RAQS (Dance) – Noon Meem Rashid

Posted by Raza Rumi

A timeless poem by Noon Meem Rashid
Translated by Ayesha Khanna

ai merii ham_raqs mujh ko thaam le
zindagii se bhaag kar aayaa huu.N mai.n
Dar se larazaa.N huu.N kahii.n aisaa na ho
raqs_gaah ke chor daravaaze se aakar zindagii
Dhuu.NDh le mujh ko nishaa.N paa le meraa
aur jurm-e-aish karate dekh le
come, my fellow dancer, hold me
from life I have fled and arrived
quivering with fear
that in this brothel, life may follow
and find me intoxicated
see me decadent, corrupt and debauchedai merii ham_raqs mujh ko thaam le

raqs kii ye gardishe.n
ek mubaham aasiyaa ke daur hai.n
kaisi sargarmii se Gam ko rau.ndataa jaataa huu.N mai.n
jii me.n kahataa huu.N ki haa.N
raqs_gaah me.n zindagii ke jhaa.Nkane se peshtar
kulfato.n kaa sang_rezaa ek bhii rahane na paaye
come, my fellow dancer, hold me
these cycles of dance
enigmatic revolutions of sin
with what zeal I spin the wheels of sorrow
and in my mind, I agree
before entering this brothel
not one speck of my troubles should remain
ai merii ham_raqs mujh ko thaam le
zindagii mere liye
ek Khuunii bhe.Diye se kam nahii.n
ai hasii.n-o-ajanabii aurat usii ke Dar se mai.n
ho rahaa huu.N lamhaa lamhaa aur bhii tere qariib
jaanataa huu.N tuu merii jaa.N bhii nahii.n
tujh se milane kaa phir imkaa.N bhii nahii.n
tuu merii aarazuuo.n kii magar tamsiil hai
jo rahii mujh se gurezaa.N aaj tak
come, my fellow dancer, hold me
for me life
is no less than a surreptitious murderer
o beautiful stranger, from its very door
slowly, I come closer to you
knowing you are not my love
and meeting you is unlikely
but still you are that one desire
which eludes me till todayai merii ham_raqs mujh ko thaam le

ahad-e-paariinaa kaa mai.n insaa.N nahii.n
bandagii se is dar-o-diivaar kii
ho chukii hai.n Khvaahishe.n be-soz-o-rang-o-naatavaa.N
jism se tere lipaT sakataa to huu.N
zindagii par mai.n jhapaT sakataa nahii.n
is liye ab thaam le
ai hasii.n-o-ajanabii aurat mujhe ab thaam le
come, my fellow dancer, hold me
of no divine promise am I a follower
and bondage to this place
has weakened all desire for abstinence
to your body I can cling
but life I cannot battle
so hold me now
o beautiful stranger hold me now


Filed under poetry, Urdu

9 responses to “RAQS (Dance) – Noon Meem Rashid

  1. Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

    Deeply beautiful. This is the beauty of Pak Tea House, that, it revives the days when the poets like N.M Rashed would visit the venue.

    In the 1930’s, when the British Raj was at its height, Urdu poetry became powerful vehicle for the expression of the discontent faced. (off course, urdu poetry shaped years back, when Ghalib, Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’, et al wrote beautifully). The era of the Progressive Writers Association saw many poets who gave a voice to the surpressed political anger. Clearly, the poets with the most influence of the PTA, both political and literary, include Faiz Ahmad Faiz – who used structure of ghazal for his political ends; N.M. Rashed, who I believe had a more definitive break with traditional form. There was Josh Malihabadi, whose diction remained highly literary. Habib Jalib and Ahmad Faraz wrote with fierce emotions, to a point they were sent to prison, then lived in exile. Then there was Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar J’afri, Saqi Farooqi, Kishwar Naheed, Fahmida Riaz – to name a few! It’s amazing how these poets have left an unwavering emotion in our hearts. The Pak Tea House era was a perfect platform in sharing views, combining similar interests to fight for the oppressed; this medium of Raza’s PTH is yet another example of preserving something of profound value.

  2. Iftikhar

    who ever done this translation, seems to me ignorant, brought up under Zia’s cultural identity, where “Raqs-gaah” can be translated as “Brothel”..

    Utterly disgusting.

    With regards,

  3. Qandeel

    This is beautiful

  4. Iftikhar Saheb
    Overall this is a good translation.
    However, you are right about the interpretation of raqs gah – As you can understand, we could not have changed the translation of Ms Khanna.
    What would you suggest as a proper term in english for raqs gah – the way it has been used by NMR… just for our enlightenment..?

  5. Shaheen Sultan Dhanji

    Raqs gah: dance-hall ?

    Here is another attempt…..

    Companion, hold me tight !
    I have come to you as one escaped from life;
    I rremble lest life walk in
    through the back door of this dance-hall
    to find me committing the crime of joy.

    Companion, hold me tight –
    The steps of this dance
    are like vague intoxicant.
    Look how eagerly I trample sorrow!
    I say this to myself:
    Before life looks into this dance-hall
    I shall crush each single pebble of pain.

    Companion, hold me tight
    for life is no less than a hungry wolf
    in search of me.
    Beautiful stranger, each moment
    I draw closer to you from fear of this life.
    I know you mean not much to me
    and we may never meet again;
    yet you are those dreams and yearnings
    taht have always strayed from me.

    Companion, hold me tight;
    I am not a man of this fragmented age.
    I am a slave in this place,
    my dreams and wishes colourless, exhausted;
    but, if I cannot snatch and pounce on life
    at least, here, I can embrace you.
    So hold me close.
    O starnger, beautiful woman
    hold me tight !

  6. Iftikhar

    Rumi Sahab,
    Sorry I think I was being over reactionary, unintentionally. the translation was no doubt good. However a better word for “Raqsgah” could be “ballroom” or as Dhanji said “dance hall” but this is litteral. To have social context we might like to use “cabaret” or “saloon” or “courtesan inn”.


  7. Iftikhar

    Rumi Sahab,
    Sorry I think I was being over reactionary, unintentionally. the translation was no doubt good. However a better word for “Raqsgah” could be “ballroom” or as Dhanji said “dance hall” but this is litteral. To have social context we might like to use “cabaret” or “saloon” or “courtesan inn”, “gaiety house”.

    I would go for “cabaret”.


  8. nuzhat

    Raza, This is a beautiful poem. I personally find NMR very compelling.But somehow, he never caught on with my generation (jiss ney zia key zamaney mein hosh sambhala) as Faiz did.

    Is there a website where one can find a “tashree” of Urdu poetry? Oh how I miss snoozing during my Urdu classes where we were taught “reference to the context” for various obscure urdu poems.

  9. saba

    dear shaheen
    now here is something which we call straight from the heart!!
    well done.