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Kaifi Azmi (1919 – 2002) is considered to be one of the greatest Urdu poets of 20th century. He was a member of the Communist Party in India and subsequently of the Urdu Progressive Writers Movement.

Like most Urdu poets, Kaifi saab began as a ghazal writer, cramming his poetry with the repeated themes of love and romance in a style that was replete with clichés and metaphors. However, his association with the Progressive Writers’ Movement and Communist Party made him embark on the path of socially conscious poetry.

His progressive thinking is evident in one of his most potent poems, Aurat (Woman) which is below.

Shaukat Kaifi, his wife has beautifully summarized his progressive ideas in her book Kaifi & I: A Memoir (edited and translated by Nasreen Rehman). She recounts a mushaira she attended, much before her romance with Kaifi saab began, where he recited this stimulating poem (Aurat) and the effect it had on her. She says: “I fixed my gaze on Kaifi, convinced that he had written this poem for me, and I alone had the right to march with him. I was stubborn, proud, headstrong, and always ready to raise my voice against a perceived injustice. It became clear to me that only a man with progressive views about women could be my husband”

Aurat (Woman)
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe
qalb-e-mahoul mein larzaan sharar-e-jang hain aaj
hausley waqt ke aur ziist ke yakrang hain aaj
aabgiinon mein tapaan walwale-e- sang hain aaj
husn aur ishq ham aawaaz-o-humaahang hain aaj
jis mein jaltaa huun usi aag mein jalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Arise, my love, for now you must march with me
Flames of war are ablaze in our world today
Time and fate have the same aspirations today
Our tears will flow like hot lava today
Beauty and love have one life and one soul today
You must burn in the fire of freedom with me
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me

zindagii jehad mein hai sabr ke qaabuu mein nahiin
nabz-e-hastii kaa lahuu kaamptii aansuu mein nahii
urne khulne mein hai nakhat kham-e-gesu mein nahiin
jannat aik aur hai jo mard ke pahluu mein nahiin
uskii aazaad ravish par bhii machalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Patience will not help you struggle through life
Blood, not tears, sustains the pulse of life
You will fly when you’re free and not ensnared by love
Heaven is not just in the arms of the man you love
Walk unfettered on the path of freedom with me
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me

goshey goshey mein sulagtii hai chitaa tere liye
farz kaa bhes badaltii hai qazaa tere liye
qahar hai terii har narm adaa tere liye
zahar hii zahar hai duniyaa kii havaa tere liye
rut badal daal agar phuulnaa phalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Wherever you go sacrifice awaits you
To surrender is a way of life for you
All your charms condemn you
The ways of the world are poison for you
Change the seasons to flourish and be free
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me.

qadr ab tak terii tarriikh ne jaanii hii nahiin
tujh mein shole bhii hain bas ashkfishaanii hii nahiin
tu haqiiqat bhii hai dilchasp kahaanii hii nahiin
terii hastii bhii hai ik chiiz javaanii hii nahiin
apnii tarrikh kaa unvaan badalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

History has not known your worth thus far
You have burning embers too, not merely tears
You’re reality too, not a mere amusing anecdote
Your personality is something too, not just your youth
You’ve to change the title of your history
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me.

tod kar rasm ke but bare qadamat se nikal
zof-e-ishrat se nikal, vaham-e-nazaakat se nikal
nafs ke khiinche hue halq-e-azmal se nikal
yeh bhii ek qaid hii hai, qaid-e-muhabbat se nikal
raah kaa khaar hii kyaa gul bhii kuchalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Emerge out of ancient bondage, break the idols of tradition,
the weakness of pleasure, this mirage of fragility
these self-drawn boundaries of imagined greatness
the bondage of love, for this too is a bondage
Not merely the thorns on the path, you have to trample on flowers too
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me.

tod yeh azm-shikan dagdag-e-pand bhii tor
terii khaatir hai jo zanjiir vah saugandh bhii tor
tauq yeh bhii zammruud kaa gulband bhii tor
tod paimana-e-mardaan-e-khirdmand bhii tor
banke tuufaan chhalaknaa hai ubalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Shatter these resolve breaking suspicions of sermons
these vows that have become shackles
this too, this necklace of emeralds
these standards set by the wise men
You have to turn into a tempest, bubble and boil over
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me.

tuu falaatuno-arastuu haii tuu zohraa parviin
tere qabze mein hai garduun, terii thokar mein zamiin
haan, uthaa, jald uthaa paae-muqqadar se jabiin
main bhii rukne kaa nahii waqt bhii rukne kaa nahiin
larkharaayegii kahaan tak ki sambhalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

You are Aristotle’s philosophy, Venus, Pleiades
You control the sky, the earth at your feet
Yes, raise, fast, raise your forehead from the feet of fate
I too am not going to pause, nor will the time
How long would you falter, you have to be firm
Arise, my love, for now you must march with me.

(The first three verses are translations by Nasreen Rehman in ‘Kaifi & I’ by Shaukat Kaifi)

A recitation of the poem in Kaifi saab’s voice – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjcWr2TPZdE

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