Friday, 16 May 2008

Faiz - Raushan kaheen bahaar ke imkaan hue to hain

What gems you pick! It is one of my most favourite Faiz ghazals; a piece of poetic brilliance that just throbs with hope...!

Published in
dast-e-saba, this ghazal appeared under the title 'August 1952', and shows that in the early phase of his trial in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case, Faiz still retained an astonishingly positive frame of mind, and an almost desperate confidence that things were on the verge of improving... .

Like many of Faiz's poems, this one poses severe problems of translation because of the specific linguistic device it uses to convey its very particular nuance of emphasis - one which is almost impossible to capture in English, for want of an equivalent verbal qualifier. The radif of this poem is 'hue to hain' - where the crucial 'तो ' adds, to the second line of every sher, a sense that can be captured at best inadequately in English through phrases like "At least this much has happened", or "this much has admittedly happened". Because of this qualifying word, each sher can be seen as words of encouragement offered to someone who is losing hope...where the 'someone' can, of course, be the poet himself too.

Raushan kahii.n bahaar ke imkaa.n hue to hai.n
gulshan mei.n chaak chand girebaa.n hue to hai.n

रौशन कहीं बहार के इम्काँ हुए तो हैं

गुलशन में चाक चंद गरेबाँ हुए तो हैं

Somewhere, the possibilities of spring have shone out
A few collars have been rent in the rose garden

Imkaan, in Arabic, means a 'reality' that is still in the realm of the potential or possible, that depends on some other condition being satisfied to come into existence [It is distinguished from wujoob, which is a reality that is already mandated or made necessary by the circumstances and is thus bound to occur; or from wujood, which is a reality that is already in existence]. The word is, therefore, used to denote the 'possibility' of something happening - or figuratively for the 'hint' or 'suggestion' of something about to happen. Its use in the sher above is quite inspired, suggesting a spring that is not yet actually there, but trembles tantalisingly in the realm of the possible. And the second line's beautiful picturisation of collars being torn in the rose-garden is meant to evoke, of course, the 'opening of buds', in anticipation of this promised spring...

The entire sher, therefore, throws up a deliciously engaging picture of a garden, so far caught up in the grip of autumn, but where imaginations have started being teased with the possible arrival of spring... One doesn't need to be reminded, of course, of the political symbolism behind this picturesque imagery!

ab bhii khazaa.n kaa raaj hai, lekin kahii.n kahii.n

goshe rah-e-chaman mei.n ghazal-khwaa.n hue to hai.n

अब भी खज़ाँ का राज है, लेकिन कहीं कहीं

गोशे रह-ऐ-चमन में ग़ज़ल-ख्वाँ हुए तो हैं

Autumn's regime still prevails, but, here and there
nooks in the garden-paths have started singing poems

Divine! The way the second line specifies that it is the ghoshe (corners, nooks, secluded dead-ends) of the garden-paths that have started breaking into song, suggests that these are not just happy songs they are singing, but possibly subversive 'anti-establishment' anthems, against the prevailing reign of autumn! Once again, one has to admire Faiz for being able to 'package' an intensely political message in such breath-taking loveliness!

Thahrii huii hai shab kii siyaahii vahii.n magar
kuchh kuchh sahar ke rang par-afshaa.n hue to hai.n

ठहरी हुई है शब की सियाही वहीं मगर

कुछ कुछ सहर के रंग पर-अफशां हुए तो हैं

The night's blackness lingers on (at the) same place, but
the colours of dawn are (beginning to) flutter their wings a bit

What loveliness! The contrast is not just between the inkiness of the night and the 'colours of the morn', but also between the immobility of the night, and the hesitant, but brave, attempts of the dawn-colours to spread out their wings, to take to flight... [Par-afhaan is how one would describe a young bird fluttering its partially formed wings, as it tests their growing readiness for its maiden flight.]

In mei.n lahuu jalaa ho hamaaraa ke jaan-o-dil

mehfil mei.n kuchh chiragh farozaa.n hue to hai.n

इन में लहू जला हो हमारा के जान-ओ-दिल

महफ़िल में कुछ चिराग फरोज़ाँ हुए तो हैं

Whether (it be) our blood, or (our) life and heart, that were burnt in them
a few lamps have shone on the assembly

Lamps that can dispel the darkness of an age, that can awaken an entire people to action, are not fueled by oils and waxes, of course... they draw their light from greater sacrifices. But, at the end, one does have the light... !

haa.n kaj karo kulaa ke sab kuchh luTaa ke ham

ab be-niyaaz-e-gardish-e-dauraa.n hue to hai.n

हाँ कज करो कुलाह के सब कुछ लुटा के हम

अब बे-नियाज़-ऐ-गर्दिश-ऐ-दौराँ हुए तो हैं

Yes, tilt your cap (jauntily), for having lost everything, we
have now become independent of the cycles of age

Profound! An almost sufistic summary of the desirability of renunciation... of escape from the meaningless meanders of time (we have spoken earlier of the multivalence of the word gardish). But what a delightfully airy way to capture the carefree state of someone who has lost everything (don't you just love that 'tilt your cap crazily!'?). And also a profound political message to those who are completely disenfranchised - it is precisely they, who have no stakes in the status quo, who are best placed to work for a new social order...

be-niyaaz would literally be someone who has no need to ask something from someone, someone who is without want, without need. It is also an adjective used in Islamic discourse to describe the Almighty. Therefore, its usage in the sher above, with all the attendant nuances
, is not accidental.

Ahl-e-qafas kii subh-e-chaman mei.n khulegii aankh

baad-e-sabaa se vaadaa-o-paimaa.n hue to hai.n

अहल-ऐ-कफ़स की सुब्ह-ऐ-चमन में खुलेगी आँख

बाद-ऐ-सबा से वादा-ओ-पैमाँ हुए तो हैं

(It is) in the garden-morning that the cage-dwellers shall awaken

Pledges and promises have been made to the morning breeze

Isn't that lovely? I can't quite figure out how he's done it, but Faiz somehow manages to lucidly capture the stomach-wrenching sense of 'determination' with which these covenants, howsoever futile, have been entered into! Doesn't he?

hai dasht ab bhii dhasht, magar khuun-e-paa se Faiz

ser-aab chand khaar-e-mugiilaa.n hue to hai.n

है दश्त अब भी दश्त, मगर खून-ऐ-पा से फैज़

सेर-आब चंद खार-ऐ-मुगीलाँ हुए तो हैं

The desert is still a desert, but with the blood of feet, o faiz

a few acacia thorns have, at least, become watered

Once again, truly delicious! ser-aab is literally 'full of water', and is used in the sense of being 'well watered' or 'moistened' or 'succulent'. Mugiilaan is the name of the acacia bush (Mimosa Arabica, also commonly known in India by the names of babul or kiikar) which grows profusely in desert conditions and sports some really frightening looking thorns! The blood that drips from the feet of desert-travellers may be insufficient to make the wildernesses verdant, but it can serve to soften the thorns that line the wilderness, and thus ease the path of those destined to follow them...

Note that there is some gentle word-play here too by Faiz... since the 'faiz' in the first line can be seen not only as the mandated use of the takhallus, but also in its literal sense of 'bountifulness' 'munificence' or 'copiousness' - signifying the 'generosity' of the feet-blood in so irrigating the thorns!


musiq said...

thank you :) have i converted you to faiz then :)

musiq said...

the delicacy of the imagery and its paradoxical powerfulness has such a resonance

deewaan said...

Converted? Oh, he always figured prominently on my pantheon!

[In poetic deification, I prefer a healthily polytheistic approach]


musiq said...

you prefer a polytheistic approach in EVERYTHING, deewaan saab :)

deewaan said...

LOL! Remind me, Musiq dear, to explicate the 'pleasures of pluralism' to you sometime!


musiq said...


restraining myself from comment :) maybe later :)

Abhishek S said...

Brilliant explaination, Deewan. Eternally thankful to you. Even as i do this the word thankful seems less.