I have been scouring the Internet, looking for a poem that Benazir wrote on her 50th birthday. I did not find it, but I found much else, posted by people who never met her, never saw her and yet they felt devastated by her death
Few people have been mourned with as much feeling across the world as Benazir Bhutto. Poems have been written about her from Indonesia to Spain and across the seas, in America and Latin America. The savage act that cut short her incandescent life at a moment when she stood at the threshold of a new era, when she would have made up for the failings of the past, has moved many to tears. She had this strange quality about her. Long after you had left her company, you kept feeling a certain glow that was hard to explain. She made you feel good. She was a woman of immense good humor and she never wished anyone ill, which makes death at the hands of an assassin indescribably tragic.
I have been scouring the Internet, looking for a poem that she wrote on her 50th birthday. I did not find it, but I found much else, posted by people who never met her, never saw her and yet they felt devastated by her death. That was her magic.
A Pakistani, living in Spain, writes in Urdu — and his words are so simple and eloquent as to be poetry:
“Wherever you look in Spanish newspapers, there is just one headline/Those who look at us, know that we are Pakistanis/They are the ones to whom we were always saying, ‘This is how Pakistan is; that is how Pakistan is.’/ But now, the more we try to show Pakistan in a good light to them, the more we fail/There is just on everyone’s lips today, given what the newspapers carry/But they ask it not/They say nothing/ They only look at us in a strange way/They say nothing and yet they are saying much/What can we say?/How can we explain why what has happened has happened?/ There are bomb blasts every day/Why?/How do we explain it to them?/We no longer have words to speak or things to say/Our only refuge is silence/We must bear what has come to pass/That seems best/People can speak ill of Pakistan and Pakistanis but we say nothing/It’s painful but we have to bear the pain/It isn’t easy to go out/Not easy after the news we’ve heard/Not easy to talk to anyone/Please tell us what to say for we can find no words.”
Someone else, an American, writes, “I really felt that Benazir was a leader that would not only bring peace to my brothers and sisters in Pakistan, but also aid in the war on terror. The war on terror must come to an end, and to do this, we as human beings must care for our peoples and the well-being of their souls. We must stop killing one another, our Creator demands this, the Creator of all beings. I believe she will lead many from this day on, in her passing. She has inspired change! I wrote this as tears fell from my eyes upon the terrible news! May we all live to usher in peace!”
Another person, who signs himself Shaer or poet, writes, “As tears rolled down my face (I believe in peace) and I felt the damage that was done to world peace, I felt saddened to feel the loss in my heart. She was beautiful, and caring of the situations that needed attention. She was brave! May God bless Benazir Bhutto, and may you find peace in this poem.”
The poem reads: “A woman/with three young children/putting her life on the line for a cause/I wonder how a mother could put her life on the line/Again/With three young children/I always thought/a mother’s instinct is stronger than anything/Benazir indicated that her country is a greater cause/Brother, she is in the hands of God/Now let’s pray for her soul/But brother/I grieve for those children.”
One short poem dedicated to her goes: “The children are motherless/Let’s hope that her sacrifice will be an offering/for a better Pakistan/In the eyes of God/blood sacrifice supercedes life itself/Go in peace, Sister.” Someone signing herself as Anna writes: Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today/she expired at 6:16/I have no poetry for you/words have no meaning sometimes/and the poet is gone/absent from all reason/all choked up/with nothing to say.”
A young woman named Mehnaz Malik, whom Benazir befriended, dedicates a poem by David Harkins, written in 1981, to “Bibi”:
“She is gone/You can shed tears that she is gone/Or you can smile because she has lived/You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back/Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left/Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her/Or you can be full of the love that you shared/You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday/Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday/You can remember her and only that she is gone/Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on/You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back/Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
Mehnaz writes, “Her critics say she was a pampered princess, and yet I never saw her rest. Bibi was a workaholic glued to her computer. She was extremely efficient with answering emails, and reading copious amounts of paper. Bibi kept her staff to the minimum, there was no entourage of assistants or professionals, just the bare minimum. I often sent her the odd intern to ease her workload because she was so overstretched. Contrary to what people think, she was not living in a palace with a large staff. Her HQ was always a few computers with various volunteers helping out. At the very centre of activity was Bibi working away, until we would drag her to take that much needed break. More recently, with her lecture circuit, we used to discuss how much we had to travel just to earn a living.”
But I would like to end this in Bibi’s own words, “I don’t fear death. I remember my last meeting with my father when he told me, ‘You know, tonight when I will be killed, my mother and my father will be waiting for me.’ It makes me weepy but I don’t think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because so many people have tried to kill me.”
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent.