Mottled Dawn – Subh-e Azadi

© 2020 Pippa Virdee

This post is inspired by the sky outside, which immediately reminded me of Manto’s Mottled Dawn. Saadat Hasan Manto, born in Samrala, Ludhiana, is considered one of the most iconic Urdu writers of the twentieth century. He lived in Bombay until 1948 and worked as a successful screenplay writer for the film industry, but even he finally relented and left India for Pakistan. Khalid Hasan writes, “Manto left Bombay, a city that he loved and a city that he yearned for until his dying day, soon after Partition. He felt deeply disturbed by the intolerance and distrust that he found sprouting like poison weed everywhere, even in the world of cinema. He could not accept the fact that suddenly some people saw him not as Saadat Hasan but as a Muslim.” Mottled Dawn: Fifty Sketches and Stories of Partition (Intro. Daniyal Mueenuddin and trans. Khalid Hasan, Penguin Modern classics), brings together stories of dark humour and horror, powerfully capturing the tragedy of Partition. The book begins with the opening lines of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Subh-e Azadi – Mottled Dawn.

Below is the full poem by Faiz, courtesy of Penguin.

Subh‐e Azadi
Yeh daagh daagh ujaalaa, yeh shab gazidaa seher
Woh intezaar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin
Yeh woh seher to nahin, jis ki aarzoo lekar
Chale the yaar ki mil jaayegi kahin na kahin
Falak ke dasht mein taaron ki aakhri manzil
Kahin to hogaa shab-e-sust mauj ka saahil
Kahin to jaa ke rukegaa safinaa-e-gham-e-dil
 
Jawaan lahu ki pur-asraar shahraahon se
Chale jo yaar to daaman pe kitne haath pade
Dayaar-e-husn ki besabr kwaabgaahon se
Pukaarti rahi baahein, badan bulaate rahe
Bahut aziz thi lekin rukh-e-seher ki lagan
Bahut qareen tha haseenaa-e-noor ka daaman
Subuk subuk thi tamanna, dabi dabi thi thakan

Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai firaaq-e-zulmat-o-noor
Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai wisaal-e-manzil-o-gaam
Badal chukaa hai bahut ehl-e-dard ka dastoor
Nishaat-e-wasl halaal, o azaab-e-hijr haraam

Jigar ki aag, nazar ki umang, dil ki jalan
Kisi pe chaaraa-e-hijraan ka kuch asar hi nahin
Kahaan se aayi nigaar-e-sabaa, kidhar ko gayi
Abhi charaag-e-sar-e-raah ko kuch khabar hi nahin
Abhi garaani-e-shab mein kami nahin aayi
Najaat-e-deedaa-o-dil ki ghadi nahin aayi
Chale chalo ki woh manzil abhi nahin aayi
 —Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The Dawn of Freedom, August 1947
This light, smeared and spotted, this night‐bitten dawn
This isn’t surely the dawn we waited for so eagerly
This isn’t surely the dawn with whose desire cradled in our hearts
 
We had set out, friends all, hoping
We should somewhere find the final destination
Of the stars in the forests of heaven
The slow‐rolling night must have a shore somewhere
The boat of the afflicted heart’s grieving will drop anchor somewhere
When, from the mysterious paths of youth’s hot blood
The young fellows moved out
Numerous were the hands that rose to clutch
the hems of their garments,
Open arms called, bodies entreated
From the impatient bedchambers of beauty—
 
But the yearning for the dawn’s face was too dear
The hem of the radiant beauty’s garment was very close
The load of desire wasn’t too heavy
Exhaustion lay somewhere on the margin
 
It’s said the darkness has been cleft from light already
It’s said the journeying feet have found union
with the destination
The protocols of those who held the pain in their
hearts have changed now
Joy of union—yes; agony of separation—forbidden!
 
The burning of the liver, the eyes’ eagerness, the heart’s grief
Remain unaffected by this cure for disunion’s pain;
From where did the beloved, the morning breeze come?
Where did it go?
 
The street‐lamp at the edge of the road has no notion yet
The weight of the night hasn’t lifted yet
The moment for the emancipation of the eyes
and the heart hasn’t come yet
Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet
—Translated by Baran Farooqui

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