Tag Archives: Lahore

Punjabi Poetry: Ustad Daman


Written by Randeep Purewall

Ustad Daman (né Chiragh Din) was born in Lahore in 1911. As a boy, he worked at his father’s tailoring shop while also attending school. Daman learned classical Punjabi poetry at home and was educated in Urdu. He also learned Persian and English including Shakespeare, Keats and Hardy.

Having participated in school poetry recitals, Daman began attending musha’ara in the parks, fairs and bazaars of Lahore as a teenager during the 1920s. The movement for India’s independence had already begun. In 1929, the Indian National Congress made its Declaration of Independence from Lahore. The city was also home to Marxist groups like the Kirti Kisan and anti-colonial and revolutionary groups like the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association.


Daman recited his own revolutionary and anti-colonial poetry at the musha’ara. While attending one such gathering, Jawaharlal Nehru referred to Daman as the “Poet of Freedom.”

‘In China the Chinese are grand,
In Russia they do as they have planned.
In Japan its people rule over its strand.
The British rule the land of England,
The French hold the land of France,
In Tehran the Persians make their stand.
The Afghans hold on to their highland,
Turkmenistan’s freedom bears the Turkmen’s brand,
How very strange is indeed this fact,
That freedom in India is a contraband’
(Trans. F. Sharma).

Daman remained in Lahore upon the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The riots of the Partition had consumed his shop and library and he lost his wife and son to illness. His first act of political defiance came in 1958 when he made fun of Pakistan’s first military coup under Ayub Khan. Daman’s arrest however did little to temper his criticism of Pakistan’s military dictatorships and the corruption of its civilian governments in his poetry.

Daman wrote in Punjabi and the form, rhythm and metaphor of his poetry bears the influence of the classical and folk Punjabi tradition. If he could be sober and thoughtful in writing on the Partition, he could also adopt a more comic and satirical note in criticizing General Zia. He maintained a friendship with poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib, but lived unassumingly in an old apartment in the precinct of the Badshahi Mosque.

Daman died in 1984. His poetry was published after his death by his friends and followers. The room he lived in near the Badshahi Mosque has since become an academy in his name.

Selected Poems (Trans. F. Sharma)

We may not say it but know it well
You lost your way. We too.
Partition has destroyed us friends.
You too, and us.
The wakeful have quite plundered us.
You slept the while, and we.
Into the jaws of death alive
You were flung. We too.
Life still may stir in us again:
You are stunned yet, and we.
The redness of the eyes betrays
You too have wept, and we.

What a house, this Pakistan!
Above live saints, down thieves have their run
A new order has come into force
Up above twenty families, below the hundred million.
Other people conquered mountains,
We live under the divisions heavy ton.
Other people may have conquered the moon.
But in a yawning precipice a place we’ve won.
I ran and ran and was aching all over,
I looked back and saw the donkey resting under the banyan.

Two gods hold my country in their sway
Martial law and La Illaha have here their heyday.
That one rules there over in the heavens
Down here this one’s writ runs.
His name is Allah Esquire.
This one is called Zia, the light of truth in full array.
Hurrah, General Zia, hip hip hooray,
Whoever can make you go away.

Ecstacy does my land surround
All around the Army is to be found.
Hundreds of thousands were surrendered as POWs.
Half of the land was bartered away in the fray.
Hurrah, General Zia, hip hip hooray,
Whoever can make you go away.

On TV you give recitations from Quran
With fables and traditions you go on and on.
Here we are engulfed in a brouhaha
While up there you are still there, my Allah
A pretender has staked his claim today
Hurrah, General Zia, hip hip hooray,
Whoever can make you go away.

Thankful are some if they can chop wood
The others, on them, their orders bestow.
Why have the people lost their mind?
For every one the Almighty has a loving glow.
People are the real masters of this world
Orders do not from the handle of a sword flow.
The ones, Daman, who have forsaken God,
Those Nimruds are laid low at the very first blow.


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Filed under India, Literature, Pakistan, Poetry, Punjabi, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized

Modern Punjabi Poetry – The Revolutionary and Anti-Colonial Poets: Ustad Daman, Diwan Singh and Ghadar Poetry

Inquilab Zindabad

Translated by Randeep Singh


Ustad Daman (1911-1984) was born Chiraagh Deen in Lahore. A tailor by profession, he was schooled in poetry by Ustad Hamdam. Ustad Daman soon began reciting nationalist poems at public gatherings. He wrote against British rule in India before 1947 and, after 1947, against military and political leaders in Pakistan. Latterly, he was arrested under the governments of Ayub Khan and Bhutto. His poetry, was compiled and published after his death in 1984.

Russians have Russia … (Rūs rūsīāñ dā cīn cīnīāñ dā)

Russians have Russia, China’s the Chineses’
Japan is the country of the Japanese
Conquering country after country
The English have England on top

The French hold France
Iranians take their seat in Tehran
As Afghanistan belongs to Afghans
So Turkey belongs to the Turks

So what a surprise it should be
That India belongs not to the Indian

Rūs rūsīāñ dā cīn cīnīāñ dā,
Ēdhar mulk jāpān jāpānīāñ dā.
Jagah jagah ute mall mār baiṭhe,
Inglistān nāle inglistānīāñ dā.

Hoiā hai frāns frānsīsīāñ dā,
Toṛe nāl tahirān tahirānīāñ dā.
Afgānistān hōiā hai afgānīāñ dā,
Turkistān nāle turkistānīāñ dā.

Ih kiḍī hai gall hairānīāñ dī,
Hindustān nahīñ hindustānīāñ dā.


Zindābād o Pakistān  (Long Live Pakistan)

Long Live Pakistan
As the petty child screams for a sweet
The elders watch on as it’s put in his mouth
We listen to qawwali on the radio
The one about God and the five saints
Wherever you look, cigarettes and paan
Long live Pakistan!

The hemp and opium stores open
Drink, eat and plunder in puffs!
Throw water onto your hearths
Sleep soundly under your quilts
Wherever you look, chickpeas and naan
Long live Pakistan!

The doors of the mosque are closed
The Mullahs lecture on intentions pure
Quarrels break out over rite and ritual
The pure and corrupt mingle and mesh
The common man ekes out his days
Long live Pakistan!

The Sunnis issue their edict
The whole world goes Wahhabi
Who is looking at us in the mirror?
Whoever speaks, it is in commands
New tunes there are on the breeze
Long live Pakistan!

Our country’s strapping youths
Weakened by hemp and hashish
Fashion has become their life
Singing songs of going afar
Our glory rolls in the mud
Long live Pakistan!

Zindābād ō Pākistān
Cījī mangaṇ bāl añāṇe,
ñh vich pānde vēkh siāṇe
Reḍīō utōñ suṇō kavālī,
Allāh rākhā panj tan vālī.
Jidhar vekho sigraṭ pān.
Zindābād ō Pākistān.

Charas afīm de ṭheke khulhe,
Pīo khāo luṭo bule.
Pāṇī pā dio āpṇe culhe,
Sauñ jāo lai ute jule.
Jagah jagah te chole nān.
Zindābād o Pākistān.

Būhe band masītāñ de ne,
Mulāñ māre nītāñ de ne.
Jhagṛe pae hoe rītāñ de ne,
Pākāñ nāl palītāñ de ne.
Ḍagōñ ḍaga hoe insān.
Zindābād ō Pākistān.

Sunīāñ valōñ hōiā ailān,
Vahābī ho giā kul jahān.
Kithe tur gaī aj pahchāṇ,
Jo bole so nā farmān.
Vakharo vakharī lage tān.
Zindābād ō Pākistān.

Sāḍe mulk de naujavān,
Bhangī charasī te bhalavān.
Faishan hai ihnāñ dī jān,
Gīt hijar de gāundē jāṇ.
Miṭī rōldē apṇī shān.
Zindābād ō Pākistān.



Diwan Singh (1894-1944), wrote free verse critical of religion and the colonial state. He earned the epiphet “kalapani” (‘black waters’) after being stationed in the Andaman Islands (traditionally a place where the British sent Indian prisoners and exiles) as part of the Indian Medical Corps. He remained on the islands until his death in 1944, after the Andamans had been conquered by the Japanese during World War II.

He published two books of poetry, Vagda Pani (‘Flowing Waters’) and Antim Lehran  (‘Winding Waves’).

O’ India (‘O’ Bhārat’)

Giver of the Buddha, Ashoka and Nanak,
Abode of Gods incarnate
Land of the gentle
What happened?
The die rolled out of turn
The wheel turned out of kilter
Who recognizes this new garb?
Having died, you still live
Having fallen, while still standing!

Fled is thine life, shame but remains
This weakness of a servant enchained
In superstition, touchability and caste
In illusion, in ghosts
Foes of reason, this foolishness and folly
How they’re stuck to you…
How did such power fall
To brahmins and mullahs?
To wastrels and free-loaders?
Those hungry are dying
Over crumbs fighting
For centuries you’ve slept
Serving at others’ beck and call
Rise, O’ India…

Budh de, ashok de, nānak de janam-dātiā ilmāñ
Avtārāñ dī janambhūmī
Sāūāñ diāñ desāñ
Kīh ho giā?
Ulṭ giā pāsā,
Giṛ giā chakkar ulṭā,
Pachātā nā jāndā terā ves,
Mar giā hai, phir jīndā hai
Gir giā haiñ, phir kharā haiñ!

Zindagī gaī terī, sharmindagī rahī bāqī
Ih gand balā qaid ghulāmī dī
Vahmāñ dī, chūtāñ dī
Bharmāñ dī, bhūtāñ dī
Akalāñ de dushmanāñ, ulūāñ, ūtāñ dī
Kiveñ chanbaṛ gaī tainūñ
Bholā bhāle tere bande
Brahman de, mulāñ de
Vehle muft khorāñ de
Jo bhuke pae marde ne
Tukṛiāñ te laṛde ne
Sadīāñ toñ sutiā
Chākarīāñ kardiāñ
Naukrīāñ bhardiāñ
Uth, o bhāratā

A Storm (‘Hunerī’)

A storm’s brewing, a storm
Its dark speech, dense, swift fog
The night shall remain, encircling, dense
The sun, moon and stars all obscured
The light of our worlds burnt out
A storm is brewing, a storm
Whatever came until now
No one saw, no one recalls

A storm’s brewing, a storm
Of revolution, destruction, change
Beyond the storm, there’s naught to see
No one will recognize anything
The worth of all things changing

Fruits, blossoms, boughs, branches, arms –
Even their dust shan’t abide
Sheds, shacks, mansions, all swept away …
The earth shall crack, the stars will fall
The planets into one another collide
Oceans shall take the mountains’ stead
And from the oceans shall rise mountains
The earth will be beyond recognition
The cloud shall spread a new sky

Hanerī ā rahī hai, hanerī
Kālī bolī, andhā dhundh, tez
Bas rāt ho rahengī, haner ghup ghare
Sūraj, chand, rāt, sabh kajje jāvsan
Sāḍe sāmān raushnī de sabh gull hovsan
Hanerī ā rahī hai, hanerī!
Ajehī agge āī hosī
Vekhī nahī, yād nahī

Hanerī ā rahī hai, hanerī
Inqilāb dī, tabāhī dī, tabdīlī dī
Hanerī ute jo jaegī, disegā kuch nā
Siān nā rahegī kise nūñ kise dī
Qīmatāñ sabh badalīā jāvsan

Phal, phul, shākh, ṭunḍ, ṭahnī
Kakh nā rahisī
Chappar, kule, koṭhe kul uḍ vahisan
Panchī, manukh, sher, hāthī
Uḍange, ḍigange, ṭuṭange, dhahinge,
Zamīñ phaṭegī, tāre, ḍigange
Garih bhiṛsan, āpe vich
Samundrāñ dī thāñ pahāṛāñ thāveñ samundar ho nikalsan
Dhartī de parkhare uḍ jāngeNawāñ akāsh-chandoā tanengā ghaṭ dā


GHADAR POETRY – “The Echo of Revolt” (‘Ghadar Dee Gunj’)


Ghadar Dī Gunj was a compilation of poetry composed by members of the Ghadar movement. It includes nationalist, anti-colonial and revolutionary poetry. The poems were published in San Francisco in 1913-14. Ghadar poetry ranks amongst the most fervent of revolutionary and anti-colonial Punjabi poetry of the time and is an early example of Punjabi diaspora poetry.

Coolies we’re called by the world
A flag-less nation are we
Are we slaves forever?
Why don’t we master politics?
A few birds laid siege to our pasture
Who will cultivate Hindustan?

Better to die than live as slaves
This saying may we never forget
China has awakened from slumber
The drums of India’s waking roll
What need of Pandits and Qazis have we?
What fondness have we for a sinking ship?
The time for prayers and meditation are past
The time to raise the sword draws nigh
The Ghadar paper proclaims so
The time for revolt has arrived

Kūli kūli pukārda jag sānūñ
Sāḍā jhuldā kithe nishān kiyon nahin
Kikūn bachānge sadā ghulām rah ke
Sānūn rājniti wālā giyān kiyon nahin
Dhāi ṭoṭrū khā gaye khet sādā
Hindustān dā koi kisān kiyon nahin

Marnā bhalā ghulāmī dī zindagī toñ
Nahīñ sukhan eh man bhulāvne dā
Mulk jāgāyā chīn jo ghūk sutā
Dhol vajāyā hind jagāwāne dā
Sānūn loṛ nā panditāñ qāziāñ dī
Nahīñ shok hai berda dubāvane dā
Jap jāp dā waqt batīt hoyā
Velā ā gayā tegh uthāvne dā
Paṛhke ghadr akhbar nūñ khabar lagī
Velā ā gayā ghadr machāvane dā

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Film Review – “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”


Starring: Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Haluk Bilginer. Directed by Mira Nair. (130 mins).

Reviewed by Randeep Purewall

The film adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s 2007 novel took three years to adapt for the screen. Whereas Hamid’s novel centered on two characters, the protagonist Changez Khan and an anonymous American, in a Lahore café, Nair’s film adaptation is a full-charactered narrative shot which shows the protagonist leaving Lahore (filmed in Delhi) to pursue an education and career in the United States where he lives the American Dream in New York City until 9-11. He returns to Lahore, becoming a professor.

The lead is played by Riz Ahmed who did well as a streetwise Brit and jihadist in “The Four Lions.” As Changez, Ahmed does well enough as someone searching for himself but falls short in scenes such as his having to leave America, moments otherwise rich in dramatic potential which would have underlined the torment of the character’s being American, Pakistani and Muslim.

His limitations are all the more apparent when he’s is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast including Liev Schreiber as Bobby, the American in the Lahore café, Kate Hudson as Changez’ partner Erica and a superb Kiefer Sutherland as Jimmy, Changez’ Wall Street boss. Turkish actor Haluk Bilinger is a revelation in a small but seminal role as a publisher in Istanbul who compares Changez to the Janissaries, Christian children taken from their homes and trained to fight in a Muslim army only to reconquer and destroy the homelands where they were born and nurtured.

The film is stunningly shot with searing images such as the one above. After being stripped and probed by American airport security, Changez looks through opaque glass at footage of the Twin Towers coming crashing down along with his American Dream. Nair uses music to great effect too. In one of the film most poignant scenes, Changez looks at men performing namaaz in the Suleyman Mosque in Istanbul while a boy looks back at him. The scene erupts in a clash of drums in a explosive mix of Khusrao’s “Mori Araj Suno” and Faiz’ “Rabba Sachiyaan,” highlighting Changez’ inner turmoil.

Amongst growing student protests over the presence of Americans in Pakistan, Bobby urges (Professor) Changez to control the protests: the white man tells the brown man or Muslim man to “do the right thing.” Nair say she wanted the film to start a dialogue but she provides an answer instead. Reading a eulogy at the funeral of a friend killed in the protests, Changez prays the youth of Pakistan will let their inner lights shine with a force greater than the suns’. Perhaps that is the Pakistani dream which Changez asks his students about in an earlier scene. Only for many Pakistanis, the dream is to send their kids to the West, have them score good jobs there and perhaps go West themselves.


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