Ghazala's Weblog

a poetic thread to string my words and experiences on…

Hum parwarish-e-lauh-o-qalam karte rahenge — December 28, 2015

Hum parwarish-e-lauh-o-qalam karte rahenge

By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Hum parwarish-e-lauh-o-qalam karte rahenge
Jo dil pe guzarti hai raqam karte rahenge

Asbaab-e-gham-e-ishq baham karte rahenge
Viraani-e-dauraan pe karam karte rahenge

Haan talkhi-e-ayyaam abhi aur barhe gi
Haan ahl-e-sitam mashq-e-sitam karte rahenge

Manzur yeh talkhi yeh sitam hum ko gawaara
Dam hai to madaawa-e-alam karte rahenge

Maikhana salaamat hai to hum surkhi-e-mai se
Tazzain-e-dar-o-baam-e-haram karte rahenge

Baqi hai lahu dil mein to har ashk se paida
Rang-e-lab-o-rukhsar-e-sanam karte rahenge

Ek tarz-e-taghaaful hai so woh unko mubaarak
Ek arz-e-tamanna hai so hum karte rahenge

———————————————————-

———————————————————–

MY TRANSLATION

To nurture pen and ink we would continue,
To commit to script what the heart goes through, we would continue

We shall continue to bear reasons of the pain of love
To be moral in the desolate times we would continue

Sure, the bitterness of the times would still surge
And yes the practice of tyranny by oppressors would continue

We accept this bitterness, this tyranny will be borne
Until death, to remedy and care we would continue

If the tavern is still inhabited, with the redness of wine
decorating the door and roof of the sanctuary, we would continue

If there is still blood left in heart, then with each tear drop
colouring lips and face of the beloved, we would continue

They are welcome to this trend of paying no heed
To express what the heart desires, though, we would continue

Mein Kya Likhun… — March 6, 2014

Mein Kya Likhun…

 

 

Mein kya likhun ke jo mera tumhara rishta hai
wo ashiqi ki zuban me kahin bhi darj nahi
likha gaya hai bohot lutf-e-wasl-o-dard-e-firaq
magar ye kaifiyat apni raqam nahi hai kahin
ye apna ishq hum aaghosh jis mein hijr-o-wisal
ye apna dard ke hai kab se humdam maah-o-saal
is ishq-e khaas ko har ek se chhupaye huay
guzar gaya hai zamana gale lagaye huay

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

My translation

How shall I put this? This relationship that you and I share
nowhere has it been inscribed in the language of devotion.
Pleasures of meeting, ache of separation are much marked upon
but nowhere has our state found any mention.
This love of ours holds close both severance and union,
for months and years this pain has been our companion
Keeping a love so rare, concealed without a trace…
ages have passed since the last embrace…

This poem is from the last anthology Ghubar-e-Ayyam by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. See this excellent post by Dr Mirza to know more about the disposition of last poems of the great poet. Also, probably you’d find it interesting to compare my translation of this poem with one by Rukhsana Ahmed. I have been working on this translation for many months… I kept coming back to it again and again but was not satisfied with they way it sounded. Then today I decided that I cannot do better than this and to publish it. Then I looked for and read Rukhsana Ahmed’s translation. It sounds very good and I must say that I’m quite intrigued and surprised by the difference in our interpretations!

 

Of our relationship, what should I say?

In the language of love nowhere is it inscribed.

Much has been written of love’s joys and pains

But my state of mind has never been described.

This love, where absence and presence entwine,

This pain, an old friend, which since years is mine,

A love that I’ve concealed from all and so apart,

An age has gone since I pressed it to my heart.

(Translation by Rukhsana Ahmed)

Translating Faiz- Raat Yun Dil Mein… — August 18, 2013

Translating Faiz- Raat Yun Dil Mein…

Many have attempted to translate Faiz Ahmed, including yours truly humbly on this blog. The list of prominent Faiz translators includes many who are poets in their own right.  Most prominent among these is, arguably, Agha Shahid Ali, whose ‘A Country Without a Post Office’ I consider one of the most brilliant poetic works having their roots in contemporary South Asian realities. Others who have also tried their hand at a few Faiz poems are Khushwant Singh and Vikram Seth. Apart from writing fiction, Khushwant Singh is a prolific translator of Punjabi texts. Vikram Seth, a world renowned novelist also known for his travelogues, is a polyglot and has translated several poets from many languages such as Urdu, Chinese.

In this post I present to you several translations of a very simple and beautiful Qat’a (quartain) of Faiz.

Raat yun dil mein teri khoyi hui yaad aayi,
Jaise viraane mein chupke se bahaar aa jaye,
Jaise sehraaon mein haule se chale baad-e-naseem,
Jaise beemaar ko be-wajhe qaraar aa jaaye.

 

Khushwant Singh

At night your lost memory stole into my mind
As spring silently appears in the wilderness;
As in desert wastes morning breeze begins to blow
As in one sick beyond hope, hope begins to grow…

 

Vikram Seth

Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert, moves the breeze,
As, to a sick man, without cause, comes peace.

 

Agha Shahid Ali

At night my lost memory of you returned

and I was like the empty field where springtime,
without being noticed, is bringing flowers;

I was like the desert over which
the breeze moves gently, with great care;

I was like the dying patient
who, for no reason, smiles.

 

Sarvat Rahman

Last night, your long-lost memory came back to me as though
Spring stealthily should come to a forsaken wilderness
A gentle breeze its fragrance over burning deserts blow
Or, all at once be soothed somehow the sick soul’s distress.

 

My Translation

The night brought to heart your long lost memory
And felt as though spring arrives in a desolate place
It felt like gentle morning breeze in a desert
As if without a reason the ailing receives solace.

 

I like Vikram Seth’s translation the best. It is the truest to the original literally and still manages to retain a certain ‘Faiz-like’ quality to the way it sounds. Agha Shahid’s translation is too laboured and wordy. It makes me think that probably his intended readers are western people who, he might have thought, would not get the South Asian idioms. Sarvat Hussain’s translation is a bit awkward in reading so offers little joy and Khushwant Singh’s reading of Faiz seem to me as if his focus is a little different than Faiz. When I read the qat’a, it seems to me that Faiz is describing the effect of this long lost memory presenting itself. Khushwant Singh seems to describing  the mode of arrival of the memory.

How do you like my translation?

Habib Jalib’s “Main Nahin Manta” — September 22, 2012

Habib Jalib’s “Main Nahin Manta”

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.
 
Translating ghazal — May 27, 2010

Translating ghazal

Another translation that I attempted a few days ago was especially interesting because the original is a ghazal, and I  tried to preserve the ghazal metre (beher) and rhyme scheme (which goes AA, BA, CA… and so on) in my translation. Would be interesting to know what you think of the result 🙂

Ghazal By Ishrat Aafreen

(From We Sinful Women)

Bhook ki karvahat se sard kasile honth

Khoon ugalte sookhe chatkhe pile honth

Tooti choori, thandi larki, baghi umr

Sabz badan pathrai ankhen nile honth

Soona angan tanha aurat lambi umr

Khali ankhen bhiga anchal gile honth

Kachche lafzon ka ye nila zehr

Chhoo jae to moorakh too bhi chhile honth

Zehr hi mangen amrat ras ko munh na lagaen

Baghi ziddi vehshi aur hatile honth

Aisi banjar baten aise karve bol

Aise sundar komal surkh rasile honth

Itna bologi to kya samjhenge log

Rasm yahan ki ye hai larki si le honth


My Translation

made cold by bitterness of hunger, taut lips

chapped, dry, spewing blood, yellow lips

Broken bangles, cold girl, rebellious age

raw bodies, stone eyes, blue lips

forlorn courtyard, lonely woman, stretched life

empty eyes, drenched bosom, wet lips

blue vitriol of unformed, accusing words

if they only touch, you fool, they abrase lips

they demand venom, never even tasting the elixir

rebellious, stubborn, obsessive, adamant lips

such parched exchanges, such bitter words

from such pretty, supple, red, juicy lips

what will people think if you talk so much

tradition here is that girls stitch their lips

The Ghazal in Devnagri script…

भूख की कड़वाहट से सर्द कसीले होंठ

खून उगलते, सूखे, चटखे, पीले होंठ

टूटी चूड़ी, ठंडी लड़की, बागी उम्र

सब्ज़ बदन, पथराई आँखें, नीले होंठ

सूना आँगन, तनहा औरत, लंबी उम्र

ख़ाली आँखें, भीगा आँचल, गीले होंठ

कच्चे लफ़्ज़ों का ये नीला ज़हर

छू जाए तो मूरख तो भी छीले होंठ

ज़हर ही मांगें अमृत रस को मुंह न लगाएं

बागी, जिद्दी, वेहशी और हठीले होंठ

ऐसी बंजर बातें ऐसे कड़वे बोल

ऐसे सुन्दर, कोमल, सुर्ख, रसीले होंठ

इतना बोलोगी तो क्या समझेंगे लोग

रसम यहाँ की ये है लड़की सी ले होंठ

Aaj bazaar main pa ba jolan chalo —

Aaj bazaar main pa ba jolan chalo

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Chashm-e-nam, jaan-e-shoreeda kafi nahin
Tohmat-e-ishq-posheeda kafi nahin
aaj bazaar main pa-bajolan chalo
Dast afshan chalo, mast-o-raqsan chalo
Khak bar sar chalo, khoon badaman chalo
Rah takta hai sub shehr-e-janaan chalo
Hakim-e-shehr bhi, majma-e-aam bhi
Teer-e-ilzam bhi, sang-e-dushnam bhi
Subh-e-nashaad bhi, roz-e-naakaam bhi
Unka dum-saaz apnay siwa kaun hai
Shehr-e-janaan main ab baa-sifa kaun hai
Dast-e-qatil kay shayan raha kaun hai
Rakht-e-dil bandh lo, dil figaro chalo
Phir hameen qatl ho aain yaro chalo

My Translation

Teary eyes and stormy life are not enough

Even the accusation of a secret love is not enough

Come, walk today in public wearing your shackles

Hands thus adorned, walk in trance- dance

Walk with dust over head and blood on attire

Come, walk to the beloved city, everyone is waiting-

the town ruler and the common spectators;

the arrow and the stone of accusation too

along with the sorrowful morning and the day of failure.

Who will be their ally, if not us?

In the beloved city who remains unsullied?

No one worthy of the hand of executioner remains.

Behold your heartbeats, come even the broken hearted

Friends, come lets us go and be slain

I have been listening to Nayyara Noor singing this nazm for quite some time now but I realized that I had not really understood its true essence till I actually sat down to translate it late last night. It is not as if Faiz is exhorting people to react and speak up because the situation is oppressive (as in case of his nazm Bol). It is also not as if he is talking of change that will be ushered in by people when they arise (as in case of Hum Dekhenge). In Aaj bazaar mein pa ba jolan chalo things have reached such a pass that just exhorting and hoping will not do. It is not enough that we cry for the underdog, It is not enough that we are being accused of siding with the oppressed. To be aware that even though we do not come out in open, we do wear the shackles in our private-day to day lives. We have to come out to walk in public knowing fully well what our fate will then be. Even though our hearts are broken it is we who will have to do it because no one else is left to do it for us.

a quartain — February 11, 2010

a quartain

Fazaaye dil pe udaasi bikharti jaati hai
Fasurdagi hai ke jaan tak utarti jaati hai
Fareb-e-zeest se qudrat ka muddaa maaloom
Ye hosh hai ke jawaani guzarti jaati hai

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The climate of heart gets smeared with gloom
Desolation climbs deep into my being
Illusion of life explains nature’s concerns
I’m conscious of youth passing by

My Translation

Twilight at dawn… — August 29, 2009

Twilight at dawn…

नए मोड़

दिल में कुछ खद्शे

नए रिश्ते और नई-पुरानी बातें

चौराहे, बंद गलियाँ

नए तेवर, वही बहाने

खोए लफ्ज़…नए गाने

भीड़… हाथ थामे

कोई साथ

कई जी चुराते

मुश्किल लोग उलझी आँखें

नादाँ मन…

नादाँ मन…

Slum‘dog’: On Uncouth Language and Subversion — March 10, 2009

Slum‘dog’: On Uncouth Language and Subversion


Every blog worth its name (number of hits) has had something to say about Slumdog Millionaire. I think I should also make the most of this opportunity 🙂 I really have nothing to say about the film that hasn’t already been said but the controversy about its title (slum’dog’) gives me a chance to say my two bits about the language of subversion.

Hip-hop music and culture in USA has a ‘slanguage’ of its own in which the word ‘dog’ has a special place because of the frequency and flexibility with which it is used. Among other things it is used as a common noun for ‘person’, especially a friend or a term of endearment. It would be a bit off the mark to say that the word has lost all the derogatory connotations but the usage in hip-hop/rap is a bit complex.

Let me draw a parallel with the feminine of the word ‘dog’- ‘bitch’. ‘Bitch’ has a long history of being used as a derogatory word for women. The connotations are those of ‘lewd’, ‘on heat’, ‘sexually promiscuous’. Also associated is the verb ‘bitch’- when one is ‘bitching’ she (he?)  is ‘gossiping’ or ‘back-biting’. Today a ‘sexually promiscuous’ woman is plainly called a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ (‘hoe’ in hip-hop). A ‘bitch’ is a woman who is straying away from the feminine conventions; she makes no effort to be obedient and pleasant. In hip-hop its cool to be a ‘bitch’. Many female rappers call themselves and girl friends ‘bitch’ just as African-American rappers also frequently call themselves and others ‘nigga’ and ‘dog’.

There is a derogatory subtext but it is full of subversion.

So, why so much hue and cry over the film title? Let me try an explanation using again the ‘bitch’ example. While it may be cool when a close girlfriend calls me a ‘bitch’, I would definitely take it as an insult if someone not close were to throw the word at me. Two African-American rappers may call each other ‘nigga’ but a white person using the n-word would be inflicting a racial slur. Is the title ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ derogatory, then?

The slum‘dog’ controversy reminded me of Faiz Ahmed Faiz‘s Kuttey (Dogs). I wonder what people may have to say of it…

Yeh galiyon key aavaara bekaar kuttey
Ke bakhsha gaya jin ko zoq-e-gadaai
Zamaney ki phitkaar sarmaaya un ka
Jahaan bhar ki dhutkaar in ki kamaai

Na aaram shab ko, na rahat saveyrey
Ghalaazat mein ghar, naaliyon main baseyrey
Jo bigrein to ik doosray say lara do
Zara ek roti ka tukra dikha do
Yeh har ek ki thokerain khaney waley
Yeh faaqon say uktaa kay mar janey waley

Yeh mazloom makhlooq gar sar uthaey
To insaan sab sarkashi bhool jaey
Yeh chaahain to duniya ko apna bana lein
Yeh aaqaaon ki haddiyaan tak chaba lein

Koi in to ehsaas-e-zillat dila dey
Koi in ki soee hui dum hila dey

My rough translation…

these vagrant, aimless streets dogs
the flair for beggary has been conferred upon them
their net asset is being scorned by their times
rebukes of the entire world their earnings

No rest in the evening nor reprieve at dawn
housed in filth, dwellings in drains
if they agitate, pit one against the other
show them a piece of roti
putting up with getting kicked by all
they tire of being starved and die

If this oppressed species were to arise
humans would forget all domineering
they can own the world if they’d only wish
they can chew up even the bones of the masters

Somebody stir them to feel their mortification
somebody move their sleeping tail

To me it looks like that using what is considered, foul/uncouth language for one self (or others who share the oppressed identity) is a way of arousing an oppressed people to feel their mortification, humiliation, and thereby, a subversive act. Young people tend to use slang more than any other age group because they find in this a convenient and cool way to display their irreverence towards what is established, traditional and the norm. Language full of slang, coarse and swear words is an act of defiance against authority- a way of expressing hostility and pent-up aggression, safely. In this way, it becomes one of the most used ‘weapons of the weak’.

How shall we get acquainted again…? — December 24, 2008

How shall we get acquainted again…?

So much has happened in the last couple of months and it has left an unsavoury taste in lots of interactions, expressions and friendships. Mumbai attacks claimed hundreds of lives but people were not the only casualties.  For weeks I went about my life, feeling inwardly as if I had experienced a personal loss. Like when my parents died.

Kosi floods had pained me as did the images of recent repression in Kashmir. The encounter of young Raj from Bihar had me shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at being a citizen of police state. But this was something different… It was personal. It could not be otherwise when a friend told me that, “in times like this when Imams want to wear black bands on Eid and Muslim groups don’t want terrorists to be buried on Indian soil, you of all intellegensia (sic) should sense the dominant mood and that perhaps its very WORTHWHILE for Muslims all over the world to say that TERROR in name of Islam should be stopped.” Another person said “Although some members of the Muslim community do express condemnation, on the whole I do feel that the Muslim community has not expressed enough outrage at some of the terrible atrocities that some extremists have committed in the name of their religion over the last decade or so especially.”  

These people were essentially just agreeing with American Hawk journalist Thomas Friedman when he says “But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”

Another person said, “It is actually the welfare of the Muslim community that is at the heart of this argument… it is a religion and a community that has some serious thinking to do at many many levels…”  (all this exchange took place online when the friend mentioned above CC’ed an e-mail, containing a link to this Friedman article from New York Times, to several of her friends saying it was a “worthwhile read” and I hit the reply all button to say that I was, “Really saddened to see that you thought this dangerous ranting against Muslims in general a ‘worthwhile read’.)

I mulled and agonised over all this when I sat in winter sun in the park and watched my 3 year old daughter Miftah play and call for more of my attention. “Amma dekhiye… AMMA!” The comments hammered on my heart and left me gasping for air every time I thought of it. “Muslims all over the world“? Me included Miftah included? The terrorists were acting on what I and millions of Muslims around the world want but do not dare to do? And what they have done has brought shame on me and my daughter? Then, obviously, many people think it is not enough that I condemn the attack as a human being but that I should somehow feel responsible and ashamed because I am a Muslim and condemn the attacks as a Muslim.

I looked at Miftah and felt scared for her… I did not feel this scared even during and after the Gujarat 2002 violence. Those days, at least from the security of the small world of development professional/social activists, I heard many sane voices of reason and compassion. No one was calling for people who condemned the communal carnage to identify their religion.

I told my friend that it saddened me but it just scared life out me to realise that this was the world that my Miftah will be doing her growing up and living in. For weeks, I couldn’t muster words to respond except to apologise for my inadequate e-mail attequettes- having hit the reply all button.

My friend, philosopher and guide Dr. Manoj Jha sends out new years wishes every year. This year he chose this ghazal by Faiz Ahmad Faiz to go on the card. I think, it just so aptly and beautifully says what I struggled to in the earlier paragraphs of this post but couldn’t really. It will suffice if my English translation conveys how I feel even to a few people.

Hum ke thhehre ajanabi itni madaraaton ke baad
Phir banenge aashnaa kitani mulaqaaton ke baad

Kab nazar mein aayegi bedaagh sabze ki bahaar
Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge kitni barasaaton ke baad

Dil to chaha par shikast-e-dil ne mohalat hi na di
Kuchh gile-shikave bhi kar lete munajaaton ke baad

The bohot bedard lamhen khatm-e-dard-e-ishq ke
Thien bahut bemehr subahein meharabaan raaton ke baad

Un se jo kahane gaye the “Faiz” jaan sadaqaa kiye
Ankahi hi rah gae vo baat sab baaton ke baad


Even after much warm hospitality we stand unfamiliar

After how many meetings shall we again get acquainted

When shall we see a spotless spring in the fields again

How many rains shall it take to wash the blood stains off

Though the heart wished, it did not allow its defeated self

To make complaints after whispering words of prayers

Merciless were the moments when the throbbing of love ended

Unpitying were the mornings that followed the compassionate nights

With the gift of your own life, Faiz, what you went to tell them

That matter remained unsaid when all had been expressed

The past few weeks have also included conversations with friends that gave much hope and I do not wish to end this post at a pessimistic note so here is an Arundhati Roy quote, that my friend Aanchal Kapoor mailed me.

“Sometimes — quite often — the same people who are capable of a radical questioning of, say, economic neo-liberalism or the role of the state, are deeply conservative socially — about women, marriage, sexuality, our so-called ‘family values’ — sometimes they’re so doctrinaire that you don’t know where the establishment stops and the resistance begins. For example, how many Gandhian/Maoist/ Marxist Brahmins or upper caste Hindus would be happy if their children married Dalits or Muslims, or declared themselves to be gay? Quite often, the people whose side you’re on, politically, have absolutely no place for a person like you in their social, cultural or religious imagination. That’s a knotty problem politically radical people can come at you with the most breathtakingly conservative social views and make nonsense of the way in which you have ordered your world and your way of thinking about it and you have to find a way of accommodating these contradictions within your worldview.”

Peace All.