Hijjab Imtiaz trans. Sascha Aurora Akhtar: The Sleep of the Bulbul

The Sleep of the Bulbul

What darkness envelopes us. The bulbul is slumbering, and so the music of the universe has died down to a halt.

Sensing this, the crustacean has wrapped up his heart-rending song. The wind, similarly inspired has decided to catch a few breaths on the desolate shore.

The trees are murmuring in conversation with each other. A deep stillness engulfs the spring. The bulbul is slumbering and so Nature is lost in dream.

The poet is ever watchful. An insomniac. Restless, unable to sleep, witnessing the night full of gravitas.

From the East, a sirocco has infiltrated the rose bush, with petals and flowers strewn on the ground, crushed underfoot by passers-by. He stoops, whispering to a crimson rose. The rose sways from side to side, her petals moving faster in the wind, never opening her eyes, so strong is the grip of sleep.

The winds have disturbed the bulbul. She turns over in her sleep and awakens, rubbing her eyes – having only half-slept. She sets off into the mountains, in the still, sombre darkness of night to find the crimson rose.

But she will not find her. In this life, we all fall prey to deception. The rose, her eyes closed found herself simply swinging in a reverie on her branch, not knowing she was being carried off in the wind. Just as the bird too is unknowing.

She sighs. Two teardrops fall on the rose bushes. She cries for her sleep and laments her loss. Perhaps like the poet, the bulbul too is destined for insomnia and her life too is an extended sigh. Perhaps if we wait, those two teardrops will render a crimson rose when Spring arrives. Perhaps we have uncovered one of the great secrets of the creation of our material world:

The rose is born of two teardrops of a bulbul.


Note: This prose-poem is forthcoming in a collection entitled The Belles-Lettres of Hijjab Imtiaz (Oxford University Press, India, 2019). Imtiaz published the piece in the 1930s in the collection Adab-e-Zareen.

Hijjab Imtiaz was born into a family passionate about the arts and culture in early 20th century Hyderabad, a sophisticated, elegant city in India. It seems she always wrote, and was no victim of patriachal oppression as many women have been, growing up in a Muslim family. Her ouevre, which includes many full-length novels, as she went on to become a well-respected writer on the literary scene of the Subcontinent, is replete with references to nature. She also holds the distinction of being the first Muslim woman pilot on the Subcontinent in the 1930’s. Her collection Adab-e-Zareen translated by writer Sascha Akhtar as The Belles-Lettres of Hijjab Imtiaz will be published by Oxford University Press, India in 2019.

Sascha A Akhtar has been widely translated into Armenian, Portuguese, Galician, Russian, Dutch & Polish. Anthologies include Cathecism: Poems for Pussy Riot &Women:Poetry:Migration . She has performed internationally at festivals such as the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam & Southbank Centre’s MELTDOWN festival London curated by Yoko Ono. Her most recent poetry collection is 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees. She is currently working on a Tarot pack of poems with original art by John Alexander Arnold on ZimZalla entitled Only Dying Sparkles. She also works as a freelance editor & Healer using therapeutic meditation practices at Be meditation. In 2019, she will judge for the Streetcake Experimental Poetry Prize  & teach a workshop at The Poetry School entitled Technicians of The Sacred: The Poem As A Magical Event, March 16, 2019. Her fiction has appeared in Storgy, The Learned Pig, Tears In The Fence, BlazeVox and Anti-Heroin Chic.

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