The Mess And Outskirts - Poem by Sadiqullah Khan
General Paolo Avitabile alias Abu Tabela,
Hung fifty criminal to the poles around the walls
Of the ancient city. He was hired by Ranjit Singh,
The one eyed arbitral. The General was knighted,
In Italy, where he belonged. Adventurer and soldier.
Agerola, in Naples the native town of the General
Invited Peshawar as a twin city, perhaps born
Out of the same father, the ancient arbitrals.
“We look forward to the limitless possibilities
Of this relationship”, the letter from Naples say.
Ruins and heaps, crumbled walls make the Mess,
Outskirts decay, an overlapping history
Of three thousand years, and hiding Avitabiles.
The King of Kabul would send his laundry,
To the Rapid Dry Cleaner in Peshawar Cantonment.
There is a case of ownership of the properties,
Conferred on the renegade King of Kabul
Captured from Qilla Balahisar by the British,
Since eighteen seventy eight, in Punjab.
On condition of his good behavior and ‘development’.
The ownership is in litigation since then.
In the grand fort of Lahore, there are stuffed horses,
And the red brick prison closet of the queen of Ranjit,
Faces the Palace of Mirrors done in white marble
Of Queen Noor Jehan of the Emperor Jahangir.
Major Raverty wrote his memoirs,
And Olaf Caroe the only authentic history of Pathans.
Remove the Mess, clean the outskirts,
Bulldoze the wall, and step out in the style of Naples
Or invent a Renaissance, O ignorant one eyed monsters.
-General Paolo Crescenzo Martino Avitabile (Abu Tabela) (25 October 1791 – 28 March 1850) was an Italian soldier, mercenary and adventurer. A peasant's son born in Agerola, near Amalfi in Italy, he served in the Neapolitan militia during the Napoleonic wars. After Waterloo he drifted east like many other adventurous soldiers. In 1820 he joined the army of the Shah of Persia, attaining the rank of colonel and receiving several decorations before returning to Italy in 1824.
He joined the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Punjab in 1827, and later also received various civilian appointments. In 1829 he was made administrator of Wazirabad and in 1837 he succeeded Hari Singh Nalwa as governor of Peshawar. He remained in the Punjab until the assassination of Maharaja Sher Singh in 1843, after which he retired to Italy, where his rank as a general was confirmed and he was knighted. Wikipedia
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