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Tuesday, June 01, 2021


by Joy Dehlavi

Photo by Joy Dehlavi while delivering baked goods to an oxygen camp with medical personnel and Sikh volunteers.

Timur-lane rides again,
to gut the golden bird;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word.

With just a smidgeon
of his novel potion;
The bandit can bludgeon
an entire nation. 

Bringing no horsemen
with bow and scimitar;
He leaves hordes behind
in Samarkand durbar.

Of defending Delhi,
they have lost all clues;
India’s overlords
charading as world gurus. 

In cold corrupt hearts,
no patriotism stirred;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

The billboards are huge,
but the vision small;
The news is fake
and economy in free fall.

Bumbling babus
and malicious middlemen;
Let native immunity wane
and bastions broken. 

Timur plots unguarded
burg’s checkmate;
He gently lets loose
the taj plague outbreak. 

Setting sight on crowds,
the virus veered;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

Lethal contagion wafts
in balmy breeze;
Hard to hide,
from its viperous squeeze. 

Smiting shanty and manor,
mandir and masjid;
Slithering softly with breath,
a malady horrid. 

Froth-corrupted lungs
straining for breath;
Denied relief or air,
no dignity in death. 

Stranded on sidewalks,
calling to be cured;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

Smoke chokes the city,
from roaring fires;
Trees turn to timber,
feeding endless pyres. 

Remorseless racketeers
cashing in on misery;
Floating carrion speak
of untold butchery. 

Widow women, orphan kids,
aged losing help;
The tormented hear
forsaken pariah's yelp.

Isolation and penury,
pestilence delivered;
Dilli my jaan,
will have the last word. 

Donning face shields 
and suits of plastic armor;
An army arrives
to battle the vile vapor. 

Feeding, sanitizing,
testing and vaccinating;
All castes come together,
in fraught fighting. 

Selfless service ingrained
in their blood;
Steely sardars serve
oxygen to the cursed. 

In succoring the sick,
they dread no hazard;
Dilli meri jaan
will have the last word. 

Ceding sleep and lull,
medicos risk their all;
Even chiefs fall
to the jagged green ball. 

"No one sleeps"
tending the breath machine;
"I will win," says
the nurse to spike protein. 

Hours sweltering,
in stifling protective gear;
They keep on healing,
feeling no fear. 

Dehliwallahs rise up,
audaciously undeterred;
Dilli meri jaan,
will have the last word. 

Soulless charlatans
getting masses misled;
Crack crack crackles
the sky over their head. 

Profiteering politicians
filled with conceit;
Thud thud trembles
the ground under their feet. 

Timur finally falls,
to the common cold;
Heart of Bharat beats,
beautiful and bold. 

With head held high,
it moves forward;
Dilli meri jaan
will always have the last word. 

Author's Note: Dilli is another name for the city of Delhi. "My jaan" means "my life" in Urdu and Hindi. Usually used to address a lover. "Meri" is Hindi for "my". As the poem takes a turn and starts describing positive things that are happening around me, I change to "Dilli meri jaan" as a more intimate way of refering to the city I grew up in. There was a tourism jingle " Dilli meri jaan" used to promote the city to foreigners about 30 years ago. Most people in Delhi or Dehli still use this expression to express their love for the city.


·      Babu - A mid to low level government functionary or clerk (Hindi)

·      Bharat - Another name for India (Hindi)

·      Burg - Medieval fortress or walled city

·      Caste - Stratification system in Indian society with some history of difficulty in working together.

·      Dehliwallah - One who belongs to Dehli/Delhi (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Durbar - Royal court (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Mandir - Place of worship for Hindus (Hindi)

·      Masjid - Place of worship for Muslims (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Native immunity - Scientific term for innate resistance to infections

·      Sardar - Members of the Sikh community known for their courage and charity (Hindi/Punjabi)

·      Taj - Crown or Corona (Hindi/Urdu)


References explained:

·      “Crack crack crackles the sky over their head” and “Thud thud trembles the ground under their feet” —Adapted from Urdu poem “Hum dekhenge” by Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Frequently used as protest anthem against government policies.

·      “Froth-corrupted lungs” — From “Dulce Et Decorum Est “ by Wilfred Owen. Author described effects of poison gas on unmasked soldiers during The Great War.

·      “No one sleeps” and “I will win”— Lyrics translated to English from “Nessun Dorma,” the aria from Puccini’s Turandot popular in Europe as a rallying cry to encourage frontline healthcare workers during the first coronavirus wave in spring of 2020.

·      “With head held high” — Adapted from Bengali poem “ Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo” by Indian Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. He wrote this as his vision of new and awakened India.

·      Golden bird (Sone ki Chidiya in Hindi) — Refers to the wealthy land of India in medieval times that made it a target for many plunderers from Central Asia.

·      Timur or Timur-lane — Turco-Mongol conqueror who mercilessly sacked ineptly defended Delhi in December of 1398. Infamous for indiscriminate massacre of a large number of city residents.

Joy Dehlavi wrote “The Sacking of Delhi, 2021” drawing from his experiences during the coronavirus spike lockdown that he spent in Delhi, India. Born in India, he now lives in the USA.