एक चेहरा देख के आज
वो चेहरा याद आया है
जो देखा है वो अन्जाना
याद आया वो बेगाना है

वो चेहरा बिन बोले
कितना कह पाया है
अनदेखी सी दुनिया
वो सामने लाया है

इतना कुछ कह के भी
वो चेहरा बेगाना है
अपनी ही बातों से
क्या खुद अन्जाना है

वो चेहरा ना बोला था
ना कुछ सुन पाया है
मेरे मन की है ये बातें
चेहरा तो बस साया है

I saw a face today and now
her face I again remember
Whom I saw I do not know
And she is still a stranger

She did not say a word but still
her face spoke of grandeur
An unseen world before my eyes
her face was able to conjure

Her face said so much and yet
To me she is still a stranger
To all that her face conveyed
is she herself a stranger?

For she never spoke a word
My words she didn’t embrace
My mind it was that projected
its own words onto her face


There has always burned a fire
that gave me light and heat
that powered every desire
and kept me on my feet

That fire needed fuel
I wonder whence it came
I must have burned up too much
the fire is now quite tame

Some sparks are still left over
to remind me of what once was
I am still moving forward
but momentum is now the cause

I mis-conceived my pursuit
lost more than I could reclaim
I burned a part of myself
that will never be the same

I was certain of my success
on a path not quite my own
but a path of such great import
is a path I must walk alone

I need to reinvent myself
and stoke up the fire again
the fuel I took for granted
I must work to now regain

These words are an effort
to seek what must be sought
the fuel that I am after
I must find it in my thought


क्या सब्र क्या नादानी
ये समझ ना मैने पाई
मेरा सब्र हुआ नाकाम
नादानी मगर रंग लाई

दिल के अरमानों की
कीमत ऐसी चुकाई
अरमान रहे अधूरे
पूरी हुई तन्हाई

आँखों की इस नामी की
समझे ना वो गहराई
जागी ये जिनके बाबत
कीमत भी ना लगाई

ये बेबसी का आलम
देता है ये दुहाई
अरमान ना ऐसे करना
ना हो जिनकी अफज़ाई

Rought translation for my English readers:

I could not distinguish between persistence and foolishness
My persistence did not pay off but my foolishness brought results

I paid the price for the desires of my heart
My desires remained unfulfilled, but my loneliness is complete

She did not understand the depth of feeling behind my moist eyes
The object of these feelings did not attach a value to them

This state of helplessness cries out to me and tells me
not to have desire whose object doesn’t encourage them


न थी इजाज़त, जो देखने की,
कुछ ऐसे सपने सजाये मैंने,
जो चाहता हूँ, भुला दूं उनको,
बिना इजाज़त सता रहे हैं

न थी इजाज़त, जो बोलने की,
वह बात दिल में बसाई मैंने,
जो चाहता हूँ, निकालूँ उस्को,
बिना इजाज़त बसी हुई है

न थी इजाज़त, जो चाहने की,
वह चाह दिल में जगाई मैंने,
जो चाहता हूँ, न चाहूं उस्को,
बिना इजाज़त जला रही है

Update: Rough translation for my English readers

The dreams that were forbidden to me
I dreamt such dreams.
Now that I desire to forget them,
they haunt me unbidden.

The idea that I was forbidden to speak.
I let it reside in my mind.
Now that I desire to root it out,
it stays on unbidden.

The desire that was forbidden to me
I encouraged that desire in my heart.
Now that I desire to not desire,
it burns me unbidden.


If, by Rudyard Kipling, is by far my favorite poem. The topic came up in an email conversation and I decided to write down my understanding of the poem. At face value, If might seem to be an appeal to stoicism. But it is actually a brilliant and passionate expression of how experiencing the emotions that arise from moral behavior is the only thing that really matters. Refreshingly, the moral outline is explicitly individualistic – focusing primarily on the actions of the individual and the reasons for those actions, rather than on consequences – for the individual or anyone else. There is no mention of the “greater good” or “giving back” or “a cause larger than oneself”. This is what a proper morality is.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

The first 7 lines are clear enough. The last line is not so clear. What is “looking too good” and “talking too wise”? Modesty is not a virtue. Honesty is. And being honest includes being honest about yourself. However, an independent man is not concerned primarily with what others think of him. Looking good and talking wise can be driven either by a desire to be seen as good and perceived as wise or as a natural consequence of being good and wise. I take this last line as a caution against the former.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

A dream is usually about something that doesn’t yet exist. About changing reality to make it better. And it is easy to get carried away by visions of the better reality and lose sight of whether those visions are actually realizable or not.

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

To a thinking man, thinking is a pleasurable activity. But, as with dreams, aimless thinking leads to worthless thoughts disconnected from reality.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

This does not mean that you should have the same emotional response to triumph and disaster. The only way to do that would be to not feel anything at all. And that is death (“Without pleasure, without pain, …”). This is a rejection of consequentialism. Triumph and disaster are consequences, not causes. Your sense of value should derive from your actions, not the consequences of those actions. This is illustrated in the lines below.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Apart from the above, however painful it may be to see your words twisted, protecting fools from knaves is not the goal of your life.

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

You don’t really give your life to things (or people or causes). You act in a particular way for yourself, for your own satisfaction, to achieve the goals you set out for yourself. And if the things break, you build them up again.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Rejection of consequentialism again. The end result is not what matters. The experience does. The actions that enabled you to have those winnings matter, that you have those winnings doesn’t. That you have the courage to risk them matters. The loss (consequence) doesn’t.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

Very clear.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Very clear again – especially with so many demagogues and populists around!

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

Clear again.

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

The only person you have any real control over is yourself. And no one – friend or foe – should be able to hurt you in a significant way. Rand makes the same point in “The Fountainhead” when Roark talks of a pain that only goes down to a certain point. You should value all men (appropriately) not not be dependent on anyone.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


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