Habib Jalib was one of the most loved people’s poets of Pakistan though not so well known as other Pakistani Urdu poets in the rest of the subcontinent. I came across his work while reading and researching other contemporary Urdu Pakistani poets. Jalib’s language is, like Ibn-e-insha and unlike Faiz, the plebeian language of the streets. But unlike Insha Jalib does not dabble in satire and subtleties. He is more like Paash who grabs hold of the truth about the oppressor by its neck. He is straight-forward and utterly unafraid.

I attempted a translation of his most popular poem which is also pretty representative of his work and approach.

Deep jis ka mehllaat hi mein jaley,
Chand logon ki khushiyon ko le kar chaley,
Wo jo saaye mein har maslehat ke paley,
Aisey dastoor ko,
Sub-he-be-noor ko,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.

Main bhi khaaif nahein takhta-e-daar se,
Main bhi Mansoor hoon, keh do aghyaar se,
Kyun daraatey ho zindaan ki deevar se,
Zulm ki baat ko,
Jehl ki raat ko,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.

“Phool shaakhon pe khilne lagey” tum kaho,
“Jaam rindon ko milne lagey” tum kaho,
“Chaak seenon kay silne lagey” tum kaho,
Iss khule jhooth ko,
Zehn ki loot ko,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.

Tum nay loota hai sadyon hamaara sukoon,
Ab na hum per chalega tumhara fasoon,
Charaagar dardmandon ke bantey ho kyun?
Tum nahein charaagar,
Koi maane magar,
Main nahein maanta,
Main nahein jaanta.

Jalib used to recite his poetry in an extremely powerful tarannum (a musical rendition) during mushairas (gathering of poets and listeners and public meetings.

My Translation

Whose lamp shines only in mansions,
Which sets out only with a few folk’s elation,
Under the shadow of self-interest which finds protection,That tradition…That dark morning…I shall not revere!

I shall not greet!

I too am not afraid of the powers that be!

I too am Mansoor, go and tell the enemy!

With the prison wall why do you try to scare me?

The tongue of oppression…

The night of ignorance…

I shall not defer to!

I shall not acknowledge!

“Branches are abloom with flowers” you say!

“The thirsty have got to drink” you say!

“Wounds of the heart are being sewn” you say!

This open lie…

A plunder of reason…

I shall not consent to!

I shall not recognise!

For centuries you have pillaged peace that was our

Your spell over us shall have no more power

Why do you pretend to be a healer of those lamenting in grief?

You are no healer!

Even though some may agree…

I shall dis-agree!

I shall not concede!

 
 
Lal- A leftist band from Pakistan has remixed Jalib’s rendition of this poem to (what I think is) good effect.