The 19th and 20th century of Indian history has seen immensely talented poets. Be it Indian freedom fighters or the kings and courtiers, the country has been bestowed with various people who have penned beautiful words.
One of my favorite poems was written as his epitaph (in Urdu) by Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last Mughal Emperor of India. Even though in his time, the Mughal empire was hardly an empire and he had little power under the British rule, he was viewed as a figure who could unite all Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike. I guess a reason for this may be that even though his father was Muslim, his mother Lal Bai was a Hindu. Despite his heritage and the glory his ancestors brought to the Mughal lineage, he was the least threatening and least ambitious of monarchs.
Anyway, to understand the sentiments behind the words he wrote, one must remember that when British victory became certain, he was compelled to surrender by the British forces. After killings of many male members of his family, he was exiled to Rangoon, Burma (Now Yangon, Myanmar) in 1858 along with his wife (or one of his 4 wives), Zeenat Mahal and some other members of his family.
These words bring forth the feelings of a man destined to be an emperor, but an emperor who saw the downfall of the empire his ancestors had once held their pride in… A man destined to be ruler of a beautiful land, and yet being banished from his own country.
Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera Ujde Dayar Mein
Kiski Bani Hai Aalam-e-Napaidar Mein
Bulbul ko baghban se na sayyaad se gila
Kismat mein kayd thi likhi fasle-bahaar mein
Kehdo In Hasraton Se Kahin Aur Ja Basen
Itni Jagah Kahan Hai Dil-e-Daagdaar Mein
Umr-e-Daraz Mang Ke Laye The Chaar Din
Do Aarzoo Mein Kat Gaye Do Intezaar Mein
Din zindagi ke khatm hue shaam aa gayi
phaila ke paanv soyenge koonje mazaar mein
Itna Hai Badnaseeb “Zafar” Dafn Ke Liye
Do Gaz Zameen Bhi Na Mili Koo-e-Yaar Mein
My heart is not happy in this despoiled land
Who has ever felt fulfilled in this transient world
The nightingale laments neither to the gardener nor to the hunter
Imprisonment was written in fate in the season of spring
Tell these emotions to go dwell elsewhere
Where is there space for them in this besmirched heart?
I had requested for a long life a life of four days
Two passed by in praying/wishing, and two in waiting.
The days of life are over, Its evening of death
Now I can sleep without any stress forever in my tomb
How unlucky is Zafar! For burial…
Even two yards of land were not to be had, in the beloved land
** By the way, that picture is probably the only actual photograph found of Bahadur Shah Zafar