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Mujh Se Pehli Si Muhabbat
A heartbreaking poetry by Faiz Ahmad Faiz
mujh se pahlī sī mohabbat mere mahbūb na maañg
It is a poem about the choice present before a lover who chooses to subordinate the call of blissful romance to the screams of oppressive poverty, injustice and suffering in the world. The poem can also be interpreted as the choice before writers of that era: to use their craft to indulge and delight the audience with poetry of passion or to shine light on the suffering of masses and bring social change. It is revolutionary poetry. It is a story of transformation.
It begins the narrative with a memory of affection, yearning, and union. A lover remembers his days of blossoming love when his object of affection was the essence of his life. And if he could obtain his lover, that would have been his ultimate fulfilment.
terī sūrat se hai aalam meñ bahāroñ ko sabāt
terī āñkhoñ ke sivā duniyā meñ rakkhā kyā hai
tū jo mil jaa.e to taqdīr nigūñ ho jaa.e
yuuñ na thā maiñ ne faqat chāhā thā yuuñ ho jaa.e
But then outside this dream, a world has stood for innumerable centuries: one of dreadful inequality and exploitation, poverty and disease.
jā-ba-jā bikte hue kūcha-o-bāzār meñ jism
ḳhaak meñ lithde hue ḳhuun meñ nahlā.e hue
jism nikle hue amrāz ke tannūroñ se
piip bahtī huī galte hue nāsūroñ se
And the lover can not turn his gaze away from that. This stark contrast cannot hold. The passion for his lover however seductive, however blissful, however intoxicating, pales before the sight of the infinite suffering of the masses.
lauT jaatī hai udhar ko bhī nazar kyā kiije
ab bhī dilkash hai tirā husn magar kyā kiije
And now that the beautiful dream is shattered, the lover cannot conjure it again, no matter how beautiful its memories are. He is awake. He is not the same person. He is not that lover given to flight of fancies.
My initial impression of this poem was that it was about wishful longing for the passion which existed once, based on my reading of a few lines in isolation. It is a beautiful poem shared a lot piecemeal, strangely, completely hollowed out of its meaning. Does it make this poem more likeable now that I understand it in its entirety? Probably. It certainly makes it more expansive and more complex. It makes me wonder, does the world look very different today? Are any lovers breaking out of their private bubbles and turning their gaze towards suffering of masses? I can’t say.