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The Loyalty of Hakim

A Poem by Li Sadiq

Hark! My dear! Angels drape gold around these four hands. 

A pair laced with prayer beads, and an infidel’s raw hands!


Abbasi followed me in every language — “My Habibti,” “My Agassi,” “My Lady!”

He charmed me from the Murree Hills, with his foreign, sore hands.


Muddy water splashes against your salwar, up my petticoat.

We dance around the lotuses; I feel your wandering sure hands.


Markhor goats, the brand-new China, the dusty sunset, your unerring courage,

Send them across the river, adrift to me — they will fit in my poor hands.


My husband’s touch soothes no turbulence, my Lover,

My heart rate remains as flat as a quiet sea at his oar hands.


When the beastly Dhoonds cross the river, trust my Lover’s account.

For me, he has betrayed his own people with the law’s hands.


But the ring on my finger requests you touch me not, Hakim.

No more kisses. No more tears. No more prayers. No more hands.

A Statement by Li Sadiq on her process

For my process, I often boot up Wikipedia when I’m stumped for ideas. I found a man named Hakim Abbasi who betrayed his own tribe for the British lady he served, Lady Lawrence. ‘How could he do that? What an idiot!’ I thought. It gave him no status or legacy since he’s now lost to obscurity. Meanwhile, Lady Lawrence’s life is highly documented, and her husband has an island named after him. I racked my brain but couldn’t find an explanation for Hakim's behaviour. Feeling so strongly about this, I did what I always do: create a fictional scenario and write about it.


My Hakim and Lawrence are secret lovers. Lady Lawrence is on her husband’s island, in luxury, but also longing for her true love, Hakim. The Andaman Sea separates them. They are from different realities, divided by time and race. However, they can link through the simple act of touching each other, so I valued the “hand” refrain to emphasise their connection. Despite Hakim pouring his love into Lawrence, tragic circumstances pry their fingers apart and drown their union. I wrote it as a ghazal specifically because the form is associated with these kinds of star-crossed lovers.


In reality, Lady Lawrence was a dedicated coloniser who adored her husband, supporting him through every correspondence and every siege. As for Hakim, she likely thought of him as an exotic pet. 

Back to BoundBy: Spring '24 (Edition #08)

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