Life in the city demands from us long rides, sitting ideally as we wait for the traffic to move, or holding the clutch ever so slightly, ready to accelerate as soon as we see any movement ahead of us.
On days that I find myself looking ahead for far too long at the endless line of cars, I simply turn right or sometimes left in the hope that I might catch a moment in passing. These moments last simply for a few brief seconds before I am on the move again.
Sharing some of these moments on this post: a mixture of happy, awkward and funny.
-The sun has just set on a busy Saturday afternoon. I look up and see the facade of a popular restaurant that is going to be bustling with activity in a few hours. Within the glass windows sit 15-20 men, all dressed in uniform, some hustling together, others enjoying chai as they laugh aloud, sharing a moment of companionship before the crowds take over. A moment of release before they are going to be on their feet again, not allowed to converse freely with each other or show any sign of familiarity on the dinner floor.
-A young girl walks with her parents into the Far East Asian restaurant where everyone is trying to eat with chopsticks. After endless chatter over the difference between dim-sums and sui-mai, the food finally arrives. As I wait for friends to arrive I look up from my screen and unfortunately catch a movement of fingers. Her mother had dropped the bright red chili sauce on her Saree and had reached with her fingers into the glass of water to soak the spot, so that the stain wouldn’t stick. In that moment the daughter eyes and mine meet across that glass. I look away as she aghast at her mother, starts a tirade of complains on how inappropriate it was for that restaurant.
-At the junction where 4 roads meet, I turn the corner and on the opposite side of the road passes a ‘rickshaw’ lit up like a Christmas tree ; which meant every inch of its insides had sparkling ‘disco’ lights and music that could be heard from 20 yards away. And inside this carnival sat the most traditionally dressed man with a white skull cap, all white kurta and a solemn looking beard, holding on for dear life. Our eyes meet for a brief second, and he gives me the brightest smile.
Ahmed Faraz talks of so many such moments in this poem and asks, “who is going to see them……., “Dekhay Ga Kon?”.
Transliteration and Translation
Ab Ke Rut Badli To Khushbu Ka Safar Dekhay Ga Kon ?
Zakham Phoolon Ki Tarah Mehkain Gain par Dekhay Ga Kon ?
This time, when the seasons change, who will witness the arrival of spring?
Wounds like flowers will bloom, but who is going to see them?
Dekhna Sab Raqs-e-Bismil Mein Magan Ho Jayein Ge
Jis Taraf Se Teer Aaye Ga Udher Dekhay Ga Kon ?
You’ll see everyone in a trance watching the wounds of an injured man,
The direction from where the arrow arrives, who will see that?
Zakham Jitnay Bhi Thay Sab Mansoob Qaatil Se Hue
Teray Haathon Ke Nishaan Ay Chaarahgar Dekhay Ga Kon ?
All the wounds will be attributed to the murderer,
The fingerprints of Your work, O messiah, who will see that?
Meri awaazon ke saaye mere baam-o-dar pe hai
Mere lavzaon main utarkar mera ghar Dekhay Ga kon?
The echoes of my voice heard on my doorstep-on my ceiling
Who will come within my house through my words and who will see my feelings?
Ham Chirag-e-shab hi jab tehre toh phir kya sochna
Raat thi kiska muqaddar aur seher Dekhay Ga kon?
If we are merely the candle that burns up the night, then why think further,
Whose fate was the night and who will see the morning?
Aa faseel-e-sheher se dekhe Ghameen-e-sheher ko
Sheher jalta ho toh tujh ko baam par Dekhay Ga kon?
Come, from the boundary wall of the city, lets look at the city’s enemies,
When the city burns, who is going to watch you atop your terrace?
Har Koi Apni Hawaa Mein Mast Phirta Hai “Faraz”
Sheher-e-Na-Pursaan Mein Teri Chashm-e-Tar Dekhay Ga Kon ?
Everybody in a trance, enjoying the breeze, O’Faraz,
The heartless city where no one cares, who is going to see your wet eyes?
(Note:This version of the poem and its translation is by Kuldip Salil, a translator and poet himself, who has translated numerous Urdu poems. This version is also slightly longer, with 14 lines, while most of them I read online have a slight variation and are just 10 lines long. I have chosen to go with Salil’s translation found in his book, “Treasury of Urdu Poetry“.)