Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rawalpindi in Unionville

Rawalpindi in Unionville
[by Siyaah]

I heard of Rawalpindi
in Unionville
a city
with a village in its name
Over the radio
amidst the glass-figures
an explosion
Why did it bother me
a hand-crafted import
for a dollar
How many people
how many livelihoods?

Hadn't I heard of it
in cricket matches
at home
across the border
Was there anyone winning
was there a home
for me here?

Rawalpindi: 'pind' means village in Punjabi
Unionville: 'ville' from the Latin root means farm/village

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lit Up with the Beloved's Beauty: A translation

Lit Up with the Beloved's Beauty
By Hasrat Mohani
Translated from the Urdu by Siyaah

Lit up with the beloved's beauty, is the assembly entire
Kindled with the blossom's fire, is the garden entire. [1]

Expressing surprise with vanity, anxiety with jest
Your heart too has learned the beloved's repertoire entire. [2]

O God, how unique is the beloved's body, that by itself
Drowned in colours is the raiment entire. [3]

Do see the enchanting gaze of the beloved's eyes
Struck unconscious in a glance, is the assembly entire. [4]

Meer's burning and melting is the sweetness of a breeze
Hasrat, in front of your verses pales the world of poetry entire. [5]

Translator's Notes

[1] Roshan: signifying light, as in 'lit up', contrast with Deheka in the next line, for which I have used the closest expression as 'kindle' which conveys the precise implications of 'set fire to; fuel; cause to glow'; Jamaal: beauty, elegance; Anjuman: assembly, meeting; Tamaam: entire, complete (but also see last note).

[2] Hairat: surprise, astonishment; Ghuroor-e-husn: pride of beauty, implying vanity; Shokhi: playfulness, jest, mirth; Izteraab: agitation, excitement, anxiety, restlessness, fear.
"Chalan (tamaam)" is here a kind of colloquial usage implying the beloved's ways, and had to rendered with some creativity using the expression "beloved's repertoire (entire)"

[3] Jism-e-yaar: body of beloved; Pairaahan: raiment, garment

[4] Chashm-e-yaar: eyes of beloved; The couplet has an interesting duality: does the 'glance' in the second line refer to the assembly looking at the beloved's eyes (especially in the context of the exhortation in the first line "Do see"), or the beloved casting a glance at the assembly? I think the latter would be the simpler interpretation.

[5] This was the most challenging couplet.
Sheerini-e-naseem: Sweetness of breeze; Sheerin generally means sweet, but can also refer to pleasant, gentle, affable, particularly as a characteristic of manners or speech.
Soz-e-gudaaz: literally Soz means Burning (implying heartrending, plaintive) and Gudaaz means Melting (implying tragic, heartbreaking). Soz-e-gudaaz is a Persian poetic expression often used for speech or poetry that is plaintive and tragic.
Sukhan: verses; Lutf-e-sukhan: Essence of verses / poetry
The last verse was difficult to rhyme with the rest in translation, as interestingly, the poet employs a different derived meaning of 'Tamaam' here i.e. 'to end' or 'to finish off'. This had to be rendered creatively with the introduction of 'world of poetry' to end with 'entire'.

Also, the poet's invocation of the one of the best known Urdu poets, Meer, in the last couplet is interesting. While praising Meer's works, he immediately follows it up with the highest praise for his own poetry (self-praise is not uncommon amongst Urdu poets). Also, I wonder if the metaphors used to describe Meer's works are somewhat tongue-in-cheek: It could be read as implying that all of Meer's burning and melting is but the sweetness of a breeze i.e. is not plaintive or heartrending enough, when compared with Hasrat's own works.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Roshan Jamaal-e-Yaar Se: Hasrat Mohani

Roshan Jamaal-e-Yaar Se
By Hasrat Mohani [1875-1951]

Roshan jamaal-e-yaar se hai anjuman tamaam
Deheka hua hai aatish-e-gul se chaman tamaam

Hairat ghuroor-e-husn se shokhi se iztaraab
Dil ne bhi tere seekh liye hain chalan tamaam

Allah-re jism-e-yaar ki khoobi ke khud-ba-khud
Rangeeniyon mein doob gaya pairahan tamaam

Dekho to chasm-e-yaar ki jaadu nigaahiyaan
Behosh ek nazar mei hui anjuman tamaam

Sheerini-e-naseem hai soz-o-gudaaz-e-meer 
Hasrat tere sukhan pe hai lutf-e-sukhan tamaam...

Hasrat Mohani is generally known for his "chupke chupke" ghazal, but the other excellent works in his repertoire are rarely noted today. These include several patriotic as well as sufistic spiritual works. This particular ghazal has been a favorite of mine for a long time, particularly for its sufistic interpretation. Take your pick of the singing by Abida Parveen, Jagjit Singh, and Mehdi Hasan respectively below (though I find it is more powerful to hear without any possible visuals, which are unable to capture anything close to the idea...). Let's see how this one comes out in translation...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kya Kariye

Ab yahi hai qismat kya kariye
Jab yahi hai fitrat kya kariye

Hum haar chuke hain duniya ko
Ab uski waseeyat kya kariye

Hum chhorh chuke hain har koshish
Ab uski naseehat kya kariye

Hum deen ke ab na duniya ke
Sunnat-o-imaamat kya kariye

Hum keh bhi dein to hai sunta kaun
Ab sach ki ye jur'at kya kariye...

[Work in progress...by Siyaah]

Rough Translation

Now, this is our luck- what can one do?
When this is our nature- what can one do?

We have lost the world
Now the divine will- of what use?

We have given up every attempt
Now the divine advice- of what use?

We're neither of the spiritual nor of the material world
Divine traditions and divine leadership - of what use?

Even if we do speak out- does anyone listen?
Now this audacity for the truth- of what use?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sarv-o-Saman by Abida (high quality)

I was finally able to upload a higher quality version of Jazbi's Sarv-o-Saman ghazal that I translated earlier. It is quite an experience to hear it in Abida's voice, sung to Muzaffar Ali's composition. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Cypress and Jasmine: Sarv-o-Saman

The Cypress and Jasmine...
[by Moin Ahsan Jazbi. Translated from the Urdu by Siyaah]

The cypress and jasmine, the waves of breeze at dawn- all are there;
O blossom, in your garden, is one of moist-eye there? [1]

Drink on for a while, in the shade of the tresses and visage;
The magic of dusk there is, the enchantment of dawn is there [2]

If the world listens, this tale of woe is lengthy indeed;
Yes if you listen, to this tale of woe- an end is there [3]

Now in the poetic world of Hind, Jazbi, after Jigar:
This I do wonder: an owner of such sight - is there? [4]

Translator's Notes

[1]Sarv: typically refers to Cypress trees, which were the first preference for gardens in Persia and remain so today; saman: shortened poetic version of yasaman i.e. jasmine; mauj: wave(s); naseem: breeze; sahar: dawn; chashm: eye; tar: wet/moist

[2]Kaakul: literally forelock (lock of hair falling on face) or topknot (style of doing hair by tying it into a high knot), by implication 'tresses' captures the expression somewhat in English; aariz: face/visage; fusoon: magic/enchantment

[3]mukhtasar: brief; taveel: lengthy

[4] Shayaraan-e-Hind: poetic world of Hind (Hind was/is commonly used in Persian and Urdu to refer to the Indian subcontinent; Saahib-nazar: Owner of sight/perspective- I translated it with the implication “such sight” but it could also be read as just “sight”, which would mean: after Jigar, none is left who can even be considered to have (“to own”) sight.

This was not an easy one: It took me some time to settle on the exact meaning and implication of some words and then re-creating the rhyme was not easy. I found it interesting to see the cultural and linguistic loan of "Sarv" (cypress tree) to Urdu in a region where such trees would not have been the norm. Look forward to thoughts and suggestions for improvement...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sarv-o-Saman Bhi

Sarv-o-Saman Bhi
[by Moin Ahsan Jazbi]

Sarv-o-saman bhi, mauj-e-naseem-e-sahar bhi hai
Ay gul tere chaman mein koi chasm-e-tar bhi hai?

Kuchh der pi le kakul-o-aariz ki chhaaon mein
Jaadu-e-shaam bhi hai, fusoon-e-sahar bhi hai

Duniya sune to qissa-e-gham hai bohot taveel
Haan tum suno to qissa-e-gham mukhtasar bhi hai

Ab shaayaraan-e-Hind mein Jazbi, Jigar ke baad
Ye sochta hoon main koi saahib nazar bhi hai...

I have been listening obsessively to this one for a while, beautifully sung by Abida (I'll try and post a higher quality version later). I've found that listening to a ghazal to the point of complete immersion is where proper translation possiblities begin to form...

Jazbi is very much in his melancholy element here, and reserves a special honor for Jigar Moradabadi in the last couplet, lamenting the loss of Jigar from the poetic world. Perhaps that is what makes this ghazal even more special for me, since both are among my favorites.

Let's see how I translate this one...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the blackened landscape

In my thoughts often
simple, innocuous words
run and freeze-
into all kinds of lines, circles and other shapes...
Sometimes I feel these words are trying to tell me something
are talking to me-
of long-lost times
people and places
in a language I once knew
but have now forgotten
a name here-
a place there-
they scream at me
at this blackened landscape
where nothing remains
that can understand
or answer.

A scribble from years ago...taking a break from translations...