Translation: Hum daikhain gay

Posted on June 24, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, Pakistanis Abroad, People, Poetry, Urdu
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Adil Najam

The very first blogpost on ATP was the video tribute to Pakistan I had made using Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s classic poem ‘hum daikhain gay...’ This was not just blatant self-projection — although it was that too. It was an expression of my hopes and concerns, an acknowledgement of my gratitude to Faiz’s poetry, and in many ways a ‘statement of purpose’ for this blog.

A number of people have asked me to post an English translation of the poem ‘hum daikhain gay...’ There are, of course, many available translations of this classic work. But I wanted to share a new one with you. This is by Maniza Naqvi and I find this particularly powerful because it is simple and true to the original words and yet is able to also convey the intensity of poem’s intent. Translating poetry is never easy. Here is a good example of how it should be done.

We shall see/certainly we, too, will see/
that day that has been promised us

When these high mountains
Of tyranny and oppression/ turn to fluff
And evaporate

And we oppressed
Beneath our feet will have
this earth shiver, shake and beat
And heads of rulers will be struck
With crackling lightening and
thunders roar.

When from this God’s earth’s (Kaa’ba)
All falseness (icons) will be removed
Then we, of clean hearts–condemned by zealots those keepers of faith,
We, will be invited to that altar to sit and Govern–
When crowns will be thrown off–and over turned will be thrones

We shall see/certainly we, too, will see
that day that has been promised us

Then God’s name will remain (Allah will remain)
Who is invisible and visible too
Who is the seer and and is seen
Then will rise one cheer———I am God!
Who I am too
And so are you
Then the masses (Khalq e Kuda) people of God will rule.
Who I am too
and so are you
Then will rise one cheer———I am God!
Who I am too
And so are you

(Translation by Maniza Naqvi)

You will find much written on Maniza on the web–for example, here, here and here. She works at the World Bank, lives in Washington, DC, and is an active intellectual whose works include (apart from others) Mass Transit (a novel based in Karachi about the emotional consequences of mass migration and “an immigrant population which never really assimilates”) and On Air (another novel where the plot unfolds over a six-hour period in which the main character, Naz, tells stories to listeners and callers over the radio on a late night talk show slot that she has been offered to fill for just one night).

In reviewing ‘On Air’, Asif Farrukhi, writes:

Post-nuclear Pakistan is a medley of voices–the enigmatic female host of a phone-in talk show discovers as opinions abound, pizza, hijab, recipes which are a part of culture and not sectarianism, come together in a compelling narrative… A welcome addition to the stunted list of Pakistan’s writers in English, Maniza Naqvi is a name to look out for.

24 Comments on “Translation: Hum daikhain gay”

  1. sepoy says:
    June 24th, 2006 9:56 pm

    Translating Faiz is not easy, as I found a few times. I offer mytranslation of Hum Dekhein Gey from a while ago.

  2. bzuberi says:
    June 25th, 2006 11:01 am

    I don’t know about Faiz being a fashion statement, but I certainly discovered Faiz when I was least conscious about the fashions statements of the intellectual elite. I was reading this to prepare for an elocution contest in high school, and cannot forget the power I felt when I read “Jab yeh dharti dhar dhar dharkey gee”. These were the times when Karachi was practically under seige of the Pakistan army, and the MQM internal conflicts had run amok to take my city to the brink of a civil war.

    I am waiting, with hope, for the day when “Raaj karey gee khalq-e-ekhuda…Jo mein bhee hoon or tum bhee ho”. Not a revolution, but a gentle realization that will one day leave me satisfied about the political future of Pakistan.

  3. June 25th, 2006 12:18 pm

    Folks, if you have not already, I would highly recommend that you read the wonderful translation offered by Sepoy. And not just a translation but also the thought-provoking and insightful discussion on that post.

    By the way, Chapati Mystery is one of the most intellectually stimulating blogs that I read regularly. It is not on Pakistan per se–its scope is much broader. But I always think that the way it is written is very Pakistani (read it and you will see what I mean)… the only problem is that it is addictive.

    I am trying (unsuccessfully) to get in touch with Sepoy to see if we can turn that post and discussion (which is from 2004) into a post here at ATP. It is a discussion worth having. But let me take the liberty to quote briefly from it to give you a flavor.

    Sepoy: “I discovered Faiz Ahmed Faiz when I was a senior in high school (FSc for those that know). My mother warned me specifically not to touch some authors as they were godless communists or had mature content. Faiz was one of them (Manto and Faraz the others). I bought Dast-e Saba (Wind’s Palm) at a roadside vendor near Anarkali and secreted it inside my textbooks. I read it over the next nights and afternoons when amma was not looking. It is hard, even now, to say how deeply that slender volume of poems impacted me…”

    Aamir: “… I think Faiz, like anything else has recently been turned into pop, cliché or trend…..whatever you call it….i mean something which would make your feet dance but never get to your heart. Have you never seen his picture in Syed Noor’s room? Now he is the poet of Musharaf, Nirma and Mushahid(karachi university)………..and me.”

    That should whet your appetite…. and, as always happens, the discussion is not just on Faiz… it is on much more… Manto, Faraz, more….

    (P.S…. I know this comment has become a post in itself… but that is how inspiring I found the discussion on Chapati Mystery

  4. sepoy says:
    June 25th, 2006 3:39 pm

    thx for the kind words, najam sahib.

  5. Khalid_s says:
    June 28th, 2006 12:26 pm

    This is a really powerful translation. Sometimes translators try to put in too much of ‘themselves’ into the translation and try to ‘interpret’ teh original through the translation. This one does not do this. Thx for putting this here. Please put more translations of Faiz sahib, and of others.

  6. Khalid_s says:
    June 29th, 2006 2:22 am

    I don’t think there is any anger in Faiz. There is resolve. There is determnation. And there is hope. I think the magic of Faiz is his hope. Despite everything that happened to him and to the nation, he never gives up hope. There is always the promise of the better tomorrow…. ‘Hum daikhain gay’

    By the way, that is what I like best about Prof. Najam’s video on this poem. Despite the fact that for most of it one sees depressing images, at the end one come out with hope, not despair.

  7. iFaqeer says:
    June 29th, 2006 6:39 pm

    That really is one of the best translations I have seen of a piece of Urdu poetry.

  8. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    July 23rd, 2006 4:02 am

    Dont you guys think we really miss FAIZ like poet now and we really neeed him?
    Why ahmed Faraz compromised with situation.Its really filthy feeling for me.:(

  9. MSK says:
    July 23rd, 2006 12:05 pm

    Adnan, don’t give up on faraz that easily. in today’s newspaper he is returning honors given to him by govt:

    ISLAMABAD: Noted poet Ahmad Faraz has returned a prestigious award conferred on him by the government, in response to what he called “denial of basic rights to the people of Pakistan and shedding of their blood”. In a letter issued to the media on Saturday, Faraz expressed grave disappointment over the current state of affairs, holding the government of President Pervez Musharraf squarely responsible.

    He said: “The government of Pakistan awarded me Hilal-i-Imtiaz (civil) in the field of literature for the year 2004. The conferment of an award like the Hilal-i-Imtiaz is a great honour for any man of letter has always deemed it as such.

    “However, I have also been concerned that this honour had been shown to me by regime that had denied the people their basic democratic rights. In accepting the award I had hoped that as promised the democratic rights of people would soon be restored,” Faraz observed.

  10. BD says:
    August 9th, 2006 4:51 pm

    This song is timeless and transnational. It’s so damn inspiring!

  11. Matador says:
    September 8th, 2006 2:40 pm

    It is said that poetry cannot be translated. In fact its translation is a new creation in itself. Faiz is not easy to be translated due to his difficult diction.Nevertheless it was a good effort. I have attempted at translating the selected poems/ghazals of Sahir Ludhianvi, Faiz and Perveen Shakir which I intend to get published in due course of time. I would like to post a couple of these to get the feel and the feed back.

  12. Nasir says:
    October 3rd, 2006 12:46 am

    I woudl request you to include more on poetry and translations. Also, when possible please also incldue in roman english. Thank you.

  13. Hammad says:
    October 3rd, 2006 12:59 pm

    This poem has become an emblem of Faiz’s work. It is probably not his best poem but it is one that pulls the strings of our heart bc it is so apt for todays conditions.

  14. Ibrahim says:
    November 25th, 2006 10:33 pm

    all comments support the poet and the poetry. what did people think? that there won’t be a dissenting opinion on this? i’ll oblige!

    if i don’t know any better, i would say that the nazm is borderline blasphemous towards the end {last five/six misray (sentences)}…when the entity and attributes of Allah should be extremely clear Faiz makes a hodgepodge of them…remember, Faiz was a leftist/communist and it comes out in his poetry…no wonder so many people hated and still hate him and rightly so…sepoy, your mother wasn’t too off base when she told you not read people like Faiz, Manto, Faraz, etc.!!

    I give you one example…he says “jo manzar bhi hay aur nazir bhi” {God is seer and is seen as translated by Maniza}. Really?? God is seen? Who has seen Allah on this earth? Prophet Musa wasn’t able to see Allah when he asked for it at Jabl-e-Toor. Someone might argue that what Faiz is saying is that God is seen through His creation, bounty, this world, etc, etc; meaning, he’s using figurative speech. But, in such important matter figurative speech shouldn’t be used, rather it should be clear. I think figurative speech is an excuse that Faiz himself might have used and his defenders might use today. And, i’m sure his many other writings have similar tone, and that’s why people call him “godless”.

    “Utthay ga tal-Haq ka nara…jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho” [Maniza translates it as:
    Then will rise one cheerâ€

  15. G.A. says:
    January 21st, 2007 5:41 am

    Here we go again….Now this post will also be reduced to another futile debate about Allah and Islam :(

  16. Baber says:
    January 21st, 2007 1:15 pm

    “It is in the nature of man to like what he is familiar with and in which he has been brought up, and that he fears anything alien. The plurality of religions an their mutual intolerance result from the fact that people remain faithful to the education they received.”
    A snippet from The Guide for the Perplexed.

  17. mahi says:
    February 2nd, 2007 8:46 pm

    Can someone post or point me to a transliteration or even better an rendition audio of this poem? As someone who knows Hindi and has familiarity with Urdu, but cannot read it, I can’t enjoy the original poetry. And I’d like to.

  18. Farzana says:
    February 3rd, 2007 2:05 pm

    Here is a transliteration as well as translation I found of the web. Enjoy.

    Hum Dekhain Gay
    We shall see
    Lazim Hai ke hum Bhi Dekhain Gay
    It is necessary that we shall also see
    Woh Din ke Jis ka Wadah Hai
    That day which has been promised
    Jo Loh-e-Azl pe Likha hai
    Which is written with God’s ink
    Hum Dekhain Gay
    We shall see

    Jab Zulm-o-Sitam ke Koh-e-garaan
    When the mountains of cruelty and torture
    Ruii ki Tarah Urd Jain Gay
    Will fly like pieces of cotton
    Hum Mehkumoon ke Paun Talay
    Under the feet of the governed
    Yeh Dharti Dhard Dhard Dhardkay gi
    This earth will quake
    Aur Ehl-e-Hukum ke Sar Uper
    And over the head of the ruler
    Jab Bijli kard Kard Kardke gi
    When lightening will thunder
    Hum Dekhain Gay
    We shall see

    Jab Arz-e-Khuda ke kabay se
    When from God’s Mecca
    Sab but Uthwaaiy Jain gay
    All the idols will be shattered
    Hum Ehl-e-Safa Mardood-e-Haram
    Us people standing in the mosque
    Masnad pe Bithaaiy jain gay
    Will be elevated to a higher platform
    Sab Taaj Uchalay jain gay
    All the crowns will be tossed
    Sab Takht Giraaiy Jain gay
    All the thrones will be toppled

    Bas Naam rahay Ga Allah ka
    Then only God’s name will remain
    Jo Ghayab Bhi hai Hazir Bhi
    Who is both absent and present
    Jo nazir bhi hai manzar bhi
    Who is both the observer and the view itself
    Uthay ga Analhaq ka Naara
    When the anthem of truth will be raised
    Jo Main bhi Hun aur Tumbhi ho
    Who I am and you are as well
    Aur Raaj karay gi khalq-e-Khuda
    And the people of God will reign
    Jo main bhi hun aur tum bhi ho
    Who I am and you are as well

    Hum Dekhain Gay
    We shall see
    Lazim Hai ke hum Bhi Dekhain Gay
    It is necessary that we shall also see
    Hum Dekhain Gay
    We shall see

  19. February 13th, 2007 3:08 am

    [...] [...]

  20. Bashir Sakhawarz says:
    October 7th, 2007 3:32 am


    I am translating Faiz from Urdu to Farsi. I need someone who is urdu/english speaker and has good knowledge of Faiz’s poetry to help me. Will it be possible if Maniza Naqvi help me for that purpose? I would be grateful if you send me her email address or pass my email address to her.


    Bashir Sakhawarz

  21. Nayab Nasir says:
    December 24th, 2008 1:59 am

    kaas k Faiz aaj zinda hotey … tou shayad humey bhi un k charan chooney ka moka mil jaata… Mehboob ki shaan main tou her shaYir hi likhta hai… Faiz ji ne qoum aor mulk ka dard lafzon main dhaal diya aor is sach likhney per kitni baar unhey salaakhon k paar rehna para…
    Faiz ji Mahan thay.

  22. Osama says:
    January 10th, 2009 10:48 am

    THANK You! Also to Farzana!
    Just what I was looking for!! I’m Pakistani but my urdu is poor, Westernized-Paki much? :( But thanks you! ANd Much love!

  23. February 1st, 2009 12:57 pm

    Submissions Wanted:
    We seek submissions for the first issue of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies to be published in June 2009. Please submit your scholarly articles, creative works (fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry), or book reviews that focus on some aspect of Pakistan or Pakistani culture. We read all year.

    Pakistaniaat Weblink:

  24. Zahir Kaleem says:
    December 21st, 2009 7:51 am

    To Farzana, who translated “Hum dekhain gay”. Brilliant job. As a student and humble follower of Faiz, I will try to add my interprepation when sharing with others but the first draft translation effort is always the most creative and difficult. We as a nation have no contemporary literary presence. If people like Faiz cannot inspire us to struggle for higher pursuits, nothing ever will. Let us spread his message far and wide.

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