‘Nisar mein teri galiyon ke’

I bow to your streets

I bow to your streets, O my country, where
common law decrees none may raise their head.
Should one desire the grace of pilgrimage,
avoid the gaze of others, keep life and limb safe.
Gentle hearts, this is the new straight-and-narrow,
bricks and stones are in chains here, while dogs run free.

Tyranny has a thousand reasons to carry on.
Is it not enough, the steadfast few still think well of you?
Filled with hate, the rest both advocate and judge.
Who will speak for you now, to whom will you turn for justice?
But time goes on, even for those who have to abide
never-ending days and nights away from the beloved.

When the light dims beyond the skylight of my cell,
this heart is aware your forehead is bedecked with stars,
when my manacles begin to glisten, I know
that the dawn lies scattered across your face.
I live on, hemmed within the shadows of these walls,
but carry on dreaming about you, and your time outside.

It has always been our way to resist tyranny,
neither is their oppression new, nor our rebellions.
We have always made flowers bloom in fire,
neither is their defeat new, nor our victory.
No reason this, to rail against the sky,
nor will we let severance fill our hearts with bile.

If we are apart today, tomorrow we will be one.
This night of separation is nothing, this too shall pass.
What if our very adversaries celebrate victory today?
They have four days of power, which too shall pass.
Look to the steadfast few, their constancy is the cure
for every adversity, wrought by darkness and by light.


Taraana – 1

Song – 1

When we, who toil by the sweat of our brow
will ask the people of the world for our share,
we won’t be content with a farm or a country,
we’ll ask for the whole world for ourselves.

Well may you find pearls in every sea
or dig out diamonds from every peak;
all this is ours and we shall ask
for all the world and its treasury.

For blood that was spilt, for gardens laid bare,
for every song stillborn in our hearts,
for every drop, every flowering bud
for every song, we shall seek redress.

Bosses, businessmen, preening royalty,
ten lakh maybe, we are ten lakh crore.
How long will they rely on America
to shoulder the burden of their lives?

When every aisle will straighten,
when all strife will end,
we’ll demand a red star shine
bright on the flags of all nations.


Chand roz meri jaan faqat chand hi roz

A few more days, my love

A few more days, my love, only a few days more
It is our lot to live under the shadow of tyranny
To suffer this outrage, to bear this pain, to weep awhile
This legacy of our past is our cross to bear

Our bodies are confined, our emotions in shackles
Worry is a prisoner, Speech is proscribed
But there’s a courage within us that keeps us going
It’s as if our very life is an indigent’s rent garment
That needs to be patched with pain, time after time

But now these cruel times have almost run their course
This impatient longing is almost over

In this burnt desolation that is the world and its time
We have to go on, but not this way
The unbearable torment of unseen hands
Has to be endured for now, but not forever

This dust of sorrow that veils your beauty
This bounty of defeats on our fleeting youth
This worthless throbbing under moonlit nights
The futility of heartburn, the body’s unheard lament

A few more days, my love, only a few days more


Woh buton ne daaley hai waswasey

The despot’s delusions

So inured are we with the despot’s delusions
that we no longer feel any fear of god.
When catastrophe visits us every day,
what forebodings remain for the apocalypse?

With each breath the throat is raked with thorns;
every raised hand is soaked in gore;
no more the murmuration of dawn’s gentle wind;
the quiet poise of hands in prayer is gone.

No more the verdant colours of spring,
nor its soaring clouds streaking the sky;
that grace that once enthralled my friends
that very spirit of the zephyr is gone.

When we made the promise of constancy,
our loyalty itself was put to shame.
The accusers called us out publicly,
our recompense was falsehood and blame.

Now blustering winds gust relentlessly,
hold down your sails tight to the mast,
for you will perchance find tranquillity,
find the peace we had, that now is gone.




It’s like this, every tree is a temple –
a bleak, old, ruined shrine, that seeks
under the guise of its own ruination
the last breath of every failing doorway,
every roof coming apart at the seams.
The sky is a priest, who, perched on every rooftop
anoints his body with ash, his brow with sindoor.
How long has he been silent, head bowed, no one knows;
it’s as if a conjurer, secreted behind a curtain,

has pulled a vast trick over the entire firmament
linking time’s mantle to the vestments of dusk.
Now will twilight never give way to darkness,
nor the night give way to dawn?

The sky still lives in hope for this spell to break,
for fetters of quietude to unfasten, for time’s fabric to unravel
for a sacred conch to blow, for the dancer’s anklets to sing
the idols awake, for the dusky maiden to come forth,



Speak out!

Speak out!
Your words are free.
Speak up!
Your tongue is still your own.
Your body remains yours
ramrod, erect.
Speak out!
Your life is still your own.

How in your smithy’s forge
flames soar;
iron glows red.
How the locks
have opened yaws
and every chain,
unlinked, now spreads.

The short time left to you
is still enough. Speak up!
Before the body
and its tongue give out.
Speak out!
For truth still survives
Speak out!
Say whatever you have to say!


Aaj bazaar mein pa-ba joulaan chalo

Walk the market place in chains

Your monsoon eyes. Your impatient life
is not enough.
The allegation of love suppressed
is not enough.
Today, you must walk the market place
in chains.

with palms open before you.
with your head caked in dust.
with shirtsleeves seeped in blood.
in frenzied throes of ecstasy!
Walk on,
the beloved city yearns for you.

The keeper of the city,
the common rabble,
finger-pointing barbs,
hurled stones of abuse,
the first light of frustration,
the failed day-

who else remains
their soul mate? Only us.
in your beloved city is without sin?
Who commands
the right to handle the executioner’s axe?

O wounded heart,
get your things together
and walk on!
Walk on, friends!
We’ll meet our end
soon enough.


Hum Dekhenge

We Shall See

Inevitably, we shall also see the day
that was promised to us, decreed
on the tablet of eternity.

When dark peaks of torment and tyranny
will be blown away like cotton fluff;

When the earth’s beating, beating heart
will pulsate beneath our broken feet;

When crackling, crashing lightning
will smite the heads of our tormentors;

When, from the seat of the almighty
every pedestal will lie displaced;

Then, the dispossessed we; we,
who kept the faith will be installed
to our inalienable legacy.
Every crown will be flung.
Each throne brought down.

Only his name will remain; he,
who is both unseen, and ubiquitous; he,
who is both the vision and the beholder.

When the clarion call of ‘I am Truth’
(the truth that is me and the truth that is you)
will ring out, all god’s creatures will rule,
those like me and those like you.


All translations by Mustansir Dalvi. Read more of his translations of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry here.