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Kaifi Azmi’s “The Son of Mary” (Part 2) Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

This week, I will go into more depth with the poem we discussed last time: “The Son of Mary” (ابنِ مریم) by renowned poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi (کیفی عظمی). In this second half of the poem, Azmi’s tone becomes progressively more intense and combative, as you’ll see in the following lines. Comment below if you liked/disliked the poem and why! Bonus points for those who attempt to parse its meaning (especially if your comment is in Urdu) 🙂

The first president of India, Jawarhalal Nehru, presiding over a poetry reading or “mushaira.” Image by Public.Resource.Org on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ابنِ مریم (Part 2)

تم یہاں کیوں کھڑے ہو مدت سے

Tum yahaan kyoon khare ho muddat se

Why do you stand here, endlessly?

یہ تمہاری تھکی تھکی بھیڑیں

Yeh tumhaari thaki thaki bheren

These are your weary sheep

رات جن کو زمیں کے سینے پر

Raat jin ko zameen ke seene par

When the morning dawns

(these two lines are switched)

صبح ہوتے اںڈیل دیتی ہے

Subah hote undhel deti hai

The night expels them onto the breast of the earth

منڈیوں، دفتروں ملوں کی طرف

Mandiyon, daftaron, milon ki taraf

Toward the markets, offices, mills

ہاںک دیتی دھکیل دیتی ہے

Haank deti dhakel deti hai

They shout, they jostle

راستے میں ہے رک نہیں سکتیں

Raaste men ye ruk nahin saktin

They could not halt on the path

توڑ کہ گھٹنے جھک نہیں سکتیں

Tor ke ghutne jhuk nahin saktin

Their broken knees could not bend

ان سے تم کیا توقّوا رکھتے ہو

Un se tum kyaa tavaqqoa rakhte ho

What faith do you have in them?

بھیڑیا ان کے ساتھ چلتا ہے

Bhediyaa un ke saath chalta hai

A wolf in sheep’s clothing* runs among them

تکتے رہتے ہو اس سڑک کی طرف

Takte rehte ho is sarak ki taraf

You remain, staring at this street

دفن جن میں کیٴ کہانیاں ہیں

Dafn jin men kai kahaaniyaan hain

In which many stories are entombed

دفن جن میں کیٴ جوانیاں ہیں

Dafn jin me kai javaaniyan hain

In which many youths are buried

جس پہ اک ساتھ بھاگی پھرتی ہیں

Jis pe ik saath bhaagi phirti hain

On which empty pockets and coffers, too

(this and the line below it are slightly switched)

خالی جیبیں بھی اور تجوریاں بھی

Khaali jeben bhi aur tijoriyaan bhi

Flee and scatter at once

جانے کس کا ہے انتظار تمہیں

Jaane kis kaa hai intezaar tumhen

God only knows* who you’re waiting for

                  ⚜                   ⚜

مجھ کو دیکھو کہ میں وہی تو ہوں

Mujh ko dekho ke main vahi to huun

Behold, for I am he

جس کو کوڑوں کی چھاوٴں میں دنیا

Jis ko kooron ki chhaaon mein duniyaa

He, whom the world, in the shadow of filth

بیچتی بھی خریدتی بھی تھی

Bechti bhi khareedti bhi thi

Bought in one breath, sold in the other

مجھ کو دیکھو کہ میں وہی تو ہوں

Mujh ko dekho ke main vahi to huun

Behold, for I am he

جس کو کھیتوں سے ایسے باںدھنا تھا

Jis ko kheton se aise baandhnaa thaa

To whom fields* were bound as if

جیسے میں ان کا اک حصہ تھا

Jaise main un kaa ik hissa thaa

I were a part of them

کھیت بکتے تو میں بھی بکتا تھا

Khet bikte to main bhi biktaa thaa

If the field was sold, I too was traded

مجھ کو دیکھو کہ میں وہی تو ہوں

Mujh ko dekho ke main vahi to huun

Behold, for I am he:

کچھ مسینیں بنایٴں جب میں نے

Kuch masheenen banaayin jab main ne

I built machines

ان مسینوں کے مالکوں نے مجھے

Un masheenon ke maalikon ne mujhe

When the masters of those machines

بے جھجک ان میں ایسے جھوںک دیا

Be jhijhak un mein aise jhonk diyaa

Threw me in to stoke the flames, without a thought

جیسے میں کچھ نہیں ہوں ایںدھن ہوں

Jaise main kuch nahin huun, indhan huun

As if I were nothing but fuel  

مجھ کو دیکھو کہ میں تھکا ہارا

Mujh ko dekho ke main thakaa haaraa

Behold, for I am weary, defeated

پھر رہا ہوں جگوں سے آوارہ

Phir rahaa huun jugon se aawaarah

I have been wandering, nomadic, for ages*

تم یہاں سے ہٹو تو آج کی رات

Tum yahaan se hato to aaj ki raat

If you leave tonight…

سو رہوں میں اسی چبوترے پر

So rahoon main isi chabootare par

I will remain, sleeping, on this platform

                  ⚜

تم یہاں سے ہٹو خدا کے لیےٴ

Tum yahaan se hato khudaa ke liye

Leave, for God’s sake

جاوٴ وہ ویتنام کے جںگل

Jaao voh Vietnam ke jangal

Go into those jungles of Vietnam*

اس کے مصلوب شہر زخمی گاوٴں  

Is ke masloob sheher, zakhmi gaav

Its crucified cities, its wounded villages

جن کو انجیل پڑھنے والوں نے

Jin ko injel parhne vaalon ne

That those bible beaters

روںد ڈالا ہے پھوںک ڈالا ہے

Raund daalaa hai phuunk daala hai

Laid to waste, set aflame

جانے کب سے پکارتے ہیں تمہیں

Jaane kab se pukaarte hain tumhen

God knows how long they have been calling out for you

جاوٴ اک بار پھر ہمارے لیےٴ

Jaao ik baar phir humaare liye

Go, once more, for us:

تم کو چڑھنا پڑےگا سولی پر Tum ko charnaa paregaa sooli par

This time, you will ascend the gallows*

Image by Exumo on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Notes:

  1. بھیڑیا/Bheriyaa: Literally, this means wolf but it can also mean “sheep-like” or “disguised as a sheep” with the implication (as in English) that this creature is seemingly harmless but, in reality, dangerous and duplicitous.
  2. جانے کس کا…/Jaane kis kaa: This phrase occurs several times throughout the poem. It is a very common phrase in Urdu that means something like “Who knows” or “I wonder.” But, in English, a colloquial variant of this is “God only knows,” which I chose to substitute each time this phrase is used in the poem as I felt the diction tied in to the poem’s message.
  3. کھیت/Khet: Usually, this word means “field,” but it can also connote the crops or harvest from that field or a farm or land in itself. In this poem, the word is a bit ambiguous in that it can mean landed property that belongs to someone and/or borders drawn between nation states, both of which are arbitrary, unnatural divisions that often result in invocations of God and bloodshed.
  4. جگ/Jug: A variant of the Sanskrit “yuga,” this phrase denotes an endless succession of epochs during which certain qualities reign supreme. Generally, in this four-stage schema of time, the yugas become progressively more negative as time wears on. For example, we are now in the “Kali Yuga,” meaning the darkest time of humanity during which suffering and scarcity can be extreme. The idea is that a messiah (a concept common to many religions) in the form of an avatar of the god Vishnu, Kalki (lit. means “Destroyer of Filth,”) will appear riding or leading a white horse with a flaming sword in hand; he will then usher in another “Satya Yuga” or Era of Truth, the time period that occurs first in this cycle.
  5. ویتنام/Vietnam: Here, Azmi refers to the American “Vietnam War.” A very controversial war then and now, Azmi draws attention to the irony between the “bible beaters'” faith, which encourages them to be kind and forgiving, and the needless bloodshed inflicted on Vietnamese citizens.
  6. سولی/Sooli: Or “gallows.” Earlier in the poem, you may remember, the narrator stated that those who are recognized as spiritual leaders in our society, without the presence of Jesus, would exist to serve humanity alone, rather than attempting to serve selfish spiritual aims aimed to curry favor in the after life. He states “after all, who ascends the gallows gladly?” If you want, you can debate what this statement means in the comments below!

Kalki, the last avatar of Vishnu; image by Sudhamshu Hebbar on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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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!