Posts filed under ‘Faiz Ahmed Faiz’


Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Listen (to Faiz read)

is tarah hai ke har ek peR ko’ii mandir hai
ko’ii ujRaa huaa, benuur puraanaa mandir
DhuunDtaa hai jo Kharaabii ke bahaane kab se
chaak har baam, har ek dar kaa dam-e-aaKhir hai
aasmaaN ko’ii purohit hai jo har baam tale
jism par raaKh male, maathe pe sinduur male
sar-niguuN baithaa hai chup-chaap na jaane kab se
is tarah hai ke pas-e-pardaa ko’ii saahir hai

jis ne aafaaq pe phailaayaa hai yuN seh’r ka daam
daaman-e-vaqt se paivast hai yuN daamna-e-shaam
ab kabhii shaam bujhegii na andheraa hogaa
ab kabhii raat Dhalegii na saveraa hogaa

aasmaaN aas liye hai ke ye jaaduu TuuTe
chup ki zanjiir kaTe, vaqt kaa daaman chhuTe
de ko’ii shanKh duhayii, ko’ii paayal bole
ko’ii but jaage, ko’ii saaNvlii ghuuNGhat khole

Translation by Agha Shahid Ali


The trees are dark ruins of temples,
seeking excuses to tremble
since who knows when–
their roofs are cracked,
their doors lost to ancient winds.
And the sky is a priest,
saffron marks on his forehead,
ashes smeared on his body.
He sits by the temples, worn to a shadow, not looking up.

Some terrible magician, hidden behind curtains,
has hypnotized Time
so this evening is a net
in which the twilight is caught.
Now darkness will never come–
and there will never be morning.

The sky waits for this spell to be broken,
for history to tear itself from this net,
for Silence to break its chains
so that a symphony of conch shells
may wake up to the statues
and a beautiful, dark goddess,
her anklets echoing, may unveil herself.

(from The Rebel’s Silhouette)


May 23, 2008 at 6:42 am 8 comments


Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Listen (to Faiz read)

phir ko’ii aayaa, dil-e-zaar! nahiin, ko’ii nahiin;
raah-rau hogaa, kahiin aur chalaa jaaegaa.
dhal chukii raat, bikharne lagaa taaron kaa ghubaar,
larkharaane lage aiwaanon mein khwaabiida charaagh,
so ga’ii raasta tak takke har ek rah guzaar;
ajnabi khaak ne dhundlaa diye qadmon ke suraagh.

gul karo shamiin, barhaa do mai-o-miinaa-o-ayaagh,
apne be khwaab kivaaron ko muqaffal kar lo;
ab yahaan ko’ii nahiin, ko’ii nahiin aayega!


Someone, finally, is here! No, unhappy heart, no one –
just a passerby on his way.
The night has surrendered
to clouds of scattered stars.
The lamps in the hall waver.
Having listened with longing for steps,
the roads too are fast asleep.
A strange dust has buried every footprint.

Blow out the lamps, break the glasses, erase
all memory of wine. Heart,
bolt forever your sleepless doors,
tell every dream that knocks to go away.
No one, now no one will ever return.

Tr. by Agha Shahid Ali

More Faiz.


May 17, 2008 at 12:57 am 13 comments

Paas Raho

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Listen (to Faiz read)

tum mere paas raho
mere qaatil, mere dildaar, mere paas raho
jis gha.Dii raat chale
aasamaano.n kaa lahuu pii kar siyah raat chale
marham-e-mushk liye nashtar-e-almaas chale
bain karatii hu_ii, ha.Nsatii hu_ii, gaatii nikale
dard kii kaasanii paazeb bajaatii nikale
jis gha.Dii siino.n me.n Duubate huye dil
aastiino.nme.n nihaa.N haatho.n kii rah takane nikale
aas liye
aur bachcho.n ke bilakhane kii tarah qul-qul-e-may
bahr-e-naasudagii machale to manaaye na mane
jab ko_ii baat banaaye na bane
jab na ko_ii baat chale
jis gha.Dii raat chale
jis gha.Dii maatamii, sun-saan, siyah raat chale
paas raho
mere qaatil, mere dildaar, mere paas raho

Be Near Me

You who demolish me, you whom I love,
be near me. Remain near me when evening,
drunk on the blood of skies,
becomes night, in the other
a sword sheathed in the diamond of stars.

Be near me when night laments or sings,
or when it begins to dance,
its stell-blue anklets ringing with grief.

Be here when longings, long submerged
in the heart’s waters, resurface
and everyone begins to look:
Where is the assasin? In whose sleeve
is hidden the redeeming knife?

And when wine, as it is poured, is the sobbing
of children whom nothing will console–
when nothing holds,
when nothing is:
at that dark hour when night mourns,
be near me, my destroyer, my lover me,
be near me.

Agha Shahid Ali’s translation. From The Rebel’s Silhouette


May 13, 2008 at 5:45 pm 5 comments

Rang pairahan ka, khushboo zulf lehrane kaa naam

Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Rang pairahan ka, khushboo zulf lehrane kaa naam
Mousam-e-gul hai tumhare baam par aane ka naam

Doston us chasm-o-lab ki kuch kaho, jiske bagair
Gulistaan ki baat rangeen hai, na mehkhane ka naam

Phir nazar mein phool mehke, dil mein phir shamayen jali
Phir tasavvur ne liya us bazm mein jane ka naam

Dilbari thehra zabaan-e-khalk khulwane ka naam
Ab nahin lete pari-roo zulf bikhrane ka naam

Ab kisi laila ko bhi ikraar-e-mehboobi nahin
In dinon badnaam hai har ek deewane ka naam

Muhatsib ki khair, uncha hai usi ke faiz se
Rind ka, saaki ka,may ka, khum ka, paimane ka naam.

Hum se kehte hain chaman vale, gareebane chaman
Tum koi accha sa rakh lo apne veerane ka naam

Faiz unko hai takazaa-e-vafa humse jinhe
Aashna ke naam se pyaara hai begaane ka naam.

English Translation (mine):

Colour is a dress, fragrance is a name for your flowing tresses.
Your appearance at the window gives the Spring its name.

Say something about this sight, my friends, without which
neither the garden would have colour, nor the tavern have a name.

Again the eye fills with the scent of flowers, again the heart is lit with a leaping flame;
Imagination exults, and hesitating no longer, rejoins this happy company again.

Romance is a trick to set the tongues of the world wagging,
now even those with angel faces must keep their tresses tamed.

No beloved will now declare her desire openly
for where is the lover who is not defamed?

Praise to the naysayers! for by their grace
the drunkard, bartender, wine, cask and shotglass have their fame.

Those with the gardens say to us, “You, out there,
why don’t you give your wilderness a pretty name?”

Faiz, they demand faith from us now, who
would rather be outsiders than bear a lover’s name.

Not Faiz’s greatest ghazal, perhaps, but one I’m fond of, if only for those two glorious couplets at the end. I’ve tried to emulate the pattern of end rhymes (though without a refrain), though obviously this has meant taking some luxuries with the text.


October 9, 2007 at 6:14 pm 6 comments

Kuch kahti hai har raah har ek raahguzar se

Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Phir lauta hai khurshid-e-jahaantaab safar se
Phir noor-e-sahar dast-o-garebaan hai sahar se.

Phir aag bharakne lagi har saaz-e-tarab mein
Phir sholay lapakne lage har deeda-e-tar se.

Phir niklaa deewana koi phoonk ke ghar ko
Kuch kahti hai har raah har ek raahguzar se.

Vo rang hai imsaal gulistaan ki fazaa ka
Ojhal hui deewar-e-kaphas hadd-e-nazar se

Saagar to khanakte hain sharaab aaye na aaye
Baadal to garajte hain ghata barse na barse.

Paaposh ki kya fikr hai, dastaar samhaalo
Paayab hai jo mouj guzar jayegi sar se.

English Translation (mine):

Again the sun returns, bathing the world in its journey,
Again the morning light goes hand in glove with the sky.

Again the fire roars in every merry song,
Again the flames leap from every weeping eye.

Again a madman leaves, having set fire to his house
And every path says something to every passer by.

That colour is implicated in the garden’s very air,
Obscured the prison walls from the limits of the eye.

The glasses will rattle, whether the liquor flows or not
The clouds will thunder, whether it rains or stays dry.

Don’t worry about shoes now, better look to your turban
This wave that laps at your feet will soon be head high.

It’s been a while since we ran any Faiz so I figured it was time. This isn’t really one of Faiz’s finest ghazals, but it’s one that I personally am rather fond of. It starts off slowly – the first two couplets are nice but hardly spectacular, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, you get ‘phir nikla hai deewana phoonk ke ghar ko’. It’s a stunning line, its explosive impact doubled by the fact that Faiz lulls you into a sense of predictability with his repetition of the ‘phir’ (again) starting, and by the casual way Faiz tosses the image in, as though a madman setting fire to his house were a daily occurence (which, in Faiz’s imagery it is, of course). It’s as though Faiz had tossed a grenade into the poem and then timidly shut the door.

From there on the poem just gets better and better. The fourth couplet is glorious and the fifth ends with one of the cleverest rhymes I’ve ever seen done in a ghazal (and which no translation can ever hope to duplicate), the ‘ar se’ sound flowing so naturally in at the end that I always find myself forced to do a double take just to make sure that he did actually have a rhyme there. This ghazal is so much fun, that by the time you get to that swinging last couplet you can almost feel the exhilaration of it sweeping over you, just like the wave that Faiz ends by warning you about.


P.S. A note on the translation – I’ve taken a few more liberties with the text than I usually like to do, mostly because I wanted to write the translation as a ghazal (the first line doesn’t really rhyme with the second, but it’s close enough). Frankly, no translation was going to do justice to this poem anyway.

April 7, 2007 at 11:14 pm 2 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.

June 8, 2006 at 8:00 pm 5 comments

Tum kya gaye ke rooth gaye din bahar ke

Faiz Ahmed Faiz


Dono jahaan teri muhabbat main haar ke
Voh jaa rahaa hai koi shab-e-gam guzaar ke

Veeran hai maykada, khum-o-saagar udaas hai
Tum kyaa gaye ke rooth gaye din bahaar ke

Ek phursat-e-gunah milee, voh bhi chaar din
Dekhe hain humne housle parvardigaar ke

Duniya ne teri yaad se begaana kar diyaa
Tujshe bhi dil-fareb hai, gam rozgaar ke

Bhoole se muskara to diye the voh aaj “faiz”
Mat poocho valvale dil-e-nakardaa kaar ke

Translation (by Agha Shahid Ali):

He bet both this life and the next
and gambled all night for your love
he first lost earth then eternity
Now he departs from his night of grief
defeat visible in his eyes

Oh what a desolation
the taverns deserted each glass disconsolate
Love when you left
even springtime forsook me
you left and that season disowned this world

You made it so brief our time on earth
its exquisite sins this sensation Oh Almighty
of forgetting you
We know how vulnerable you are
we know you are a coward God

This rapture of simple routines life’s common struggles
have surpassed my memory of your love
It’s proved more enticing just to survive
even more than you
my love

Today she forgot herself her usual ways
her face broke as if by chance
into a smile
Don’t ask what happened to the defeated heart
Oh Faiz how it broke once again
into hopeless longing.

Translation (mine):

Craving your love, he gambled away
both this world and the next.
Look – he is leaving now –
having spent the night in grief.

And the taverns are deserted,
and the wine glasses are upset;
hurt by your departure
even the Spring has turned away.

Forgetting you was a reprieve,
but it did not last.
Now we have seen how far
even God can be trusted.

The world seduced us,
made us exiles from your memory;
day by day, the business of living
proved more deceptive than your love.

And then, today, she smiled,
forgetting herself,
and the heart, so long unused,
began to beat with a new urgency.

One of my favourite Faiz ghazals. Such a wonderful and passionate description of the utter abandonment of unrequited love. Such an overwhelming sense of despair, of defeat, of resignation. And then, just when the world seems ruined beyond measure, that one casual smile of a line that revives everything, sets the pulse racing again.

Tennyson writes: “The world were not so bitter / But a smile could make it sweet” (Maud, I. VI). Faiz’s ghazal shows us how desperate a redemption this is. How desperately the heart must long to hope, must long to believe, that it will stake all its happiness on something as fickle as a smile. “Dono jahan teri mohabbat mein har ke” indeed – the game of love is played on precisely so fragile a wager.

May 21, 2006 at 5:37 am 7 comments

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