Qalam chhin gayi to kya ghum hai/Snatch my pen away, I remain defiant (Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

Post jointly authored by ADITYA NIGAM AND NIVEDITA MENON


This image celebrating the power of dissent and creativity over forces of tyranny, circulated widely after the murderous attack on the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and the shooting of cartoonists Charbonnier, Wolinski, ‘Tignous’ and Cabut, among others. The cartoonists of the ‘equal opportunity offender’ journal were called out by name and coldly slaughtered in the name of Islam.

It seems appropriate now to remember Faiz’s words on censorship and the violent closing of minds:

Mataa-e- lauh-o-qalam chhin gayi to kya ghum hai 

Ke khun-e-dil men dubo li hain ungliyan maine

Zuban pe muhar lagi hai to kya,

ke rakh di hai har ek halqa-e-zanjeer mein, zubaan maine.

Snatch away my ink and pen, I remain defiant,

For I have dipped my fingers in the blood of my heart.

Chain shut my lips, I don’t give a damn,

For in every link of the chain I have placed a tongue ready to speak.

6 thoughts on “Qalam chhin gayi to kya ghum hai/Snatch my pen away, I remain defiant (Faiz Ahmed Faiz)”

  1. Remain shocked, sad and alarmed at this; the cartoon is here to stay as political statement inhering in modernity. (some help in seeking to translate Faiz, a posthumous poet-mascot of this site, might have been good)

    1. aj – Not sure why the need for the snide ‘help with translation’ – perhaps you were expecting a simple, literal, word-for-word translation? That’s not the kind of translation we do. But translation is not even the issue here, is it?

      1. No Nivy, it isn’t about translation, it’s about knowing what the other sides, the fundamentalist sides, stand for. Here’s another poem, about the other sides, by Marcos Ana, titled, very simply, ‘Victim’ ( hope there’s been no problem with the translation from Spanish):

        Knock his wound once in a while:
        never leave it free to heal.
        His pain must spurt fresh blood
        and anguish live on forever in his entrails.

        If he takes to flight, clamour after him
        that he is guilty; he must not be allowed to forget.
        Hurl lumps of dark earth in his face.
        If flowers begin to grow among his words
        tread on their scarlet sap
        until they grow as pale as dead men’s hands.
        Lay waste. Lay waste. His heart must not release
        the music locked inside it.

        For this is your law; so alien to mine;
        if a river rises to converse with the moon,
        wall in its waters with mountains.
        If a star forgetting its distance plunges down
        into the unripe lips of a boy,
        denounce it to the heavenly bodies.
        If a fallow deer dreams freedom and the woods,
        leash it like a dog.
        If a fish should learn to live without water
        deprive it of shore and land.
        If hands should gently caress the air
        dreaming of the thighs of enjoyment,
        put them on a chopping block.
        If the dawn breaks passionately bright
        drive the green swords of night into its eyes.

        If there is a man whose heart
        is made of the wind,
        weight him with stones
        and drown him with his knees against his chest.

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