Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shahryar- Two Ghazals from Gaman

These two (now classic) ghazals are from Muzaffar Ali's 1978 film 'Gaman' (the Departure), and are written by Akhlaq Mohammad Khan, more well known by his pen name 'Shahryar'.

Khan was the fourth Jnanpith Award winner in Urdu in 2008. His collection of poems 'Khwab ka dar band hai' in 1987 won the Sahitya Akademi award. He died in 2012.

Seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofaan sa kyon hai
Akhlaq Mohammad Khan Shahryar

Seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofaan sa kyon hai
Is shaher main har shakhs pareshaan sa kyon hai

Dil hai to dhadakne ka bahaanaa koi dhoonde
Patthar ki tarah behis-o-bejaan sa kyon hai

Tanhaai ki yeh kaunsi manzil hai rafiqon
Taa hadd-e-nazar ek bayaabaan sa kyon hai

Kya koi nayee baat nazar aati hai ham mein
Aainaa hamein dekh ke hairaan sa kyon hai

translated by 
Mustansir Dalvi

Why does my heart smoulder, why this tempestuous gaze?
Why is everyone in this city filled with such disquiet?

This heart, such as it is, needs but to keep on beating,
why then is it so unfeeling, so lifeless, like a stone.

Which station of loneliness is this, my friends?
There is only wilderness as far as the eye can see.

Can you see something new in me today?
Why then, is my mirror so bewildered to see me?

Here is the ghazal from 'Gaman', with music by Jaidev and sung by Suresh Wadkar.

Ajeeb saaneha mujh par guzar gayaa yaaron
Akhlaq Mohammad Khan Shahryar

Ajeeb saaneha mujh par guzar gayaa yaaron
Main apne saaye se kal raat dar gaya yaaron

Hare ek naqsh-e-tamannaa ka ho gayaa dhundhlaa
Hare ek zakhm mere dil ka bhar gayaa yaaron

Bhatak rahi thi jo kashti woh garq-e-aab hui
Chadaa hua tha jo dariyaa utar gayaa yaaron

Woh kaun tha kahaan ka tha kya hua tha use
Sunaa hai aaj koi shakhs mar gayaa yaaron

translated by 
Mustansir Dalvi

How strange was this accident that befell me, friends,
for last night, I flinched with fear at my own shadow.

Every ideal that I ever aspired to has begun to fade,
every clot that rent my heart has begun to congeal.

Every boat, tossed about, lost, was eventually sunk,
the raging river that had swelled has now receded.

Who was that, where was he from, what befell him?
I have heard, friends that someone lost his life today.

Here is the ghazal from 'Gaman', with music by Jaidev and sung by Hariharan.

Translation and transliteration, copyright © Mustansir Dalvi, 2013, All rights reserved.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur (translated by Mustansir Dalvi)

Hai bas ki har ek unke ishaare mein nishaan aur
a Ghazal by
Mirza Ghalib

Hai bas ki har ek unke ishaare mein nishaan aur
Karte hai muhabbat to guzartaa hai ghumaan aur

Ya rab! Woh na samjhe hain na samjhenge meri baat
De aur dil unko jo na de mujhko zubaan aur

Aabroo se hai kya us nigaah-e-naaz ko paiwand
Hai teer mukarrar magar hai uski kamaan aur

Tum shehar mein ho to hamein kya gham jab uthenge
Le aayenge bazaar se jaakar dil-o-jaan aur

Har chand subak-dast hue but-shikni mein
Hum hai to abhi raah mein hai sang-e-giraan aur

Hai khoon-e-jigar josh mein dil khol ke rota
Hote jo kaeen deedaa-e-khoon naab phishaan aur

Martaa hai us aawaaz pe har chand sar udd jaayein
Jallad ko lekin woh kahe jaaye ki ‘Haan aur!’

Logon ko hai khurshid-e-jahaantaab ka dhokaa
Har roz dikhaataa hoon main ek daag-e-nihaan aur

Letaa na agar dil tumhein detaa koi dum chain
Kartaa jo na martaa koi din aah-o-fughaan aur

Paate nahin jab raah to chad jaate hai naale
Rukti hai meri tab’h to hoti hai ravaan aur

Hai aur bhi duniyaa mein sukhanvar bahut achche
Kehte hain ke Ghaalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur

Ghalib’s felicity
a Ghazal translated by 
Mustansir Dalvi

Within every gesture
she secretes undertones.
Her love is eloquent, yet
once spoken, raises suspicion.

She has not and will not
even consent to hear me out;
give her more heart, O Lord,
even if you grant me no more voice.

Her reticence is enhanced
in every lowered glance.
The arrows are all in place
but her bow is elsewhere.

As long as you remain in town
I have not a care, for should
sorrows weigh heavily upon me
I will buy new life from the bazaar.

You may have deftness
in the art of breaking idols,
but look, I too remain resolute-
a stone that crosses your path.

My heart is rent and gushes blood
and I would weep aloud myself,
if only there lay scattered more
blood-rent eyes to witness my grief.

I would be ready to lose my head
at the mere sound of her voice;
yet as the executioner raises his blade
she screams Yes! Yes, she cries: ‘More!’

Rising daily, this world-warming sun
is a delusion everyone believes,
but I, for one, can break each day
afresh with a veil’d wound on display.

I could have spent some time in peace
had I not already given my heart to you;
I could have cried and lamented more
had I not already given up the ghost.

On not finding the easiest path
river waters rise to a deluge.
My own spirit, when obstructed
finds release somewhere else.

There may be more, even better
wordsmiths in this world, but
they say that Ghalib’s felicity
is quite unmatched, anywhere.

Translation and Transliteration © Mustansir Dalvi, 2013, All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Time Out Mumbai- Re:claim

This piece appeared in a slightly edited version in my 'After Words' column in Time Out Mumbai, December 2013

Re: claim

Dear Mumbai,
re: your claim that the only solution to your congested, imploding self is to reclaim more land from the sea, here are our considered opinions-

We see from our records that your past actions re: reclamations on your good-self are chequered with inconsistencies- whereas your laying the many causeways in the mid 19th century interconnecting the erstwhile islands that constituted your good-self had some intrinsic merit in making you whole, this resulted in a low-lying centre prone to flooding annually and mosquitoes, a space you further exacerbated by raising several textile mills, creating a situation you have not satisfactorily resolved even after a century and a half.

Your next request for plastic surgery admittedly met with some success in 1940 with your self-named appendage- the Queen's Necklace. But you botched this up laying a road along the water edge rather than perpendicular to it, isolating a thin sliver of land only useful for walking dogs and/or resisting expressions of young love. All your subsequent actions, we note with concern, catered to the whims and fancies of automobiles rather than your own citizens, a trait so deeply embedded that you seem to think is normal. It is not.

We can only shake our head at your half-hearted, ultimately abandoned attempts to create a business district out of the sea in the late 1960s, which you ironically named after the same person who opposed you in the first place. We call your attention to the toothless gum that is the Cuffe Parade fishing village. Your desire to iconicize the Mantralaya only resulted in scuppering the very objective of your new city across the harbour. This reluctance to shift your administrative heart to Belapur put back both settlement and progress of New Bombay by three decades, making it a dormitory suburb. We must therefore infer, Mumbai, that you are, in your own words, 'aarambh shoor'; you know how to start things but not finish them.

It is with some relief that we note your fancy late '90s ideas proposed by your starchitect to reclaim a width of one kilometre on your western edge for 'public amenities' stayed on the drafting board. God alone knows how you would have monetized all that land in the millennium. On bended knee, we offer thanks to our city deity daily that your other scheme of enclosing your natural eastern harbour (linking Colaba to Uran, like bringing together a thumb and forefinger) in order to create, a 'giant freshwater lake' remained just an idea. Having seen your track record with sewage,re: the Mithi, we only shudder at what you could have done to the water you sought to sweeten.

Now, in your latest application, you have sought to expand on the aborted Nariman Point reclamation by another hundred hectares. We observe that you have enclosed testimonials from foreign experts to back your claim. Needless to say, you seem unconcerned that in the last decade your business centres have all shifted to BKC and the mill lands. Enterprise and commerce have moved north. Has this not helped change the mono-directional circulation of commuters and laid the base for a polycentric city? Who do you think will benefit from raising land to create high-end residential properties on the southern tip? You already have, at the last count, around 1,40,000 unsold ‘crore-plus’ flats all over the city. We suggest you sell them first.

Also, your current policy allowing the densification of those parts of your good-self that are already some of the densest in the world displays an ambivalence about your own urban future. While you ignore debris-dumping on mangroves and salt-pans without permission, you keep a twenty kilometre stretch of eastern docklands undeveloped, hidden behind tall screens. This, after shifting the bulk of your maritime commerce to JNPT. We suggest, earnestly, you look up the word ‘oxymoron’.

Your new proposal also seeks to create another ‘freshwater lake’, this time at Mahim, which you intend to fill with water from the Mithi. You never learn, do you?

To conclude, your past history does not give us the confidence to endorse your proposal to resume reclaiming land. By allowing redevelopment on almost every plot of land (built or unbuilt), to provide ‘long denied’ benefits to the owners, your developers are reclaiming the entire city anyway, bit by bit. You should be satisfied. And satiated.

Nevertheless, given our long association, we specially commissioned our back office to develop a proposal to reclaim land from Bandra West to Sur-on-sea (Oman East). We are told this is feasible, as the crow flies. The only reason we resist giving it the go ahead is our concern about illegal migrants, and the possible dilution of your city’s culture.

The image at the top of this post is Neibhur's 1764 mapping of Bombay's islands.
This image was one of many made free for use online by the British Library.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Narayan Gangaram Surve- Two Poems

Write Your Own Name
Narayan Gangaram Surve
(Tumchach naav livha)

Master - write,
write your own name.

I’ll tell you the truth, Mariaai promise,
you just write.
Look at his curls, Master;
see how they spread like a naga’s hood…
they’re the gift of God, they are.

Master, the soil may be rich…
it may be fertile, but
if you don’t plough it
or seed it
will anything grow? Tell me, will it?
Then what use is my name instead of his father’s?
And without a father, what is to become of him?

Do not fill in the name of any god,
write only a man’s name…
what has God ever done, eh?
He filled this oti himself now, didn’t he?
Write down your own name.

Don’t ask about his caste;
C’mon, can women like us belong to any one person, Master?
We aren’t the householder type,
we aren’t that fortunate…

He was born right here.
Early one morning, 
I felt my womb slip below my navel,
and out he popped.
No midwife, nor anyone at hand,
this worried me at first… but then, I was delighted.

Come child,
touch his feet.
Touch Master’s feet, child.

But do this much for me; write your own name.

Oti, or oti bharne- A ritual among Hindu women in Maharashtra to make an offering to a Goddess by placing a coconut, a piece of cloth and grains in her lap. Done at specific times in a year, this ritual seems to be associated with female fertility.

(Thank you, Hemant  Divate, for some  essential interpretations.)

Money Order
Narayan Gangaram Surve

…and, look here,
write this down too:
Say, that I am happy.

This body aches, but still,
say, things are better here than in the village.
The men come like looming rain-clouds,
and burst in torrents all over us;
but Babdi, who always holds a grudge
asks all of them:
how many others did you visit,
before coming to me?
My dear, they’re men, I tell her,
if they ask you to sit next to them, you sit.
And why should their wives let go of their rightful claim,
I ask you?

…now, write this down as well:
The money orders may be delayed,
but they are sent.
Say, that the new things that were bought
have been sent with Vishnu,
along with fifty rupees, less ten.
From this amount,
buy schoolbooks for Gangi
and chuddies for Namya.
Give the brat ten paise everyday
so that he will run happily to school.
And kiss them both for me.

things are getting costlier here, too.
Even water in the glass evaporates.
Every new customer demands a fresh bed-sheet.
It’s not enough to provide a soft shoulder,
you need a ceiling fan too.
No, no, don’t write that down,
I only mention this because
you have been listening patiently to me.

All this makes me laugh. I am in two minds,
whether to tell you this, but
just the other day a customer came to me
and asked if a woman could be with him
while he was there.
Now, am I not sitting here, right next to you, I said?
He stared back at me, looked surprised and shuddered
and at that moment I felt like laughing
at the entire male race.

This skin we wear is a terrible thing,
men claw at it like hungry beasts
and feel free to say whatever they want.
I feel like laughing at all men,
and weeping for them at the same time.
are drawn to our skin like cattle,
they just can’t help themselves.

You must be tired,
listening to me go on and on, like this.
What to do?
Everything is tiring these days, I know,
But, even so
visit me, from time to time,
come visit me,
whenever you have the time,
come up and visit me.

translated from the Marathi
Mustansir Dalvi

Translations © Mustansir Dalvi, 2020/ 2013, All rights reserved.