The Poetry of Habib Jalib1

Translated by Arjumand Ara

The City of Dehli2 

O Dehli! The abode of Dâgh3 and Bekhûd4 While bidding you adieu
I didn’t know my heart would lament day and night for you.

The world will not find them, they won’t be found anywhere,
The poets, with seeing eyes, who were bestowed upon you.

You were called the cornea of the eye of the world,
With love all the cities used to look towards you.

As Mîr5 said, your streets used to be the paintings of an artist,
But alas! Time has cast an evil eye upon you.

You too will not forget our tale, until doomsday comes.
Our memories your passageways will always remind you.

The tear that drops out of pain for you, that tear is precious than a diamond.
Only those with seeing-eyes, like treasure in their eyes and hearts hold you.

O Jalib! I can no longer, in this world, be called a dweller of Delhi.
But, I’ve always, till this day, my home considered you.

We Reject Every Way of Repression!

Kabir6 is Sad

During winter, on a footpath, one weeps over his fate,
The other sleeps on the bed of happiness, under the shadow of tresses.
Seeing one sitting on a king’s throne and other as his slave,
Kabir is sad.

The fools rule from their high palaces,
The learned are humiliated at every step in this city.
Seeing the rich acting as Gods,
Kabir is sad.

The people of film-city get songs composed, but they don’t pay for them.
Music of happiness plays in their homes, but at the writer’s home a dirge. 
Why should a singer sing in tune, why shouldn’t he mow the grass instead?
Kabir is sad.

The plight I suffered tomorrow, did not change today.
Jalib, there was dearth of happiness in our country, it remains the same.
However, the leaders babble nonsense every day from Mochi Gate.
Kabir is sad.

These Honourable Ministers

One is obliged to the British, the other is a slave of dollars.
Their heartbeats are in chains, but the name of liberty on their lips.
How could they know, how do the people live?
These honourable ministers.

They have leisure time, but only for the high and wealthy.
Their telephones are installed, but only for diplomats.
Why would they have time for us, beggars.
We can’t touch them, they are placed high.
These honourable ministers.

They are here for morning tea, invited there for dinner,
Why won’t they be arrogant? Their shops are flourishing.
As they wish, they can issue statements on radio.
We are on foot, they in cars, how could they talk to us?
These honourable ministers.

They even die in the Assembly, for the sake of nation,
They impose their will, by their muscle-power.
They hurl abuses and bear abuses as well,
They are the glory of the nation, pay respects to them.
These honourable ministers.

Ministry is their love, chairs are their keeps.
Let their lives be snatched away but not their chairs.
Let us see how long they will fling the chairs.
Their rule is transitory, their stay passing.
These honourable ministers.

The City of Darkness Will Not Last

O the sons of decrepit system!
O the children of dark night!

This black night is not perpetual,
This black night is about to pass.
How long these tales of darkness will last?
A new morning is about to beam.

O the off-spring of the dark night!
O the enemies of morn, perpetrators of injustice!
The morning sun will shine,
The spell of ignorance will dispel.
The light of knowledge and intellect,
Will spread in all over these households.

O the custodians of this black night!
O the moths of the candle of a bygone era!
O the admirers of the city of darkness!
The city of darkness will not last.
Have your brief laugh at the morning,
Only for a short while – it’s okay.


The Constitution

The lamp of which lights only in palaces,
That that gives happiness only to a few people,
That that flourishes under the shadow of considerations,

That constitution, that light-less dawn,

I don’t recognise, I don’t recognise.

I too, am not afraid of gallows,
I, too, am Mansûr,7 tell the enemies.
Why do you scare me with the walls of prison?

                To the talk of intimidation, to the night of benightedness,
                I don’t recognise, I don’t recognise.

You say, flowers are blooming on the plants,
You say, wine is available to the drinkers,
You say, wounds of hearts have started healing,

                To this stark lie, to this robbing of minds,
                I don’t recognise, I don’t recognise.

You have robbed our peacefulness for centuries,
Now we will not be prey of your charms.
How could I say, you are a soother?

                You are not a soother, even if one says you so,
                I don’t recognise, I don’t recognise.

Our Battle Will Go On

Till the few looters are surrounding this land,
Our battle will go on.
Till the rapacious are setting their traps,
Our battle will go on.

Friends, the face of the West is crimson because of our blood.
But now the boat of its sun is about to sink.
Till the East is facing the gloom of sufferings,
Our battle will go on.

We will crush the head of suppression, wherever it is committed.
The palaces will no more light the lamps filled with blood.
Till the mornings are turning away from the huts,
Our battle will go on.

We know O benefactors! You are a band of deceivers.
How could we be dependent on you; we are proud people.
Till the morns and eves are sinking in grief and sorrow,
Our battle will go on.

Twenty Households

Twenty households are flowering
While crores are unhappy.
President Ayyub,8 long live.
The repression of black centuries,
Even today is going on.
          President Ayyub, long live.

Price of wheat flour is a mun9 for twenty rupees,
Even then, it’s not available.
Gauhar, Sehgal, Adamji
Have become Birla and Tata.
But when we complain,
We are branded as traitors.
          President Ayyub, long live.

These are the days of licenses,
No need to worry for Convention.
Today the head of every hawk
Is bowed on the threshold of the establishment.
Those who used to preach selfhood,
Have forgotten the memories of Iqbal.10
          President Ayyub, long live.

Hooliganism is commonplace
The uniformed police are keeping mum.
The candle of the voice of poets
Has been put off by the Kala Bagh.11
By increasing the period of conviction of prisoners
He has decreased his own tenure.
          President Ayyub, long live.

This is the accord of Istanbul.
It is useless to open its secret.
It is a drum not in tune,
That will constantly be beaten in palaces.
All the Arabs are angry over it,
But SEATO and CENTO are glad.
          President Ayyub, long live.

Every street has turned into a battlefield,
Seeing which the people are astounded.
Every locality of wise-men
Has become hell at the hands of the empty-headed.
You have given us a Constitution
Whose foundation rests on hatred.
          President Ayyub, long live.

The Nation is Not in Danger

The nation is not in danger, but the system of capital is.
In fact, the marauder in the garb of leader is in danger.

The person who is sitting to mourn the death of darkness
That mourner is in danger, that intellectual is in danger.

Those who are apprehensive, are only the rulers,
Neither your house, nor mine, is in danger.

The place where even Iqbal has become a victim of de-recognition
Jalib, are you complaining that your art is in danger?

America a Black Wall

The brand is that of Harnam Das, but the benefit goes to America
The fools are trying that the sun of America does not set.

The poor had tears in their eyes in the past, they are still in sorrow.
Birla is celebrating Diwali, but the oil burning in his lamp belongs to America.

All the oppressed of the world have discovered this secret,
That America has encamped under the shades of the wealthy.

America is just a broker, everybody knows this fact.
That’s why, O friend, I detest the name of America.

To live at the strength of others is not a manly thing.
We will recognise you Jalib, if you reject the obligation of America.

India belongs to me, and Pakistan too is mine.
But America has pitched its tent in both the countries.

While eating the wheat given in aid, we have been cheated.
Don’t ask us, how much we’ve praised America’s whims and vagaries.
Even then, this valley of flowers is surrounded by magazines.

India belongs to me, and Pakistan too is mine.

O Khan Bahadur,12 you must break ties with Englishmen.
Their hands have reached again up to our collars.
Macmillan could not be yours, how could you think that Kennedy is with you.

India belongs to me, and Pakistan too is mine.

This land, O dear friend, is the land of workers and peasants.
A few households won’t be allowed to rule this land.
How long will last the night of repression, the dawn is come.

India belongs to me, and Pakistan too is mine.

White Moneylender

By giving loans to poor countries,
He takes away their freedom.
Today every big city, every beautiful valley
Is a prey of his reprimand.

One whose account once appeared in his register
Could not hold his head high for ages.
He shook us off very nicely,
Whenever we were in need of help.
O the Indian Ocean! Your waves today
Are calm under the shadow of his cannons.
Why a storm does not rage?
What happened to your fervour and swell?


1. Habib Jalib was a renowned Pakistani Urdu poet. Known as an anti-establishment poet of protest, he took stand against every repressive regime, drawing millions of people to listen to him in Mushairas. He was born in 1928 in India and died on March 12, 1993 in Pakistan.

2. Delhi. Habib Jalib migrated to Pakistan after Partition, hence his longing for a dear city abandoned years ago.

3. Dagh Dehlavi, a famous poet of Urdu belonging to 19th century Delhi.

4. Bekhud Dehlavi, a poet of Delhi from the 20th century.

5. All time great poet of Urdu, belonging to 18th century Delhi.

6. All time great poet, mystic and reformer from 14-15 century India.

7. Mansur bin Hussein Al Hallaj, the 8th century mystic and thinker, was executed for proclaiming ‘Ana Al Haq’ (‘I am the truth’).

8. Muhammad Ayub Khan was the first Pakistani military general to seize power through a coup in 1958.

9. A mun is about 40 kilogram.

10. Sir Muhammad Iqbâl was a 20th century Indian poet and philosopher, whose poetry in Persian and Urdu is regarded as amongst the greatest in modern times. He is credited with propounding the idea of an independent state for Indian Muslims, which would inspire the creation of Pakistan. He also propounded the idea of Khudior selfhood as the basic trait of a man or a nation’s character, essential for prosperity, self-dependence and dignity. He presented the hawk (Shaheen) as a symbol of such a person or nation.

11. In 1960 the Indus Basin Treaty between Pakistan and India was signed by Martial Law Administrator and President Ayub Khan on behalf of the Pakistan Government. and the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The construction of a huge multipurpose dam on Indus River at Kalabagh was to be undertaken according to this treaty but without giving any reason Ayub Khan shifted the site of dam from Kalabagh to Tarbela. The problem of Kalabagh dam still remains unresolved.

12. Ayub Khan, then President of Pakistan.

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