‘Jab Mein Tha Tab Hari Nahin’ – Kabir (1440 – 1518)

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Where I lives, there Hari cannot be
Where Hari is, there is no me
And so fled the obscuring night
When I at last perceived this light
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Jab Mein Tha Tab Hari Nahin, Jab Hari Hai Mein Nahin
(when I was then hari [is] not, when hari is I [am] not)
Sab Andhiyara Mit Gaya, Jab Deepak Dekhya Mahin
(all darkness erased was, when [this] light saw I)
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Hari (one of the names of Vishnu) is synonymous for the divine; god; truth. According to Kabir, the ego (I, me) is the main obstacle in the pursuit of spiritual truth.
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A popular Kashmiri saying

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Winter will flee, snow will melt
Again will spring make its presence felt
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Wande tzale. Sheen gali. Beyi yi bahaar.
(winter [will] flee, Snow [will] melt, Again [will] come spring)
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Kashmiri people use this to express optimism in hardships and adversity – The metaphor of winter has a melancholic and intimate resonance for Kashmiris because this harsh season, at its peak, is relentless and can seem unending, while spring feels like a nostalgic memory.
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‘Ala Hadihil Ard (On This Land)’ – Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008)

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This land, this blessed earth
This land that holds life’s meaning within its girth

April’s delay
The aroma of bread at break of day

The talismans women tie on their men
The words from Aeschylus’ pen

Love’s seed sown
Moss growing on a stone

Mothers hanging on a flute’s thread
And memories that invaders dread

This land holds it all within its girth

September’s tail
A lady leaving forty and her apricots in her graceful trail

Sunbeams peering into the prison cell
Swarms mirrored within a cloud’s swell

Approbation for those facing the end with cheer
And songs of which tyrants despair

This land contains it all within its girth

This mistress of lands upon this Earth
From which descend
Each beginning and end

Ere known as Palestine
And forevermore…Palestine…

And my lady, Because of you
I am entitled to life too

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Darwish is probably Palestine’s foremost poet. His poetry describes the anguish of dispossession and loss, while his words serve as testimony to the yearnings of Palestinians everywhere. I helped my partner (who speaks Arabic fluently) translate this – Darwish’s most famous poem – for a performance she was enacting. My knowledge of Arabic being rudimentary (although not non-existent), made me rely on her heavily whilst translating it.

I intend this to be a close interpretation rather than a translation. 

I hope I did it justice.

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‘Waesi Kaar Mushkil Bar Goeb Goem’ – Samad Mir (1894?-1959)

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The wearisome toils, burdens too heavy to move
The rosy glow now turned a murky hue
O friend, all this I’ve had to bear through
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Waesi Kaar Mushkil Baar Goeb Goem, Veatrawwun Peyoom
(friend/confidant work hard burden heavy became, endure/tolerate had to)
Gulaleh Panas Kaleh Rang Goem, Veatrawwun Peyoom.
(red/ruddy self black colour became, endure/tolerate had to)
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His first poetic expression, Samad Mir wrote this when he was around 30 years old; he had been a labourer since his early youth, and had lived a difficult and arduous life. In 1925, while working on the construction of the Maharaja’s palace in Srinagar, he met Khaliq Najar, who was to be his spiritual mentor, and under whose guidance he wrote an abundance of poetry. These verses reflect both the spiritual and physical hardships he was enduring around this time, and can be read either way.
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‘Padh Padh Ke Gaya Pather’ – Samad Mir (1894?-1959)

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Too much study has turned you to stone
And scholarly writing has dulled your mind
The only study that makes the lord known
Is altogether of a different kind
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padh padh ke gaya pather, likh likh ke gaya chore
(reading reading [you] became stone, writing writing [you]became fool)
jis padne se sahib miley, wo padna hai aur
(that reading [which] lord meet, that reading is different)
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Samad Mir said this in a mushaira – a gathering in which poets recite their poetry – organised by the then government. He, being academically illiterate, was subjected to condescending sneers by some of the people gathered there, so when it was his turn to speak, he began his performance with this couplet. Now no one remembers the other ’learned’ people at the gathering, but everyone knows and remembers Samad Mir and his words.

These verses are in coarse Udru using Kashmiri syntax, it is obvious to the ear that the writer is not formally educated and has constructed the sentences using intuition. However, that adds to the charm of the couplet and the profundity of it.

Sahib means ‘lord/sir’ and can be understood as God or Truth. Chore is a Kashmiri word meaning a fool; Samad Mir could also have meant chor, which in Urdu means a thief; I prefer the former interpretation because it adds to the rawness of Mir’s attempt at a language he didn’t know.
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