Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Shaheen banata nahin aashiyana...

Here is a beautiful response to my last blog post `Of Destinations and Destinies' from Samina Rizwan, a proud Pakistani citizen who has been an Air Force beti, an Air Force biwi and of course, is so, so proud of both. She is an outstanding writer (that's how we became friends), and heads the Asia-Pacific region at Oracle Corp. She is currently based at Dubai. She has graciously permitted me to reproduce her response in `Mitti Pao!'


Nostalgia hits hard with this one.  The military brat gains and loses thanks to his/her peculiar status.  My thoughts go to the rest of us, though, who are hit with a double whammy - military brat and spouse.  What of us, Harish? Are we double confident, more dysfunctional or less, always searching or arrived....?  I was always supremely comfortable amongst my Air Force family, but destiny has me still searching for a `home’.  As Iftikhar Arif said..

Mere khuda, mujhe itna to mautabir kar de....
Mein jis makaan mein rehta hoon, usko ghar kar de..

Pulling at the heartstrings is the matter of losing a life in the line of duty.  Watched Superman a few days ago; asinine though the plot was, I had to appreciate a line "A good death is its own reward".  This gives me comfort, and so should it you when you shed a tear for those who transitioned (it is a transition you know, not a departure!) too early, violently, believing in a cause, gallantly offering their lives.

The PAF pilot is called "Shaheen" after the glorious bird.  It was characterized by the great Iqbal in his poem of the same title.  It was Rizwan's favourite and it described him so accurately.  His destiny was long decided, it was never really with me, and these lines played like a broken record in my head for several weeks after:

Kiya mein ne uss khakdaan se kinara
Jahan rizq ka naam hai aab-o-dana
Yeh poorab yeh paschim chakoron ki dunya
Mera neelgun asmaan bekarana
Parindon ki duniya ka darwaish hoon mein
Ke Shaheen banata nahin ashiyana

So Harish, for the fighting man, what is "home"? I don’t think he expects to have one!

My Note – Samina lost her husband Air Cmde Rizwanullah Khan in the air crash that killed the then Pak Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir on 20th Feb 2003. I have truly been privileged to call her a close friend for almost 10 years now. The poem she talks about, the favourite of her husband, is Iqbal’s `Shaheen’ (The Falcon). Here is my humble attempt to translate the almost impossible-to-translate Iqbal, along with the original Urdu. This one’s for you, Air Cmde Rizwan – hope it meets your exacting standards..

Kiya main ne uss khakdan se kinara
Jahan rizq ka naam hai aab-o-dana

Give me not bread nor water, nor grain
I soar in the skies, I’ve forsaken all pain

Bayaban ki khalwat khush aati hai mujh ko
Azal se hai fitrat meri rahbana

The solitude, the wilderness, those are for me
For I am a falcon, I’ll always be free

Na baad-e-bahari, na gulcheen, na bulbul
Na beemari-e-naghma-e-ashiqana

No flowers, no spring, no nightingale’s song
No ballads of love, can ever belong

Khayabanion se hai parhaiz laazim
Adaen hain inki bohat dilbarana

These colourful blossoms, these flowers I shun
Their seductive charms have often undone

Hawa-e-bayaban se hoti hai kaari
Jawan mard ki zarbat-e-ghaziyana

The storms of the desert are ours to embrace
They forge our sinews, and give us our grace 

Hamam-o-kabootar ka bhooka nahin main
Ke hai zindagi baaz ki zahidana

I seek not a pigeon, a swallow or seed
For I am a falcon, and this is my creed

Jhapatna, palatna, palat kar jhapatna
Lahoo garam rakhne ka hai ek bahana

The swooping, the soaring the lunge and the dive
Just warm up my blood, just keep me alive

Ye poorab, ye pacham chakoron ki duniya
Mera neelgun aasman baikarana

To East, to the West, the pheasants can fly
For me, I just crave the vast open sky

Parindon ki duniya ka dervaish hun main
Ke shaheen banata nahin aashiyana

A dervish am I, no nesting for me
For I am a falcon, I’ll always be free


  1. Harish thanks for sharing what Samina has written. Its true, Shaheen, seeks the freedom of open skies and she writes very well, a treat to read. God bless her.

  2. Sir, It was by chance that I happen to click n read your blog and I think I am getting addicted. Infact I feel like learning urdu after reading your posts. I dont understand Urdu but I find both the poem and the translation very beautiful.Response from Ms Samina Rizwan is equally beautiful.

  3. Thank you Harish, for the translation of this beautiful Urdu poem. It has helped me understand Samina's response as well as appreciate her pathos.