The Sparrow’s Sorrow


By Zareef Ahmad Zareef | Tr. by Shafi Shauq

Before I narrate my suggestive tale,

I salute you all with love and respect.

Two decades so harrowing have slipped away,

Yet it is not easy to breethe at ease.

If the tongue dithers  and  nothing is said,

People of tomorrow can’t know our today.

For many an age we have been bearing torments,

Burning is known when you touch a hot cinder.


A sparrow I saw perched on my pomegranate bush,

“ What ails you that you shiver ?”  I asked the bird.

“No use telling you, to God alone I shall  reveal,

His mercy may overflow to assuage my pain.

Listen, but intently, but keep it yourself.”


With this the sparrow looked up to the deep sky,

what the bird revealed I scribe it for the readers.

“ O God, your harmless creature I am ,

in fright I fled  to an alien land.

Time went mad  in villages and towns,

A macabre dance was there from dusk to dawn.

All, the young, the old, and innocent brood,

Lost their peace, took to confined recesses.

Mothers saw their loved sons dying in their laps,

To gibbet was driven whosoever was found.

No one can identify one’s groom’s grave ,

What cage contains one’s hawk, no one call tell.

Unknown phantoms engulfed sisters’ brothers,

Children’s fathers were taken to unknown places.

Doom overwhelmed every house of this land,

A sparrow I’m but coudn’t  bear the spectacle of ruin.

Having fled my home,took refuge among strangers,

A Kashmiri breed I’m, how could I mix up with others.

Twenty long years I spent away from my land,

Now here I return in search of my nest I’m.

Nothing I know where my kith and kin are,

In what a wilderness they travail to survive.

No one is settled, all are in search of peace,

Ruin befell the land, turned into a desert.

The garden is devastated by a wild hail storm,

The thrush, the oriole, and the bulbul are bedumbed.

Who has ravaged the verdure of my land?

Who has trashed my luxuriant pines?

The cliffs of mountains are covered with soot,

The shepherd as well as his herd have lost their way.


Where is the tree that supported my nest?

The nest, wherein we returned our thantks to God.

Who has axed that velvety cypress ?

Burning cinders lie where soothing shades were there.

Who have razed our verdant forests?

In broad daylight the burglers plundered our house?

Who were the hatchet- bearers to trash our garden?

Who has made our surging founts run so dry?

Whatever our forefathers had preserved for us,

All is lost, a painful memory abides.

The sages, saints, mystics, and esteemed elders,

Had the flowing Vitasta to wash their feet.

The majestic river is reduced to a dying sewer,

Frailly, moving on, gasping for breath.

The burgeoning land bears blaze in its bosom,

The pyromaniacs reduced our fortune to ashes.

I was wont to sing many a enlivening warble,

The enemy  has plugged my melodious throat.

The birds who had plenty are thirsting for grain,

The birds that fed their young with mellow berries.

The figs, the jujube, and the planes are nowhere seen,

The spring in its prime is turned into autumn.

Venom is in our air, and fire in our waters.

The strings of Sona Batta’s rebeck  are broken.

No refuge is for birds to sing in dawns and dusks,

Villages and towns are turned into desolate deserts.

The villagers seek their fortune in the city markets,

The city folks run crazy for ruin and rampage.

O God what calamity befell our land of seers?

A hailstorm struck it in its blossoming days.

The bequest and legacy, our forefathers’ wealth,

Is gone with the winds, now despair is our lot.

Listen O God this  sparrow’s doleful song,

Now free this land from the jinx and the curse.

Myriad guests thronged this land in spring,

The hoopoe, the thrush, the swallow, and many others.

They rejoiced their stay here in perfect accord,

A rendezvous for all was our land of solace.

O where are the joys of singing in unison?

Oh ! the trysts of friends and pals are lost.

An incessant wailing and crying is heard,

Pestilence has struck our blooming pastures.

The light from this land defeated all gloom,

The land is now wailing, and mourning is the sky.

Our tomorrow shall seek  what our today has lost,

The gardens shall wander through sandy deserts.

Who with a sickle wiped away my garden of basils,

Who slew my gazelles dwelling in the jungles,

Who has made my flowering garden wither away?

Who were the Huns who hanged my heroes?

Who made the inhabitants of this land flee,

Alas! even the shrine of Tsar was razed in blaze.

Who was the robber who pillaged our treasures,

And left our bosoms smouldering for so long?

Was there no soul to to stop the pillaging hands?

Was there no wisdom to balm the barmy minds?

The hills of the land once clad in ever-green attire,

Stripped and stark, stand in a deserted open.

The inmates of the wild are berserk for shelter,

In alien lands and climes, not suiting their nature.

Not for nothing are ferocious the bears and the lions

No space they find to inhabit as their abode.

O God, You, with Your divine wisdom,

Had crowned the the mountains with lush green forests.

A tiny bird  I’m, needing a pinch of grain,

I, too, am left suffering for food and shelter.

Humans , ‘the Crown of Creation’ all run mad,

The land known for abundance is parched dry.

When can this ruin be undone and glory be restored?

No one can tell, all are unconcerned spectators.


Here it was that Lalls made Nund quaff  elixir,

The diversity of the land bears the standard of unity.

O God ! now heed my wailing and crying,

The land you had blessed is flooded by blood.

The dark is overwhelming, no light is seen,

Separated I’m from my mate, my companion dear.

Despondent I’m to see my ruined abode,

The earth is bedumbed and the sky is mute.

Merciless plunderers have ransacked my land,

I wish I pierced their eyes with my sharp beak.

I pray all men again become real humans,

And the world is ruled by harmony and peace.

Bestow fresh verdure on withered  trees!

Bless all undergrowth with srouts fresh !

Let that enlivening music reverberate again,

The wilderness be filled with fairies’song !

Absolve all our misdeeds, follies and crimes,

We could not be sincere in our worship to you.

Let the estranged brothers be reunited again,

Let all be free from fret and fright.

To those who are overtaken by a wild typhoon,

You alone are caring, compassionate, and loving.

A sparrow I’m, how can I reveal the woes of man,

Here I stop as I have to wander for grains.


Thumbnail Photo: By Alan_Vernon used with permission under CC 2.0

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