Bhutto Supporter Turns to Poetry in Painful Times

Tahira Naqvi, a professor of Urdu at New York University and a longtime supporter of Benazir Bhutto, talks about her grief over the former prime minister's death. She reads a poem from popular Pakistani poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, about hope and action in despairing times.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

Tahira Naqvi is a writer and a translator of Urdu fiction. She's also a long-time supporter of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. She joins us from her home in Mount Vernon, New York.

Mrs. Naqvi, thank you very much for joining us.

Professor TAHIRA NAQVI (Urdu, New York University): Thank you very much for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Can I ask you, please, about the death of Benazir Bhutto? Is this a personal loss for you?

Prof. NAQVI: It is a personal loss. I felt very close to her, although I had never met her. I had viewed her more as a friend and almost as a member of the family. There is a picture of her in my father's house in Lahore, and it has been there for almost 30 years.

WERTHEIMER: Ms. Naqvi, you teach at New York University. You teach Urdu, which is one of the principal languages of Pakistan. I understand that you have a poem for us which speaks to the way you are feeling now…

Prof. NAQVI: Yes. Yes.

WERTHEIMER: …about the death of Benazir.

Prof. NAQVI: Yes. This is a poem by this famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. And the poem has become a sort of anthem for times of despair for Pakistan, and nearly everybody knows the poem. It has been sung. It has been recited in the last 30-odd years.

(Reading) Let us walk in the marketplace today with shackles on our feet. Walk with hands spread out, dancing and with abandon. With dust-covered hair, with blood-stained shirt, the whole city waits for you. Let's go. They wait, the ruler of the city, the populace, the arrow of accusation, the stones of slander, the unfulfilled mourning, the failed day. Who is their friend besides us? Who in the city of the beloved is honorable? Who remains worthy of the hands of the killer. Prepare the heart for its journey. Come, you broken-hearted ones. Let's go and be killed again. Friends, let's go.

WERTHEIMER: What does it sound like in Urdu?

Prof. NAQVI: (Speaking in Urdu)

WERTHEIMER: Tahira Naqvi is a writer and a translator of Urdu fiction. She teaches at New York University.

Mrs. Naqvi, thank you very much.

Prof. NAQVI: Thank you very much.

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