Poem for Mani

My name is Iftekhar Ahmed. I am originally from Pakistan but I consider myself a citizen of the Indian sub-continent. The multifarious traditions, cultures, languages and history of India are part of my heritage, to which I feel strongly connected.

An Orange-Headed Ground Thrush and a Death’s-Head Moth on a Purple Ebony Orchid Branch, by Shaikh Zain al–Din, 1778, India, public domain (courtesy of the Met Museum)

Even though I am an engineer by training, I have a deep and abiding passion and love for the arts, including poetry, music, art and literature. I am a very socially and politically conscious person who is keenly interested in issues of social justice, supporting progressive ideas on human rights, feminism and LGBTQ+ rights.

I have three sons, the youngest of whom is a trans person, Mani. I witnessed my son’s struggle with gender identity and the need for acceptance and respect. The love of my child compelled me to share his struggle and provide all the emotional support that he needed. His courage and strength to overcome the many hurdles to be the person he really is are truly inspiring to me.

A while back, when my son was going through a difficult time overcoming his fears of rejection and gaining the courage to be his true self, I read Richard Wilbur’s poem, The Writer. I found the words very profound, heart-breaking and inspiring to our situation, and I decided to freely riff off the poem in Urdu. The Urdu version is not intended to be an exact translation, and I have taken some liberties with the spirit of the poem to express my emotional response to my son’s journey.

Mani and I © Masoon Balouch

Iftekhar Ahmed is the father of three sons, one of whom is a trans person. Born in Pakistan and based in Montréal, Iftekhar is actively involved in his community and in promoting social justice. In May 2023, he co-moderated a local event organized by Brique par brique, called Public Conversations: Unconditional Love – South Asian LGBTQ+ Families, offering a safe space for “coming out as immigrant parents who love their LGBTQ+ kids, and learning from youth who are creating chosen families and reinventing their traditional culture.”