Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A voice silenced, A voice found

Iqbal Bano died on 21st. There's very little I know about her, except that she had a voice with magic in it. Magic that could incite an entire country to revolt against oppression. A voice that brought Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poetry to vivid life. A voice that will haunt me forever.

Here's a video of her singing Hum Dekhenge, though it is not the same performance which nearly overthrew the regime of Zia-ul-Haq in 1985 (wish it did!):


For the Urdu verses and translation, click here. Though Faiz was a Communist, this poem reminds the listener about the promise Islam makes to its followers - that oppression will be overthrown and the righteous will get justice - a dream also shared by Communists.

And here's another of her singing Faiz's incredibly romantic Dasht-e-tanhai:


Man, I could never write so touching a ghazal like this:-

dasht-e-tanhaai mein, ai jaan-e-jahaan, larzaan hain
In the desert of my solitude, oh love of my life, quiver
teri avaaz ke saaye,
the shadows of your voice,
tere honthon ke saraab
the mirage of your lips

dasht-e-tanhaai mein,
In the desert of my solitude,
duri ke khas-o-khaak tale
beneath the dust and ashes of distance
khil rahe hain tere pehlu ke saman aur gulaab
bloom the jasmines and roses of your proximity

uht rahi hai kahin qurbat se
From somewhere very close,
teri saans ki aanch
rises the warmth of your breath
apani khushbuu mein sulagti hui
smouldering in its own aroma,
maddham maddham
slowly, bit by bit.

dur ufaq par chamakati hui
far away, across the horizon, glistens
qatra qatra
drop by drop
gir rahi hai teri dil daar nazar ki shabnam
the falling dew of your beguiling glance

is qadar pyaar se hai jaan-e jahaan rakkhaa hai
With such tenderness, O love of my life,
dil ke rukhsaar pe
on the cheek of my heart,
is vaqt teri yaad ne haath
has your memory placed its hand right now

yun guman hota hai
that it looks as if
garche hai abhi subah-e-firaaq
(though it's still the dawn of adieu)
dhal gaya hijr ka din
the sun of separation has set
aa bhi gaye vasl ki raat
and the night of union has arrived.

Translated by Ayesha Kaljuvee

And here she sings Daagh-e-dil, again by Faiz:


Daag-e-dil humko yaad aane lage
Log apne diye jalane lage


my heart started recalling the burnt marks on the heart
people started lighting candles from there

Khud farebi si khud farebi hai
Paas se dhol bhi suhane lage


self-delusion is rather like self-delusion
ear-splitting drums seem fascinating from near

Ab toh hota hai har qadam pe gumaan
Hum ye kaisa qadam utha ne lage


now I keep realizing at every single step
what sort of steps I have been taking now...

Kuch na pakar bhi mutmain hain
Ishq mein haath kya khazane lage


without possessing anything I am so fulfilled
but then in love what treasures I have found

Ek pal mein wahan se hum uthey
Baithne mein jahan zamane lage

it took me only a moment to get up and leave
from the place where it had taken ages to settle down into...

Apni qismat se hai maqar kisko
Teer par aa ke bhi nishane lage

who can change his own destiny
at times targets come and hit the arrow

Daag-e-dil humko yaad aane lage
Log apne diye jalane lage.


my heart started recalling the burnt marks on the heart
people started lighting candles from there

Translated by Max Babi

But music never dies. In another place, another culture, another voice emerges. She is already a phenomenon, rising from humiliation to uncontested supremacy as a singer without par - Susan Boyle. Voices like these do reassure that talent contests can sometimes work. But don't compare, they are very different cultures, and demand different voices.

Fairytales like hers do remind us that hope is never lost completely, that it will emerge somewhere, sometime.

You can hear her sing here.

But Iqbal Bano, you will never sing my ghazals, and that is mine to lose.

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