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.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Ab ek dosti si hai usse,
Bas ek zindagi si hai usse...

Na uske saath hoon na tanhaa,
Ajab dillagi si hai usse...

Khoye un aakhon mein zamaane guzre,
Ab talak bekhudi si hai usse...

Kaun hua kiska baqaul-e-Firaaq,
Ummeed aakhri si hai usse... [4]

Is zindagi-e-gunaah ke beech,
Ek paakeezgi si hai usse...

Zindagi yoon bhi guzar hi jaati,
Haan ek dilchaspi si hai usse...[6]

Main kahaan khatam wo kahaan shuru,
Kaisi be-takallufi si hai usse...[7]

Hain sitaare kab se gardish mein,
Meri duniya thami si hai usse...

Har taraf dard dhoondhta hai mujhe,
Dil mein par ek khushi si hai usse...

Ab jo hosh hai to us hi se hai,
Jo hai deewaangi si hai usse...

Masjid-o-mandir se kya lagaaein dil,
Qurbat roohaani si hai usse...[11]

Kya sitaare nazar mein tikte,
Jab aisi chaandni si hai usse...

Mujhko maaloom hai sab hai to wahi,
Par har ek shay nayi si hai usse...

Wo jo ek mod par gayaa chhod kar,
Har taraf ek kami si hai usse...

Wo mila jo baad-e-pyaas-e-umr,
To ek tishnagi si hai usse...

Hai ek silsilaa-e-naummeedi,
Kadi jiski bandhi si hai usse...

Ab duaon mein hi naam hai uska,
Namaaz ki paabandi si hai usse...[17]

Chalo is janam jo hua so hua,
Aakhirat to bani si hai usse...[18]

Hain us hi raah-e-siyaah par hum,
Duur wahi roshni si hai usse...[19]

[4] "Baqaul-e-Firaaq": As stated by Firaaq. References the lament by Firaaq Gorakhpuri "Kisi ka yoon to hua kaun umr bhar phir bhi", which I translated quite a while back.

[6] Dilchaspi: interest / curiosity.

[7] Be-takallufi: frankness / informality.

[11] Qurbat: continual approach and coming nearer, implying a connection / link

[17] Pabandi: regularity. Roohaani: spiritual.

[18] Aakhirat: hereafter / afterlife.

[19] Sometimes an entire ghazal can be held up for long because the right maqtaa (closing couplet) does not manifest itself...finally it did - how many interpretations are possible for this?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Somewhere the wind is blowing...I'm going there.

I have been translating Urdu poetry to English. But in this case, I wish I could translate from Korean to Urdu. J Rabbit is an indie Korean music duo that created this poignant, mellow, melancholic and yet somehow calming song.

This song featured in a recent Korean drama series (Sachoongi Medeullli or "adolescence/puberty medley" in the English translation - doesn't translate well I think), which also has some more Korean music, such as "Stargirl" (which starts the show, and fits well as the  slower background theme music). The dedication that has gone into making such a KBS series is quite impressive - amazing details and visuals- regardless of how one relates to the story...although I believe the characters, events and culture may ring a bell with a South Asian audience. With some patience, the full complexity of the story becomes clear - particularly the details of each character and their development - and it does serve as a window into understanding some aspects of contemporary culture there: 

A review (spoilers) with links to all four episodes here

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Tum Mera Dukh Baant Rahi Ho: Jaun Elia

Tum Mera Dukh Baant Rahi Ho
[By Jaun Elia]
[Translated from the Urdu by Siyaah]

Tum mera dukh baant rahi ho, main dil mein sharminda hoon;
Apne jhootay dukh se tum ko kab tak dukh pohonchaunga...

You are sharing my sorrows – I am, in my heart, ashamed;
Till when, with my false sorrows, will I give you this pain. [1]

Tum to wafa mein sar-gardaan ho, shauq mein raqsaan rehti ho;
Mujh ko zawaal-e-shauq ka gham hai, main paagal ho jaunga...

You indeed are overcome with fidelity - swirling with desire;
I am mourning the loss of yearning – I will go mad. [2]

Jeet ke mujh ko khush mat hona, main to ek pachhtaawa hoon;
Khounga, kudhtaa hi rahunga, paaunga, pachhtaunga...

Rejoice not in winning me – I am but a regret;
I will lose, sulk forever; I will gain, I will regret. [3]

Ehad-e-rafaaqat theek hai lekin, mujh ko aisa lagtaa hai-
Tum to mere saath rahoge, main tanha reh jaunga...

The time of companionship is fine, but I feel:
You indeed will stay with me – I will be left alone. [4]

Shaam ko aksar baithay baithay dil kuchh doobne lagta hai;
Tum mujh ko itna mat chaaho, main shaayad mar jaunga...

At dusk sometimes, it is as though the heart is sinking;
Love me not to this extent – I may die. [5]

Ishq kisi manzil mein aa kar itna bhi be-fikr na ho;
Ab bistar par laitoonga main, lait-tay hi so jaunga... 

Let love, on reaching any stage, not be so carefree;
On bed I will now lie - and fall asleep as soon as I lie. [6]

Translator's Notes:

[1] Dukh: sorrow, grief, pain, affliction, distress. I have used sorrow and also pain to convey the most precise meaning in the context of the poet's lines. 
Jhootay dukh: An interesting expression - literally would mean 'false sorrows' and I have kept it as such, but I believe the poet is being self-deprecating and trying to see the insignificance of his sorrows in comparison to something else - that of causing sorrow to another (the one addressed). 

[2] Sar-gardaan: 'head whirling around', dizzy, bewildered, confounded. I have used 'overcome with' as it means to overpower or affect deeply and fits better. 
Raqsaan: dancing, whirling; I have used swirling as it also captures being dizzy or disoriented...implying lost in something. 
Zawaal-e-shauq: zawaal means to lose, decay; shauq means desire, yearning, deep longing, love, taste, zeal etc. The phrase thus means loss-of-yearning. 

[4] Ehad-e-rafaaqat: Ehad refers to time, period or phase; rafaaqat means companionship, association, friendship. 

Structure: The poem does not follow the structure of the ghazal in that it has no matla (rhyming opening couplet); it is closer to a qita - which, as the poet once pointed out while reciting a different poem- can be of several couplets (not just two couplets as is commonly understood today). 

About the poet Jaun Elia:
Poets find you when you need them, or rather when you need their work. I started exploring Jaun Elia in detail sometime last year and felt like a long-starved man who has stumbled upon delicious cake. I find Jaun Elia to be a bewildering, spontaneous, wild and most importantly - original - poet. He may even have been insane, in a way. His voice is unique in terms of its familiarity with classical language and yet its adamant desire to find its own form - often drawing clearly on his own dark experiences of life. At times, such spontaneous styles run into some inconsistency in terms of quality - but Jaun Elia has mostly overcome this and delivered an invaluable corpus of wildly spontaneous work. He seems to write for himself - and perhaps for a selected few others - and this contributes to the heartfelt nature of his poetry, none of which seems 'made up'; this couldn't-care-less approach meant that he only bothered to have his first book published around the age of sixty. More on him in the times to come...

A modern rendition of "Tum Mera Dukh Baant Rahi Ho" by Haidar Iqbal...I quite like this attempt - the style fits the words...haunts you for a while if heard a few times. In addition to classical and semi-classical renditions of Urdu poetry, I think there should be more such modern musical interpretations: