With a gnash rolling-pin in hand
at the entrance to the family courtyard,
and facing Majnoo as he returned home,
was his eldest sister-in-law, Baglash.
Baglash prodded her bony-voice at Majnoo,
‘Surely surely it is but weeks since your father died.
A father bu tting death with grief for his wife’s death.
A father who is surely surely not plying the new harvest
now his marital oaths are drowned.
Why is it you are outstaying your oats?
You are a curse upon your father’s dotage.
No farming rags, no mansome tool in hand
instead you are drowning
books and tunes by day then at night you are skimming
the moon in your bright clothes of a bride!’
Majnoo was all whimsy,
‘I skim in bright clothes to mirror the dream
of my true love.’
Baglash was hard and dreamless; was stinked as manure;
was in Majnoo’s face and not going dry,
‘How many men have perish-to-perished
trying to catch even a snip of the famed queen
who was locked behind walls, moats and guards:
the great Rani Kokilan…Go catch your own rani.
Why are you crapping sharam upon us
by mucking with a cowpat girl?’
Standing at the border of Majnoo’s bedroom,
also with rolling-pin in hand
and slapping it in the other hand loudly,
was Jaglash, the twin sister of Baglash.
They were hill girls wedded to men from the plains.
They wielded stunning erect noses; moistless enormous blank eyes,
and power-plaits – long and black-hard as a pestle.
They’d churned their natures on the dense airs of the heights
and the grip-heat of the plains.
Instead of a temperate clime,
what came up through their moods were ramrod projectile knuckles.
Jaglash was married to the second eldest brother of Majnoo.
Jaglash wore an eye-patch after a fight with a bull.
Jaglash swung her bulk-thigh across Majnoo’s door
to block it from shu tting. And said,
‘Girls at the spinning wheel
between sucking up the thread
say now your head is out of books
your mouth is frisking with a flute. Mucky boy!’
Majnoo called back, ‘Out of my way, eye-patch.
For spilling Roslinder’s milk – I have paid humbly.’
‘Are we wanting humbling by a cowpat girl?’ said Baglash
who had moved behind Majnoo. Jaglash laughed; her own laugh –
she spiked it – quick-stunted it – said,
‘The peacock is too much cocky-flapping.
Let the tiger be a glint of claws!’
Baglash and Jaglash hoisted up their large rolling pins
then, from behind and ahead,
threw them down for Majnoo’s skull.
Majnoo moved fast after feeling a blow
smoke one of his shoulders.
He heard Jaglash let out a high soaring grackle.
The sisters now headed for his head.
They chased him about the courtyard
but Majnoo, with bare time to think,
gave a dozen lively contrariwise dinkings.
He then slipped low, then jumped outerbound
with great speed
as the wood weapons swung throoping for his skull.
Eventually, Majnoo pushed Jaglash out of the way
and was inside and bolting his door.
Now nursing his bruised shoulder.
The sound of the bolt retched on the throats
of the twins.
All they could do with their expletives
was to snot the brass door knob.
Notes on this poem
‘Heer Ranjha’ is a classic Punjabi rural poem about doomed lovers. I’ve incorporated elements of this story along with the classic Persian poem ‘Layla and Majnun’ which is similarly about a doomed relationship. Both stories explore complex ideas about love, about community, and about spiritual ideals. Both stories have been rewri tten by many writers over the past centuries. In my rendition, I explore the possibility of merging the two stories to create a fresh narrative. I have read several translations of each long poem to help me create my own unique translation. The excerpt published here is from an earlier part of my poem.