Sunday 29 March 2009

Pakistani poets in struggle for democracy - II: English translation of some of Habib Jalib's poems

In my hand I hold a pen,
in my heart the light of consciousness.
How can your forces of oppression
ever win?

In response to my last post about Habib Jalib I was asked if there were any translations of his poetry available in English. Here is a small representative selection of English translations of his work.

I copy below a translation of one of his most mutinous (according to ruling dictators of the time in Pakistan) poems "Dastoor" also famous as "Main Nahin Maanta" - literally "I refuse to accept". You can also watch the great man reciting the poem in this video

I refuse to Accept

The light which shines only in palaces
Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strength from others’ weakness
That kind of system,
like dawn without light
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

I am not afraid of execution,
Tell the world that I am the martyr
How can you frighten me with prison walls?
This overhanging doom,
this night of ignorance,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

“Flowers are budding on branches”, that’s what you say,
“Every cup overflows”, that’s what you say,
“Wounds are healing themselves”, that’s what you say,
These bare-faces lies,
this insult to the intelligence,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept

For centuries you have all stolen our peace of mind
But your power over us is coming to an end
Why do you pretend you can cure pain?
Even if some claim that you’ve healed them,
I refuse to acknowledge,
I refuse to accept.

Translation of another example of his revolutionary poems used sometimes very effectively by media during the struggle for democracy under General Musharaf's dictatorship is produced below. This video is an example of how media used his poetry for political messaging.

So I said this to him…

So I said this to him:
“Your 100 million people,
are ignorance personified,
Their minds have gone to sleep,
And every ray of hope,
Has been lost in the darkness,
It is completely true,
They are the living dead,
Completely unaware,
A disease of life itself,
And YOU hold in YOUR hands,
The cure for all their ills”

So I said this to him:
“You are the light of God,
Wisdom personified,
The Nation is with you,
And it is only through YOUR grace,
That the nation can be saved,
You are our morning bright,
After you there is only night,
The few who dare speak out,
Are simply mischied-makers,
You should tear out their tongues,
And throttle them on sight!”

So I said this to him:
“Those eloquent with pride,
Their tongues are silent now,
There is calm now in our land,
Oh what a difference there is!,
between today and yesterday,
People are in prison today,
At their very own expense”

So I said this to him:
“China is our friend,
We’d give our lives for her,
BUT the system that they have,
Let’s steer well clear of that,
From far off say ‘Salaam’,
The hundred million asses,
referred to as ‘the masses’,
How could they become rulers!,
Of this there is no doubt,
And my only prayer now is,
That you’ll always be our boss”

There are some more English translations of Jalib's poetry available at this site.

1 comment: