Faiz Revisited

It is now officially a summer tradition.

On another hot humid sleepless night, I chanced upon an absolute gem of a poem and could not resist translating it mainly because the liberties taken by a famous translator forced me to simplify things for my own sake.

Enjoy the amazing imagery in this poem by (who else !) Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

tum jo na aaye the

tum jo na aaye the to har cheez wohi thi ke jo hai
aasmaan had-e-nazar, rahguzar rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai,

aur ab sheesha-e-mai, rahguzar, rang-e-falak
rang hai dil ka mere, 'khoon-e-jigar hone tak'
champai rang kabhi, raahat-e-deedar ka rang
surmai rang kabhi, saat-e-bezaar ka rang

zard paton ka, zas-o-zaar kaa rang
surkh phoolon ka, dehekte hue gulzaar ka rang
zehar kaa rang, lahu rang, shab-e-taar ka rang

aasman, rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai
koi bheega hua daaman, koi dukhti hui rag
koi har lehza badaltaa hua aaina hai

ab jo aaye ho to thehro ki koi rang, koi rut koi shai
ek jagah par thehre
phir se ik baar har ik cheez wohi ho ke jo hai
aasmaan had-e-nazar, rahguzar rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai,

Even with my limited command over the language, I could not reconcile to translated verses like "sorceress who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot" that appear nowhere in the original. Apparently the afore-mentioned translator (Naomi Lazard) had taken artistic liberty a tad bit too far and I felt that some simplification was needed.

I have tried to keep my insomnia-fuelled translation close to the original and, owing as much to inability as to personal style, have eschewed clever turns of phrase, embellishments, and forced rhyming.

I very nearly dropped this post because "The Rebels Silhouette" has a translation by the incomparable Agha Shahid Ali. It may be akin to brandishing a candle at the sun, but with apologies to Shahid and other learned translators, here goes.

before you came

before you came
everything was just what it was

the sky as far as the eye could see
the road just a path to somewhere
the goblet just a glass of wine

and now
the goblet, the road and the sky
and my heart – are the colour of liver’s blood
the colour of champa flowers
the colour of the comfort of seeing you
the colour of antimony
the colour of despondence
the colour of autumn leaves
the colour of thorns
the colour of red flowers
the colour of a rose garden in bloom
the colour of poison
the colour of blood
the colour of the black night

the sky, the road and the goblet
a tear-drenched hem
a raw nerve
a mirror of ever-changing reflections

Now that you have come
so every colour, every season, everything stands still
and things will once again be just what they are

the sky as far as the eye can see
the road just a path to somewhere
the goblet just a glass of wine.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, ‘Rang Hai Dil Ka Mere’, has been included in the 50 best romantic poems of the world. The 50 best romantic poems in the world were selected by a team from the South Bank Center for the Festival of Love and the two-year Poetry International Festival from poems written over the past fifty years.‘Rang Hai Dil Ka Mere’ is included in his collection ‘Dast-e-Tah-e-Sang’ and was recited in August 1963 in Moscow.