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Kaifi Azmi’s “The Son of Mary”/”کیفی اعظمی کی “ابنِ مریم Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Urdu language

This week, let’s return to another of the unforgettable poet and lyricist, Kaifi Azmi’s, poems. Similar to “Daera/The Circle” (دائره), Azmi uses his knowledge of diverse belief systems and cultures to enrich his verse and complicate his philosophical stance. This quality of Azmi’s poetry, in addition to his seemingly simple, yet at times abstruse and complex verse, makes this poet stand out amongst writers the world over. In this particular poem, notice Azmi’s at times irregular and seemingly casual syntax, his use of repetition and lists and bare yet meticulous and enigmatic verse that is rife with double meanings.

Kaifi Azmi is pictured front, second from the left. Image by Bpldxb on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Son of Mary

ابنِ مریم

Urdu Text

Roman Transliteration

English Translation

تم خدا ہو

Tum khudaa ho

You are God

خدا کے بیٹے ہو

Khudaa ke bete ho

You are the son of God

یا فقط امن کے پیمبر ہو

Ya faqat aman ke payambar ho

Or perhaps you are simply a messenger (prophet)* of peace

یا کسی کا حسیں تخیل ہو

Ya kisee ka haseen takhayyul ho

Or the beautiful figment of someone’s imagination

جو بھی ہو مجھ کو اچھے لگتے ہو

Jo bhi ho mujh ko acche lagte ho

Whatever you are, I like you

مجھ کو سچے لگتے ہو

Mujh ko sacche lagte ho You seem true to me

اس ستارے میں جس میں صدیوں کے

Us sitaare me jis me sadiyon ke On that star where, for centuries…

جھوٹ اور کذب کا اںدھیرا ہے

Jhoot aur kizb kaa andheraa hai The darkness of lies and deceit has endured

اس ستارے میں جس کو ہر رخ سے

Us sitaare me jis ko har rukh se On that star, where

ریںگتی سرحدوں نے گھیرا ہے

Rengti sarhadon ne gheraa hai Slithering borders have encroached in every direction

اس ستارے میں جس کی آبادی

Us sitaare me jis ki aabaadi On that star, whose people

امن بوتی ہے جنگ کاٹتی ہے

Aman boti hai jang kaatti hai Sow peace and reap war

رات پیتی ہے نور مکھڈوں کا

Raat peetee hai noor mukhdon ka The night imbibes radiant facades

صبح سینوں کا خون چاٹتی ہے

Subah seenon kaa khoon chaatati hai And the morning laps the blood of wounded breasts

تم نہ ہوتے تو جانے کیا ہوتا

Tum na hote to jaane kyaa hotaa If it weren’t for you, who knows what would be

تم نہ ہوتے تو اس ستارے میں

Tum na hote to us sitaare me If it weren’t for you, then, on that star…

دیوتا راکشش غلام امام

Devtaa, raakhshash, ghulaam, imam Gods, demons, slaves, holy men*

پارسا رںد راہ بر رہزن

Paarsaa, rind, raah-bar, rehzan Saints, drunkards, guides, thieves

برہمن شیخ پادری بھکشو

Barhaman, shaikh, paadri, bhikshoo Brahmins, preachers, monks, priests

سبھی ہوتے مگر  ہمارے لئے

Sabhi hote magar humaare liye All would be, but for us

کون چڈھتا خوشی سے سولی پر

Kaun charhtaa khooshi se sooli par After all, who ascends the gallows gladly?

(line break) 

جھوںپڈوں میں گھرا یہ ویرانہ

Jhonpadon me ghiraa ye veeraanaa This wasteland, encircled by huts

مچھلیاں دن میں سوکھتی ہیں جہاں

Machhliyaan din me sookhti hain jahaan Where cats sit far away

بلّیاں دور بیٹی رہتی ہیں

Billiyan door baithi rehti hain Fish shrivel in the sun (this and line above it are switched)

اور خارش_زدہ سے کچھ کتّے

Aur khaarish-zadaa se kuch kutte And dogs, plagued by mange,

لیٹے رہتے ہیں بے_نیازانہ

Lete rahte hain be-niyaazaana Lie about, indifferent,

دم مروڑے کہ کویٴ سر کچلے

Dum marode ki koi sar kuchle Tails twisted, tempting fate to crush their skulls

کاٹنا کیا وہ بھوںکتے بھی نہیں

Katnaa kyaa voh bhunkte bhi nahin Why bite–when they don’t even bark

(line break) 

اور جب وہ دہکتا انگارہ

Aur jab voh dehektaa angaara And when that burning ember

چھن سے ساگر میں ڈوب جاتا ہے

Chhan se saagar me doob jaataa hai Drowns in the ocean with a hiss

تیرگی اوڈھ لیتی ہے دنیا

Teergi ordh leti hai duniya Darkness envelops the world

کشتیاں کچھ کنارے آتی ہیں

Kashtiyaan kuch kinaare aati hain Boats travel to certain shores

بھنگ گاںجا چرس شراب افیون

Bhang, gaanjaa, charas, sharaab, afyoon Opium, marijuana, hemp, alcohol*

جو بھی لایںٴ جہاں سے بھی لایںٴ

Jo bhi laayen, jahaan se bhi laayen Whatever they bring, wherever they bring it from

دوڑتے ہیں ادھر سے کچھ ساےٴ

Daurhte hain idhar se kuch saayen Shadows run from here

اور سب کچھ اتار لاتے ہیں

Aur sab kuch utaar laate hain And set everything down

گاڑی جاتی ہے عدل کی میزان

Gaadi jaati hai adl ki meezaan  Machines drive the balance of justice

جس کا حصہ اسی کو ملتا ہے

Jis kaa hissa usi ko miltaa hai Each shall receive his rightful share

یہاں خطرہ نہیں خیانت کا

Yahaan khatra nahin khayaanat kaa Thus, there is no danger of dishonesty

Image by Theonlysilentbob on Wikimedia Commons; public domain (no license).

*”Payambar/پیمبر” can mean both “messenger” and “prophet” (as in a title of Muhammad, the prophet of Allah). In some ways, the two terms overlap in that Muhammad, the prophet, was a messenger of God in the sense that he reported his visions of Allah to people unaware of him and thus initiated the religion of Islam. Here, of course, Azmi is referring to the “son of Mary” or Jesus, who is also considered a prophet and a messenger sent from God, his father.

*”Imaam/امام” is a bit difficult to translate into English without just keeping the original Arabic. This is a term for a religious leader and priest of a mosque.

*The terms for different types of drugs here do not all have tidy English equivalents. “Bhang/بھنگ” is a term for hemp that is often made into a drink from the plant’s leaves. “Charas/چرس” is a resinous concoction made from hemp or cannabis, “Ganja/گاںجا” refers to hemp leaves and their preparation when smoked and “Afyoon/افیون” refers to opium.

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About the Author: Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/السلام علیکم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!