Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Roz sochtaa huun...

Roz sochtaa huun ke bas kahin chalaa jaun...
Phir ye sochtaa huun yahi soch kar to aaya tha yahaan.

[by Siyaah]

Friday, September 14, 2018



by Siyaah.

Naa khushi aur naa gham mein hoon,
Main ab bohot hi kam mein hoon. [1]

Safar-e-sahraa pataa hi nahin chal rahaa,
Main shayad us-hi chasm-e-nam mein hoon. [2]

Usko jaana tha waqai kisi kaam se,
Main aaj tak is waham mein hoon. [3]

Hai khizaan mein bahaar aaj kal mere ghar,
Main kisi ki aamad ke mausam mein hoon. [4]

Dil dhadak-ne lagaa, saans rukne lagi,
Main gunahgaar kiske haram mein hoon. [5]

Khush rahunga bhula kar main ab uska ghum,
Main aise dil-e-khushfaham mein hoon. [6]

Tum se keh doon haqiqat agar sun sako,
Main ab dum nikalne ke aalam mein hoon. [7]

Kaun afsos mei hai kisike yahaan,
Siyaah main khud hi ke maatam mein hoon. [8]

[2] safar-e-sahraa: travel of the desert. chasm-e-nam: moist eye
[4] khizaan: autumn. aamad: expected arrival
[5] haram: home/enclosure
[6] khushfaham: overly optimistic, highly (and inaccurately) hopeful. 
[8] maatam: mourning, grief

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Aaj ka din bhi aish se guzraa; 
Sar se paun tak badan salaamat hai. 

-Jaun Elia.

This day too passed in pleasure,
From head to toe, the body is intact.

(translated by Siyaah)

aish: in pleasure, luxury, grandeur; the word in everyday usage also implies excessive enjoyment.
salaamat: Safe and sound; in safety and security. The everyday language in which it is used in the verse, there is an impliication that the object in question (body) was not hurt/damaged/broken, which I have captured by ‘intact’.

Jaun Elia’s choice of these two words reveals his style of saying so much with such simple, apparently everyday expressions. These two words provide intriguing contrasts:

At one level it is a commentary on the state of deprivation, uncertainty, and threats that one lives in where even such basic physical survival is equivalent to a luxury. Just having the body intact by the end of the day is considered a day of luxury and enjoyment.

But at another level, I belive what is left unsaid provides an additional hidden layer of meaning: while the body may be intact, what of the heart and soul? How shattered are those? The poet may be sarcastically celebrating the body being intact, implying that there is more which is shattered. And yet, thinking or talking of that is a luxury the poet cannot even undertake.

The couplet sounds simple yet at the same time immediately signals to the audience that there is more, keep probing for underlying meanings within the apparently direct words. That is Jaun Elia at his finest.

All these aspects make it one of my favorite Jaun Elia couplets.

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].