Umrao Jaan- In aankhon ki masti ke

UMRAO JAAN ADA is an Urdu novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa first published in 1899. It is considered the first Urdu novel by many and tells the story of a real life courtesan and poetess by the same name from 19th century Lucknow. As the novel suggests, the story of Umrao Jaan was recounted by her to the author, when he happe…ned to meet her during a mushairah (poetry gathering) in Lucknow. On listening to her couplets, the author along with Munshi Ahmad, a novel and poetry enthusiast present at the gathering, convinces Umrao Jaan to share her life story with them. In the course of time, Mirza starts noting down her story and shares the text with her. She agrees to correct it. Thus the novel is written in first person as a memoir.

The book was first published by Munshi Gulab Singh and Sons Press in Lucknow in 1899. Incidentally, Umrao Jaan Ada herself also published a novel titled ‘Fasan-e-Ruswa’, which describes the love story of Mirza Hadi Ruswa with a French woman Sophia Augustan. Umrao Jaan Ada became popular in the courts of the Nawab of Awadh for its Urdu poetry and composition. It is known for its elaborate and insightful portrayal of mid-19th Century Lucknow – its decadent society, and the moral hypocrisy of a patriarchal system where Umrao Jaan becomes the symbol of a nation, attracts many suitors but everyone is only looking to exploit her.

From Audre Lorde – Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Those of us who stand outside of this society’s conception of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference– those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are black, who are older– know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Dave Matthews Band – Funny the Way It Is

Funny the way it is

Lying in the park on a beautiful day,
Sunshine in the grass, and the children play.
Siren’s passing, fire engine red, … See More
Someone’s house is burning down on a day like this?

The evening comes and we’re hanging out,
On the front step, and a car rolls by with the windows rolled down,
And that war song is playing, “why can’t we be friends?”
Someone iss screaming and crying in the apartment upstairs

Funny the way it is, if you think about it
Somebody’s going hungry and someone else is eating out
Funny the way it is, not right or wrong
Somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song

(watch the video)

Allama Iqbal, God’s Command To Angels

an english translation of iqbal’s poetry:

Marshall the meek of my world. Arise, set them free.
Seize the towers of the rich. Shake their tyranny.

Lift the slaves. Ignite them. Instill a faith that rocks.
Teach the feeble sparrow to fight the taloned hawk.

Power belongs to the people: their kingdom has come.
Burn the totems of tyranny: their history is done.

Full translation.

Pakistani Artists of Asia Society Show Find a Contemporary Voice

Though, the works on view in New York seem a fair representation of the spirit and sensibilities animating the increasingly vibrant contemporary-art scene that gave rise to “Hanging Fire.” That scene, barely visible a generation ago, has been fed in recent years by a surge of newly rich collectors and a proliferation of private galleries that offer the work of Pakistani painters, sculptors and video and installation artists — whose own ranks have grown as existing art-education programs have expanded and new ones have cropped up around the country. Full article.

The Art of Poetry by Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

Two English Poems by Jorge Luis Borges


The useless dawn finds me in a deserted street-corner; I have outlived the night.
Nights are proud waves: darkblue topheavy waves laden with all hues of deep spoil, laden with things unlikely and desirable.
Nights have a habit of mysterious gifts and refusals, of things half given away, half withheld, of joys with a dark hemisphere.
The surge, that night, left me the customary shreds and odd ends: some hated friends to chat with, music for dreams, and the smoking of bitter ashes. The things my hungry heart has no use for.
The big wave brought you.
Words, any words, your laughter; and you so lazily and incessantly beautiful. We talked and you have forgotten the words.
The shattering dawn finds me in a deserted street of my city.
Your profile turned away, the sounds that go to make your name, the lilt of your laughter: these are the illustrious toys you have left me.
I turn them over in the dawn, I lose them, I find them; I tell them to the few stray dogs and to the few stray stars of the dawn.
Your dark rich life.
I must get at you, somehow: I put away those illustrious toys you have left me, I want your hidden look, your real smile – that lonely, mocking smile your cool mirror knows.


What can I hold you with?
I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the moon of the jagged suburbs.
I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked long and long at the lonely moon.
I offer you my ancestors, my dead men, the ghosts that living men have honored in marble: my father’s father killed in the frontier of Buenos Aires, two bullets through his lungs, bearded and dead, wrapped by his soldiers in the hide of a cow; my mother’s grandfather – just twenty four- heading a charge of three hundred men in Perú, now ghosts on vanished horses.
I offer you whatever insight my books may hold, whatever manliness or humor my life.
I offer you the loyalty of a man who has never been loyal.
I offer you that kernel of myself that I have saved somehow – the central heart that deals not in words, traffics not with dreams and is untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.
I offer you the memory of a yellow rose seen at sunset, years before you were born.
I offer you explanations of yourself, theories about yourself, authentic and surprising news of yourself.
I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.

Jorge Luis Borges (1934)

“Dasht-e-Tanhai” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz – English Translation


Dasht-e-tanhaee main ai jaan-e-jahaan larzaan hai
Teri aavaaz kay saaey, teray honton kay saraab

Dasht-e-tanhaee main dooree kay khas-o-khaak talay
Khil rahay hain teray pehloo kay saman or gulaab

Uth rahee hai kaheen qurbat say teri saans kee aanch
Apnee khushboo main sulagti hooee madham madham

Door ufaq paar chamaktee hooee qatra qatra
Gir rahee hai teri dildaar nazar kee shabnam

Is qadar payaar say ai jaan-e-jahaan rakha hai
Dil kay rukhsaar pay is waqt teri yaad nain haath

Yoon gumaan hota hai gerchay hai abhee subh-e-firaaq
Dhal gaya hijr ka din aa bhi gaee wasl ki raat.

My best shot, aided by existing translations (Nov 24, 2009, revised on April 21, 2019):

The desert of my solitude

In the desert of my solitude, my love, quiver
the shadows of your voice,
the mirage of your lips

In the desert of my solitude,
from the arid dust of our parting,
bloom the jasmine, the roses of your touch

From somewhere nearby
rises the warmth of your breath
it smolders in its own perfume – gently, languorously

Far away, on the horizon, glistens
drop by drop,
the dew of your beguiling glance

With such tenderness, my love,
your memory has placed its hand
on the contours of my heart

Even though this is the dawn of our farewell,
it feels like the sun has set on our separation
and the night of our union is at hand

Translated from the Urdu and read by Mara Ahmed, sound design by Darien Lamen: