind. I have no one to look after me except for my son. I fear I’ll be robbed off my property. I urge you to give me a place near your palace where I could live in peace and without fear”.

The king asked his men to find out if the woman was telling the truth. They reported back  that whatever the woman had told him was true. Her husband left her with enormously wealthy. The king, then, summoned her and asked her to live with them in the palace. He also told the woman that he would marry his daughter with her son when they were old enough. The woman was quite happy hearing this.

Time passed by.

The boy grew young and so did the king’s daughter. One day the woman went to the king and told him that she wanted to the marriage to take place. The king said that he had no objection whatsoever, but he asked her for a few days to make preparations. A few days later they were finally married. Along with jewels and fineries, the king also gifted a golden bowl to his daughter.

The groom took the bride to his house. One day, when the womenfolk were going to fetch water at a river near their home, the king’s daughter also expressed her desire to accompany them. They tried to convince her that as she was a princess, she should let them have the opportunity to serve her. But she was adamant and accompanied them. They filled their pots, washed their faces and started on their way back home. Midway through, the princess remembered that she had unmindfully left her golden bowl at the river. She excused herself and hurried back to the river.

When she reached the riverbank, she met four thirsty horsemen who stopped by to ask for a drink of water. She filled the golden bowl and offered it to the horsemen. He was struck by her beauty. Since she was alone, they rode beside her.

Meanwhile, the womenfolk waited for long, but the princess did not return. When they went to the river, there was no trace of her there. They told her mother-in-law about what befell her daughter-in-law. Initially she waited for her to turn up, but she did not return. She went out to search of her but could not find any clue. Later in the evening when her son came back, she started wailing and told her about the incident. Her son immediately went out looking for his wife but he too could not find any trace of her. As he went along the road, he noticed some strands of a woman’s hair and drag marks on the road. He followed the marks till he reached a town.

A few children were playing there. He asked one of the children whose son he was. The boy replied, “Fakir Khizmil”. 

“Where do you live?” he asked them.

“There.” They pointed towards a nearby house.

“Ask your father, a horseman has said, he would be your guest tonight.”

After covering some more distance, he was overwhelmed by thirst. He saw a woman was filling her jar at a nearby stream. He approached her and asked her for a bowl of water. Initially, the woman berated him but then she offered her water. He sat there to rest for a while. Then he coaxed/lured the woman into a conversation. Amongst other things, the woman revealed to him that their king had brought a beautiful maiden with a golden bowl from a distant land. The man felt relieved to have finally found news of his wife. He took leave of the woman and rode back to fakir’s.

The fakir’s meal used to be sent from the king’s palace. At night the young horseman noticed that someone had sealed her ring in the middle of the plate. He looked closely at it. It was his wife’s ring. Next day, he noticed the seal again on the plate. He secretly sent a message to his wife with the maidservant who delivered the food asking her to be ready so that he could rescue her and take her back that evening.

Meanwhile the fakir asked him about the purpose of his journey. He told him how the king took his wife away and how he had uncovered her traces. The fakir asked him:

“Is she ready to come with you?”

“Of course, she is. But I am wondering how to manage the escape as the king has a huge contingent of army and the swiftest horses in the land.”

“Don’t worry. Just ask her to take a goatskin bag full of water, a stone from the right corner of the house and a matchbox. The rest I will explain to you later.”

The next day, the maidservant told the young man that his wife was ready, and she had asked him to wait for her in the garden. When stars arrayed themselves across the night sky, she would come to him. The young man conveyed to her what the fakir had told him to do.

The fakir further advised him thus: “When you notice the king’s army approaching you, throw the stone at them. When you see them again drawing nearer, spill the water. Again, when you notice them drawing close to you, just light a matchstick and throw it towards them.”

Later in the evening he saddled his horse and made preparations for his departure. When stars had covered almost the whole sky, he secretly rode to the garden and waited for his wife. A later, she arrived carrying the goatskin bag, the stone and a matchbox. They mounted the horse and rode off.

At dawn, the king noticed the maiden was not in her bed. He knew she had fled. He commanded his men to find her and bring her back to the palace. He said: “Whosoever will bring her alive or her head, I will give that person half of my wealth”.

Numerous soldiers went in different directions looking for the woman.

Meanwhile, the young man and his wife noticed a group of horsemen were approaching them. The young man threw the stone towards them. It turned into a huge mountain standing between them and the king’s men. After covering some distance, again he saw another group of horsemen drawing close to them. He untied the mouth of the waterskin and spilled the water on the ground. The spilt water turned into a huge sea. Some of the horsemen drowned in the sea and the others turned back.

When they had drawn close to their land, the young man noticed some dust spiralling into the air. A few horsemen emerged out of the dust. By then, their horse had almost collapsed and it was barely moving forward.

The woman said: “Hurry up! We are almost surrounded.”

“Don’t worry,” said the young man. In that very moment he lit a matchstick and flung it towards the horsemen. A huge fire erupted around. The horsemen turned back and took to their heels.

Finally, the couple reached home and lived happily ever after.

(This tale is taken from Geedi Kessa-2(Folktales: Vol 2) compiled and retold by Mahmood Mari in Balochi and published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 1969. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights for this. )

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.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

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The Faithful Wife

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a king who had a son. With the passage of time, the prince grew into a young man.  The king thought that before he shut his eyes forever, the prince should be married off. He expressed his desire to his son who responded with his choice. He wanted to marry a princess of a distant land. The next day, the king summoned his vizier and told him what the prince desired. Moreover, he said that he would pay as much dower as they asked for.

The vizier sent a messenger to the king for the purpose. The king gave his consent. The messenger returned to his country with the good news. The prince was married with great pomp and splendour. A few days after their marriage, the king brought his daughter-in-law to the palace. She was beautiful and well-mannered.

Days passed by. One day the king breathed his last and his son subsequently ascended the throne and became the king. But he loved his wife so much that he did not pay much attention to the affairs of his kingdom. At last, he abdicated his throne to live a happy and peaceful life with his beautiful wife. Soon he ran out of his wealth and become so poor that he had nothing left. A few days later his wife turned to him and said, “By sitting idle at home we will die of hunger. You should do something or engage yourself in a business”. He replied, “First, I can’t live without you. Separation from you will rend my heart. Second I’m not well-versed in any craft. There is however a desire in my heart to conduct some trade but I don’t have any capital for it”.

“Don’t worry I will finance you,” his wife told him.

“How come?” asked the husband.

“Take all my jewels and sell them off and bring me the sum you receive for them.”

The husband did what his wife had told him. The wife then advised him to buy goods with the money and board a ship. Thus he loaded the goods on a ship and returned to his wife and asked her, “What should I do next?”

She gave him a flower and said, “Whenever you feel sorrowful for me, just look at the flower. It will ease off your sorrows”.

He put the flower into his pocket, boarded the ship and set on his journey. After journeying for many days and night he finally landed in a distant country. He anchored the ship in the harbour. Meanwhile, the soldiers arrived and demanded duties. He paid the duty for the ship but surprised the soldiers saying that he had something else on him but neither was he going to pay any duty for it nor show it to them.

“How strange! What is it?” a soldier asked him but he refused to reveal.

When the soldiers continued to insist, he at last told them that it was the flower given by his wife. The soldiers took him to the king’s court and told the king about the flower he was keeping with him. The king turned to him and asked him sarcastically, “Oh, you think your wife is such a good woman that you can live by her token?”

“Yes, I think so” was his reply.

“If we produce your wife here at our court, what would you say?”

“If you think you can convince her to come here, I will give her to you”, he told the king. Then he turned to the court and said, “A man or two could go and try to persuade his wife to come.”

Two young men, one was king’s own son and the other was the vizier’s, presented themselves for the adventure. After making necessary preparations, they set out on their journey.

Meanwhile, the man sought permission to sell his goods. The king granted permission happily.

The king’s and vizier’s son traveled long and finally reached the city where the wife of the king who was now a merchant lived. There they ran into an old lady who invited them to her cottage. They asked the old woman to go to the merchant’s wife and tell her that the son of a king was desperate to see her. Initially she refused but when the prince gave her a sack full of gold coins, the old woman hurried to merchant’s wife and conveyed her prince’s message. At first she made excuses but when the old woman gave her no rest she at last said, “Ask the prince to visit me at night”.

The old woman told the prince what she had been told by the merchant’s wife. In the evening, the prince spruced himself up and took leave of his friend, the vizier’s son and left for his desired destination.

When he reached there, the woman pointed towards the bathroom and said, “Go there and refresh yourself. I do the same. Then we will have a conversation. We’ve a long night ahead”.

The moment the prince entered the bathroom, the woman locked the door from outside. Two days later, when the prince failed to return, the vizier’s son grew anxious about him. He wondered if someone had done him ill or he had gone somewhere. The next night he decided to see the woman and ask her about the prince. But when his eyes fell on her, he forgot the prince and thought that it would be a lucky hit if he managed to trick her.

He told her that he had been desperate to see her and would be much obliged if she would spare some moments to talk to him. The woman told him to do what she had asked the prince the other night. When he entered the bathroom she locked it from the outside. Now the prince and vizier’s son both lay locked in the bathroom. Six or seven days later she sent for a carpenter and asked him to make two giant sixed boxes in which a man could sleep easily. He also asked the carpenter to make two holes on the side of the each box.

The carpenter went off and made the boxes as she had ordered him. She then summoned two men who owned camels. She instructed them thus, “I have locked two men in the bathroom, put them in these two boxes, load them on the camels”.

When they were all done she asked the camel owners to follow her. She fed them water and food through the holes in the boxes. After travelling for many days and night, they finally reached the land of the king who wished to have her in his court. Upon reaching there, she rented a quarter and placed the two boxes there. She locked the house and went out. On her way to the city, she encountered the kotwal or the police chief of the city. He inquired her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“Don’t you know courtesans are not allowed to move around freely in this city? I wouldn’t let you wander like this.”

“Is there any way that I could be spared?” She asked the kotwal.

“If you visit my home in the evening, I will let you go,” the kotwal put the condition before her.

“Of course I will come. This is what I do. But being a servant of the king you have always people around you. If any of your sentries or soldiers catches the sight of me, it will bring ruin to your reputation. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus, the kotwal let her go.

The Imam of the mosque was the next she encountered. He asked her:

“Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“I seek refuge from the Holy Lord! Don’t you know such impure women are not allowed to roam freely in this city? I will take you to the king”.

“Please for God’s sake, let me go,” she pleaded.

“If you visit me in the evening I will let you go,” he told her.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the Imam of the entire city, whether it is death or marriage people will come to you to perform the rituals. If someone saw me with you, it would tarnish your dignity and honor. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Hence the Imam let her go.

She then ran into the vizier who inquired: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“The king has banned the movement of courtesans in the city. I will take you to the king”.

“Is there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the vizier.

“Yes, if you come at my home near king’s palace tonight, then I will leave you,” said the vizier.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the vizier, if king sends someone for you and he happens to catches the sight me with you it will dent your dignity. I have rented a room in the city. It is better we meet there”.

The vizier agreed and let her go.

At last she bumped into the king himself. He asked her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“In my kingdom sinful women like you are not allowed. I will put you in the prison”.

“I am a poor woman. Let me earn a livelihood. Take pity on me,” she pleaded.

“No, I can’t,” the king replied.

“Isn’t there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the king earnestly.

“Yes, there is but one condition. If you accept it I will let you go the very instant”.

“What is it”?

“If you come at my palace in the evening, I will let you go,” said the king.

“Of course I will. This is what I do. But as you are the king of the land, if someone saw me with you; it would stain your honour and esteem. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus the king was agreed to see her at her house. He noted down the details of the location and told her that he would pay her a visit at her place that night.

The woman returned to her quarter. At dusk she cooked herself a dinner. She was just done with her meal when someone knocked at the door. She got up and opened the door. The kotwal was standing outside. She let him in. He had barely seated himself when someone again knocked at the door. The kotwal pleaded with the woman:

“For God sake hide me somewhere.”

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you, but I have an idea,” replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the kotwal instantly asked her.

“I will give you a sack of grain and you grind the content in the quern. Thus, nobody will suspect you”.

The kotwal agreed.

She opened the door and found the mullah standing outside. She welcomed him. The mullah had just started the conversation with the woman, when someone knocked at the door again. The mullah grew worried, and he begged to the woman saying: “Pray hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea”, replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the mullah asked her trembling.

“You should bend down on your knees, and I will place the water-pitchers on your back,” said the woman.

The mullah consented and she placed two water-pitchers on his back and strolled out of the room.

She opened the door and let the vizier in. The vizier had barely stepped into the house, when there was a knock on the door again. The vizier turned to the woman and urged her: “Please hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea,”replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” The vizier asked her in an earnest voice.

“You should snuggle against the wall and I will place the lamp on your head. It will be dark beneath the lamp and nobody will notice your presence,” said the woman.

The vizier did what the woman told him. She placed the lamp on his head and left the room.

She opened the door and to her surprise she found the king himself standing before her. She courteously greeted him and conducted him into the house. Then she went and unlocked the two giant boxes. A moment later she excused herself and said: “Let me take a bath to refresh myself before I join you”.

The king granted her the permission, and she stole out of the door and started her journey back home.

Back in the house, the king kept waiting for her. When after a long time she failed to show up, the king decided to ask the maidservant who was grinding the grain. Hence he walked over there and he was astonished to discover that instead of a maidservant it was the kotwal grinding the grains. When the kotwal saw the king there he smiled and said: “Thank God! I’m not alone. His Majesty too has been tricked by the woman”.

The vizier also felt relieved and so did the mullah. The king said that since they had been tricked by the woman, they would take away the two boxes of the woman. The king went forward and opened one box and but instead of any finery or jewelry he found his own son lying in the box. The king lost his temper saying, “I spit on your face. You damn coward!”

The prince turned to his father and said, “I was made a captive away from home, but I curse you for you all have been tricked in your own kingdom.”

The king asked him about vizier’s son. The prince told him that he was lying in the next box. They all broke the door and sheepishly went to the merchant and sought his forgiveness for they couldn’t bring his wife into the palace. The king presented him a shipload of silver and gold.At last he reached his home. He felt very proud to have a clever woman as his wife who with her shrewdness not only protected her own honour but also did not let any stain spoil her husband’s dignity. Thus, she remained honoured and exalted in the eyes of both her husband and God.

(This folktale was originally featured in Balochi in Geedi Kessah-5, compiled by Mahmood Mari published by Balochi Academy Quetta in 1979. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights of this collection.)

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.

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Tribute

Akbar Barakzai’s Paean to Humanity

Poem by Akbar Barakzai, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Akbar Barakzai (1939-2022)
WE ARE ALL HUMAN

Russia, China and India,
Arabs and the New World*,
Africa and Europe,
The land of the Baloch and Kurds --
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

Of blood and brotherhood,
We share common traits and ties.
Love is all we harvest.
On freedom our faith does rest.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

A life free from strife,
A world blooming with 
Dreams and desires,
Happiness and delight --
This is all we seek.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.


From murderers and tyrants,
Like Genghis,
With our swords and soul,
We protect the beautiful Earth.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

Together along with the downtrodden, 
The wretched of the Earth,
We shall wage a war 
Against brutes of the world,
And for truth we shall lay our lives.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

With the stars of our blood,
Like our beloveds, we shall adorn
The night-bitten cities and valleys.
The dark night will vanish forever.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

The sun will rise from our blood,
the prophet of glory will appear,
The night will pass into dawn --
There will be happiness everywhere.
Indeed, the whole world is ours
We are all human.
We are all human.

*By the New World, the poet means the continents of Americas and Australia.

Akbar Barakzai (1939-2022) was born in Shikarpur, Sindh. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has managed to bring out just two anthologies of his poems, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

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 to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.

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Poetry

You & I by Munir Momin

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

 YOU AND I

The flames of our existence
cannot scorch us.
At times a patch of cloud 
sails overhead
(we are all dead forests)
in a dead forest
when ecstasy strikes 
the heart of a forlorn tree.

Where can it go?
How far can a tree move, after all?
 
We haven't seen our face yet.
We haven't found our homes yet.
All roads and trails burnt to ashes before our eyes.
All homes and abodes
reflected in the false glow of a mirror,
disappeared
into haze and dust…
 
The wind asked me,
where have the clouds vanished
for kites have invaded the sky?
We can't hear the whispers of doves
nestled within us.
All hail to us!
For we didn't die of our own thirst.
 
Tomorrow,
when we are gone
to the bottom of many vessels,
our agony will settle.
After all it's not the agony
that shaped our solitude.
We, who couldn't die of our own thirst, wonder
how come this grief makes us perish?
 
Once we are gone,
the wind might not whisper with our wounds,
the rain might not cleanse the naked body of our solitude.
The fire of our own existence
will not scorch us!

Munir Momin is a contemporary Balochi poet widely cherished for his sublime art of poetry. Meticulously crafted images, linguistic finesse and profound aesthetic sense have earned him a distinguished place in Balochi literature. His poetry speaks through images, more than words. Momin’s poetry flows far beyond the reach of any ideology or socio-political movement. Nevertheless, he is not ignorant of the stark realities of life. The immenseness of his imagination and his mastery over the language rescues his poetry from becoming the part of any mundane narrative. So far Munir has published seven collections of his poetry and an anthology of short stories. His poetry has been translated into Urdu, English and Persian.  He also edits a literary journal called Gidár.

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.

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Poetry

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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Poetry

Shorter Poems of Akbar Barakzai

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Unfinished Song

Mankind is a beautiful song,
A song unfinished as of yet

Heart and soul of the sacred earth
to conscience it gives voice 

It’s each word and each rhyme
like flowers soft and sublime

A heavenly wine in Nature's cup
like morning breeze it does chime

Someday 'twill touch its finest note
‘twill survive the tides of time

Bestowed by the Mother Nature
A blossom that lasts forever


Not Forever

The rule of chains and fetters
Will last only for today not forever
The age of tyranny and oppression
Will last only for today not forever
All these wealth and riches will liquidate soon
This loot, pillage and plunder
Will last only for today not forever


Motherland

Even if like a wasteland
it’s all burnt and blazed,
Motherland is but motherland.
I crave not for the land of the sun
and its flowing rivers of light,
Even if it's dark like a dungeon
Motherland is but motherland.

The Anguished Sigh 

The restless sigh! 
Lay trapped in my collapsed chest 
May you become a little songbird 
And in every sad heart find yourself a nest 


Distracted Youth

O, you, the distracted youth!
Why you lament on the shore
Go ahead and embrace the tides
Wherein lies life’s lore

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1939. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has brought out just two anthologies of poetry, Who can Kill the Sun and The Lamps of Heads, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

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 to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

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Author Page

Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai (1939-2022) was born in Shikarpur, Sindh. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has managed to bring out just two anthologies of his poems, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

Interview

In Conversation with Akbar Barakzai, a ‘Part-time Poet’ in Exile

‘The East and the West are slowly but steadily inching towards each other. Despite enormous odds “the twain” are destined to “meet” and be united to get rid of the geographical lines…’

Click here to read.

Poetry

  1. The Word: Click here to read
  2. Waiting for Godot: Click here to read
  3. The Law of Nature: Click here to read
  4. No: Click here to read
  5. Freedom: Click here to read
  6. Who can Snuff out the Sun: Click here to read
  7. For How Long: Click here to read
  8. Be & It All Came Into Being: Click here to read
  9. Mysteries of the Universe: Click here to read.
  10. Shorter Poems of Akbar Barakzai: Click here to read.
  11. We are All Human : Click here to read.

All his poetry has been translated by Fazal Baloch who has the rights to their translation.

Categories
Poetry

The Beloved City

Poetry of Munir Momin, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Munir Momin is a contemporary Balochi poet widely cherished for his sublime art of poetry. Meticulously crafted images, linguistic finesse and profound aesthetic sense have earned him a distinguished place in Balochi literature. His poetry speaks through images, more than words. Momin’s poetry flows far beyond the reach of any ideology or socio-political movement. Nevertheless, he is not ignorant of the stark realities of life. The immenseness of his imagination and his mastery over the language rescues his poetry from becoming the part of any mundane narrative. So far Munir has published seven collections of his poetry and an anthology of short stories. His poetry has been translated into Urdu, English and Persian.  He also edits a literary journal called Gidár.

The Beloved City

Bemoan not the silence.
You are still a new arrival here, 
Your colour' still brighter than this city’s trees 
No one will talk to you yet. 
Once the city’s poison 
Seeps into your veins and fades away, 
A relationship will blossom 
And then the city will converse with you. 

Look at me, 
I’ve travelled all my life 
Still my questions remain thirsty for an answer 
And dry are the eyes of these stagnant clouds. 
If you seek life here,
Look for a few graves on the city’s outskirts 
Which are not ruined yet.
On these graves, 
Some flowers have blossomed 
They often whisper to each other 
And there are a couple of pigeons 
Whose eyes well up at times, otherwise, 

The inhabitants of this city are the kind of people 
Who right at the time of their death
Drifted off to sleep.
When they woke up, 
The battler was over 
And the caravan’s dust had settled. 

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.

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