Mouse Pickle: Translation of چوہوں کا اچار


Translation of چوہوں کا اچار by Nazeer Akbarabadi (1732-1830)

Put into verse by Michelle Farooqi from Musharraf Ali Farooqi's Urdu translation.

Publishing history: 2012, The Annual of Urdu Studies/ 2013, Obliterary Journal/ 2018, The Aleph Review

Click below to Listen to Kim Pererira's dramatic reading.


Once more does the marketplace beckon

In a lust for mouse pickle, I reckon.

I set out my salver with mice in a row

Then pounding wee heads and paws as I go

I stir up a dish of minced rodents so nice

How simply delicious – my pickle of mice!

Mouse killers of old have all come and gone;

The last of the trade, I alone linger on.

Hawking pickle of mice, as the populace knows,

They pursue me down alleys, surround me in droves.

I am showered with coins and gold pieces so fine

All for this luscious mouse pickle of mine!

For those who like mice in a veggie stir-fry

I’ve strung up in garlands the chewy and dry

Mice pickled in water, or mice soused in oil,

And have on the ready mouse preserve on the boil.

A mischief of flavours – do try some in brine.

This magically marvelous mouse pickle of mine!

No need for red chilli when termites will do;

Rotting nits take the place of mustard seed too.

In this ferment of leg, skull, vein, bone and tail

Some street gutter’s muck adds a kick to the pail.

Stir well, now do, and carefully combine

This sinfully scrumptious mouse pickle of mine!

Add now some earthworms and black snakes – a few;

Of scorpions and ants a generous measure will do.

Some grass I’ve added, a fistful of flies,

And dropped in a cluster of cobwebs besides.

A score now of spices – these will suffice

For this wickedly wonderful pickle of mice!

Now think not that just mice will do

Full bushels of bandicoots and moles make this brew;

Bedbugs, mosquitoes and lice in full measure

A pound and a half of blood-suckers give pleasure.

How perfectly splendid and nice

This concoction – this pickle of mice!

While the rodents are culled for their size

A kilo or more of frogs, pulverized,

Add to the shock of heady delight.

Come, friend – do take a bite.

Forty years strong of pickling and spice

Gave birth to this staggering pickle of mice!

Skull of bat and skull of swift will meet the eager eye

While feather of owl and vultures’ pubes the hungry will espy.

The makings of this scrumptious brew

Have balls of dung, bird droppings too.

Head of crow and gut of kite – these add a little spice

A tincture indescribable, is this pickle of mice!

If you’re craving a new kind of thrill

Mouse whiskers – pickled right – fit the bill.

Here’s a jug full of eyes, another for tails

Here are just pickled ears, putrid skin or entrails.

Mouse fur on the side might be nice.

A gourmand’s delight – this pickle of mice.

For the sum of a five rupee note

Can be yours a lizard compote;

If a gold coin you mange to proffer

Add a rotting mole to your coffer.

That bandicoot can be yours in a trice -

Take it, I beg! Sample some pickle of mice.

Should a clump of mouse whiskers once grace your tongue

All cares and concerns from your soul shall be wrung.

This powerful elixir is paid for in gold

From all over the world and wherever it’s sold.

Now proceed to the neck, all crunchy with spice

Then savour a head from this pickle of mice.

To the crunch of a rodent’s skull, if you aspire

Then embrace with delight your secret desire

And relish the crackle and fizz ‘neath your lips

It’s fireworks night from your tail to your tips.

Then sample again that sensation divine

That magically crunchy mouse pickle of mine!

Comes now the merchant with his bowl and pitcher;

The gourmand brings his platter and the niggardly wish they were richer.

For the wealthy alone can afford this delight

While the untutored poor shall ne’er taste a bite

Of this treasure well-dressed in pickling spice

This epicure’s dream – this pickle of mice!

Expel the gas from your gut and the bloat from your belly,

This pickle will turn your gall stones to jelly.

Stingingly sour and bitingly tart

The mango and lime can touch not its art.

Incredibly tangy, like the driest of wine

You’ll ne’er find a match for this pickle of mine!

If reckoning takes your fancy, then I’ll have you know

Thirty rupees bought a kilo, not too long ago.

With the monsoon rain, twenty-five buys a measure,

But come winter, you’ll pay thirty-two for the pleasure.

For the festival of Holi, forty rupees is the price

For a kilo, none too dear – of this pickle of mice!

Precious is my calling, most fortunate my trade.

As night follows day, so the pickles I’ve made

Bring forth abundantly in coin and bread

Cash for my strongbox, for my stomach, bread.

And so, sing I the praises of this concoction fine,

This money-earning, stomach-churning – mouse pickle of mine!