When I am alone and no one is near
I look beside me and find you there
Tum mere paas hote ho goya (you me with are as if)
Jab koi dusra nahi hota (when someone other not is)
Momin Khan Momin’s best known verse.
Ghalib was so impressed by this distich that he averred he would gladly exchange his entire oeuvre for it. Its beauty comes from the simplicity and exactness of the words, its matchless lyrical flow and the subtle nuance it conveys. Like a masterful Haiku, it is economical yet pregnant with meaning.
The deceptive simplicity of these verses make them incredibly difficult to translate. Not unlike Shakespeare’s ‘to be or not to be’, these are simple words arranged to convey most fundamental and weighty matters.
There is ambiguity in the poem, it can be read in multiple ways, traversing both the mental and the physical. I interpret Momin’s poem as the speaker reassured by his/her beloved’s palpable spiritual presence in times of deepest private solitudes.
I have attempted to translate this before too as: ‘Still, in my quiet solitude/You are there beside me’