Ham Ke Thehre Ajnabi
हम केः ठहरे अजनबी इतनी मदारातों के बाद
फिर बनेंगे आशना कितनी मुलाक़ातों के बाद
कब नज़र में आयेगी बे-दाग़ सब्ज़े की बहार
ख़ून के धब्बे धुलेंगे कितनी बरसातों के बाद
थे बहुत बे-दर्द लम्हे ख़त्मे-दर्दे-इश्क़ के
थीं बहुत बे-मह्र सुब्हें मह्रबाँ रातों के बाद
दिल तो चाहा पर शिकस्ते-दिल ने मोहलत ही न दी
कुछ गिले-शिकवे भी कर लेते, मुनाजातों के बाद
उनसे जो कहने गए थे “फ़ैज़” जाँ सदक़ा किए
अनकही ही रह गई वो बात सब बातों के बाद
ham ke Thehre ajnabi itni madaaraatoN ke baad
phir baneiN ge aashna kitni mulaaqaatoN ke baad
kab nazar meiN aaye gi be daaGh sabze ki bahaar
khoon ke dhabe dhuleiN ge kitni barsaatoN ke baad
the bahut bedard lamhe khat’m-e-dard-e-ishq ke
theiN bahut bemeh’r subheiN meh’rbaaN raatoN ke baad
dil to chaaha par shikast-e-dil ne moh’lat hi na di
kuchh gile shikwe bhi kar lete munaajaatoN ke baad
un se jo kehne gaye the “Faiz” jaaN sadqah kiye
an kahi hi reh gayi woh baat sab baatoN ke baad
We stand estranged, after so many hospitalities
How many meetings will it take for us to get acquainted again
When will we behold unblemished bloom of green fields
How many rains will it take to wash away the blood stains
The moments of severance abounded in mercilessness
Unforgiving mornings followed nights of kindness
Though I wished, the breach of heart did not allow it
To share grievances, after the formalities
That what Faiz went to say, offering his life
Remained unsaid, buried in all things that have passed
This poem, Dhaka Se Vaapasi Par (On Return from Dhaka), was written by Faiz in 1974 after his return from the newly separated state of Bangladesh.
The conflict of 1971 is very personal to me; not only because my family hails from East Bengal but also because part of the source of conflict was the conflict between the two languages that I find sweetest in the world – Bangla and Urdu. On 21 February 1952 students of the Dhaka University protested the imposition of Urdu and some were killed in the police action. Today, 21 Februray, also known as Ekush, is celebrated in Bangladesh as Language Movement Day, a national holiday.
Because of this language issue as a source of conflict, I chose to feature the version from Paigham-e-Mohabbat that juxtaposes Faiz’s poem with Qazi Nazrul Islam’s instead of the more common version by Nayyara Noor, which can be found here.
In spite of all the language issues, Faiz was very popular in East Bengal before the 1971 conflict. His work was translated extensively and he travelled to East Bengal many times to attend mushairas. In 1964, on receiving the Lenin Award, at the reception given to him at the Bangla academy, jointly by Bangla and Urdu literat organizations, there was no standing room, even outside the building.
However, in 1974 when he visited the independent Bangladesh for the first and last time with Bhutto, he was given the absolute cold shoulder. His literary friends refused to meet him because of his failure to protest the killings of Bengali intellectuals. Most commentators say that Faiz was told of the killings of Munir Chowdhury and Shahidullah Qaiser during this trip. I find this difficult to believe and unduly sympathetic to Faiz. Also, I suspect that Faiz’s decision to accompany Bhutto would have cost him any remaining friendships in Bangladesh. Bhutto, very much like Nero, watched Dhaka burning from the rooftops of the Intercontinental Hotel during the Dec 1971 crackdown.
May be this is a bit personal for me, but in spite of how much I love Faiz’s poems, his second last line of this poem – जाँ सदक़ा किए (jaaN sadqah kiye) – sound absolutely hypocritical to me, given his actions and choices.
मदारातों / madaaraatoN – Hospitality
आशना / Aashna – Acquaintance, Friend, Lover, Known, Someone Close
सब्ज़े / sabze – Green Grass, Field
बहार / bahaar – Bloom, Beauty, Glory, Delight, Prime, Spring
बे-मह्र / bemeh’r – Repulsive, Unforgiving, Unkind
शिकस्त / shikast – Breach, Breakage, Defeat, Repulse, Rout
मोहलत / moh’lat – Leisure, Respite
मुनाजातों / munaajaatoN – Prayers, Hymns
सदक़ा / sadqah – Alms
Lyrics in Devanagri are from http://www.kavitakosh.org (this poem here). Lyrics in Roman script are from Gulfishaan (with mulaaqaatoN in the first line changed to madaaraton by me and the other way in the second line), where you can also find translation by Aga Shahid Ali from his book The Rebel’s Silhouette.