© 2017 Ikhtisad Ahmed

Cryptic Verses

Foreword 

I write with great pleasure this Foreword to Ikhtisad Ahmed's first book of poems entitled "Cryptic Verses". When I consider that it is his first book I am simply amazed. The variety of themes he treats, his maturity of understanding of the various issues of this life and of this world, the depth and intensity of feeling that he displays in his poems, would do credit to writers far more mature and experienced than he.



Ikhtisad Ahmed has experimented with several styles with enviable boldness and commendable virtuosity. In one poem he has made excellent use of Greek classical myths. In some others his metaphysical concerns come to the forefront. 



All in all, I find Ikhtisad Ahmed's first venture into the domain of poetry most worthy of praise. Shelley had called poets the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Ahmed, who is by profession a lawyer, seems to combine in him the virtue of a worldly wise person with those of a visionary. 



I hope, notwithstanding his professional preoccupation with law, he will not abandon the Muse of Poetry.



Kabir Chowdhury

National Professor

Dhaka, 6.5.2009

Requiem

In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential Election, a friend was told by near ones to go back home, for not being white. This poem, written for this friend and printed by a few outlets with the friend's permission - among them Blue Minaret, found here - was written as similar stories came pouring in from other friends and members of family, all of whom are minorities, all of whom are Americans.

Home

Home.
I am tired and I want to go home.
I want to be cocooned in the folds
Of my blanket, on my bed within the four
Walls of my own, my sanctuary, my room.
I want to speak softly to my kin who holds
Me tight, vanquishing sorrow forevermore.
I want to be a comfort to my neighbour,
To stare into my kin’s eyes, see tomorrow,
Smile and, as my lips part, say that all is well;
I want to tell my friend to fear no more,
But truth says from it I can no longer borrow –
It has called in its debt, told me to say farewell
To my home.

Truth is white, dressed in white, atop
A pale white horse, a cross behind him,
Rifle in one arm, star-adorned flag in another,
And he says I need to go home.
He says if I speak or move he will stop
And search me, put me in a dim,
Squalid cell if I disobey his order.
I am to go back home,
Somewhere away from here,
Anywhere that is not here.

Truth was my neighbour,
My friend, my kin;
The sun turned to darkness,
The moon to blood,
Now he is none.
I am the deplorable other,
A few shades too dark, my skin.
The new laws enforced thus,
By truth I am expelled,
My home is gone.

Home

Over a thousand were killed and thousands were injured - all innocent citizens - by the violent politics of Bangladesh in 2013. The frustration, desperation and depression of one of its helpless, repentant sons, made worse by feelings of insignificance and inadequacy in the face of it, took the form of a poem. It can be found here, or read below.

 

Thine Kingdom Is Mine

 

Nazrul died today, newspaper says,

Spelt his name wrong, common mistake:

Unimportant, not an op-ed or commentary,

What does it matter anyway?

Father is well and mother survives,

My abode keeps me warm –

Veritable ivory tower, for far away

It is from the damned land.

 

Boy of nine this time, breaking news,

Left on the street to rot, fitting;

You want his name? Perish

The thought, who knows such things?

Father is well and mother survives,

They have democracy for comfort,

And fire on the streets for warmth,

No comparison with my "Communist Manifesto".

 

Beaten copy, I pat once again –

Feign horror, cry for salvation,

Crocodile tears learnt from the master:

Young leader in pin-striped suit,

Champagne and caviar at night,

Saves us with chest-thumping by day,

Pretence for golden ticket, another slight,

A minister he will be tomorrow, celebrate!

 

His raping and pillaging will have to wait –

Doctor tries to resuscitate a corpse,

One more, what is the difference?

The elders speak of democracy,

Their time is now, we are saved!

Father is well and mother survives,

Wheels turn, world goes round, 

Today's leaders do so much for us!

 

My gratitude almost given before

Sufiya's burnt, beaten, blood-stained

Body into focus comes, in print and on screen –

One question: fat or pregnant?

Obesity averted or over-population tackled?

Victory for leaders either way;

Father is well and mother survives,

Join me here they will, together to thrive.

 

Green and red held above our heads,

Pictures I see of celebrations –

Leaders young and old have their say, I 

Join my countrymen from distant land

In their pride on this meaningless sacred day;

Father is well, but mother is silent,

Think nothing of it, she has democracy

To pull her through for decades more.

 

Mother is dead I am told –

First flight to Bangladesh, empty

Going that way, foolish to pay full price;

Plane descends, but no water in the land

Of rivers I see, only hues of red

All over, ablaze and flowing,

Turning, twisting, repeating;

Why am I even here, I wonder?

 

Funeral day, no-one left to mourn,

Nazrul, Sufiya, the nine year-old –

All too selfish, not here beside me;

Second problem: no place to bury,

Left and right I search, we have democracy

This cannot possibly be!

The columns, the talk-shows, the biases:

They were convincing, they assured me!

 

Toss her in the fire, cremation,

Paid the big bucks for my innovation

I am, now back I go, no time to mourn.

Before boarding chartered plane,

With a camera in my face, I say a word,

Maybe even two, I cannot stop!

Limelight seized, father is well

And we have democracy I tell.

 

Too long I spend being self-important,

Something mispoken or a step taken wrong –

They come and take me away,

Today I will die, they say.

This is democracy, I understand,

If not them then the other side

Will kill me for sure, I know this fact;

"Oh mother, what have I done?" I never ask,

No tears forthcoming, why should they?

I feel nothing, those who do are long dead.

Thine Kingdom Is Mine

Yukta presents a poetry collection containing original poems about revolution and hope, and pay homage to noteworthy figures, and English translations of five of Mahbub Ul Alam Chowdhury's notable poems. They comprise a Bangladeshi literary journey of forty carefully crafted pieces that reflect on the country and the human condition. Out at Hay Festival Dhaka 2014.

From the back cover:

“The liveliness of the themes in Requiem, augmented by Ahmed's poignant observations, make the collection a tour de force. The beauty lies in the poet's experimental approach to many of the poems, tackling difficult subjects without being mawkish, and without ever losing the vivacious touch.” – Ahsan Akbar, ​Poet, Author of The Devil's Thumbprint

“A thought provoking collection. From every page, a full and delicious story blossoms into a beautiful flower of words that touches the essence of your being. The dancing flames and wild spirits, windows of time, lonely cellos and final fairytales; no stone is left unexamined, no subjects off the table. Once read, it will never be forgotten. It stays with you, forever lingering in your heart and your mind.” – Victoria Bantock, Editor of What the Dickens?, Founder of Creative Life Project

“With a sharp sense of poetry's do, and in this unfeeling world that has castaway poetry without much ado - a poet is here. He takes his place amongst the world's sidewalks, and the gutters, muzzles the derelict lamppost of a tired civilisation moist-mouthed, muttering prayers. The poet is as if a mutt, who is muzzled, silenced, and shooed away from the parking lots of the temples of big capitalism, and narrow nationalism. Dripping with eloquent sarcasm, and churning words unwaveringly, piquant and tart - thusly he holds a warm gun. Warmth of the yesteryears - of history, childhood and loss. Warmth of the now - throbbing with pain and love, and the hissing fuse of the compendia stored inside the poet's mind. The mangy poet barks with rhyming religiosity, through midsummer's nights, and hurricane days, wailing out a requiem song that raps at the closed windows of our souls. A young, panting, and feverishly alive poet is amongst us - open your window.” – Awrup Sanyal, Writer, Editor of Alal O Dulal​

The R-Word
A Dhaka Minute

Bangladesh is in crisis in 2017, but the Dhaka elite class makes merry, oblivious to the inhumanity that abounds. Any single minute its members spend on the roads in the capital provides an unwelcome snapshot of the gratuitous inequality. Dhaka Tribune first published the poem in its literature supplement (Arts and Letters), found here.

A Dhaka Minute

A car, a hopeful meanderer,
Static in perpetual motion, an equilibrium
Unwanted, undesired, but
The only inevitable.
Inside, the air is conditioned, cool –
Outside, an almighty inferno.

The temple, once hallowed, now erring, ablaze,
The slum, once homes, now ablaze,
The bus, a promise of transference, ablaze,
The rickshaw, a livelihood, ablaze,
The flesh, once human, destitute, desperate, despicable,
Once alive, now consumed by the blaze.

Inside the car, aglow with
Health and vivacity,
Wealth and virility;
Indubitably preponderant, awash with
The only green that matters,
An infallible deceit that flatters.

 

Outside, a macabre imponderable,
Inside, insulated, pondering the superficial.
Digital clock ensconced in leather dashboard
Resets from fifty-nine to zero –
Irked inhale, a haughty exhale,
No motion, the count begins again.

Jimmy Hoffa Is In Bangladesh

The heinous practice of abductions carried out by law enforcement agencies has become prevalent in Bangladesh. There is a precedent of enforced disappearance in South Asia, and the latest iteration of it in the nation is being deployed as an effective tool to silence dissent and further a narrow nationalism. Dhaka Tribune first published the poem in its literature supplement (Arts and Letters), found here.

Jimmy Hoffa Is In Bangladesh

They found Jimmy Hoffa,
Halfway around the world, in Bangladesh;
White saviour dispatched to stop a
Proud civilisation from becoming a mess.
Magically reappeared, off to his address –
He was put in a CNG, or on a bus,
Maybe on a truck loaded with fish?
At least he was not sleeping with them!
Not enough formalin in all of Bangladesh
To bring a man back from the dead.

Home, bed, Jimmy boy snores;
Once awake he does not speak any more.
Speculation about moustachioed men
In uniform having taken him away –
Enforced disappearance, held in torture den
Where he prayed not to become prey;
Neither confirmed nor denied
Since by the golden law of silence he does abide.
Curiosity wanes, the whispers die,
No more interest to find the truth in the lie.

From little Britain to the walled US
People disappear in the tens –
Factually speaking, a daily occurrence;
Price of development, mark of progress,
Be proud that it is happening in Bangladesh!
The patriotic duty of every citizen
Is to celebrate without asking any questions.
Respect and replicate Jimmy’s silence.
In due course they all reappear, dead or alive,
Give it time, your turn too will arrive.

AHMED

Ikhtisad