Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Of Oppressors, and The Oppressed

This was posted on another blog on Monday, April 14, 2003, at 4:01 PM, soon after the start of the Iraq War. The report it refers to was one by Robert Fisk (or was it Christopher Hitchens) about the destruction of historical documents. I still haven't been able to contact Gauhar Raza:

Of Oppressors, and The Oppressed

Someone on a South Asian e-mail list requested a translation of a poetic piece in Urdu apparently by Indian Activist, Poet, and Engineering researcher Gauhar Raza obviously anti-the first war of the 21st Century to come to Baghdad, a city that has seen a multitude of wars over the centuries.

I personally cannot seem to formulate a clear position mentally against the "War in/on Iraq", but a news report had caught my ear just hours before that had me, for the first time, smacking my head in exasperation. And I started the following as an idiomatic translation. It seems to have taken a poetic life of its own.

Understanding this poetic piece independent of the idiom, metaphor and poetic traditions based on the events that give the town of Karbala in southern Iraq its significance to world and, particularly, Muslim history would be, at best, cursory and at worst misguided. Much has been said about the Shias and how their oppression by the erstwhile ruling clique in Baghdad as being one of the "reasons" for this war. The poetic piece below is an ironic--to use the "Western" Media's word--indication of how much more complicated the whole issue is. To say anything more requires a much more detailed--and preferably much more interactive discussion--than I am not qualifed to lead. (The requested byline for the translation hints at why.)

And if an attribution is to be made for the translation, please note the lines below Gauhar Raza's signature.

Now on to the translation:

Even'o'the Oppressed

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before
Fauj ke silsile aur tabl-o-alam
Successions of Armies; the Drums and the Banners of War
Lashkaron ki safen, azm kay qafilay
Ranks of Legions; Caravans of Resolve
Jan lenay ka dar, jan denay ki dhun
The fear of taking a life; the rapture of giving one's own
Puri dunyan pe qabze ka tha ek nasha
World Domination was a drug in its own
Taj ki, takht ki bhook thi ek taraf
On one side there was the hunger for crown and for throne
Aur yaheen thay woh sab,
And here were the rest
Sar pe bandhay kafan
Bedecked in their shrouds
Jo usulon pay mitnay ko thayyar thay
Ready to be martyred for principle
Is jagha zulm ki hadh muqarrar hui
It was here that the bounds of oppression were set
Aur shahadat kay paimanay banchay gayay
And vessels of martyrdom were wrought all anew
Yeh wahee reith hai, yeh wahee dhool hai
This is the same sand; the same dust
Nainawa hai wahi, karbala hai wahee
The same Nineveh; this Karbala is the same
Teer bhi, sang bhi, bediyan bhi wahee
The arrows as well, stones too; the same ball and chain
Ham ne pehlay bhi parkhay hain zalim yahan
Here we have tested oppressors before
Ham ne pehlay bhi dekhay hain naizon pe sar
We have seen here, before, heads on spears
Khoon-e-nahaq ki khushboo hai ab tak yahan
Murder most foul is still in the air
Is ko pahchan lo,
See them; learn them; know them well

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before

Jeet kar jang pehlay bhi haray thay thum
You have won the war but lost before
Jeet kar jang phir haar ja'o gay thum
You will win the battle and lose, again
Aur tareekh apnay ko dohra'eygee
And history, indeed, will repeat itself
Qatilo is say pehlay bhi aisa hua
(Oh) Murders, this has all happened before
Qatl ho kar bhi bazee hamari rahee
Murdered, we have carried the day before

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before

(Iraq ke awam ke naam, jinhon ne tisree dunyan ke awam ki laj rakh lee)
(To the People of Iraq, who have kept the honour of the people of the Third World)

Gauhar Raza

The translation is dedicated to the barbarity of war, fought under any rules: http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=25219
Aurangzaib Ansari


Anonymous said...

contact gauhar raza at: gauhar_raza@yahoo.com

iFaqeer said...

Finally made contact with Gauhar Raza Saahab. It was gratifying to know that he thought well of the translation. Here's his comment on the poem itself:

"Though I would like the poem to be dead and irrelevant as soon as possible but since the world is not going to be peaceful in near future therefore I suppose it has some use."

Anonymous said...

An outstanding and true poem, filled with the irony and horror of war, and repeating history when its lessons are not learned.

Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to translate it, and contacting Mr. Raza.

Ya Haqq!

Unknown said...

amazing poem. and unfortunately, all too true.