Mother’s Story – Taslima Nasrin

My mother’s eyes became yellowish, egg-yoke like. 

Her belly swelled out rapidly like an overly full water tank 

ready to burst at any moment. 
No longer able to stand up, or sit down, or even move her fingers, she just lay there. 

At the end of her days, she did not look like Mother any more. 
Relatives appeared each morning, every evening, 

telling Mother to be prepared, 

telling her to be ready to die on the holy day, Friday, 

uttering la ilaha illallah, Allah Is One! 
They warned her not to disappoint the two angels– 
Munkar and Nakir. 
The relatives wanted to make certain that the room 
and yard would be clean 

that the perfume surma and the blue eye shadow atar 
would be present when Death would finally arrive. 
The disease had nearly devoured her entire body; 

it had stolen her last remaining strength; 

it had made her eyes bulge from their sockets, 

it had dried her tongue, 

it had sucked the air from her lungs. 
As she struggled to breathe, 

her forehead and eyebrows wretched with pain. 
The whole house demanded– shouting– 

that she should send her greatest respects and reverence 
to the Prophet. 

Not one doubted that she would go to Jannatul Ferdous, 
the highest level of heaven. 
Not one doubted that she would soon walk hand-in-hand 
with Muhammed, on a lovely afternoon, 
in the Garden of Paradise… 
No one doubted that the two would lunch together 
on pheasant and wine. 
Mother thus dreamed her lifelong dream: 

She would walk with Muhammed 
in the Garden of Paradise. 
But now, at the very time that she was about to depart from this Earth, what a surprise! 
She hesitated. 
Instead of stepping outside, and entering that Garden, 

she wished to stay and boil Birui rice for me. 

She wished to cook fish curry and to fry a whole hilsa. 

She wished to make me a spicy sauce with red potatoes. 
She wished to pick a young coconut for me 

from the south corner of her garden. 

She wished to fan me with a silken hand-fan, 

and to remove a few straggly hairs from my forehead. 
She wished to put a new bed sheet upon my bed, 

and to sew a frock with colorful embroidery– 
just for me. 
Yes, she wished to walk barefoot in the courtyard, 

and to prop up a young guava plant with a bamboo stick. 
She wished to sing sitting in the garden of hasnuhena, 
‘Never before, had such a bright moon shone down, 

never before, was night so beautiful.. .’ 
My mother wanted so desperately to live. 

There is, I know, no reincarnation, 

no last judgment day: 
Heaven, pheasant, wine, pink virgins — 

these are nothing but traps 
set by true believers. 
There is no heaven for mother to go. 

She will not walk in any garden with anybody whatsoever. 
Cunning foxes will instead enter her grave; 
they will eat her flesh; 

her white bones will be spread by the winds… 
Nevertheless, I do want to believe in Heaven 

over the seventh sky, or somewhere– 

a fabulous, magnificent heaven– 

somewhere where my mother would reach 
after crossing the bridge, 
the Pulsirat– which seems so impossible to cross. 
And there, once she has passed that bridge 
with the greatest ease, 
a very handsome man, the Prophet Muhammed, 

will welcome her, embrace her. 
He will feel her melt upon his broad chest. 
She will wish to take a shower in the fountain; 

she will wish to dance, to jump with joy; 

she will be able to do all the things 
that she has never done before. 
A pheasant will arrive on a golden tray. 

My mother will eat to her heart’s content. 

Allah Himself will come by foot into the garden to meet her; 

he will put a red flower into her hair, 
kiss her passionately. 
She will sleep on a soft feather bed; 

she will be fanned by seven hundred Hur, the virgins 

and be served cool water in silver pitcher 
by beautiful gelban, the young angels. 
She will laugh, 
her whole body will stir with enormous happiness. 
She will forget her miserable life on Earth… 
An atheist, 
How good I feel 

just to imagine 

somewhere there is a heaven

Mosque, Temple – Taslima Nasrin

Let the pavilions of religion 

be ground to bits, 

let the bricks of temples, mosques, guruduaras, churches 

be burned in blind fire, 

and upon those heaps of destruction 

let lovely flower gardens grow, spreading their fragrance. 

let children’s schools and study halls grow. 
For the welfare of humanity, now let prayer halls 

be turned into hospitals, orphanages, universities, 

Now let prayer halls become academies of art, fine art centers, 

scientific research institutes. 

Now let prayer halls be turned to golden rice fields 

in the radiant dawn, 

Open fields, rivers, restless seas. 
From now on, let religion’s other name be humanity.

So Let Them Rule The World – Taslima Nasrin

Just let them be free to do as they please… 
Let all the doors of the world’s arsenals swing open for them… 

Let them wield their swords and hang rifles from their waists… 

Let them clutch grenades in their fists… 
And with the grand inspiration of Dar-ul-Islam in their minds 

Let them go out onto the streets and behead the infidel… 
Let them torture women until death, 

after wrapping their obedient heads with veils, 

and confining them to their rooms… 
Let the rapists go berserk door to door 

to copulate in their erect hysteria, 

so that they can beget male babies to overcrowd the world. 
Let all the men become Talibans overnight… 

Let them seize the entire planet 

from Argentina to Iceland, from Maldives to Morocco, 

from the Bahamas to Bangladesh… 
May the whole universe become their citadel… 
Let the leaders of the world bow down 

upon the sacred land of Islam… 

And let them crown the heads of these terrorists, one by one. 
Yes, let the world’s leaders apologize with folded hands

for their own cruel misdeeds… 

Let them together imbibe the holy water— 

the filthy liquids of these true believers— 

so as to be blessed by their grace.

The Safe House – Taslima Nasrin

I’m compelled to live in such a house 

Where I’m forbidden to say ‘I like it not’ 

Though I feel aghast to live in here. 
Such a safe house I live in 

Where I’m destined to live and suffer 

But cannot weep. 

I must avoid eye contact with others 

Lest I should expose my pains inconclusive. 

In this house everyday at dawn 

My longings are slaying and before evening descends 

The pallid corpses are buried on its courtyard. 
My deep sighs break the silence of the safe house 

All other sounds are inconspicuous within and without the house. 

Every night I go to bed trepidation, 

And with the same feelings I wake up, 

While awake, I subject my own shadow to a monologue. 
I’m caught unawares by the invasion of a venomous snake, 

Hurtling wrath and loathing, squirms all over my body 

And hiss: Be off transcending boundaries 

Hush-hush escape to a far off quaint land 

Towards the impassable mountains. 

While creeping around the shadow, the serpent demands: 

Get lost forever. 
Friends, do pray for me 

For my safe exit, from the safe house, 

Pray for my lucky sojourn, 

Once in safety in an unsafe house. 
[This poem was written while Taslima was forced to live in confinement in an undisclosed location in Delhi from 22 November 2007 to 19 March 2008. Sujal Bhattacharya translated this poem from her book PRISONERS POEMS]

Poem – The Female – Taslima Nasrin

In the instinct of no-creature-of-Nature 

the birth of a female is considered undesirable. 

Only humans consider it strange. 

Since she has been born, 

let her stay in an obscure corner of her home 

and learn to survive. 

Keep your hair in a tight knot. 

Don’t let your eyes wander here and there. 

Hide carefully your swelling breasts. 

Women, we know, need to be kept in chains. 

At best they can be allowed 

to move about in the precincts of the home, that’s all. 

Men look for fresh virgins 

so they can maul and tear them, 

some on the plea of love, 

some of marriage. 

The tight smooth skin is full of wrinkles. 

The menstruation pain is gone forever. 

The thread of the tale told again has snapped. 

We are well rid of nuisance. 

In the instinct of no-creature-of-Nature 

is the death of a female so desirable.

Poem – The Game In Reverse – Taslima Nasrin 

The other day in Ramna park I saw a boy buying a girl. 
I‘d really like to buy a boy for five or ten taka, 

a clean-shaven boy, with a fresh shirt, combed and parted hair, 

a boy on the park bench, or standing on the main road 

In a curvaceous pose. 
I’d like to grab the boy by his collar 

and pull him up into a rickshaw – 

tickling his neck and belly, I ‘d make him giggle; 

bringing him home, I’d give him a sound thrashing 

with high-heeled shoes, then throw him out – 

‘’Get lost, bastard! ‘ 
Sticking bandages on his forehead, 

he would doze on the sidewalks at dawn, 

scratching scabies. 

Mangy dogs would lick at the yellow pus 

oozing out of the ulcers in his groin. 

Seeing them, the girls would laugh with their tingling sound 

of glass bangles breaking. 
I really want to buy me a boy, 

a fresh, nubile boy with a hairy chest – 

I’ll buy a boy and rough him up all over. 

Kicking him hard on his shriveled balls, 

I’ll shout, ‘Get lost, bastard! ‘

Poem – Mosque, Temple – Taslima Nasrin

Let the pavilions of religion be ground to bits, 

let the bricks of temples, mosques, guruduaras, churches 

be burned in blind fire, 

and upon those heaps of destruction 

let lovely flower gardens grow, spreading their fragrance. 

let children’s schools and study halls grow. 
For the welfare of humanity, now let prayer halls 

be turned into hospitals, orphanages, universities, 

Now let prayer halls become academies of art, fine art centers, 

scientific research institutes. 

Now let prayer halls be turned to golden rice fields 

in the radiant dawn, 

Open fields, rivers, restless seas. 
From now on, let religion’s other name be humanity.

Poem – The Room In Which I Am Forced . . . – Taslima Nasrin 

The room in which I now live has a closed window, 

A window that I cannot open at will. 

The window’s covered with a heavy curtain that I cannot move at will. 

I live in a room now, 

Where I cannot open the door at will, cannot cross the threshold. 

I live in a room, where the only other living inhabitants are 

Two sickly lizards on the wall. No man or any creature resembling a man is allowed here. 

I live in a room where I find it a great strain to breathe. 

There’s no sound around, but for banging your head against the wall. 

Nobody else in the world watches, expect the couple of lizards. 

They watch with eyes wide open, who knows if they feel the pain—Maybe they feel it. 

Do they too cry, when I cry? 

I live in a room where I don’t want to live, 

A room where I am forced to live, 

A room where democracy forces me to live for days unending, 

In a room in the dark, in incertitude, with a threat hanging, 

In pain, breathing with difficulty, democracy forces me to live, 

In a room where secularism drains me away of life, dropp by drop. 

In a room my dear India forces me . . . 

I do not know if all those over busy men or creatures that look like men will have a couple of seconds to spare to turn to 

The lifeless lump that comes out of the room some day,

A rotten, greasy lump, a lump of bones. 

Will death be release? It’s death perhaps that sets one free, 

Free at last to cross the threshold. 

The lizards will stare away the whole day, 

Maybe they too will feel sad. 

Someone will bury me, maybe a government man, 

Wrapped in the flag of democracy, in the soil of my dear India . 

I’ll find a home there at last, with no threshold to cross, 

I’ll find a home there where breathing will be easy. 
[This poem was written while Taslima was forced to live in confinement in an undisclosed location in Delhi from 22 November 2007 to 19 March 2008. Samik Bandapadahya translated this poem from her book PRISONERS POEMS]

Poem – The Unrung Ring – Taslima Nasrin 

So many things ring, 

the cells of the body, 

the ankle bells as they dance, 

the silver wrist bangles. 

As the monsoon rains fall on the window 

the glass panes musically ring. 

As clouds clash with clouds 

lightning rings out. 

Dreams ring, keeping time to their beats, 

and, making a havoc internally, 

loneliness rings. 

Only an intimate bell on my door does not ring.

Poem – The Woman Breaking Bricks – Taslima Nasrin

The woman, breaking bricks and sitting on a sidewalk, 

wears a red sari as she breaks the bricks, under the burning sun, breaks the bricks, 

the bronze coloured woman breaks the bricks. 

Twenty-one? But she has seven children back home, looks forty up, 

and all day for ten taka, not enough to buy food for one, let alone seven, 

she breaks the brick. every day, breaks the bricks. 
Seated beside her, resting under an umbrella, a man is breaking bricks, 

all day long breaking bricks, 

a shaded man who earns twenty a day breaking the bricks. 

Of what does he dream, the man breaking the bricks, 

the man sitting under an umbrella, breaking the bricks? 
And of what does she dream, the woman breaking the bricks? 

She has a dream, a dream of having an umbrella, 

of breaking the bricks veiled from the sun, 

of becoming a man one fine morning, 

earning double for breaking the bricks. 
Her dream is her dream, 

but in the morning she is still a woman breaking the bricks, 

no umbrella, not even a torn one, breaking the bricks under the burning sun. 
New roads and tall towers are built with the bricks she broke, 

but the roof on her house was blown away in last year’s storm, 

the water drips through her tent, and she has a dream about buying a tin roof. 
Her dream is her dream, 

but in the morning her tent is soaked with water. 

So she shouts out to her neighbors, to the world, 

I have a dream, I have a dream. But still no umbrella, still no tin roof. 
Look, neighbors spit on her and say, her seven children are hungry, 

she needs oil for her hair, powder for her face! 

Her skin colour darkens daily, 

her fingers harden, harden like the bricks they are breaking. 
So with her hammer she continues, continues breaking the bricks, 

becoming herself a brick, a brick that cannot be broken 

by the sun’s heat, an underfed stomach, a dreaming heart.

Poem – Character – Taslima Nasrin 

Taslima Nasrin 25 Aug 1962 - Till Date Mymensingh, Bangladesh

Taslima Nasrin
25 Aug 1962 – Till Date Mymensingh, Bangladesh

You’re a girl 

and you’d better not forget 

that when you cross the threshold of your house 

men will look askance at you. 
When you keep on walking down the lane 

men will follow you and whistle. 
When you cross the lane and step onto the main road 

men will revile you, call you a loose woman. 
If you’ve no character 

you’ll turn back, 

and if you have 

you’ll keep on going 

as you’re going now.

Poem – Border – Taslima Nasrin 

I’m going to move ahead. 
Behind me my whole family is calling, 

My child is pulling my sari-end, 

My husband stands blocking the door, 

But I will go. 

There’s nothing ahead but a river. 

I will cross. 

I know how to swim, 

but they won’t let me swim, won’t let me cross. 
There’s nothing on the other side of the river 

but a vast expanse of fields, 

But I’ll touch this emptiness once 

and run against the wind, whose whooshing sound 

makes me want to dance. 

I’ll dance someday 

and then return. 
I’ve not played keep-away for years 

as I did in childhood. 

I’ll raise a great commotion playing keep-away someday 

and then return. 
For years I haven’t cried with my head 

in the lap of solitude. 

I’ll cry to my heart’s content someday 

and then return. 
There’s nothing ahead but a river, 

and I know how to swim. 

Why shouldn’t I go? 
I’ll go.

Poem – Happy Marriage – Taslima Nasrin 

My life, like a sandbar, 

has been taken over by a monster of a man 

who wants my body under his control 

so that, if he wishes, 

he can spit in my face, 

slap me on the cheek, 

pinch my rear; 

so that, if he wishes, 

he can rob me of the clothes, 

take my naked beauty in his grip; 

so that, if he wishes. 

he can chain my feet, 

with no qualms whatsoever whip me, 

chop off my hands, my fingers, 

sprinkle salt in the open wound, 

throw ground-up black pepper in my eyes, 

with a dagger can slash my thigh, 

can string me up and hang me. 
His goal: to control my heart 

so that I would love him; 

in my lonely house at night 

sleepless, full of anxiety, 

clutching at the window grille, 

I would wait for him and sob; 

tears rolling down, I would bake homemade bread, 

would drink, as if they were ambrosia, 

the filthy liquids of his polygynous body 

so that, loving him, I would melt like wax, 

not turning my eyes toward any other man. 

I would give proof of my chastity all my life. 
So that, loving him, 

on some moonlit night 

I would commit suicide 

in a fit of ecstasy.

Poem – Another Life – Taslima Nasrin 

Women spend the afternoon squatting on the porch, picking lice from each other’s hair. 

They spend the evening feeding the little ones, 

lulling them to sleep in the glow of the bottle lamp. 

The rest of the night 

they offer their back to be slapped and kicked by the men of the house 

or sprawl half-naked on the hard wooden cot. 

Crows and women greet the dawn together, 

the women blowing into the oven to start the fire, 

tapping on the back of the winnowing tray with five fingers 

and, with two, picking out the stones. 

Half their lives women pick stones from the rice. 

All their lives stones pile up in their hearts, 

no one there to touch them even with two fingers.

Poem – A Letter to my Mother -Taslima Nasrin 

How are you Many days, many thousand of days I don’t see you ma,

Many thousand of days I don’t hear your voice, 

Many thousand of days I don’t feel your touch. 
You were here, but never knew you were hear., 

As if you were made to be here for as long as I am 

You filled my needs like a magician 

When I got hungry., when I was thirsty, 

When I wanted to play, when my heart opened, when my heart closed, 

You knew before I knew. 
You brought forth all my wishes 

You remained behind in the shadows. 

I took all the pleasures for myself by having u out of my sight, out of my mind 

No one gave you anything, no one loved you, not even me. 
I never considered you as human 

Were you, were u a human being? 

You were a slave for my happiness 

Like a magician you gave anything and everything whatever I wanted 

Near my hands, near my feet, near my mouth, 
You gave even before I wanted 

You never received any single smile. 

You were behind, u were out of the party, 

You were under a tree, alone in the dark. 
Were you at all a human being? 
You were nothing but a pawn. 

Not a human being. 

You were the cleaner, the cook, the one behind the smoke 

You alone bore all your pain, 

You cried alone with your misery 

No one was there for u, no one was there to hold you, not even me. 

You cured other’s diseases like a magician, 

No one cured you, not even me. 
I killed you before you knew that I was killing you.. 

You are not here, 

Suddenly I feel through my spine inside my veins, that you are not here. 

You are not anymore. 

When you were here, I did not know that you were here

When you were here, I never wanted to know how you were. 
My pride is barred under the stone of your intolerable absence 

I want to bear the same pain as u once bored 

I cant, I could not, 

How is it possible? 

I am not a kind like you, I am not a human like you.