Saturday, 3 April 2010

Faiz - Hum ke Thehre ajnabii

This lovely ghazal exemplifies, yet again, Faiz's uncanny ability to clothe the contemporary politics of his times in the hoary poetic idiom of another age - without compromising on either the beauty, or the topicality, of his mesmerising words. 

Hum ke Thehre ajnabii itnii mudaaraato.n ke baad
phir banenge aashnaa kitnii mulaaqaato.n ke baad

हम के ठहरे अजनबी इतनी मुदारातों के बाद
फिर बनेंगे आशना कितनी मुलाकातों के बाद

ہم کہ ٹھہرے اجنبی اتنی مداراتوں کے بعد
پھر بنیں گے آشنا کتنی ملاقاتوں کے بعد

We, who remain strangers, (even) after so many courtesies;
(We) shall become acquaintances (again), after how many (more) encounters?


Mudaaraat is Farsi for the act of treating someone with overt courteousness and politeness - it also has nuances of circumvention and dissimilitude.  The Beloved may well favour the Poet with socially prescribed courtesies, but retains her distance and remains unapproachable, for all practical purposes. 

The phir in the second line could be read in the sense of 'again', which would hint at the possibility that the Poet might have enjoyed a more intimate acquaintance with the Beloved at an earlier time (aashnaa can be used to mean 'lovers' just as easily as 'acquaintances'), but is denied it now.  Alternatively, the phir could be read simply as 'then' to make the second line something like "so, after how many meetings will we become acquaintances then?"   

Seeing the lines as addressed to a Celestial Beloved only serves to make the implied irony of the sher even more biting.

kab nazar mein aayegii be-daagh sabze kii bahaar
khoon ke dhabbe dhule.nge kitnii barsaato.n ke baad

कब नज़र में आएगी बे-दाग़ सब्ज़े की बहार
खून के धब्बे धुलेंगे कितनी बरसातों के बाद

 کب نظر میں آے گی بے داغ سبزے کی بہار
خون کے دھببے دھلینگے کتنی برساتوں کے بعد

when shall the bloom of unsullied verdure meet the eye (again)?
after how many downpours will the blood stains get washed?

In the stylised ghazal universe, the idea of the colours of the chaman, the garden, being tainted with blood would evoke the oft-used imagery of either the birds or the blooms having been visited by the hands of calamity.  What loveliness Faiz captures in this sher, doesn't he, despite the extreme simplicity of his words?!  

the bahut be-dard lamhe khatm-e-dard-e-ishq ke
thii.n bahut be-meher subhe.n meherbaa.n raato.n ke baad

थे बहुत बे-दर्द लम्हे ख़त्म-ए-दर्द-ए-इश्क के
थीं बहुत बे-महर सुबहें महरबां रातों के बाद

تھے بہت بے درد لمحے ختم درد عشق کے
تھیں بہت بے مہر صبحیں مہربان راتوں کے بعد 

they were very heartless, those moments when love's agony ebbed
they were very merciless (/sun-less), those mornings after the merciful nights

Once again, the sheer beauty of the words almost blinds one to their meaning.  There is some clever word-play here too, since mihr (or mehr) is used in Farsi not only for 'kindness' or 'favour' but also 'the sun' (or for the time of the year that corresponds to the solar equinox).  Hence the be-mehr subhen of the second line could be read as 'sunless mornings', which gives the line a wonderful piquancy, especially as the expression comes after mehr-baan raaton!

dil to chaahaa par shikast-e-dil ne muhlat hii na dii
kuchh gile shikwe bhii kar lete, munaajaato.n ke baad

दिल तो चाहा पर शिकस्त-ए-दिल ने मोहलत ही न दी
कुछ गिले शिकवे भी कर लेते, मुनाजातों के बाद

دل تو چاہا پر شکست دل نے مہلت ہی نہ دی
کچھ گلے شکوے بھی کر لیتے مناجاتوں کے بعد

The heart did want to, but the heart's debacle gave no respite (for it)
(or else, one) could have indulged in a few complaints too, after the prayers (were over)

Divine!  Isn't that second line absolutely brilliant?!  Which but - earthly or astral - could fail to be moved by such endearing petulance?!  The sher captures such a sighing regret at the feebleness of the heart - which didn't allow the poet to use the opportunity of 'the audience' to put on record the litany of his complaints, instead of having 'wasted' the occasion in pointless prayers!

unse kahne jo gaye the faiz jaa.n sadkaa kiye
ankahii hii rah gayii vo baat sab baato.n ke baad

उनसे कहने जो गए थे फैज़ जां सदका किये
अनकही ही रह गयी वो बात सब बातों के बाद

 ان سے جو کہنے گئے تھے فیض جاں صدقہ کئے
ان کہی ہی رہ گئی وہ بات سب باتوں کے بعد  

That which I had gone to say to her, putting (my) life on the line
that very thing remained unsaid, after all else had been said

And the maqtaa, like all of Faiz's, is a pearl!  Reminds one strongly of the penultimate sher of one of the earliest Faiz ghazals we looked at

Even if one didn't know the context in which the above ghazal was written, one would still be bowled over by its beauty, by the resonant melody of its words, and by its perfect 'fit' in standard ghazal stylisations, wouldn't one?  

But consider this - the ghazal, which appears in Faiz's 1979 book shaam-e-sheher-e-yaaraan, was written in 1974 under the title Dhaaka se waapsii par (on return from Dhaka).  

Let us recall the context - Pakistan had just got split, with Bangladesh having emerged as a new fledgling nation, and the sane voices in the subcontinent still dazed at the bloody events of  '71 and the barbarism that preceded them.  In this charged climate, Faiz, despite the criticisms and death-threats of detractors in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, chose to visit Dhaka, almost on a mission of sanity and reconciliation.  And the above ghazal captures the distillate of that visit - the frustrations, the pain, the poignant consciousness of a historical wrong.  

Now let's go back and re-read the whole thing - doesn't each sher, right down to that lovely maqtaa, acquire an entirely new meaning?!


musiq said...


Since you mentioned Bangladesh, thought you could listen to some Baul songs, one of my favourite genres. Posting one link, though the visuals are not great, just listen instead (bangla theke interpretation korte chao to eitar comments section e bangla te lyrics leka ache)

deewaan said...

Baul is rather sublime, isn't it? Had got a group over to Paris once - was received quite well.

My bangla is in terminal stages of rustiness, so shall pass up on the interpretation challenge. YOU try it first! :-D

Anonymous said...

J'ai appris des choses interessantes grace a vous, et vous m'avez aide a resoudre un probleme, merci.

- Daniel

deewaan said...

Daniel, Je vous en prie! Je suis content que vous avez aime la traduction...