Category Archives: Translation

Inspired by Insomnia

Published / by Jehangir

Traditionally the insomnia of hot sleepless nights inspired my attempts at translating some of my favourite poems. Tonight, however, I am sleepless because I slept away the late afternoon and evening of an unseasonally cold June day.

I realised that I had left these two poems in Return to The Land of Poems unassailed. So here goes.

teri samundar aankhon mein
ye dhoop kinara, sham dhale
milte hain dono waqt jahan,
jo raat na din, jo aaj na kal,
pal bhar ko amar,
pal bhar mein dhuan,
is dhoop kinare, pal do pal,
honton ki lapak,
baahon ki chanak,
ye mel hamara jhoot na sach,
kyon raaz karo, kyun dosh dharo,
kis kaaran jhooti baat karo,
jab teri samundar aankhon mein,
is shaam ka sooraj doobega,
sukh soenge ghar dar wale,
aur raahi apni raah lega

when, in your ocean eyes
this edge of sunlight at dusk
this twilight
neither night nor day
tomorrow nor today
eternal for a moment
evanescent the next
at this edge of sunlight
stolen moments
lips springing
limbs clinging
our union
neither true nor false
no need for secrecy
no need for blame
no need for lies

when the evening sun sets
in your ocean eyes
householders will sleep peacefully
and the wanderer shall take to the road

Original: jab teri samundar ankhon mein (faiz ahmed faiz)

farz karo
farz karo hum ahl-e-wafaa ho
farz karo deewane ho
farz karo yeh dono baatein
jhooti ho afsane hon
farz karo yeh ji ki bipta
ji se jor sunai ho
farz karo abhi aur ho itni
aadhi humne chhupai ho
farz karo tumhe khush karne ke
dhoonde humne bahaane ho
farz karo yeh nain tumhare
sach-much ke maikhaane ho
farz karo yeh rog hai jhoota,
jhooti preet hamari ho
farz karo is preet ke rog mein
saans bhi hum pe bhaari ho
farz karo yeh jog bijog ka
humne dhong rachaaya ho
farz karo bas yahi haqeeqat
baqi sab kuch maaya ho

just suppose
just suppose i may be faithful
just suppose i may be crazy
just suppose both these suppositions
may be untrue
may be imaginary
just suppose my heart’s torment
may have been coerced from my heart
just suppose there may be more to things
i may have concealed half
just suppose to make you happy
i may have invented excuses
just suppose these eyes of yours
are actual taverns
just suppose this affliction
this love for you
may be false
just suppose in the distress of this love
each breath may be an ordeal
just suppose this destined union
may be an elaborate masquerade

but just suppose
only our love exists
and all else is an illusion

Original: farz karo (ibn-e-insha)

Confession Time: Some sharp-eyed folks have pointed out that Momin Khan Momin’s couplet in the quoted post remains untranslated.

tum mere paas hote ho goya*
jab koi doosra nahi hota

My excuse/explanation is that this couplet defies translation (at least by myself – haath patthar se ho gaye manoos to shauq kooza-gari ka kya kiije).

The juxtaposition of ‘goya‘ in an already haiku-esque expression opens up a labyrinth of interpretations.

Ghalib’s exaltation of this couplet is not accidental. It is the perfect example of Urdu poetry’s ideal of ‘kooze mein samundar.’

*The word ‘Goya‘ has been explained thus – Goya is an Urdu word that refers to a momentary suspension of disbelief that occurs when fantasy is so realistic that it temporarily becomes reality, usually associated with a story very well told. There is no translation for this word in English.

P.S : Comments and suggestions are welcome as usual.

What The Rats Shall Never Know!

Published / by Jehangir

It’s Annual Translation Time again.

Listen to the incomparable Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan highlighting Javed Akhtar‘s denunciation of our modern obsession with material wealth – and it’s malignant effect on our ability to appreciate the beauty of life.

Listen, and remember that at the end of the day the winner of the rat race is still a rat !

shehr ke dukaandaro
karobar-e-ulfat mein
sood kya ziyan kya hai
tum na jaan paoge

dil ke daam kitne hein
khwab kitne mehnge hein
aur naqd-e-jaan kya hai
tum na jaan paoge

o merchants of the city
in the trade of love
what is profit and what is loss
you shall never know!

the price of a heart
the value of dreams
the currency of life
you shall never know!

koi kaise milta hai
phool kaise khilta hai
aankh kaise jhukti hai
saans kaise rukti hai

kaise raah nikalti hai
kaise baat chalti hai
shouq ki zabaan kya hai
tum na jaan paoge

how soulmates meet
how flowers bloom
the lowering of a gaze
the catch in a breath

how the path emerges
how the tale flows
the language of desire
you shall never know!

wasl ka sukoon kya hai
hijr ka junoon kya hai
husn ka fusoon kya hai
ishq ke daroon kya hai

tum mareez-e-danai
maslihat ke shaydai
raah-e-gumrahan kya hai,
tum na jaan paoge

the tranquility of a tryst
the frenzy of separation
the enchantment of beauty
the essence of love

afflicted with intellect
devoted to self interest
the path to losing oneself
you shall never know!

zakhm kaise phaltay hain
daagh kaise jalte hain
dard kaise hota hai
koi kaise rota hai

ashq kya hai nalay kya
dasht kya hai chalay kya
aah kya fughaan kya hai,
tum na jaan paoge

how wounds fester and heal
how scars smoulder
how pain hurts
how the sufferer cries

tears and lament
wilderness and blisters
sighs and wails
you shall never know!

janta hoon mein tum ko
zouq-e-shaiyri bhi hai
shaksiyat sajaane mein
ik yeh mahiri bhi hai

phir bhi harf chunte ho
sirf lafz sunte ho
in ke darmiyaan kya hai,
tum na jaan paoge

i know you
as a connoisseur of poetry
at personality embellishment
you are adept

yet you pick and choose letters
and hear just the words —
what lies between the lines
you shall never know!

Comments & suggestions are welcome.

Moon As Bright As The Sun

Published / by Jehangir

Finally, a world class effort by a resident Kashmiri author.

The Captured Gazelle is a highly accomplished translation of the Persian poetry of Ghani Kashmiri published by Penguin Classics.

The transliterated passages are like manna for someone like myself – tantalised by, yet unable to read Persian – and thus ignorant of the full genius of Ghani Kashmiri.

Well done ! ,
More power to your pen, Mufti Mudassir Farooqi.

Archived post from August 2008:

The 17th century poet Mulla Muhammad Tahir Ghani Kashmiri {born 1630 A.D} lived during the reign of Aurangzeb and died in the early years of the 18th century. Even during his lifetime his fame transcended the borders of India and he was acknowledged in Iran as one of the great masters of Persian poetry. In India he exerted a great influence on the development of Persian and Urdu poetry. The great poet Mirza Ghalib translated more than 40 of his couplets into Urdu.

Mahjoor refers to him in his famous poem ‘Arise, O’ Gardener’:

Littérateurs of Iran will bow
To you in reverence
if you create a poet with powers of
magical narration like Ghani.

Mirza Muhammed Ali Saib {1601 – 1677}, a famous Persian poet, unable to understand the meaning of a famous verse – in which Ghani Kashmiri had intermingled Persian and Kashmiri words – travelled all the way from Iran to Kashmir to meet him.

The verse, contained in “Diwan-e-Ghani“, reads:

Moi Miane Tu Shud Kraalpan
Kardah Juda Kasai Sar Ze Tun

Like the potter’s thread, your tresses made me dazed and senseless,
severing the head (pot) from the body (lump of clay).

When the Iranian poet arrived the poet was not home yet the doors of his house were open. Iqbal refers to this incident thus in his “Payam-i-Mashriq“:

That nightingale of poetry, Ghani,
Who sang in Kashmir’s paradisal land,
Used, while at home, to shut up all the doors,
But leave them open while away from home.
Somebody questioned him concerning this.
“O charming bard,” he said, “Why do you do
This strange thing, which nobody understands
The meaning of ?”
Ghani, who had no wealth
Except his gift of poetry, replied:
“What people see me doing is quite right.
There is nothing of any value in my house
Except myself. When I am in, the house
Is to be guarded like a treasure-house.
When I am out, it is an empty place,
Which nobody would care to walk into.”

I recall Dr. Ajaz Baba explaining to me how Ghani Kashmiri’s influence inspired the visitor, Saib of Tabriz, to immortalise a chance encounter on the banks of the Jehlum by composing his own version of fusion poetry. The traveller concluded a Persian couplet with an Arabic phrase.

Dast Aaluda Ba Gil, Ay Mahe Hamchu Aftaab
Shud Mara Virdi Zuban, Ya Laytanee Kuntu Turab

Mud Smears Your Hands, O Moon As Bright As The Sun
And My Tongue Recites, O Would That I Were Mud

An example of Ghani’s Urdu poetry :

“Dil yun khayale zulf mein phirta hai n’ara zan
Taarik shab mein jaise koi pasban phire”

Ironically, Ghani Kashmiri is  almost forgotten in his native Kashmir today, while his writings are prescribed study material for scholars in Iran – where some learned scholars regard him as a greater poet in Persian than even Allama Iqbal.

In the sixties a library/reading room was established at his birth place in Rajouri Kadal – and later a sports stadium was developed nearby – but the fall into decay of this reading room and stadium illustrates our apathy towards the great poet.

This is how we treat our heroes.