The Seeker of Words

Its that time of year again.

Wahrat-triggered insomnia crumbles my resistance, and today, yet again, I must succumb to an irresistible urge to inflict my translations upon innocent stumblers-upon.

Sadly, it is Faiz Ahmed Faiz who today, yet again, has to suffer this posthumous ignominy – but that is just the way it is.


Aaj Ek Harf Ko – Faiz Ahmed Faiz


aaj ek harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal

madh bhara harf koi, zeher bhara harf koi

dil-nashin harf koi, qeher bhara harf koi

aaj ek harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal…


harf-e-ulfat koi dildar-nazar ho jaise

jis se milti hai nazar bosa-e-lab ki surat

itna roshan ke sare-mauja-e-zar ho jaise

sohbat-e-yaar main aghaaz-e-tarab ki surat

harf-e-nafrat koi shamsheer-e-ghazab ho jaise,

aaj ek harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal…


ta abad shahre-sitam jis se tabah ho jayein

itna tareek ke shamshan ki shab ho jaise

lab pe laoon to mere honth siyah ho jayein

aaj ek harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal…


Here goes…


today, yet again, my thoughts wander seeking a word

an intoxicating word, a venomous word

a bewitching word, a wrathful word

today, yet again, my thoughts wander seeking a word


a word of desire that brings to mind my beloved's glance

meeting my gaze like a kiss on the lips

as radiant as the crest of a wave of gold

like the first stirrings of ecstasy in a lovers tryst

a word of hate slicing like a dreadful sword

today, yet again, my thoughts wander seeking a word


a word that shall destroy these flourishing cities of oppression

a word as dark as the dusk over a cremation ground

a word that, if spoken, shall blacken my lips

today, yet again, my thoughts wander seeking a word


Strangely enough, it is Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and not Ghalib, whose poems feature most on my blog, even though the latter is my favourite poet.

Shashi Kapoor, who self-confessedly did not know a single word of Urdu, did an amazing job in this version of Aaj Ek Harf Ko featured in Merchant-Ivory's Muhafiz/in Custody.

Enjoy !