Thursday, August 16, 2007

Faiz on Freedom

This one comes from Pranav Jani over at ScarletGuju. He writes:

“Subh-e Azad” (“Dawn of Freedom”) by the brilliant Urdu Marxist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, best expresses to me the sense of tragedy and possibility of 1947 for ordinary people caught in the worldwind of historical events: an independence brokered through ethnic cleansing, refugee crisis, communalism, rape, and horrors of partition.

An excellent counterpoint–ideologically and symbolically–to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous “Tryst With Destiny” speech, “Subh-e Azad” reminds us, on this 60th anniversary of Indian/Pakistani independence, that while we all must keep seeking the “dawn of freedom,” today’s South Asian dawn for nuclear testers and global corporations, for car-owners and the wealthy with their bloated bank accounts while farmers commit suicides and poverty rates rise–this is not really what freedom was supposed to be about.
But pay attention to the last line: this is not just about despair…

“Dawn of Freedom” (August 1947)

–Faiz Ahmed Faiz,
translated from the Urdu by Agha Shahid Ali

These tarnished rays, this night-smudged light–
This is not that Dawn for which, ravished with freedom,
we had set out in sheer longing,
so sure that somewhere in its desert the sky harbored
a final haven for the stars, and we would find it.
We had no doubt that night’s vagrant wave would stray towards the shore
that the heart rocked with sorrow would at last reach its port.
Friends, our blood shaped its own mysterious roads.
When hands tugged at our sleeves, enticing us to stay,
and from wonderous chambers Sirens cried out
with their beguiling arms, with their bare bodies,
our eyes remained fixed on that beckoning dawn,
forever vivid in her muslins of transparent light.
Our blood was young–what could hold us back?
Now listen to the terrible rampant lie:
Light has forever been severed from the Dark;
our feet, it is heard, are now one with their goal.
See our leaders polish their manner clean of our suffering:
Indeed, we must confess only to bliss;
we must surrender any utterance for the Beloved–all yearning is outlawed.
But the heart, the eye, the yet deeper heart–
Still ablaze for the Beloved, their turmoil shines.
In the lantern by the road the flame is stalled for news:
Did the morning breeze ever come? Where has it gone?
Night weighs us down; it still weighs us down.
Friends, come away from this false light.
Come, we must search for that promised Dawn.


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