Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ushshaaq ke kafile - is there to be a destination?

I was in Mumbai recently. I have always been fond of Bombay with the detached interest of someone who has never been tempted to live there. But I was morbidly aware of it this time as I suppose was natural. Mumbai bustled as usual. But every taxi I took was stopped for inspection. Every taxiwala I spoke to was getting on with his life, on alert. I was in the south of the city which is beautiful and old always, but seemed to my eyes as newly fragile. I felt like hanging garlic or pumpkins on every lovely building facade to ward off evil eyes.

Mumbai doesn’t represent home to me; to me it is a fascinating big city. But when I saw the everyday faces of Mumbai I felt a little of what they must feel.

This Faiz nazm that I am putting up I came across the day I left for Bombay. With Faiz almost always the mahboob is a metaphor for the beloved homeland. This poem Faiz (a fervent communist himself) wrote inspired by the letters of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. But like all good poetry it stands independent of context, moulding itself to shifting temporal atmosphere and inclinations. So here, supplant the repression of the communist ideology with the acts of hatred against capitalist Mumbai or violence in your homeland , and you still have a pretty powerful poem. It is not the best Faiz poem I have come across but in this instance its quotability is very high.

Ham jo tariik raahoN meN maare gaye

tere honToN ke phuuloN kii chaahat meN ham
daar kii Khushk tahnii pe vaare gaye
tere haathoN kii shamm’oN kii hasrat meN ham
niim taariik raahoN meN maare gaye

suulioN par hamaare laboN se pare
tere hoNToN kii laalii lapaktii rahii
terii zulfoN kii mastii barastii rahii
tere haathoN kii chaaNd sii damaktii rahii

jab khulii terii raahoN meN shaam-e-sitam
ham chale aaye, laaye jahaaN tak qadam
lab pe harf-e-Ghazal, dil meN qandill-e-Gham
apnaa Gham thaa gavaahii tere husn kii
dekh qaayam rahe us gavaahii per ham
ham jo taariik raahoN meN maare gaye

naa rasaa’ii agar apnii taqdiir thii
terii ulfat to apnii hii tadbiir thii
kis ko shikvaa hai gar shauq ke silsile
hijr kii qatl-gaahoN se sab jaa mile

qatl-gaahoN se chun kar hamaare ilm
aur nikleNge ushshaaq ke qaafile

jin kii raah-e-talab se hamaare qadam
muKhtasar kar chale dard ke faasile
kar chale jin kii Khaatir jahaaNgiir ham
jaaN gaNvaa kar terii dilbarii kaa bharam
ham jo taariik raahoN meN maare gaye

Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Montogomery Jail
15 May 1954

++++++++++++++++++++

The site from where I have done this cut and paste also has a translation by Agha Shahid Ali, It really is not very good but here it is. In fact I have never found that I have liked any of his translations that I have read. What is the point of making up your own stuff in a translation, I say? As it is one is losing out all the lyricism; why maul meaning? Not to mention sequences and constructs. Don’t know if I am just being fuddy-duddy but it gets my goat.


Update

I’ve tried a translation of my own. I’ve tried to stick close to the original. Here it is.

We who were slain on the darkest lanes

In longing for the roses that are your lips

Hung from the dry branch of the gallows

In seeking the lamps of your palms

Killed in twilit lanes

Distant from our lips within the noose

Colour danced in yours

Your hair rained flavour

Your moon-hands shone

When the dusk of terror rived your lanes

We came as far as feet carried

A poem’s fragment on our lips, fuel of sorrow in the heart

The sorrow that evidenced your beauty

Look ! we still yet stand witness

We who were killed in the shadowy lanes

If love’s consummation was not our fate

Remember that love was a self-fashioned ideal

Who complains then if all love’s strains

Meet in cubicles of death

We glean our knowledge from those same cells

And set forth a procession of lovers

On whose pathways of desire we will walk

Diminishing the distance of pain

For whom we conquered a world

Bartering our lives for your love

We who were slain in the darkest lanes

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I think it is interesting how the ‘we’ in this poem is interchangeable with the ‘I’. In fact I had a long time deciding whether to speak in the singular or plural. But I felt keenly that the spirit of community fairly pulses from the lines. The mass, the power and spirit of the bonded many, is very integral to Faiz’s poetry. Which is probably why I am seeking his poetry so often nowadays. I am afraid like everybody else that we may dust away the pain a little too soon. I feel the need to be connected for a little longer. We will take ourselves back to our individual lives as we must but in doing so I sincerely hope we, each of us, leave a little of ourselves boiling in the cauldron that is perhaps brewing a revolution.


6 comments:

Arfi said...

Really liked your translation. I too have noticed that Agha Shahid Ali sometimes manages to lose the tension in the structure especially in his translations of Faiz; not that I am an expert on this but he acknowledges it too.

And I agree about the use of 'we'; when translating Faiz, it should almost be a rule :)

This might interest you, http://siyaah.blogspot.com/

Shweta said...

Thanks Arfi. I haven't read a whole lot of Ali's translations either; I am only speaking from the little I've come across. But Faiz has such cadences, I wouldn't really fault anyone for failing there.
Interesting fiction you do!

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