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Baleng: The wall

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Rizwan Qalandar has attempted to translate a song of Rahimullah Rahim, perhaps one of the most difficult contemporary poets, from Hunza.

He is a free soul, a socialist philosopher who started off as a  young singer in early 1990s but more recently has turned towards deeply philosophical poetry with messages for the society.

He is perhaps the only poet in Hunza who has touched upon extremely difficult topics like Marxist idea of surplus, a critique of capitalism, ecology and environment, all in Burushaski.

Baleng means walls and this song is about how humans in general and Hunza people in particular have left their “green” lifestyle and started building walls in the quest for an illusion of safety, money and fame. It’s a critique of new market economy, tourism and a deteriorating environment.

Baleng thaanum butan deewshaan

Baleng haranguchi ho but hurushaan

Balengtzum holeh atu seibaan

Balengeh khen deebila seibaan

They’re raising the walls high and are staying between them

They ask me not leave the walls and they say it’s an era of walls

Baleng taq neh be hole doosam

Belengeh ka me be oqo seibam

Balengtuzm  ar beh but umaibam

Baleng taq neh  faman be etam

How we had torn the walls and emerged? How we saw the walls with demons?

How scared we were of the walls but we had shattered them flat?

Baknegateh da baleng deewshan

Baknegulo raxh bila seibaan

Shoqum dunyaaleh dan phal echaan

Etas bila mes chhanum seibaan

Now they’re building walls on top of walls and feel “safe”

They abandon this wide world and prefer to close their hearts narrow

Shiqam ka jee shiqam seibam

shiqamulo jee bila seibam

Shiqam ka dim shiqam meibam

shiqam jeetzum ke yar seibam

Green was once their life and their lives were green

They would go greener with green and prefer it over their lives

Balneg dewwsin maleng rat echaan

Basang dewlin baseng phas echan

[Gapantz duisn gapatnz gash ochan]

Gapatnz thang ho eltalan

Now they build the walls and crush the green fields

They’re ending gardens to build abodes

They’ve turned it into Gappantzeh prison (prison in Baltit Fort Hunza)

Shul asaan aitzanan seibam

Tushaar siseh ishqe jook heibam

Gashay dunyatze hesh apam

Shuleh badlawlo shul uyacham

They would advise not to take love light and many of them were aware of the yearnings of love

Not much aware of the market world, they used to barter in love

Shuleh gamisho ke ghul gaiban

Maleng gash ne meling gaiban

Malangie shul ke gash itzaiban

Sutozeh khin be hesh seibaan

Now they charge tax on the surplus of love and sell their fields to buy liquor

They seek transaction in the mad man’s love

What does he know of profit they say?

Baleng taq ne garaarar rai

Shuleh gamisheh qararar Rai

Datoo makuchi bahar Rai

Balum asej shuleh sitarar rai

I want to tear down the walls and get the epitome of loyalty in love

I wish blossom in the middle of autumn and the lost Sitar of my heart

Jehel Bes herimo het etaan 

behel ma ghuntze tak Bes etan

Adab nesqul mathel Bes etan

Subash gash ne abash Bes echaan?

Why have you freed ignorance and tied admiration outside?

Why have your burnt your values into trash?

Why have you traded the solutions for problems?

Balum iteh hooya het aar suin?

Uyamkusheh shule nafas aar suin

Qafas taq etas  sabaq aar suin

Baleng dewras hunar aar suin

Bring me back the lost free wilderness, the sweet prayer of love

Bring the lessons of breaking the prison and the skill of breaking the walls!

Baleng thaanum butan deewshaan

Baleng haranguchi ho but hurushaan

Balengtzum holeh atu seibaan

Balengeh khen deebila seibaan

They’re raising the walls high and are staying between them

They ask me not leave the walls and they say it’s an era of walls.


Rizwan K. Qalandar is a faculty member at IIS London and writes on social issues.

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