Our Master’s

Kaifi Azmi ( 1923-2002)



Kaifi Azmi Born at Mijvan in Azam Garh, U.P was the pioneering poet of the progressive Movement in Urdu along Ali Sardar Jafri; work includeJhankaar, Aakhir -e-Sheb, Aawara Sijda and collection of poems Sarmaaya. He won several awards. He was Fellow of Sahitya Akademi.






When I left her door I thought
she would try to stop me
and we might reconcile.
The wind billowed through our clothes;
I thought she would ask me not to go
And as she unwrapped her limbs to get up
I thought she would come
to call me back.
But she did not try to stop me
nor did she ask me to stay back.
She did not call me
nor did she ask me to return.
I walked onwards slowly;
the distance grew gradually
till our separation became finite.


Translated from Urdu: Mumtaz Jahan




How you flash across my mind, conjuring up a pleasant dream.
There you stand, as if real, with your smiling face agleam.


Graceful neck and rounded arms, slender frame, exquisitely shaped,
Sable locks, knotted bun, lovely hue and blooming face,
Drunken eyes, attractive brow, long eyelashes flashing rays,
Lightning-filled, mischief-raising, intoxicating, magic gaze!


What a vision you create,
With your wonder-working face!


Tall stature, ample brow, rosy lips and smiling face,
Lightning-like the eyes sparkle, dewy soft is every grace.


Heaving bosom, fragrant breath, honeyed voice, ambrosial gaze,
Sweet and saucy, all together, melody mixed with gentle grace.


There you stand and hum a tune, as your body undulates,
What a vision before my eyes, doth your lovely shape create!


Translated from Urdu: K C. Kanda


Don’t Visit Me Now, My Love


Don’t visit me now, my love, even in my dreams and thoughts,
I can’t bear to see your hair dishevelled, defied,
I swear by your quivering lashes, by your ruddy eyes,
How can I see your tears trembling all the while?
Don’t visit me now, my love, even in my dreams and thoughts,

It matters not if we have from the path of love strayed,
Why regret in vain, my dear, why this penitent gaze?
Yours is not the fault at all, if broken lie the bonds of faith.
Don’t visit me now, my love even in my dreams and thoughts

Lest the flowers on your bed exhaust their breath and die,
Go now, it waits for you, the honey-drenched night!
Don’t visit me now, my dear, even in my dreams and thoughts,
Lest I should enfold you in my yearning lap,
Lest my famished lips steal the honey of your salted cheeks,
Lest I kiss your luscious lips and drain them of their sap.


Translated from Urdu:KC. Kanda


The Circle


The point from where I move onward each day
is exactly the point where I return again,
the walls I have demolished many times before
are the walls that arrest my steps again.
Every day new cities rise and
with unfailing regularity return to the dust again,
The earthquake is now a familiar terror
for calamities have become commonplace today.


From the body to the spirit, it’s sand all the way:
no sunshine, no shadow, no mirage anywhere.
How many desires lurk in secret wilderness?
Who keeps count of the graves that grow?
The pulse becomes faint, then quickens again:
anxiety is a familiar gesture of the mind.
At night the dark whispers to the dark again:
even living has become a habit these days.


The rainbow rises in a single colour that splits again,
the chalice is always raised in its unique manner.
At every corner of the street, mosques stand now.
Look a the state of the taverns today,
Someone declared; I am the sea.
Not a single drop can I claim as my own.
I am writing my own fortune today,
So destiny poses no danger for me.


I read the writing on my palm
like the Koran and Gita to decipher my fate.
Trapped, encircled by these wavered lines
my life, like Sita, awaits its fate.


I cannot destine when the prodigal Rama shall return,
At least some Ravana ought to have travelled this way.

Translated from Urdu: Mumtaz Jahan & Pritish Nandy


The Night of the Apocalypse


The moon has broken, the stars have melted,
the night is gently dripping away.
Drowsy eyelids make sleep imminent
as the night enters the depths of our eyes.
Do not weave any tale now.
Let me sleep tonight.


The shrunken web is untying its knots
as clouds dissolve amidst the blood,
fanning out its floral wings
the forest advances upon as now.
Blow out the candle, put down the chalice.
Let me sleep tonight.


The city dies before dusk fell.
Who is knocking at the door?
Raise high the encircling walls
for the noise will enter the courtyard.
Tell them the tavern is closed now.
Let me sleep tonight.


Only bodies and coffins lie everywhere;
they cannot hear nor endorse what you say.
May peace survive. And those who propagate peace.
The dead have emerged from their graves today;
none can we claim as our own, none discard as distant.
Let me sleep tonight.


There were some who said, perhaps rightly,
rebellion has become a fashion these days.
Those who did not hesitate to kill
are reluctant to be buried themselves.
The sensible thing to do is fall asleep.
Let me sleep tonight.

Translated from Urdu: Mumtaz Jahan

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