intesab

intesab / dedication, by faiz ahmad faiz (sung by nayyara noor)
translated by me**
(04/06/21)

this morning a friend sent me a link to a cover of Faiz’s poem “Intesab”, and as lovely as it was, it very quickly led me back to Nayyara Noor’s version of the poem. after i listened to it thrice, each time grasping a little more the weight of Faiz’s words and Nayyara Noor’s voice, i felt an inexplicable urge to translate it. there is a problem here, since i am not familiar with Urdu (beyond a few words that have become common place in conversant Hindi), and dictionaries can only help with so much with the essence of words. undeterred, however, and owing to the ample time that suddenly appeared in my hands, i pursued this fleeting thought when i found the poem in the Devanagari script, which helped me come closer to its meaning. i have translated a large part of the poem while listening to Nayyara Noor’s voice which is, as always, laden with feelings that reverberated in my (Urdu-unknowing) heart.

Intesab / Dedication

In the name of today, and
in the name of today’s grief,
upset with life’s garden of flowers.
A forest of yellowing leaves, that is my land.
A gathering of suffering, that is my land

King of the world, master of all, representative of God,
in the name of the farmer,
whose cattle was ambushed by his oppressor,
whose daughter was taken by dacoits,
whose palm-sized* field was ripped a finger’s breadth by the keeper of books*,
and another cut by the government as excuse for tax,
whose once proud turban
has been torn to rags beneath their feet.

In the name of those sorrowful mothers,
whose children sob at night and defeated of sleep,
inconsolable in arms, refuse to speak their sorrows,
find no comfort in continued prayers.

In the name of those beautiful women, who once rose-eyed*,
bloomed in vain on the vines of curtains and windows,
have now withered.

In the name of those wives,
whose bodies, deceived by love, are bored
of decorating themselves night after night.

In the name of widows,
hovels* and streets, in the name of neighbourhoods,
against whose filth the moon often cleanses itself at night;
in whose shadows are heard the wails of
the henna on veils*,
the chime of bangles,
the fragrance of locks,
the scent of yearning bosoms dissolving in their own sweat.

In the name of the students,
who with arms outreached,
and on the rates of the rich and splendid,
asked for pen and paper,
but never returned home.
Those who in their innocence,
and with their small lamps and the zeal for a flame,
arrived instead to where dark shadows of unending nights
were being shared.

In the name of those imprisoned,
whose breasts, adorned with the fireflies of tomorrow,
burned like stars in the winds
of troubling nights spent in caged boxes.

In the name of the ambassadors of the days to come,
who akin to the sweet smell of flowers,
have fallen for their own message.

** with great help from the translation by Mustansir Dalvi and the dictionary of Rekhta.org
* from Mustansir Dalvi’s translation

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a country of old men

on a sunday spring winter morning
two old men were lent
a few moments of wonder,
as they discovered the fleeting
joy of a video call.
dear friends met again
cold screens warmed under the sunlight,
somewhere, orange peels curled
and someone poured a hot cup of tea. between
discussing the inefficacy of their hearing aids,
the impenetrable force of technology,
and latching onto misheard words,
the old men smiled.

they were participants
of an Event
that held a power —
transforming their day into
one out of the ordinary.
a special day, i dare say,
had passed,
and two old men
were protagonists.