Muslim idolatory

Muslim idolatory


After many months of silence Preetam Giani, who lives in Abbottabad (Pakistan) sent me a long letter with some translations of Ghalib and his version of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I quote one of his remarks on Hindu-Muslim tensions. He writes: “The over thousand-year-old conflict between Islam and Hinduism in the Indian sub-continent is not as fondly imagined by most Muslims as a conflict between faith and idolatory, but rather a conflict between two somewhat different forms of idolatory.”

Iqbal seems to be in agreement with this denunciation of idol worship prevalent amongst Muslims. One verse in Jawab-i-Shikwa (answer to the complaint) translated by me reads: “You have no strength in your hands; in your hearts god has no place; On the name of my messenger, you people have brought disgrace. Destroyers of false gods are gone; only the idol-maker thrives; The sons of Abraham have departed. Azar’s idolatrous breed survives. Strange the company you keep; from new vats a new vintage wine you brew; you have built yourselves a new Kaaba with new idols because you yourselves are new.”

Art of translation

In my humble opinion the best translations of Urdu poetry into English were done by Victor Kiernan of the works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. It was a joint effort. Kiernan was teaching English in Lahore’s Chiefs College. Faiz was teaching English in an Indian college. Kiernan had an Indian wife and was a fluent in Hindustani. They became friends and together worked on the translations. They are a joy to read.

In my not so humble opinion, my translations came next in merit. I have done a better job than any other Indian, Pakistani or foreign scholar in giving Urdu poetry good readability. My method is to first memorise the original and keep repeating it in my mind. I do this many times in bed as I retire for the night. The translation emerges bit by bit as I doze off. My translations have been well-received. My rendering of Iqbal’s Shikwa and Jawab-i-Shikwa published by the Oxford University Press has gone into more than fourteen editions. It goes on selling. So do my compilations made jointly with Kamna Prasad, but translated entirely by me: “Celebrating The Best of Urdu Poetry” (Penguin).

Soda or Water

Over a TV channel a godman was hearing the problems of a faithful when he suddenly interjected and said:

“Why ‘soda’ is coming in my mind? Do you take Whisky?”“Yes, Prabhu,” replied the faithful.“Do you take it with soda or water?”“Sometime with soda and at other times with water,” promptly answered the faithful.“Stop using soda. Your problems would evaporate in no time,” the godman pronounced the solution.(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)Chicken becomes peacockSanta went for dinner at restaurant abroad. He liked the chicken so much that he asked the waitress: “Hor Hai!”. She gave him a dirty look and disappeared. His foreign friend advised him to say “more” in place of “hor”.Santa: “Achha mainu nahin pata si ke ethe murge nu mor kainde han” - O, I did not know they called chicken a peacock.Sense of devotionSanta fell in love with his boss’s daughter and gathered enough courage to ask for her hand in marriage.The outraged boss exclaimed “How could even dare to think of such a thing. Your salary won’t even buy her month’s quota of toilet paper!’Santa thought for a moment and said: “Enne pottia kardi hai, ta rahen do - if she shits so much, let it be.”Losing friendsSanta caught his friend in the act with his wife Preeto. Enraged he began berating his friend. Preeto tried to stop him saying: “Estra to tussi saare dost gava baithoge - in this way, you’ll lose all your friends.”

(Contributed by Amrinder Bajaj, Delhi)