Saturday, 16 March 2013

Abhi toh main jawan hoon...

Have been trying to translate Hafeez Jalandhari's seminal work `Abhi toh main jawan hoon' into English for some time now. To those of us who love, cherish and swear by those lines, the monumental difficulty of the task is apparent. To translate into straightforward prose, all one needs is a good Urdu to English dictionary. The real challenge is to translate it into poetry that can stand on its own. Poetry that retains the essence of the original, yet is not quite a literal translation. Here is my humble effort. Any comments or suggestions towards improving this effort would be more than welcome.

The fragrance wafts o’er the dew
As flowers bloom, in every hue
A thousand melodies fill the air
As spring is here, in bridal wear

It’s time for cheer, bring out the wine
Come back, the moment is divine

Come fill the cup, don’t turn away
Do not demur, do not delay
Do cast your eye upon the spring
The scene’s a dream upon a wing

As evening falls, dark clouds appear
Across the skies, from far and near
Wine lovers will always have their say
As to the taverns, they wend their way

Off with the skeptic look, my man
For I’m not naïve, nor weak nor van
Heaven can wait, as can piety
For I’m still young, so let me be.

Yes, there’s talk of God, of fear
Of salvation that’s never near
Redemption, and the need to know
The after life, where souls will go

But man of God, do hark my word
Is not your contention absurd
Tell me dear man, hand on heart
Can love and beauty stand apart?

When joy and fragrance fill the air
And lissome beauties, tall and fair
Bewitching smiles, do lie in wait
How can our passions ever abate

Sensuous glances, full of grace
Entice one into their embrace
Guiles of love, and passion’s sway
Can mere mortals then stay away?

Okay, to cut the story short
Your point of view, your kindly thought
I may agree with, I may see
But I’m still young, so let me be..

To walk along the mountain side
Or trek the streams at eventide
To hear the nightingales in song
And blooming roses, all along

And then to chance upon your love
And see all worries, gloom dissolve
I guess it’s written in our stars
Tears or joy, what shall be ours..

These tales of love, these songs of yore
Are ones we have all heard before
Some speak of youths, full of flair
And others may merely be hot air

These skies, these meadows evergreen
Are scenes that no one has ever seen
Bounty in joy, calming in strife
They are the essence of our life

A life that’s short, that’s so finite
And so every breath holds delight

But is the end ever so nigh
No, no, not now, how can I die
I’ve long to go, I’ve much to see
For I’m still young, so let me be..

No bondage, nor freedom shall remain
No rise, no fall, no wax nor wane
No past, no present, no despair
No vows, no promises, no care

Hope and despair, both beguiled
With past and future reconciled
All sense, all logic shall now depart
There’s just the wine, and the heart

Come let the wine flow, let’s rejoice
Oh nightingale, where is your voice
Do sing of joy, draw out our pain
Let just the cup, the ale remain..

Let every voice sing out as one
Drink on, the joy has just begun
A drink, a drink, don’t you see
For I’m still young, so let me be… 

Here is the version immortalised by the mother-daughter duo of Malika Pukhraj and Tahira Syed - whom I liken to the finest single malt and blended Scotch respectively.

And here is the original version in Roman Urdu...

Hawaa bhii khushagawaar hai,
Gulon pe bhi nikhaar hai
Tarannumein hazaar hai,
Bahaar purbahaar hai

Kahaan chalaa hai saaqiyaa,
idhar to laut idhar to aa
Arey, yeh dekhtaa hai kya?
Uthaa subuu, subuu uthaa

Subuu uthaa, piyaalaa bhar,
Piyaalaa bhar ke de idhar
Chaman ki simt kar nazar,
Samaa to dekh bekhabar

Woh kaali kaali badliyaan,
Ufaq peH ho gayi ayaan
Woh ik hajum-e-maikashaan,
Hai su-e-maikadaa ravaan

Yeh kyaa gumaan hai badgumaan,
Samajh na mujh ko naatavaa
Kayaal-e-zuhad abhi kahaan?
Abhi to main jawaan hoon

Ibaadaton ka zikr hai,
Nijaat ki bhi fikr hai
Junoon hai sawaab ka,
Khayaal hai azaab kaa

Magar suno to sheikh ji,
Ajeeb shai hain aap bhi
Bhalaa shabaab-o-aashiqui!,
Alag huay bhi hain kabhi?

Hasiin jalwaa raiz hon,
Adaaein fitanaa khaiz hon
Havaaein itr baiz hon,
Toh shauq kyun na taiz hon?

Nigaah haai fitanaa gar,
Koi idhar koi udhar
Ubhaarate hon aish par,
Toh kyaa karey koi bashar?

Chalo ji qissaa muktasar,
Tumhaaraa nuqtaa-e-nazar
Durust hai to ho magar,
Abhi to main jawaan hoon

YeH gasht kohsaar ki,
YeH sair ju-e-waar ki
YeH bulbulon ke chahchahey,
YeH gulrukHon ke qah-qahey

Kissi sey mail ho gayaa,
Toh ranj-o-fikr kho gayaa
Kabhi jo waqt so gayaa,
Yeh hans gayaa who ro gayaa

Yeh ishq kii kahaaniyaan,
Yeh ras bhari jawaaniyaan
Udhar sey meharbaaniyaan,
Idhar sey lantaraaniyaan

Yeh aasmaan yeh zameen,
Unhey hayaat aafareen,
Bhalaa main chhorh doon yahin

Hai maut is qadar qarib,
Mujhey na aayegaa yaqin
Nahin nahin, abhi nahin,
Nahin-nahin abhi nahin

Na gham kashood-o-bast ka,
Baland ka na past ka
Na bood ka naH hast ka,
Na vaadaa-e-alast ka

Ummid aur yaas gum,
Havaas gum qayaas gum
Nazar sey aas-paas gum,
Hamaa, bajuz gilaas gum

Na mai mein kuchh kami rahey,
Gadaah sey hamdami rahey
Nashist yeh jami rahey,
Yahi hama hami rahey

Who raag chheRh mutribaa,
Tarab-fizaa, alam-rubaa
Asar sadaa-e-saaz ka,
Jigar meiN aag de lagaa

Har ik lab pe ho sadaa,
Na haath rok saaqiyaa
Pilaaye jaa pilaaye jaa,
Abhi to maiN jawaan hoon



  1. Excellent touch & great start
    Very soothing to read like 18 years single malt
    Two cubes of ice in a crystal glass
    Enjoy the ever fragrant, rich and immortal class of
    Abhi to maiN Jawan hoon, Abhi to maiN Jawan hoon..

    Thank you

    Vinod Chhabra

    1. 18 year old single malt indeed! I've tried, yet miserably failed, to translate this seminal poem.

  2. Dear Harish,

    I never knew that your Urdu and on top of that your translation skills were so strong.
    This is just excellent.

    Great Job and keep it up. Wanting more of Mitti Pao.

    MJS Jaiswal

  3. Dear Harish,
    This is just fantastic !!!
    Bharat Sharma

  4. Thank you very much for the wonderful translation which added so much to my listening pleasure. It also reminds me of my father--he knew this song by heart and would sing it often in impromptu baitaks at our house.

  5. Thank you. This is wonderful. You even got the meter right!

  6. Enjoyed reading Hafeez Jhalandhari's 'Abhi Toh Main Jawan Hoon' and its translation so beautifully written by you. However I have a request if its possible...It would be wonderful to have the translation side by side with the urdu version. Often while reading the Urdu version I had to refer to the translation and that was indeed a pain. Lol

  7. I stumbled onto this page by chance.....
    I am very impressed and surprised by the delectable style of prose
    you offer a very enjoyable lyrical poem
    I'm french-Canadian and I've read some poems from french literature
    that is strikingly similar in style and meaning.

    Thank you for your efforts of translation

    If I could make a humble request, could you refer some more poems or lyrics
    from the same author...

    Different cultures can enjoy one another and appreciate
    the beauty of their respective literature, thank you again and
    good luck to you......

  8. Got the spirit right, then it flows and takes over! Great attempt!

  9. What a skilful translation! I just saw one on YouTtube but its not half as good as yours!
    I can almost sing this in English to the same tune.

    1. Thank you so much, do get in touch at

  10. Awesome! Appreciable effort. Impossible to truly translate the meanings, wordplay AND rhyming magic. Wish more people could UNDERSTAND it.

  11. Truly awesome; great piece of work you have achieved there. I am truly speechless! It would be wonderful if you also give a shot at 'Tere ishq ki inteha chahta hoon' sung by Pukhraj too.

  12. The best part is that the translation has been accomplished in the same metre as the one in which Mallika Pukhraj has sung it. If an accomplished singer sings the translation adopting Mallika Pukharaj's tune it will become unique for the spirit is identical.

  13. The best part is that the translation has been accomplished in the same metre as the one in which Mallika Pukhraj has sung it. If an accomplished singer sings the translation adopting Mallika Pukharaj's tune it will become unique for the spirit is identical.

  14. Dear HARISH,
    Thank you for your service to lovers of this melody which is not an easy task.My task has been made easier due to your good effort.Thank you again.

  15. FANTASTIC translation
    amply retained the original flavor