Category Archives: Poetry

Inspired by Insomnia

Published / by Jehangir

Traditionally the insomnia of hot sleepless nights has 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.

jab 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 sunlight’s edge
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 for you
just suppose both these assumptions
may be falsehoods
may be fables
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 a half
just suppose to delight you
i may have invented excuses
just suppose these eyes of yours
are actual taverns
just suppose this malady
this love for you
may be a fabrication
just suppose in the affliction 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.

Googling your Memories

Published / by Jehangir

In February 2011 I blogged about the demonstrations and revolts in the Middle East which later came to be known as the Arab Spring. In the post I quoted a Persian ode that had figured alongside Laxman’s caricature of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1979.

Think not, 0 King! thy sceptre or thy pow’r
one moment can arrest the destin’d hour !

After years of fruitless searching, I managed to track down the image after a long and hazardous quest that took me into the depths of the Deep Web and beyond.

Not really! I just googled it today and voila.

A growing number of newspapers, archives, and institutions are publishing searchable databases of their data on the internet. It is a researchers dream come true – with the flip side that anyone can post false or biased information online. While accessibility vs accuracy concerns are justified, just the sheer number of books and historical photographs available online is staggering.

Amazingly enough, I found this rare colour photograph of my parents in an online photo archive published from New Zealand.

The persian sceptre/power quote is from the great persian poet Firdausi .
Apparently miffed by the lacklustre response shown by Sultan Mahmud Ghazni towards his epic 'Shahnama' or 'Book of Kings', Firdausi wrote a satire on the king. The complete 'Shahnama' can be read here.

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.