‘Ek Chameli Ke Mandve Tale’ by Makhdoom Mohiuddin (1908-1969)


Somewhere, under the jasmine’s shade,
Not far from the village tavern,
There lie the remains of two souls,
Who by the fire of love did burn.

It is said they lived by the word of love,
Love’s the flame that lit their pyre
Love their deity; love their god
Two souls, consumed by love’s fire

Bathed in slivers of the moon,
Drenched in the velvet morning dew
They bloom there like the prettiest roses
That at dawn blossom anew

The cool and gentle morning breeze
That passes the arbor each day
Gives pause at the jasmine tree
Where those doomed lovers stay.

You can see them there by day and by night
From the temple dome and the masjid spire
You can see them by darkness and by light
And from the taverns of the shire;
Always there, forever in view
Under the jasmine tree, the lovers two.

Tell me then, o healer of pains,
Is there anything in that satchel of yours?
Is there a cure for the afflictions they suffered?
Is there a potion for the ills they bore?

By love they lived, by love they died
Love the only master they obeyed
Love the only truth they knew
These two souls, that lie under the jasmine’s shade.



Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s poems are like brooks of silver: smooth, sublime, glistening and precious. This is a translation (or rather an interpretation) of a poem he wrote when he came across a nondescript grave of two lovers, who were murdered because they were from different classes of their society.

The ‘healer of pains’, as I understand it, is God, whom Makhdoom reproaches on behalf of the two lovers, declaring that nothing anyone can do would make restitution for what they suffered.

Since it’s very difficult to carry the form of the ghazal over to the translation, I have taken an extra liberty with the last stanza so that the structure of the poem coheres better.


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