Two Striking poems by Alvi

It is a pleasure to have read Pervaiz Munir Alvi’s poetry. Mr. Alvi is originally from Pakistan and now works and lives in the US. He is an old Ravian, and a civil & geo-technical engineer by profession. Mr Alvi occasionally writes poetry and short essays. We will see more of his poems on this blog.

For now I have selected two poems – personal and profound – for this post. The first echoes what many Pakistanis (or any other diaspora for that matter) observe on their visits to the homeland. The poem begins with the sense of identity and organic relationship with Home and dips into the inner thoughts of the poet who cannot reconcile with some oddities that strike from a detached point of view. There is a movement in the poem, a very internal plunge and an expression of the dichotomy that is not resolved despite return to the worldly comforts of the life in the USA. Here it is:

About Myself

First few days of my visit to back home
To the land of my father and his father
The land of plenty for some not for others
I notice every handicapped every beggar
Every malnourished person on the street;

And along the broken roads and sidewalks
With garbage piled and rubbish unremoved
I see the very sick and the very poor masses
Looking around in their despair un-attended
For any thing to salvage, any thing to steal;

And in the houses of my friends and hosts
I notice the great disparity of the daily life
Disparity between servants and the masters
I see my dear friends and my own relations
Trying not to see any of this around them;

And few days later I too like my friends
Try not to see any of the unpleasant things
I simply 72 hours before the departure date
Re-book my return flight and come back
To the comfort of my home in the USA.

The second poem has a different subject but still plays with contrasts and ends on a more hopeful note. It is well composed and employs the images of pansies that bloom despite the unfriendly climate. Pansies therefore transform into inner symbols and not just flowers on the stony sidewalks.


On that one cold wintry afternoon
We found no leaves on the trees
No flowers were to be seen except
Planted along the stony sidewalks
Those brightly colored tiny pansies;

With cold wind coming over the sea
And hitting our faces and trees alike
We walked by the marina docks and
The boats tied to the anchored spikes
Over the bridge just for a cup of tea;

And we did not care for the cold or rain
For we knew that our way back home
Wind will still be hitting our bare faces
But our ice cold feet will be embraced
By the warmth of those tiny pansies.

Published on May 10, 2007 at 5:44 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The first poem titled “About Myself” seems to be less about Mr.Alvi and more about escapism, (no offence intended here). As a person who has been living in the U.S for the past 6 years and planning to move back to Pakistan within a couple of months, the message I am getting here is the same that I have been getting from everybody around me which is ” You won’t be able to take the harsh realities of life in Pakistan, so get a return ticket in case you want to come back.” This scares me. The only support I have comes from my husband since he and I both believe that we owe it to Pakistan to move back and give back to the place that made us who we are today. But since we have not been to Pakistan during the past 6 years, I really don’t know how I will react once we get there. I am too homesick right now but I was born and raised in Pakistan and have witnessed the things that Mr.Alvi mentions in his poem. And I used to feel helpless and wanted to escape just as much. And so I did and moved to U.S. Now, will I be able to move back and face those harsh realities of life in Pakistan, I don’t really know. One thing I do know is that I’ll try hard. So, wish me luck. Nice blog, by the way.

  2. Shazia-ji
    many thanks for the comment. I can understand your dilemma – but please do not have after-thoughts. You have made a good decision and Pakistan needs more and more qualified people.

    There will be challenges but these exist everywhere. You will get used to things there.

    I think Alvi’s poems also reflect the poet’s sensitive nature where he observes many things that irk him.

    Hope Mr Alvi also joins in this discussion..

  3. Dear Ms. Shazia Rubab: Even though titled “About Myself” , the poem is not autobiographical. It is a social commentary about all of us Pakistanis, living both inside and outside the country. It is about our self preserving middle class. I just happen to be one of them and have simply penned down that many of us think. You are right it is about escapeism. Escapeism of all of us. We, as a nation, have yet to hold the bull of social responsibility by the horn. For a poet it is easier to write in first person than in second or third person. That way poet could say it without being accusatory. Thanks for visiting this site. Please visit us again. And good luck to you and your lovely family where ever you choose to live.

  4. Dear Mr.ALvi and Raza ji, Thank you both for the encouragement. I do understand that this poem is about us as a nation and I appreciate the honesty with which the dilemma faced by Pakistanis living abroad has been presented in the poem. I just happened to read it at a time when I am all set to go home but people around me are trying to convince me that I won’t be able to make it and that makes me scared, thus my response to the poem. If I had read it at another time, I would probably just have said, “how beautifully has this poet captured the feelings of us Pakistanis living abroad.”

  5. Excuse me I was wondering if you happened to have a daughter called Moniza? As I believe it to be unlikely that two people called Alvi from Pankistan can write poems. As we are wondering who Moniza Alvi’s father is. Is it you? I hope you can clear up this little conundrum.

    Thank you for your assistance

    Nice poems 😀

    Briany xx

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