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