Stepping, by Moniza Alvi

8 September 2014

Another piece from her ‘long poem’ At the Time of Partition, a composite family experience of the partition of India and Pakistan. At this point, the narrator is continuing her bus journey from India to Pakistan.

//

We are lucky she thought.
Perhaps we are lucky.

‘Lucky’ as Nehru declared,
‘to be stepping from the old to the new’.

‘Stepping,’ he’d said,
not ‘trudging’ or ‘hurtling’,

as if you took a calm footstep
and with less than the effort required

to leap into the air — you would leave
the old behind like a threadbare shawl

and immerse yourself in the new.
But could anywhere be new, that new?

Would the new-born Pakistan
be hoisted into being, like a flag?

Could she squeeze her familiar self
into one of its bright corners?

Ah, to be made new!
To be newly-made!

The morning was new
and these were morning thoughts.

The villages reduced to the howling of dogs
belonged to the night.

It was morning in her head,
morning in her stomach.

Soon — it would be afternoon.

[Read in Read in At the Time of Partition, published by Bloodaxe Books. Ripped from The Missing Slate.]

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