“Ab tum hi kaho kya karna hai” — Sumangala Damodaran sings Faiz

In these uncertain times of unprecedented humanitarian crisis, there are probably no easy solutions, only more and more questions. At such moments, my mind wanders to poetry that has been written over the years amidst deep crisis; sometimes it has been a call to revolution, sometimes it has asked questions many dared not to, but at other times, it ponders, with no answers, almost in surrender.

I am happy to present to you my composition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem "Ab Tum Hi Kaho Kya Karna Hai" from his last collection "Ghub’bar-e-Ayyam" (1984). This poem was possibly written when Faiz went into voluntary exile in Beirut, following Zia-ul-Haq’s ascendance to power in Pakistan. During this period, as the editor of the Afroasian magazine, "Lotus", that was brought out from Beirut, his poems included the famous ‘Hum Dekhenge’ and several ones in solidarity with the struggles of the Palestinian people.

Over the next couple of months or so, I will be sharing more songs that I have composed and recorded in my voice, along with some fabulous musicians and artists.

अब तुम ही कहो क्या करना है
अब कैसे पार उतरना है
अब कैसे पार उतरना है
जब दुख की नदिया में हम ने
जीवन की नाव डाली थी
था कितना कस-बल बाँहों में
लहू में कितनी लाली थी
यूँ लगता था दो हाथ लगे
और नाव पूरम पार लगी
ऐसा न हुआ, हर धारे में
कुछ अन-देखी मंजधारें थीं
कुछ माँझी थे अंजान बहुत
कुछ बे-परखी पतवारें थीं
अब जो भी चाहो छान करो
अब जितने चाहो दोश धरो
नदिया तो वही है, नाव वही
अब तुम ही कहो क्या करना है
ये घाव कैसे भरना है
अब कैसे पार उतरना है

Now tell me what we should do
How do we get across
When we launched this boat of Life
Into the river of sorrow
We thought we had strong arms
That our blood was so red
It felt as if all we needed was two arms
To get our boat across
That is not what unfolded
Unseen boulders struck midstream
Crosscurrents caught us in between
Then some of our boatmen
Suddenly turned into strangers
Have your say
Criticize, interrogate
Find excuses to explain
The river has not changed with the passing of time
And the boat, the boatmen remain the same
Now tell me what we should do
How do we get across
How do we cross over now
How do we heal these wounds

Video courtesy Sumangala Damodaran and Anid Films.
Sumangala Damodaran is professor of economics at Ambedkar University, Delhi.