In a country renowned for its Tulip fields dotted by wind mills, lies a small but vibrant university city of Leiden. The city traces its history from 1398 AD, and came into prominence when the first Dutch university was founded here by William I of Orange in the year 1575.  Today Leiden has emerged as a knowledge hub in the fields of arts, sciences and cultures in western Europe. Some say Leiden is the Oxford of the Netherlands.

In the center of this city stands a wall on which well known Urdu poet Nasir Kazmi‘s (नासिर काज़मी) Ghazal is written in Urdu’s Nastaʿlīq script . This poem is part of the Leiden’s “Poems and walls” project, which began in 1992, with more than 110 poems written in many different languages. The Urdu poem on the wall is titled zabāñ suḳhan ko (ज़बाँ सुख़न को) زباں سخن کو . This wall is located on a street named Brugsteeg in the city of Leiden.

Here is the Google map location of this wall – Brugsteeg 12

Nasir Kazmi's Poem on Leiden's wall
Urdu Poem in Leiden
 zabaa.N suKhan ko
Urdu Poem ‘zabāñ suḳhan ko’ by Nasir Kazmi

Devanagari Transliteration

ज़बाँ सुख़न को सुख़न बाँकपन को तरसेगा

सुख़न-कदा मिरी तर्ज़-ए-सुख़न को तरसेगा

नए प्याले सही तेरे दौर में साक़ी

ये दौर मेरी शराब-ए-कुहन को तरसेगा

मुझे तो ख़ैर वतन छोड़ कर अमाँ न मिली

वतन भी मुझ से ग़रीब-उल-वतन को तरसेगा

इन्ही के दम से फ़रोज़ाँ हैं मिल्लतों के चराग़

ज़माना सुहबत-ए-अरबाब-ए-फ़न को तरसेगा

बदल सको तो बदल दो ये बाग़बाँ वर्ना

ये बाग़ साया-ए-सर्व-ओ-समन को तरसेगा

हवा-ए-ज़ुल्म यही है तो देखना इक दिन

ज़मीन पानी को सूरज किरन को तरसेगा

English Translation by Dr. KC Kanda

Tongue will yearn for gift of speech, speech for turn of phrase,

Poetic meets will stand bereaved of my style and grace.

New goblets wheel around, doubtless, in your town,

My old wine will sure be missed, saqi, in your age.

I, of course, did restless toss ever since I left my home,

My homeland too must have missed this exile unfortunate.

To them we owe the lamps of love burning bright in every heart,

The world will yearn for the man of art who once did fill the stage.

Change the gardener if you can, otherwise in vain,

You’ll look for the rose and cypress, and their cooling shade.

If the cruel wind of times continues to sway,

Earth will lie drained of water, sun deceived of rays.

Syed Nasir Raza Kazmi, (1925-1972) was a famous Urdu poet of Pakistan. He was born on December 8, 1925 at Ambala (India). He was educated at Ambala, Shimla and Lahore. He moved to Lahore (Pakistan) after partition of India in 1947. Kazmi published two collections of poems in his lifetime and one  was published after his demise. The partition of the Indian subcontinent had a traumatic influence on Kazmi which was reflected in his vivid invocations of themes like pain, sorrow, and grief. Echoing a distinct sensibility, his poems have been sung by many notable Ghazal singers e.g. Ghulam Ali. 


One of Nasir Kazmi’s popular Ghazals sung by famous Ghazal maestro Ghualm Ali is Dil Mein Ek Lehar Si Uthi Hai Abhi. You can listen to it here