Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi-Swedish writer, physician, feminist, secular humanist and human rights activist. She is known for her writing on women’s oppression and criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death.
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Famous Taslima Nasrin Poems
In the instinct of no-creature-of-Nature
the birth of a female is considered undesirable.
Only humans consider it strange.
Since she has been born,
let her stay in an obscure corner of her home
and learn to survive.
Keep your hair in a tight knot.
Don’t let your eyes wander here and there.
Hide carefully your swelling breasts.
Women, we know, need to be kept in chains.
At best they can be allowed
to move about in the precincts of the home, that’s all.
Men look for fresh virgins
so they can maul and tear them,
some on the plea of love,
some of marriage.
The tight smooth skin is full of wrinkles.
The menstruation pain is gone forever.
The thread of the tale told again has snapped.
We are well rid of nuisance.
In the instinct of no-creature-of-Nature
is the death of a female so desirable.
Women And Poems
With as much pain as a human being becomes a woman,
That much pain makes a woman a poet.
A word takes a long year to be made,
a poem an entire life.
When woman becomes a poet, she is totally a woman.
Then she is mature enough to give birth from her suffering heart,
Then she knows how to care for a word.
You have to be a woman first if you want to give birth to a poem.
A word without any pain is fragile, breaks when touched.
Who knows more than a woman all the lanes and alleys of pain!
No Man’s Land
If your homeland does not give you home,
Then tell me what land in the world will give you home.
After all, all the lands are more or less the same kind,
The rulers have the same appearance, the same character.
When they seek to persecute you, they do it the same way.
They pierce you with needles with the same glee.
They sit stony-faced before your crying, dancing all the while within.
They may have different names, but even in the dark you’ll know them,
Their loudness, their whispers, their footsteps will betray them,
When they rush in the direction the wind takes,
The wind will tell you who they are.
Rulers are rulers after all.
The harder you try to persuade yourself that no homeland belongs to people, to those who love it,
The more you persuade someone that it’s yours,
That you have cast it in your heart,
That you have mapped it with the brush of your labour and dreams,
Where will you go when the rulers drive you out?
What land opens its doors to shelter one who’s been driven out?
How can you think of any land offering you home?
You are nobody now,
Maybe not even human.
Whatever else is there for you to lose?
Drag the world into the open and tell it,
Let it give you a spot there to stand, to give you a home there,
From now on let the bit of unwanted piece of earth be yours
That remains as no one’s once the borders of a land close.
Let the pavilions of religion
be ground to bits,
let the bricks of temples, mosques, guruduaras, churches
be burned in blind fire,
and upon those heaps of destruction
let lovely flower gardens grow, spreading their fragrance.
let children’s schools and study halls grow.
For the welfare of humanity, now let prayer halls
be turned into hospitals, orphanages, universities,
Now let prayer halls become academies of art, fine art centers,
scientific research institutes.
Now let prayer halls be turned to golden rice fields
in the radiant dawn,
Open fields, rivers, restless seas.
Think of me, if you’re ever interned,
If your legs are ever chained.
If ever someone goes away
Having locked the room in which you are
From outside, not within, think of me.
There’s nobody anywhere around can hear you,
Your mouth stuck, your lips stitched tight,
You want to speak, you can’t.
Or you’re speaking, but nobody can hear you,
Or hearing, but only dismissively,
Think of me.
Just as you’d desire so madly that someone opened the door,
Free you from all your chains and stitches,
So has I desired too.
A month passed by, nobody came this way.
They’d thought who knows what might happen if the door was opened.
Think of me.
When it hurts you hard, think that’s how I felt too.
Even if one moves with caution at every step,
One can still get interned just like that, anyone, even you,
Then you and I are all the same, with not he least difference,
Then you are like me, waiting too for a man,
The darkness closes in, no man comes.
I’m no longer annoyed when I wake up at three in the night,
If you don’t have a good night’s sleep, the day doesn’t go well, people say.
How does it matter if the day doesn’t go well!
Night and day, they’re all the same for me.
Day, like day, sits at a distance, night acts like night.
When it’s time to sleep, it’s lying awake, curled up, face pressed in.
All this night and day, all this time, I’ve nothing to do with them.
When life and death become the same, there’s nothing to do about it anyway.
Now, with all my pleading, I can’t separate life from death,
For the time being, I cannot lift death from life casually and put it away somewhere.
The Room In Which I Am Forced . . .
The room in which I now live has a closed window,
A window that I cannot open at will.
The window’s covered with a heavy curtain that I cannot move at will.
I live in a room now,
Where I cannot open the door at will, cannot cross the threshold.
I live in a room, where the only other living inhabitants are
Two sickly lizards on the wall. No man or any creature resembling a man is allowed here.
I live in a room where I find it a great strain to breathe.
There’s no sound around, but for banging your head against the wall.
Nobody else in the world watches, expect the couple of lizards.
They watch with eyes wide open, who knows if they feel the pain—Maybe they feel it.
Do they too cry, when I cry?
I live in a room where I don’t want to live,
A room where I am forced to live,
A room where democracy forces me to live for days unending,
In a room in the dark, in incertitude, with a threat hanging,
In pain, breathing with difficulty, democracy forces me to live,
In a room where secularism drains me away of life, dropp by drop.
In a room my dear India forces me . . .
I do not know if all those over busy men or creatures that look like men will have a couple of seconds to spare to turn to
The lifeless lump that comes out of the room some day,
A rotten, greasy lump, a lump of bones.
Will death be release? It’s death perhaps that sets one free,
Free at last to cross the threshold.
The lizards will stare away the whole day,
Maybe they too will feel sad.
Someone will bury me, maybe a government man,
Wrapped in the flag of democracy, in the soil of my dear India .
I’ll find a home there at last, with no threshold to cross,
I’ll find a home there where breathing will be easy.
My mother’s eyes became yellowish, egg-yoke like.
Her belly swelled out rapidly like an overly full water tank
ready to burst at any moment.
No longer able to stand up, or sit down, or even move her fingers, she just lay there.
At the end of her days, she did not look like Mother any more.
Relatives appeared each morning, every evening,
telling Mother to be prepared,
telling her to be ready to die on the holy day, Friday,
uttering la ilaha illallah, Allah Is One!
They warned her not to disappoint the two angels–
Munkar and Nakir.
The relatives wanted to make certain that the room
and yard would be clean
that the perfume surma and the blue eye shadow atar
would be present when Death would finally arrive.
The disease had nearly devoured her entire body;
it had stolen her last remaining strength;
it had made her eyes bulge from their sockets,
it had dried her tongue,
it had sucked the air from her lungs.
As she struggled to breathe,
her forehead and eyebrows wretched with pain.
The whole house demanded– shouting–
that she should send her greatest respects and reverence
to the Prophet.
Not one doubted that she would go to Jannatul Ferdous,
the highest level of heaven.
Not one doubted that she would soon walk hand-in-hand
with Muhammed, on a lovely afternoon,
in the Garden of Paradise…
No one doubted that the two would lunch together
on pheasant and wine.
Mother thus dreamed her lifelong dream:
She would walk with Muhammed
in the Garden of Paradise.
But now, at the very time that she was about to depart from this Earth, what a surprise!
Instead of stepping outside, and entering that Garden,
she wished to stay and boil Birui rice for me.
She wished to cook fish curry and to fry a whole hilsa.
She wished to make me a spicy sauce with red potatoes.
She wished to pick a young coconut for me
from the south corner of her garden.
She wished to fan me with a silken hand-fan,
and to remove a few straggly hairs from my forehead.
She wished to put a new bed sheet upon my bed,
and to sew a frock with colorful embroidery–
just for me.
Yes, she wished to walk barefoot in the courtyard,
and to prop up a young guava plant with a bamboo stick.
She wished to sing sitting in the garden of hasnuhena,
‘Never before, had such a bright moon shone down,
never before, was night so beautiful.. .’
My mother wanted so desperately to live.
There is, I know, no reincarnation,
no last judgment day:
Heaven, pheasant, wine, pink virgins —
these are nothing but traps
set by true believers.
There is no heaven for mother to go.
She will not walk in any garden with anybody whatsoever.
Cunning foxes will instead enter her grave;
they will eat her flesh;
her white bones will be spread by the winds…
Nevertheless, I do want to believe in Heaven
over the seventh sky, or somewhere–
a fabulous, magnificent heaven–
somewhere where my mother would reach
after crossing the bridge,
the Pulsirat– which seems so impossible to cross.
And there, once she has passed that bridge
with the greatest ease,
a very handsome man, the Prophet Muhammed,
will welcome her, embrace her.
He will feel her melt upon his broad chest.
She will wish to take a shower in the fountain;
she will wish to dance, to jump with joy;
she will be able to do all the things
that she has never done before.
A pheasant will arrive on a golden tray.
My mother will eat to her heart’s content.
Allah Himself will come by foot into the garden to meet her;
he will put a red flower into her hair,
kiss her passionately.
She will sleep on a soft feather bed;
she will be fanned by seven hundred Hur, the virgins
and be served cool water in silver pitcher
by beautiful gelban, the young angels.
She will laugh,
her whole body will stir with enormous happiness.
She will forget her miserable life on Earth…
How good I feel
just to imagine
somewhere there is a heaven
They have made Noorjahan stand in a hole in the courtyard.
There she stands submerged to her waist, her head hanging.
They’re throwing stones at Noorjahan,
stones that are striking my body.
I feel them on my head, forehead, chest, back,
and I hear laughing, shouts of abuse.
Noorjahan’s fractured forehead pours out blood, mine also.
Noorjahan’s eyes have burst, mine also.
Noorjahan’s nose has been smashed, mine also.
Noorjahan’s torn breast and heart have been pierced, mine also.
Are these stones not striking you?
They’re laughing aloud, laughing and stroking their beards.
Even their caps, stuck to their heads, are shaking with laughter.
They’re laughing and swinging their walking sticks.
From the quiver of their cruel eyes,
Arrows speed to pierce her body,
My body also.
Are these arrows not piercing your body?
What A Country!
For more than an era,
my Country relished the pains I suffer,
watching my banishment in alien lands.
When the vision is blurred by distance,
they spy me through the hole of a binocular,
and roar in peels of laughter;
one forty million of them relish my own holocaust.
Never had my country been like this before,
She had something called Heart,
teeming with humanity.
Now she ceases to be the country I knew.
Now she is all some decrepit rivers only,
some hamlets and towns,
here and there some vegetations;
Some houses, markets and on the grey meadows,
some people who just resemble humans.
Once my country throbbed with life,
My countrymen recited poems.
Now none thinks twice before banishing a poet,
Now at dead of night, the whole country feel free to send a poet to the gallows;
one hundred and fifty million of them,
derive a lucretian pleasure
out of a poet’s execution.
Once the country knew how to love.
Now She has learnt violence and frowning.
Sharp swords at her disposal,deadly weapons
tucked into her waist, fatal explosives in hand,
no longer can She sing a song.
Over an age, in search of a country,
I’ve been ransacking the globe;
Without a wink of sleep, decade after decade,
In my maddening pursuit of a country.
Reaching on the edge of my own country,
I wait with arms outstretched for her.
Alack! I’ve heard them say:
If my country ever gets me in her grip,
She’ll build my sepulchre there.
Not My City
This isn’t the kind of city,
Once I called my own.
The city belongs to foxy politicians,
Unscrupulous traders, flesh racketeers, pimps, loompens, rapists,
But this cannot be my city.
The city belongs to mute witnesses,
To rape and murder but not to me,
The city belongs to hypocrites,
Feigning nonchalance to the sight of destitute,
At slums and beggars dying on the avenues of the rich.
This is the city of the escapists,
Who at the slightest premonition of a peril,
Make the hastiest retreat.
This is the city of the spooks
They stoically sit on the piles of injustice;
Here they go into rhapsodies,
Over the question of life after death.
This is the city of the soothsayers,
Agents of self-aggrandizement, opportunists.
I can never call it my own city, never.
Liars, cheats, religious bigots abound in here;
In this city, we’re a handful of men and women
Armed with logic, liberal thoughts,
Voice against injustice,
Live in beating hearts.
Not my City.
Last night a lizard sprang up from nowhere and landed upon me. It squirmed along my arm and then climbed upon my shoulder before inching toward my head and hiding itself into the disheveled bush of my hair. Resting upon the back of my aching head, it kept gawking for a couple of hours at a second lizard. Then at the stroke of dawn, it slid next to my ear, deciding to squat upon my spine.
The second lizard lay frozen upon my right leg, around two inches below my knee. Neither budged from their positions the entire evening. Having failed to remove them, I did what I normally do. I kept lying with my eyes firmly closed. Silently—and even if there’s really no rationale whatsoever for counting in reverse— I counted from one hundred to one, repeatedly.
My bed is a confused mess of dirty clothes, used trays and cracked bowls with leftover meals; notebooks for scribbling, old newspapers that have turned brown because of tea stains; one or two combs with pieces of hair sticking to them; one or two stray puffed rice crackers that have lost their crispness; scattered strips of pills and phials of potions; inkless pens etc., etc., etc.
For a number of days, more than two hundred black ants have occupied my bed. They have girded up their loins to construct their new colony upon my bed. Millimeter by millimeter, they have begun to take full control over me. They’re very tiny creatures. Shriveled in fear, for days on end, I myself have become as tiny as these ants.
I’m utterly stunned at their demeanour. They’ve been performing ballet programmes in classical styles upon the surface of my body— but not once have I been bitten, even by mistake. I believe they’ve taken it for granted that I belong to them. And I’ve also begun to consider that I, perhaps, just perhaps, am actually safer in their company than that of humans…
The Game In Reverse
The other day in Ramna park I saw a boy buying a girl.
I‘d really like to buy a boy for five or ten taka,
a clean-shaven boy, with a fresh shirt, combed and parted hair,
a boy on the park bench, or standing on the main road
In a curvaceous pose.
I’d like to grab the boy by his collar
and pull him up into a rickshaw –
tickling his neck and belly, I ‘d make him giggle;
bringing him home, I’d give him a sound thrashing
with high-heeled shoes, then throw him out –
‘’Get lost, bastard! ‘
Sticking bandages on his forehead,
he would doze on the sidewalks at dawn,
Mangy dogs would lick at the yellow pus
oozing out of the ulcers in his groin.
Seeing them, the girls would laugh with their tingling sound
of glass bangles breaking.
I really want to buy me a boy,
a fresh, nubile boy with a hairy chest –
I’ll buy a boy and rough him up all over.
Kicking him hard on his shriveled balls,
I’ll shout, ‘Get lost, bastard! ‘
Will you let me have a glimpse of people?
People on the streets? People sauntering by, people smiling.
People intending to take a right turn,
Suddenly changed the mind and took to the left.
People across the meadows,
Past the shops, cinemas, theatres, Opera houses,
People racing down, people in the cars, bus, tram, train.
How I wish to have a glimpse of them, the procession of people!
Will you let me have a glimpse of them-
Men, women and children in the houses?
Am I to live only with the fluky glimpse of a strip of cloud
Or the streak of sun, penetrating through the chinks of my window?
People, they said are barred out,
I’ve to live the rest of my life sans people.
Some Tit-Bits Of My Life In Captivity
Day after day I don’t take a bath.
Months roll by, pungent smell wafting out of my body.
Yet, I feel no urge for a bath.
Why should I? What’s the use of a bath?
An inexplicable apathy for a bath engulfs me.
A man comes,
Thrice a day,
To offer me food.
It matters little,
If I enjoy it or not,
But I must swallow it.
Were I able to live without eating!
Then I could have said to them:
Give me whatever you intend,
Except the stuff called food.
Before I lull myself to sleep,
I suffer from a constant phobia:
If something devilish befalls me…….
If I fail to wake up again!
If I fall asleep
Startled, I wake up, repeatedly,
As though one suffering from sleep apnea.
I look around to ponder:
Is it my own bed-room?
No this isn’t the room I own.
Banishment is merely a nightmare,
It cannot be the part of the verisimilitude.
As long as I’m awake during the daytime
Banishment dwells on me like a nightmare.
Sleep! I take a fright at you,
Lest you should vaporize my dubious reverie.
The room I inhabit is rectangular
Captivated within its four walls,
I just stalk from one corner to another.
If I’m so zealous to stalk at all;
The order from the top, I must oblige.
The room lies detached from me like a frigid partner,
I, on the other corner, lie prostrated,
By the order from the top.
In stark silence, I wonder:
Is it the same good, old earth,
I knew so vast and generous once?
Since when has it become so parsimonious?
Even in the prisons,
They honour some rules,
The permission to meet visitors,
Being one of the impositions.
I’m a prisoner
Compelled to be a non-conformist.
Without friends or relatives.
I send petitions daily
To be favoured like a prisoner,
The Government of India is reticent.
The Unrung Ring
So many things ring,
the cells of the body,
the ankle bells as they dance,
the silver wrist bangles.
As the monsoon rains fall on the window
the glass panes musically ring.
As clouds clash with clouds
lightning rings out.
Dreams ring, keeping time to their beats,
and, making a havoc internally,
Only an intimate bell on my door does not ring.