Faiz’s Aaj Baazaar Mein – Translated and Explained

By Toronto based Poet, Anis Zuberi

Courtesy, Junaid Zuberi

Another translation of Faiz rendered by a Toronto based poet – Anis Zuberi. This is a timeless poem or nazm, aaj bazaar main pa ba jolan chalo has been translated and explained below.

Aaj bazaar main pa ba jolan chalo

aaj bazaar main pa bajolan chalo
let us walk in bazaar in shackles

Chashm-e-nam, jaan-e-shoreeda kafi nahin
wet eyes and restless soul is not enough

Tohmat-e-ishq-posheeda kafi nahin
being charged for nurturing concealed love is not enough

aaj bazaar main pa-bajolan chalo
let us walk in bazaar in shackles

Dast afshan chalo, mast-o-raqsan chalo
let us go with afshan in hand, in trance and dancing

Khak bar sar chalo, khoon badaman chalo
go with dust on head and blood on garb

Rah takta hai sub shehr-e-janaan chalo
Go as the city of my beloved is waiting

Hakim-e-shehr bhi, majma-e-aam bhi
City’s ruler and crowd of commoners

Teer-e-ilzam bhi, sang-e-dushnam bhi
arrow of false charge, stone of accusation

Subh-e-nashaad bhi, roz-e-naakaam bhi
morning of sorrow, day of failure

Unka dum-saaz apnay siwa kaun hai
who is their friend except me

Shehr-e-janaan main ab baa-sifa kaun hai
who is untainted in the city of beloved

Dast-e-qatil kay shayan raha kaun hai
who deserve the killers or executioners hand

Rakht-e-dil bandh lo, dil figaro chalo
get ready for the journey of heart, go wounded heart

Phir hameen qatl ho aain yaro chalo
let me go to be executed

In addition to vocabulary, Urdu poetry has also acquired its richness from Persian. Perhaps similarities in culture and religion also helped our poetry to absorb Persian traditions. As an example see following Persian couplet:

Mayan-e ma o zahid een qadur ber farq daa
Ke mun der ko chau bazaar o der khana me raqsadi

Translation: (The only difference between me and zahid (a pious man) is that I dance in bazaar and streets and he dances within the four walls of his home).

Here the word raqs includes all those acts that society regards as sin. However, the real beauty lies in the meaning that is beyond words. We both are sinners; the difference is that I sin openly and he (who is called pious) sins quietly. One can also say that he is admitting that he is a sinner but zahid is not only a sinner but also a hypocrite. He is saying that the world knows what he is but does not know what zahid is. No matter how you try to understand the poet is expressing a deep disdain for munafiqat and deceitfulness.

I do not know Persian but have quoted it as an example as to how Urdu poetry has borrowed depth and rich traditions from Persian. There are two words in the Persian couplet that I have quoted that Faiz’s has also used: Bazaar and raqs. Incidentally both words symbolize more or less similar meaning in Urdu as well as Persian verses.

The poem’s literal meaning is easy to appreciate. If someone does not understand a word or two then dictionary would help. However, the poem’s beauty is wrapped in a language of symbols, references, metaphors and similes. The theme of the poem is defiance as against compliance and submissiveness. There is a burning desire in a confined soul to be free of restrictions, exploitation and injustice.

In the first seven lines he is referring to love that could be a personal affair and nothing to do with the society at large. But a little reflection would reveal that the real meaning is different then superficial meaning. He is willing to face public ridicule and wrath of the powerful for his love. Wet eye and restive soul are the symbol of endurance in silence as against walking in shackles, dancing in bazaar and blood on garb is a sign of defiance. As if he can not endure to suffer in silence any more. He is sick and tired of the restraints and limits placed by the society and by those who have power; political masters, social order, age old traditions, the religious establishment and the society at large.

The poet’s path takes an obvious turn from the eighth line when he talks of the ruler and the crowd; a symbol of power, established order and manipulation of commoners by ruler or moulvi. The imagery is extremely powerful. How he is made a target of falsehood. Though he fights, he is also full of sadness because he knows that truth will not prevail. That is why he talks of morning of sorrow and of day full of grief in the tenth line.

However, he does not let his sorrow overcome the purpose he has set for himself: to fight for the dispossessed. Here it is important to keep in mind who is he referring to when he said unka in eleventh line; clearly unka includes all downtrodden, exploited and deprived. When he says who is their friend except me, he is in fact grieving that all those who could take a stand are now corrupted and he does not find a single pure soul (ba-sifa). Hence, he feels that he is left to fight against injustice. Finally he gets ready to offer the supreme sacrifice.

References to concealed love and city of beloved should not be confused with poetry of ordinary love in the traditional sense. As love is symbol of purity and a true lover can not be a hypocrite that is why he has used that symbol. His main theme is to fight against injustice and repressive forces of the society.

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