Search

Search results
Sorry, there were no results.
Sonic Continuum

The second of a three-part audio essay takes Partition[1] as a sonic environment in which resistance and repetition reverberate, disputing ordinary notions of time and event. It follows the trajectories of the Urdu revolutionary poem Hum Dekhenge (‘We Shall Witness’) and Hindi protest-performance Hum Bharat Ke Log (‘We the People’).

Transcript

[Harmonium drones] 

This time is not a series but an interlocking of presents, pasts, and futures that retain their depths of other presents, pasts, and futures, each age bearing, altering, and maintaining the previous ones.

This time is made up of disturbances, of a bundle of unforeseen events, of more or less regular fluctuations and oscillations, not necessarily resulting in chaos and anarchy (although that sometimes is the case); moreover, instabilities, unforeseen events, and oscillations do not always lead to erratic and unpredictable behaviours on the actors’ part (although that happens, too).[2]

[Harmonium fades out]

[In Lahore, Pakistan:
The band starts to play. Iqbal Bano sings:]

Hum dekhenge.
We shall witness.

[Cheering and applause]

Iqbal Bano is wearing a black sari. It’s 1986, and there are 50,000 people in front of her at the Alhamra stadium in Lahore. The military dictator Zia ul Haq is in power.

[The song continues]

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
It is certain that we too, shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
It is certain that we too, shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

wo din ke jis ka wada hai
The day that has been promised,

Hum dekhenge
we shall witness.

wo din ke jis ka wada hai
The day that has been promised,

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness,

jo lauh-e-azl mein likha hai
the day which has been written on the slate of eternity,

Hum dekhenge.
we shall witness.

Hum dekhenge.
We shall witness.

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
It is certain that we too, shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

This song, originally penned by the communist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, is banned by Zia’s military regime. This is to be Iqbal Bano’s last public performance.

[The song continues]

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
When the enormous mountains of tyranny,

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
When the enormous mountains of tyranny,

rooi ki tarah ur jaenge.
blow away like cotton.

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
When the enormous mountains of tyranny,

rooi ki tarah ur jaenge.
blow away like cotton.

Hum mehkoomon ke paaon tale
Under our feet – the feet of the oppressed –

ye dharti dhar dhar dharkegi
the earth will shake

aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar oopar
and on the heads of our rulers

jab bijli kar kar karkegi.
lightning will strike.

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhenge
It is certain that we too, shall witness

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

What makes an event, an event?
A beginning, an end?

Does an event exist if it doesn’t end?
Does an event exist if there are no witnesses?

[The song continues]

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
When the enormous mountains of tyranny,

jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
when the enormous mountains of tyranny,

rooi ki tarah ur jaenge
blow away like cotton

rooi ki tarah ur jaenge
blow away like cotton

Hum mehkoomon ke paaon tale
Under our feet – the feet of the oppressed –

ye dharti dhar dhar dharkegi
the earth will shake

aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar oopar
and on the heads of our rulers

jab bijli kar kar karkegi
lightning will strike.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

Hum dekhenge
We shall witness.

We shall witness. We shall see. The urgency of the present is projected into the future.

[The song continues]

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the abode of God

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the abode of God

Sab but uthwae jaenge
When idols will be taken down,

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the house of God

Sab but uthwae jaenge
When idols will be taken down,

Hum ahl-e-safa mardood-e-harm
When we – the faithful – who have been barred from sacred places

Masnad pe bethae jaenge
Will be seated on high cushions

[The crowd cheers and shouts]

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the house of God

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the house of God

Sab but uthwae jaenge
When idols will be taken down,

Hum ahl-e-safa mardood-e-harm
When we – the faithful – who have been barred from sacred places

masnad pe bethae jaenge
will be seated on high cushions

Sab taaj uchale jaenge
When the crowns will be tossed[3]

[The crowd goes wild, shouts]

Iqbal Bano has to repeat the concert. This time it is recorded.

This recording is smuggled out. A few copies are made. More copies are made from these copies. Soon, they cross the partitioned border, and within weeks, a cassette reaches Delhi, India.

[The crowd shouts ‘freedom!’ and ‘long live!’]

Does an event exist if it is not archived?

[Song fades out]

[In Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, India:
Protesters sing ‘Hum Dekhenge’. People chant ‘Azadi’ in the background]

It’s 2019, and a protest movement has spread across India, triggered by the anti-Muslim citizenship laws brought in by Modi’s government. 24-hour occupations sprawl across Delhi’s urban fringes. Non-Muslims who cannot prove their Indian identity are also at risk.

Hum Dekhenge has become an anthem for the movement,[4] which is overwhelmingly feminist. Poetry, performance, collective cooking, reading, educating and singing are part of its daily fabric of resistance. Students who sing it are being reported to the police. Some believe the song is anti-Hindu.[5]

[Protesters continue singing and clapping for a bit more than a minute. Then a few people shout: ‘We the people of India. We the people of India. We the people of India.’]

The collective Jana Natya Manch[6] created the following interactive performance which, in January 2020, was shut down by police, despite having permission to go ahead. The performance is supposed to end with the preamble to the constitution. This recording, taken at another space and time, is the only existing documentation of the performance.

[The conductor of the next performance explains the rules. People shout ‘We will not show them’. Each statement is punctuated with a drum beat.]

Raise your hand if,
You are wearing black socks.

[Chorus/audience raise their hands. Conductor asks for proof.]

Raise your hand if,
You have a handkerchief in your pocket.

Raise your hand if,
You are wearing two sweaters.

Raise your hand if,
You travel by metro.

Raise your hand if,
You write with your left hand.

Raise your hand if,
You live in a rented house.

Raise your hand if,
You watch TV.

Raise your hand if,
You wear pyjamas.

[A guy laughs]

Raise your hand if,
You have two children.

Raise your hand if,
You have four children.

Now raise your hand if,
You were born in Delhi.

Now raise your hand if,
Your parents were born in Delhi.

Now raise your hand if,
You have been living in Delhi for over ten years.

Now raise your hand if,
You can speak any language other than Hindi/English.

Now raise your hand if,
You eat daal.

Now raise your hand if,
You eat biryani.

[People cheer]

[Harmonium fades in]

To be a witness means to see an event taking place, to have knowledge of its development from observation or experience.

Millions were bound up in the partitioning of a subcontinent. Who saw it taking place? Who was standing outside the event?

‘There is never enough time or the right time, and never enough listening or the right listening, to articulate a story that cannot fully be captured in thought, memory, or speech.’[7]

Those in power imagine histories according to the events that were recorded. We have to imagine histories according to the events that weren’t.

[The performance continues]

Raise your hands if,
You have friends from other religions

Raise your hands if,
You have had inter-religious marriage

[People laugh and clap]

Raise your hands if,
You have had inter-caste marriage

Raise your hands if,
Any of your family has served in any of the Indian armed forces.

Now raise your hand if,
You have seen any India border.

Raise your hand if,
You can sing the Indian national anthem.

[Conductor asks: does no one know it?]

Raise your hand if,
You know all the fundamental rights as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

Raise your hand if,
You know all the fundamental duties as mentioned in the constitution.

Now raise your hand if,
You call yourself an Indian citizen.

[People cheer and clap]

Raise your hand if,
You were born in India after 1947.

[Yells]

Raise your hand if,
Your parents were born Indian before 1947.

Now raise your hand if,
You call yourself an Indian citizen.

Raise your hand if,
You have a birth certificate.

Now raise your hand if,
Your parents have birth certificates.

And those of you raise hands,
Who say, no matter what, we will not show our identity papers.

[Applause]

‘This time is not irreversible. All sharp breaks, sudden and abrupt outbursts of volatility, it cannot be forced into any simplistic model and calls into question the hypothesis of stability and rupture underpinning social theory, notably where the sole concern is to account for either Western modernity or the failures of non-European worlds to perfectly replicate it.

The present as experience of a time is precisely that moment when different forms of absence become mixed together: absence of those presences that are no longer so and that one remembers (the past), and absence of those others that are yet to come and are anticipated (the future).’[8]

[In Karachi, Pakistan:
Fazal Rizvi sings his slowed down version of ‘Hum Dekhenge’]

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhengey
It is certain that we too, shall see

Wo din ke jis ka wada hai
the day that has been promised

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Jo lauh-e-azl mein likha hai
of which has been written on the slate of eternity

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhengey
It is certain that we too, shall see

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
When the enormous mountains of tyranny

Rooi ki tarah ur jaenge
blow away like cotton.

Hum mehkoomon ke paaon tale
Under our feet – the feet of the oppressed –

Ye dharti dhar dhar dharkegi
The earth will shake

Aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar oopar
and on the heads of our rulers

Jab bijli kar kar karkegi
lightning will strike.

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Jab arz-e-Khuda ke kaabe se
From the house of God

Sab but uthwae jaenge
Every idol will be removed

Hum ahl-e-safa mardood-e-harm
We – the faithful – who were barred from his house

Masnad pe bethae jaenge
Will be made rulers

Sab taaj uchale jaenge
When their crowns will be flung in the air

Sab takht girae jaenge
And thrones will be smashed

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Bas naam rahega Allah ka
Only The name will survive

Jo ghayab bhi hai hazir bhi
Who cannot be seen but is also present

Jo manzar bhi aur nazir bhi
Who is the spectacle and the beholder, both

Utthega an-al-haq ka nara
I am the Truth – the cry will rise,

Utthega an-al-haq ka nara
I am the Truth – the cry will rise,

Jo mai bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho
Which is I, and also you,

Aur raaj karegi Khalq-e-Khuda
And God’s creation will rule

Jo mai bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho
Which is I, and also you,

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Lazim hai ke hum bhee dekhengey
It is certain too that we shall see

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Wo din ke jis ka wada hai
the day that has been promised,

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Jo lauh-e-azl mein likha hai
That which has been written on the slate of eternity

Hum dekhenge
We shall see

Lazim hai ke hum bhee dekhengey
It is certain too that we shall see,

Hum dekhenge.
We shall see.[9]

 

Credits
Voice: Syma Tariq, Bernard Keenan, Hadia Tariq
Performances: Iqbal Bano, Jana Natya Manch, Fazal Rizvi
Harmonium: Fazal Rizvi