Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Songs of captivity?

My internet connection is notoriously slow: To load this six-minute video cost me over half an hour. For this reason, I seldom watch videos. This one, however, was worth the wait — as I could tell after the first two seconds came through, bringing with them a snatch of melody that will never cease to haunt me.

Fahmida Riaz, a premiere poetess of Pakistan

Fahmida Riaz, a premier poet of Pakistan.
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Produced by Sheema Kermani, this short film is based on a poem by Fahmida Riaz, an Urdu poetess considered among the best of Pakistan; she is shown above on a visit to Rumi’s tomb. Reproduced below, as best I could manage on the fly, is the text of that poem.

Aseer Shahzadi

(This imprisoned princess)

This ancient structure of tyrannical customs,
Ashamed at itself,
Crumbling under its own weight.

This ancient structure of tyrannical customs,
This ancient structure of tyrannical customs,
Ashamed at itself,
Crumbling under its own weight,
Its every particle moving towards self-destruction,
All walls bent,
All joints sagging.

In this crumbling prison of cruel customs,
The imprisoned princess.

In this crumbling prison of cruel customs,
This imprisoned princess,
Daughter of fear and repression,
Reared on superstition,
In bed with compromise,
Mother of grief and despair,
In this crumbling prison of cruel customs.

In this crumbling prison of cruel customs,
An echo of abandonment resounds;
A whirling dance of joy and passion emerges.

This crumbling structure can be brought down.
This imprisoned princess can be set free.

This imprisoned princess,
Whose body is like a flame,
Whose soul is tempered steel,
Whose tongue speaks out,
Whose arms have strength,
Fingers have the skill to weave and mould.

This imprisoned princess.

This imprisoned princess:
When she frees herself,
She will breathe fearlessly;
She will breathe fearlessly.
And whirling in a dance of ecstasy,
She will breathe fearlessly.

And whirling in a dance of ecstasy,
She will breathe fearlessly.

And whirling in a dance of ecstasy,
She will discover her being.”

That Riaz’ poem speaks of “whirling in a dance of ecstasy” seems fitting here, for it is in part by such dances that the Sufi (notable among whom was Rumi) seeks communion with God.

Originally published as a review of a womensvoicesnow.com video.

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