What Happens When ‘Namastes’ Turn Into ‘Aadaabs’

On Friday, August 10, the Society For Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA) hosted a poetry and free verse event to celebrate International Youth Day which is marked on August 12. Poets, ranging in age from their teens to late 20s, took on the concept of ‘safe spaces’ in Hindi, English and Urdu, through rapping, rhyming, singing and free verse. This week, LiveWire will be publishing some of the poetry shared during the event and furthering PRIA’s discussion on what today’s youth think of when they think of a safe space.

My safe space lies in my body,
Hair buzzed
Big beard
Arms disproportionate to the rest of my body
I could be a Jatt.
But when the ‘truth’ comes out?
Buzzed hair under a skull cap
Big beard suddenly suspicious
Arms big enough to cull a cow
When eyebrows are raised and the saffron siren sounds
Deep in my safe space I cannot be found.

My safe space sits on my tongue
The way my tongue caresses these words.
I could be Sharma Ji’s son.
But when the ‘truth’ is heard?
When Namastes turn into Aadaabs
Shukriya instead of Dhanyawaad
The way my tongue lashes menacingly at these words
When ears twitch and the saffron siren sounds
My safe space ensures I cannot be found.

My safe space is inside my fridge
Paalak paneer
Rajma chawal
Consuming meat is unethical, haven’t you heard?
I am a gau rakshak in my own right.
But when a tall glass of ‘truth’ is served with
Nahaari. Korma.
Haleem. Kebab.
You and I both find it hard to resist
When our mouths salivate equally
But still, the saffron siren sounds
My safe space keeps me hidden, unfound.

My safe space exists between my ears
I fight for the people
I believe in Nehru
Even in ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’.
I too fly the saffron white and green.
But when like the flag, the ‘truth’ unfurls?
I fight for them
I believe in Jinnah
Even in a sinister cause.
For when hearts are moved by the saffron siren’s sound
My safe space is in the shadows, where I can’t be found.

For when evil captures us all
When the light is put out
When this nation starts to fall
And in our minds are seeds of doubt
When the government doesn’t give a damn
When these ‘truths’ are really false and hope is all we’ve got
My safe space isn’t anything I am
It’s everything I’m not.

Saamir Askari Kazmi is a recent graduate of Durham Law School. 

Featured image credit: Unsplash