By Raza Mir. Raza grew up in Hyderabad and is currently based in New Jersey, USA. He is professor of management at William Paterson University.
Hayaat le ke chalo, kaayenaat le ke chalo Chalo to saare zamaane ko saath le ke chalo Carry life as you walk, and carry the firmament too Walk, so that the entire world should choose to walk with you
Abu Sayeed Mohammad Makhdoom Mohiuddin Huzri (1908–1969) was an Urdu poet who lived in the city of the famous Charminar, and is lovingly known as the fifth minar of Hyderabad. Born into poverty, he grew up sweeping mosque courtyards, but soon became a trade union leader. He was a member of the Communist Party of India, and even represented it in the state assembly. He was one of the architects of the 1946–1947 Telangana Rebellion against the government of the nizam of Hyderabad.
Makhdoom’s poem ‘Telangana’ was an anthem for the movement, and was during the struggle for statehood by Telangana. Much in the fashion of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Russian poet who had influenced him, Makhdoom struggled against his tendencies to wax metaphysical, choosing to eschew finer verbal constructions in the service of anthems and group songs. This had led many literary critics to misinterpret his aesthetic as simplistic.
I have translated three poems below, the latter two of which are to be read as a series. The first, ‘Intezaar’ (The Wait) is an exposition of Makhdoom’s gentle lyricism. The other two poems are much more strident, programmatic, with simple rhythms, reflecting their status as chants and songs.
I. Intezaar – The Wait
This is an anti-war poem. It was composed by Makhdoom in the early 1930s, when Indians were being forcibly conscripted by the British to fight in the Second World War. It was sung by Kumar Sanu for Ali Sardar Jafri’s TV serial on progressive poets, Kahkashan, and was also featured in the 1960 film Usne Kaha Thha.
Intezaar Raat bhar deeda-e namnaak mein lehraate rahe Saans ki tarah se aap aate rahe, jaate rahe Khush thhe ham apni tamannaon ka khwaab aayegaa Apna armaan bar-afganda naqaab aayegaa Nazarein neechee kiye sharmaaye huwe aayegaa Kaakulein chehre pe bikhraaye huwe aayegaa Aa gayi thi dil-e muztar mein shakeebaai si Baj rahi thi mere gham-khaane mein shehnaai si Shab ke jaage huwe taaron ko bhi neend aane lagi Aap ke aane ki ik aas thi, ab jaane lagi Subah ne sej se uth-te huwe li angdaai Ai sabaa, tu bhi jo aayi to akele aayi Mere mehboob meri neend udaane vaale Mere masjood meri rooh pe chhaane vaale Aa bhi jaataa, ke mere sajdon ka armaan nikle Aa bhi jaataa, tere qadmon pe meri jaan nikle
The Wait All night, in my moist eyes you continued to sway Like my breath, you kept coming and going away I was happy, that the dream of my desires would come My shy lover, encased in a veil, eyes downcast, would come Inciting my passion with hair strewn over face, would come My impatient heart, had achieved contentment and belief A shehnai struck up, and sadness gave way to relief But soon, the stars, which had stayed awake all night, nodded off The hope of your arrival gave way to a cynic’s scoff The morning eventually woke up; a new sun had shone O morning breeze, you did come, but alas, you came alone Enchanted lover mine, who stole the sleep from my sad eyes I bowed to you, you ruled my dreams, now I’m shamed by those lies Would it, that my prayers would bear fruit, and we would meet Would it, that you’d come and I’d breathe my last at your feet.
II. Jaane Vaale Sipahi se Poochho – Ask the Departing Soldier
Makhdoom’s attitude to the war became much more positive once the Soviet Union joined it following Hitler’s infamous Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Like many leftists of that time, he saw the war now as a part of a broader struggle against imperialism, rather than a fight between two foreign powers. This poem reflects his changing sentiments.
Jaane Vaale Sipahi se Poochho Jaane vaale sipahi se poochho Vo kahaan ja raha hai? Ishq hai haasil-e zindagaani Khoon se tar hai uski javaani Hai maasoom bachpan ki yaaden Hai do roz ki nau-javaani Jaane vaale sipahi se poochho Vo kahaan ja raha hai? Kaun dukhiya hai jo gaa rahi hai? Bhookhe bachhon ko behla rahi hai Lash jalne ki bu aa rahi hai Zindagi hai ke chilla rahi hai Jaane vaale sipahi se poochho Vo kahaan ja raha hai? Kitne sehme hue hain nazaare Kaisa dar dar ke chalte hain taare Kya javaani ka khoon ho raha hai? Surkh hai aanchalon ke kinaare Jaane vaale sipahi se poochho Vo kahaan ja raha hai? Hil raha hai siyaahi ka dera Ho raha hai meri jaan savera O vatan chhod ke jaane waale Khul gaya inquilaabi pharera Jaane vaale sipahi se poochho Vo kahaan ja raha hai?
Ask the Departing Soldier Ask that departing soldier Where he is headed? A well-spent life leads to love eternal But this story’s destined to be writ in blood He harbours memories of an innocent childhood But his youth is ordained to be ephemeral Ask that departing soldier Where he is headed? Who is that sad woman who is singing? She is comforting her hungry children The air stings and reeks as a corpse burns And what of life? It is screaming Ask that departing soldier Where he is headed? Why are these vistas so fearful? Why do the stars move with such dread? Is youth being murdered here? The borders of clothing are blood red But look now, the darkness is lifting My dear, see the colour of dawn O departing soldier, hang on The revolutionary banner’s unfurling Ask that departing soldier Where he is headed?
III. Jang-e Aazadi – The War for Freedom
As with the poem above, this poem also reflects Mohiuddin’s shifting attitude toward the war. We can see his mood expand from his lyrical protests against British colonialism in his earlier days to a more vigorous support for the war effort as an international people’s struggle against imperialism, tyranny, and fascism.
Jang-e Aazadi Ye jang hai jang-e aazadi Aazadi ke parcham ke tale Hum Hind ke rehne waalon ki Mazdooron ka dehqaanon ki Aazadi ke matwaalon ki Dehkhanon ki, mazdooron ki Ye jang hai jang-e aazadi Aazadi ke parcham ke tale Saara sansaar hamaara hai Poorab, Pachhim, Uttar Dakshin Hum Afrangi, hum Amreeki Hum Cheeni jaanbaazaan-e watan Hum surkh sipaahi, zulm-shikan Aahan paikar, faulaad badan Ye jang hai jang-e aazadi Aazadi ke parcham ke tale Lo surkh savera aata hai Aazadi ka, aazadi ka Gulnaar taraana gaata hai Aazadi ka, aazadi ka Dekho parcham lehraata hai Aazadi ka, aazadi ka Ye jang hai jang-e aazadi Aazadi ke parcham ke tale
The War for Freedom This war is the war for freedom Fought under the banner of freedom The war for all Indians The labourers and the farmers The lovers of freedom The farmers and the labourers This war is the war for freedom Under the banner of freedom The whole world is ours The East and the West, the North and the South We Europeans, we Americans We Chinese soldiers of our homeland We, the red soldiers, the crushers of tyranny Torsos like the furnace, bodies like steel This war is the war for freedom Under the banner of freedom. Behold, the red dawn arrives Of freedom, of freedom It sings the flower-red song Of freedom, of freedom Look, the banner waves in the sky Of freedom, of freedom This war is the war for freedom Fought under the banner of freedom