Wednesday, January 18, 2017

In Siyaah's voice: Marking 10 years of the blog

So it turns out this experimental blog has lasted over 10 years!

What could I do to mark this milestone? For my fellow travelers on this journey - and there have been many - who encouraged me with their comments at any point over all these years, I wanted to share a new experiment.

A casual, somewhat fun, and impromptu recital at an informal mehfil of a few couplets from the ghazal Raah-e-Siyaah that I posted here some time ago. 

I apologize for the terrible quality, but maybe it is best so that at least some anonymity is preserved here as always. My attempt over the years has been to remain "unknown" and let the translations and poetry speak...perhaps I will delete this after some time...not sure.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ghalib: Oblivion

Remembering Ghalib around his birthday (which passed a few weeks ago):

"My friend, the way your mind works beats me! When did I say that your poetry was not good? When did I say that you will find none in the world to understand it and appreciate its worth? 

But it is true that you are intent on poetry, while all my faculties are intent on attaining oblivion. To me the learning of Avicenna [Ibn Sina] and the poetry of Naziri are alike wasted, and pointless and illusory. To pass one's life one needs a little ease - and all the learning and power and poetry and magic are nothing. What of it if an avatar comes to the Hindus? And what of it if a prophet arises amongst the Muslims? What of it if a man wins fame in the world? And what if it if he lives out his life unknown? Let a man have something to live on, and physical health, and the rest is nothing, my dear friend. As a matter of fact, these too are nothing, but I have not yet reached the stage where I realize it. Perhaps in due course this veil too will fall from my eyes, and I shall pass beyond the stage where getting a living, and enjoying health and pleasure mean anything to me, and pass into a world where sensation ceases.

In the desolation in which I live I am lost to the whole world, indeed to both worlds. I go on giving my answers to suit the questions I am asked, and behave with every man as our relationship warrants; but it is all illusion in my sight - not a river, but a mirage; not reality, but fantasy. You and I are not bad poets. Suppose I grant we win the same fame as Saadi and Haafiz. What did their fame bring them? And what would ours bring us?"

Extract from a letter to Hargopal "Tufta", Ghalib's closest shaagird (student), written on 1st October 1859 in one of the most challenging times for Ghalib. His earnings (stipend from the Mughal court) were stopped, and most of his associates and friends were not yet allowed back into Delhi as part of the severe repression of British forces in response to the Indian revolt of 1857.
[From the translated and edited work "Ghalib: Life and Letters" by Ralph Russel and Khurshidul Islam].

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Dil se dil

Ek dil se dil tod liyaa apna,
Na saaghar rahaa na tishnaa-e-lab.

- Siyaah.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Main jahaan...main jisey...

Main jahaan bhi rahaa hoon,
Wahaan nahi rahaa hoon.
Main jisey bhi milaa hoon,
Usey nahi milaa hoon.

- Siyaah.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Teri umeed tera intezaar jab se hai: Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Teri umeed tera intezaar jab se hai...
By Faiz Ahmed Faiz
[Interpretive Translation by Siyaah]

Teri umeed tera intezaar jab se hai,
Na shab ko din se shikaayat, na din ko shab se hai...

This hope, this wait for you - that I now have,
The night and the day no longer complain about each other...[1]

Kisi ka dard ho karte hain tere naam raqam,
Gilaa hai jo bhi kisi se tere sabab se hai...

The pain from one and all - in your name I register,
You are the reason for all my complaints about any other...[2]

Huwaa hai jab se dil-e-naa'saboor be-qaaboo,
Kalaam tujh se nazar ko bare adab se hai...

Ever since this impatient heart has turned unrestrained,
This gaze addresses you with a new respect altogether...[3]

Agar sharar hai to bharke, jo phool hai to khile,
Tarah tarah ki talab tere rang-e-lab se hai...

That which is a spark - turns wild, the blossom - blooms,
Your lips' color arouses desires of one kind or another...[4]

Kahaan gaye shab-e-furqat ke jaagne-waale,
Sitaara-e-sahari hum kalaam kab se hai...

Where are those gone - who would stay awake through the night of separation?
The morning star alone converses - it seems forever...[5]

Translator's Notes:

Finished a translation after a long time - one that had been growing at the back of my mind for long. My favorite in terms of the uniqueness of Faiz's idea here is couplet [2]. The last couplet was the most difficult to translate - the last line has to be written in a way that it can capture two meanings: the morning star as the only conversation companion left for the poet; but also perhaps the morning star conversing with none but itself (in this sense the poet may identify with the star).

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has sung this is a way that I really like- lending it a strange and very slight melancholy quality - that is always there in every line but never goes out of if one is resigned to this fate; the singing is an interpretation in itself.

A different style - surprisingly lesser known - is enjoyable in the older rendition by Ustad Amaanat Ali Khan.