June 8, 2006 at 8:00 pm 5 comments

Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Aaj ke naam
Aaj ke gam ke naam
Aaj ka gam ke hai zindagi ke bhare gulistan se khafa
Zard patton ka ban
Zard patton ka ban jo mera des hai
Dard ki anjuman jo mera des hai

Kilarkon ki aphsurda janon ke naam
Kirmkhurda dilon aur zabanon ke naam
Postmanon ke naam
Tangevalon ke naam
Railbanon ke naam
Karkhanon ke bhole jiyalon ke naam
Badshaah-e-jahan, Vaali-e-maseeva, Naybullah-e-fil-arz, dehkan ke naam
Jiske dhoron ko zaalim hanka le gaye
Jiski beti ko daakoo utha le gaye
Haath bhar khet se ek angusht patwar ne kaat li hai
Dusri maliye ke bahane se sarkar ne kaat li hai
Jiski pag zor valon ki paon tale
Dhajjiyan ho gai hai

Un dukhi maaon ke naam
Raat mein jinke bacche bilakhte hain aur
Neend ki maar khae hue bazooaun se sambhalte nahin
Dukh batate nahin
Minnaton zariyon se bahalte nahin

Un hasinaon ke naam
Jinki aankhon ke gul
Chilmanon aur dareechon ki belon pe bekaar khilkhil ke
Murjha gaye hain

Un byahtaon ke naam
Jinke badan
Be-muhabbat riyakaar sejon pe saj-saj ke ukta gaye hain
Bevaon ke naam
Katriyon aur galiyon, muhallon ke naam
Jinki napaak khashaak se chand raaton
Ko aa-aa ke karta hai aksar vazu
Jinke saayon se karti hai aah-o-bukaa
Aanchalon ki hina
Churiyon ki khanak
Kakulon ki mahak
Aarzoomand seenon ki apne paseene mein jalne ki boo.

Talibilmon ke naam
Vo jo asahab-e-tabl-o-alam
Ke daron par kitaab aur kalam
Ka takazaa liye, hath phaileye
Pahuchen, magar lautkar ghar na aaye
Vo masoom jo bholpan mein
Vahan apne nanhe chragon mein lau ki lagan
Le ke pahuchen, jahan
Bant rahe the ghatatop, beant raaton ke saaye.

Un aseeron ke naam
Jinke seenon mein pharda ke shabtab gouhar
Jailkhanon ki shoreeda raaton ki sarsar mein
Jal jal ke anjum-numa ho gaye hain

Aane vaale dinon ke safiron ke naam
Vo jo khushboo-e-gul ki tarah
Apne paigam par khud phida ho gaye hain

My (extremely inept) translation:


In the name of this day
In the name of this day’s sorrow:
Sorrow that stands, disdaining the blossoming garden of Life,
Like a forest of dying leaves
A forest of dying leaves that is my country
An assembly of pain that is my country

In the name of the sad lives of clerks,
In the name of the worm-eaten hearts and the worm-eaten tongues
In the name of the postmen
In the name of the coachmen
In the name of the railway workers
In the name of the workers in the factories
In the name of him who is Emperor of the Universe, Lord of All Things,
Representative of God on Earth,
The farmer
Whose livestock has been stolen by tyrants,
Whose daughter has been abducted by bandits
Who has lost, from his hand’s breadth of land,
One finger to the record keeper
And another to the government as tax,
And whose very feet have been trampled to shreds
Under the footsteps of the powerful.

In the name of those sad mothers
Whose children cry out in the night
And will not be silenced by the defeated arms of sleep,
Who will not say what saddens them
Or be consoled by tears or entreaties.

In the name of those beauties
The flowers of whose eyes
Blossomed from every curtain and balcony
And withered away in waiting.

In the name of those wives
Whose unloved bodies
Have grown tired of the treachery of beds
In the name of the widows
In the name of neighbourhoods
Whose scattered garbage the moon
Blesses every night,
And from whose shadows cries out
The fragrance of veils
The tinkling of bangles
The scent of loosened hair
The smell of passionate bodies burning in their own sweat.

In the name of students
Who went to the masters of drums and banners
Prostrating themselves on doorsteps
With their books and pens
Praying, with open arms, to be heard,
But never returned.
Those innocents, who, in their naivete
Took their tiny lamps,
Their candle flames of hope, to where
The shadows of endless nights were being given out.

In the name of those prisoners
In whose breasts the shining gem of the future
Burns, polished by the noise of the jailer’s night,
To a star like radiance.

In the name of those harbingers of the days to come
Who, like the flower with its scent,
Have become enamoured of their own message.

There are some poems that have an anthem-like, declamatory quality. Poems that demand not so much to be read aloud as to be shouted into microphones, fed line by hungry line to some roaring mob that raises its fists high in support after every stanza. Poems that seem addressed, not to a single person, but to the People. Ginsberg’s Howl is like that. Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution will not be televised is like that.

And then there’s Faiz’s Intisaab. This is a marching, singing paean of a poem, at once heroic and sorrowful, at once incantatory and delicate. There are some unforgettable lines here (Zard patton ka ban jo mera des hai / Dard ki anjuman jo mera des hai) and some beautiful images (Jinki napaak khashaak se chaand raaton / Ko aa-aa kar karta hai aksar vazu) but the overall effect is of being swept up in the urgency of a historical moment, in the tidal wave of an entire people and their determination to stand firm against suffering, stand firm against oppression. This is a poem whose every line screams Revolution.

Politics and poetry do not, in general, go well together. Which is not to say that there aren’t good, even great, political poems; only that the rawness and stridency that makes for good politics doesn’t always fit comfortably with more poetic aims. There are exceptions, of course, but poems with a ‘message’ often end up sacrificing poetic merit for political momentum, so that they remain memorable not so much for their poetry per se but for the protest they contain. This is emphatically not true of Intisaab. This is a poem that is as political as you can get, that fairly overflows with attitude, and yet is also a sophisticated and stunningly visual lyrical work.

The poet I’m always reminded of, reading this, is Whitman. Think of the long enumerations from Song of Myself. Think of all the other songs – The Song of Occupations, the Song of Joys, The Song of the Open Road, Salute Au Monde!, I sing the Body Electric. There is the same rhythm of repetition, the same grandness of vision, the same deceptive simplicity. Faiz, like Whitman, writes from a well-spring of humanism, from a desire to celebrate the common people. Faiz, like Whitman, understands in his deeply democratic heart that it is here that true power lies, in the suffering of ordinary men and women, in the uncomplaining courage with which they bear whatever History thrusts upon them. Faiz, like Whitman, is a poet of his people. That is why he matters. That is why he will survive.


As should be obvious, my translation doesn’t do anywhere near justice to the poem. Frankly, there are things I just cannot translate. In the stanza about students, for instance, Faiz says “kitab aur kalam / ka takaaza liye, haath phailaye / pahuchen” which I translate as “Prostrating themselves on doorsteps / with books and pens/ praying, with open arms, to be heard”. That doesn’t begin to do justice to the metaphor. Sanderson Beck writes:

“In takaza a man may restrain an equal or inferior from leaving his house or eating or compel him to sit in the sun until he makes some accommodation. If the debtor is a superior, the creditor may supplicate and lay on his doorstep, appealing to his honor and shame.”

That’s just one example.

Entry filed under: Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Falstaff, Urdu.

Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna Poem To Take Back The Night

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. blackmamba  |  June 9, 2006 at 7:12 am

    huzoor, badi meherbaani!

    Zard patton ka ban jo mera des hai / Dard ki anjuman jo mera des hai is one of those lines that keep surfacing in my mind over and over. Hearing the poem in its entirety was great. Faiz makes these intense strong images out of undramatic, hard reality – like Sebastiao Salgado’s images.

    On translation, read Lisa Katz who said it was like crossing a border – you have to leave something behind, but you also have to gain something (a new identity perhaps), when you enter the new country/language.

    Since she translates an Israeli poet from Hebrew, much of the context (olive orchards being razed to the ground, under the table methods to get off military duty etc) is lost to the english reader, so at certain places, she replaces a single word in the original with 3-4 lines in english, to evoke the same emotional response in the reader (at the cost of significantly changing the flow and structure of the poem).

  • 2. Falstaff  |  June 10, 2006 at 5:04 am

    BM: I don’t know.

    The lines that probably come closest to my personal philosophy on translation come from Marvell:

    The good interpreter. Some in this task
    Take off the cypress veil, but leave a mask,
    Changing the Latin, but do more obscure
    That sense in English which was bright and pure.
    So of translators they are authors grown,,
    For ill translators make the book their own.
    Others do strive with words and forced phrase
    To add such lustre, and so many rays,
    That, but to make the vessel shining, they
    Much of the precious metal rub away.
    He is translation’s thief that addeth more,
    As much as he that taketh from the store
    Of the first author. Here he maketh blots
    That mends; and added beauties are but spots.

    – Andrew Marvell, ‘To his Worthy Friend Doctor Witty upon his translation of the Popular Errors’

    Plus the issue is not so much acheiving the same emotional response as conveying the perfection of the image.

    Also, I think how much it’s legitimate to change the flow and structure is a function of the poem itself and how important the flow and structure is. I can’t imagine, for instance, someone using Katz’s approach to translate the great Chinese poets. If you started stretching every nuanced word of Li Po’s into 3-4 lines you’d end up making him sound like Whitman. :-).

  • 3. Sarah  |  July 13, 2006 at 1:42 am

    Very nice site!

  • 4. blackmamba  |  November 29, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    In devanagari script (from

    आज के नाम
    आज के ग़म के नाम
    आज का ग़म कि है ज़िन्दगी के भरे गुलसिताँ से ख़फ़ा
    ज़र्द पत्तों का बन
    ज़र्द पत्तों का बन जो मेरा देस है
    दर्द का अंजुमन जो मेरा देस है
    किलर्कों की अफ़सुर्दा जानों के नाम
    किर्मख़ुर्दा दिलों और ज़बानों के नाम
    पोस्ट-मैनों के नाम
    तांगेवालों के नाम
    रेलबानों के नाम
    कारख़ानों के भोले जियालों के नाम
    बादशाह-ए-जहाँ, वालि-ए-मासिवा, नएबुल्लाह-ए-फ़िल-अर्ज़, दहकाँ के नाम

    जिस के ढोरों को ज़ालिम हँका ले गये
    जिस की बेटी को डाकू उठा ले गये
    हाथ भर ख़ेत से एक अंगुश्त पटवार ने काट ली है
    दूसरी मालिये के बहाने से सरकार ने काट ली है
    जिस के पग ज़ोर वालों के पाँवों तले
    धज्जियाँ हो गयि है

    उन दुख़ी माओं के नाम
    रात में जिन के बच्चे बिलख़ते हैं और
    नींद की मार खाये हुए बाज़ूओं से सँभलते नहीं
    दुख बताते नहीं
    मिन्नतों ज़ारियों से बहलते नहीं

    उन हसीनाओं के नाम
    जिनकी आँखों के गुल
    चिलमनों और दरिचों की बेलों पे बेकार खिल खिल के
    मुर्झा गये हैं
    उन ब्याहताओं के नाम
    जिनके बदन
    बेमोहब्बत रियाकार सेजों पे सज सज के उकता गये हैं
    बेवाओं के नाम
    कतड़ियों और गलियों, मुहल्लों के नाम
    जिनकी नापाक ख़ाशाक से चाँद रातों
    को आ आ के करता है अक्सर वज़ू
    जिनकी सायों में करती है आहो-बुका
    आँचलों की हिना
    चूड़ियों की खनक
    काकुलों की महक
    आरज़ूमंद सीनों की अपने पसीने में जलने की बू

    पड़नेवालों के नाम
    वो जो असहाब-ए- तब्लो-अलम
    के दरों पर किताब और क़लम
    का तकाज़ा लिये, हाथ फैलाये
    पहुँचे, मगर लौट कर घर न आये
    वो मासूम जो भोलेपन में
    वहाँ अपने नंहे चिराग़ों में लौ की लगन
    ले के पहुँचे जहाँ
    बँट रहे थे घटाटोप, बे-अंत रातों के साये
    उन असीरों के नाम
    जिन के सीनों में फ़र्दा के शबताब गौहर
    जेलख़ानों की शोरीदा रातों की सर-सर में
    जल-जल के अंजुम-नुमाँ हो गये हैं

    आनेवाले दिनों के सफ़ीरों के नाम
    वो जो ख़ुश्बू-ए-गुल की तरह
    अपने पैग़ाम पर ख़ुद फ़िदा हो गये हैं

  • 5. Shabtab  |  June 18, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Im so happy today that i have found this poem. when i was born, my dad’s psychology teacher was apparently reading this poem, and after seeing the name “SHABTAB”, he named me, and i love this poem not only because my name has been chosen from it, but because of it’s very sad but true meaning behind it. This is a legacy to all types of poetry. Mash-allah.


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